Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brief Introduction

Contributed by guest blogger of the week, Zachary Mannheimer.

I’ve been out of the OOB for a little over 2 years now. I moved to NYC from London where I worked for the Royal Court and Samuel French in 2000. I founded The Subjective Theatre Company in 2001 and The Community Dish and its list serve in 2002. I was extremely active in the OOB community, and remember quite vividly when Shay and others were founding the IT Awards.

I left NYC in the summer of 2007 as I felt my contributions to the theatre world of NYC were not vital. I did, and still do, theatre with a political bent, and the bend typically leans left. As I looked around the country after the 2004 and 2006 elections, I saw, as everyone else did, a great deal of division. I’m one of those people who think art can help bridge divides, and I saw that in most of the “red” areas of the country, not a great amount of “left” theatre was taking place. This was my original impetus for leaving. I have since found that my notion of no “left” theatre was incorrect, but what I have found instead are areas where artistic expression is stifled, therefore not allowing for much debate and discourse.

I started my journey in the summer of 2007. After careful demographical research, I drove to 22 cities all around the country each with the average population of about 500,000 people. I spent 3-5 days in each city. I spoke to many theatre people amongst my interviews. All of this is documented at www.zacksblog.subjectivetheatre.org if you are interested. I chose Des Moines for many reasons, the largest being its ability to try anything once and its desire for progress in order to retain and recruit its young people; Iowa is one of the top states to attract college students, and one of the worst in keeping them.

I moved here in Oct 2007 not knowing a single person in the state of Iowa. Since then I have formed the 501c3 Des Moines Social Club – a 30,000 square foot old warehouse in the center of downtown Des Moines housing an Art Gallery (www.instinctgallery.com), 5000 square foot black box theatre (which houses 4 Resident Theatre Companies included The Subjective Theatre Company of DSM), Education Department offering over 15 arts based classes weekly, and a for-profit full bar The Sideshow Lounge – all of this can be seen at www.DesMoinesSocialClub.org. We have raised over $500,000, have 5 employees and 9 in the bar, and a unique funding model where 1/3 of all gross profits from the bar are paid as rent to the non-profit with a $50,000 cap.

I would like to use this opportunity to discuss two subjects over the course of this week: The Differences between theatre OOB and everywhere else, and how this theatre is paid for.

Tomorrow please look for a response to this recent article in the NY Times:

Wed: Reasons why my philosophy has done a 180 concerning corporate donations, and commercialism

Thurs: Differences between OOB and Des Moines (and no, not the obvious ones)

Weekend: Summary of any questions/comments

Thank you for the opportunity OOB – I miss OOB everyday – this is a wonderful way to reconnect. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


  1. Zach, it is good to hear about the amazing work that you have been up to.

    What would you say is was your biggest challenge in trasitioning into the Iowa art scene - both artistically and personally?

  2. Thanks for this question. I'll be covering this in a later post this week.