Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week Amanda Feldman.
I remember when I discovered there was an indie theatre community. I had been the Managing Director of CollaborationTown for over a year, when I went to my first Community Dish Meeting. I remember being so excited to discover that I was not in it alone. It opened up new possibilities to me… cross marketing opportunities, producing advice, and most importantly an opportunity to get to know other theatre artists. I hate to think that there are young artists out there today who do not know the support networks that are available to them.
I think the tricky thing about nurturing an Indie theatre community, is that we are so diverse. I know it’s been said on this blog before but sometimes it’s hard to identify us - we can’t be categorized by aesthetic, a geographic location, kind of theatre, or anything aside from an Equity code that we all love to hate. Its difficult for veteran indie theatre artists who have been producing for ten plus years to put themselves in a category with young upstarts who just got their BAs and have come to NYC to put on a show, but I do not think our community gains anything from exclusivity. After all we were all once that young theatre artist. Plus measuring us by the quality of our art is counterproductive because we have all had shows that were varying degrees of success. And it’s true that not all Indie theatre is “good,” but all indie theatre artists are striving for recognition, audience, and, I believe, the support of a community.
The other challenge to fostering the Indie theatre community is that for most of us, Indie theater is not our only gig. Whether you are a waiter or have a “day job” chances are your theater company isn’t paying the bills and therefore you are much busier than everyone else you know because in essence you have two jobs. I remember thinking how great it would be to create a branding campaign on behalf of Indie theatre (and personally I think we made a huge stride when we shifted from Off-Off-Broadway to Indie Theatre, but I know not everyone agrees with me). At one point in time I had visions of doing this massive fundraising campaign to get young finance executives to donate to peer theatre artists, but then the finance system went to pot.
None of this happened mainly because we were all too busy, but other things did happen and I’m proud of where we have come as a community. Great organizations were created such as the Community Dish, the New York Innovative Theatre Foundation, and the League of Independent Theatres, New York. For the past three years we played an active role in Free Night of Theatre and for the past two summers we have celebrated Indie Theatre Week.
At the moment, I can tell you’re feeling inspired and want to do something. So here are five easy things everyone can pledge to do today:
1) See at least twelve Indie Theatre shows this year… I don’t think once a month is asking too much.
2) Read the blogs of Indie Theatre artists, there are a lot of them to choose from but they are always insightful and fun. Although if you’re reading this, I know that perhaps I’m preaching to the choir.
3) Join the Community Dish and go to at least three meetings a year. Our next meeting is Monday, November 8th and we’re teaming up with Incubator Arts and the League of Independent Theatre, New York so it should be a nice big meeting. www.communitydish.org
4) Join the League of Independent Theatre, New York because they will take your concerns to Equity, to the Mayors Office, to Albany, and to the real estate world.
5) If you can afford it make few donations to theatre companies you admire, DO IT.
Back in 2006, I had to step down as Managing Director of CollaborationTown because I couldn’t do that and be paid to company manage an Off Broadway show at the same time. Thus I became unhitched and for a while that was scary. My place in the Indie theatre world felt less defined, but thanks to my active participation in the community I never felt lost or alone and now happily produce for various theatre companies.