Contributed by Guest Blogger of the Week, Stephanie Barton-Farcas.
With the recent closing of Cherry Land theatre and Ohio theater, and the near (whew!) closing of Centerstage theater - I find myself mulling over the whole NYC space issue. With so many new companies working why is it that spaces can't stay afloat? And what is it these younger or nomadic companies should know about the spaces? My company has been on both sides of the equation, booking spaces for each show all over the city, and since 2007, being in our own home on west 38th street.
I have seen a couple of trends which may contribute to the struggle to maintain a space. More and more companies are having to cut everything to the bare minimum, which they think should mean space too (except for the darn fact that you gotta perform somewhere!). Newer companies in particular wait until very late in the game to reserve a space, then panic, then scramble to find a space, then if they are lucky, book it at the last minute. What ever happened to reserving a space early and sticking to it? That's what we did way back when. Booking early also helps the space out as they know when they are booked for renters (providing the bookings don't flake).
So what can companies do in service of the spaces still active, most of whom rent at a subsidized cost (as we do) to them. Book early, and book only what you need -not 6 weeks for a showcase (then you panic when you can't raise money). Honor your booking if you reserve it, theater owners have long memories and we do remember who skips out. Once its time to pay - pay! Don't rent if you don't have a tech person, the theater is not responsible for running or designing your show. Once you are set in a space with subsidized rates - refrain from nickel and diming the space; "well, can i rent only 1 hour for less?" "Can I pay by Christmas even though we rent in March?" - just pay up, be clean, run your own show, make art.
There are spaces to rent out there and they are great, but it takes a concerted effort by all of us to ensure that the OOB community has these spaces to return to time and time again. And a great part of that is responsible artists renting them and being true to the spaces keeping going in this tough climate. We are generally very lucky, we do a lot of repeat business and have great folks in our space - BUT - we still get asked to run lights for folks, to let them have 'free' days in their rental (hey, we pay for stuff too!) which is already at rock bottom costs, and still find ourselves cleaning for 6 hours after a group that only rented for one day.
Its all part of "community," taking care of each other and the places we work. Granted some places are toughies, high rent and mean folks! But, when you get a space where they don't dictate what you can do and they are nice to boot? Book it, pay up, keep clean and make nice. Simple stuff, but it needs to be said again - the more we all maintain our general spaces in this city, the better they are for the next group, show, dance project and party. So I nag a bit......hey, its all for a good cause - US!