Friday, June 17, 2011

Problem Solvers

Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Crystal Skillman.

Hello fellow problem solvers - here's another fantastic idea that goes with what we were just chatting about! From David Dower - read below! A must cup of joe read:

To take what I was saying earlier about writing for specific ensembles - certain actors and directors. It really is an amazing pay off not only for the playwright (i chatted below about what I learned) but for actors too. The power the playwright has is to create new characters that can show the versatility of the actors we love and admire. The wonderful Jody Christopherson (rocking Mrs. Perfect! in our Theater in a Van piece - yup it's a 10 minute rock musical in a van people - at the Brick's Comic Book Fest) just wrote about how awesome it was for folks to see her sing too - highlight that work for her as well. It made me so proud! Makes me feel like what I do has a real function and effect. 

Take a look at the TCG article and given your indie profession - what are you doing with your work that paves the way for more new work from your fellow artists or highlights them and how? What's your wish list of things to be done on our indie scene? 

And then here's another one for you problem solvers - two BIG questions that have been on my brain for a while: how do we sustain ourselves financially which we do this (HUGE one) at the indie level - how can we work together to make that happen. Can we? AND how do we make sure we're reaching audiences outside the theater? And are we? 

I think about this a lot. That's what I love about Theater in a Van (more here if you don't know them: - it's $5 and is right there. Hop inside and see theater. Site specific work also attracts a lot of normally non theater goers. And like the Vampire Cowboys Saloon Series that is sadly ending! But how can we do more along these lines out and IN the theater. 

Lots of questions! I know you just woke up. Coffee needed! Cup o 'Joe on the way .... but any thoughts would love to hear 'em while I'm hanging this week. 


  1. Staying financially solvent while doing indie theater is a lot easier when you've got a decent paying gig in the daytime. Something that allows you to focus on your work from say, 9-6pm, and then put it down. Is it ideal? No. It's a fair compromise though. (Says the guy whose day job ended and is looking for employment again... any takers?)
    But it begs the second question from above... why aren't we making a decent living at theater on the indie level?
    There is no way to generate a decent living wage solely on Indie Theater in NYC, on any level - writer, producer, director, designer, technician or performer. There isn't enough money going around. Unfortunately, as a result, our artistic pursuits suffer since we are no longer 100% focused on them in order to survive the very environment that we are in.
    So WHY are we IN this environment if it is so hostile to our goals?
    We think that "in NYC we reach a wider audience that we would attempting to do the same thing elsewhere. This wider audience is also more receptive to "new" theater."
    I don't know if this is true. Are we really capturing new audiences at an economically sustainable rate?
    We also believe that "by doing indie theater here in NYC we can somehow work our way up and start doing regional, tours, and maybe eventually get careers on B’way, TV or film."
    While that's certainly possible, is it probable, and is it fiscally viable in the current economic situation? I don't know. The bitter jaded NY'er in me says no. The pantaloon’ed artsy guy in me says "You gotta believe!"
    This pantaloon wearing jacktard is also the reason I'm a Mets fan.
    So that brings me to this - in order for indie theater to grow into something where the people can make a living wage from it we need to do the following:
    1. It's always debatable what's good and what isn't, but crap is crap. If you aren't taking the time to do whatever it is well, DON'T DO IT. Shitty theater isn't cute.
    2. We need to get AEA on our side. The steps taken towards improving regulations on showcases have improved but we can do more.
    3. Revenue manage our houses. Plan your show dates based on economic viability and strong attendance.
    That's not an exhaustive list of course, just some ideas. The other solution is for a bunch of us to pool our meager resources, find a less expensive place with an under-developed arts scene, a wealthy audience base, move there and make theater our living.

  2. i love these thoughts Joe! (I'm also a Mets fan as you know). What do you think as well about at some point all of us buying a place that we make like the Public in some ways - or the National of indie theatre? That's one of my huge dreams - and different companies could rotate in and out. I know that Heidi with Horse Trade are trying to buy Theater Under St. Marks - more on that in a few with links!

  3. So much more than just a Van. And comfy, too. I could have stayed for another 10 minutes, but others were waiting. Great show!