Wise words from the desk of Gary Garrison, Department of Creative Affairs.
Title: Lessons I've Learned
From: The Dramatist-September/October 2011
"...local theatres in the community don't understand why local playwrights don't populate their audiences, don't understand their mission statements or don't work to engage the artistic staff to form relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Of course we want to be produced in our backyard. What could be better than for our work to be seen by our friends and family, reviewed in our local papers and championed by local creative leadership? It's a great ideal, and for some of us, it happens. But for many of us, it can't happen because, frankly, there are too many of us (dramatists) and too few of them (theatres)...
...one courageous Literary Manager stood up in a room packed with local writers and said, "We can't produce your play at our theatre. We lose too much money when we do. If you look at our season, you know what we do is fairly commercial work that's built a name for itself in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, and that we promote to an ever-shrinking subscription audience. But what we can do for you is meet with you, get to know your work and make recommendations to other theatres that can produce you. We can offer you resources like meeting rooms for writers groups or rehearsal space if you're self-producing a show. That we can do. And should." I wanted to cheer. I looked around the room. The writers weren't satisfied. Really? Is it an all or nothing deal? Is it the "either you produce my play or I want nothing to do with you" attitude that's perpetuating strained relationships between writers and theatres?
We want theatres to be generous with their time, attention and resources. Are we equally generous with our understanding?
DATING A THEATRE...
I have shown up to a theatre-metaphorically speaking-with my hands out, posturing, "what can you do for me?" instead of, "what can we do for each other?" Or, "let me talk to you about who I am, and you tell me who you are, and let's see if we're a match." There's an idea - GIVE and take.
We all know what a good time is, what makes any of us want to spend time with an individual. Why should that be any different when we court a theatre with our art? If we want to be attractive, there are all kinds of ways we know to do that. I wonder how much further along any of us could get with a theatre if we showed an interest in the theatre beyond our own desire to be produced. I wonder what the trajectory might be if I start with, "what can I do for you," instead of "what can you do for me?"...
When I get really discouraged about production, I remember something I heard back in graduate school in a theatre history course: "Stories can be told anywhere; audiences can be anyone." Theatre, then, does not have to be defined by a box..."