Even if I do say so myself, I have been very good about shutting up and keeping shut since promising to do so a few weeks ago. However, when I ran across Misha Berson’s Seattle Times article “Intiman Interviewing Artists about Company Revival” I simply could not stifle my eagerness to hear what my colleagues in the Seattle theatre scene had to say. So I posted a link on Face Book and sat back waiting for friends’ responses. I didn’t have to wait long:
Stephen McCandless Spend less than you take in. Lather. Repeat.
Rik Deskin I want this to work out for them, but I'm a little miffed that they have disregarded my offer to honor Intiman subscriptions at Eclectic Theater Company. The offer was made before they posted the companies currently listed. Oversight? Probably.
Keri Healey It makes me furious that the timeline for this research into the future artistic direction of the theater is framed by the board (at least in this article) as important "if we want to start approaching funders." Right back to the old dependent-on-funders model that got them where they are. Why not rethink that construct, too, as they look at alternatives for operating models? What I wonder about is how the implosions at Intiman and Giant Magnet might change the way local funders look at all arts organizations in the coming years. I suspect the level of trust funders have with arts organizations dropped quite a bit recently.Jim Jewell Keri, you are without doubt right on. We need to develop a different stance, more proactive and self-sufficient and more engaged with the audience, if we are going to win back that trust.
Kasia Patora To be honest, my initial response was the same as to when Hulu asks me to "choose my ad experience": free market research.
Rik Deskin I really believe that Intiman needs to throw out the old book of running a theater and start from scratch, taking insight from ACT, … Jim Jewell and like Stephen McCandless says: don't spend more than you make. Also, like ACT's current model, embrace the wealth of local smaller companies, local theatre artists, and most importanly, embrace your goal of making Seattle a World Class Theatre City, cultivating, investing and developing Seattle's voice. Not New York. Not Chicago. Not Moscow. Seattle!
At this point, Culturebot editor Jeremy M. Barker asks if I’d seen what Isaac Butler had written on his blog Parabasis. The post was so brief I don’t mind quoting it in its entirety here: "Intiman is inviting local theatre artists to submit blueprints for reviving the company. My guess is Paul Mullin wasn't invited."
Isaac’s right. Intiman hasn’t invited me, nor are they likely to. One can hardly blame an institution for not extending a solicitation of ideas for its survival from someone who publically called for its swift and merciful death; but a larger question remains: just who are the artists who Intiman plans on polling? And why wouldn’t a discussion of this nature take place publically? (Intiman board chair Bruce Bradburn told Misha that “…throughout July there will be individual discussions with artists about their visions for the company's future.”)
Comments kept rolling in:
Scot Augustson I find myself more interest in elves than in Intiman's Future. (And easier to believe in.)
Michael Baker The only way this works is if the artists kidnap the Board à la 9 to 5 and hold them for ransom, while livestreaming it on the web. Also, there should be Dolly covers by Rudinoff.
Mike Rainey I had the impression that the board was more or less the underlying cause for the problems in the first place. It's like a fart asking how we can make this place smell better.
Jeremy M. Barker HA!
Stephen McCandless I maintain that the Intiman doesn't need "new ideas". The management was totally incompetent. To shut down in the fashion they did sternly suggests that their operating principle was "How can we be broke, we still have checks."
Jim Jewell BTW, plans are quickly coming together for convening a community discussion (not so much about Intiman) about what we are doing well, poorly and what we need to do next. A strictly no-bullshit affair that is going to launch new projects, not float suggestions. Keep an eye and ear out.
Stephen McCandless (continuing) They went over budget, spent their reserves, spent their endowment - all over the course of several years. And when their MD leaves suddenly and suspiciously, only then do they cop to a problem - and even then have no idea how large it is until an outside consultant set them straight. There [was] no one at the wheel. Nobody paying attention. No administration. You can't just let go of the steering wheel and they claim you need "new ideas" about vehicle suspensions. YOU DON'T. YOU NEED A DRIVER. Who authorized the spend-down of a one-million-dollar endowment and didn't simultaneously raise concerns about the theatre's finances? Who? It took years for this to go wrong. Years. And they act like it's an emergency that reflects on the state of American Theatre. Talk about a sense of entitlement. I might as well try doing a cartwheel and then talk about how the resulting trauma reflects on the state of American Gymnastics and our chances for gold at the next Olympics.
Michael Baker I've been an Intiman booster for years, but I can't fathom this. It actually strikes me as insane--if this "Intiman" (who is that, exactly) were a person, you'd assume heroin addiction. Talking to artists? What about the Intiman subscribers and donors who rallied to support them, only to be told that a) Intiman needs to shut down anyway, and b) they'd spent subscription for next season on debts? How about explaining, in minute detail, exactly how this happened, first. I can only guess that hasn't happened because of how clubby the board is. The subscribers should form a class action and take the Intiman back themselves.
Paul Budraitis The article doesn't say that they're only going to consult with artists and no one else. i understand that financial mismanagement was the root of the problem and that it must be a primary component of their restructuring, but why shouldn't they talk with local artists - ones who the article states have worked previously with the theatre - while in the process of getting back up off the mat? if they hadn't done this, someone would be complaining about the fact that they haven't even bothered to talk to local artists about the future. i say good for them for remembering art while all everyone else wants to do is talk about money.
These are smart people, many of them deeply familiar with the challenges of making theatre both from an artistic and an administrative side. Most of them take great pains to disagree with me as often and as vociferously as possible. I don’t know who the Intiman plans on reaching out to for advice, but if their list doesn’t include at least one of the names chiming in above, then I gotta wonder whether the sounding board they say they seek isn’t really just another echo chamber. I will also be interested to see if Misha Berson and The Seattle Times do any critical follow up on Intiman’s stated plans to include artists’ advice. Given their track record, very little of what the Intiman’s board says should be taken at face value.
P.S. Everyone quoted above has indicated to me that they are okay with being quoted. If by some chance I am mistaken about that, please just let me know and I will remove your quote. Conversely, if you want to add to discussion, please feel free to comment below.