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03/05/2015

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Matt Sweeney

"As producers, theatres are looking for Great Plays, Great Artists to work with, and "angels" to help pay the bills. If you can get all three in on person, why on earth is this a bad thing?..."

Because by all accounts, even from those who support this "experiment", he is not a great artist and this is not a great play.

Tell me again why on Earth this is a good thing?

Sam Longoria

Paul, no offense, but you are not old enough yet to have retired from anything. No offense meant, and I hope none is taken. No offense. Really.

I'm a born Seattleite, and a Filmmaker, and a Los Angeles Stage Impresario. I Produced 3,125 stage shows in Hollywood, 6 shows a week for a dozen years 1985-1997. Since 2001, I Summer in Seattle, and Winter in LA.

You think the theatre racket is poor in Seattle? Try absolute zero, in the heat of LA. I tell people I made a small fortune in the theatre business. I started with a large fortune, is the problem.

LA has only the TV and Movie business, and aside from a few corporate and sponsored subscription houses, there's no live stage theatre.

Only a handful of sad, insane Indy stage people exist. Either building new little theatres from failed tattoo parlors, or being pushed out by new and more robust businesses, mostly offering tattoo removal. Oh, it's an ugly game.

If somebody does a revival of "Guys And Dolls" in New York, it will go up at the Winter Garden Theatre. If somebody does it in Los Angeles, it's in somebody's garage.

(I actually saw a fine Broadway show, at a converted garage. They hung sets and props on the hydraulic hoist, the cast performed around a spinet piano, and the "conversion" consisted of spreading newspapers over the oil pit). But I digress.

When somebody gets a show to last a whole weekend in LA, it's cause for celebration. If more than a couple weeks, there's talk - it's a HIT!

Newspapers are called, Agents are notified, somebody papers the house in case there's a review, and somebody else brings in a video camera. Cast and crew are excited - We're shooting a Pilot!

The resulting bad video and unintelligible sound is messengered, mailed, or pushed under the door of anybody who works at ABC. Receptionists, Janitors, and Security Guards receive "Pilots."

One in a hundred productions bothers to make follow-up calls, or scans email, mail, and phone for any "interest." There is none.

The entire LA Theatre game is revealed in these episodes - What we think as the LA theatre business, is really only the flaky edge of TV. Everybody wants to make a video of a stage show,
to sell to TV, to make yet more TV.

That's all preamble, so I could ask this - You guys get Angels who want to pay for a show, but somehow you feel accepting Patronage would be unethical or beneath you, because they'd be in the show?

My question is, and don't take this the wrong way - Are you crazy?

Say yes to the nice Angel, take the money, put him on the stage and do the show. Do a good job, and maybe he'll ask to do another show. If he isn't any good, I'm sure that will get mention by reviewers, and that generally takes care of the problem.

I know plenty of Producers who started by spending their inheritance on their star turn, and either were successful, or stuck to Producing thereafter. Sometimes it works, too!

Or, if you can't in good conscience let the Angel have his turn onstage, give me the nice Angel's name.

Best to you,

Sam Longoria
Theatre / Movies
Seattle / Hollywood
http://samlongoria.com

Lindsay

"If I were still writing plays I would be deeply tempted to write one about a rich CEO who thought he could write a play aggrandizing his own hero’s journey, and “leave the theatrics” to be provided by the theatre folks. It’s just such a richly absurd commentary, all by itself, on the state of our art form that it really doesn’t need much embellishment."
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, write this play. Please.

Thank you for writing this.

pc

I'm going to ACT tonight to see a play written by a child. She was my student seven or eight years ago when she was in preschool. ACT fosters/harbors/promotes such a variety that it reminds me of a mutual fund (to keep the rich theme running)--diverse investment with the hope of staying afloat. I would love to see the play about the CEO too. It could also make a fine novel or movie. Think about it, please.

Lyam White

There is probably a serious discussion about "patronage" as a model for funding theater, a profoundly expensive art form if one makes even a pretense of paying artists for their time (which is why I'm happy to work for nominal stipends if the project is worthy, but am also grateful when UMO gives me an opportunity to make new, innovative, highly personal work for a reasonable hourly wage). Given how often the work I do has been subsidized by grants, I'm ultimately rather sanguine about the notion of receiving money from a wealthy individual, provided the individual has the good sense and impeccable taste to leave my collaborators and me to the work we do and the choices we make. And if it's naive to imagine that generators of wealth will have that good taste and good sense, well, it's probably also naive to imagine that the state would do so, but we've managed, so far, to act in good faith without compromising our vision, and to receive the grants offered. In many ways, an individual benefactor might be preferable to a corporate sponsorship, given the capital-focused groupthink of corporations ... but then, my own flavor of work could probably find kindred spirits in independent record labels and such, so maybe there's even a way down that path that doesn't suck.

The problem is, there isn't much point in a serious discussion of patronage v. other models of funding here, because by all accounts, "Seven Ways to Get There" isn't an example of patronage, really. It has some of the hallmarks (rich benefactor, artists getting paid), but this doesn't because there was an artist or group of artists that Clark wanted to subsidize in doing their own work. It exists because a generator of wealth felt (apparently because he's never seen a contemporary play) that a story about the inner turmoil of a generator of wealth, as told by way of light drama disguised as dark comedy, is something urgently needed on the American stage.

There has been some rumbling about our misgivings being about Clark not being the "right kind of people," another example of our effete/elitist snobbery, and I'm sure there's some of that happening. But I think we can reasonably object to wealth being the deciding factor as to which stories are told.

Though I must say, Sam's argument amuses. I don't know how instructive it is, but I imagine there might be something to it.

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