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07/23/2010

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Scot Augustson

Almost as lame as the Take Part in Art campaign.

Jose Amador

Really? South Dakota? Christ on a shingle.

Paul Mullin

I made that part up, Jose.

I am, after all, a creative writer.

(Shut up, Scot.)

Basil

Photo credits for the WET shots, please? I know the amazing Victoria Lahti (http://www.facebook.com/victoria.lahti) is responsible for at least one of them. Might be good for folks to know local photogs out there who can help free us from the tyranny of gawdawfully-designed PR campaigns (Seattle Shakes, I'm looking at you. There's no excuse for whatever it was you did with last year's poster series).

Sam

To start, yes, many of you got your undies in a bunch about the Live Theatre Week ads. While I understand your frustrations with our so called “Godspell” campaign…GET OVER IT! The truth is the campaign was extremely successful! And while I do love WET’s photography and design aesthetic, companies like WET do not make up the majority of our membership. TPS represents an extremely diverse mix of performing arts organizations – from Village Theatre and Seattle Children’s Theatre to WET and Strawberry Theatre Workshop to Olympia Little Theater and Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. Suffice it to say that a photo of Marya with a gun or a bloodied face is not going to be an effective representation of that community.

The challenge with marketing a festival like Live Theatre Week or Arts Crush is to be broad and appealing enough to represent a wide array of performances and styles. Do I think the design of our past marketing campaigns were a complete success? Absolutely not. Were they intentional? You bet. I don’t think the “drama geek” goofiness is what we need to fight against. I actually think it’s the exact opposite. To non-theatre goers, theatre tends to be perceived as snooty, pretentious and boring. We intentionally worked against that to create a campaign that was playful, inviting, engaging and, yes, goofy!

Like the campaign or not, all of our work around Live Theatre Week each year led to new, younger and more diverse audiences actively participating in theatre. Live Theatre Week, over the course of five years, engaged more than 12,000 people in the performing arts, many of them infrequent attendees.

2009 Audience Demographics
73% of participants were infrequent theatre attendees
82% had never attended their selected theatre
41% of participants were under the age of 35
52% of participants had annual household income under $50,000
27% of participants indicated an ethnicity that was other than White non-Hispanic

Now to Arts Crush!

First, you really need to check your facts. We did not scheme up Arts Crush in a dark corner with the secret hope of grabbing all the money and power we could! It was an organic process that happened in broad daylight with a lot of input from our organizational members. And, last I checked, we don’t have any more power - and we certainly don’t have any more money - than we did last year at this time. Things we do have more of: respect, visibility, relationships and support. How sinister of us! That can’t possibly benefit our members in any way, right!

We were approached by the Market the Arts Task Force (MTATF) to ponder the idea of creating a larger festival modeled after Live Theatre Week. We stewed on it and vetted the idea with our staff and our board and continued to have discussions with the MTATF. When we decided to officially explore the idea, we surveyed our organizational members and past LTW participants. We also hosted many open community forums with both TPS members and non-members. And the overwhelming majority of folks were in support of moving forward with Arts Crush. Honestly, I could count on one hand the number of theatre folks that came forward with a negative response in the entire 4 months that we were having these discussions.

So, to insinuate that we are somehow doing something behind the backs of or against the wishes of our membership is just ridiculous! Theatre Puget Sound was asked by the larger arts community and our own membership to step up and lead this effort and that is what we chose to do. We actually consider it quite an honor and a sign of our growth as an organization that we have been entrusted with this.

If we didn’t think that this festival was in the best interest of our membership and the theatre community as a whole we would not be doing it. I happen to believe that collaborating as a unified creative community and investing in audience development and community engagement on a larger scale only serves to deepen the experience and benefit of those involved. For too long, we have isolated ourselves in silos. The public does not care about these silos; they care about the experience. And the arts organizations who are finding success in reaching new, younger audiences while also retaining the audiences they currently have are investing in this kind of out-of-the-box, multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach to their programming. Two perfect local examples are ACT & SAM.

Yes, there is the possibility of failure. Some other large-scale initiatives have not succeeded. Take Part in Art totally bombed…partially because it was only a campaign for campaign’s sake. Arts Crush is a unique and diverse festival aimed at creating accessibility, cultivating community and inspiring creativity by creating new points of entry for participation in the arts and investing in relationships.

And, despite your snide comments, we are not desperate. We already have over 180 Arts Crush participation forms submitted – many of them from theatres.

TPS is not losing its focus as an organization. In fact, I believe we are more focused than ever. We are growing and adapting to the needs of our community, both the theatre community and the public-at-large. You may not agree, nor are you expected to agree, with our decisions, but we are being extremely strategic and have never lost sight of our mission.

And, let me end by saying how utterly frustrating it is to listen to folks like yourself bemoan the dilution or failures of our membership-based service organization and/or Live Theatre Week when you have never chosen to be a member and support the very causes you seem to be espousing.


That said, I welcome you to join http://tpsonline.org/join/individual.shtml.

Sincerely,

Sam Read
Deputy Director
Theatre Puget Sound

Paul Mullin

Sam,

Thank you so much for your considered and elaborate response.

Of course, I have all sorts of counter-responses I am eager to post here, but I thought I'd hold off and instead wait to see if anyone, besides you or me, cares enough to chime in about these issues.

Cheers!
Paul

Basil

While I have no argument with Sam's reasoning behind the intent of LTW's campaign (we have different opinions on execution and he's the boss), my main beef was that is was AETHETICALLY terrible. And if you think that aethetics can't be quantified or must be watered down to appeal to a wider audience, you need to do more research on design and copy basics. Talk to the art dept. at an ad agency. Things like font, color scheme, layout, venue - hell, face powder on your photo subjects so they're not so shiny! It all matters! You're not just sending a messgae with your media, you are attaching a personality to it. And frankly, I want nothing to do with the personality introduced in the aforementioned capaign.

The argument that you need to treat people like all-average simpletons to get them intersted in theater is just insulting to everyone and doesn't even merit debate. I hate the percieved eliteism of regular theater too, but you can appeal to a broad range of people, and their smarter selves, without making theater look like an amteur circus. In this campaign, theater doesn't look engaging or interesting or inspiring, it just looks dumb.

Lest I be labled a do-nothing blog comment troll: Yes, I am a TPS member and theater artist with an interest in PR and marketing. I have made this argument openly to TPS staff and am willing to work to help make it better (no judgment on Paul here, you know I love you baby).

Paul Mullin

The point about me not being a TPS member is a salient one.

However, I don't think anyone would argue that TPS's services are much more oriented toward actors than playwrights, a completely understandable stance given how many more there are of the former than the latter.

When I looked at the numbers and the services offered, I determined that being a TPS member simply wasn't a value-add for my work. Now, if I am being asked to be a member because contributing to a theatre advocacy organization is the "right" thing to do, then I would probably insist that said advocacy be specific to theatre and not simply "the arts" which appears to be the direction which TPS is moving.

Sam

Hey Basil,
Thanks for your comments. Yes, aesthetically, it was nowhere near the best campaign. We tried something that succeeded on some levels and failed on others. And this is why that campaign is dead and buried. It was meant to be replaced last year but experimentation, time and lack of resources got the best of us. And I will own that.

However, I don’t want this conversation to be about picking apart a marketing campaign that is dead and gone. Believe me, we’ve heard it all!

Let’s focus on Paul’s main beef, which is Arts Crush and the apparent dilution of TPS’s mission.

Sam

Patrick Lennon

"I would probably insist that said advocacy be specific to theatre and not simply "the arts" which appears to be the direction which TPS is moving."

Don't you think you might be over-reacting just a bit? When I see TPS closing Theatre4 to open an art gallery, or organizing general auditions for classical musicians, then I might be concerned. But expanding one annual event about theatre into a larger annual event about the arts in general doesn't mean the sky is falling.

I also have to call you on your response to the TPS mission statement:
TPS is a member-driven organization whose main goals are the nurturing of a healthy and vibrant theatre community, developing strong ties among the region's theatre professionals, raising the visibility of the region's theatre scene on national and international levels, and finding ways to develop new and diverse audiences.

"Nowhere in the paragraph above is there any mention of cross-discipline arts promotion."

Actually, cross-discipline arts promotion sounds to me like a perfect example of "finding ways to develop new and diverse audiences." If someone loves dance but never goes to see theatre, wouldn't we love to draw them into to Arts Crush through dance, and then expose them to theatre and see if we can't make them a fan?

I guess I'm not sure why you are so upset about this whole thing. Do you think that theatre as an art form will get less exposure, or less advocacy, or fewer new audiences with Arts Crush as compared to Live Theatre Week? If anything, it seems to me that it will be the same or better. And as long as TPS is not siphoning money away from other projects (say subsidizing rehearsal space or running seattleperforms.com) to pay for increased costs for Arts Crush, I don't see the problem.

And you have to admit, Arts Crush (although cringe-worthy) is better than Artober.

Basil

Fair enough, Sam. No use debating a dead issue (as long as lessons were learned, of course!). And I deeply apologize for misspelling the word "aesthetic". Twice. Nothing kneecaps an argument like bad spelling and grammar. Blame my phone's keyboard (er, yeah, that's it).

I gotta say, I'm siding more with you than with Paul on the Arts Crush issue. I think breaking down barriers between creative disciplines is essential from an audience perspective, but also for the continued edification of working artists. Yes Paul, theatre artists are being asked to become patrons of other types of art, but this is not new. More accurately, they are being invited to expand their community. Something we should all be doing as much as we can. We should also be voting in elections and watching bad movies together and swimming with our kids and generally paying attention to life outside the little dark box we work in. It strengthens the larger arts sphere and those working within it. Is TPS moving outside its mission in pursuing this awareness of (gasp!) other art forms? Maybe. Is it causing immeasurable and irreversible damage to the theatre community in the process? Highly doubtful.
To quote you:
"Where are the other major discipline-specific arts organizations that are joining TPS in this move towards expansiveness?"
Well, you answer this question two lines later: "None of the non-theatre-but-still-discipline-specific organizations like Velocity Dance or Seattle Chamber Music come even close to matching TPS’s size or influence."
Basically, TPS has the resources to build bridges that other orgs do not, so it's taking the lead. You incite artists to push boundaries, challenge their audience and think bigger but you'd have TPS sit around and rent out rehearsal space? As a member I'm not automatically thrilled with this move, I do think there's a threat of spreading the message too thin, but I'm curious to see where it goes. I'm drawn to things that unite versus divide, generally speaking. Call me a dirty hippie (and I know you will).

Now Sam, on that note, I am also not giving TPS a pass here. We all saw what fearful decision-making did to Empty Space, Alice B. et al; I am suspicious of art-by-committee; I am very protective of the identity of the theater artist. A business head might save the building but it will not save the theatre. Only artful thinking and a strong heart can do that. TPS must move forward with confidence and strength of purpose, while at the same time being an advocate for its members and the larger theatre community. It's a tough balance and you may fail, but that's no reason not to give it a shot.

Scot Augustson

Hey Paul,
My brother's in town, but as soon as he leaves I'll come back and make an ill-informed, hyperbolic comment.

Julie

I love Scot Augustson. And that's all I'll really say about that.

Jim Jewell

Basil, I agree with lots and lots of what you say, and I've made no secret that I did not like the idea of ArtsCrush. For me, this is how the old LTW miserably-bad ad campaign and ArtsCrush overlap - sucky messaging.

I don't think you can effectively message about theatre, or protect the identity of the season artist, when it becomes part of "the arts." Those cross-discipline conversations are great and powerful on a personal level, but they ruin the focus needed to actually craft compelling messages (which takes a lot more research and critical thought on the front end than people outside the ad biz imagine).

And, no, I don't think lessons have been learned, because as much as Sam is right to say that campaign is dead and buried, he was defending it as "extremely successful!" in his original comment. But, if it has left a bad taste in mouths this far afterward, I don't call that success.

And therein lies my beef with TPS at the moment. I don't think they are being self-critical enough, which is why I am okay with criticizing them. I think they need more focus, they need to recognize failures and learn from them, they need to take dissent as seriously if not more seriously than agreement of ideas, because the dissent can only rightly stifle a bad idea - a good idea would gain strength in addressing the dissent.

Yes, we want to nurture relationships and encourage people that already consume one art to consume ours (which is easier, but also draws from their finite individual budget), but if we don't know how to effectively communicate about our discipline (which collectively we do not, and which TPS had as of yet not shown itself capable of) then we're sunk. And starting with "the arts" isn't, to my mind, the answer.

Paul Mullin

And now that Jewell has laid down covering fire, let me take a run at the pill box.

I would need to see a lot more evidence than what’s being offered to convince me that there is not already a huge overlap of audiences in the arts being represented in this ArtsCrush crush. In other words, I strongly suspect that someone who goes to modern dance and chamber music either already goes to theatre or doesn’t need the hard convincing that’s being talked about here. So the real goal, whether explicit or not, is a consolidation and shoring up of a market rather than actual dramatic bid for growth. It’s preaching to essentially the same choir from different pulpits. It’s wagon-circling under the false flag of expansiveness.

You don’t bring NEW people to the arts by being “Yay arts!” You bring them in by being sharp and specific and, indeed, perhaps even outrageous about the specific product you’re offering. Lady Gaga versus Lawrence Welk. I say the specific product should be theatre, and the message should be sharp and game-changing. One might expect that Theatre Puget Sound, with its moniker and mission, would be alignment with that sentiment, but, alas, with this move it proves it is not.

Since before the first post at Just Wrought I have consistently staked my reputation and career to say Seattle has a chance within the next few years to raise its profile as theatre city on national and even maybe international stage. TPS is perfectly positioned to facilitate that process. Who here or anywhere is willing to stake anything at all on the dubious and diffuse bid to raise Seattle’s profile as an “arts city”? See how absurd it sounds even as I say it?

In the great current struggle to make Seattle a World Class theatre city, TPS is stepping away from the breach instead of into it. What needs to happen is for some institution to say: “You know what? We ARE a great theatre city, and the whole world-- but most especially our own region--needs to understand that more clearly.”

Instead of Theatre Week we need, not ArtsCrush, but Theatre MONTH.

Patrick Lennon

"I don't think you can effectively message about theatre, or protect the identity of the season artist, when it becomes part of "the arts."

Fair enough. I think TPS is trying to address this somewhat by focusing each week on a specific craft, but it remains to be seen whether it works or not.

"Instead of Theatre Week we need, not ArtsCrush, but Theatre MONTH."

You'll get no complaints from me!

Jeremy M. Barker

I have to say that in the abstract, Arts Crush sounds fine. An arts festival is an arts festival...or fair...or marketing gimmick, however you want to put it. But the success or failure of it depends on whether it generates increased interest and pulls in audiences across art forms.

I think the most legitimate concern in this case is, to what degree are the people putting it together qualified to do a good job with literary events or visual arts? Did they get help from people who know how to connect with those audiences? Did they choose compelling work? So on and so forth? And I'm not trying to judge or pre-judge because I don't know. But I do think that its deceptively appealing to try to make a big tent bigger. If the idea of Live Theatre Week was to offer a little of everything for everyone, well, if the other arts in Seattle aren't prepared to do for Arts Crush what TPS is, or if TPS is moving to take on their work as curators and promoters...well, that would seem to dilute the mission and possibly disappoint more than entertain or engage audiences.

A big event like this can't have a narrow focus, and Live Theatre Week in the past hasn't, either, I don't think. I mean, they have everything from fringe to regionals to solo performance events going on. But if this becomes a "Bite of Seattle" for the arts, then it probably won't work as intended.

CT

Paul, appreciate, as ever, the forum.

=====
I personally am not a “Arts Celebration” kinda guy. Nor a “Theatre Celebration” kinda guy. That’s just my personal preference…I’ve been so fortunate to have so many special moments come in classwork, in rehearsal work, in performances I’ve been part of, and performances I’ve seen, but cued celebration of something rarely works for me. (This from a guy who also doesn’t do fireworks on the Fourth of July.) That said, I’m sure many many people have been exposed to theatre from such events, and I say, great.

I had a conversation with a non-theatre-goer recently who said he “likes to go to the theatre occasionally, he just saw Stomp.” It’s frustrating when I feel the gap between how people view theatre and what I understand theatre to be, for me, personally.

My best friend is a wonderful teacher Back East doing a production of Guys and Dolls with a hundred kids in it. A hundred. Kids. Is it what I would do? Hell no. But for her, the element of using theatre for community-building that coming together is key. Even if the performance level isn’t necessarily what it would be with more of a culling process. I have a different preference for what theatre can be, and of course I think “I’m right,” but I can’t deny the great boons that come from her experience, and who am I to stamp on anyone what theatre is or isn’t? What it can or can’t be? Even things that I think are “bad theatre” can still have some good yield…and if it doesn’t line up with my ideas of theatre, then I should go out and do what I think good theatre is.

Turning people off of theatre is a concern, but that concern will always always always exist.

TPS has a responsibility to TPS Members. Members show their support by continuing membership, and speaking up when they feel things aren’t what they’d like it to be. I don’t think TPS is responsible for the entire Seattle theatre community, it is simply an organization inside of the theatre community. And it even seems that input from a non member is listened to and addressed, which doesn’t necessarily mean agreed with.

ArtsCrush? Why not? I do find it intriguing that TPS—a “theatre organization”—is doing something that has a week on music, for example. But maybe something good will come of it. And if enough TPS Members feel, Waitwaitwait, this is not what I want for my organization, they should say so. Performing in Fort Worth I found MUCH more integration between art forms, and it was awesome; I don’t see why TPS shouldn’t try to reach out to visual arts, dance, music, local lit.

I don’t think of TPS as a mere “space renter,” I think they facilitate the things TPS facilitates. (And appreciate the help they've given over the years.) And the Rep is the Rep and Freehold is Freehold and NCTC is NCTC and WET is WET. And I belong and don’t belong in all of these organizations as I do and don’t. And if I ran any of them, not everyone would agree with every decision I made.

Opportunity exists. Some inside working channels. Some are your own, created by you. If an organization isn’t doing what you want, then you do it. Yourself.

And, a final thought. Man, I’ve had some failed projects. Failed attempts at things, on tiny and not-tiny scales. But I tried. And got many opinions. And in the end had to decide for myself what I agreed and disagreed with.

Nothing will never happen without trying, so let’s just try, succeed and fail as we may, not see eye to eye on some details, and move on.

Mike Rainey

No marketing campaign is going to solve the problems theatre is facing in Seattle (or anywhere else). Expertly executing mature material, acknowledging the need for access points for the audience, and understanding that entertainment is the chief tool by which all other theatrical intentions are achieved are required before issues of "world class" can be directly addressed with any effectiveness. You can't be the best burrito on the planet if you're not the best burrito on the block.

Now, I know there is excellence that happens, and that there are practitioners that routinely deliver it. What follows obviously doesn't apply to everyone, but it applies to the degree that my first impulse when I think of going to a show is "I'd rather do laundry."

So: sadly, twenty-five or so years into the big DIY theater boom in Seattle, companies still mistake shrill for edgy, loud for intense, and intention for discipline. I haven't seen any shows in Seattle for a very long time, but the alternative images offered above trigger in me nothing so much as "Oh no, not more of THAT, please!" The wheel is constantly reinvented with the same lumps and flat spots that have plagued the fringe since the beginning and which have become ossified into the identity of "fringe" theatre. I stopped going to shows because I got tired of paying good money to witness the same train wreck over and over again.

It feels to me that in trying to determine the qualities that make theatre unique from other forms, theatre artists have started chasing superficial theatrical effects instead of focusing on depth and intimacy in storytelling, aspects of the theatrical experience that are enabled by the patience and intelligence theatre audiences bring to the show, but which too often go unrewarded.

And that's the core problem as I see it - I am not rewarded for attending the theatre. I'm usually punished. Punished with boredom by laziness of execution, punished with pounding headaches by practitioners who fail to realize that intensity without stillness equals noise, punished by self-congratulatory displays of narcissism combined with desperate insecurity. Punished by gatekeepers who don't have the balls to say "No, not good enough" but instead say "Hey, sounds great!" then passive-aggressively make themselves a drag on the process.

If the community finds itself doing shows primarily for other theatre practitioners, then something is fundamentally broken in the concept of what theatre should be. People shouldn't support theatre because it's good to support theatre. They should support it because they get something from it. If you want to put the audience back in your theatre, you have to put "The Audience" back in your "theatre."

Jose' Amador

Mike,

Which pictures above are you talking about? The past TPS ad pictures or the WET publicity stills? Both?

I feel the rest of this sort of belongs in a different conversation, but I will say that the problems you describe isn't just attributable to the Fringe, they've existed about as long as theater has. Part of it is that you're looking at youthful artists in development, learning the meaning of nuance.

And maybe you might be the anti-Midas of theater going experieces, for I've had quite a favorable run of good to great theater going experiences of late.

I don't think you'll find anyone here against the notion of bringing "The Audience" back into the theater.

Peggy Gannon

(Some of this may be off-topic, but it at least touches topic by an accidental overlapping pinkie in a dark theater. Forgive my wandering.)

Jim Jewell -- I claim your response to this issue as my own! Allow me to quote, because if I were smarter & quicker, this is the part I could've written:

"And therein lies my beef with TPS at the moment. I don't think they are being self-critical enough, which is why I am okay with criticizing them. I think they need more focus, they need to recognize failures and learn from them, they need to take dissent as seriously if not more seriously than agreement of ideas, because the dissent can only rightly stifle a bad idea - a good idea would gain strength in addressing the dissent."

I agree with this sentiment across the board for our entire theater community. We are far too self-congratulatory and too quick acquiesce to others' congratulations. (Quicker still to keep our mouths shut when we don’t like something.) What we do is truly very hard and takes vast amounts of energy, and we let that fact lure into the conviction that it gives us a pass at a really painful but cleansing root cause analysis. The mere fact that my theater company exists doesn't prove that it should continue to do so. I'm weary of fundraisers where money gets passed up from artists to support the very organizations who we actually wish were able to support us. And rent parties? My god. Are you kidding me? You heard it hear first, because your friends won't tell you: The fact that you can't pay rent makes you look bad. Your rent party looks like a bad investment, smacks of desperation, and calls into question your worth as an artistically valuable organization. Fair or not, there it is. If you cannot pay your rent for so long that it warrants a rent party, you have failed. You have neglected to ask the tough questions of your organization, and you need throw a farewell party instead. (I speak as someone who has indeed thrown a farewell party instead.)

When I see an arts organization that (to me) appears successful, it has something in common with all other seemingly successful companies ... a definable brand and image. They have figured out what they do well, and they continue to do that thing well, and (equally important) find the people that like whatever that thing is.

I agree that many individual theater companies, and the community as a whole (and therefore, as both a reflection and a leader, TPS) are too quick to dilute our core flavor. Not everyone is going to like what we do, but we don’t need everybody to like it, we just need enough people to like it. We do that not by diluting but by enhancing the core. Those who like that flavor will come back. You know why I don't go to TGI Fridays? Because it can't possibly be special with 843 items on the menu. "But it has such broad appeal! You can get anything you want!" No. No, I can't, actually. Because what I want is food that doesn't suck.

I love TPS a lot. But I am wary of ArtsCrush. In theory it's neat, but it concerns me. Is "cross-discipline" the new "multi-media" (which, despite all the jizz spilt on it, did not really engage future audiences as was promised, did it)? I am a lover and admirer of the non-theatical arts, but we are theater artists, and so it's on the theater that we need to focus for now. Do a thorough spring-cleaning. Strip away everything that does not directly serve us. Be thoughtful, but not precious. Oh my gosh - look at that beautiful hardwood underneath those old, fugly carpets! Let's refinish it. Then bring back in the furniture we decided to keep, and add new pieces that fit. Decorate. Fill the fridge again. THEN we can invite our non-theater brethren over for a party. No cover charge & a host bar.

Paul Mullin

CT, thanks so much for chiming in.

Mike, so great to hear from you! Seattle theatre misses your unique gifts. (Confidentially, I can think of one or two WET shows that would've totally surprised and delighted you.)

Peggy, as always, WOW!

Lyam White

Your take is interesting, Mike, if only because the sort of mature, reflective theater for which you long sounds like precisely the kind of dry, academic exercise that drives me ever more deeply into the confines of surrealist poetry, European horror flicks, and abrasive, noise-oriented outposts of popular music. Just as I'd rather listen to some teenager scream and fart into a microphone with sincere intent than hear Wagner sung well, I'm generally willing to risk being saturated with the shrill and amateur to avoid the stale and bourgeois.

That is to say, you stake, quite eloquently, a position at the opposite end of the spectrum from mine, with a diametrically opposed sense of what "the problem" is. Maybe I just have more of the rage of youth in me.

Ultimately, my ideal theater would address some portion of both our interests--enough consonance to make the dissonance meaningful; enough polish and professionalism to give the "errors" the affect of virtuosity (if not the prosaic stench of "legitimacy"); enough maturity and circumspection to differentiate between well-considered existential rage and mere (post-)adolescent angst.

There should, of course, be room for both "schools" or forms (and we should probably each be exposed to the form not favored, lest we should become too entrenched to recognize the beauty outside of our respective [dis]comfort zones). As such, I agree with you that we need to get out of the habit of making theater solely for other theatricians. In that sense, I think a breadth of mission is somewhat useful. But as Jose hinted at, and Peggy (brilliantly) illustrates, the search for "The Audience" is as often a search for OUR audience--the audience that responds to whatever niche we're managing to fill. The notion of a popular music or a popular cinema that everyone enjoys seems to have dissolved; all popular art forms are balkanized, leaving individuals to enjoys the genres and sub-genres best designed to suit their aesthetic, social, and metaphysical interests. Why do we think the "breadth" that has failed artists in other disciplines will work for us in a form that everyone's constantly proclaiming is on its way to extinction?

To bring this around to topic (as opposed to continuing with my usual obsession with dismantling the foundations of civilization), what makes me uncomfortable about the dilution of TPS's mission is in casting its lot with other art forms whose appeal seems limited to the elite classes and bourgeois notions of what it means to be "adult." What makes me uncomfortable about the photographic ad campaign at which we all (rightly, I think) rolled our eyes is that it entrenched the notion that earnest, hard-working nerds make theater, as opposed to the grifters, whores, thieves and iconoclasts who ruled its history (and who have now moved on to more high-profile endeavors like hip-hop and webcasts). Granting, of course, that I'm more earnest nerd than thieving whore (it's just that my inner thieving whore is forever kicking her way to emergence).

The dialogue on the matter is always interesting to me, because elitism always seems to be the other side's malady. Non-elitism in theater too often, in my view, hinges on approchability, which ignores the essential coarseness that is a part of our popular culture, which, in turn, we must address even if our desire is to state opposition, which is certainly my goal (though I would differentiate between superficial and fundamental coarseness, that I might use the former in making a case against the latter).

Sorry this ended up being so long (and probably incoherent).

Jim Jewell

I dunno, Ly - by your standards, that was downright concise.

And Gannon? You got more sizzle than bacon in a fryin' pan.

A couple things have been eating at a corner of my brain that I need to share. I'm not here to bury TPS because I think they do good, and could do far more. But, I've got to call bullshit where I see it.

1) That ad campaign may be "dead and buried," yet I have some of the photos from it right here on my 2010 TPS Membership card. It isn't learning from mistakes, or even acknowledging as a mistake, when you keep re-using it.

2) So, Market the Arts Task Force approached TPS about ArtsCrush? Not that I necessarily doubt that, but it would be disingenuous not to include the fact that the Exec. Dir. of TPS is a chair of MTATF.

3) If you believe that we need to be thinking from the audience perspective, that we need to put "The Audience" in what we do, and that we need to be finding ways to talk to brand new people about what we do so we can start building new relationships*, you should be part of Holes Not Drills. Drop me a line at jimj@sct.org and I'll tell you all about it.

Jim

* - Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.

Paul Mullin

Jim's right, Lyam. That was relatively terse for you. And "theatrician"? THAT'S gonna leave a mark! But seriously, thanks as always for your unique perspective.

Jim, good on ya for shilling Holes Not Drills on my blog. But now I'm afraid I need to inform you that by doing so you have tacitly agreed to give me a cut of your future action. Even if that cut is simply getting to act in one of the commercials you produce.

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