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03/29/2011

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Scot Augustson

Paul. Guilty. I was just ashamed that it couldn't have been more than $100,000.

Scot Augustson

But seriously, Paul. Right now arts dollars are so scarce that if I were to give an org that much money I might keep in on the qt lest the sharks circle in. I mean, who wants the Rep and ACT to be calling at two in the morning saying, "What's wrong with me? Aren't I just as pretty as the Intiman?"

Paul Mullin

Try not to dwell in shame, Scot.

I know, I know. Said TRY.

PS I believe I explicitly asked you to stay "anonymous", did I not?

Scot Augustson

Oh. Paul, sorry, I thought "anonymous" was a euphemism for "dressed."

Paul Mullin

"Of course, mostly only artists reply here: notorious exhibitionists with notoriously little to lose."

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone in particular, Scot, especially not anyone naked.

Steven Gomez

Scot makes a good point with regards to not wanting to advertise (especially in the middle of a down economy) that you have significant disposable income you're willing to throw at big arts orgs.

At the same time, that would lead me to believe we'd have a lot more anonymous donors of large sums than we do now. I would think the $25K and up section of the big houses' donor lists would be nearly all anonymous.

There are several crack theories I could proffer as to why this mystery donor stays silent. But assuming our mystery entity is above board, this does lead me to believe that the donor is close to the org and that it indicates Intiman was never in the danger that they said they were.

Paul Mullin

Oh, I think the one thing we can know for SURE is that Intiman most certainly was, and still is, in the danger they said they are in. No arts organization claims to be in trouble like this without actually being in it.

The crucial point I'm making, and I'll reiterate and simplify it here, is thus: with the giver remaining anonymous the $100,000 is being asked to speak for itself. It carries no information beyond it's value as U.S. currency. No one is saying, "Hey, I believe in the Intiman for these reasons and I think you should too, and that is why I made this a matching grant."

What IS being said is: "100 grand is asking you to give 100 Grand. Just because."

I believe Intiman has moved into troubled territory well beyond the "just because" argument. Seattle needs reasons: tangible, well thought out reasons. And guarantees: tangible, well thought-out guarantees.

Money without reason is just money, and money can always be squandered.

Patrick Lennon

I agree on some level, in that I'd like to know why they think Intiman is worthy of the support. There's no right or wrong answer to that, but it would be nice to hear their actual reasoning.

BUT, regardless, anonymous giving is a long-standing Christian tradition. Many people consider it inappropriate to give publicly, because it indicates that one of your reasons to give is for the "glory" and recognition. If you truly believe a cause is worthy, you should give to the best of your ability because you care, not because you want your name on a donor wall.

That may not be the case here (I'm pretty sure Intiman has big donors lined up for every milestone date to donate whatever is still needed), but you shouldn't issue a blanket indictment of anonymous giving.

Paul Mullin

Thank you, Patrick.

Quick question: when you say "you shouldn't issue a blanket indictment of anonymous giving", is this because you feel that I have, or just that you're worried that I might?

Paul Mullin

And again, we must always keep in mind, this is a MATCHING GIFT we are talking about. This is not a "no-strings-attached" funding situation.

Patrick Lennon

I did interpret your post as a blanket indictment of anonymous giving, although I can see how you might not have intended it that way.

And yes, it is a matching gift, but I don't think that changes anything, if your choice to remain anonymous is based on your personal values.

On a vaguely related note, I'd be curious to know how matching gifts tend to work. They're quite common, and I'm fairly certain that in many (if not most) cases, the org fails to raise the entire pledged amount. In those cases, do the big donors usually match only what was actually raised, or give the entire amount anyway?

Omar Willey

I have given various amounts to at least eight arts organizations over the past year. Other than the one that did not honor my wish, I have *always* donated anonymously, for very much the reasons that Patrick outlines. I shy away from monetary recognition and tend to do things because they are the ethically the right things to do.

The matter here is that the grant in question is a matching grant. A matching grant is a statement of belief, but it is also a challenge to others' beliefs. I don't think the statement is "100 grand is asking you to give 100 grand just because." I think it's more like, "If your theater is worth 100 grand to the community, then it's really worth 200 grand to them, only they don't know its true value (or don't actually have the money)." It also carries another connotation, which is, "I don't think you're worth $100,000 outright or I'd give it myself. Prove me wrong and win a prize." It can just as easily be a dare--"I don't think you'll make your goal. I'll bet $100,000 that you won't."

Whether or not it will ultimately be squandered only matters to a donor if the donor truly cares how the money is spent, which I suspect is not the case at all. I certainly don't wonder how the organizations to which I've donated will spend my money. I only care really about their mission and their quality. Someone else will have to worry about the details.

And yes, I believe it's perfectly possible to believe in the Intiman's identity and its mission and its quality, even to the tune of $100,000. I think it's also possible that an entire community doesn't even care that the money has been squandered before and likely will be again, because their belief in the Intiman is so strong. I just happen not to share their belief.

Paul Mullin

Thanks, Patrick. I should clearly state that I have no philosophical bone to pick with anonymous giving per se. It's an important point to make, given the tenor of my post. I do, however, see the Intiman as a special case, sort of like a "hostile witness" for whom the normal rules of evidence no longer apply. Intiman's board has overseen financial malfeasance of a stunning proportion and yet to this day continues to blame, if they blame anyone, one man who only worked there for a period of about 14 months. They arrogantly eschew transparency as an insult to their better angels. I think this latest twist is more of the same sort of arrogance and wishful thinking. (Perversely, the playwright in me hopes they succeed in their gambit, because when I wear my wright's hat, I tend to root for the demons. They're SO much more interesting.)

Omar, thanks as always for chiming in.

Jeremy M. Barker

Just for the record, Paul, I've seen Carlo Scandiuzzi at a Shit Storm. He was pretty forthright too.

Paul Mullin

Thanks, Jeremy. I did not know that. Which one, do you recall specifically?

Now, to get all technical on your shit, I said that no one from the "latter group" i.e. board members and arts funders, showed up at Shit Storms. Now I know Carlo can fall into that group-- he is a happily wealthy fellow after all; but he is known to myself and most of Seattle's theatre community as the Executive Director of ACT, putting him squarely in the Artistic Administrators group. And before that, we knew and loved him as an actor, putting him in the artists group. Carlo's an admirably difficult fellow to categorize.

However, I stand by my essential assertion that Seattle's Board Members and Big Funders stay away in droves from frank and open discussions like the Shit Storms. More's the pity. Said discussions might be more productive if they anted up and weighed in.

nick

Hi Paul,

If it were only true that “one says one's words in public and stands by them with [one’s] body.” I quit reading Outrageous Fortune somewhere in Chapter 2 in protest to its method of research. If you hear one anonymous playwright or artistic director rag on the system, you’ve heard them all. There is a more prevailing tradition in theatre than one you suggest and the Outrageous Fortune “study” honors and contributes to it. Gossip mongering.

I know you promoted this book and the tour by its authors. I’m interested how you square its method of gathering anonymous remarks with your belief there is a tradition that theatre artists stand by their words.

Paul Mullin

Nick, I don’t think I’m hairsplitting when I point out that I promoted Seattle’s *public discussion* of OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE more than I did the book itself. And I “square” said promotion with the fact that Seattle hasn’t seen such broad a cross-section of the theatre ecology in one room to discuss the issue of new play development since, well… I do believe ever. I witnessed for the first time Big House administrators defending their record of new play development and I stood up in person, with my own body and called bullshit on them from my perspective. No one was hiding. No one was gossiping.

You seem to be saying that because OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE employed a methodology making use of anonymity that this somehow proves a prevailing tradition of it in the theatre. That seems fairly flimsy and fallacious evidence to me.

And what exactly is your bitch here? That the author’s of OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE were wrong in their conclusions, or that they shouldn’t have used anonymity to arrive at them?

And while we’re at it, what do either of those questions have to do with the blog post above?

Seems to me you are confusing theatre with academic investigations OF theatre. A common but nonetheless deadly conflation.

nick

Paul,
I was primarily contesting your statement:
"I know it's considered the custom of internet country to post anonymously, but there is no tradition of it in the theatre. In the world of live performance, one says one's words in public and stands by them with [one’s] body. ."

I think theatre artists generally consider their career, not ethics or art, when making public statements. OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE shows that both artistic directors and playwrights say things privately or anonymously that they will not say publicly. We already knew that as well as the other conclusions that the book supposedly revealed.

There are as many anonymous cowards and gossip mongers in theatre as there are anywhere else.

Paul Mullin

Fair enough, Nick.

I suppose I would clarify my argument to say that there's no need to *institutionalize* anonymity, or pseudonymity, as has been in prose writing and journalism. We should not embrace it as some sort of obvious good as so many on the internet have. I do my very very small part here by nixing anonymous comments. I also call out the cowards you mention when I can. I think I agree with you that they don't help much, nor do the gossips (though I never argued that there is no tradition of gossip in the theatre. That would be an insane position to try and defend!)

Bottom line: any playwright afraid to speak up-- publicly or privately-- to an artistic administrator is not worthy of the name.

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