More on Rocco’s Comments from #NewPlay

by Brian, the Boston Court Marketing dude

Clearly I’m a little obsessed with all the talk surrounding Rocco Landesman’s comments at #NewPlay convening at Arena Stage last week.  I mentioned it here and James Haro shared his thoughts here.

We aren’t the only ones talking about it.  Ken Davenport chimed in on his blog here and Clay Lord wrote a great article for Theatre Bay Area here. But Trisha Mead from Portland Center Stage wrote an entry for 2AMt titled “Dear Rocco” which struck a chord with me:

If, as you say, the Fichandlers and Papps of the world created a non-profit regional theater system to escape the pressures of supply and demand… in order to create space for the “R&D arm” of our culture… then shouldn’t the question of how many “butts” are in “seats” at any given performance be purposefully un-linked from the arts organization’s “value” to its community or the culture as a whole? Seen in that context, the relative abundance of arts institutions compared to the audience they reach should be seen as a natural product of the “R&D” model- after all, you don’t tell the national science community to only do experiments that will have consequences that impact a lot of people, or else stop researching. It is in the nature of scientific inquiry that the “game changing” insights cannot be predicted in advance. You’ve got to do lots of experiments – large, small, weird, obvious, not-so-obvious, seemingly frivolous and accidentally essential – before you uncover the one that will transform everything we know about our world forever.

We talk a lot here at Boston Court about what constitutes success.  2010 was a successful year when using the critic community and “butts in the seats” as the measuring stick.  2009, on the other hand, was not.  Yet when I look back at the plays we produced in 2009, there was some incredibly successful plays from a creative standpoint.

Producing world premiere plays is inherently risky.  But the more we, and other theaters around the county, depend on the bottom line (the butts in the seat measurement) the more we put risk-taking itself at risk.  I personally want more risk-taking.  I want more world premiere plays.  Even if that means I have to wade through a lot of ill-conceived and not-quite-ready-for-primetime theatre. Because I know there are gems out there.  But we’ll never find them if we keep relying on what The Bard wrote hundreds of years ago or what’s been churning in the Hollywood-to-Broadway machine because we know people will always go see it.   Even Shakespeare was a risk at one point.

Read Trisha Mead’s entire article here.

What do you think? Don’t be afraid to let us know in the comments section.


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