Two Interns Share Thoughts on Saving Theatre

By Emily Tugwell and James Haro

Well over two years ago, writer Brendan Kiley of the Seattle-based paper, The Stranger, published a (somewhat) controversial article titled “Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves.” Kiley really hit a lot of interesting points but are all the changes he suggested feasible, financially or otherwise? Does anyone care? According to him it doesn’t matter, the theater industry is a “drowning man” anyway. Might as well go down like an Olympic swimmer rather than a dead fish. You can read the list and consider the ideas that you do and don’t like. We’ve done just that, and shared our individual thoughts on each point that the author makes.

1. They Say: No more Shakespeare.

Emily: Though I do have a certain amount of respect for Shakespeare’s work…ENOUGH ALREADY. I want to see something new, bold, and possibly bizarre! There are so many amazing plays out in the world that are unknown and just waiting to be discovered. Go find them and create a production that we’ve never experienced before.

James: His basic point is that we need to look to the future of theater rather than dwell in its past. Pretty simple, but well worth reiterating. A solid line, “Teach your audiences to want surprises, not pacifiers.” Absolutely! I think we baby our audiences way too much. Give them something uncomfortable, or daring. I’ve seen some pretty sublimely vile and penetrating things on stage and now I look for it in all work.

2. They Say: Show new work…World premieres!

Emily: Like I said before, go find those unknown, new plays that are just floating around! And as for the Brendan’s mention of critics, I totally agree. Trumpet those theaters that surprise and take risks. You can help get their names out there!

James: Premieres, premieres, premieres! World, American, regional, as long as its new it needs to go up. I don’t believe for a second, a milli-moment, that there is not enough great new work in this country to fill the seasons of every company open today.

3. They Say: Produce as fast and often as you can.

Emily: This point is pretty ridiculous, though I love the mention of Nirvana. Honestly, by the time theatergoers find out about each show, it would already be over.

James: Who has the time and money to do what Annex did 20 years ago? Screw logic, it can be done, because it HAS been done.

4. They Say: Bring in the young folk.

Emily: We do need more young people in the theaters! This one hits close to home for me since I’m a marketing intern; I’m constantly thinking about how I can help increase those numbers.

James: As a 20-something, I can say that my eyes and my money are just as good as grandma’s. GET ME TO YOUR THEATER!

5. They Say: Take care of children.

Emily: This is a brilliant idea, and honestly the best way to “get them young.” Kids would be readily exposed to the theatre, and not only become more interested in seeing plays, but who knows… they might be more open to the idea of being involved with theatre, or just the arts in general. We need to cultivate creativity in children as early as possible.

James: The more time children spend around theaters the more like home it will feel. It’s all about community building, let’s make our theater’s the churches of the 21’st century. People are losing god more and more, let’s replace the struggle to attain the divine with the pleasure of grasping art.

6. They Say: Artists need affordable housing.

Emily: Areas with artist housing do seem to be few and far between. Cities often show off their local arts communities, but fail to give back to them. This is a conversation that needs to be initiated with all local governments.

James: I’m not a starving artist yet, still a starving student. People tend to roll their eyes when they hear of artists needing housing. What about poor single mothers? I think a fair trade off would be housing for artists that put in community service. Trust-fund playwrights then will at least get a bit of a dose of reality, maybe it will inform their work in the end. I’m just brainstorming this thought now.

7. They Say: Bring in the BOOZE!

Emily: Though I think it’s a great idea to have alcohol at theaters, you shouldn’t just “ignore” the law. No fringe theatre would be able to pay the insane fine associated with selling liquor without a license. There’s no need to build a bar. If you really want to treat your patrons like your guests, serve a free drink with each ticket!

James: Fight for the right for theaters to liquor up their patrons! Best line of the whole article, “Just take care of people.”

8. They Say: Boo and heckle to your heart’s content.

Emily: Participation is great way to heighten an audience member’s interest in what they’re watching. But for certain plays. Perfect for a comedy or more lighthearted show, but what about a serious drama?

James: Rude? Hell yeah, but fun! No mean spirits, just good times allowed.

9. They Say: Artists don’t “deserve” a living wage.

Emily: Without going on a rant about this, I just want to say one thing: EVERYONE deserves a living wage, whether they’re an artist or not.

James: I know I said I wouldn’t point out what I didn’t agree with. I just won’t comment on this one. I do believe artists deserve living wages, there’s no argument.

10. They Say: Drop out of grad school and gain world experience.

Emily: Oh yes, experience is important before grad school and you should definitely make sure you’ve had enough before you take the leap. And no need to resort to the BS argument of “Those who can’t do, teach.” The overwhelming majority of professors across all academic departments are experts currently working in their field. It’s those people that have had world experience that have the ability to teach!

James: Haven’t gotten there yet but I imagine the people I want teaching me after I graduate are the people actually working in the field.

Any thoughts our Kiley’s ideas or ours that you want to share? Leave them in the comments section below!

James Haro is a Los Angeles native currently attending Drexel University in Philadelphia, seeking his BS in Entertainment and Arts Management, Theatre Concentration. He co-operates a blog and produces/co-hosts the podcast ANGRY PATRONS RADIOEpisode #0.99 NOW UP! (Click here)


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