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Archive for March, 2009

World Theatre Day Happened

March 28, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, Community Building, projects

And if you missed it, you can see it again.

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World Theatre Day Updates

March 26, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Community Building, projects

You coming on Friday night? Chopin Theatre, Chicago, at 9:30. I hope to see you there.

The World Theatre Media Feed is open for business. Yes, you can now share your theater videos, photos, audio, and text snippets of your work and World Theatre Day celebrations with the rest of the world. Just send your material to http://tinyurl.com/wtdmedia – and check out our detailed instructions.

Speaking of World Theatre Day celebrations, it has been interesting to see how different countries celebrate in different ways. This just came my way from Carla Estefan, production manager of the brilliant Triptal company from Sao Paulo, Brazil who visited the Goodman this year:

O Movimento Redemoinho, que une grupos teatrais de 14 estados do país, tem participado do intenso debate que ocorre há anos sobre a reformulação das políticas públicas para a área cultural. Nesse período,na contramão de propostas de ação pública baseadas em renúncia fiscal, chegou a formular um projeto de fomento – o Prêmio Teatro Brasileiro – que prevê não apenas a manutenção de trabalhos continuados, mas a produção e a circulação de espetáculos, através de verbas do orçamento da União. Em paralelo, através de documentos públicos, discussões e artigos de jornal, reafirmamos nosso interesse em trabalhar a favor da construção de ações públicas que sejam capazes de desprivatizar e desmercantilizar os processos culturais que ocorrem no país hoje.
acesse:
1- http://www.grupos.com.br/group/redemoinho/Messages.html?action=message&id=1205095909532341&year=08&month=3&prev=1
2-http://www.cooperativadeteatro.com.br/newsDetails.do?id=732
3-http://teatrodegrupos.blogspot.com/

For your english edification, here’s a translation:

The vortex movement, which unites theater groups from 14 states of the country, has participated in the intense debate that occurs many years on the reform of public policies for the cultural area. During this period, the contramão proposals for public action based on tax waiver, has to formulate a project to promote – the Brazilian Theater Award – which provides not only the maintenance of continued work, but the production and circulation of spectacles, through funds from At the Union’s budget, through public documents, discussions and newspaper articles, we reaffirm our interest in working for the construction of public actions that are capable of deprivitasation and demercantilization cultural processes that occur in the country today.

I have heard that there will be tax protests in Sao Paulo today. Crazy.

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Two Big Shots that just made me Smile.

March 12, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, On the Theatrosphere

#1: TCG, with this page on World Theatre Day, has given blessing and gas to the global theatrosphere’s ad-hoc collaboration running up to March 27th. Note the MAP of EVENTS cleverly arranged by @floggingkatie (we need to get Sao Paulo on there!), both easy and more involved ways to participate, and links to handy socially-networked resources like our Facebook page, Twitter updates, and collaboratively-authored blog. Yes, that means that YOUR THEATER can promote and display YOUR World Theatre Day events on this blog, the TCG website, and with the League of Chicago Theatres all with a couple clicks. Let the world work for you.

#2: Da Mare, for this:

I feel like a party after all this. Oh wait, there will be a WORLD THEATRE DAY CELEBRATION at the Chopin Theatre on Friday, March 27, after shows have finished beginning around 9-10 pm. I’m helping on the technical end with a few presentations, and if there’s anything you want to contribute on that front please let me know. I like teching a good festival atmosphere, and the Chopin is a multi-room comfy environment for play and discussion. If you want to participate in World Theatre Day but don’t know how, check here for lots of suggestions. If you just want to show up and have a good time: Do so! Bring your theater, bring your audience, bring the world.

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To Theaters / Artists in Chicago who are dipping their toes into Twitter

March 12, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, Infrastructure, On the Theatrosphere

Read this.

And no, it’s not at all like facebook, that’s a common misperception that I overheard about three times between the Merchandise Mart el and Dunkin Donuts this morning. Yes, that’s about 20 steps. That many conversations about one thing means: Use. Wisely.

Twitter is also, at least so far, *not* a way to tap into a new potential audience, though I know that’s what you’re hoping it is. I think it will be eventually, or suddenly by accident, but not yet. Right now it’s the most valuable tool one might have for solving your problems with lots of global, brilliant minds who have worked through similar problems.

h/t @shamelesshussy

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Raise Money. When No Money Comes: Save Money.

March 06, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, In a Perfect World, Infrastructure, Teachable Moments

I have been thinking about this for a couple weeks now:

I love About Face. Their work is important. Their youth program is solid, and yes, I’d agree that it is unique. Inarguably About Face created several of the best long-running works I’ve seen in Chicago: I Am My Own Wife and Winesburg, Ohio. And there are a lot of others that I missed.

But. I cannot help raise $300,000 for About Face. Other than by drawing your attention to it, as many others have this week. If you can help, you should. But I’ve been trying for what seems like years to raise even $10,000 for my home theater, and that has never easy for a theater of our size under normal economic conditions. And I know from among other things the League Fiscal Survey that About Face is not alone and will not be alone in the coming months. I am imagining, right now, a sea of $300,000 pledge drives and that. just. will. not. work.

I get the pain, even if I don’t really understand of the specific conditions. There was this particular day I visited the offices of the soon-to-shutter Famous Door theater after the run of Great Society that I had worked on, days before they started rehearsals for their last production. This was a company that still inspires me, years later, for their seminal production of Cider House Rules that introduced me to Chicago theater – and what Chicago Theater could be. This particular day the tone in the office was… demoralized. Framed pictures were piling on desks. I remember that. No one was moving out… yet. But preparations were in effect. There was big debt being talked about in rumors. The managing director sheparded into a closed office a last-ditch group of independant funders. It was gut-wrenching to watch a theater that I loved break apart. I wish they had as a company reduced their overhead to a manageable level before they had to cease and burn out. Instead, they seemed to do what was best for the people in the company… dismantle the company to allow everyone to pursue their incredible acting careers.

This is not an idea I enjoy writing. It is a moment of support through challenge:

I can hear the furious typing of reprioritized budgets, and backup plans set in motion. Remember what we all know: we should support most what makes our work live most. (Hint: it’s the people, it’s not the office, the furniture.) It’s only partly the space, though we need to support the venues that support us just as if they were a company member. It’s the work, it’s not the size of the production budget. It is that ability to connect with students in your education program and teach them in a lasting way. You may not be able to pay the people, but find new ways to support and connect with your artists.

We must, must, must, must, must, must, must adapt or we will die. That starts with rationing. This is a climate change for the arts. If we are a polar bear sitting on a melting iceberg we can do four things:

– Wait it out. And drown.

– Panic. And drown.

– Phone a prominent national zoo for a helicopter rescue and a cushy but ultimately transformed life as a toothless and contained exhibit in a museum. And hope they pick up the phone before we count all our unhatched chickens.

– Swim to the nearest rocky outcropping before we float away into open ocean and learn to bite through tough Walrus hide. As if our life depended on it.

Survival is more important than the Money.

Here is a list of things I am doing to help my collaborators continue to do the work they do in the face of nightmare scenarios. I have no resources to my name other than time, connections to other awesome people, and ingenuity. So I know these ideas don’t require significant amounts of money. Post your own additions in the comments:

– Unemployed? Spend your time learning new skills. I am training about five people right now about skills that are marketable beyond the arts., and as you can tell from that link, have already gotten some dividends on that training in a little over a year. HTML, PHP, Ruby on Rails Web Programming, Graphics Design, Podcast recording and production, DVD authoring. It is HARD to learn while you’re unemployed. It is hard to battle through the feeling of personal whatever to make small steps of progress again. So latch on to people who know skills like and beyond these, make them breakfast, and learn from them as if your life depends on it. Think about the possibilities you can tap into: there is an expanding market right now for highly-skilled freelancers as full-time coders and records. It’s not a pretty situation any way you slice it, but I’ve seen theater workers, who need these skills anyway to support their primary work, bring a unique and attractive creative energy to technological and design work. It’s vastly easier than managing the logistics of creating theater (yeah, I said it, eat that private sector) and in the right proportions will support the work rather than sap time away from it.

– Fighting an uphill battle against the tide alone? Collaborate. No collaboration can stand without building a trustful relationship first. Be dependable and depend on others. Theaters all need to face this problem three days/months/years ago, and each theater is still coming up with solutions in their own private laboratory. For the love of god, there’s a reason why the medical community publishes their work. Share your thoughts, plans, and goals with other theaters towards the end of mutual support. Get specific, get vocal, get transparent. Those seem to be the traits that are rewarded by community attention right now. Perhaps itemize what specific line items your $300,000 fund drive will go to support. There is often a $5,000 solution to a $20,000 problem… if many eyes are on the lookout, you’ll find it faster. Also, on a really basic level – talking out your problems with your peers provides all kinds of psychological support that helps nurture creative problem solving.

– Closing down the office? Where will we have in-depth creative discussions? Where can we focus our energy? I’ve explored the low-cost possibilities of public spaces, online forums, and all the wonderful breakfast joints this town has to offer for a more efficient kind of collaboration. And you know what, it’s hard, but it works.

For more on this problem as it relates to Chicago Theatre, listen to this analysis / Q&A from Justin Kaufmann, Jonathan Abarbanel & Kelly Kleiman at WBEZ.

I’ll say it one last time (since it is a mantra):

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