Theater For The Future

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Harnessing the Power of the Smart Mob

March 08, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Uncategorized

Just came across this incredible post by Kevin Kelly. What’s he’s talking about is exactly what I think the increasingly resonant theater blog conversation needs – a way to shape and focus the conversation without limiting the conversation. Through that shaping and focusing, we’ll find what we’re all craving… Action. A way to take the big, uncontrollable river of artists and energy and time running through the aging canals built by Broadway and Margo Jones and drive it through a new channel.

Chicago is famous for one of the great engineering wonders of the world: A river that was made to flow backwards. Kevin’s dead on: We can do group projects of this scale, but it takes not necessarily editing but engineering to direct the natural force of the stream of artists coming to town every day. Maybe it’s time to take those road trips out to Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Kentucky and see how we can form stronger relationships with the folks doing theater out there? Maybe we can help connect artists unable to work in town with places that could use their help?

Zack Mannheimer’s digging a new river out in Des Moines. The question of the hour is: How can you irrigate your community through your art and through your life? The conversation engineering is happening at the same time the conversation itself is happening, but the engine hasn’t fired yet. Some innovative approaches to focusing the conversation have come from Devilvet (Recipe Cards for theater models that work), TheaterIdeas (the Theater Tribe Ning Group), and, as I’ve mentioned, the League of Chicago Theaters (ChicagoPlays Wiki). Their inability to catch on yet all stem from the fact that they’re inefficient communication tools – recipe cards are simple and exciting, but they don’t always contain enough information, the Wiki has a number of powerful features but let’s face it, is unsexy and is complex to use, and the Ning group is like a group blog, and blogs are proving to have limitations when it comes to generating and documenting action and projects.

There are lots of sticks being rubbed together these days, so if you see a spark, start blowing.

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1 Comments to “Harnessing the Power of the Smart Mob”


  1. Maybe what we need is a Midwestern Theatre conference or similar – the Great Plains conference is happening in Omaha (and has been for the past few years) but seems to need buy-in from more regional companies. Right now, it’s basically the home teams and a few heavy hitters (this year it’s Doug Wright, last year it was Albee) from the national scene. I don’t feel like they’re trying terribly hard to get things in between – but maybe we need to take projects/proposals to them. Maybe they won’t know how much they need us until we’re there.

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