Oct 30, 2006

A dark day for Seattle theatre

I heard about this while I was driving and I almost had to pull over. And I'm a pretty good driver.

Despite the diplomacy and thoughtful blame-skirting that is going on and will likely continue to go on about this, it pisses me the hell off. How much longer are we going to let boards of directors drive theatre into the ground in this city? ACT (still alive, but really, why?), ConWorks and now Empty Space. The divide between business and art grows wider now as the divide between fringe and so-called professional theatre grows ominously wider for young actors.

Here's who I blame:

The Board, - Non-profits operate in debt as a matter of course. This is not a red-flag like it is in the corporate world. The point (no matter how saddening) of a non-profit is not to make money. Seems obvious. This particular non-profit showed promise - something corporate investors should know how to spot if they're worth their salt. Shame on this board for its apathy and lack of vision.

The Non-Profit Model - I don't pretend to know the details of how these work (perhaps that's the problem, maybe I should. Maybe we all should). But it seems that artists are kept in an endless cycle of begging for money and then pouring it into a model that has zero return. Then we fill out mounds of paperwork to prove that we didn't make any money, then we beg for more with the promise not to offend our benefactors. Meanwhile, the self-worth of an entire arts community continues to erode. Why can't art be part of the marketplace? Let's have this discussion more often. Shame on us for believing that taking money equals selling out.

The Arts Community - Including myself. As stated above, we perpetuate a belief system that becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. I am an idealist, admittedly, largely due to the fact that I am physically unable to hide my frustration and anger behind apathy and cynicism anymore. It makes me ill. We all have the chance as artists to change what we do. To make it work better. The resources are there, the enthusiasm, the talent. We should be tarring and feathering these people for retarded decisions like this. Instead we cower and say "thank you sir, please don't yank my funding..." The Stranger is killing theatre?! Wrong: The Stranger has given more ink to Seattle theatre than any other paper in the city. Their criticism hasn't always been just, but I'll take it over Adcock's pointless ramblings any day.

Grow a spine, Seattle artists. Be brave and passionate and angry. Give the Stranger a reason to hate you and the other papers a reason to poo-poo you.

And raise a glass to the Empty Space, you ungrateful bastards.

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