Reflections on the Age-Old Question, “What Next?” and the Troublesome Questions of Identity and Purpose That Ensue, Part 2
I’ve really made an effort in the past year or two to see as much theatre as I can. It’s always difficult when running a season of our own, because when we have a show up it’s pretty much impossible to see anything else. However, I think it’s really important to see other shows and other companies in order to grow.
Art thrives off of other art. Whether you are inspired, you “borrow” or steal outright, or you see something that you don’t like – you walk away with something. You have an idea. You saw a technique you hadn’t seen before. Perhaps you find an actor or actress who you want to work with.
With that in mind, I’ve been studying the other companies in the Triangle lately. Looking at what they do, considering what works and what doesn’t work on the business side as well as the artistic side. I’ve come to a few conclusions:
- You have to differentiate yourself. If you’re doing the same shows as other companies, and stylistically they’re not very different, the hardcore theatre-goers are going to be less interested (and let’s face it, they are the base).
- You don’t necessarily have to do well-recognized shows to have an audience. Manbites Dog has proved this pretty convincingly. They do original work and people come because of the company’s reputation, not necessarily for the playwright or the play.
- Seasons don’t really matter unless you are selling subscriptions (which we are not currently). Even then, a season announcement won’t affect the non-subscription buyers – they’re only going to see what interests them anyway.
As Managing Director, I have to consider the business end as well as the artistic end. We don’t have unlimited funds, so a serious misstep can really muck us up. Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet in my seven-plus years with the company, but I’m not looking to break that streak.
We have to balance those pragmatic business needs with what drives us artistically. It’s not enough for us to do what we are passionate about – other people have to care, too, or else the whole operation is unsustainable.
I believe there is a new model of contemporary American theatre emerging. It operates more like a business and less like a charity. It is a lean operation. There is not a lot of overhead. It is innovative and different. It is highly creative, and it will redefine the experience of going to see a play.
That last paragraph pretty much sums up what Bare Theatre is.
Rather than overexert ourselves trying to make the company something it isn’t, I want to make our focus all about getting creative people together to create experiences that will inspire and educate others.
Which leads me to The Next Show and Where We Go From Here…