The following reflects the opinions of the writer only and is not meant to represent positions taken by the Knightsbridge Theatre.
I passed a new frontier in my Twitter experience last night – I actually lost sleep over a tweet, which linked to the following abstract from a chapter of 20Under40, a publication which seeks to “re-invent the arts and arts education for the 21st century”.
ABSTRACT: In the past fifteen years, the number of non-profit theater companies has doubled while audiences and funding have shrunk. Across the arts sector, thousands of young artists are flooding the field, hoping for sustainable careers in the arts while even our most venerable institutions are looking shaky. Neither the field nor the next generation of artists is served by the unexamined multiplication of companies based on the same old model. This chapter introduces some models for a new kind of arts institution, explores alternative paths for emerging and mid-career artists, and proposes a new definition of sustainability. (Emphasis added.)
Admittedly, I have not read the book, and it seems there may be some good ideas in there, but the emphasized sentence above was enough to keep me grinding my teeth last night.
The multiplication of new theatre companies, whether or not they conform to the author’s structural preferences, are evidence of a vibrant, diverse theatre community, and new companies may bring experiments and risks of a sort that may not be possible under an established theatre’s structure.
The abstract seems to suggest there is a zero-sum game out there with an ever-shrinking pie of funding/audience, and new theatre companies will only weaken established companies’ chances. This is just not true. New companies create new audience for theatre because they start out with their own social networks as their audience, many of whom are relatives or close friends that are new to theatre or are not regular theatergoers. Additionally, if we can get more people in the seats enjoying theatre, eventually there will be greater political demand for arts funding. (Admittedly, macro-economic factors look grim right now regardless, but solutions to that are outside the scope of my knowledge.)
Finally, I was surprised to discover that the author, Rebecca Novick, founded Crowded Fire Theatre Company. Ms. Novick seems to have contributed to the very multiplication she is now opposing. Looks like a great company, and I doubt she regrets it.
What do you think? Are there too many theatre companies in L.A.? Should theatre artists always shop around for existing companies before striking forth on their own?
– Mark Petrie