Clarification and Augmentation: an apology…. In the classical sense.

I am so enthusiastic about the response to my proposal and wanted to take a few lines to clarify the rationale behind some of the choices and suggestions as well as clarify ideas. This is long and potentially too much of an apology but here goes.

Pumping the brilliance of so many wonderful people’s responses through my brain has me to hone my proposal. I loathe making this too concrete until we have extended the conversation to a group of people interested in making this a reality. The devil is in the details both from the perspective that it will be the hard part to iron out and also that those details, at this stage may scare away prospective collaborators who feel they cannot have a voice at the table because the meal is already served.

The first concern that seems to carry some weight is the issue of random pairings and the problem of making these relationships be artistically synchronous.

I understand concerns about randomness and artistic synergy. One of my concerns though is that, as Rousseau might suggest, we don’t let our amours de soi be our guide. This is not a proposal of self-interest only. Amour de Propre which both established a place for envy but also drives pity and compassion is a more potent position. We need to avoid making this primarily an artistic conjunction, although it could be if the companies connected, and make it a relationship based on function and exposure, gaining cache and escalating energy. Planning based on artistic synergy make for great cooperation but is not effective in pushing the companies out of their mutual comfort zones. The random pairing avoids favoritism.

There is already evidence that these kinds of fostering relationships exist in Philly when a new company uses a member of its staff, who also works for a big company, to gain the entre my proposal suggests. I want to avoid friendship and personality the linchpin of the relationship and focus on developing art. The arranged marriage is deliberately a one year term and it is very specific in its manifestation. This is not a blending of companies. Certainly Theatre Philadelphia or some other overarching organization could help to take those randomly picked groups and make solid matches. I want us to assure that any company can get a shot as long as it is older than 5 years in Philly and thus has a track record of commitment to the region and to their work.

The one year term gives a jump start to the company without creating a crutch.

I think it may be viable to have all of the small theaters complete an application to both assure their seriousness as well as get a fix on the actual personality of the companies. There should also be some sort of agreement that the smaller company will respect and care for the image of their yearlong parent. I firmly believe that the smaller companies should include the host company in their own PR and curtain speeches. It is a year of thank yous as well and support.
Another concern was about the philosophical purpose of the piece.

I want to be clear that this is about extending the reach of our art not just making smaller companies more profitable. Income makes the work possible but if this was just a money grab, I would be suggesting some kind of free random grant. I am more interested in the interweaving of expertise and artists. We want the big companies to help smaller entities get their shot in the public eye. We are giving them access to an audience and then let the market be in control.

Philly Theatre is like cable company’s channel lineup. There are so many stations on the dial and to some extent; the big boys get all of the focus. They get the HD channels and regular channels, they have subservient networks that give multiple points of access to their message. Many people never go past their big 5 or 8 stations. Many people never stray from their comfort zone to watch a channel about a subject they are not engaged with presently. They never pause as the channel surf or they flip through favorites and never see the small stations at all. They never even really know they are there. One good spotlight for these smaller channels and suddenly they have a shot at viewership.

Look at the Superbowl and the GOLDIBLOX commercial. Intuit and Quick Books got great press by providing a Superbowl spot for a small company. The language on their contest website is pro small business. Goldiblox has had a significant boom from the one commercial spot. Both organizations gained and ultimately so did the issue of girls going into engineering. The ad gained both companies time on the major morning talk shows. Neither lost. The companies do not have any real artistic or corporate overlay. It is just a good act with positive consequences. My proposal is much less significant monetary outlay but sets up the same kinds of PR or access situation. The host company gains respect, connects with new folks and puts a feather in their fundraising cap. The smaller company gains support or a shot at the Barrymores, or a chance to access new audience.

The company, now less marginalized has their shot to build and connect with an audience. If their work does not stick, then that is the way it is. They should earn their audience while they adhere to their mission and vision but they can only earn the audience in a free market and Philly is not a free and balanced market.
Iron Age already practices this even though we are small. We provide some funding and substantial expertise with little return in our relationship with the Centre Theater. I will write about that in another blog.

There are some legitimate points about the fear of the damage to the big companies brand by being partnered with a company counter to that brand. That issue is much more an issue of the practicality of this proposal rather than the fairness. I struggle with the idea that I need to sell this and sacrifice the core idea. This is not to say I can’t see that portion of this idea being adjusted. The big guys would have clearly defined roles and so abuse would be limited by both those structures and time of relationship. This may not work at all and I may be a madman, but I believe this is the seed of something worthwhile.

This proposal needs the eyes of others on it. Big companies, small companies and representatives of the neutral middle group should meet to hammer out the details.
Excluding certain groups from this situation based on the brand of the biggest and most powerful is something I cannot accept just as picking companies based on that same synchronicity is not valid to the philosophy behind this idea. I hope not to abandon any of our working theaters.

I appreciate the cynicism of so many and apologize for my perhaps my rosy colored idealism. I don’t much care how the world works. I know I need to deal with it, I don’t plead ignorance but I won’t let the real world limit me. The hearts and minds of people can be changed and I believe people are better than we expect. My deep felt romanticism informs that position. Being limited by reality is not part of my DNA. I care about standing firmly on the side of how it should (or could) be and that may be foolish and naive, I know. We have a duty as artists to foster art, and I mean the idea of art as a general presence, in our community.

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