Sunday, March 22, 2009
Mike Daisey vs. American theater
Mike Daisey is back in Colorado Springs this month criticizing the state of American theater.
Bobo herewith presents a self-serving snip:
Denver Post: You have described the slow death of newspapers as "the next great crisis of the American regional theater." Why?
Mike Daisey: Theater is deeply interdependent on the newspaper industry — theater critics have been an integral part of theater's identity for more than a century, woven into the core rituals of opening night, previews and so forth. With the current model of newspapers collapsing, we will lose that support system of critical feedback, and it will strike a deep blow to theater's sense of itself as a relevant art form.
The media that replaces and evolves from newspapers are unlikely to give theater as much attention as it is getting now, and the loss of advertising space will mean theater needs to actually think about how to reach people. It will be a difficult transition that theaters are poorly equipped to handle.
A review of Daisey's show at the Wooly Mammoth in Wash., D.C., in Jan. '09 is here.
OK, so Spokane doesn't even qualify as a regional theater hub, certainly not from a New York City POV. And theaters will continue to struggle in this economic climate. But ya know -- when have people ever NOT said theaters were struggling? Shows like Together Again for the First Time at Interplayers and Cuckoo's Nest and Godspell at the Civic demonstrate that sufficient numbers of the public will take to a production and support it, at least enough to keep theater around here floating and maybe even thriving.
To reassure you: *Editor & Publisher,* a trade magazine, recently ran a good-news-in-very-bad-times article on small-market alt-weeklies that are, counter-intuitively, still making money. And The Inlander was one of ten profiled. And most of them, instead of declining, were showing annual growth rates of 1 or 2 or 3 percent.
The Inlander grew 9.6 percent last year. Our gross annual revenue is in the $3 million range.
We're geographically isolated, the only (comparable) show in town. The home-grown McGregor boys started us. We're left-of-center, but not as liberal as lots of alt-weeklies in other parts of the nation. We make some mistakes, but we try to offer good customer service. And we've got -- here's the mantra -- the highest market penetration of any alt-weekly in the country.
So page counts are holding stable, InHealth and the Annual Manual are money-makers, and we're doing quite nicely, thank you. Been givin' it away for free for 15 years, and guess how readers like their content delivered today? Free.
And I still (mostly) like my job. Which means, I guess, the theater community is stuck with Bobo for awhile.
Which has its disadvantages.
But also advantages: Somebody advocating for theater, trying to treat it as important (in the sense of giving it as much space as, say, sports coverage). Somebody who, even if you disagree with him all the time, at least you're accustomed to what you're disagreeing with.