Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Recession Theatre

TCG recently published it's monetary findings on the state of America's theatre community. Their annual report is highly detailed and analyzes the trends of about ever thing in theatre that is related to money from ticket sales, to expenses, to philanthropy. The report is mixed: subscription monies are up while number of subscriptions and individual ticket sales are down. Projections keep remaining optimistic that theatre will be a source of escape from this financial crisis and prevent the theatre from taking a major loss. But can we really count on that? Especially since we don't know how bad or how long our recession will last.

The outlook in Performink is bleaker. With the failing of Milwaukee Shakespeare because of a single donor, it's hard to maintain a sense of optimism. But let us try.

For a moment I want to turn our sights back to our last depression in the 1930's. It was during this time that the Group Theatre was founded and flourished. The Group Theatre may be the most influential group of theatre artists in this country's history and it was their coming together at a moment when we needed their voice that made them influential. Lead by the plays of Clifford Odets, the Group explored the pains of the recession.

While the company folded in 1941 during the war (and after the recession), its influences far outreached its lifespan. Elia Kazan and other former members founded the Actor's Studio to teach the Method that they had explored and developed while with the Group Theatre.

Other famous members include Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, Lee Strasberg, and Harold Clurman.

Though our financial outlook may be bleak, we stand before a great opportunity. Can theatre once again rise to the occasion and provide the perspective and comfort that people need in these troubled times?

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