Thursday, June 11, 2009

Good, Cheap, Fast... Pick Two

The motto "Good, Cheap, Fast... Pick Two" has been applied to many things over the years. I first learned of it in the scene shop where I did my undergraduate work. Funny thing was they really didn't need to be concerned about this. While a shop always has to struggle against a designer to stay on budget, "cheap" is a relative term at Northwestern University. As for fast, with the amount of labor they had from the students fulfilling their required labs they had an army of hands to put things together.

Things are very different in the world of storefront theatre and Off-Loop theatre here in Chicago.

Producing in the world of small theatre is the ultimate game of resourse management. All these companies are producing theatre on a shoe-string budget so cheap is not an option - it is simply the reality of the world you live in. Cheap speads across to all facets of the theatre, not just production. Events, rental, staffing, and fundraising; there is very little money to spend and it has to streach to cover everything. All the smaller companies that have found a way to make it work are either crazy or excellent bean counters.

But the cheap also affects the speed at which a production happens. Since the budget does not allow for long rental times, previews are often at a minimum and tech week is short to almost non-existant. That means the whole tech process has to happen in a matter of days. Add on top of that the fact that budget again dictates that there is no shop or build space, and the amount of time again decreases to a minimum.

So these theatre companies have already picked two.

Which leaves us with good. Going back to our good friend Ben Cameron, we must remember that "excellence is not a value." Good is not something that we can ever compromise on especially in the world of storefront theatre. There are so many competing companies that you have to be good at what you do to be noticed. If you don't make a name for yourself, pretty soon you won't be around anymore.

So what is the point of all of this? How can we help ease the burden of these theatre companies and help them to produce better work? Go see their shows. It is as simple as that. Tell your friends. Take a kid with you to the theatre. The trickle down effect will be amazing and touch more people than you could ever know.

Happy Birthday: Ben Jonson (1572-1637) and Athol Fugard (b. 1932)

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