Every year about this time there is a similar debate around the Chicago theatre community. As the various companies announce their seasons, several companies have often decided on doing the same show during the upcoming season. The bloggers, critics, and industry writers often begin complaining about companies that choose to stick with their season. Their ideals are sound; why saturate the market with the same show? There are more than enough of good theatre that everyone around Chicago should be able to do their own work. And how does one company's really good (or really terrible) production affect the second production later in the season.
These are all valid concerns. No theatre company wants to be doing the same show as someone else and certainly none of them are doing it on purpose. It comes down to the face that there is no communication between the companies in this process. There is no mass meeting of minds to share and compare seasons across Chicago-land before the selections are made public.
So what, if anything, can be done about this?
The logical first step if for companies to watch the season announcements of other companies. Unfortunately, selection processes are often not as flexible as that. A theatre company takes a long time to decide what fits its mission, what is best for its budget, its audience, and the artists it serves. This often is a many month process and takes many things into consideration. What if one company is choosing to do The Crucible because it exactly fits the actors of their company whereas another company has the perfect director for the show with a great vision.
At my college, every year the twenty or so student theatre groups all had to sit down and compare their seasons with each other before they released their picks. Granted that is a less practical solution in a city that has hundreds of theatre groups across a wide geographical area. Theatre groups that range from the size of Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Chicago Shakes, to Steep, City Lit, and Oracle. Many of the companies aren't even serving the same audience so the overlap doesn't even matter in the first place.
But what is the solution? Share some of your ideas here. Should there be a mass convening of all the companies? If so who should moderate - the League of Chicago Theatres or perhaps the Jeff Awards? How do you decided who is allowed to do a show and who has to alter their season? Maybe the best solution is to keep the current system. What do you think?
Happy Birthday: Naguib Surar