Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Does Theatre Exist Outisde New York?

A recent posting on TimeOut Chicago bristles as some off hand comment in a New York Times article that basically insinuates that theatre does not exist outside New York City. I'll let you read the two articles for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

But in a bigger sense, it opens up a very important debate. While there is no argument that theatre exists outside New York - let alone great or important theatre - there is something to be said for the NYC model.

It has always puzzled me that Chicago, which is a great theatre town, has to bring in touring productions at all. Why should this even happen when we have so much theatre to choose from and at far more affordable prices? Why do we need to draw away from our own unique voice to draw audiences?

It goes to say something for the power of the almighty buck. Money not only gets you better sets, costumes, lights and etc. but it also get you the more important marketing and publicity. You have to spend money to make money.

Also, something that the New York theatre business has right is artist compensation. Their artists are paid. And yes if you work at Goodman, Shakes, Steppenwolf and the like, you are going to be paid. But what about the Strawdogs, Oracles, and Building Stages of our home town. If they do pay, it's not much. Yet they compete with companies that do pay for press, audiences and sometimes awards.

And if you are comparing Strawdog or City Lit to Jersey Boys, they are not even in the same league. It makes the off-loop theatre look like an insane hobby; hours of investment for little money. So what is the benefit? Personal gain?

Chicago's strength is in is large theater community. But that is also part of its weakness. The work and creativity that comes out of Chicago will always be second to none, but unless it it picked up by those Producers with the big money (most of whom work out of New York) there will be little ripple affect outside the neighborhood and few subscribers that these little gems have.

Both models have a place in this town. Both service their purpose. Both are entirely different.

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