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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The audience and rental prices

Had the pleasure of reading Martin Denton's new Nytheatre i and he brought up a great point...how the Off-Off spaces are dying out.

I worked briefly at Theatre Row (the new Theatre Row) and at the risk of burning bridges I have to say it's a fine example of exactly what's wrong with the New York theatre scene. Dodger too.

Sure, these spaces have created new opening for high quality theatres...but the prices and contracts are simply out of the range for your standard Off-Off Company. It's increasingly rare to find a space that a group of friends can afford after saving up their waitressing money for a year. And why? Take the fine example of 42nd Street Development Corporation, which proudly enjoy the fruits of a relationship with the New Group (who can afford all kinds of space) and nickel and dime small companies for profit and nothing more.

One might say to me: Well, isn't that why anyone operates a business? To make money?

Answer: If they continue to kill the audiences by turning small exciting theater into a series of vanity projects by children with rich parents (I saw a few of those when I was at Theatre Row); or moving all the experimental work further from the audiences by forcing it to use odd lofts and cheap space because real theater's costs are so high, no one's going to make much money in the long run.

If the number of companies that are able to afford theatre in good quality theater's diminishes; so will the audience for any theater at all. Because they will be turned off by the "small shows" they do see, and will move further towards accepting that what's on Broadway, in its embarassing state...it was true theater is.

In the long run that creates an uneducated audience, and eventually, no real audience for anything other than movie adaptation musicals. Follow that to this logic: No actual audience of any economic merit for plays...at all.

Well...I said in the long run. But is it possible...we're already there?

1 comment:

IdWizard said...


You, and Martin, bring up very good points and I completely agree. I am meeting with Martin on Friday to discuss these ideas, as well as others pertaining to our little world.

I made a pledge at the last Dish that I would have a Dish Space (theatre used only by Dish companies - numbering 61 at this point) by Sept. 2006. I plan to make good on that pledge by establishing a pub theatre based on the british model in Park Slope using Regional Theatre models to open it - i.e. - Park Slope has over 10 Dish companies who call it home - therefore, if we work with only local (Park Slope) actors, designers, directors, writers, producers, etc...the work and the space will be supported financially as well as through audience.

Being that I would wager almost 80% of Off-Off companies who are 10 years and younger audiences are made up of people who have some connection to someone involved in the show - let's centralize this idea and combine the community theatre aspect of local, regional theatre along with the British model of establishing a place where people will congregate despite the show - a bar/cafe - to bring in new audiences. Park Slope is ripe for this as it is made up of many theatre-goers and only 2 real theatres exist here - the Brooklyn Lyceaum who does not even know how to run their space, and Gallery Players who has a firm and established audience of mostly older patrons.

Our space would be different. Not sure how it would work yet but I'm working on that.

You should come to the next Dish and we should talk about this with the other groups - early June.

Would love to hear your comments.

Zachary R. Mannheimer
Producing Artistic Director
The Subjective Theatre Company

Founder, President
The Community Dish