Here are a few ideas I've got personally, some easy, some less so, that I'd love to offer up for some discussion and consideration. Some of these are already happening in some form.
1. Cooperation between companies with complimentary missions.
At the community board meeting last night, the term "co-opetition" was used. Obviously, in a city of hundreds of productions, we compete for tickets and eyeballs. The problem is that we're competing for an increasingly small number of eyeballs and actively interested audience members. By working together, we share our audiences, broaden interest, and pool resources.
That is not to say that all theaters should drop money into a bucket. It is to say that there are many theater companies in this city with complimentary or similar goals, and that by working together, we can serve each other's mission.
A perfect example of this was, coincidentally, on display the very night the idea was brought up. The Ma-Yi Theater Company was the co-producer of the Vampire Cowboys production. Ma-Yi supports Asian-American Artists; Qui Nguyen is a member of that community. Instead of having Qui create one show for Ma-Yi and one for his own company, the companies pooled resources and gave the Vampire Cowboys a broader budget and range of support than they had on their own. It's the perfect complimentary relationship, and it does good things for both organizations.
Think of the countless theater companies in this city dedicated to performing "new works." Or the number of theaters that do Shakespeare outdoors in the summer. Or companies dedicated to ensemble performance. Surely, working together, many of these companies could find complimentary ways in which to serve their own artistic needs and reduce their financial burdens and time constraints.
2. Showcase Code Reform.
I won't really stop harping on this. It still hasn't happened and it needs to happen. Reforming the Code, or creating a new realistic code, is a lot like modernizing the Health Care industry. Make the change and the benefits will be across the board and immediate. More productions will have a better chance of success and therefore more small producers could move towards mid-sized contracts. That means more actors who work for small companies they believe in can see the dream of being paid realized. More success means more work for actors.
I continue to propose that the best compromise here is for small producers to contribute a prorated amount to actor's health insurance in a lump sum for a production that extends beyond 16 performances. Then, Equity actors can recieve a portion of their "weeks" towards health insurance. One week of a Independent Theater show would equal 1/2 or 1/4th weeks towards health insurance coverage from their own union.
3. City-wide premieres.
Early on in the life of this blog, the idea of a national premiere of a new play (a single new play performed by many companies across the country at one time) was thrown around, and it got a lot of us excited. I know there was some movement on that topic, although being the myopic apartment dweller and internet lazybones I am, I was pretty much out of the loop on that before the rubber hit the road.
That doesn't mean it's not a good and exciting idea. What if it was just done within this city? What if, for example, several small theaters with a dedication towards producing new work commissioned something by Ken Urban (for example) and all opened it on the same night at several theaters throughout the city. It would create a big event feel for the premiere of a new play, in a world where a new play seems to appear and drop off the radar every two weeks. It would also celebrate the uniqueness of different designers and directors and celebrate the power of the live event.
4. Answering the important questions.
If you're a theater company with a space...maybe it's time for you to sit down and work out your answers to these questions and questions like them...
a. The local businesses in my area are:
b. The other theaters in my area are:
c. My theater provides my area with this unique service:
d. My theater promotes the following demographic to come into my neighborhood:
e. It costs _____ a year for my space to operate. Our funding is ______. That is a shortfall / surplus of ______.
f. The companies that utilize our space include:
Those are just a few. I'm sure you could come up with 20 questions worth. Maybe something standard like this would help theaters look at themselves economically and look at their community, not only at their artistic mission.
That's a good start. How does this look to you? What else should we be doing or considering?