Friday, May 26, 2006

It's Business...It's Business TIME!

I keep forgetting that theatre people hate hearing about the business side of things.

I guess I need to clarify a few things.

Some people have responded to Scott Walters's blog about relevancy in theatre and my comment about theatre artists needing to understand the business aspect of helming a show. I absolutely don't think art should take a back seat to business by any stretch of the imagination. For regular readers of Jamespeak and/or regular attendees of Nosedive shows, this treads on the painfully obvious (hence me not stating this before). However, in fairness to many theatre bloggers who don't know me from Adam, I can see how my comment(s) could be misinterpreted that way.

So let me just say, so there's no misunderstanding...

Art should not take a back seat to business.

Having said that, artists should know the business aspects of staging a work, unless they're very lucky individuals who luck out with grants or fellowships. I am not one of those lucky individuals, and I have yet to be given the Standard Rich & Famous Contract by Mr. Big-Timey Producer, so it is up to my company and me to get my work staged.

In order to self-produce, you have to know the business elements of staging a play.

(Again, I'm aware that this is sounding excruciatingly self-evident. But I do want to make this very clear, so that there is no misunderstanding.)

My plays are not for everybody.

Do I write with a demographic or target audience in mind? Of course not. But once I've written something that I think is ready to stage, I have to remove my Writer Hat and don my Producer and PR Hats and consider whom in New York this play would play best to.

In her blog, P'tit Boo writes:

"When someone asks me 'who is your audience?', I say : 'People.'

"Though if dogs and monkeys could enjoy it too, I'd be getting even more at universality. My job when I write and create for the theatre is to get at humanity in the best and most compelling way that I can."

On one hand, yes, she's absolutely right, and I want to make it clear for those who are not regular readers of this and/or regular attendees of Nosedive shows, I do not write with demographics and marketing figures in mind. If I did, I should be taken out and beaten. Who is the target audience for my work? I have no idea. My target audience is really whoever buys a ticket. But on the other, I'd be willfully myopic and ignorant to think that any certain play would appeal to anybody and everybody.

When I remove my Writer's Hat, I have to wear my Producer's Hat.

The Adventures of Nervous Boy, for example, is being billed as a comedy-horror. Who is the target audience for this work? I would say primarily people in their 20s and 30s who have soft spots in their hearts for grindhouse horror, people who aren't easily offended or squeamish, people who like really dark work, people in the makeup industry.

It's not a bad idea for a playwright to do his or her own PR work.

Another example of advantages in knowing the business side of things is when selecting a space. One major role of a producer (with an Off-off or indie work) is finding a theatre space to perform your work in.

As the writer of the work, I find it very advantageous to know how and where to find a theatre space. It's not a bad idea for a playwright to do his or her own space hunting.

In order to maintain creative control and ownership of your work, you need to have at least a nodding acquaintance with the business side of things. Otherwise, if you leave all business decisions in the hands of other people, you lose a great deal of creative control, since how your work is staged and promoted is no longer in your hands. This is especially true when you're self-financing your own work: it becomes very important to figure out ways to mitigate financial loss (read: financial ruin).

When your own finances are on the line, and the ability to maintain a company is dependent on at least some sense of financial stability, it's not a bad idea for a playwright to think of marketing, bottom-lines and numbers.

At any rate, sorry, Mme. Boo for irking you...that's something I tend to do whenever I open my cybermouth. I hope this clarifies things.

Anyway, I will resume plugging Nervous Boy after the three-day weekend. As always, I would like to hear comments on this.

Digging himself even deeper,

James "Footmouth" Comtois


Post a Comment

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.