Wednesday, January 27, 2010

While I Work on the Next Self-Producing Entry

I was hoping my entry on publicity would be finished by today, but alas, it was not to be. But have faith! It will be posted soon. I'm dancing as fast as I can.

Over at 99seats, J. Holtham offers some very good pushback to my previous entry and articulates his fatigue with the ride he's been on as well as argues the importance of the discussion of the economic situation in the world of professional theatre-making. It's well worth a read.

I'm hoping that writing about self-producing will help people starting out in the theatre world as well as show others with some (perhaps unhappy) experience that there is an alternative to what seems to be a very emotionally and creatively draining ladder-climbing process for many people.

For me, I feel despairing and depressed when I consider the world of institutional theatre, but feel energized and optimistic when I see or take part in good work in the indie theatre world. In many ways, it's as simple as that.

Years ago, my directing partner Pete Boisvert relayed to me a particularly depressing epiphany he received after going to see the remounted Rocky Horror Show. As he was watching a once kinky cult work created by personal inspiration turn into an antiseptic family-friendly tourist trap, he realized this was the "cream of the crop" he could expect in terms of top notch well-paying directing work. Directing a Broadway show was the apex of the mountain, so to speak (in the way that directing a big-budget, feature film financed by a Hollywood studio would be the apex of the mountain for an aspiring filmmaker). It turned him off to the idea of becoming a Professional Director (in Title Case). (I also recall Patrick and I having to talk him pretty strongly out of his "why bother?" funk about directing. Fortunately, he did indeed snap out of it pretty quickly.)

Yes, much can be learned and gained from institutional theatre as both an audience member and as a participant...

(I'll be getting into Mac's great advice from our online dialogue a couple years back that sk posted recently, but for now I'll just concur that it's imperative for theatre-makers to see as many plays as possible, not just to see the value of polished work with high production values, but also to ground any thoughts of one's own originality in reality. Although I won't name names, I do recall a number of indie theatre-makers that pride themselves both on their originality and on their refusal to see other plays, which is, needless to say, silly. How do you know if you're being original if you're not seeing what's out there?)

...however, it may not be the best place to go in terms of a final destination. Once again, I'm reminded of another parallel in Dave Sim's Cerebus Guide to Self-Publishing when he clarifies his thoughts on self-publishing comics versus working for a major corporation (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, etc.):

"There can be nothing more beneficial on many occasions than going for a cool and relaxing dip in a swimming pool. Likewise with the companies. A dip into their pool can be very relaxing, lucrative and prestigious. But you should get in and get out within a certain time frame. You don't want to live in a swimming pool no matter how cool and refreshing it is, do you?"

Likewise, I don't think there's anything wrong with garnering work in the institutional theatre world. But I think investing all ones hopes on finding creative and financial satisfaction within a very flawed system that neither fosters creativity nor pays great sums of money may lead to a great deal of bitterness and frustration.

(Over at Nosedive, we've had a number of professional designers - meaning, whose primary or sole source of income was from designing jobs - work for us for either free or well below scale because of the creative freedom and, dare I say, fun, it afforded them. To them, it was a tradeoff: getting well-paid to be a glorified technician [one designer's words, not mine] in one arena and working for little-to-no money to be an actual designer with actual creative input in another.)

Anyway, the next entry focusing on publicity will be coming as soon as possible; hopefully by Thursday.

UPDATE: J. Holtham just linked to this by Adam Thurman, which is also worth a read. It's quick and to the point: good independent theatre can and will help institutional theatre.

Dancing, always dancing,

James "Astaire" Comtois

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