Please Don’t Start a Theatre Company

I found this article, by theatre director and arts consultant, Rebecca Novick, that is a plea to young theatre makers not to start theatre companies. The title immediately stood out to me because I have read and heard so much lately that we have to be willing to start our own companies because there won’t be venues for our work otherwise. After reading, I realized Novick’s plea is actually very specific. Basically she is saying -please don’t start a traditionally structured theatre company.

Novick says that the next generation of theatre makers need to get creative. We can’t continue to make theatre in the structure of the regional theatre model because that structure no longer works.

Novick references 13P, the group of 13 playwrights that have banded together to produce each other’s work. “We don’t develop plays, we do them,” stated loud and proud on their website. What they really mean, is that they feel in doing plays they are developing them. Their plays get workshops and readings, but they feel the best way for a playwright to analyze her work is through seeing it performed onstage. According to their website, they also believe that sometimes the over development of plays we find in regional theatres can make a play stagnant and/or diminish it artistically. 13P will implode after all 13 playwright’s have had their work produced. There are few people involved besides the 13 playwrights in the day to day tasks of running the group. Their goal is to be a producing model for the future.

I think Novick’s main point can be summed up in this line from her article “The field must refocus resources on the challenge of sustaining artists rather than sustaining particular institutions.” Novick writes that it is unfair/ridiculous that people working on the administrative side of regional theatre have secure jobs and benefits, while the artists are struggling. And this may be true, but I feel like regional theatres often do a lot of good for artists. And often, many of the people working on the administrative side of things, are also actors and directors.

I can’t imagine a world where there were only 13P’s and no Steppenwolfs or Huntingtons, and I’m not sure that would be a good world. But maybe what we need is a little more equality. And maybe that is somewhere in our not so far off future.

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