Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Late to the Debate

There has been quite a wide ranging discussion regarding Administrators vs. Artists and I am coming a bit late to the whole thing but I thought that over the next few posts I would try to add a bit of a perspective on some issues.

Ok..first out of the chute are some of the comments from Theatre is Territory

The first is:  Both AD and GM should have a deep understanding of, and empathy with, the other's importance and aims.

Also, these should always be TWO people. DOWN with "artistic producers" or whatever.

I fully agree with the first sentence but I have some issues with the latter one. Throughout this whole discussion I am never quite sure if we are only talking about throwing stones at the large regional theatres or the entire ecosystem. For an independent theatre like us the luxury is in the idea of having two people in those positions. No one, would by choice, take on an artistic producer position unless there was no other choice. Well ok maybe you want to do two huge jobs with little recompense in such a manner that your entire life is subsumed in desperately trying to keep up. There is no time to think, to dream, to vision, to check the audit etc etc. It all gets done but you are constantly in hyperdrive. Really the absolute power thing does not sustain you when you are feeling like the Paul Simon "human trampoline" without the pleasure.

I remember saying to someone in the office after we had a 4-hour reading that the reading was all my art for that month. And yet this may be the only way for an organization to survive. Founders really are the biggest donors to an organization and the telling factor is how the organization grows after they are gone.

The biggest reason the artists were removed was because it was best for the institution. I often have to remind myself that “institution” is a nice word for “nonprofit corporation,” and the primary goal of any corporation is to grow.

It can be a nice word for non-profit corporation but it is also, at least in Canada, also a word for a non-profit charitable organization. And with every charity comes a host of strictures and regulations that determine a particular hierarchical structure that I don't believe is helpful for the arts. The entire concept of a Board of Directors hiring and overseeing the Artistic/Administration team is at best inefficient and at worst destructive. But since money, the tracking, accounting, raising and spending is at the heart of any charity the theatre is already being skewed to a particular path. And at this point the art starts to take a back seat. 

As an organization you are now on a track that, whether you like it or not, you have to meet a set of standards to receive money. And also, like it or not, how you grow now becomes an essential part of that process. You really don't have much of a choice in this. Your continued allotments from the councils are hooked to how you grow. 

So how we stop being moths to the funding flame? Well, we can accept that growth (and probably decline) is just a part of the cycle and that we still have some means to keep on track with our art and the artists who make it.

We can say:

Does my organization have a clear code of ethics that drive our philosophical ideas?

Is there a commitment to that code?

Do we have a long term plan to improve the artistic experience for performers and our audience?

Are we committed to paying artists first and paying them always above scale?

With strong guidelines woven throughout the entire corporate structure we at least have a chance to keep alive the spark that pushed us to create this whole thing in the first place.

1 comment:

mike said...

Congrats on the new blog philip!

That's really interesting that you found Intimate Apparel and Black Medea through blogs. I think that process would probably also make another great post.