Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Structural Theatre Part 1

At the start of this latest economic downturn I began to hear the words “structural deficit” a lot. Wikipedia defines it as: The structural deficit is the deficit that remains across the business cycle.

What that means is that if you build in a structural deficit then no matter the economic state that expense will always stay on your books. Through good times and bad what you have put in place remains.

For some reason that phrase stuck in my head. I gradually understood why as I began to apply the notion of a structural deficit into the idea of a structural theatre. And further to that the idea of a structural theatrical ecosystem that no matter the creative impetus behind a project one has to create an ongoing theatre. An ongoing theatre that in good or bad times has to be there. Without that kind of structural theatre then one cannot access the higher levels of funding or gain the “respectability” that is currently mandated by ecosystem. It’s all a bit “evolution in progress” with the continuing goal that growth is the hallmark and only true measure of success.

We see this in how many shows have to be produced before applying for the base level of operating funding. We see it in how project funding has such a low cap. We see it in the multitudes of forums about funding, corporate pitches, succession planning, branding, marketing and capital campaigns. We see it in the constant push to create a structural theatre regardless of the artistic goal. Yes there have been some theatres/artists who have understood the concept of life span but they are few and far between.

The first chains of structure are the provisions of the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charitable Status.

And thus mandates, mission statements, vision statements, boards, administrative structures and accounting practices have to be implemented. And by time you have gone down that road far enough then there is too much invested in the structure to give it up easily.

Now none of this is particularly new. But what I would like to do is to posit a few ideas as jump off points for a potential re-assessing of how things are currently being done.

Mostly this is all about money. Money to create in a way that is unique and visionary while at the same time not destroying the artistic staff but maintaining fiscal responsibility.

First off let’s start by agreeing that the road to structure is a totally artificial one and one that is not necessary for the creation of outstanding art.

{More in Part 2}

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