Cultural Entrepreneurship

A very interesting little article showed up today in the Guardian, a London newspaper. It’s very pertinent considering the across-the-board drop in donations to the arts in the US and UK as a result of the recession.

“the careers of Shakespeare, Marlowe and their contemporaries relied entirely on the entrepreneurial flair of theatre owners. Our greatest playwright was a commercial playwright working for a commercial management.

Yet the idea that commercial is a dirty word persists in the theatre.”

I don’t pretend to favor a removal of the not-for-profit model of theater, by any means. Far from it, in fact. However, the idea of balancing substantive art with the capacity to reach a wide audience is a worthwhile object of debate. A piece may be excellent in its own right, but if it is failing to connect to an audience, at what point does it cease to be worthwhile?

This is especially pertinent in a time of recession. What will keep theater afloat? About half of non-profit theater budgets is typically paid for by contributed income, which risks reduction as individuals and foundations trim their budgets.

An interesting survey on the economic impact of the recession on the arts in New York can be found here.

Funny thing, looking at the performing arts in the study, 80% reduced their budget…but only 20% reduced their staffing, and only 35% actually reduced their programming.

Them theater types remain creative! I’ll be interested to see attendance numbers over the next couple of years…and see what creative ways arts groups come up with to keep getting their work to the audience.

Alex Mills and Ryan Sellers in "Dante" photo credit Raymond Gniewek

Alex Mills and Ryan Sellers in "Dante" photo credit Raymond Gniewek

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~ by synetictheater on July 27, 2009.

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