An Empty Stage holds out the promise of things-to-come, things that are about-to-be, things not-yet-realized. Also the opposite – things that are gone – the production just closed, the morning after the strike, the theater that is dark. Maybe a theater that has been dark for a while.
It also represents a side of the performing arts that’s less frequently discussed – bricks and mortar. Before there can be a performance, there must be a building – a stage, seats, lobby, dressing rooms, bathrooms, carpeting. The light bill has to be paid even when there is nothing on the stage. When there are no dancers, no singers -musicians, -choreographers- directors – actors, there are janitors. There are administrators. There are Executive Directors.
How to balance the need to support the bricks-and-mortar with support for the performance? Is support for one the same as support for the other? In the Non-Profit world, what is the relationship between Bricks and Art? Commercial Art has a simple, efficient answer: the art supports the bricks, or there is no theater. Producers have a responsibility to their Backers – they are able to produce as long as they are able to make money – or hold out the prospect of making money.
But you’re not expected to make money as a non-profit. Are you expected to lose it? What is asked of a non-profit producer? How much do they need to make? How much can they afford to lose? How often? For how long? It seems as if the tension between bricks and art in the non-profit world is as high – or higher – than in the commercial world because this relationship is unclear. The dollars are smaller, and they come with asterisks. And if the Backers don’t expect/demand commercial success, what do they ask for? If the performance doesn’t support the bricks (and those who work for the bricks), what happens? Because of this, the tension between those who serve the bricks and those who serve the performance is also high – though mostly unacknowledged. And it’s worth asking again: is support for the bricks the same as support for the performance?
TheEmptyStage believes that our non-profit performing arts world is a shadow of what it might be – what it ought to be. It’s tied to a business model that’s inefficient and outdated and has failed repeatedly to serve the communities it claims to serve – a wannabe business model that never grows up, never owes anything to anyone, and never shows up to work in the way we expect it to, want it to, deserve it to. Our non-profit performing arts world is the thirty-five-year-old living in the basement of his parent’s home.
The Empty Stage wants to examine these relationships in the Non-Profit world, and create a conversation with others who are dissatisfied. Let’s talk…