Off-Off In The Times

Campbell Roberts has a good article in the Times about the IT Awards Off-Off Broadway study. I had a really involved conversation about this yesterday, especially in light of the changes going on in the big theaters downtown. Apparently the Public is in good enough shape financially that Mara Manus, having fixed the problem, has decided to move on, so they’re probably one of the only institutions that is actually increasing programming and embarking on major capital renovations. Of course, we all know the quagmire that capital improvements can bring. DTW built their new building and word is that they’re still struggling to pay for it. Dixon Place is building their new space on a “pay as you go” basis and they’ve been trying to get it done for something like 3 years with no completion date in sight.  Ah, real estate.

I was having a conversation with a prominent dramaturg recently and we were discussing the negative effect that the lack of space and time is having on the work. But that’s another post for another time.

Something that’s coming up in various parts of my life is the interplay of culture and  social networking, small group models and grassroots-based community organizing models.  Small theater companies are more nimble and actually more open to innovation and alternate models. With the proliferation of Off-Off Companies in NYC, this would be an opportune moment to do some experimentation in funding and production models, to try and figure out new ways to do things, to foster creativity and build long-term sustainability into it. For instance, there’s no art without artists – why not return to funding artists directly? OR… rather than sinking all this money into huge institutions, why doesn’t The Department of Cultural Affairs look at providing microgrants and seed money to artists who don’t have the overhead of huge buildings, administrative staffs, etc? It could be a means of both creative and economic stimulus and encourage creative people to stay in NYC, not flee to Berlin or Los Angeles or wherever….


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