Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Works?

It's a given, it seems, that theatre people love to complain. Anywhere you look in the blogosphere you see personal attacks, crying, and anger. Outrageous Fortune is full of attacks on how new plays are produced in America, from funding to selection to production to marketing to critical response and beyond. And any time two or more theatre artists go out for drinks, bitching is soon to follow.

And honestly, I'm getting a little tired of it. There's a purpose in anatomizing what doesn't work, absolutely. We can't move forward without figuring out what has to change. But it seems like we rarely move on to discuss 1) what really is working, and how to emulate it and 2) how to fix processes and institutions that are dysfunctional.

I can make a start: I'm currently dramaturging FIddler On The Roof, directed by David H. Bell, at Marriott Lincolnshire. I'm having an absolutely wonderful time on that process, and think these are among the important factors:

Everyone is professional in behavior.
Everyone respects the artistry and time of everyone else.
It's a play the whole cast and production team believe in, and they're doing work of the highest quality.
There's enough money to make things easier than they would otherwise be.

But that's just my perspective from emails and having attended a few rehearsals. There could be all kinds of things going on I don't know about. And even if it's totally accurate, it doesn't really answer some important questions: 

Is every process at Marriott this positive, or is it more true on shows David directs? (The positivity clearly emanates from him.) 
Does this kind of atmosphere create great art? (I think this show will be great, though I'm hardly unbiased. But are negativity and tension productive?)
How did the organization make these values central? (Was a Marriott show 20 years ago the same?)
And how do other theatres, that aren't large commercial producers of musicals, take useful points from this organization?

So I throw it open to you:

What are experiences that have been particularly good, either specific productions or ongoing relationships with institutions? 
Have any of you experiences a dysfunctional process or place that was turned around and made positive? And if so, how?
How can an organization learn from the success of a different organization?

Let's see if we can get some good ideas out there.

1 comment:

Mr. K said...

When I think of situations where I've enjoyed the process and created good work, it's been situations where the director, the designers and the performers get to know & work together from early on in the process. We were allowed to create the show with an idea of what we'd be facing/working with, and everyone knew the kind of show we were putting together and that we were on the same page.

And this didn't necessarily take a lot of money. It just took time and effort and energy, and these all came out of believing in what we were creating.