Oh, the internet, it is a web! I touched it and now i'm tangled again. Fuck. I've got a tour to book!
But Kurt Hartwig cued me into some cool shit, which has me thinking more about this stuff.
My initial response to this cool shit, and Kurt's assertion that what i'm doing has been done before, would be that merchantilism, that transition period between feudalism and capitalism took a LONG time. Our transition might take just as long, and be just as start-stop and bizarre.
But, more specifically, i'd say the 90s (when his RAT example went down) were a boom time for capitalism, if the RAT happened now, during a bust, the infestation would be much easier. I've seen work from Theatre in My Basement, performed at Salvage Vangaurd, perused the Rat Sass blog, so i know at least some these groups still exist today. Lets make something happen now when the time is right.
But, I wonder... it seems (and i might be wrong here) there's an unfortunate correlation that frustrates my central claim here. Seems like radical Theatre is strongest when the economy is also strongest. Which means radical theatre is most present when it is least likely to succeed. This makes sense; theatre (even poor theatre) is something like a luxury for audiences, and something like an expensive hobby for the artists. In hard times we're too busy trying to eat to make or see a whole lot of radical theatre. Hurns.
But, this adversity is a challenge! An opportunity. It only means we need the discipline to aggressively pursue our "hobbies" even though we increasingly can't afford them. It'll be a tough slog, but i'm ready for it!
BUT... there's also the flipside of the correlation, the other causal relationship that kind of makes sense. Radical artists working extra hard to succeed in bad economic conditions will, like any hard working entrepreneurs, eventually contribute to ending the bust and reinvigorating the economy. Then the mainstream theatres with funding will siphon off talent and audiences (just like corporations with investment capital siphon talent and customers off the entrepreneurs). The architects of the reconstruction will be crippled and marginalized by their own success. Hurns. Major fucking hurns.
Well, then fuck it. Looks like compromising, communicating with, working with, or in anyway helping the establishment theatres is inherently against our interest. I withdraw my advice, the BTC can fuck off and die, the sooner and the more completely, the better.
Sheesh! That makes me a tactless asshole, doesn't it. A bitter, curmudgeonly, negative vibe merchant. But, really, i'm not. I've met some very nice well-intentioned people who work at the BTC, people who started with Theatre X's help, and then accidentally dug X's grave. Lots of people i know or could hope might come see my shows probably also know someone who knows someone who works there. Really, only surly punks like someone who says anyone else "can fuck off and die" like i just did, and surly punks mostly spend their money on cheap beer, not theatre. Looks like I'm better off keeping my mouth shut, feining ignorance, saying "oh, Skylight, oh, BTC renters, i feel your pain" and then privately celebrating their demise, and capitalizing on their absence.
But... that feels really dishonest. It feels like pretending i don't know my own interests. That i don't know something in order to better use my knowledge to my advantage later. I'm uncomfortable with that, cuz i might be an asshole, but i'm not a creep or a liar. (I'm fucking terrible at it). Maybe i shouldn't be. Maybe i should take a certain friend's advice and get better at lying. I mean, this is basically what the Skylight did to Theatre X to get that building in the first place, isn't it? They have it coming.
Except maybe their ignorance wasn't feined. Maybe they really didn't realize they were fucking X over. Maybe they had good intentions and just didn't realize what the long term effects of their actions would be. Maybe they don't understand how economic necessity undermines even the best of intentions.
So, then, seems like the proper tactic is to be completely open, lay everything out on the table. Make it so no one can pretend not to know. Maybe i oughta write an open statement to every established non-profit theatre in the country during this trying time, here's a rough draft:
"Hey mainstream theatre establishment! I'm about to commit the next ten years of my life to rebuilding theatre in america. I'm gonna live out of my car producing theatre for free in basements, bars, classrooms and alleyways for audiences that you can't even begin to tap now but who'll probably be ready to subscribe after they settle down and squirt out some babies. I'm gonna burn myself out doing it, (i'm already 30, so i've got a late fucking start) and when i'm done, i'll have contributed some small portion to a rebirth of theatre as an art form (and a growing economy.)
I know full well that once that rebirth happens there'll be a moment when you have the leverage to buy me out. If I've been successful, you'll be ready to buy out everyone I've surrounded myself with, you'll buy out my actors, my audiences, my techs (shit, you're already are buying them out now). If I've been really successful, you'll kiss my ass and talk about how much you love and respect me, and you'll frame the buy-out in terms that make it sound like an opportunity. But, i know that if i take that opportunity it's a devil's deal, it'll break my organization, and it'll leave me begging for scrap roles in your shitty shows. I'll turn you down, and everyone will think i'm a stubborn irrelevant shithead.
Except that now i've written this. I've taught you and everyone else how the economics works, how your well-intentioned offers of opportunities, community, networking, are actually a bad fucking deal. I know it, and I've told you, so you can't pretend not to know it. I've also told my friends, my actors and my audiences. When these people look at your intentions and ask themselves if you're being deceitful, or ignorant, they'll know that if you're ignorant, you've chosen to be ignorant. Willful ignorance is feigned ignorance, it's deceit."
Hmmm... seems viable. The success of the revolution depends on everyone better understanding economics. What's the best way to teach? Demonstration. By looking at Theatre X's history from a distance, in terms of how the economics played out between the institutions, the organizational structures, not how the specific individuals acted under these economic pressures, i'm able to learn things that might apply to me, that help me avoid the situations under which the bad decisions that broke that company up look reasonable. Same applies for every failed revolution of every kind. If we're always learning, learning, learning then nothing anyone has done was for naught.
5 days ago