Commentary: How to solve the lack of class diversity in theater?

Chris Wilkinson, The Guardian theatre blog, 3/3/11

Joshua Conkel on the Youngblood Blog [writes] that the overwhelming majority of those who work in the arts either have money, or went to a top university, or both. And the gatekeepers of the theatre world -- artistic directors and literary managers -- tend to pick people from that small pool.  Conkel concludes: "Admit it: it's always the same people from the same narrow pool of croney-ism and credential-ism."  This argument seems to have struck quite a chord. Alejandro Morales of the lower case letters blog says it "raises so many emotions in me it's not prudent to comment publicly because I'm not rational".  Playwright Leah Winkler has pasted on her blog the passionate Facebook discussion that arose in response to the piece.  Garrett Eisler of the Playgoer blog says he does not actually "believe those lit-manager 'gate keepers' Conkel points to are all just clubby snobs... They are serving the mission of their employers -- which in most cases is to produce new plays only when they resemble popular old plays... Writers who come up through the university system -- and, perhaps, are reared on a diet of regional theatre and Broadway, too -- are more likely to put out that kind of product."  The late John McGrath argued that, while the Royal Court of the '70s made a point of nurturing a number of working class writers, it packaged their work in a manner that made it palatable for its pre-existent middle class audience. As a result, working class audiences were still excluded from the experience. So perhaps the only way to solve this lack of class diversity among artists is to do it hand in hand with encouraging an audience beyond its traditional middle class base. Only then will the theatre truly be a place where society as a whole can talk to itself.


Commentary: How can 'white' theaters attract black audiences?

Kelly Kleiman, WBEZ Radio [Chicago] "Onstage/Backstage" blog, 3/7/11

[There is] tension in most mixed-raced theater audiences between the expectations of white audience members about their fellows' behavior and those of black audience members.  White audiences expect silence in the theater, and most veteran theater-goers may regard it as their personal mission to shut others up.  But what do all those rule announcements sound like to people who haven't spent their lives in the theater?   And particularly to black people who haven't spent their lives in the theater, whose experience of performance is likely to include interactive church services and concerts of music where failure to clap hands or tap feet is the sign of someone's being dead?    Of course I want people in the theater to be quiet so I can immerse myself in what's occurring onstage -- but...if growing the nonwhite audience is important to white theaters, we/they might consider not only the cultural overtones of programming and casting but also of etiquette.  If the way people express their immersion in our work is to respond audibly to the stage, what's wrong with that?  Every comic performer is just dying to hear laughter; shouldn't dramatic performers, and the audiences observing them, be equally ready to hear brief commentary?  And if we're not -- if that violates utterly our sense of how theater-goers are supposed to behave -- will we ever get across the cultural barrier that continues to divide us by race and ethnicity in what's supposed to be a universal art form?


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Commentary: The auto industry is once again a driving force behind the arts

Emily Peck, Americans for the Arts blog, 3/9/11

In 2008, if you were to talk about the auto industry, you'd probably talk about the emergency bailout from the federal government that impacted auto companies around the world.  The auto industry was struggling and as a result drastically pulling back their funding from the Detroit arts organizations that depended on this support.  These companies began looking for new ideas and they seemed to have found solutions through the arts. The new language coming out of the auto industry includes words like "creativity", "innovation", "design" and even "arts"...words that I'm sure most of us can get behind.  Here is just a sampling of ways the auto industry is showcasing the arts and being creative.

         Chrysler used its Super Bowl ad to showcase the city of Detroit and most prominently the public art, architecture, arts organizations, and art that make Detroit unique.

         Volkswagen invited people to create videos demonstrating a fun theory and in the process, promote the company's new environmentally friendly technology. Watch the winning video which involves music to great effect.

         BMW is partnering with the Guggenheim to create the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a moveable space for creative problem solving.

         GM recently resumed its dormant arts funding with grants to Michigan Opera Theatre, Mosaic Youth Theatre, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

         Hyundai has a new campaign based around a new car design and linked to the arts. You may have seen us promoting the Hyundai Compact Crampomitosis campaign with the tagline "expanding legroom and expanding the arts." Hyundai recognizes the link between design and the arts and is supporting us in the process.


New website matches nonprofit orgs with foundation funding, 3/8/11

A new channel has recently become available for nonprofits to streamline their search for foundation funding. Developed by the firm  Foundation Source, which provides support services for nearly 1,000 private foundations, the network is known as Foundation Source Access. Instead of writing and submitting a variety of proposals separately to numerous foundations, nonprofits can create their own profiles and fundraising project pages where they can incorporate a variety of media, including text, photos, videos, documents, web links and up-to-the-minute news. A built in community of private foundations can then search the project directory by cause, nonprofit category, geography, and project size and then give to a nonprofit in a simple, single application.  Foundation Source Access encourages nonprofits searching for new funding sources to look beyond the largest institutional foundations and extend their reach to the largely untapped market of small and medium-sized foundations run by individuals and families.  There are over 80,000 private and family foundations which collectively donate an impressive $40 billion a year to charitable organizations, with many giving to new grantees each year.


New app lets smaller venues and theaters sell tickets directly on Facebook, 3/7/11

Arizona-based ticketing company TicketForce, one of a slew of up-and-coming "white label" ticket solution providers, recently launched a Facebook ticketing app that allows its clients to sell tickets from their Fan Pages.  TicketForce's Web-based ticketing software runs in the background on a venue's Web site, allowing the venue to market its own brand as the destination for tickets to its events. Such white label offerings have grown in popularity in recent years, as venues look to control more of their message and marketing in the wake of the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. According to TicketForce CEO Lynne King Smith, the company's Facebook app pulls ticket inventory straight from the venue's Web site in real time, meaning sales will not be duplicated.  Without ever leaving Facebook, fans will be able to search for an event and buy their tickets, and then they can choose whether to share news of that purchase with their friends on their wall or on Twitter.  Eight-year-old TicketForce specializes in smaller venues and theaters, such as the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, AZ and the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend, IN. 

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