In Korea, why has the number of medium-size theaters tripled in last five years?, 8/1/11 [hat tip to Dirk Heinze at Arts Management Network]

For the last five years, the number has tripled of [Korea's] medium-sized theaters (i.e. theaters with 500-1,000 seats each) that represent themselves as producing theater, and are operated by government or municipal agencies. Accordingly, their importance has increased as well in the Korean performing arts community. What could explain the renewed attention to the medium-sized theaters? In short, two phases offer the answer: young directors and producing theaters. Promoting themselves as producing theaters, the theaters have rolled up their sleeves in production, hand in hand with young artists (i.e. writers and directors). Widening the horizon as the venue where audiences meet art pieces, the theaters have assumed the active role as planner and producer in creation as well. As the number and role of medium-sized theaters increase, the core of theatrical performance is being shifted from repertoire-oriented presentations at small theaters to produced pieces for medium-sized ones. Another new trend is that focus of production has shifted from on director to on artistic achievement, and from on producer- and commercialism-oriented art pieces to on public theater-led artful pieces. In the process, the audience pool is being enlarged.


In San Francisco, a company touts being "the medium-sized theater in Bay Area"

Caroline Chen, SF Weekly [CA], 7/6/11

The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre plans to move into a space in the San Francisco theater district this [October]. The company, named after the playwright of A Raisin in the Sun, will occupy a theater at 450 Post after a two-year search. During that time the company has performed at various venues in the city.  Artistic director Stephen Anthony Jones is enthusiastic about the new space: "Not only is [450 Post] half a block off Union Square and accessible to every means of transportation, but it also puts us firmly in the middle. We are not a large theater like A.C.T., but we are larger than many of the small theaters. We are the medium-sized theater in the S.F. Bay Area. We'll be 400 seats --- it's a large enough stage that we can do large-scale scenes but it'll still be intimate."


Commentary: Boston's large theaters should follow lead of mid-size venues

Boston Globe editorial, 8/14/11

Standing outside the refurbished Opera House, Modern, or Paramount theaters, the revitalization of Boston's theater row is dazzlingly apparent. A dying neighborhood now pulses with the energy of lively performance venues, restaurants, stores, and residences. The revitalization has left Boston with an enviable problem -- lots of grand facilities in search of worthwhile productions. That became apparent earlier this year when contract negotiations failed between Emerson College, which owns the Colonial, and Broadway Across America, the company that leases it to bring popular Broadway shows to Boston. The negotiations left the Colonial in the dark for the immediate future. The eagerness of other theaters to attract Broadway Across America revealed that they, too, had underused capacity. The arts community faces some obvious obstacles, starting with the slow economy. In addition, Broadway has stopped treating Boston as a testing ground. Some theaters have responded by turning to safe crowd-pleasers such as the Blue Man Group, stand-up comedians, and musicians. Those productions have a place on theater row, but venues should also follow the lead of the innovative ArtsEmerson, which operates the Paramount and Cutler Majestic theaters, and explore more powerful, idiosyncratic productions. That's the type of innovative programming Boston audiences are already flocking to see in mid-sized theaters, including the Boston Center for the Arts, the American Repertory Theater, and the Huntington Theater. Indeed, with thousands of housing units opening in downtown neighborhoods, and thousands more on the drawing board, it's easy to envision a day when Boston develops a youthful, vibrant theater-going community to rival that of much larger cities like Chicago, if not New York.


Commentary: "Small and mid-sized theaters are more essential every day"

From an interview with National New Play Network ED Jason Loewith,, 7/7/11

Margot Melcon: What is the role of smaller theaters in the cultural ecology of America?

Jason Loewith: The small and mid-sized theaters are absolutely essential, more essential every day because, as we all know, producing in the largest-size theaters gets more and more risk-averse every year. It's not just thanks to the economy; it's because of desperation to hold on to a dying subscription model. Every year they get more risk averse is a year that small and mid-sized theaters take more risk and generate more of the work that is moving the field forward.

Margot: What do you think of the idea that the least risk-taking theater companies end up getting the most funding?

Jason: If we in the field dwell on issues of scarcity when we talk to each other, we eat ourselves up rather than focus on what we all agree on. What I know about risk and risky work is that it moves the art form forward, but risky work isn't aesthetically any better or worse than work that is not. I think we should fund theaters and arts based on excellence and how great they are at pursuing their artistic mission. If you run a large theater whose mission is not to push the boundaries of the art form, but you do what you do extremely well, I think it's legitimate that you get funded. Obviously there are large theaters that suck up a lot of dollars that aren't producing excellent work. That's a problem but sadly, it's the funders' prerogative. Our job is to educate funders that every community needs to balance its funding amongst its small, mid-size, and large companies to keep the arts ecology there healthy and vibrant-and pull artists to work and live there. And I think it's our job to demand that our funding partners reward excellence, not mediocrity.

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