Do It Yourself Theater - A Citizen Artist Manifesto
- Artists (writer, actor, director, designer) are always a line item in your budget - however small that budget may be - and are as material as the stage upon which the play is performed.
- A good play never relies on the generosity, patience or fortitude of an audience.
- If you cannot explain the story of your play in roughly 3 sentences, you might have a bad play - or an inarticulate person speaking on the play's behalf. Find a better spokesperson or a better play.
- A theater that invests more in infrastructure at the expense of subsidizing the human artistic capital behind it is last century's model. (See Point 1)
- Identifying the social ROI (return on investment) of your production in tangible terms may be the key to raising capital for your play. Think long and hard about the intrinsic value of what your show brings to your community.
- Uncomfortable seats, poor diction, lousy acoustics, and no air conditioning linger far longer in an audience's psyche than the actual performance these issues tend to obscure. (See Point 2)
- Yes, Points 4 and 6 appear to contradict one another. We live in complex times. Theater trained actors with good diction might mitigate lousy acoustics. Investing in the artists might be the infrastructure renovation your play or theater needs. But definitely put some money into decent seats and air conditioning.
- People will always hold theater to a higher critical standard than other media they may invite into their homes and lives on a daily basis. Rather than fight or judge this phenomenon, deal with it proactively and innovatively - with requisite doses of humor and sensitivity. In other words, know thy audience.
- Theater and commerce are not mutually exclusive. Have a plan to make money from your play - or at least a long term strategy in mind. "The artistic process is its own reward" = amateur thinking. And no one respects an artistic martyr.
- The one person you should know really, really well is the person who handles your box office. (See point 9)
- If you have an obsessive need for control in what is essentially a collaborative (and increasingly grass roots) medium, this might not be the best form of expression for you. Working with humans can be super messy and incredibly difficult and it takes a lot of them to put up a play. They are also genius, awe-inspiring and amazing. Expect both extremes and proceed accordingly.
- A good manifesto cannot end on even a vaguely negative note. Embrace the Citizen Artist within you. Know the intrinsic value of live theater - a story well told - and what it provides a community and a culture. Find ways to measure, quantify, explain and describe the value of what your play provides (in the least sentimental and rarefied terms possible...). And remember to refer back to that data each and every day on the road to getting your play produced.
Copyright 2016-2017 Antonia Fairchild/A Theatrical Concern