Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Competing Arts Organizations

I was reading a favorite Theater Arts Blog - Butts in the Seats - and Joe makes a interesting point in Never Shall the Twain... post. He talks about several competing theater groups that split due to a political problem, and makes the point that he'd like to see groups collaborating more.

This brought to mind something I've thought about for a while. We have about two dozen theater groups within an hour drive (roughly the area I cover). In the last two years we've had a lot of repeat or duplicate shows. Little Shop of Horrors, Man of La Mancha, Sweeney Todd, Fiddler on the Roof (you can read my reviews of two productions I saw in the same weekend, spaced only about 10 miles apart here and here)

Now these are all wonderful shows, I don't deny that. AND these are all great theater groups that tap the talented groups of actors we have in the area. But I have to believe there is a finite audience for each show in the same general area, and when they are scheduled so closely together sometimes directly competing by overlapping, at other times only a few weeks apart.

So why compete? I think it's because the groups, for the most part, don't talk to one another.

Think about the pool of resources that would be available if they did. The sheer amount of costume pieces available to borrow or rent, the flats and staging pieces, the props! Groups offering a series of shows that go together, but don't directly compete. Pooling resources would benefit the whole area's groups.

What do you think? Is it Possible? or are the groups too different to ever collaborate?


tangentguy said...

I am a local theater producer and director. When I proposed this idea several years ago, County Players was eager to host the meeting. DC Arts Council sent out invites & we had representatives from many area performing arts groups present. Then, Peter Edmond proceeded to say that their costumes and props were not available to anyone else for various reasons. When I tried to get a schedule together where the various groups could stagger performances (there is, after all, a finite audience) and not "step on each other's toes", the Arts Council said they would work on an online schedule for us. Well...my very next show opened the same weekend as a County Players offering (they announced their dates after I had already publicized). Unfortunately, the children playing in the area's arts groups don't play well together. This extends to some of the educational institutions as well (Vassar College is a flagrant example). We could ALL profit in the non-profit world by sharing our resources and experiences through collaborative efforts.

tangentguy said...

Correction to URL...

Erica said...

Thanks for stopping and sharing! It sounds like there is some support for cooperation, but not everyone is on board.

So for this to work, there would have to be some sort of additional compelling reason to join.

I worry about the financial health of the smaller groups especially with the economic situation we are in currently.

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