Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In the dawn.. in the beginnings

As I mentioned, I’m trying to get my thoughts together about what an Austin Indie Theatre Alliance should be. For me this begins with my own exploration of what I think are the problems with Indie Theatre here, and from that base of problems to solve, looking at how “unionizing” can help solve them.

Unfortunately this leads to a lot of thinking about negativity, because I’m dwelling on the problems… so forgive me, I’ll be more than happen to post about solutions and positivity when we get there.

The thing about indie theatre is: how often do successful startups get founded by middle management?

This isn’t a slam on directors. It’s just applying their position in terms of a business model to the way companies are founded, and in my experience most indie companies are founded by a strong director with loosely affiliated actors and maybe a writer.

Speaking in loose generalities:

They have no business training or inclination, and the last task that gets done is the Work task. Promotion, publicity, and fundraising all take a back seat to doing the “fun” stuff and so we have the never ending cycle of startup and crash.

There is no slow buildup. There is no coproduction. There is no pitch to an existing company to work with them. There is conception, production and then business failure, because there IS no business.

Theatre companies don’t see themselves as startups. I haven’t been to a single Bootstrap Austin. Directors attend play readings not marketing seminars.

How do we change that mindset?

I’m not sure that a town the size of Austin needs more than 20 core (i.e. persistent) companies and 15 to twenty in the churn pile. But we need to find a way to help the persistent companies function more efficiently. Better long term planning. Better communication with other companies and with venues.

In my perfect world indie theatre companies would operate more like record labels. They produce shows in the style they want to champion, putting a back end on projects they believe in, rather than simply being a platform for one or two directors or writers to take whichever projects appeal to them at this moment.


Given $20,000 and venue time I would produce:

2 Cambiare shows

3 works by other creators in line with the Cambiare Productions thrust which at this moment is derived works and “mash-ups”, and new media.

1 Monthly reading series driven by community choice (i.e. I’ve always wanted to direct this, I want to at least hear it Out Loud… I’ve always wanted to perform this role and I will NEVER be cast in it.)

1 Quarterly Festival  focused on spurring creation (writing) with a cash prize.

2 for me 5 for other/community. Because growing the whole is good for me. Poppa ain’t no altruist.

We’ll get there.

This year will see 1 Cambiare show, Out Loud, and some form of the festival.


We just need to stop the idea that focusing on the business of theatre is somehow antithetical to the creation of theatre.

(unless you know a money/venue fairy… then call me)

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