From the publisher...

A.S. Waterman

March 2008

A Tightrope, Shaken from Both Ends

In attempting to cast a staged reading last week, I was surprised to learn that three of the actors on my list had moved to Austin, Texas. Why Austin, I asked? Their reply was that opportunities for actors abound in Austin, and that the arts industry there is good to them. The unspoken message is that it wasn't good to them here.

This rather shook my foundation, as Louisville's thriving arts community is one of the reasons I moved here. Massachusetts, the area I left behind, has simply turned its back on independent theatre. An editorial in the February issue of Stage Directions focuses on funding cuts, and states that "the Boston Foundation released a report last December that recommended that smaller and struggling arts organizations should look into how to cease operations."1 Of course, this is a simplistic view of a 79-page report.2 Yet how much did it cost to produce that 79-page report, and how many independent theatre groups could have benefited from that amount of money? Clearly, the Boston arts community needs to re-examine its priorities.

Sadly, so does Louisville's. Every year, huge grants go to organizations that already have the largest operating budgets as well as the longest list of donors. Again this year, Louisville's independent theatre groups got nothing from Fund for the Arts. The results are evident. During the past year alone, at least one independent production was cancelled for lack of funds, and several theatres axed weeknight performances. Meanwhile, Theatre Alliance and others talk much but accomplish little about getting a fair share, and the cycle self-perpetuates.

The Kentucky grants application process is cumbersome and rife with restrictions, and small independent theatres are told flat-out that their efforts are better spent elsewhere. But where would that be? They can, of course, try to solicit more donors. Yet those critical corporate contributions are locked up by the few, and inaccessible to the many. They can try to sell more seats. But how, without the funds for essential marketing and promotion? People won't buy tickets to a show if they don't know it exists. Compounding the problem, the Courier-Journal recently upped its advertising rates and minimum ad size, in a process many have described as a bait-and-switch. Louisville's independent theatres are in an untenable situation, walking a tightrope that's being shaken at both ends.

Wake up, Mayor Abramson and Governor Beshear. Your independent theatres are a glorious and unparalleled resource. Please show them you understand.

 

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1 Coakley, Jacob. "Tastemakers, Fundraisers and Boards of Directors." Editorial, Stage Directions magazine, Feb. 2008.

2 The Boston Foundation, "Vital Signs: Metro Boston's Arts and Cultural Nonprofits, 1999 and 2004." Dec. 2007.

 

Copyright © 2008 A.S. Waterman. All rights reserved.

 

 

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