Monday, November 05, 2007

draft Statement of Purpose

Just a draft, but how does this sound?

Statement of Purpose

The League of Independent Theater is the trade association for all entrepreneurs and artists working in theatrical venues with less than 100 seats within the five boroughs of New York City. "Indie" theater has an enormous cultural and economic impact on New York City and, by extension, the American Theatre; as such it is a national treasure and must be recognized as such. It is the de facto Research and Development wing of American theater, incubating and training the next generation of American masters and nurturing and sustaining the experimentations and new techniques that will perpetuate the discipline. It must be recognized, respected and funded as the vital resource it is.

Today, the indie theater artist is faced with unprecedented challenges, both economic and cultural. Practitioners of the theatrical arts have always honed their craft far from the bright lights and living wages of the commercial sector, eking out a livelihood while finding, establishing, and exploring their creative voices in basements, attics, converted lofts, parking lots, and found spaces throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and even Staten Island.

Entire neighborhoods have been saved by the contributions of indie theater artists who attracted audiences to once dangerous streets; those streets now host boutiques, bistros, and bodegas, and the indie theater artists who made possible the renaissance of the City are now transients in our own communities; from Greenwich Village to the Lower East Side to Williamsburg to Long Island City we have moved like peasants fleeing in slow-motion from the smiling, inevitable pogrom of urban gentrification.

Recent economic and political trends have decimated the public funding of the arts in America. A cultural war was fought and our side lost.

We reject out-of-hand the peace treaty offered; the League is our response.

The League is explicitly artist-centric. It is the individual artist, the writer, actor, director, designer and choreographer; that is the source of all economic activity in our industry. It exists, first and foremost, to fiercely advocate for its members.

We can no longer tolerate the incalculable loss of time, talent, and effort that is ensured by the volatile real estate environment in the city: a migrant community is a disposable one. Working with city officials and enlightened realtors we will secure the existing indie theater venues and make it stated public policy to create new arts centers whenever and wherever new residential and commercial building occurs.

In our sector the artists are more often than not, by choice or necessity, the ones doing the bulk of the producing and managing. The traditional barriers of labor and management are much more fluid and nominal than in the industry at large. Recognizing this, we call for a complete re-working of the existing union codes and contracts that operate in our sector. We call for this in the spirit of progress and with the clear vision and knowledge of how things actually work on the ground. The AEA Showcase Code is an anachronistic relic, doing far more harm than good to our community and by extension, to the industry at large. We will partner with AEA, in good faith, to address this vital issue. We see the Showcase Code as the single, most onerous burden that keeps our community, a community of both artists and producers, from flourishing

Our industry is Art; without the artists, no industry. Recognizing this, the League has introduced a Code of Ethics that all members must agree to and practice. The code ensures that artists, both union and non-union, are treated professionally and respectfully. It is an agreement between equals, a self-policing instrument to help guarantee a productive and positive working environment in our theaters and rehearsal halls.

The arts are the final fruit of civilization and a civilized society recognizes their centrality and insures their growth. The League will work with local, state and federal governments to create a $300,000,000.00 annual fund for the indie theater sector.

Three hundred million.

This fund will be used to secure and improve the infrastructure of our territory, enable the preservation of real estate so vital to our survival, subsidize the salaries and artist fees of our members, and train and support the next generation of American theater artists and administrators.

Every generation of indie theater artists has been forced to create a new network, find and build new spaces, move to a new neighborhood, adapt to mercurial and unforgiving economic conditions. Today, we come together to make a stand.

The League of Independent Theater welcomes artists, companies, venues, audience members and service providers to join us. If you are invested or interested in theater that occurs in venues of 99 seats or less, we are invested and interested in you. It is in our theaters and by our members that the future of the form will be forged. It is in our theaters and by our members that the future of the industry will be determined. An organized and unified approach is the only way to assure that that future will be a bright one, benefiting all.

6 comments:

robin reed said...

I nearly stood up and applauded. At my computer. It's great to feel all banded together. Great work! Keep it going and please let me know what I can do to help.

John said...

Robin,

Great, we're going to need everyone on this one. Like the Amish raising a barn, only no straw hats.

I'm hoping that we'll come out of a meeting on Friday with some simple questions and concrete next steps. One of the things for everyone to think about is membership eligibility and categories and corresponding annual dues.

Tim Errickson said...

Great work by you and all involved, John. I love it. If there's anything that needs doin, feel free to put me to work.

John said...

Tim,

Obviously the Dish is going to be a key partner in all of this. If you want to think about the best way we can coordinate, that would be helpful.

ceg0928 said...

Hi John,

You are amazing. I’m so glad that Tim directed me toward your fantastic blog! I had no idea!

Over on the other side of the Hudson, Art House Productions has helped form the Hudson County Theater Alliance (HCTA) with a fantastic group of theaters facing a lot of the same challenges you touch on in this Statement of Purpose. Showcase Code is an issue for us as well. Producing in Northern NJ comes with its own set of challenges, particularly the fact that there is no Showcase Code. We have a large amount of AEA actors living here that we can’t cast. Besides prohibiting young and/or smaller budget companies from casting the best actor for the job, this also has a long term impact on the development of larger Equity houses.

*Physically,* Hudson County, NJ is too close to Broadway when it comes to obtaining rights to various plays, but outside of NY state and therefore, out of the Showcase zone.

Jack and I support your efforts wholeheartedly and are there whenever you need us! We are also keeping the HCTA informed. Mobilization is good. It's time for change.


Christine Goodman
Art House Productions

John said...

Christine,

Hey great. Compadres across the river is a beautiful development.

I hear you and Jack have an amazing place over there.