Thursday, January 17, 2008

this business we call show

Been thinking this through for a few days, think I've got it:

Theater is not a business, as much as we all pretend it is. There's money involved and professionals and offices and economic studies and all of that, but theater is not a business.

It's a vice.

And like most vices, its there for society's good and should be somewhat regulated. Theater has more in common with gambling, prostitution and drug-dealing than it does with real estate, banking or any other actual business. I'm talking in a nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day sense, not making some grand metaphorical statement. At every level, from the guy starting up his own operation in a little storefront somewhere in Brooklyn to the bigshots swanning around up in midtown, we behave more like pimps or drug-dealers or cardsharks than responsible buttoned-down businesspeople.

Our customers are there for the thrill, not because it makes any sense to buy our product. Our employees, our workers, aren't in it for the security, they're crazy, ambitious, addicted dreamers. We behave like benevolent pimps towards them, not like senior management types. You can take this just about in every direction and as far as you want and I think it holds up.

This is not a business. Bottom line, that's not a helpful model to have in your head when you're out there trying to do it. It's a vice.

Think we might have a cast for the Overlord thing. Very funny day yesterday, watching so many talented people reading the words.


Matt said...

"benevolent pimps" and "bigshots swanning around" sounds like the spark of a really wild, large-scale (like HIPPODROME large-scale) burlesque. maybe i only think that because of the words "pimp" and "swanning," but in the end, it's probably better than other thoughts i could have about the words "pimp" and "swanning."

i only read this one post, but it was in between five other things. i'll be back to rifle through the archives soon - i hope the overlord thing goes swimmingly. or swanningly.

John said...

O man that could be great. Like a Forbidden Broadway, but on the business side.

I'm too busy to run with that, but someone, please steal it, just give me and Matt tickets to opening night.

Sxip Shirey said...

An important aspect of a vice is that it is giving you pleasure while killing you off. It is the vice killing it's host or ritual giving the host strength? Theater is a vice or it is a religion, and as we all know, churches and saloons are spiritually allways right across the street from one another.

John said...

"...the vice killing it's host or ritual giving the host strength?"

Or both and many things besides, like most things.

You can get deep on this riff, but honestly I came to it trying to explain to a bunch of young Columbia grad students what it actually feels like when you're out there running the game. Doesn't feel like business, even when you're making money.