Tuesday, December 16, 2008

basic principles

I'm wading through all of these end-of-the-year reports here at the Museum.

Same basic results you always see: people aren't going to see straight plays, arts funding is declining, theaters are closing, etc.

I can get lost in the minutia and I can get paralyzed by the stats, but once I get up from my desk I'm going to trudge my ass over to the Kraine theater and get ready for another show.

I've written before that theater is not a business, it's a vice. It may be helpful in some circumstances to speak of it as a business, but it's very dangerous and short-sighted to think about it that way.

Some other basic truths I'm going to try to stay mindful of this year:

A theater is not a corporation.

Art is not a product.

An annual budget is not an accurate measurement of a theater company's health.

Money comes third, if at all, in the list of Things You Need To Get Something Done. First is the good idea, second is a group of people to help, third is money for resources or just the resources themselves.

All right.

Sometimes it's good to put it down in black and white. Helps clear away some of the clutter.

Everyone and my sister got the MMMQ, you sexy things, you. It was Hot Chocolate indeed believing in miracles back in the 70s and through the miracle of time travel, Rose's All Star Jug Band was playing along in the background.

Going to need to ratchet it up again next week. Childhood nicknames of 19th century Italian altos anyone?


Ann said...

Go on and try me. With a maiden name like Ferrarone, I'm sure the answer is embedded in my DNA.

John said...


Italian for lampshade, I believe.

maxxie g. said...

yes, but money is still a real need, right?

i'm curious as someone trying to get started-are you yourself able to make a living in theater? in 2008 for example, how were you able to make enough to get by?

John said...

Money is a means to what's needed: space, salaries, time to work. In 2008 I lived off of commissions (money), workshops and a few paid directing gigs.

I don't make much money year to year, usually just enough to keep doing it.

maxxie g said...

can you be more specific? i'm trying to get a real snse of things from people who are making a living in theater. listing the different jobs. for example -

commissions=$6000 + directing=$5000+ etc

to show how a person can put a year of work together and survive


John said...


I honestly don't know the specifics, but they'd be depressing.

We get by on very little.

My point on money being third, at best, is that if you sit down and think first about the money, you'll talk yourself out of a life in theater.

You need to find or create a good script first.

You need to hear that script out loud with a group of people.

You need to find a place to put it up in front of strangers.

And so on.

Yes, money gets involved down the road, but having some of it doesn't mean you're in position to make some theater and having none of it doesn't mean you're not.

That's been my experience, anyway.

maxxie g. said...

i'm not trying to talk myself into or out of doing theater,i'm only trying to learn practical facts where i can. are you able to survive doing just theater projects, or do you also have a parttime job doing something else,to help pay the rent?

John said...

I make it with theater gigs, workshops, teaching and commissions. But it took about twenty years in NYC and for most of that time my wife held various full-time jobs.

It's a tough road, Maxxie.