Howard Sherman’s post “Clear” at his blog yesterday re-examines transparency in the arts and arts administration in the wake of the recent Arena Stage convening which was closed to the press. The discussion between Peter Marks and himself reminded me of Sir Humphrey Appleby’s one-time advice to Prime Minister James Hacker on government transparency, and I’m paraphrasing here: “There should be full and complete public disclosure of anything that anybody could easily find out for themselves.” Of course, transparency in the age of social media — in which theatres and other institutions frequently use these media to promote themselves rather than any substantive discussion of drama and theatre, and the rather unimaginative idea of putting things like rehearsal clips online — is rather fraught, and similarly what appears to count most is the appearance of transparency rather than transparency itself. But this is the Age of Publicity, and I suppose that is to be expected.
One should read Howard’s post for more, but I do want to point to one of his thoughts:
Perhaps rehearsal rooms will be fitted with the one-way mirrors employed by police dramas (and presumably the actual police), so that rehearsals can be observed, but with those rehearsing none the wiser. Perhaps every pre-show and post-show discussion, every panel and forum, will be streamed or recorded for public consumption. Perhaps the inspiration of first rehearsals and the very first table read of a script will be opened up either live or through technology. Perhaps we can demystify the process of theatre so that more people can appreciate its magic (and no, that’s not an oxymoron).
I’m not sure that the demystification of the theatrical process (or for that matter of the administrative process) through social media would necessarily draw more people to the theatre. First, anyone who has been in a high-school play is already rather aware of the process, and second, what general audience member has the time these days to watch this kind of inside-baseball information? After twenty years of the World Wide Web, theatre audiences are not growing at the rate at which this kind of publicity would be meaningful. As for myself, I imagine I’m with Peter Marks on this one — but it’s not like this was a meeting of the Trilateral Commission, and all the truly enlightening and “honest” conversations were likely to be had in the bars and restaurants surrounding the Arena Stage event after formal proceedings had closed, far from a journalist’s prying notebook.
All of which is also inside-baseball — except, perhaps, for those of us who are actually writing the new plays that all these folks are talking about behind closed doors. It’s the kind of inside-baseball that I, as a player, might have found instructive, especially if reported by an independent, knowledgeable, and disinterested observer.