UPDATE (12 July): In the below comment, David Dower responds to a few of these concerns, and passes along his formal title: He is the director of artistic programs for ArtsEmerson and a cofounder of the Center for the Theater Commons, both of which are located in the Office of the Arts at Emerson College.
UPDATE: For an example of an alternative production model for contemporary dramatists — though, designed to be impermanent, it is shutting down shortly — see Ben Gassman’s recent article for The Brooklyn Rail, “The Imminent Implosion of 13P.” Two things about the article are especially interesting. First, that the number of playwrights involved gave it something of a “critical mass” for organization, publicity, and fundraising; and second, that it is an example of institutional planned obsolescence. One size, of course, does not fit all, but it does provide an alternative organizational structure.
In a post at his blog Adaptistration today, Drew McManus extends a few notes he offered here yesterday in “The only thing we have to fear is each other.” It is particularly interesting given David Dower’s response to my comment at Diane Ragsdale’s post:
I hear your questions about the mysteries inside the walls of the institutions. It’s a thing we’ve been working on around the #newplay discussion — transparency. So, here: what we, (and it is “we” because I am still the salaried employee of an institution), what we talk about in the hallways and at the water coolers is largely this same stuff — there are people in every organization asking the questions about efficacy and access and artistic homes. And we debate them, often passionately. And yes, sometimes the artistic priorities lose out to the financial realities of keeping the lights on and meeting payroll. And we wonder — sometimes out loud — is that the right outcome? And sometimes the primary concern of our discussions is the security and welfare of our staff, not of the artists nor of the community we are chartered to serve. And we have different opinions about that. But somehow, all we are comfortable presenting to the world are “institutional talking points” — what John Frisbee called above “the rah-rah” — that say that this institutional model is absolutely the best model for achieving the full potential of theater that can possibly exist — has been since the start of “our movement” and ever shall be, no matter the changing social context of our work — and anyone who says otherwise is bullshit.
David Dower is a “leader” (I’m having trouble finding his precise title; no snark is intended by those quotation marks) of the recently established “Center for the Theater Commons” at Emerson College.
I agree with him that less “rah-rah,” fewer institutional “talking points” (especially those that can be summarized in a Powerpoint slide or two) would be appropriate. Perhaps fewer rah-rah, self-congratulatory presentations from DJ Spooky and more blunt, honest, public representations of these discussions (including viewpoints from those outside the organization) could be folded into the next TCG conference. What the American theatre needs for its continued health is a halt to roundabout, endless discussions about models, whatever they might be (especially from those who depend for their existence and well-being on the current one) and movements (with that implied market-speak dynamism) — it needs more public self-critique and less public self-love.