…And I’m Founding a Theatre Company.

Theatre Business, Theatrical Process

Are you ready to rumble?

as subtle as

an avalanche. serene. majestic. cataclysmic.

I am helping Liz Hansen and Jon Jon Johnson found Avalanche Theatre Company.

Who is Avalanche?

If you’re a DC fringe goer, you might recall a couple of shows; Sarah Kane’s Crave in the 2011 festival, and Despertar in the 2012 festival.  Having done two years of fringing, Avalanche’s creative team was ready to make the jump to a full fledged company, and brought me on.

Why Avalanche?

The company catchphrases is ‘as subtle as,’ which I find fits my personality.  I’ve always wanted to ‘one day’ have a theatre company, and so, when Jon Jon and Liz asked if I would be interested in co-directing their company, it struck me as an excellent opportunity.

An avalanche striking

How an avalanche strikes.

Why Run Your Own Company?

There are many reasons to run one’s own company, many good, many bad.  Many folks do it so they can select their seasons, which I think is one of the primary (and most legitimate) reasons for founding a theatre company.  It’s a chance for people like me to use all their skill sets at once, rather than work as a token skill set for another company.  For me, it’s a chance to create art in a dynamic, fresh environment with a supportive team.  It’s also a chance to continue developing my theatre admin skills while at the same time getting to flex my creative muscles.

We had our first official meeting as a board yesterday, and we’ve got a slew of exciting plans coming up.  I won’t say what they are just yet, but… you should be excited.  I know I am.

How Do I Find Out More?

A good question, faithful reader, and one that I am prepared to provide links for:

The company website is:

http://avalanchetheatre.com/

We’re also on facebook and twitter.  Check it out!

Transport Business Idea

Environmental Architecture, Plans

Having  just watched Chris Blaine’s “Who Killed the Electric Car?” on freedocumentaries.com,  I’ve got a fun idea.

Based on the theories put forth in the documentary, the socio-political-economic situation of America is too wrapped up in profit to make a commercially viable vehicle built by a major domestic company.  As the film lays out, either through poorly conducted marketing or public near-sightedness, electric cars are not viable as profitable products.   By viewing the influence of Big Oil, we see that financial push from the large incumbent of energy is too strong to defeat in a market scenario.  Then, when looking at the nature of the car company itself, a lack of constantly replaced parts reduces the financial incentive to produce such a vehicle.  When looking at the nature of both the local and national government, the desire of the people, both rich and poor, allows the first three issues to show that government influence on a profitable company will not help create a more efficient car, especially with a four to eight year turnover in government policy creating inconsistencies.  As a profit driven endeavor, the electric car won’t work for an American market.

The solution, then, for an American made electric car, is to create a not-for-profit company.  This company, through donations, links to educational institutions, constant exposure, and creative problem solving, would generate a commercially competitive electric vehicle that is made without regard to the company’s profit.  Thus, the company would be driven on the power of an idea rather than on the promise of increased profits over time.

The issue with only making a car leaves the question of fueling stations.  This initiative needs to be taken in cities where the environment is a priority.  Using these as starting cities, the company could make contracts with local businesses -not necessarily gas stations, but parking garages, lots, and restaurants – to expand the range of recharging facilities.  Working with various industries increases the odds of support that cannot easily be bought – or rather, stretches thin the influence of large companies opposing such business.  As certain cities expand in their influence with a short distance car, more cities can be brought in, longer distance battery models sold, and the idea of the electric car industry expanded.

The benefit, even to detractors of the electric car, would be a city by city case study where the efficiency both of the product and the business of the electric car could be critically studied.

This company would be most effected by state and federal policy as a not-for-profit, so lobbying from large corporations would threaten it the most.

However, if a desirable conversion for a business model was needed, one needs look no further than the computer industry.  These products operate on an electric system and have constant profit and advancement.  The industry makes large profits continuously and continues to grow and expand.  Why should an electric car industry be any different from the computer industry?

Tying into an earlier post, the potential of wireless charging makes the electric car that much more viable.  If the ability to charge the car becomes wireless as well, we’d have a car that charges as it travels, removing the fear of loss of fuel in suburban towns and cities.

Anyway, that’s my response to the documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car?”  I think the more important question is: how can it brought back to stay?

Architecture and Art

Theatre Business

One huge problem for Theatre Organizations is Money.  I figure there are two answers to this:

Education and Going Green.

By Education, I mean training programs, outreach, and community involvement. In addition, working with schools ( or as part of a school or on-profit) can help earn access to various grants and/or scholarships for student employees.  Speaking of students, volunteer positions are also great ways to reduce budget and increase community involvement.

By Going Green, I mean planning and communicating.  There’s no reason a Theatre should have to spend a nickle that it doesn’t need to (on things other than art, that is).  I recommend viral marketing to cut down on mailing costs, online updates and posting for cast and crew to reduce printing expenses, and web databases for easier access and storage saving for files.  That being said, having hard copies of items never hurt.

I also refer to architecture in building structure.  There’s no reason a theatre should be built above ground.  Granted, perhaps local geology or geography makes it preferable, but if you want to save money, you can save on expenses for heating, and cooling (and land space) by simply building down rather than up.  Theatre is a naturally subterranean art these days: the needs of lighting require a space without windows.  By building down first, one can save money on site construction by putting parking above the theatre space.

Underground building isn’t all that is available.  Currently in DC there is a Solar Decathlon between around twenty universities, all working on building houses that cover the costs of their energy expenses over the course of the year.  This system allows them, in some cases, to store that same energy and sell it back to energy companies in their area.  These sorts of buildings would make for excellent above-ground reception and training areas for students, and, if the methods work well enough in energy storage, could help eventually store energy that would pay for the costs of theatrical technology.

Another method of going Green is communication, especially in terms of waste management.  I cannot stress enough the benefits of community involvement in waste management.  I have seen, at my college, whole set pieces get torn down and shredded because they did not fit stock requirements.  I think that with a few years’ communication work and developing relationships with local theatres and schools, that this waste could be reduced, perhaps even eliminated, through a system of trade, rent, and exchange (perhaps a rent/ trade credit program).  The necessity to foster such programs is open communication between multiple groups, which again brings up the idea of internet presence.  This is a fast method of communication which costs less than mailing and results in less paperwork and travel than driving around putting up fliers.

I especially encourage work with local conservation groups, art departments, music groups, churches and theatres – all entities which exist off charity and community and should all be working together to better the community.

To recap, my recommendations for the Theatre for reducing costs are:

  • communication and community outreach, especially for terms of waste management and storage,
  • internet use for publicity and paperwork
  • ties to education/programs for education/non-for-profit status that allows for access to grants and scholarships,
  • architecture that reduces costs of heating, cooling, space use, and light issues, perhaps working with underground theatres and overgrown 0-energy spaces.

The Role of Theatre

Theatre Business

So,

I am a United States Actor.  Having looked at both the artistic and business sides of the theatre, I have found some disatisfactory aspects to the field, especially in regards to how business coalesces with art.  I’ll put forth some positive (how it is) and normative (how I want it to be) statements here, mostly on the nomothetic (grand scheme) level.

Business Issues:

Community

Positive:

Pro: Introduces non-theatre people into a theatre setting, opening doors for people of all ages and potentially increasing the size of the industry.  Brings theatre to a community on its own terms.

Con: Has to appeal to the demands of an audience base, limiting show selection and artistic growth in favor of attendance.  Brings in volunteers at most levels and becomes, all in all, a social activity.

Normative:

Should allow for newer works by local artists as part of the community feel.  While it favors larger cast shows, it should also work with local schools (academic or extracurricular) to create a more creative, lively, community-linking season, not only on the social level, but also on the business level.

Educational

Positive:

Pro: Educates younger people as to the practicalities of theatre, allowing for various outlets for creativity.  Provides a setting where process is more important than product, and various processes can be studied.  Depending on the setting, it may allow for a broad variety of disciplines to be learned, or for intense technical training.

Con: Very few performances in this setting mean that the ‘product’ quickly ends the work, resulting in a short ‘buzz’ for performers, and an unrealistic expectation of repeated performances before a crowd, especially if students are looking to go into the commercial theatre sector.  At the College level, creativity on the technical side can be limited in favor of practical training, as can performing.  Limited by the teacher’s ability to teach at all levels, especially high school, where one instructor often has to teach all of ‘theatre,’ a massive amalgamative concept.

Normative:

Should link with local theatres for various credit ‘internships’ and ‘work study’ programs, increasing a tie to the community and allowing students to learn from professionals at most levels.  If no theatre exists in the area, the school should involve itself in a summer/winter/fall break/spring break/ week off study intensive, where students focusing in theatre get proper training outside their academic area.  In addition, programs with little funding for theatre should allow students to put on their own productions, with their own money, including fundraising aspects and advertising for performances.  This would better train students for real world experience and give them fairly reliable theatrical training regardless of the strength or weakness of faculty.  At the college level, theatre classes and productions should be tied into various feilds of study so that all students can learn more about the theatre tangentially, and so that students focused in the theatre can keep their focus while learning about more areas.

Regional

Positive:

Pro: A non-for-profit means of getting shows set up for a community with an overall theme that works for the community.  Higher production values, many touring shows and acts bring in a variety of performers.  Allows for loner runs of shows, works with touring groups.  Second stages/seasons provide more creative outlets while mainstages take on more popular works.  Often tie in outreach and educational programs in order to give back.

Con: Creativity is limited by audience demands, season subscribers have a hold on what can and cannot be performed, often at the risk of reducing artistic value.  Not-for-profit status often limits actor’s pay and hiring, working with unions as opposed to freelancers, requires much of their designers.  Not an educational setting, mostly about product.  The exception is in the area of education the organization chooses to present.  However, productions do not involve an educational mindset.

Normative:

Productions, especially at the second season level, should focus on educational aspects.  Tiered pay scales for performers and designers can relate to their level of skill and growth within a group: Regional Theatres should budget for a ‘troupe’ of both designers and actors with enough pay to sustain comfortable livelihood while still being a competitive process, encouraging growth rather than stagnation.  On the mainstage level, productions should focus on variety, not only of venue, but of message.  Progressive and Conservative arguments should be presented to audiences, and regional theatres should aim not only to entertain, but to inspire creative thought and discussion.

Commercial:

Positive:

Pro: Long runs, large budgets, potential increase of pay for more skilled workers and excellent benefits for first-show teams, tied to residuals and other rights.  Excellent production values.  Demand does not tie to local area demand limit, but to fundraising, advertising, and refining of a product, and reviews.  Encourages connections between regional and commercial theatres, either to develop a show until it gets to the commercial sector to take a show to tour after a run in the commercial sector.

Con: Shows often lack creativity, favoring large dance numbers, huge spectacle pieces, songs and thoughtless drama or comedy.  There are exceptions, though they are rare.  Highly values entertainment above education.  Really only located in New York.  Very expensive.

Normative: Should allow a more creative process in a larger sector.  Commercial properties should not be limited to one population center, rather, they should exist all over, using skilled fundraising to keep creative artworks flowing and allowing artists to focus on their craft (with decent pay and benefits).

Overall Normative: Educational Theatre in America needs better Business Management.  Students should learn through theatre how to operate their own companies, to encourage a more competitive industry as time goes on.  The commercial and regional theatre sectors are the best managed aspects, business-wise, but their are other outlets for entrepreneurial endeavors.  I don’t see why commercial theatre can’t work in other sectors, besides the heavy issue of tax.  People with enough business experience in networking, fundraising, and advertising, and managing, should be able to make a viable theatre almost anywhere.  That being said, I highly respect regional and not-for-profit theatre, but the limitations of a public company as being tied to government regulations and aided funding gives theatre a certain limit.  Historically, troupes were sponsored by a patron (which could include a state).  Perhaps this needs a revival today: wealthy backers acting as patrons for smaller commercial troupes around the country, encouraging progressive artistic modes and working to increase cultural awareness and progression.

Links to resources in the theatre:

The most reliable business site that I know of is the Theatre Communications Group, a communication organization linking various not-for-profit professional theatres. I highly recommend any theatre businessperson looking over their Tools and Research section.