(Photo: Becky Friedenberg. Pictured: Kevin E. Moore, Teresa Eyring, David Henry Hwang)
(Editor’s note: Teresa Eyring’s closing remarks were given on Sunday, November 13th at our 2011 Fall Forum on Governance – Capitalizing an Art Form)
A day and a half ago we gathered at the Bryant Park Grill to reimagine how we capitalize on our human, artistic and financial assets. We’ve considered numbers from studies and shared first hand stories from this Age of Austerity. We’ve exchanged ideas of all sizes, connected with old collaborators and hopefully, met new ones. And we’ve listened to artists share their work to remind us of why we’ve gathered together in the first place. Or as Lydia Diamond put it when we all clapped too soon, “We’re not done, we’re acting.”
After these past few days, it’s clear to me that in spite of the economic downturn, we’re a long way from done. We’re acting. We’re finding creative ways to access new sources of funding and old high touch ways to rejuvenate long term supporters. We’re experimenting with new kinds of artistic programming and ticketing strategies. But the most important thing I’ve seen this Forum is that increasingly, we are also acting together.
This was a Forum where we discussed the power of long-term collaboration between companies of different sizes; where the taboo of debt was discussed openly and frankly; where successful strategies of fundraising were laid on the table for everyone to use. We heard from Jonathan Katz how effective it is when we lobby together.
We heard the power of multiple productions in developing great new plays. We learned that co-productions are at a five year high. Margy Waller showed us that theatre is most effectively portayed as a public good through focusing on communal, rather than individual benefits.
I would like to suggest a radical possibility: that this growing interdependence is more than the child of necessity. We live in a political climate where the ideal of a civil society is fraying and the gravity of local communities is weakening. We’d rather agree with someone online than risk debate with our neighbor. We can get what we want faster, cheaper and just how we like it without ever leaving the house. We don’t worry where the things we consume come from and we don’t trouble ourselves to know where they go when we’re done.
And then, there’s theatre: made by, for, from and within a local community. Even at our most nimble, theatre isn’t fast and it’s sure not cheap, and it requires us to engage with ideas and people we may not like, without the safety of a screen between us. These are the things that make theatre a financial challenge, and they are also what make it a human necessity. Making plays requires dialogue, compromise and collaboration; seeing them requires deep, communal attention.
You already know all this. What I would like to suggest is that these values can and must scale up from our individual theatres to the field as a whole. It’s not easy to look up from the daily fray and engage in field-wide dialogue, compromise and collaboration; but it is ever more essential.
TCG was founded on these principles, and as we look forward to the next 50 year, we’re recommitting to the ideal that we are stronger when we act together; that a victory for one theatre is a victory for all; and that adversity is lessened when it is shared. This declaration of interdependence can not only build a stronger field, but a renewed vitality in the communities we serve.
So when we consider our under recognized assets, remember to take a look around you at the people in this room today. TCG has no greater asset than the theatre people we’ve been serving 50 years, and we’re not done. We’re acting. Thank you for joining us, and we hope to see you all at the 2012 National Conference in Boston!