Teresa’s Weekly Update: Ruth Maleczech Edition

by Teresa Eyring

in Weekly Update

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“I do really celebrate New York. I love what it has meant to this little theatre company. I don’t think we could have done what we’ve done anywhere but here.”
-Ruth Maleczech, “Mabou Mines: A Love Story,” April 2007 American Theatre magazine

Last week saw the passing of Ruth Maleczech, the remarkable performer and co-founder of Mabou Mines. I remember meeting Ruth for the first time when she played the role of The Mother in The Screens at The Guthrie Theater in 1989. I came to know her as an artistic force, a devoted member of our field and a regular attendee at TCG Conferences. On behalf of everyone at TCG, I wish to express our condolences to Ruth’s family and everyone at Mabou Mines.  The New York Times reports that Ruth, with her daughter Clove by her side, spent her last days reading aloud from King Lear, a role she famously incarnated in 1990. She was indeed “every inch a king,” and she will be missed.

Last week also saw the first shutdown of the government since 1996, and Laurie Baskin has offered a preliminary take on how the shutdown may affect the arts. On Conference 2.0, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s Pete Miller shared the news that Woolly housed Ford’s Theatre’s press night performance of The Laramie Project in their rehearsal hall after Ford’s status as National Historic Site shuttered their own theatre’s doors. It’s inspiring to see theatres rallying around each other in a crisis, and please let us know how the shutdown is affecting your theatre and community.

Last week, I contrasted the findings of our Theatre Facts 2012 with the more dire-seeming findings of the NEA’s 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). After a closer look at the data, I want to respond to the news’ sensationalized reporting of the decline in theatre attendance:

  • First, the actual percent change—not the more alarming rate of change spotlighted by the report and picked up by the press—from 2008 to 2012 was -1.5% for musicals and -1.1% for plays. In other words, from 2008 to 2012, play attendance dropped from 9.4% to 8.3%—a rate of change of -12%, but a percentage drop of only -1.1%.
  • Second, while we always want to see play attendance increasing, it’s also important to note that the SPPA only reports every four years. Theatre Facts 2012 is annual, and as such, it highlights that while attendance at participating TCG Member Theatres took a hit in 2009 and 2010—most likely due to the effect of the recession—it has risen the past two years, giving us cause for hope.
  • Finally, the SPPA does feature a few bright spots for attendance, including a rise among African-American attendance for both musical and non-musical plays.

We also recently released our annual Top 10 Most-Produced Plays List, which features Venus in Fur in the top spot, and female playwrights making up half the list for the first time since 2005-06.

Finally, I wanted to let you know that registration for the 2013 Fall Forum in Governance: Investing in Vitality has outpaced last year’s rate, and we sold out last year, so register now while there is still space available. I also want to stress that we strongly encourage bringing your own local/regional funders to the Fall Forum for honest dialogue about the challenges and opportunities within those relationships.