Sunday, July 6, 2008

What We Eat: The Artistic Home

This is intended to be the first in what I hope will grow to be a series of entries about the works that have influenced the direction in which I am working to take Playlab NYC. My attempt to share the books, movie, and plays I have consumed.

The Artistic Home:
Discussions with Artistic Directors of America's Institutional Theatres
by Todd London

Published by Theatre Communications Group in 1988, The Artistic Home was written by Todd London, the current artistic director of New Dramatists. The slim volume is a summary of 13 meetings between the artistic directors of more than a hundred of America’s non-profit professional theatre companies. Peter Zeisler, who passed away in 2005, wrote the foreword. Mr. Zeisler was long associated with TCG, and was instrumental in the founding of the Guthrie Theatre. The introduction by Lloyd Richards, who passed away the year following Peter Zeisler, is perhaps best remembered for his work as dean of the Yale School of Drama in the 1980’s and his close collaboration with August Wilson.

The Artistic Home is split into five sections that examine a number of issues that regional theaters are facing: artists, audience, and day-to-day operations. We often read about the struggles of individual artists, the daily rejection, but here Todd London offers us a look into the struggles of theaters trying to find new directions. Directions where they can better nurture artists, and bring audiences to them. New directions that will allow the theatres to not only survive themselves, but flourish.

This is not a how to book for running theatre. Rather it is a book stuffed with ideas. A book that works for me much like my favorite issues of TCG’s American Theatre Magazine. They both serve me best as a jumping off point for my imagination. It is a book of “What If’s”

I have read reviews of the book that claim that the book is only useful if you are running a large theatre company, I couldn’t disagree more. To my thinking some of the approaches and ideas that are discussed are probably impossible to pull off encumbered with a forty-year history and a large board. However if you are at the very beginning at the birth of a new company there is some flexibility in trying out the ideas thrown around in these pages. Also, there isn’t a board member at any theatre to whom I wouldn’t give a copy of this book.

The best description of The Artistic Home comes from Peter Zeisler. He says in his introduction that reading the book “is like walking in on a high-powered brainstorming session” with the leaders of the regional theatre movement in this country. He goes on to say that the book exists as a starting point for further conversations.

I would love to see a new edition of the book. If not a whole new book then I think at the very least the time has come for a revised edition. Every several years, American Theatre Magazine publishes a kind of regional theatre check in, with a large articles devoted to conversations that follow the same format as Mr. London’s book. Why not compile those into a series of appendix that allow us to see the evolution to where things are now, twenty years later? I would also like to see the model of the books approach applied to Off-Off-Broadway companies.

My copy is becoming dog-eared and filled with marginalia. It is something that I dip into every few years for inspiration of what my theatre company could be.

No comments:

Post a Comment