February 2012

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February 2012

News From Joe Aldridge, USITT President

Community Needs to Invest Effort, Time

Every venue, even those in sunny California, works to draw an audience.

Photo/Barbara E.R. Lucas

Well, only two months until we meet again in Long Beach. This Conference promises to be even more exciting than the last time we met there. The area has continued to grow and develop which means more dining and drinking opportunities!

I continue to be discouraged by what I read in the national news. Another arts organization has ceased to exist. I just read that Opera Boston was ceasing operations as of January 1. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t see how the economy could be rebounding at the rate that the more optimistic among us seem to believe is happening. As members of the arts community, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to make certain that the arts survive.

As we all know, the elimination of arts programs in communities and in academic institutions has become prevalent as a first line of cost savings measures in the past two to three years. Bill Sapsis, a friend of many of us, said it most succinctly in a recent post on the Stagecraft Mailing List. With his permission, I think that what he posted is worth sharing.

December 27, 2011

I have a friend (I think he's still on this list) who is the TD (technical director) of a LARGE mid-western university with a very well developed athletic program. I was there conducting a seminar once during homecoming weekend and he was talking about how the football team gets all the money. I asked him four questions...

  • How many seats in the stadium? - 80,000
  • How often do they fill them all? - Every game.
  • How many seats in the theatre? - 2,000
  • How often do you fill them all? - Never have.

Folks, all you can do is the best you can. Make the best impact on the community* that you can whenever you can and then hope for the best. There are many way to improve the visibility of the theatre or arts program, but they all take an enormous effort on your part and a lot of time, two commodities in very short supply these days.

However, if you never lose sight of your goals and you incorporate those goals in all of your work, you just might make a change, not only in the way the administration views your department but also within the community.* Nothing is easy these days and maintaining our tenuous toe-hold on the arts, especially in academia, is challenging at best. But the alternatives are just not acceptable.

*I define Community as all of us. Professionals, university faculty, staff, students, the neighborhood which the school is located, the town where the neighborhood is located, and so on. I'm reminded of the bumper sticker "Think globally. Act locally."

I'm not in academia and I don't have the answers, but I think we, as a community* need to start talking more seriously about the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Maybe this is a topic for a USITT a session?

I dunno. Maybe I've had too many gingerbread cookies (or too many slices of my homemade carrot cake, the primary ingredient of which is Grand Marnier), but I gotta believe there's more we can do than just piss and moan on this list.

Bill Sapsis

Bill makes a lot of sense. If you don’t know Bill, get to know him. It isn’t difficult. He is very approachable and very willing to share. As you can see from his writing, Bill is very pragmatic in his thoughts and he shoots from the hip.

Bill, thank you for sharing and for telling it like it is!

I think that this would be an excellent topic for discussion at USITT. Don’t be surprised to see it listed on the Long Beach programming matrix. We, as a community, have to become more proactive and less reactive lest we fade into obscurity.

Be safe and be well.

Joe Aldridge

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail Joe at joe.aldridge@unlv.edu.