Thursday, November 19, 2009

Who is Indispensable?

So Brecht has a quote that I have been thinking about since reading a steady stream of Los Angeles Times’ articles about how Los Angeles’ theaters are coping with these difficult economic times. Loosely translated the quote says that people who fight a day are good. People who fight a year are better. But people who fight a lifetime are indispensable. Now Brecht never really delves into who or what these people are fighting exactly but that’s not the point. If we substitute the word “Theaters” for “People” then we are on our way to seeing an interesting pattern in the way stories about theater and economic hardship have been told. It seems to me that the root of all this ink being dedicated to recounting the woes of a group of large Los Angeles theaters is resistance to the paradigm shift away from theater as a Noun towards theater as a Verb.
In a time when we should be looking to the theater companies who perfected the art of doing more with less, the LA Times and others seem to be hell bent on tugging our attention towards a different group of companies. All the companies highlighted as theaters in danger are large institutions with million dollar budgets and film industry support. No story that I have seen since this economic mess started has looked at what the small to mid sized theaters in Los Angeles are doing, and if some writer somewhere has, then their story is buried under the pile of articles about the LA theater big boys.
But back to this resistance.  How exactly did theaters the size of the Geffen Playhouse, or Pasadena Playhouse become Los Angeles’s best examples of dealing with hard economic times? How exactly do a handful of theaters with gargantuan budgets who have the flu become a bigger story than a plurality of small to mid-sized theaters in Los Angeles who have learned how to live with pneumonia? These questions are not meant to imply that  more established theaters don’t serve a vital purpose in our Los Angeles Theater eco-system, it is more to highlight that so do the small and mid sized theaters.
All this ink spent on the idea that any Los Angeles plus sized theater is (as the Times recently quoted) “living hand to mouth” would be insulting if it were not so bizarre and grotesque. Now if LA Theater needs a model on how to best cope with our financial situation then there are much better examples to choose from than the ones that are consistently being championed. It is the small and mid sized theaters in Los Angeles that have come up with the most creative ways to stay tough in these tough times, but what I keep reading makes me wonder if there are any theaters in Los Angeles other than the big who have come up with any smart, fresh, or creative ways to deal with the economic downturn? If so why don’t we talk about them a little? If anyone out there can think of one or two of them let me know, I’ll be sure to forward them to the times with a nice letter.
Till then small to mid sized theaters should hold their calls to the Geffen for recipes on how best to cook cat food.

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