A Short Rant

I’m becoming really distressed by people who work in new writing in performance treating people who work on older texts as the enemy. The enemy is a culture that doesn’t value all kinds of art creation, and a government/mainstream media/corporate world that doesn’t treat artists as worthy of support. The artists, whatever kind of art they do, are on the same side in this.

If you create new work, people who work with Shakespeare (or other ‘canon’ texts, or even those who work in superannuated productions of cheesy musicals, or largely imported new productions of even cheesier musicals) are not stealing from you. They are not sucking up oxygen that you would otherwise get to breathe, they’re generating a greater abundance of oxygen. They’re creating an environment where audiences learn to expect theatre to be a part of their social life. They’re creating places for performers to earn a living, develop their skill sets, and do something they love. They’re creating new points of dialogue between text and performance. They’re creating new ways of talking about ourselves that are just as valid as yours. They’re creating.

They’re creating, and they’re very often doing it out of nothing. They build something, many things, out of nothing because they care so much. They have so much heart and passion and belief that they have something to give that is enriching and meaningful and transformative. And it costs us our energy, our undervalued time, and very often our spirit when we can see how much joy this work brings to the people we share it with, and yet how little that means to the people who have the power to help, but don’t. Notice how similar my experience is to that of artists working on new writing? Notice that I managed to lay the blame where it belongs, with the powerful, and not on you, my fellow struggling artists?

We should, by all means, critique the quality of any work that is put out there, discuss and debate what we get out of it or how it could have offered more. This is quite different from expressing derision at someone else’s field of work getting support or attention.

I spend so much of my time supporting other people’s work. I hook up people creating work with people who might offer them a platform to promote it. I sling what dollars I can spare to crowdfunding so independent projects have a better chance of seeing the light of day. I tell people I know who hold senior positions in the industry all about the people I know who are just starting out. I re-tweet, and re-post, and cross-promote. What I don’t ever, EVER do is tell an artist or a scholar that their specialisation shouldn’t exist, or shouldn’t get whatever attention it manages to secure from neglectful media and parsimonious funding sources.

So, as an artist, if you can’t extend the same courtesy to my work and that of my colleagues because it’s not the work you’re into, then you may kindly fuck right off into the heart of a flaming gas giant. And leave us to do our work.

4 thoughts on “A Short Rant

  1. In the U.S., anyway, I have the impression that it’s classical English theater that pays a lot of the bills for the experimental stuff. Otherwise we wouldn’t see quite so much Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet, I’m sure …

    • It’s the same to a limited degree here. There’s a high-rotation list of a half dozen Shakespeare plays that are ‘bankable’, and therefore allow a company to take risks in other parts of the season. But this only applies to the very famous names, there are many plays we never get to see because they wouldn’t guarantee a return, so the idea that companies are spending money on Shakespeare that could be going to new authors is utter bollocks.

      • yeah, I think it if weren’t going to those plays it would be going to anyone. I just noticed that Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo are doing Othello in a 199 seat theater in NYC this fall. Maybe that’s making something intentionally scarce — but if you can’t even count Othello to the solid canon, it’s hard to see how Shakespeare is taking money from anyone else. If those plays weren’t being produced, nothing would be.

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