Convening at a Convening

On Tuesday, a whole bunch of theater folks filled Aurora Theater for the Outrageous Fortune convening. There’s a fantastic live-blogged summary on the Theatre Bay Area site — as well as a discussion starting up in the comments.

The first half of the event was a report of the book’s findings, while the second half focused on “what shall we do?” Three of the more radical ideas particularly appealed to me.

1. Funding For-Profit Theater

Much of the book revolves around the fact that nonprofit theaters are becoming risk-averse. An artistic director suggested that for-profit theaters should also be on funders’ radar. By not having to answer to a board or to choose work that they think might appeal to a donor, for-profit theaters can do some of the riskiest, most immediate work around. PianoFight is a great example. I wrote about the freedom they have in this post, and they explained their model here.

2. Seasonless Theaters

This is a huge one for me. While established theaters probably can’t dump the season model, new theater companies can and should. If I were starting my own theater, that would be the first move I’d make. Look at Hunter Gatherers’ three month run with Killing My Lobster; or Thrillpeddlers’ Pearls Over Shanghai, still going after eight months and extended at least until April. Neither would be possible at a theater that has to close a successful show after four weeks because a new one is scheduled to start.

Not having a season also allows theaters to solve the absurdly long lead time problem I wrote about in my most-read post. Sleepwalkers Theatre, for example, was able to run a play about the 2008 election DURING the 2008 election because they didn’t have to pick a season a year ahead of time. If that same play had taken the traditional route, best case scenario is that it would be in BAPF this summer, chosen by a theater in 2011, and would run during the 2012 season — where a play about Obama’s historic election could be eclipsed by Palin’s historic election.

3. Real Estate

A playwright suggested that someone should work with San Francisco and Oakland to allow theater to spring up in abandoned commercial buildings while they’re waiting to be rented. The issue of subsidized real estate for theater requires a much longer blog post; luckily, Don Hall has already written it.

Imagine how cool it would be if an empty store near 16th and Mission, with tons of foot traffic, suddenly became a theater for two months. This would require a ton of political maneuvering, but if you are one of my presumably many readers who are real estate savvy theater lovers with tons of political connections, this issue is for you.


The problems raised at this thing are so huge, it’s tempting to get a bunch of ideas onto a giant notepad or onto a blog somewhere, and then move on to the next project. (In fact, that’s precisely what I have to do, as you’ll see in an upcoming post.)

But do consider commenting and getting involved over at the Theatre Bay Area blog. They plan to keep the conversation going, and if you actually made it to the bottom of this post, you probably want to be a part of it.