Do you think it’s possible to create a Medium-Sized Theater Company that creates original work without having an independently wealthy social network?
I’m one of the three co-founders of a small theater company. I say that we’re small--I’m thinking about budget size and staff, which is how foundations think about how big a company is. So in that arena, we’re small. We get paid for our artistic time for productions, but not our administrative time. We have a very part-time Operations Manager who does get paid year round. We’ve been meeting in living rooms or cafes for the last 10 years. We pay most of our artistic and production staff what we think are the low-middle range of rates in Philadelphia.
Artistically, I think we’re kind of big. I’m biased, but I think we encourage each other to dream big, when it comes to the art. We had a show once with a 100 person volunteer army. That was cool. We have another show that we’re remaking every 2 years for 24 years with the same cast. That idea started as a joke, by the way. And now we’re three shows in with only 19 more years to go.
Now we’re trying to become a Medium-Sized Arts Non-Profit. Which mostly means budget, really, because budget means we can hire more people to help support the process of making live art, which turns out to be incredibly inefficient and time intensive. A full time staff person, or, -gasp- two? An office space with a coffee machine. A business plan that doesn’t require 3 people to work 7 days a week without compensation. So that we can go into a studio and make the Art.
And we want that because we feel like we have a lot of art we need to make right now.
The mountain of injustice pressing down on the pressure point of climate crisis makes it feel hard to breathe sometimes. And I don’t know that we’re a political theater company, so to speak, although all expression is political. But I know we feel like we need to do SOMETHING. We’ve been seeking a way to do anything that feels like it's helping. And there is a narrative of history and humanity, an American Mythology that feels like it so desperately needs shifting. Culture change, culture shift, feels crucial. And though The Arts may be inefficient, they do speak to culture and community in a deep way. We have a skill set for making art and running values-driven companies. I know we need to use those to contribute to the Great Turning. We need to make more art, and we need more time to do it, which means we need more support.
So this is the beginning of a new phase, the Journey to Medium. Over the next 3 years, an Experiment: we’re going to try to turn our labor of love small theater company into a sustainable(?) medium-size theater company. I do not know if it will work.
We’re going to share about it. I’d love to hear others' thoughts. Leave a comment?
Depending On Who Is Asking
Future Potential Posts
X Journey to Medium Concept Introduction
What is Medium?
We Got An Office
Secret Funders of the Arts
Evidence that It Is Not Possible
Full Time Staff
We Have a Plan
It Would be Easier if I and my Friends were Already Rich
The Small to Medium Chasm
The ‘Man’y Advantages We Have Had
An Ode to Phoebe
Running a Company as a Trio
Administration is Artistic
We Got New T-Shirts
What is Non-Profit in a Healthy Way?
Rachel Camp on Taking Care of Yourself and Ambition