Magazine article American Theatre

Tom Hall: The Welfare of the Art

Magazine article American Theatre

Tom Hall: The Welfare of the Art

Article excerpt

The deeper we got into the question of governance, the more I began to see that we were using the wrong yardstick to measure our success. I am extremely proud of our institutional accomplishments, but they don't begin to touch the soul of the work which I initially undertook. More importantly, they are certainly not a reflection of theatre as a form of living art. Rather, they are simply a reflection of elements of support, a foundation upon which successful art is created, but not that by which we measure its success.

It is a constant struggle to stay focused upon the welfare of the art when endless institutional issues take up so much of our daily energy. And what makes it even more difficult for those of us who have been around awhile is that we can remember a time when it was not that way.

Our initial model for governance grew out of an era of very little resources, when most theatres were still headed by their founders and the need for a cohesive, integrated structure seemed less essential. Those were the days in which the impetus for the work of artistic leaders stemmed from a rebellious need to demonstrate individualism in defiance of the norms of New York's established theatre culture. Very little thought was given to the concept of creating institutions, establishing principles of governance, or connecting to communities beyond the audience in the theatre on any given night. Rather, it was a time to move the art form in new directions, both figuratively and literally. And, I might add, it was a very heady and productive time.

Some years ago, when southern California was plunged into one of its deeper and more protracted economic downturns, success in many people's minds became synonymous with balanced budgets, high rates of subscription renewals and our ability to impose cost containment measures on the operation of the theatre. …

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