So, tomorrow morning I’m off to I’m in NYC, the capital of theater, dance, performance art, finance, fashion, greed and self-absorbed jerks (well, second to LA in this last category). Still, I do love this city very much but I’ve been really on a complete break from it mentally. Yet whenever I think of leaving it, I ask how I could ever think of such a thing? Then I remind myself how important it is for me to venture beyond what it is I am currently doing and seeing. It’s also important to relax, unwind and take breaks sometimes. But that’s not easy to do without money. Which is why I have to work full time. Sometimes I find the dualistic life between working in a cubicle/office and trying to create new types of theater and performance to be really difficult. Then I remember that I knew this life I had chosen was not an easy one. I obviously will not give up what I’m passionate about but sometimes it wears me out. That is the problem for anyone working in the arts living in a society that thinks the arts are a luxury.
About a week ago, I read an article in the St. Pete Times about how the funding for public arts is being cut in half in Hillsborough County and completely eliminated in Pinellas County. On top of this, one of the Senators (Rhonda Storms) from this area of Florida is attempting to eliminate funding for the arts throughout the entire state. In bad times, the arts are one of the first to suffer because people who have the power to call the shots claim that the arts are a luxury, they’re fun and spending money on them is just a waste. This is one of the most ignorant ideas but it is so deeply embedded in our culture that it’s hard to make someone realize that the arts are incredibly important to a society. They offer communities a sense of just that…connection within the community. They inspire people and offer something higher than the mundane quotidian. Actually, I might do an entire post on what performance does for a community, because that is even more so an important topic for me.
Speaking of which, I was thinking recently about funding for theater/performance while watching two different shows this past week: Gilgamesh at USF’s School of Theater and Dance and The Lieutanent of Inishmore at Jobsite Theater (at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center). I actually am planning to write a bit more about each separately, but in light of funding issues I wondering, after having the privilege of seeing both, what small theater and performance companies will do if they can no longer afford to actually run their companies or produce their projects?
In NYC, this issue of funding is incredibly important and something that is on most peoples’ minds. Last night I was at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s “The Downtown Dinner” spring gala and while the event was entirely booked and an incredible success thanks to the lovely LMCC staff, the catering crew and the performers and artists, I think that the economy was that specter lurking…haunting the building, the people, and the artists. The question is, what alternatives do we have in order to continue to make innovative, amazing performance and art, if we can no longer rely on the sources that we’ve had to rely on in the past? And what about the communities where there was already scarce funding available?