Why Art? It’s Human Potential, Stupid!

…however you live,
There’s a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat…

The  theater  can be a shitty business. The community can be wonderful, generous, loving and loyal. It can also be cliquey, opportunistic, back biting and brown-nosing. For every dream that comes true, thousands are dashed. It is almost impossible to actually sustain employment as a performing artist. Broadway show after Broadway show, some filled with stars and generating wonderful reviews, fail to turn a profit. Audiences to live performing arts events are on a continuous decline, and performing arts employment is dismal.

So why the hell did I get into this in the first place? Why am I still here?

I have the great pleasure of being exposed right now to some of the incredible work that WolfBrown and The Doris Duke Foundation are doing to counteract the lack of demand for the performing arts in this country, a lack of demand that paved the way for the declining audiences, declining revenues and declining performing arts jobs that are posing a serious threat to the future of our industry. This exposure lead me to read the Massachusetts’ Arts Council’s  The Art of Participation, and there, in a section about marketing for the arts I came across this…

The Art Of Participation:Shared Lessons In Audience Engagement
A Report on the Efforts of 22 Boston Area Arts Organizations to Increase Participation in the Arts Over the Course of Four Years 2006-2010

You have a product that affords people a glimpse of their own potential as human beings. – Alan Brown

Years of trying to verbalize my commitment to a life in the arts always came up a little hollow, a little wrong.  And then, in that one, Twitter friendly sentence, there it was.. succinct – gorgeous and YES!

This is what has kept me rapt in darkened theaters, this is what thrills when I read a new play or rehearse a show. This is what has kept me slogging through difficult times and years of rejection, and this is what propels me as, along with the VirtualArts team, we work tirelessly to reinvent the performing arts for today’s wired twenty-first audience – to help the performing arts speak more authentically, more meaningfully, more directly to a digital twenty-first century.  The chance to give everyone, no matter where they are in the world, a glimpse of their own potential as human beings – and to share that experience with a global community. In doing so we also hope to  play our part in fixing the revenue, employment and audience problems our crucial industry is facing.

I could never have said it as well or as simply as Mr. Brown, but for me therein lies the root of a lifetime dedicated to the performing arts- the chance to afford humanity a glimpse of our own potential as human beings.


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