Oh beautiful, beautiful internet, you are a blessing and a curse.
One of the joys of the internet is the always on, at my convenience, content delivery.
One of the banes is asynchronous experience in general, and the asynchronous conversation in particular.
This weekend saw the dawn of the Throwdown between Mike Daisey and Tim Olson over Mr. Daisey’s How Theatre Failed America. Mr. Olson took the piece to be a personal affront, and challenged Mr. Daisey to perform his Artistic Director’s job in a put-up-shut-up move.
It’s been over a year since Mr. Daisey blew up the theatre blogosphere with the monologue and the attendant piece in Seattle’s Stranger. A year since we all beat each other over the head with whining about, and solutions to the prevailing business model in American Theatre.
But apparently this has only just come to Mr. Olson’s attention, and apparently he didn’t Google any of the attendant discussion, blog posts, parodies, flame wars, round tables, Teresa Eyring’s 3-part response in American Theatre, the 497 responses to her response…
I mean it’s not like this went unnoticed or that the theatrosphere was shy on this topic.
But Mr. Olson wasn’t plugged into all that and it went ignored. Enter the blind man and the elephant.
Is Mr. Olson responsible for having some idea of what he’s tackling before he throws out a challenge like that? Sure. Does he have a responsibility do something more than react before the first time I hear about his theatre he’s offering the budget to a monologist he’s never met? I obviously vote yes.
I have previously been called out by the lovable Colin Mitchell for my cowardice in pulling my punches in this space, but this is exactly why I do that. Mr. Olsen’s is exactly the sort of response that I endeavor with all of my being to avoid.
Do my posts lack some of the obvious passion that Mr. Olsen shows due to their deliberateness? Absolutely. But I hate being wrong more than I hate the New York Yankees, and in taking that extra beat before I uppercut some imaginary internet foe I avoid leaving myself open to the criticism he’s going to receive over the next few days and weeks.
On the larger topic?
Mr. Daisey is heavy-handed in his calling out of Mr. Olson’s perceived bias, but it’s hard to not see it in the continued lumping of us vs. them with the line item for artists being on the opposing side.
It’s the first thing that needs to go.
And arts admin’s need to do a self check before they get defensive about it. It’s not a crime to be defensive for the people you work in the office with every day. It’s not terribly unusual that you would side with them against the people that job in every couple of months and walk around like they own the place. But recognize that it happens when we’re talking about business models, or we’re never going to be able to talk about this in rational tones.
And Mr. Olson, to allow myself an intemperate moment:
Before you go off speaking for All of American Theatre Artists I want you to take your heap of problems, galling (and real) as they are, and realize that you are America in this metaphor, and you have more resources than 98% of your colleagues.
Further, and listen closely, American Stage Theatre Company and companies of similar size and larger are not the primary producers of live theatre in the country. For every one of you, there are twenty small independent producers, and fifty community theatres. Maybe we don’t matter to you. Hell maybe you don’t even consider us your colleagues, but we are very real. And when you start listing numbers and programs and acronyms rather than talking about what art you produce? You are proving Mike Daisey’s ACTUAL point, not negating it.