Hats, Hats, and MORE HATS…

By Tiffany Antone

I'm sure I'm getting SOMEWHERE ... (awesome artwork by Carol Brandt)

Wow- what a week it’s been!  We are officially all lined up – Playwright+Director= GO! –  for Dirty Laundry!  (and if you ever told me I’d be stepping into “Producer” shoes as often as I have since entering this carnival called “The Real World of Theatre”, I’d have thought you were crazy!)

But that brings me to what I think is an interesting point – as a theatre artist – how do we juggle the seemingly never-ending stack of hats that we find ourselves wearing in order to create/produce work and somehow survive doing it?

I read an interesting article the other day on HowlAround.com in which theatre artist Meiyin Wang waxed poetic on the Theatre of the Future… her vision?  That specialization will go the way of the dodo-bird and we’ll each of us be called by our more homgenous title: “Theater maker”

Hmmmm…

I could argue that there will always be specialization, since we as humans are prone to crave the spotlight and to defend our area of expertise with animal ferocity – but there is a kurnel of something else hinted at here that prevents me from doing so… and I think it’s the “Survivalist” in me.

I am a currently so multi-functional as an artist – playwright, director, instructor, producer, graphic designer, marketing manager, social media director (yes, my head is spinning!) – that, even though my “area” is Playwriting, I can’t really tout one title too loudly above the rest.

And I’m not alone.

Many, many, MANY artists today are becomign increasingly frustrated with the difficulties of getting their work seen via mainstream (ie: oft-cluttered and nearly impossible to navigate) avenues and are therefore stepping up to the challenge by donning as many hats as required to get their work in front of someone.

It’s why I started Little Black Dress.

It’s why a hundred other artists are teaming up to create their own producing organizations seemingly every day.

So what’s wrong with that title of “Theater Maker” if it’s born of necessity?

I think quite a lot.

What is it about theatre today that is lending itself to a “If you want something done right, you better do it yourself” attitude?   Have large, grandfathered theatres become trapped by the very “security” they fought to achieve?  Are playwriting “opportunities” like readings and workshops satisfying grant requirements whilst leaving the country’s stages depressingly bare of new work?   Studies like Theatre Development Fund’s Outrageous Fortune seem to indicate that this in indeed part of the dilemma – among a host of other issues confounding artistic directors and playwrights and every one in between.

So perhaps, although I disagree with how Ms. Wang arrives at her vision of the future (and although the title gives me a creepy shiver), I can’t say she’s far off… We are each of trying to carve out a piece of the global stage however we can, even if it means diluting our relevant titles into a string of less-powerful (in the collective sense) adjectives – “Playwright-Director-Producer-etc, etc -Ad Nauseam” …

Yes, when you start to look at it like that, Theater Maker starts to sound a whole lot better.

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