Steve Jobs (may he rest in peace) loved to quote Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy; Great artists steal.”
Now, whether or not that’s what Picasso actually said, or even further, what he actually meant, I can’t be bothered to wrangle. However, I came upon an article online in American Theatre magazine about a theatre that has rooted its identity in its community, and found a way to support artists within that community to do outstanding work FOR that community.
You can find the article here.
Go ahead. I’ll wait until you’re done reading it.
No GO AHEAD. It’s short.
You’re done already?
Okay: I have some thoughts.
First of all, I think that collective decision making can yield great benefits for a company, and in this case, community. Embedding the theatre in the fabric of the community, not just in its decision making (composing the board of half community members) but by fostering local talent almost exclusively gives a unique sense of ownership. Their partnerships with local business, individuals, non-profits, schools, and city government sink their roots deep into where they’ve been planted, and have allowed them to grow and bloom.
There is no dedicated artistic leadership other than the company members. No artistic director, administrative staff, or theatrical home. Many of their works are produced in ‘found spaces’ in the greater KC area. One of the major complaints I’ve heard, and one of the major hurdles I’ve understood to creating a theatre company, is that there has to be a ‘boss’, there have to be staff members, there has to be expense and overhead to keep the lights on in a building that the theatre needs to own or rent. KCAT has found a way around that. Community partnerships allow it to find space when needed. It allows its artists, dedicated to a consensus model of decision-making, to pull the artistic strings needed to select a season of theatrical works, uses committees to do the work of a dedicated staff, while also giving them the flexibility and autonomy to continue their work of making theatre (acting, directing, designing, etc.).
A theatre grounded in it’s community is something Tacoma could get behind. So many of my fellow Tacoma residents are fiercely loyal to their community: the people and places that make Tacoma a place we choose to live. A theatre that’s as loyal to them might just be something worth supporting.