The Most Important Theatre Company

1360666582-ACT165__WEB_327x400In the Greater Phoenix region, Actors Theatre isn’t the oldest, largest or even most popular professional theatre company.

It’s just the most important.

And this morning, Actors Theatre announced:   “…the Board of Directors and Management have decided to take a PAUSE to assess and redesign our business model and to consider all options to “take control of our future.”… We are not closing. We are stepping back because we need to change the way we operate our business. Our goal is to continue producing the quality, thoughtful and entertaining theater we’ve become known for and to develop a more relevant connection to the community.”  

Let me tell you a bit about Actors Theatre:

This is the Greater Phoenix region’s premier company dedicated to producing contemporary professional theatre.

This is the company whose productions are most likely to rouse, challenge, provoke, stimulate, inflame, awaken, animate, spark, innervate, stir up, affect and simultaneously entertain its audiences.

This is the company whose productions live most vividly in my memory (and I suspect this is similarly true for their loyal audiences).  Actors Theatre is memorable for consistently providing the kind of singular, original and meaningful experiences that contemporary drama is supposed to deliver.

Even for the shows I didn’t like (and of course, there are a few) – I still feel that I came away richer for the experience.

Actors Theatre is the is the most willing to put itself on the line to produce art that is impactful, impeccable and relevant.

But all of that is not what makes Actors Theatre the MOST IMPORTANT professional theater company.

Nope.  What makes Actors Theatre the MOST IMPORTANT is the bravery & positive outlook required of Board & Staff to recognize the critical challenges they are facing and their willingness to commit themselves to a wholesale reinvention of venue, business model and more.

Do you get it?  The folks at Actors Theatre have just volunteered themselves for duty at the front line in the battle that’s critical not just all theatre companies – but all arts & cultural organizations.  Right here and right now, they are throwing down on this most profound question:  How shall we reclaim and/or reassert RELEVANCE with contemporary audiences.

Today, nobody has the answers to the questions they are asking.

But I applaud their spirit.  And I applaud their effort.

And I can’t wait to see the answers they come up with.

Something important is happening here.

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  1. Lola Lehrman says

    Yes, I am Matt’s mother and I have made it a practice to maintain a low profile when it comes to arts and cultural matters. However, I can’t stay quiet and must applaud Matt for his comments and concerns about Actor’s Theatre.
    My husband and I are both former New Yorkers and good entertainment, especially challenging theatre, was, and is, as important as good food. Infact, food probably came second. In my teen years I saw most Broadway shows from standing room. Matt and his sister were introduced to theatre at a young age and I am so proud that I inspired this great love in him.
    Therefore, this mornings news from Actor’s Theatre was truly devastating. I have already sent my personal note of regret to them. We have been residents in the valley for almost a quarter of a century and have supported Actor’s Theatre all that time. Their productions have always provided us with that New York flavor. What a terrible loss to our community if this company cannot continue to do what they do best.

  2. Ken LaFave says

    Matt –

    You say Actors Theatre is the most relevant of all our local companies, but then say they are taking their “pause” in order to address the relevance you say they already possess. I would put forward an alternative thesis: Their “pause” (and we can only hope it is that and nothing more permanent) is the result of the fact that very few people care if art is relevant, purposeful, powerful and compelling — which Actors Theatre productions regularly are. The appeals to marketing, management, entrepreneurship, etc., made by you and others as corrections to the failing arts scene we see around us mask the underlying fact that no one wishes to address: American culture has become so dumbed down as to be unsalvageable.

    Now, this dumbing down, generally acknowledged to be present, is generally blamed on the lack of arts education in the schools. Wrong. As someone involved in arts education 40 hours-plus a week, I can tell you that merely telling kids that Bach and Copland are out there in addition to Justins Bieber and/or Timberlake does nothing, absolutely nothing, to intrigue them. No. They and audiences everywhere are ignoring what used to be called the “fine arts” because they see no need to pursue or consume them. Why? Because nobody is telling them that Bach, Copland, etc. are actually BETTER than the stuff they listen to on the radio. It is almost forbidden to even mention the possibility that some music or theater or art is better than other music, theater or art, let alone to demonstrate why that is the case. Therefore, humans, being what they are, will take the path of least resistance. If staying home and cooking vegan is no better or worse than going to McDonalds, hey, why not go to McDonalds? If staying home and watching American Idol is of no less value than going to see a play that plumbs the depths of human experience, hey, stay home and wallow!

    Post-modern culture in league with late capitalism promotes the idea that everything is just a commodity, that all these commodities are of equal value in-and-of-themselves, and that the only thing setting them apart from each other is their popularity. Therefore marketers, managers, etc. mistakenly think that new strategies to “sell” their artistic “product” will succeed. Wrong. Only when the culture as a whole knows that it needs Bach and Copland and Actors Theatre because they offer something deeper, and therefore (gasp! dangerous word!) better than cheap pop culture will the failure of fine arts in America reverse. Until then, good luck selling those tickets.