Arts Issues for Artists & Presenters: August 2009 Archives

Kennedy Center chief Michael Kaiser stopped in Madison earlier this week on his "Arts in Crisis" speaking tour.  (For coverage, see my article for Isthmus, as well as pieces in 77 Square and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).  Artful Manager blogger Andrew Taylor (director of the UW-Madison's Bolz Center for Arts Administration) moderated the conversation.  For video of Kaiser's Madison appearance, visit WisconsinEye.


While there were many points that could be isolated for further discussion, one crucial theme was the need for arts organization to think big and not play it safe with their programming, despite the dismal economic climate.  "If we all do Phantom of the Opera and Cats, it will be incredibly boring," Kaiser chuckled.


In that vein, I was interested in what an online commenter had to say in response to Lindsay Christians' 77 Square story about the event.  (I encourage you to hop over there and read it, since I don't want to risk breaching online etiquette by re-running the whole thing here.)  This nugget in particular (from the commenter "Woody") leapt out at me:  "Ballet companies have succeeded in teaching their audiences that The Nutcracker is the only ballet in the repertoire and thus that ballet is only meant for kids."


This speaks to a larger issue:  when is something a beloved local tradition and therefore valuable, and when has it become stale?

In Madison, as in countless other cities, you're guaranteed to find at least one Nutcracker each holiday season, as well as a stage version of A Christmas Carol.  You could see this negatively as a tired re-hashing of the same programming each season (though, admittedly, good companies seek ways of freshening up the productions).

On the positive side, you could see this--especially where kids are concerned--as a natural, easy introduction to the world of the performing arts.  One might hope that families that have a good time at Nutcracker or Carol will seek out other performances on the season schedule.


In fact, the 77 Square commenter makes the somewhat contradictory point that Nutcracker winds up subsidizing the rest of a company's season.  So which is it:  Nutcracker drives people away with its mind-numbing repetition, or it's a popular, commercial success that helps companies remain stable enough to offer less familiar fare during the rest of the season?


What's your take?  Is there a place for an annual production of something as a beloved tradition?  Or is that regularity, that "oh-here-it-is-again" quality stultifying?


I come at the arts primarily from a visual-art background, where this issue doesn't crop up in the same way (yes, you have Biennials, Triennials, etc., but you're not literally showing the same art each time).  In the performing arts, do you feel that tradition is in conflict with innovation, or can they co-exist peacefully?

August 27, 2009 2:36 PM | | Comments (0)

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Arts Issues for Artists & Presenters category from August 2009.

Arts Issues for Artists & Presenters: March 2009 is the previous archive.

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About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
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