Seattle Times' Misha Berson offers a colorful post-mortem on the beloved alternative company.
But here's her scary bigger picture:
Midsize arts groups like the Empty Space are in an increasingly perilous position. And if the cultural climate doesn't change in the next few years, few will survive into the next decade.Why?
Underlining mine, of course. Those points, I'm sure, resonate with many, many companies in cities of all sizes across this nation. If Berson is right about the ticking clock on such companies ("few will survive into the next decade") so much for our national theatre.
Here's where the "midsize theater" problem kicks in.
Do the math. Any art-driven troupe in this town with fewer than 300 or so seats to sell per night, and a professional payroll to meet, cannot rely on ticket sales
Civic funding (the kind European countries dole out routinely to their best troupes) and other grants are essential for survival. Moreover, theaters should be viewed as cultural amenities worth supporting, if they enrich this community and serve as its cultural ambassadors.
It's a cliché and true: Our society places less and less value on providing literate, thoughtful alternatives to the 24/7 barrage of canned, empty-calorie commercial
We expect nonprofit arts groups to be "business-like." That doesn't just mean being sensible about money. But also, implicitly, picking material that guarantees an audience (anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, for instance), and taking few of the aesthetic risks Empty Space was founded to take.
The roll call of midsize theaters Seattle has lost since the mid-1990s is a grim one, headed by the Group Theatre, the Alice B. Theatre, the Bathhouse Theatre company. And it's no accident that these organizations folded as Seattle boomed and shed some of its own unique civic character.
Some midsize companies (Book-It Repertory Theatre, Taproot Theatre, et al) are hanging in there, along with the bigger theaters and an evolving array of fringe troupes funded largely by free labor.