Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Problems I: Festival Glut?

Since I've been thinking of "Solutions" lately, I'd like to respond to a short post from Isaac Butler at Parabasis on the subject of Problems. A commenter responded to one of his posts to say that FringeNYC was not in the top 25 problems for independent theater in NY, so he decided to sit down and make a list of 25, which became a list of 6.

Here's two of them I have a response to:

(1) Since it's mentioned above: Festival Glut

(5) The current showcase code makes remounting and/or extending shows very difficult

It's my firm opinion that Festival Glut is not actually our problem--it's the combination of the showcase code and the large amount of work produced (regardless of "Festival" or non-festival) that creates the problem. As in, the work in-and-of-itself wouldn't be a problem, so long as the time wasn't artificially squeezed.

See, in the absence of a showcase code, suppose 200 shows go up at a Festival. Most of them will be crap. Reviewers will spot a few good ones, and they'll say "HEY EVERYBODY GO SEE _______" And then people will flock to ______ and _____ will extend, move into higher-visibility places, and maybe go on to bigger and brighter things.

From my perspective, however, multiple times I've just gotten word of THIS GREAT SHOW AT FRINGE... the Sunday it closes. I've seen a lot of posts that go, "Man, I wish everyone had seen ______ but its closing now."

That's why we feel overwhelmed by festivals: if we don't see the good shows in that narrow window of hundreds of shows, they're gone... and they're gone for good. If we could extend shows easily, then the good shows would live on past festivals, and we'd get the chance to see the good ones. The bad-to-mediocre ones would come, the committed festival-enthusiasts would see it, and then it'd be gone.

So yeah, festival glut isn't the problem.

Add to the Solutions List:

  • Showcase Code - Create an easier and fairer showcase code to let independent theaters reap the successes of popular showcase codes without having a gigantic step up in costs.


isaac butler said...

Festival glut is an issue because it makes visibility of individual shows (particularly those outside of the festivals) harder. In addition, festivals tie up large amounts of resources (particularly space and reviewer focus) and do not provide environments conducive to producing good work.

This would be less problematic were there one or two festivals a year. They happen almost year round now. This is why the glut is the issue, not an individual festival.

CultureFuture said...

I'm not sure I agree. I think the resources would be tied up even if there weren't festivals -- I don't know if my company, or the companies I've worked with, would produce less work in the absence of festivals.

I think the limitations of reviewer focus and visibility would probably be helped by having a longer run, to give the word of mouth and excitement more time to build around the show.

It feels to me that festivals are just a way to tie shows together, give bundled discounts--in short, a marketing tool for content that would already be out there.