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What the hell do I want?

As I noted in my last blog post, I’ve been feeling a real push inside when it comes to this company. A push that’s made me feel more demanding – of artistry, of commitment, of organization, of accountability – in regards to all facets of this company.

Again, it’s not that I didn’t think these things before, but in many ways I’ve often allowed myself to be very forgiving. Very forgiving in that sometimes we may bring those on who don’t enjoy the education or experience that others might have and we might have different standards in those instances. Forgiving of our lack of resources in terms of cash on hand or what comes via sponsors and donors and how that directly effects our ability to produce. Forgiving that pretty much every one of us works at least two jobs. Forgiving that for the regular Joe, theater is not a cultural priority and therefore folks might not support things the way I’d like.

And sometime in this past year, I’m not sure if it’s the time I’ve put in or what, I’ve just decided that enough is enough. If we don’t hold ourselves up to a higher standard now – when will we? If we aren’t pushing ourselves to the furthest reaches of our comfort zones, do we really ever expect to grow the way we want?

And truth is – we have to work our asses OFF at every available turn if we really want to turn things around with this art form. I’m not just talking about Jobsite, but all of us.

The audience doesn’t care about next time when you think you’ll do better, or that you just really want to get through this one bad day with this one bad audience or that you just didn’t have the money or didn’t spend the time to fix something.

During rehearsals for Inishmore, I told the cast one day during notes how far the show had come and that it was really shaping up to be good. But I noted that I’m not in this for “good,” and that “good” just isn’t good enough. There’s a line between good and great, it’s crisp and thick, and that if we’re not pushing ourselves at every turn for great over good we’re wasting our time and the time of the audience.

This isn’t a hobby, this isn’t just something to do at night to be social and have fun. This is ministry, this is service, this is change, this is healing, this is important. If all involved aren’t on that same page, there is a problem.

We have to give people a reason to leave the house and spend money with us, and let’s be fair – even our low cost tickets are more than what a lot of people would consider a good value in this economy. We can combat that with lower prices (which would only work to a point), and we can also combat that with making the experience more valuable. By being excellent with consistency. By giving people a reason to be excited. Let’s be real, WICKED has a crazy-rabid fanbase – there’s not much work involved in getting that show sold. We have to find the way to move people in that same fashion. At that point those people become the greatest marketers in the world for us, and we begin to grow into something more closely resembling what we want.

And what DO we want?

Some of it’s always been right there, from the initial crypto-anarchic scribblings by Mike Caban and me when this sounded like a good idea to take a chance on:

The Jobsite Theater is dedicated to the creation of socially and politically relevant theater and the pursuit of performing it to the broadest possible audience. Jobsite has established and will continue to evolve a collective of like-minded artists, creating a supportive environment where artists of all disciplines may experiment, hone, and apply their skills in a professional laboratory environment.

Through all forms of theater – be it experimental, new plays, contemporary works or the classics – Jobsite hopes to inspire their community to become not just consumers, but true citizens.

The top and bottom unbolded parts are pretty well engrained. We’re doing that. The middle bolded area is still looser than I would like it to be.

We set ourselves up as an artist’s company, as an ensemble. I used companies like Ariane Mnouchkine’s Theatre du Soliel (no relation to the Cirque), Chicago’s Steppenwolf and from my direct educational experiences Gainesville’s Hippodrome State Theater and the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

A commonality with all these companies is how they run as a collective. A company guided by art and artists and not outside boards and administrators who don’t really know the craft they lord over.

In my perfect world? I get a good half-dozen people on an annual payroll in staff positions who are also artists in the next few years. I’ve always mutli-tasked as an administrator/actor/director/designer/marketer/PR guy/fundraiser/chief/cook/bottlw-washer. I’ll do whatever is needed to get things done.

Off the top of my head I can also talk about Brian Smallheer, our Designer in Residence who is more than capable of annual work as Production Manager, who can work with facilities and assist us in setting tours. And who could probably make a full-time go of just designing and building 6 mainstages plus howevermany side projects a year.

Same could be said for Katrina Stevenson in her role as Costume Manager. She’s a hell of a director, actor and designer and she could easily be put to work year round to manage a costume shop and likely would still have time to provide administrative support when needed (she’s a hell of a board secretary).

Shawn Paonessa – gifted playwright, actor and director – also currently manages Jobsite’s website and is the best technical writer/editor I know. I could easily have 40 hours of work a week for him.

Ami Corley, in addition to her artistic abilities is bery interested in education. Kari Goetz is a hell of a PR champion, audience development guru and hob-knobber extraordinaire.

I could keep going, but you get the idea, right? These are incredible artists who do important core work for this company and who deserve to just be paid for what they do. If I could employ every one of these Jobsite Artistic Associates and just give them one paycheck to worry about – I don’t think any of them would balk at however many hats I asked them to wear.

Same goes for our mighty ensemble. If the funds were there that would be the pool to tap into when we need help building sets, manning tables, fundraising and so on.

We deserve it, and I feel I owe these people.

And could you imagine what we’d be capable of, how pure we’d produce at that point? It gets me salivating just to think about. And I refuse to accept that it can’t be done.

Which brings me back to my demanding nature. If we want it, we have to show we deserve it – despite whatever we may be lacking right now that’s holding us back.

It can’t all be ticket sales. The answer is not just raising prices, because it wouldn’t work that way. I think some of it needs to come from perhaps looking for more ways to actually earn money in the form of secondary stage efforts and a lot of it is going to have to come from beating feet – from finding those individuals and corporations who believe enough in the work we do to directly support it, and to get better at the granting process.

I realize it’s not the best time to be asking any government for money, but we have to keep trying. I see too many other people out there who are getting money, we just have to find a way.

And we’re going to do this on OUR terms. We’ll do this and stay true to the work that excites us, that we want to produce and that we believe people want to see. We will do this by not comprimising who we are and who we serve.

I’m sure I could go back and start all over again and create a company here to pander to the ultra-wealthy or that would tug at the heart-strings of those handing out stacks of cash to bad shows about science benchmarks or forced didactic “social issue” work that someone believes is “worthy” – but if I’m going to totally go sell out I’d go do it in an industry that would at least buy me a bigger house and a new car.

So I continue to do what I do, what I know and what I believe in.

This dream can come true. It’s just taking a bit more work and patience that I thought at a certain point.

And this is exactly why I feel such a push to not only step up my own game, but to make sure everyone else is, too.

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