- A Statistic Every Arts Advocate Should Know
This blog post over at Fractured Atlas takes the recent statistic broadcast by Richard Florida that 16% of 2009 Harvard graduates indicate the arts as their dream career field (the highest rated category in the survey) and puts it in the context of income potential for arts support and patronage. This is an important application for the statistic - it suggests that at least one-sixth of the young professional population is engaged in the arts and represent an ideal target audience for arts organizations. (Check out Roundabout Theater Company's HIPTIX for an organization doing this very well.) But to me, the first question raised should be whether all of those 16% actually go into an arts-related profession. No? Then why? My guess is we'll see more details about earning potential and other factors that send young people to other sectors. Beyond that, let's check in with those same students for the first few years of their careers and find out where they end up. Do many students try another field, but go back to their dream later? Do those who choose the arts stick with their passion more than those who choose other sectors? Those are the kinds of survey results I'm after.
- Better Than Broadway
The Wall Street Journal's longtime theater critic Terry Teachout suggests that Chicago may be dethroning New York as the best city for theater, determining that New York needs more Off-Broadway companies like Chicago's regional companies. I love to see the Midwest getting some recognition and I do think Chicago is doing an exceptional job positioning itself as a theater capitol and destination, through organizations like Broadway in Chicago. However, I'd be hard-pressed to be convinced that any other city - even one as fantastic as Chicago - can capture the magic that is undoubtedly part of New York theater. There is something to be said for the history and reputation that New York has on the theater scene than can't be lost or overtaken in even a decade or two. However, I'd love to see Chicago make a run for it. First, Chicago has to continue to position itself as a prime destination for new works in the same vein as Broadway and the West End. Its out-of-town tryouts (like The Addams Family) and first-post-Broadway-destination coups (like Shrek) are a great start. But until it is the endpoint instead of simply a stop on the way to or from Broadway, it won't steal the crown. Beyond that, the theater scene and community in Chicago will hopefully continue to develop in much the same way - as a conscious destination choice for talented actors, directors, producers and others, just as these same professionals currently tend to choose New York. And in the meantime, great Chicago productions thankfully satisfy theater lovers all over the Midwest. Just in the past year, I've traveled to half a dozen Midwest cities to see touring or local theater and Chicago's scene is clearly the most well-developed and supported. Here's to its continued development and future greatness.
- Hair Today, Jukebox Musical Tomorrow
This is a fascinating perspective on the West End theater scene. It concerns the West End transfer of the Broadway smash Hair (this link is one of the most dynamic and visually appealing musical websites I've ever seen, by the way) and speculates on why it's closing after just six months. To be honest, the situation described in London doesn't sound all that different than much of what's happening on Broadway, namely that new musicals are scarce and generally unsuccessful as compared to jukebox musicals or those based on an already-recognized brand. There has been significant buzz about the 2010 Tony nominations revealing just how few brand new, completely original musicals opened this season beyond revivals and jukebox musicals. To be fair, Hair is a revival itself and contains several songs that are highly recognizable after becoming pop hits in the late '60s and early '70s. And, to bury the lead, this revival is an exceptional production in every category, not to mention that to have almost the full Broadway cast transfer to London is an exceptional feat and exceptional gift to getting the production on its feet across the pond. It's hard to say why it couldn't pull the audiences it needed overseas. What I appreciate is this and other attempts to question whether we're taking enough risks with our theater, whether we're doing everything we can to support the art we love, and how we can do these things better.