The NO BOX OFFICE is the most radical notion in the 365 Days/365 Plays project. In NYC and LA, Actors Equity allows token payments to actors in showcase and 99 seat production contracts. So actors can work in similar spirit to the dollar a day token royalty the playwright receives. I’m interested in how theaters are paying Equity actors working elsewhere in the country on this project. I expect circumvention. Likewise on the NO BOX OFFICE restriction.
The Foundry Theatre has hit the right note in their circumvention with this Thanksgiving potlatch invitation.
ADMISSION: A bottle of New York State wine, Seriously.
The potlatch model for theatre is better than any market model, Seriously. All of us in our heart of hearts know this, but unfortunately all of us are also swimming in a culture that does not honor it. This is the root of our ambivalence and struggle.
The dominant culture gives prestige to money and celebrity. This project debases money but embraces the double-edged sword of celebrity. The Emperor’s New Clothes and PR stunt comments are apropos as long as it’s understood that not just Suzan-Lori but everyone involved is attempting to exploit the playwright’s current celebrity.
By most serious yardsticks in theatre or any art form, celebrity does not equal quality. So the hope is that most productions will be more rigorous in their rehearsals than the writer was with her Play-a-Day words. Dramaturgically, this inequity is interesting, pointing toward a dynamic at the heart of many of the current aesthetic, ethical, and legal arguments about “authorship” in theatre. The genius of theatre arises from the interplay of many different elements within the collaboration. Artaud’s No More Masterpieces does not disgrace text but attempts to reposition it as another living entity within the performance. Words belong to the lusty lip.
We ask theatre to examine the difference between an audience and fandom. In this examination the Potlatch is at odds with Celebrity. The gift that will be celebrated so famously in the accolades of the press or in the careers of the Foundry Theatre and Suzan-Lori Parks is the lesser god. The real host of the Potlatch, the performance stripped of all wealth and identity except its presence, disappears within the communal wine the witness brought as gift.