It is mostly sentiment to say our art is gift. More honestly, we would recognize that our art is at least as complex as our lives are. We barter continually for our daily existence. Each of us are at least partial commodity in that way. The better part of our being (often termed art or love) sometimes struggles to be free of that condition.
Understanding that our art is as we ourselves are, both gift and commodity, we can easier begin to comprehend what the actual product is we are trying to barter. The service or commodity that doesn’t have enough customers to sustain business generally goes out of existence. So what makes theatre so special?
Although in name, the League of Resident Theatres, suggest they are providing homes for the theatre professional, most often the only actual artist resident with a living salary in these regional theatres is the artistic director. Usually New York and other non-local actors, directors, and designers are auditioned and hired for the short artistic residencies during productions. So this confederacy of artistic fiefdoms would be more aptly named League of Art Residencies Directors. The acronym LARD rather than LORT better suits this long failing business and theatre model.
The actor who desires a career needs to move away from any home or relationships to community he may have developed. He knows celebrity is valued more than citizenship or local identity by these â€œregionalâ€ theaters when they cast their productions. In just this one obvious but important way, Fatboy Slim Theatre has been instrumental in perverting the nobler ambitions of theatre as service to a community.
Professional non-profit theatre reminds of that kid schooled by daddy on how to run a lemonade stand. This kind of theatre is conditioned from concept to never really grow up. Neither capitalistic nor revolutionary, but with pretence for both, the “new” â€œgroundbreakingâ€ theatre from Fatboy Slim Theatre is nothing more than the product of an ongoing dialectic between the geezers and their untamed brats. Relevant only in how irrelevant it is to the world beyond its stages.
The political philosopher Toni Negri, author with Michael Hardt of the visionary text Empire, has clarified the notion of social capital that is especially inherent in such activities as theatre, causing me to reexamine the above cynicism.
There has always been the biopolitical production of ideas, images, affects and relationships in society. (Women, mothers, the home has been the primary teachers of this.) These are immaterial rather than material goods. In our informational society these immaterial products have become more important than the concrete commodities and property. The biopower of this social capital is also able to spread quickly throughout the world and create a “common” within the “multitude” that touches on all aspects of life.
Nothing is produced if it is not produced through the common: there is no merchandise that is not a service, no service that is not a relation, no relation that is not a brain, no brain that is not common. Language is no longer just a form of expression, but the sole form of production of man and his environÂment. Language is therefore the way of being of the common being. —Alma Venus
The instruments are in our anthropology, our brain is the instrument that constitutes wealth, a wealth that must be common. We each are like a word, alone a sign, where meaning is only given by the entire language. —Contro-Impero
So even if it is long overdue to rid ourselves of the Fatboy Slim Theatre model of business, theatre itself is just as special as it thinks it is. The purpose of lemonade stand was never “to make money” or establish little fiefdoms for artisic directors. The commerce taking place at this “neighborhood business” is something much more immaterial, something much more important.