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Why Do I Villainize Commercial Theater?

Recently my class and I were introduced to the book In the Intersection by Diane Ragsdale.  The book was about the intersection between Commercial theater and not-for-profit theater.  The book discussed the  benefits of the collaboration, but also the pitfalls that can occur.

When the idea is first introduced in the book, my initial reaction was sour.  They sounded a bit like: “Join up with commercial theater?”,  “Are you kidding me?”, Don’t take money from the bad guys!”.  My young artist mind felt strong with the pride behind not-for-profit theaters with goals revolved around community, education, and artistry.  Of course, that still sounds great.  However, is that any reason for me to have a revulsion to commercial theater?  Do I really need to chose one team to play for and call it a day?  I don’t think so anymore.

After reading the book, I realized that difference between commercial theater and not-for-profit is, well, the relationship to profits.  Commercial is dedicated to it.  Profit is the reason the doors stay open.  This doesn’t mean evil.  This doesn’t imply a hatred of not-for-profit.  This does not mean that commercial theaters goal is to squash out the little guys.

I do wonder where my perceptions come from.  Commercial producers are artists themselves.  As is everyone involved.  There is theater that is made for everyone (or, the typical broadway audience) and there is theater made more specific and intentional.  One does not mean better than the other.  Artists need to understand the two different worlds to see where their aesthetic and career goals would flourish.  There is no good and bad.  Good and evil.  There is preference.


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