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September 30, 2009



Amen! I actually think this is the most brilliant blog post of yours that I have read. 2 points to add: 1) Theatre started in the church... so I think it's fitting that church be the closest comparison, although until now I've never heard anyone make it... 2) Even after you GET to the pulpit on Sunday, you need to RE-EARN your spot on Monday through Saturday... many people (in both the Arts world AND the Church world) think that once they get there, they can relax and let someone else do the work...

I do use sports analogies a lot, though (thanks to Dad for that!), in my directing... it's amazing how clear-cut athletes objectives are, and how many times what an actor needs to focus on is "getting the ball down the field" or "protecting the goal."


Thanks Jenn. And you are absolutely right that the spotlight has to be continously earned. Your reputation can only get you so far.

Chris Casquilho

A friend of mine also commented on a major difference between sports and performing arts - namely, the perception that one's attendance at a sporting event could effect the outcome (which is not determined in advance). If you cheer harder - you might help your team win. Whether this is BS or not is beside the point. You know for certain when you enter a theatre that for 99% of all performances you watch, the outcome is a given whether you "participate" or not. If Claudius rounded up a bunch of rowdy hooligans to cheer on Laertes and throw stuff at Hamlet, Laertes would still lose. But if you can get seats behind the goal posts with a bunch of foam-wiener waggling maniacs and you all wiggle your foam wieners really hard when the kicker tries for the winning field goal..well...you might just have an effect. And if the kick is good - what more impetus do you need to go and wiggle an even bigger foam wiener even harder the next time?

Benjamin Brownson

I forwarded this post to my dad, who's been a pastor my whole life at a few different churches. Some really great thoughts and ideas. I've long been fascinated by the relationship between theatre and religion (it was the inspiration for and a significant focus of my masters thesis) and growing up as a preacher's kid I witnessed the theatrical elements inherent in the workings of a church, and it's great to see some of the connections highlighted. I think Jenn makes some great points too...

Scott Walters

Well done. Absolutely.

Eric S. Kildow

I have to voice my wholehearted agreement along with the others in terms of the working model.

However, the other question involved is what form of outreach is it that a theatre should consider? What would the arts equivalent of a dying parishioner be, precisely?

Jennifer Wright Cook

Thank you! I am late for my gospel choir rehearsal as I type this but I am very intrigued by this excellent post.

There is something else too that both the arts and church have the potential for I think: transformation. In their best case scenarios you the "congregant" have an opportunity to have your heart unfurl, your brain teased and your senses tickled. Church also, for alot of folks, has the guilt factor deeply embedded in it. Arts attendance does not (except the guilt of our friends whose shows we have to see). Lastly, the fear of death runs so strong in many folks and that fear often attaches to church/God as well. Perhaps if arts attendance had a fear of death capacity attached?

Kudos to the reminder as well that the arts in their DNA come from ritual participation (and not the more usual version today of spectatorship at the proscenium temple of adoration).

Church is ritual as well. And humans dig rituals! Many of most favorite art events have some level of participation - Bat Sheva comes forcefully to mind! They got us dancing on stage and in the audience! Brilliant.

THANK YOU again. More to think on. (oh, and as the ED of an arts service org, yes, GO SERVE! What that means exactly, tbd.)

Darrell Grant


I am completely in agreement and very appreciative of your post. I'm looking forward to discussing it with the students in our music program. A great direction to move into our preparation of artists for lives in music.

Dave Charest

Couldn't agree more with this post.

It's the same for any business. It's about building community. Meeting the community where they are and serving their needs. As you mention, the byproduct of this is people supporting your work.

The struggle comes in when we think it's all about the show we put on. But that's only part of the equation. The work you do when a show isn't on, is what adds up to making your organization grow.

Rally your community around a single idea. Look for ways to part of the lives of your audience. Help them achieve what they want. In turn they will help you.

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