I was at a meeting of fundraising people recently, who work for small or medium-sized theater companies, and we were talking about the impending funding cuts. And people started tossing around that hackneyed non-profit mantra of “We have to learn to do more with less.” And I thought (but was too timid to say): How much less can we do more with? It’s like asking an anorexic to cut down on carbs.
We should be doing less with more. If there are five hundred theater companies in New York, and everyone is having trouble filling the house, then there are perhaps too many of us trying to do too much with too little already. The supply is not meeting the demand. And the only way to bring audiences back to the theater (besides giving away tickets) in any meaningful sense is to make work that is unforgettable. And that takes time.
The great thing about small companies and organizations is that we don’t have to act like institutions. The ones that are trying to do less (fewer shows per year, say) with more (spending enough on them to get them done right), are the ones that really are thriving: ERS, SoHo Rep, NTUSA The Foundry.