The Idea of a Theatre – Second Season

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A follow up to Flynn’s first letter, The Idea of Theatre

I’ve been thinking about the change that Obama represents and his call for service.  Art is a community service and, certainly, so is the theatre we do.  We do not get paid and while we all hope that each production might lead to something else, none of us do this work to get other jobs.  One of the problems with theatre is Los Angeles is many theatre productions are showcases and, even when a production is not a showcase,  a lot of theatre artists are more concerned with what they can get out of doing theatre than what they give. I believe this is why there are 100 plus waiver theatres instead of 15 or 20 equity houses like in Chicago.

I believe this has tainted theatre in the community.  I think it puts off or confuses donors and foundations. When audiences and donors survey Los Angeles theatre how can they tell the artists, those who wish to serve the community, from the masturbators, those who serve themselves?  Their confusion diminishes our efforts and sometimes, I think, can make each of us feel ambiguous about what we are doing. We feel slightly guilty to feel proud of what we do; what we are attempting to do.  If we hold up our hands and say hey, we’re not the masturbators; our defensive posture tinges us – guilt by association.

I am immensely proud of what we have done and I thank all of you for what you have given.  Founding a theatre with high purpose is not easy work.  (Hey, we’re not the masturbators).  This work inevitably  asks more of us than we had thought to give.  Little wonder I have found myself questioning the effort as, I am sure, many of you have.  We not only have to do good work; we have to change the community’s understanding of what theatre is and should be in this town.

Rogue Machine seeks to build a community and to become a vibrant force in the greater Los Angeles community.  Arts become a force in a community through service.  Theatre holds a mirror up to its community.  That mirror should show who we (humanity) are; what and how we love, what and how we hate, what we’re doing right in the world, what we’re doing wrong; that mirror should show the state of humanity as it is. It should be affirming as well as condemning.  It should make us think; it should make us laugh.  It can be rough and rowdy like Razorback or elegiac like American Dead.

I am renewing my dedication to making this happen.  I’m writing this to remind myself and you that what we are doing is exactly the kind of service Obama is asking all of us to do.  I salute us.

I think there is room for more equity theatres in Los Angeles and I intend Rogue Machine to be one of them.  I know this will take a few years to do and I know many will think we’re tilting at windmills but it should be done – it should be done because it will help develop and bind us to our community.  It should be done because it will continue to refine our purpose in the community.  It should be done because each of you deserves to be paid for your effort; to be recognized as valuable.  Even when you are paid, you will still be servants of the community, as artists should be.

Again, thank you.


John Perrin Flynn

John Perrin Flynn