As Adelaide sits in its January arts slump – as I sit here desperately calling, desperately craving, desperately waiting for some theatre – we are all waiting for the impending Fringe and Festival. We are waiting for the city’s parks and open spaces to come alive with lights and fantasy, for foyers to be abuzz, for street performers to yell, for flyers to be shoved into our hands, for art to creep and seep its way into every crack it can find. We are waiting for balmy summer nights, for ciders and gin and tonics, and for fanning ourselves with programs and hats, and wondering how the grass got to be just so brown. We are waiting to be excited, be inspired, be scared – by ourselves, by our interstate neighbours, and by our overseas guests.
We are waiting for the articles, for the photographs, for the coverage of this event which we see as unlike any other. We are waiting for our press to celebrate this great thing that we make: that the staff make, that the artists make, that the audiences make, that the city makes. We are waiting for the street press, for the walls of posters, for pens to circle the new guide after the last one fell apart from being read too many times.
We are waiting, unfortunately, for exhaustion, for bad shows, to pay too much for a bottle of beer. We are waiting to not hear about the best show until it is too late, to find a show runs two hours instead of the advertised one, to realise your skirt doesn’t cover all of the faux-leather seat in the un-air-conditioned venue. We are all desperately hoping we are not waiting for another locust plague. We are waiting for those inevitable articles: there is too much art; there is too much competition; how can anyone survive in such a glut?
But, you know and I know, art is not a zero-sum game. If I go to one play, that in itself isn’t going to stop me going to another.
Perhaps, we could consider, the primary property of good art is to drive the want for more good art.
Art begets more art.
Audiences beget larger audiences.
We don’t suffer from too much art – we suffer from too little of it.
The Fringe has increased ticket sales every year since it went annual. It is easy to bemoan but it’s just a pseudo-comedy festival now! It’s not art! But who are you, imaginary blog reader, to say that comedy is not real art? Art is a big, wonderful salad, with fruits and vegetables and grains and meats and dressing in every form you can imagine – and oh, the combinations you can find if you try just once to step away from the Garden Salad.
This year, whether you are in Adelaide in March or in July, or off in your theatre-going corner of the world somewhere: pay it forward.
Every time you find yourself bemoaning there is not a large enough audience, buy yourself a ticket to another show.
Find out what people in your local area are creating – and buy a ticket to an independent co-op.
Find out what people in your country are creating – and buy a ticket to the next touring show, or throw cation to the wind and buy a plane ticket to another city.
Find out what people in another country are creating – and buy a ticket to the next festival which blows them into town.
Find out what makes you tick: because it might be what makes your audience tick.
Every time you find yourself bemoaning there is not enough funding, don’t have that next coffee and donate $5 to the general funds of your favourite company, or to a new group crowd-sourcing the $500 they need to create a whole production.
Read all that you can – blogs, newspapers, books, twitter – and find out what people are creating or thinking about or are worried about; find out what the people in your shoes did forty-years ago, or are doing on the other-side of the world. Share all that you read that excites you, that inspires you, or scares you. Find out what your friends and colleagues think: agree with them, argue with them; question them and yourself and your art.
And if someone is only going to buy one ticket all year? Then you need to be the best, and make them buy yours.
But don’t be that person that is only going to buy one ticket all year.
Find your way around the theatres of your city, and around the theatres of whatever other cities you visit. Watch the plays, and then watch the audience in the foyer. Be a fixture of a foyer or of a theatre bar, so you no longer need to be told how much a drink costs and you’re already holding the exact change. Go to forums and panels, and absorb what you hear – and if you disagree, challenge it.
When you see a work you love, shout it from the rooftops. And when you see a work you don’t like? Then be honest about that, too.
Buy tickets to the opening nights of new works – just so you can say I saw it first. Wish for it to be brilliant, but take the terrible over the mediocre: shun the mediocracy.
Stretch yourself. Find where you are comfortable, and then force yourself into a completely new position.
If you’re an audience member, never stop believing the next show will be better. If you’re a creator, never stop believing the next show will be better.
If you’re a marketer, never stop believing that when you’ve got someone you can get them for life. If you’re an administrator, never stop believing a half-price under-30 ticket now will lead to many full-priced tickets in the future.
Don’t let yourself get pulled down by the fear and negativity: move past them. Don’t let yourself get pulled down by the challenges and the competition: embrace them and find a new ally. Don’t let yourself be disheartened by work which makes your heart ache for something better: fight for that something better.
In 2012, let’s all pay it forward.
My love of art begets your love of art.
Your love of art begets your friends love of art.
Their love of art begets their friends love of art.
The world really isn’t that big a place.