Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Intiman and Its Critics--Which For Once, Ain't Me

Seattle brews its schadenfreude potent.

For a city that has a reputation of being overly nice, I'm often taken aback by how mean the dialogue can get here. Take for example the current blogging frenzy over the report from Intiman Theatre that they're a million bucks in the hole and need to raise some cash fast or they're going under.

Here's Misha's take over in the Times:


Now, I'm not a true blue fan of Intiman. In truth I was never all that crazy about Bart Sher's work (which generally struck me as intellectually slick but empty), and I haven't seen enough of Ms. Whoriskey's productions to really give an opinion, though it sort of seems as an administrator she's probably in over her head. Since I've been in town they've had the worst track record of any of the mainstages when it comes to local hire, and as for their present woes it's clear that there has been financial mismanagement, even if it's not at all clear as to who mismanaged what--though I'm guessing there's plenty of blame to go around.


Every day seems to add yet another blogger exuberantly cavorting around to their own version of the "I told you so!" dance. Comparisons to police shootings, banking bailouts, and practically every other contemporary villain are evoked, usually with a few potshots reserved for poor programming choices or the age of Intiman's audiences. Occasionally there's also a gruff line of social Dawinism included to the effect of "I'm glad they're dying. Now there will be space/audiences/funding for a
real Seattle theatre."

What's really tiresome about all of this is that it's the same ridiculous line that was being voiced when the Seattle Fringe Festival went down in 2003 and the Empty Space in 2007. And neither of these valuable institutions have in any way, shape or form found a replacement.

The reason's simple: artistically, financially, and in all other ways, it's a LOT harder to start a theatre or a theatre festival than it is to maintain one.

When a theatre dies, in this town anyway, there's not some sort of magical opportunity to "recreate Seattle theatre." The goods are sold off, the staff are laid off and a good number leave town, the Equity contracts evaporate, the audiences head elsewhere (and not always to other theatres), and what was, for all its flaws and faults, an actual operating non-profit theatre company becomes another unnecessary rental.

So if you don't want to support Intiman's attempts to pull itself back from the brink, fine. No one is demanding that you do so. But really, is it too much to ask for an end to this unseemly gloating? This isn't good news, friends, no matter how bitter you might be that you didn't get asked to audition for Bart or that they never got around to reading your play. And your kicks at an institution that's already on its knees don't reflect well on you.

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