A Call For An Indie Theatre Repertory
One of the greatest challenges facing the indie theatre field (and so the whole NYC theatre field) is the ability of Equity Showcase productions to transfer to longer runs. The focus of this challenge has been primarily directed towards Equity and the showcase code itself, but there may be something we as field can do (preferably) with or without code reform.
An Indie Theatre Repertory company: the best of indie theatre given a longer life through production in repertory.
Imagine a theatre where in one week you could see productions of Universal Robots, MilkMilkLemondae, Fight Girl Battle World and Infectious Opportunity. Where a production of Pretty Theft in the afternoon could be followed by Artifacts Of Consequence in the evening. Where all of the artists are getting paid an amount worth their initial investment.
The structural model could be like the FringeNYC Encore series in miniature. A 7:00 weekday showtime of one production would allow you a 9:00 performance of another, with three show days on the weekend (similar to our Trilogy production schedule, only a little more so). A production could see anywhere from 3-5 shows a week. As one show in rep was ready to end, a new show would be brought in to keep the rep fresh.
The challenges are obvious: difficult change overs, diminished design elements, and yes, union contracts.
The benefits, however, are substantial. Not only would worthy Indie theatre productions gain an extended life, but supported by the other shows, they would not need to prove immediately profitable. They would get the time they need to grow the audience they deserve. The premiere-itis of our major non-profits would be countered. Audiences previously made of friends and family would overlap, and over time, a legitimate following for the best of Indie theatre would develop. Plays that did especially well could transfer into commercial Off-Broadway runs, and/or gain an increased publicity that could lead to regional productions.
Everyone might benefit: commercial Off-Broadway would be revitalized with an in-town try-out for daring new work; artists who commit to an Equity Showcase would stay with the project long enough to reap the financial rewards of their efforts; audiences would be exposed to the work of the best new Indie companies; and the producing theatre(s)/producer(s) would have a thriving hub of new work.
The plays could be chosen by savvy producers; or the NYITA could provide a forum for audiences to vote their favorite work into a longer run, giving the audience a greater sense of ownership; maybe a little of both.
The initial investment of resources seems to me to be the biggest obstacle facing this idea; but the payoff would be tremendous. No longer would plays like Sleeper and Rattlers have to disappear just as they're picking up steam. Instead, they would have their lives extended by an organization dedicated to celebrating the extraordinary work happening at the Indie, Off-Off-Broadway level. We may be the stuff of dreams, but not all great plays need be roses, whose fair flower, being once displayed, doth fall that very hour.