Know your pros

March 27, 2008
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Today I noticed in another publication that a fully-professional arts organization in town was referred to as a “community theater.”

I brought this up at lunch and an arts professional dining with me said something to the effect of “Yes, a lot of people don’t know the difference between the Indiana Repertory Theatre and community theaters like Indianapolis Civic Theatre and Beef & Boards.”

The fact that Beef & Boards is actually a fully professional company only highlighted the dilemma. If the media and people in the arts industry here don’t realize which companies are pros, how can the general public be expected to sort it all out?

Beyond that, how much does the distinction matter to you when you buy tickets? Does it make a difference knowing, for instance, that the actors at Indianapolis Civic Theatre or the players with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis are unpaid?

Your thoughts?
  • Obviously Lou, you have hit an issue that has loomed in the Indianapolis theatre-scape for as long as I can remember. Some will say, Well, some of those theatres are PROFESSIONALLY MANAGED. This means that the administrative staff gets paid... something. I don't know anymore to be honest. There was a time that I would have said, PRO or NO! But, in my mature years I can see a place for them all. I just wish that the audiences somehow were not as confused as this poor lout you lunched with. B&B ; IRT are not only both professional but both UNION theatres. They both pay enough per week for a performer to make a all be it meager living. (When compared to say someone that works in the IT department for Lilly for example.)

    I was professionally directing (for pay) a non-pro (not for pay)(*but very talented mind you) actor a few years ago at one of these professionally managed places. I was telling him that he could easily work as an actor and when the subject of how much he would make came up he laughed in my face. No offense, dude, I'll stick to IT and doing this on the side for my passion.

    As I said, there is a place for all. But, there are more than just pro/non-pro in the scape these days. Small independent companies that are not necessarily community quality but can't afford to pay their folks at this point are allowing the people like the my IT guy to do quality work on a small scale. There are smaller outlet for the union performers as well. The Phoenix, ATI, ACT, and Heartland Actor's Rep Theatre. HART, I believe, is just now opening a killer new play by a local playwright at the Artsgarden.

    I have digressed a bit. I think that is should matter in some cases. If a theatre can afford to spend 10-20 grand on a set, yeah they can afford to pay their actors even if it is an honorarium for gas these days. As far as the audience is concerned, they need to educate themselves. I would much rather see LowBrow production's version of ASSASSINS again than sit through CIRQUE DU CRAP or DIRTY ROTTEN STRANGLERS again. The former all volunteer, the latter 2 burnt offerings from the broadway series this season.
  • Ty,
    Thanks for your comments.
    One clarification: Not a lout (I try not to lunch with louts), just a relative newcomer to the neighborhood.
  • Some audiences don't seem to care. Others will flock to stuff like the Broadway series, not caring whether the show is Union or not and think that it is superior to a local show because it is called
    the Broadway series or love a show because it has an actor in it who was an extra in an episode of Law and Order. When I attend, I naturally take into account whether the actors are volunteers or professionals, and hold them to different standards. But, I also don't expect to pay $35.00 for a ticket to a show featuring volunteer actors. Many community theaters can put out an excellent product. That there are arts professionals in town that don't or can't correctly make the distinction is a sad statement about theater in Indianapolis.
  • The general public doesn't know or care.

    The Indianapolis Civic Theater is a clearly a professional organization with one exception: the actors don't get paid. It's community theater in name only, basically. The production standards I've seen there exceed many fully paid productions I've seen.

    Aren't there only like three professional theaters in Indy? My brother was an actor in Indianapolis, and eventually decamped for Chicago where there was more opportunity to act professionally.

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