The often provocative Douglas McClennan draws some interesting inferences for the arts from the current troubles of large scale cultural institutions in general:
There's lots of debating to be done about whether we need large institutions to report news. But a similar question can also be asked about the arts. The 1990s was a decade of arts institutionalization in America. Smaller theatres became larger theatres. Mid-size museums became bigger museums. And symphony orchestras expanded.So in theatre, the question is: do we hitch the artform itself to the fortunes of a small group of nonprofit institutions?
The internet has decentralized the arts. People make art online, compose and record music and make movies in home studios, Massive online multiplayer games have changed the ways we think about narrative. Personal digital players have changed the ways audiences consume art.
Concurrently, the institutional arts are finding their business models eroding as corporate funding dissolves, foundation support erodes and endowments shrink. Perhaps things will bounce back when the economy improves. But maybe not. We increasingly distrust the institutional voice in favor of individual or community collaboration...
Now more than ever, we need to make it easier for a lone director, or playwright, or actor to simply book a hall and put up his or her own work. (And, ideally, use the resources to get people to come see such work.) I'm not for storming the institutional theaters Bastille-style. But we need more alternative venues.
Why must every play be part of a "season"? Why must every audience be dominated by "subscribers"? I'm convinced that what's left of the core theatre audience today--especially those under 40--just don't care about all that anymore. When they hear something's good, they just want to be able to go buy a ticket and see it--wherever, whenever.
What this means in practical terms is the necessity for more easily rentable spaces, that are unaffiliated with theatre companies. New York's Theatre Row and 59E59 are good starts, but still too expensive for many. Still, that's a model that has been working, in that they get audiences.
It also may mean breaking away from the nonprofit model as the only way to produce "serious" theatre. It's that very funding apparatus that forces many artists to form unnecessary companies when all they really want is to put up some occasional work.
Any other suggestions?