More Is Better


As of this past week, there is more Firehouse out in the world. If you go to the Firehouse Forum web page, you’ll see that our new podcast is now live. In its premiere episode, I interview Jessi Johnson, currently starring in MARY C. BROWN AND THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN; Deejay Gray, newly elected president of the RVA Theatre Alliance; and Kerrigan Sullivan who is set to direct WINGS here in February.

You’ll also see a link to something teased last week: our first course offered through VCU’s Commonwealth Society. It’s going to be five Thursday afternoons starting February 1st where we’ll not just talk about WINGS but see the production develop from page to stage.

So more is better, right?

Well, I’ve heard differing opinions. All theater companies are saying that they want more people to buy tickets, they want more donors, they want more people exposed to more theater so they will appreciate it more. More more more!

Yeah, but...there are also arguments that less is better. It’s an ongoing debate in Richmond that there are too many theaters chasing a limited pool of both patrons and donors. So perhaps it’d be better for the community as a whole if a few companies closed up shop.

My boss has joked that since theater tends to be perceived as elitist we could embrace that as a strategy and make it rare and exclusive with venues only having 10 seats and tickets that sell for $1,000 each. Isn't that essentially the commercial theater model?

And while we’re at it, what’s the point of creating a whole bunch of new work when what audiences really want to see are the same two dozen classics produced over and over again? More plays and new musicals just muddy the water and confuse audiences.

Before the nasty-grams are locked and loaded, I should quickly say that I don’t necessarily agree with any of those assertions. And in reality, under Joel's leadership, Firehouse's "more is better" model has involved overhauling the traditional idea of a season consisting of just a few plays and our hyperactive programming results in 200+ days of performance in our venue every year.

Still, I don’t want to go along with any default assumption that more theater-related content will automatically lead to more community engagement.

What I DO hope is that by giving people more ways to interact with the theater world, more people will actually interact with the theater world. Maybe you don’t want to go to a show during the busy holiday season but you hear about an upcoming production discussed on a podcast and think, well that sounds worth checking out. Or you sign up for a seminar, learn more about what is involved in making theater happen and that inspires you to buy a membership to the Firehouse.

The goal is to raise the value proposition for theater in whatever way possible so people will consider it a regular option for their entertainment dollar. As Deejay says in the podcast, it’s increasingly hard to get people to leave their houses. Whatever we can do to tip the scales in the “should I stay (home) or should I go (out)” debate, we’re going to do.

What do YOU think we need more of in the RVA theater world? Or are you in the “less is more” camp? All opinions are welcome, sent to me in private at or expressed for the world to see on our Facebook page. Because more is definitely better when it comes to information. And puppies.

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