Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Defense of Millennials

This special guest post was written by Impact Theatre artistic director Melissa Hillman. Learn more about Impact Theatre at http://www.impacttheatre.com/

The dust has settled from the latest embarrassingly naïve post Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser slapped together for his HuffPo blog, but many in the theatre community are still burning with curiosity over how a man who clearly has very little understanding of the contemporary arts scene and even less understanding of young audiences has become the head of one of the most prominent arts organizations in the world and has been handed millions of dollars to program for Millennials.

If you want to see what I’m on about, the latest in a string of tone-deaf Kaiser posts can be found here.

You can read the best of the crop of eloquent, well-informed smackdowns here, here and here.

Michael Kaiser is, like me, a former opera singer. Unlike me, he didn’t leave opera for theatre, but for—what else?—business. He promoted himself as a “turnaround king,” taking huge, lumbering arts organizations on the brink of beaching themselves and making them profitable. Evidently, he’s damn good at it.

I have nothing against business people. My father ran a small business my entire life. I do, however, question the wisdom of allowing a business guy with little experience in the arts a national sounding board with which to discuss what is wrong with the arts. He displays an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the contemporary arts scene and the topic of young theatre audiences. (Need more proof?)

Apart from the boringly obvious—old guy popping off about what assholes young people are, an activity old guys have enthusiastically enjoyed since Ancient Greece—there’s a much bigger issue on the table here. Kaiser is asserting definitional authority over what is and is not important in our culture. And what’s playing at the Kennedy Center this season? Follies, at $45 - $150 a ticket. What else is playing there? I’m so glad you asked. Shear Madness. Wicked. Next to Normal. Uncle Vanya. Les Miserables. Billy Elliott. La Cage aux Folles. Memphis. The Addams Family. I’m certain these are all excellent business decisions. I know that many of these pieces are wonderful works of art that deserve a place on stage. But they are not, by anyone’s measure, comprehensively reflective of what’s currently happening in American theatre, nor are they reflective of what would be, by any theatre professional’s standard, critical for (ugh) “culture IQ.”

Do not define for me what we, as artists, should deem culturally important while simultaneously displaying, in multiple ways, your complete ignorance about the current state of the arts. Yes, opera is important, musical theatre is important, but so is the art that’s currently being created, in an explosive burst of creativity all over the country, by these very Millennials you seem to think need your artistic guidance. Stop talking and start watching. Their art is everywhere, and a lot of it is glorious, brilliant and breathtaking. All you need to do is look.

Here’s another idea: stage the Millennials' work! Put your considerable millions where your mouth is. Why don’t you pull one or two of the titles on your mainstage that everyone has already seen six times at a community theatre and replace them with a new work by a young playwright? You have the money. Why not take a risk and stage something new? If you purport to want to increase your under-40 audience, as well as foster the new generation of artists, why don’t you stage their work? Is Follies really more important for “culture IQ” than a world premiere by Steve Yockey, Young Jean Lee, or Marcus Gardley? What are those Millennial Project millions for? John Legend and OK Go? Really?

All of this begs the question: Why is someone like Michael Kaiser, who has likely never even heard of Young Jean Lee, being given a national media platform, a million dollar salary (no lie), control over one of the most prominent arts organizations in the world, and millions of dollars of federal funding? The answer is depressing, and simple: Because we, as a culture, think business people should be in control of every damn thing. This is their cultural moment. Eventually, it’ll pass, and we’ll put education back in the hands of educators, arts back in the hands of artists and music back in the hands of musicians, but it’s not going to happen while we’re listening to people like Michael Kaiser tell us what should and should not be culturally and artistically important.

There’s no shame in being a businessman who knows a lot about making an arts org profitable without knowing a lot about the arts. There is, however, a careening truckload of shame in standing on a soapbox to chastise an entire generation for being artistically ignorant when the real issue is your own ignorance.

Young artists: seize control of the narrative! In other words: Keep doing what you already do. There are many of us who see you.

Michael Kaiser: Leave your office and go to an arts event that doesn’t have valet parking.

Labels: , , , , ,

28 Comments:

At April 27, 2011 at 1:58 PM , OpenID lizmaestri said...

Booya, Melissaimpact, TELL IT.

You might also enjoy this link, which popped up 20 minutes after you posted. http://www.facebook.com/notes/the-john-f-kennedy-center-for-the-performing-arts/meet-the-young-cast-of-follies/10150182760033147

:)

 
At April 28, 2011 at 10:03 AM , Blogger Aaron Andersen said...

I agree with much of what you wrote here.

But why do you say Kaiser has "little experience in the arts"? His turnaround king reputation was all earned at arts organizations. He's been working in the arts for decades.

Or is he disqualified from knowing anything about the arts because of his previous career in management consulting?

 
At April 28, 2011 at 2:17 PM , Blogger Melissa said...

Those are good questions. Perhaps it would have been better to characterize him as having little experience as an artist. His lack of knowledge of the arts scene in this country, however, speaks for itself. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt by assuming that his lack of knowledge stems from having his attention focused elsewhere.

 
At June 19, 2015 at 3:34 AM , Blogger victor cate said...

Remarkable short article, many thanks for placing this with each other! This is clearly one excellent blog post.
amazon.com/gc apply to account

 
At December 6, 2015 at 9:01 AM , Blogger Bogdan Yanov said...

As nice blog,but you could have made this blog more cool essay writer if you could configure the language changer pluigin but all the same you have done a good job

 
At February 15, 2016 at 1:43 AM , Blogger Suraj Pathak said...

Roblox is such a good game that we could play it all the time and if we've free robux generator then it is like we got a girl to fuck with scotch. LOL

 
At April 13, 2016 at 1:23 AM , Blogger Emily Walker said...

Thank you for sharing!! It's helpful and interesting as I've found a necessary information gmail email login

 
At April 18, 2016 at 1:45 PM , Blogger adrian cretu said...

Everything is fine, am happy of your blog. Thanks admin for sharing the unique content, you have done a great job I appreciate your effort and I hope you will get more positive comments from the web users.
impossible quiz
learn to fly unblocked
unblocked minecraft
plazma burst 2 games
qwop unblocked
superfighters unblocked
raze unblocked games

 
At June 2, 2016 at 7:43 PM , Blogger Lopez Alexander said...

Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it!
Happy Wheels , FNAF World , Five Nights At Freddy's

 
At June 13, 2016 at 4:25 AM , Blogger Aman Inlove said...

When my lovely uncle come at my home they always give me gift these free psn codes and i become so happy.

 
At June 22, 2016 at 9:20 PM , Blogger Dash Souls 3 said...

Well this article that i've been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.
dark souls 3 emoji

 
At July 4, 2016 at 8:26 AM , Blogger raja said...

its really good to this kind of articles thanks for your article
badoo app

 
At July 4, 2016 at 8:27 AM , Blogger raja said...

thanks for sharing this information
aolmail.com

 
At July 19, 2016 at 1:57 PM , Blogger Sham Lal said...

wow gmail email login

 
At July 30, 2016 at 12:18 AM , Blogger hacza Blade said...

Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us free itunes gift cards 2016
clash royale hack 2016

 
At August 1, 2016 at 4:13 AM , Blogger أبو تركى لشراء الاثاث المستعمل said...

شراء الاثاث المستعمل بجدة من العملاء باسعار لا تقبل المنافسه وهذا من اجل اننا الشركة الاولى فى ارقام محلات شراء الاثاث المستعمل بمختلف انواعه بجدة حيث اننا ناتى الك فور تلقى اتصالك وبعد ذلك نقوم بمعاينة الاثاث وتحديد السعر المناسب له بكل امان وضمير وذلك لاننا شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل بجدة نتعامل دائما بالمصداقيه والامانه من اجل ان نحصل على ثقة العميل بنا ومن اجل ان نكتسب العميل كعميل متفاعل فى شركتنا افضل شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل فى جده

 
At August 1, 2016 at 7:08 AM , Blogger hacza Blade said...

I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this website.
free amazon gift card generator 2016
free instagram followers hack
google play redeem code generator

 
At August 8, 2016 at 2:58 AM , Blogger Fangyaya said...

air jordan shoes
air jordan 4
louis vuitton outlet online
kobe shoes 11
louis vuitton outlet stores
toms shoes
air max 95
michael kors outlet clearance
coach outlet
ray ban outlet
louis vuitton outlet
hollister clothing
jordan 3 powder blue
nfl jerseys
louis vuitton outlet
longchamp le pliage
michael kors outlet clearance
kd 7 shoes
michael kors outlet online
louis vuitton
kobe 8
jordan retro 8
lebron james shoes 13
celine bags
nike store
pandora jewelry
louis vuitton purses
kate spade handbags
coach outlet
michael kors outlet online
nike running shoes
ralph lauren outlet
louis vuitton outlet
cheap jordans
coach factory outlet
michael kors purses
gucci belts
louis vuitton outlet stores
adidas yeezy 350
tory burch flats
20168.8chenjinyan

 
At August 9, 2016 at 7:38 PM , Blogger Johnson Tonya E. said...

Gmail is an free e-mail service provided to Internet users by the giant Google.
If you are a new user of this service, you can follow the steps below to log in to your Gmail account.
gmail login | create gmail account
gmail sign in | change gmail password
recover gmail password

 
At August 10, 2016 at 11:41 PM , Blogger Bella Smith said...

With a Hotmail account, you can send and receive emails quickly and easily as well as login and use all Microsoft services.
hotmail sign in | create hotmail account
hotmail login | change hotmail password
recover hotmail password

 
At August 15, 2016 at 8:50 PM , Blogger Tran Hien said...

You can receive or send emails to friends and colleagues as well as easy access to the application the Microsoft website. Let's create a separate account for her right now.
hotmail sign in | create a hotmail account
sign into hotmail | change hotmail password
recover hotmail account

 
At September 5, 2016 at 7:59 AM , Blogger YASH said...

wow this is nice one to see this kind of information here thanks for sharing this. freemail official rediffmail

 
At September 26, 2016 at 11:23 PM , Blogger Robinson Ejeta said...

hello guys i have some nice and amazing tips for you all, just follow the link below
http://www.makeoverarena.com/waphan-free-games-music-videos-apps-download

 
At October 20, 2016 at 4:55 AM , Blogger dong dong23 said...

louis vuitton outlet
golden state warriors jerseys
canada goose outlet
michael kors outlet clearance
ray ban sunglasses
burberry outlet
toms shoes
coach outlet
michael kors handbags
michael kors outlet
2016.10.20chenlixiang

 
At October 31, 2016 at 7:13 PM , Blogger Giải Trí Tổng Hợp said...

The blog or and best that is extremely useful to keep I can share the ideas. Age Of War 2
Big Farm | Slitherio | Tank Trouble
Of the future as this is really what I was looking for, I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
Happy Wheels | Goodgeme Empire | Slither.io

 
At November 17, 2016 at 1:11 AM , Blogger lewismichael said...

good just isn't functioning any considerably more and make itunes free download with iTunes and then transfer them to your iPad.nice.

 
At November 17, 2016 at 3:45 AM , Blogger lewismichael said...

awesome your system. This application continuously hunts mobdro for iphone download wide web for the very best no cost video recording great.

 
At November 28, 2016 at 10:02 AM , Blogger CALVINALEX said...

very interesting post.this is my first time visit here.i found so mmany interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion..thanks for the post! who hah

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home