Creativity / Profitability
“Woe betide the general who comes to the battlefield with a system.” Napoleon Bonaparte.
If you ask me why I begin with this sublime quotation from Bonaparte, I will tell you that this is what I wish for Altair’s spirit.
The spirit of those who do not have the system as their rule – those who have fantasy and freedom with them.
– And, well, okay, there were times in my adolescence when I thought I would be Napoleon or nothing at all. Obviously, it was “nothing at all” that won.
Always agree, Bonaparte has nothing to do with the workshops to offer in a theatre – yes yes, it’s late and I’m exaggerating.
I’m going to talk about what I know, i.e. the French model. We are not known for being the most rigorous in the world – and even so, it is our habits and rules that have killed our best intentions. Please, consider this :
With a view to opening the theatres to new audiences, we have all developed, over the past several years, workshop systems linked to season shows.
In fact, this obviously works extremely well, since we propose to about twenty people to spend between half a day and two days working with us, at the back of the theatre, as “real” artists. They go through the very famous “artists’ entrance”, eat at the catering and see life backstage.
So far, so good.
So we have a huge demand from the public to organize workshops, and so many regrets at the end of the year, to tell us that there weren’t enough of them, that we hadn’t taken enough people, and that we would have to develop this a little more.
We organize workshops for teachers, for their students, for parents-children, for the public at large – sometimes – very very rarely – and we complete the game with guided tours of the theatre.
Everything always goes well.
Here’s the problem:
We organize fewer and fewer workshops every year – and we have largely replaced workshops with guided tours.
Visits that are sometimes quite symbolic, because the stages are occupied by the setting up of a show and nobody is allowed to put his nose on the stage at those times.
The reason is that it is too expensive.
You all know that France is the country that prides itself on being THE country of Cultural Exception, a sort of lighthouse of Alexandria of the Beautiful, the Great, the Sublime – and that we, perfectly Monsieur Madame, we don’t want money.
We are distinguished and cultured poor people and damn it.
This means, in short, that all our workshops, all our activities, all our visits are totally free.
We succeeded – and at what price! – to ask for a small participation fee for the parent-child workshops; and there are almost no more workshops of this kind.
I hope that you have a small tear of emotion when you think of all this work, offered free of charge to the population hungry for culture. So almost all of my work is given for free – then I wonder why I can’t get a nice bank account. And I’m sure you can understand why I can write and give Altair away the way I do: I’m used to it, I’ve been doing it for more than 8 years now. Enough small talk.
What I find, every day, is that our beautiful system only works in the admirable thoughts of I don’t know who.
On the one hand, we’ve managed to create a very, very strong expectation from a very diverse audience.
On the other hand, we have lost money every time: it’s still a question of paying – even badly – the staff and the artists who intervene – I’m not even talking about the immobilization of a room for the studio, my begging eyes for Ju to set up the sound and video, my adorable “please” for Flo and François to set up the chairs…
So, when the teacher asks me to come and help her to complete everything she learned during the make-up training – I go on my own time when I have some.
My friend Pierre does this to invent instruments with school children – when he has the time and … for glory.
And that’s how it works: we do a little, less and less, and for the rest we’ll rely on each other’s good will. Ju’ has always sacrificed his meal to help me with the technique of the room. Flo and François stayed longer.
That’s why we are doing less and less – while the demand on the public side keeps increasing.
It is therefore a model who has forgotten that all heroes get tired, especially when they are totally unknown heroes.
So it’s a question of studying it in a slightly more pragmatic way – as far as I’m concerned, I’m not heroic when I’m paid – and so I work even when I’m tired.
We will therefore consider that the principle of gratuity is beautiful but ineffective – even counter-productive.
From the moment that the theatre doesn’t lose money when I invent a workshop and arrange for it to be ready, such a day, such a time, such a room, so many participants, so many speakers, so many technicians, I can afford to invent as many workshops as I want. Knowing that I mostly choose workshops on shows that have not yet sold well – just to fill the halls.
So the workshops and visits will not be free.
For schools, teachers, students – it could be a proposal added to the choice of a show.
And instead of the world relying on our greatness of soul, the modalities will be specified: workshop alone or workshop and follow-up activities by a member of the team. Who wants more, pays more.
Isn’t that silly?
It’s anti “French spirit”.
Afterwards, we can quibble about the price to be paid – and that’s French. It’s true that the workshops have very often saved the day for shows that hadn’t been too successful in sales.
So to eliminate them “because it’s expensive” is quite stupid. I opened my mouth again – sorry.
It is also advisable to think about it before programming: in the contracts with the companies, no one forbids us to plan activity times for certain members: artists or technicians. And all the more so because the show we buy is, in a sense, risky – because we don’t really know how we’re going to fill rooms with it. Or more exactly, because we all know very well that, to fill the rooms with this show, a lot of work will have to be done beforehand.
It is not at all impossible to fill a theatre: but it often requires work. To tell the truth stupidly, sometimes it feels good. In the world of work too.
Which gives :
We have to imagine workshops and their sequels. (“sequels” ???? – well, sequels, why not ?)
All this has to be paid for.
It is a question of identifying these workshops at the time of programming the following seasons.
And with that, we will fill the rooms, we will gain the loyalty of the public, and we will have a company that works well.
Instead of scaring off the team, disappointing the audience and giving only a few crumbs – and crying that great shows don’t have the success they could have had.
Isn’t it obvious ? Of course, you shouldn’t be afraid that people won’t come because it’s paying. At the same time, as a sales argument, it’s pitiful. Je me tais, je me tais !
Featured Image : foley artistery studio – I’m found of that !