The Check

This week I begin a long and lonely stretch of seven weeks before I'm back in rehearsal. I haven't had this much time between shows since college. (You know, back when we wrote our papers on typewriters.) The calendar at our new space is really different, but it's a small price to pay for the use of the space.

So I spent the day today uploading production photos to our Facebook page, pretending to myself that was productive in some small way because surely some folks find us by browsing around Facebook and so our Facebook page should be as nice as possible, right...?

Then around 5:00 p.m. I realized I hadn't yet eaten. So I headed out to pick up some Subway, and on my way out I checked the mail. I thumbed through it and, to my great surprise, found a little treasure.

A check to New Line for $10,000.

It happens once a year. Anonymously. And always at exactly the right time. Sounds like a musical, doesn't it?

This has happened several times before, but this was the first time I realized that it means something more than "support" of New Line. It means that this person believes that the work we do matters, that it is important, and that this person trusts us to use their money wisely and effectively to share our art with the community. Writing fundraising letters all the time, I forget what "support" really means. It's not just a compliment. It's a vote of confidence and a vote of trust.

And we have to remember that when we create our work. We owe all those people everything we can give, to make smart, exciting, surprising, provocative, engaging, relevant, emotional theatre. We theatre people sometimes joke about what a shame it is that the days of royal patronage of artists is over. But it's not over; it's just democratized. Now it's public "patronage" of artists. That's the whole point of legal nonprofit status -- the idea that arts organizations are inherently educational and beneficial to the public and therefore should be relieved of tax obligations, so that money can be spent directly on serving the public. The public (though tax policy) pays us to serve them. And we owe them something for their money.

That's my New Year's Resolution: to keep the contributors and audience foremost in my mind all the time. I love my work more than I could ever explain, but we do theatre for the audience, not for us. Without an audience, it's not a performance; it's just a run-through.

Happy New Year!
Long Live the Musical!