Obama and Us

This has certainly been the most active, most aggressive, most hard-working first two days I've ever seen from a new president! Not just undoing some of Dubya's more obnoxious misdeeds, but also making extremely strong statements about how his administration will operate. Today Obama signed two executive orders that were particularly relevant to what we do.

He put a freeze on senior staff salaries (in other words, no raises), and he announced really strict rules about lobbying his administration. Why? Because he thinks government should be about public service, not personal gain.

And he fuckin' means it, yo.

So why is that relevant to us? Because nonprofit theatres are different from for-profit businesses in one big way. In the 1930s, the Supreme Court decided that arts organizations could have the same nonprofit status and benefits of hospitals, schools, and other social service groups. Why? Because presenting the arts is inherently educational. It is a social service. We are here to serve our community. And too many theatres forget that.

Our primary goal is to serve, not to make money or win awards. (Although, in all fairness, we do have to make enough money to keep the doors open. Still, that is not the primary goal.) We are, by legal definition, a social service organization. That means we always have to be thinking about if we're serving our community, how well we're serving the community, and most of all, how we can better serve our community. That means being aware of racial diversity, onstage, backstage, in the office, and on our board -- so that our company looks like our community. It means doing everything we can to keep ticket prices as low as possible, so that we don't exclude the folks who make minimum wage. It means making it clear to our audiences how our shows relate to events and issues in their real lives, and showing them how powerfully live theatre can address social and political issues. And it also means serving and developing younger audiences.

Obama is trying to make Service to the Community cool again. And here at New Line, we love that. We created the New Line Free Seats last season. We just announced our first college scholarship to be offered. We're working on developing closer relationships with local schools. We're working on making people of color feel more welcome in our casts and audiences. Our board of directors is 28% African American and 14% Asian American, but we're still working on that too.

And we ask our audiences and our supporters to help us with all this. Help us bring in audiences of color. Help us get actors of color to audition for us. Help us reach out to young people. Help us serve our community. And tell us when we fall short. Help us make our corner of the world a little bit better.

We're not just singing and dancing, folks. We're trying to make a difference.

Long Live the Musical!