Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Art, Money and the Heart

As we get closer to the show's opening, it's only appropriate to give audience and attendance some thought. Here's an amazing keynote speech to the The Association of Arts Administration Educators a few days ago by Bernard "Bernie" Sahlins, an American writer, director, and comedian best known as a founder of The Second City improvisational comedy troupe with Paul Sills and Howard Alk in 1959.

Excerpts:

"Like most priests, like some doctors, and fewer lawyers, you have not a job, but a vocation, a calling. You have chosen not to enter the clock-watching world of nine to five. Yours is a consuming, full-time activity. While few of you will grow rich, you are members of a highly privileged group. You are able to make your work and your life one.
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I would submit to you -- as an example of that -- and as a marker for the accomplishments and the importance of administrative achievement, the contribution of James Burbage, a sixteenth-century English entrepreneur in the arts... What he did -- like so many important discoveries once they have been achieved -- seems simple now. But I think you'll agree it really was revolutionary. What he did was nothing less than to invent -- the box office!
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Our tragedy today, said Faulkner, is a general and universal fear. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? (way back in 1949!) Because of this -- the young artist has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict -- only that is worth the agony and sweat. He must learn them again.
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So teach your students to step right up and fear not. They can appeal to the pocket book, yes. But they must be aware also of the spiritual hunger we all wish to satisfy.
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Let me close by returning to Mister James Burbage and by trying to convey a most important and really beautiful idea embodied in the spiritual effects of what he did. When Burbage had that brilliant notion (you remember, the box office), he not only changed forever the structure of play presentation but (and here is the delightful and wondrous point; here is the ultimate value of what an arts administrator does), he started the process of transforming the actor from being a beggar, who humbly passed the hat, to being an artist, who was held to be of great worth to the community. And there you have the indispensable, the crucial role of your teaching: to bring to art the world's respect and to the artist, self-respect."

2 comments:

Jason said...

pretty sure it's a different Burbage. Richard was Shakespeare's leading man. Maybe it's his brother (or dad) who got sick of him coming and asking for handouts every time he wanted to play a major Shakespearean role...

gaby said...

yup, his dad, james.