dear theater requesting a donation

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I will respond positively to your mail/phone/email request if and when your theater produces one of my plays or at the very least sends a polite minimal response of some kind when I send you a script. ~Robin Rice Lichtig

Discussions are underway in many artist-related blogs, listservs, and plain-old-face-to-faces about theaters’ habit of asking us – the artists – for donations at year-end.

We artists understand, perhaps better than the theaters who are sending these missives, how much everything from word-of-mouth to cash-money donations mean to you, since we’re the trickle-down recipients – not to mention, without our work your institutions would not exist.  Do you understand, after you’ve treated us with disrespect – everything from ignoring our attempted involvement in your organizations to expecting us to “donate” our professional work to charging us for submitting that work to demanding that the actors among us “donate back” their union-mandated salaries to using playwrights’ work uncredited – that asking us to donate our money to your enterprise isn’t just insulting, it’s silly?

One of the discussions to which I refer above includes the Artistic Director of a high-level theater festival.  He cites that little old lady who submitted poetry to a journal for years and years.  She never got published, but left beaucoup bucks to that journal in her Will.  ADs are evidently using this as a cautionary tale – or maybe an excuse for bad manners – that translates the journal’s simply not publishing this woman’s work into actively begging for the money that was given without having been solicited.

An actor, in the discussion in which I’m currently involved, mentioned that actors audition for a theater and find themselves not only on the theater’s e-blast list, but also their potential-donor list.  Robin‘s response was, “They do it to actors who audition for them too?! That’s just wrong. No ridiculous parallel is coming to me… It’s too early… somebody…. ?”

There doesn’t appear to be a parallel in any other profession.  Theater artists are caught in an info-glut/lack of attention to individuals and the funny thing is, all an organization would need to do is add a variable in their coding to opt would-be-employees out of their “ask” emails.  One small step.

A nice second step would be to add an email to folks coded in that way, that thanked us for wanting to be part of their organization on the working side, showing appreciation for our wish to participate professionally.  But that might be too simple, too thoughtful for folks desperate to keep their doors open.  It is so enormously clear that a feeling of abundance and gratitude makes one MORE generous, as opposed to that New Yorky phrase, coming ‘from hunger.’  Theaters, please take note!  Treat your artists and would-be-participants with respect and gratitude, rather than viewing us as another way to keep your doors open – those doors that would not exist without us in the first place.

People?  In this season of tax-deductible feeling-good-about-yourself, do me a favor.  Donate to theaters that pay their artists, that support new works and new ways of working.  Donate to organizations you’d donate to even if there weren’t a tax break.  And support the arts on a daily – okay, weekly – basis by participating as audience.  At the movies, as in the virtual world, we can feel like we’re connecting, but we only truly connect when we share air.

Happy Jolly Merry Joyous Felicitations to All.

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