In Real Life – Be S.M.A.(R).T.

“I am in this for the money and for the pussy and they are both falling off the trees. Take it away from me – go ahead, I won’t sue you! – but this will be the last fucking thing you see before I beat you to death with it.” [John King (played by John Goodman) brandishing a baseball bat against the throat of a representative of The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of the American Ideals, in Trumbo (2015)]

Ever thought your job was shit? Probably on a Monday morning, sitting half-awake in your little cubicle, or accurately placing a fork parallel to a knife on a seamless white tablecloth. It happens regularly and to the majority of people, kicking in at approximately month four when the high has passed. This tiredness fills you; you procrastinate tasks that will take you more than ten minutes to complete; you are groggy and eat out of boredom. You wake up in the morning and you think, first thing: “Why am I doing this?”

John King did it for the money and for the pussy. Try picturing that: waking up in the morning, asking yourself “why am I doing this?” and the answer bashing in, “you are doing it for the money and for the pussy”. We would all jump out of bed, for one reason or the other, if not both.

Relevance is a broad concept. Things that are relevant to you could be irrelevant to someone else; equally, things normally relevant to everyone may be irrelevant to you (think of all those crazy people who don’t like chocolate, for example.) Wikipedia tells me that relevance is the concept of one topic being connected to another topic in a way that makes it useful to consider the first topic when considering the second. So waking up in the morning (topic 1) to get money and pussy (topic 2) – although we could argue this lacks specificity.

In my case, topic 1 may be this blog and topic 2 may be you, the reader, that following this blog may also decide to come and see our play (topic 3), therefore paying a ticket that will ensue financial returns and grant the continuation of my theatre company. Topic 1 (this blog, and specifically the S.M.A.R.T. series) is also building itself as a very good business plan proposal that I could use to support an application to funding (topic 2) that will again ensue the continuation of this project (topic 3) so that I can do something that I love (topic 4). Call that irrelevant.

We come back to the circularity of the SMART concept; how all letters matter mostly in relation to each other. If I was only doing this because it is relevant to me (makes me happy) I would not succeed. Not in gaining an audience, which brings me to expand my timeline further than a one-off, nor in having a structure which, in itself, allows me to put a foot in front of the other without – almost never – falter.

In relation to gaining, and maintaining an audience, that’s how relevance matters in the broader sense of producing work of value; and you would think this matter may be left unsaid. But in my research of a home for our play, I have come to the sad conclusion that most of fringe theatre venues have left this in a closed box, by aiming at filling a yearly production schedule which does not go beyond the quick analysis of a production company and, really, its marketing value.

Fringe theatre in the UK is hardly balancing itself on very tall and thin stilts, because the majority of small theatres do not read the submitted scripts and basically produce anything, basing their judgement on lord knows what parameters – if any. The culture remains strong; small audiences do pay £10 for a night out at the theatre, happy to take a gamble. 50% of the time, these same audiences will walk out of a poorly set production of an immature playscript, acted out by an amateur company with more ambition than craft (craft, not talent). I believe 25%, at least, of that audience, will cross out that small venue from any future plan.

Slowly, that venue dies. Slowly, the objective of having a theatre venue, fails to be accomplished.

Now that I have pointed fingers, I can happily come back to the relevance of The Lettuce Dream Theatre Company. Have I said that enough? Is it not relevant that we are refusing to put on work that does not pay its contributors? Is it not relevant that we are fighting against a dangerous threat to the profession, that more and more condemns said profession to just belong to the universe of hobbies? How does excellence grow out of something that cannot afford 100% of the time and dedication of its contributors? It doesn’t.

See you next week, with the last of our SMART series.

 

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