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A commercial venture and the public purse

There are a couple of quotes that I’d like to call out in this

“the theatre had “not met our audience targets in a very tough economic climate and within the context of a reduced funding situation”

and

“The decision to can the shows comes two weeks after Creative New Zealand increased the Downstage’s annual funding by $25,000, to $298,000 “

Which seem to be a contradiction, no?

The tough economic climate has forced Downstage Theatre to suddenly scrap the rest of its planned shows for the year, after the October 1 final performance of Te Radars Eating the Dog, which opened last night. The shows to be postponed or cancelled include Kiwi play The Intricate Art of Actually Caring – which was to run during the Rugby World Cup – and the large-scale Kiwi musical Raising the Titanics. Downstage chief executive and director Hilary Beaton, in an email sent to members of Wellingtons arts community on Tuesday, said the theatre had “not met our audience targets in a very tough economic climate and within the context of a reduced funding situation”.

via Downstage Theatre Cancels Shows In Wellington | Stuff.co.nz.

I’m sceptical of tax-payer funded art where clearly there is incompetence and something very much amiss in a situation where you can have a group that consistently fails.

The changes came after earlier financial problems. In 2007 Downstage had to ask  Creative NZ for an emergency advance of $117,000 to cover wages and pay
creditors. It also used to receive more funding, including $500,000 in 2008.

At the risk of being seen as a total nay-sayer I’d like to point out that possibly ” Te Radars Eating the Dog” might have been profitable, but to have an ambitious program that includes what I’m guessing as experimental plays – including the  Kiwi play The Intricate Art of Actually Caring – which was to run during the  Rugby World Cup – and the large-scale Kiwi musical Raising the Titanics.

To actually fail to deliver on a play, during the RWC, in a city with a captive audience, how forgivable is that ?  And why would you want to put all your eggs into a large-scale musical?

The Vision they have  –  would not be possible without financial assistance from our committed corporate, philanthropic and government supporters. – but I do think that calling themselves “a company that gets behind its artists and community by presenting the works of distinctive voices that speak for a nation and are heard around the world.” might be stretching the point.

I don’t doubt that stating a performance is time-consuming, costly and fraught with difficulty, however there are many forms of play and performance that are not expensive and can be profitable. If you’ve set yourself a high-bar of standard that you have failed to achieve for years in a row then why do you continue to flog a dead horse.?

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