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GEEZER THEATRE Jeffrey M. Jones ON GEEZER THEATRE ac Wellman reports that in Los Angeles, the kids don't like to go to the theatre any more because they say it's just "Geezer Theatre." Geezer: an old fart-some harmless, toothless, witless, pointless guy the world passed by a long, long time ago; and who knows it, and who has kind of stopped trying. Except that Old Fart is a solitary condition, while Geezer is a group identity. Where there is one, there will be many. Geezers gaggle in geezer groups, gabbing the geezer credo that the worldis out of step, and that the geezer is its lost and proper center. For every geezer is at heart the Old Pretender-feckless and vengeful, nostalgic, deceitful and vain. Now it is surely no surprise that a theatre which has sold itself almost exclusively to geezers should have become a Geezer Theatre.' Each year, as TCG balefully notes, the Geezer Theatre's subscription audience gets another year older. But the looming actuarial crisis is nothing next to the soul death of a theatre which, in pandering to the geezer, has itself become a geezer. Impotent, truculent, and profoundly selfsatisfied , the Geezer Theatre doesn't really mind that at this point it is talking largely to itself.Geezer Theatre has no grand vision; you will search the Geezer stage in vain for much mention of, let's say, the wholesale looting of the American economy or the trashing of the Constitution which were the program of the past twelve years. Even its internal debates-as in the case of censorship imposed by an overtly hostile government-are framed in Geezer terms: compliance, a little muttering under the breath, and the firm resolve that truant children who caused this trouble will never eat at the table again. Look at plays of fifty or a hundred years ago. Isn't it evident they were constructed to provoke a direct emotional response from an audience-to induce terror, or helpless laughter, or romantic fantasies about the leading actors-even outrage. Precisely the menu now being served up at the movies. But the plays now being written attempt none of these things. Plays aspire only to become part of some vast imagined ongoing national conversation. Commercial entertainment is built on U 123 celebrity and thrills. But the Geezer Theatre, like an underwriter, prides itself on taking risks. What risks? There is no room in Geezerdom for Ice-T dusting cops off, no room for the fantasies of Arnold or ofMadonna. When I was younger, I believed that theatre was stupid simply because it had fallen into the hands ofa lot ofstupid people, but as time wore on, this appeared to me less a cause than a symptom. I began to wonder not only what sustained the process, but suppressed any signs of revitalization. It must be said there is a cruel truth rarely mentioned in non-profit circles-that there will never be enough money to go around 3 -and bad money surely drives out good people. Moreover there are at least two business practices characteristic of non-profit theatre that have geezerized it greatly. The Flow OfMoney: In the non-profit world, money flows almost exclusively from institution to institution, and almost never from individual to individual. Hence, as money flowed, the non-profit system became increasingly bureaucratic and its systemic shortcomings-the incompetence, timorousness, timeserving and rigidity of thought-are systemic in all bureaucracies. Moreover, as in any bureaucratic system, individuals are reduced to interchangeable generic units. The American theatre cares about individuals-in this case, individual artists or audience members -in much the same way departments of labor care for the unemployed or hospitals care for the sick. The real institutional mission is not service but accountability, and the life goals of the legions ofart clerks (which is just about all we have to show for thirty years of non-profit theatre) are promotion and retirement. Let the reader only imagine the revolutionary impact of re-allocating funding, with very large sums now going exclusively to creative artists for the completion of their projects, thereby reducing institutions to subcontractors and forcing them to...


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