I love it when I get to see theory in practice, especially when it has just been discussed in a classroom setting. That is exactly what happened Sunday evening when I attended a free performance of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”,(thanks Travis for standing in line for the tickets!), as part of the D.C. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2009 FREE FOR ALL campaign. I can only assume that this “Free for All” is an attempt by the theater to expose their product, formal theater, to a new audience. And what better way than a FREE show?!
The theory I speak of is related to marketing and how involved corporate sponsors should or should not be involved in an artistic organization’s product; the art. This was the lively discussion held in my Marketing for the Arts class last Wednesday evening. The scenario posited by my impressively erudite and comedically inclined professor, was essentially this:
What if a company, such as an alcohol distributor, offered to fund a woman’s writing group $20,000 for a poetry contest? The catch being that the poem had to mention the alcohol distributer. Furthermore, a representative from the company would have final say in who wins and who doesn’t. Do you, as the arts administrator for the group, take the money and possibly save your organization a lot of financial heartache, or do you stick to your artistic principles of unencumbered free artistic expression and turn down the money?
Needless to say, there followed a lively discussion. There were good arguments for both sides; both taking and turning down the money. After all, these are tough economic times and nobody wants to be the one to look a gift horse in the mouth and turn down the 20K on a mere ideological whim. That being said, we’re arts administrators. We have artistic ideals and values to uphold for our organization. The general consensus in the end was that it is a matter of clearly defining one’s organization’s mission and values. If Company X is asking to you do something that goes against these values, then it is not to be seriously considered.
In the case of the Skakespeare Theater Company’s 2009 FREE FOR ALL campaign, sponsored by none other than everyone’s favorite shopping money trap, TARGET, the corporate involvement was evident but not over-bearing. As you can see by the event’s ad below, the TARGET logo is discretely placed at the bottom and blends in well. Also, all those working the event wore t-shirts with the TARGET logo. There were kites hanging in the reception area bearing the TARGET logo. I didn’t find this interesting until half way through the play when “kites” are mentioned as part of the dialogue. Coincidence? Of course the programs contained mention of TARGET, although again it wasn’t blatant or in-your-face. To the right is a picture I took from the front of theater showing the kites.
Overall, my experience at the play was amazing. The show was amazing and funny. Everyone left in high spirits. And everyone left with a smile on their face all the while TARGET dotted kites dangling over-head.