Taking Time to Thank Some OOB Angels 

Doug Strassler 

Although the year isn’t quite over yet, it’s never too early to take a look at what a couple of the more prominent OOB allies have accomplished recently – and what’s coming around the corner.


LIT – a not-for-profit membership, advocacy and business league for the independent theater community in New York City – has a trip-part mission: to promote the artistic and economic interests of theater professionals working in New York City in theaters of up to 99 seats; to organize and protect our members to ensure that independent theater is economically viable for all of its practitioners; and to advocate on behalf of the decades-old tradition of off-off Broadway/Independent (OOB-I) theater to ensure that it remains, and grows, as a thriving artistic and economic sector in New York City.

To ensure that these goals are met, LIT has had a very productive 2010. Highlights include:
Free Night of Theater 2010: LIT once again teamed up with Theater Communications Group, Alliance of Resident Theaters of New York (ART/NY), Theater Development Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, and Arts & Business Council of New York to bring the Free Night of Theater program to New York for the third consecutive year. Free Night is an unprecedented new audience development program where Off-Broadway and Independent theaters in New York City and not-for-profit theaters across the country offer performance tickets absolutely free-of-charge. Over 70 OOB and Indie Theaters participated in the 142 productions being offered this year. Setting the highest numbers yet, over 10,000 tickets were offered to over 400 performances in all five boroughs throughout the month of October.
At a press event held on the steps of City Hall and hosted by Cultural Affairs Committee head, James Van Bramer, the City of New York declared October 2010 Free Theater Month. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Commissioner Kate Levin and Assembly member Deborah Glick all spoke in support of this important program. Photos of the event. An after-party was held on November 1 and featured wonderful performances and a costume fashion show with Theater Development Fund’s The Costume Collection. Photos of that event.
The Performance Project at University Settlement: LIT partnered with Incubator Arts Project, University Settlement and the OOB Community Dish to present the first of three salons focused on the Do-It-Yourself Dilemma. Moderated by Jennifer Conley Darling LIT’s Managing Director of Operations, this discussion focused on the issues of creating and producing work in NYC as well as the importance of creating a community to bounce ideas off of as well as to support each other’s work.
Coming up in mid-December, LIT will hold a holiday party in mid-December. This party will be open to members and non-members, who are encouraged to enjoy libations with the OOB community and let LIT know what issues are pertinent to them.


Community Dish has also outlined several important goals for 2011. According to Tim Errickson, foremost is to abolish the notion of OOB as a stepping stone to a more fulfilling stage career on Broadway. “We're not going to get anywhere by being passive,” he said. “Out of college, kids want to go to Broadway, and think anything less is a slap in the face. But we can show examples of how we've made a life in the arts, built careers, had great years, and made great art.”

Errickson said the group plans to continue making a big push for outreach. “We’re going to convene Community Dish meetings around such topics as technology, sustainability, financial viability, building boards, how to tour, and getting permanent spaces. What things need to improve for those orgs so the transient folks will want to continue to work there?”

Dish’s philosophy is realistic – they understand the challenges, but also feel positive that all of them can be met. “There are always going to be challenges, and we embrace that fact, but the more we celebrate the stuff we do have, the better off we are,” Errickson said. “Every day OOB is an easier place to work. We've proven we do great art: now we want to focus on a life in indie theater.”


On November 13th, a Wall Street Journal article by Amy Zimmer highlighted the fantastic work of Frank Kuzler and Decades Out. For years Kuzler and his team have been conducting interview about OOB. This Awareness Project is an ongoing video series spreading the good word about Off-Off and independent theater and interviewing independent theater artists about their experiences, challenges and thoughts about working in the Off-Off world.

Congratulations Decades Out and keep up the good work.


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