Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NYTE's Vision for 2010

I make New Year's resolutions every year about this time. When a nonprofit organization like The New York Theatre Experience, Inc. creates an annual budget and a business plan, it is making New Year's resolutions, too.

I am excited to share our 2010 Resolutions with all of you.
  1. We are going to celebrate the diversity of New York theatre this year, in a big way. We want to make sure that theatre-makers and theatre-goers understand just how thrillingly diverse this community is--our focus will be on building awareness and access to the many, many choices available to audiences. Diversity includes gender, ethnicity, and race, but that's not all there is to it! We are interested in diversity in terms of form--theatre styles that break down the barriers between traditional disciplines to create new genres that often get lumped together in categories like "physical theatre," "experimental theatre," or "avant-garde theatre." We are also interested in diversity in terms of location: we are going to search for theatre everywhere it is being made in the NYC area, throughout all five boroughs. This diversity initiative isn't about being politically correct; it's about learning, exploring, and discovering art, ideas, cultures, and ways of communicating that are different from the status quo. A good thing, we believe.

  2. We are going to provide new and better tools to make sure people can find the kind of theatre they want to see. We believe that a lot of people want simple, focused, accurate information about the many choices available to them so that they can decide how to spend their precious hours and dollars in the theatre. I met with a group of high school students recently in a seminar about theatre criticism. I was excited to discover that these teenagers don't like superficial rating systems: they don't care if Rolling Stone gives an album five stars or if some pundit calls a movie "essential viewing." They want data. We're going to keep on providing exactly that on nytheatre.com, recognizing that many different elements affect the theatre-going decision--not only content and form, but also the artists involved, performance times and lengths, and price points.
Technology plays an ever-larger role in our lives, and we are focused on that as well. We will continue to ensure that we respect the diversity of our constituents by making all of our resources completely accessible. And we will provide choices as to how our services are delivered--some people like books and other people like e-books, and we're gearing up to offer both; a lot of folks are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile devices like the iPhone or the BlackBerry and we are making sure all of the info we provide can be conveniently read and used regardless of your computing platform.

So, there's a high-level look at what we are resolving to accomplish in 2010. Now I want to focus on some specifics. Here are some of the actions we have already taken to move toward achieving our vision:

  1. New features on nytheatre.com that celebrate diversity: We've already made some additions to nytheatre.com that highlight the works of diverse artists. There are now separate Now Playing listings on our website for Plays by Women and for Plays with Gay & Lesbian Themes. These join our existing listings for Physical Theater and shows in the Outer Boroughs to help audiences identify and focus on each of these kinds of work. Last week, we added keywords to every current show page as a further enhancement (see a sample here). Also, our new PlaywrightALERTS (see below) include up-to-date feeds of new productions of plays by women and plays by people of color.

  2. nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS: To help audiences keep abreast of current and upcoming productions of plays and musicals by authors they care about, we've launched nytheatre.com PlaywrightALERTS. You can learn much more about this new service in this blog post.

  3. 50/50 in 2010: NYTE is partnering with 50/50 in 2020, a grassroots movement to acknowledge the contribution of women to theatre and to achieve employment parity for women theatre artists by the 100th anniversary of American suffrage in 2020. We will be working with them to significantly augment coverage of women theatre artists on our websites. We believe in putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak; and therefore we are committing to "50/50 in 2010"--we are going to attempt to review equal numbers of plays by women and plays by men in 2010. (Note that, given the disparity between numbers of productions, this may not actually be possible. We will keep everyone posted.) We recommend Marsha Norman's American Theatre article on this subject for those seeking an explanation of the importance of this initiative.

That's what we have to report right now. I'll keep you up-to-date with new features and new projects as the year progresses. Your feedback is vital, so please comment here or send me an email with your thoughts about our vision for 2010.

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