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With Friends Like This...

January 29, 2011

Earlier this week, at a new play development conference at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, made the following comment (as reported in the New York Times):

You can either increase demand [for nonprofit theater] or decrease supply. Demand is not going to increase, so it's time to think about decreasing supply....

Nonprofit bloggers and theater types were not amused, and Landesman subsequently clarified his comments in a phone interview with the Times:

There's a disconnect that has to be taken seriously -- our research shows that attendance has been decreasing while the number of organizations have been proliferating. That's a discussion nobody wants to have....

Landesman's NEA has been targeted (again) by House Republicans who hate the idea of federal funding for the arts, which might explain (at least in part) the defensive tone of his comments. But what about their substance? Has the supply of nonprofit theater outstripped demand? And are people in the nonprofit theater community unwilling (or afraid) to have that discussion?


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