Hey Folks! Your friendly neighborhood Keegan here. Figured you hadn’t heard from me yet, so I’d leave you guys with some thoughts on theatre, business, and amalgamations.
The first time I ever thought about doing theatre, I was six, maybe. At that age, everything is about wonder and magic and imagination, and theatre heightens the world through all of those avenues. I remember even now the moments I first shared in the theatrical experience. I loved all of it, making and wearing costumes, painting and coloring, acting on the stage, writing. It’s no wonder that I’m so scattered on my resume – there’s no one thing that I love more than anything else in the theatre.
In high school, I began to help run theatre programs, taking on more administrative roles than I had before. It was here that I found that my penchant for business, which had heretofore been focused on the sale of lemonade, could be directed into the arts.
I went to college thinking that I would double major in theatre and business, but lacking discipline (read: bored out of my mind), I declined to join the business school at William and Mary and instead took on more practical experience. Between working for the Theatre Students Association and the Sinfonicron Light Opera Company, I garnered a wealth of collegiate, volunteer work experience.
That said, I emerged from college looking at the world and still thinking that theatre needed better management, and that I needed to have a role in it. I was too proud in some ways and too cowardly in others to take on an internship with a major DC company (which, by the way, is what ANY arts administration kid SHOULD DO), so I went into arts education, which had been my go-to for work for the past five years. Creature of habit.
Sidebar: Arts Education
To be fair, I believe in arts education. I think that, as both a philosophical model and a business, arts education is the strongest aspect of the performing arts industry. The whole idea of mimesis (learning by copying), and of remembering, comes with a certain educational flair. I believe that the arts exist to inspire people, to fill them with purpose and joy. I think that part of this inspiration also comes with an educational component, where people learn either from the performance or from discussion, either with themselves or others,that emerges from viewing a performance.
That said, I decided to hop into an MBA because there was something which I did not understand, the specifics of business. I had become accustomed to donors and working with banks for deposits and looking over a budget, but I still wasn’t feeling secure on the external workings and specific terms of business.
So a year and a half later, I think I’ve learned a great deal about the business end of business, as it were. Which I think has given me a new take on why I went to business school. Remember that in college, the courses bored me out of my gourd.
What I think I love is amalgamation. Besides being a great word, hell, it’s practically an onomatopoeia (another great word), it’s in essence what we’re supposed to do, mentally, or even be. I like theatre because it is, to me, an amalgamation of every kind of art – dance, writing, speaking, painting, building, and on and on. Business, too, is an amalgamation. Yet sadly, theatre is a dying business, at least in the world-scale business sense. I think that part of this is that many artists despise business.
I get that. I hate for-profit money driven margin monsters. But then, I also hate doing art as a ‘hobby.’ So here’s my new take on it; if business and theatres are both amalgamations, then business is the ‘how,’ and the theatre is the ‘why.’
Consider that business can apply to anything. The word is literally busy-ness, which is basically a way of saying that someone is doing something, consistently. Very generic. Business is basically what you do, consistently, in order to keep doing something, consistently. A snake eating its tail comes to mind.
The ‘How’ and the ‘Why’
The devil, of course, is in the details, and business is all about the details. It is, after all, the ‘how’ of doing things. ‘How’ being;
- do you make your money?
- do you manage your time?
- do you manage who works for you?
- do you bring in customers?
- do you compete?
Which can really be applied to anything. Business is an amalgamation in that it takes in math, from simple math to complex math, and mixes in qualitative research, throws in some scientific process through measurement, repetition, experimentation, and hypotheses, and tops it all off with creativity and artistry both in terms of differentiation and delivery.
Business is, in essence, how you interact with the world.
Theatre, for me, is all the reasons ‘why’ you do something. Combining all the arts, theatre brings out that expression of self. To me, it’s why we interact with the world. For example,
- do you try to make money?
- do you worry about time?
- do you work with others, or for others, or have them work for you, or not?
- do you want other people to be interested in what you do?
- do you compete?
These two amalgamations brought together make for a full totality, I think, of a person. Maybe not a business, anything can be a business, but I think that if a person understands both the amalgamation of self-expression and the amalgamation of getting others to work with you, it makes for a certain kind of totality. I think that business, as a field of study, covers all kinds of hard analytics, judging whether something will succeed. Theatre and the arts, however, center around universal truths, especially humanism, which I think is asking, overall, why things fail.
Good art seeks out conflict, good business attempts to avoid it (or rather, to have the best position within it). These two interests seem mutually exclusive, but I think, within a mental landscape, being able to view both allows for a fuller range of experience. The ‘how’ looks at a means of survival, the ‘why’ contemplates the death of others, not in an avoiding sense, but in a question of the mechanisms themselves.
If I could put the two separate amalgamations into physical forms, I would business as a sword, and theatre as a cave of images.
Business cuts through issues and looks for results, continuously. Theatre looks back on and back into issues, dwelling deeper and deeper into eternal unanswerable questions, more often looking for questions and wonder than any kind of definite answer. Business, however, consistently seeks answers, decisions, maneuvers: results. I feel like either without the other creates a somehow empty or inefficient persona. To always ask questions means that one need never decide on anything, or never be aware of their own answers. To constantly gives answers gives no room for that sense of wonder in the world that lies beyond the self.
Philosophically, I think that both amalgamations require a further amalgamation, combining the two in a meaningful way that addresses both the ‘how’ and the ‘why.’