June 18, 2008

Artists Unite in Denver, Storytellers Forget to Attend

(via Scott Walters' blog)

How'd I miss this?

The National Performing Arts Convention took place in Denver, Colorado on June 10-14, 2008. "Taking Action Together," NPAC sought to lay the foundation for future cross-disciplinary collaborations, cooperative programs and effective advocacy. Formed by 30 distinct performing arts service organizations demonstrating a new maturity and uniting as one a sector, the convention was dedicated to enriching national life and strengthening performing arts communities across the country.

So the theatre service organizations were there. So were the orchestra, dance and opera service organizations. In fact, they held their national conferences concurrently in Denver. The conductors were there, the chamber musicians were there. The music critics. The manager and agents. The university theatres. The composers. The producers. The dramaturgs and literary managers. The teachers. The grantmakers. The folkies. The lobbyists.

Three guesses as to which performing art that I'm a big fan of wasn't at the table (presumably because we don't have a viable "service organization" at the national level).*

National Performing Arts Convention Official Site.

NPAC did schedule several solo performers who claim the mantle of storyteller, including Mike Daisey and Red Feather Woman. The only mention of storytelling in the Program Book (which you can download from the convention website... (hi-res version is 7.9 MB, it's 122 pages long)... imagine that... a conference that releases an electronic copy of their program book to anyone who wants it, not just attendees) was in Will Power's workshop on hip-hop.

Rocky Mountain News highlights

NPAC Official Blog.
The NPAC blog at Artjournal contains a lot of the thinking that went into the planning of the conference, especially as to big picture topics for discussion, as well as reporting on what went on, and what will happen going forward. I'll probably spend some time here to mine some fodder for Breaking the Eggs. Also, lots of links to bloggers covering NPAC, so there's more to explore.

* There were nearly 4,000 attendees, so I'm hoping that someone from the o.g. storytelling community went. Anyone? Anyone?


Liz Warren said...

This is so discouraging. It would be interesting to discover that there were storytellers there, but that we weren't formally represented says way too much about the profile of storytelling as a performing art in the country.

Scott Walters said...

There weren't very many individual artists present, at least in theatre -- mostly administrators, artistic directors, development officers. In other words, institutional representatives. And therein might lie the problem with storytelling?

Tim said...

You don't know the half of it, Scott.
But yes, the lack of robust institutions supporting the art form is one issue.

I can count the number of paid institutional representatives for storytelling on one hand and have fingers left over.

More in my next blog post.

About Sean Buvala said...

We're moving to back of the "Old Tyme Country Renaissance Faire" museum pieces. Sad. Eight people can only do so much.

Earlier this year, a person representing a major magazine contacted me. She wanted to know if I would help her find storytellers for their HUGE gated festival the magazine puts on once a year.

Where did they want storytellers? In the kiddie section, in a 10x10 booth, back near the nursing mothers booth. WAAAY off the beaten path.

I suggested to her that storytellers were a main stage presentation as or more interesting and viable as any of the local bands that were going to play.

She was stunned. "I never thought of that. But how can reading books from the stage be interesting to adults?"

I tried to explain. She never called me back. I am sure she booked a Mother-Goose-style Performer and paid that person $10 an hour. Old Tyme Country Faire.

Yesterday, I went to my local Arts Council meeting and had to explain even what "storytelling" was. I don't like "standard practices." but man, I think we need them.

Our storytelling institutions are less "robust" than they are just "rust."

Listen, can I be in charge of 500K per year? For one, I would pay a liaison to liaise all over, including the conference that started this rant.

That's right. I'd pay someone to actually talk to outsiders, "including administrators, artistic directors, development officers" and I would forbid that person to post on any of the major "echo chamber" lists.

That doesn't mean they wouldn't communicate.