No Knitting Backstage In Germany Please

Rainer Glaap, an arts administrator working in Germany reached out with an update about the publication of his second book whose title translates as Knitting Forbidden! The book covers laws which applied to theater in Bremen from 1820 and for Leipzig from 1841. The bulk of the laws applied to the practice of theater in those places with a handful applying to the audience.

I’m not sure if it is the actors and technicians or audience members who weren’t permitted to knit. Maybe both. You gotta keep your eyes on those knitters!

Rainer notes that while some of the laws are somewhat humorous in the context of the present day, many remain very topical. He mentions that while there weren’t intimacy coordinators working in theater 200 years ago, there were laws to protect female actors that read like intimacy guidelines today:

“Apart from the author’s instructions, kissing is not allowed. – It must never happen that you lift a woman up and kiss her. – Under no circumstances must a man kiss a woman on the mouth; If the author has linked the kiss to the action, then kiss the cheek or forehead. – There are also special touches that you have to avoid, e.g. B. if a man comes too close to the breast while holding a woman. Anyone who trades against one of these points pays 8 gr. Punishment.”
(§105 of the Leipzig Theater Laws of 1841).

If you read German and want to buy the book, it can be found here –

According to the descriptions of the book there, it was the actors who weren’t permitted to knit during rehearsal. I still think there is probably some wisdom in watching audience members who bring pointy sticks into the theater though.

Music To Your Beers

I was kinda thrilled to hear the melodious voice of conductor Bill Eddins on the Marketplace Morning Report this morning. Bill had written the Sticks and Drones blog here on Inside the Arts alongside Ron Spigelman for a number of years.

Bill was on Marketplace talking about MetroNOME, the brewery he started in St. Paul, MN. Their goal is to funnel proceeds from sales into local music education programs.

Eddins and his co-founder, Matt Engstrom, aspire to grow their business to the size of a small regional brewery. When their goal is realized, they plan to filter funding from the brewery toward local music education programs.

“We believe that we would be able to funnel as much as half a million or even maybe a million dollars a year into the local music education programs here in the Twin Cities metro,” said Eddins.

MetroNOME has already racked up close to 400 performances at their brewery, including a concert with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis. True to his music education philosophy, Eddins recruited a trio young musicians, two of whom were too young to drink his product, to play with Marsalis.

Eddins admits he and his partner don’t necessarily have the acumen and experience to take the organization to the level it needs to in order to generate the funds required to support local music education, but he believes there are people in the Twin Cities area that can help make it happen.

They do, however, have a secret ingredient that provides a competitive advantage. I encourage everyone to watch the video on their homepage. It starts out looking like a typical brewery video, but it takes an entertaining turn. My thanks to Drew McManus for nudging me to watch the video.

The Measurement Used Can Alter The Impact Of Your Work

Long time readers know that I resist the use of economic impact as a measure of value for arts and culture for many reasons. The late potter-philosopher Carter Gillies was really effective in calling attention to the myriad ways in which using inappropriate measures of value would result in meaningless data and incorrect beliefs and assumptions.

Seth Godin recently made a post that illustrated that the measure you use shapes how you perceive the impact and value of the work you do. This brings the concept that just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean the result is meaningful to a more personal, relatable level.

Godin observes that we have long been indoctrinated to believe that completion of a task is a measure of productivity.  But, he asks, if “I did all my homework” is a measure of productivity, what has the practice of completing your homework ever done for you?

The actual measures of productivity that might be useful range quite a bit:

• I did enough to not get fired.
• I did enough to get promoted.
• I did enough to get hired by a better firm.
• I solved a problem for a customer who was frustrated.
• I changed the system and now my peers are far more productive.
• I invented something that creates new possibilities and new problems.
• I created new assets that I can use (and others can as well).
• I didn’t waste today.

Pick your measurement and the impact of your chores will change.

Just because you can measure productivity in terms of work completed, it doesn’t necessarily yield results that are meaningful–except perhaps to whomever is selling the work you have completed. But there are other measurements of value that can be applied to your work, some of them far more meaningful than others. The impact of that meaning could have–and I use this term intentionally–immeasurably more value than just units of work completed over time.

Will Congestion Pricing Further Depress Broadway Attendance From NYC Suburbs?

Just before Christmas Broadway producer Ken Davenport called attention to an issue which may or may not impact Broadway attendance starting later this year. Starting this Spring, congestion pricing will be implemented for Lower Manhattan before 9 pm. The cost will be $15, more if heavier traffic is expected and even more if you don’t have EZ Pass electronic toll payment set up. (Though most people who regularly drive within a 50 mile radius of NYC already have EZ Pass since there are so many other toll roads that use it.)

Davenport had noted in a separate post that Broadway attendance by people living in the suburbs across the bridges and tunnels from NYC has been down significantly since the return from COVID so there is a concern that these fees may reduce attendance even more.

Davenport suggests that while $15 more factored into all the other costs associated with attending a Broadway show may not provide a significant disincentive, nobody should be operating on that assumption. Instead there should be an effort to increase the perceived value of the experience:

But congestion pricing is here. And it’s not going anywhere. Bloomberg wanted it years ago and people thought it was a ridiculous idea. (I wonder what he’s saying now?)

So we can’t just sit around and talk about how terrible it might be.

What we need to do is figure out how to increase the experience and value of seeing a Broadway show that an extra $15 feels like a bargain for what they are getting.

It occurs to me though that London implemented congestion pricing in 2003 and the West End theaters appear to be right in the center of the zone. I wonder if anyone did any research into the impact on attendance to those shows. They may not have been as worried given differences in time (not after a pandemic dip), production funding models, and other factors.