Theater Seeking Animation With Creative Vitality

Something I thought might be interesting to readers.  The City of Douglas, GA has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to purchase and run a historical theater.  You don’t see this that often so it was interesting to me the type of things that go into an RFP to run a theater.

The 750 seat Martin Centre was constructed in 1939-41 as a movie house but was renovated to accommodate live performances. The city is looking for someone to purchase the venue for at least $200,000 and continue to operate it as an arts venue.

The City is seeking proposals with the following indicators:

a)Recognize the historical significance of the building and maintain architectural characteristics of the theater’s façade.

b)Honor all upcoming rental contracts where the lessee has paid deposit and/or rental for the booking.

c)Deliver a use that will further promote Downtown Douglas as an entertainment and cultural destination location in South Georgia and Georgia and be cohesive with existing downtown uses.

d)Clearly demonstrate economic feasibility.

e)Demonstrate a positive economic benefit to the downtown Douglas area and the City of Douglas.

f)Offer a purchase price of at least $200,000.00.

As part of the proposal, they essentially request that the applicant outline how they will accomplish all these things. They also list how each criteria will be weighted.

For me, it was interesting to see how the RFP reflected the hopes and ambitions for what the Martin Centre might be for the city. They highly encourage people to discuss potential use of an adjacent plaza as part of the proposals. They are definitely hoping the new owner’s vision extends beyond the physical walls of the space.

Since I expect the listing to go off line after the May 6 deadline, I am archiving a copy of the PDF here for future reference for RFPs along these lines.

The Games That Are Played In Cultural Facilities

Hate the fact that your city will provide millions to fund an arena that only gets used 20 times a year but not arts organizations that each host hundreds of events a year?

Concerned that the availability of home entertainment systems with huge screens and gaming systems are keeping people at home rather than participating in cultural activities?

Well now your fears and concerns are combining to haunt you even more!

According to CityLab a $50 million eSports Arena is being constructed in Philadelphia. There are other eSports facilities around the country, but this will be the first standalone facility.  Just to be clear, I am not sure if the local government has subsidized the construction of this arena. According to the article, it is being built by Comcast Spectror.

Some might see this as an unnecessary shrine to a niche subculture. But for fans of esports (or professional video-game competitions), this was an inevitable next step. An estimated 250 million people watch esports, although most do so from the comfort of their homes. Global revenue is slated to hit $1.1 billion this year, and the industry is growing into a more social, spectator sport.

This article didn’t catch my eye because I perceived eSports arenas as a threat to arts and cultural organizations. Actually, I see some potential in providing a venue for gaming.

I was at a meeting a couple months ago and someone said they had started hosting video game related activities in their facility. They identified people living within a certain radius of their facility who posted game walk-through videos on YouTube and Twitch and set up sessions where local residents could come in and play against them.

They were only charging about $5 a person, but the overhead was low and they also earned money from concessions. They saw getting a new group of people walking into the facility and feeling comfortable as a win. Plus they got an opportunity to get a sense of what the people might be looking for in terms of programming.

I have started talking to staff about trying to set up something in our facility. One of my tech crew is a professional gamer who travels around the country competing. We haven’t lined anything up yet. If anyone else has had success and has some tips, let me know.

People might be horrified that a performing arts space is being desecrated by such base activities as video game tournaments.

I am not actually raising a hypothetical situation here. A director of the state opera house in Kyrgyzstan was fired for allowing a video game tournament in the building.

Many people were aghast at the thought of the competition in that space, but others felt that it was both relevant and fiscally responsible:

Liberal opinion leader Bektour Iskender disagreed in a January 21 Facebook post:

Hello?! A Dota tournament at the Opera and Ballet Theatre is one of the coolest ways of advertising opera and ballet. And its not as if you can just find 180,000 som (the total Beeline paid to rent out the building) lying on the ground.

Note: 180,000 som is about $2,600

Authentic Air Safety Kabuki Theatre

Okay, a little break from my weighty opining on the value and philosophy of art.

I caught this on the Forbes site recently. All Nippon Airways (ANA) has employed kabuki actors to appear in their safety videos. The video showcases a lot of the characteristic elements of kabuki performance, including, as Forbes notes, male performers in female roles.

I always think it is great when countries showcase their traditional arts for a broader audience. (Which by no means diminishes New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings themed air safety announcements). The internationally familiar context of an air safety announcement assists in the sharing of this cultural practice. You need not speak Japanese or English to understand what is occurring.

Andrew Bender does a good job in the Forbes piece pointing out some of the common devices from kabuki performance, including the places where they diverge from tradition. Read the article if you are curious to learn more about what you are watching.  There are a ton of other symbols present like color and gestures, the meanings of which I once knew more about but which are pretty vague in my memory now.

If nothing else, perhaps people will stop randomly labeling activities as kabuki theatre after seeing a sample of what a performance actually entails. (Okay, so yeah, probably not.)

Bender mentions there is a behind the scenes video which is shown upon deplaning. I tried to find it on the ANA YouTube site in order to learn a little bit more to no avail.

 

 

 

Kids Might Be Motivated To Learn If They Aren’t Always Stuck In A Classroom. Imagine That

Last month there was an article in Forbes about the benefits of field trips and arts education. It started out in a way I dislike, discussing test scores and neurological development as if arts and cultural experiences were a special fertilizer you sprinkled on to get stuff to grow better. However, it soon moved on to discuss how field trips and arts education provide a broader context and relevance for learning. Essentially, acknowledging that learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

Author Natalie Wexler notes that reading comprehension especially is greatly facilitated by life experiences that provide context to a passage. For many children this experience is gained in after school and family activities. For children who don’t have those same family opportunities, in school education and field trips are important for filling the gaps.

The focus of the latter part of the article isn’t that arts and cultural experiences magically help raise test score but help solidify abstract concepts. It isn’t miraculous that children learning about watersheds or historic events have greater mastery of the subject matter after visiting a river or historic site.

While the Forbes piece doesn’t acknowledge this directly, one of the articles Wexler links to does,

In the Woodruff Arts Center experiment we actually found an increase in math and reading test scores for students who went on multiple field trips after the first year of the experiment. I’m not sure I fully believe that result given that it is simply implausible that students learned significantly more math and reading when they saw a play, visited an art museum, and heard the symphony. My only explanation for the test score increase, if it is not a fluke, is that test results are partly a reflection of what students know, but also partly a reflection of their motivation to acquire that knowledge and to show it to us on a test. Feeding students a steady diet of math and reading test drills may not nurture student motivation to learn as well as these enriching activities. And as Core Knowledge proponents have long emphasized, students become more advanced readers by having more content knowledge and knowledge about the world. Field trips clearly provide that.

For arts people there might be some value in learning that a live performance about a topic seems to connect better with students than watching a video on the same subject. Not to mention, they are more likely to bring their families back with them.

We also see that students absorb a high amount of content knowledge on these field trips. In the theater experiment, for example, students learn the plot and vocabulary of the plays much more fully than if they watch a movie of the same story. Lastly, we find that students have a stronger interest in returning to these cultural institutions in the future. In the Crystal Bridges experiment, for example, we tracked coded coupons that we gave to all participating students and observed that students who visited the art museum on a field trip were significantly more likely to return with their family over the following half year.

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