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02 June 2013 @ 02:46 pm
SHARED POST: A Few Words on the Nature of Free Shakespeare  
Originally posted by twirlynoodle at A Few Words on the Nature of Free Shakespeare
I start a lot of these posts with 'If you live in LA ...' but this one is open to everyone.

The Independent Shakespeare Company is awesome. (This is scientifically proven fact: awemeters placed in the audience have measured a significant increase in awe during their shows.) Aside from the amazing talent and conceptual brilliance, though, they are awesome because every summer they make classic theatre available to anyone who can make it to Griffith Park, no matter what their income level or theatre experience. Some people in the audience are global Shakespeare veterans, some have never seen live theatre at all before, never mind Shakespeare, but they all enjoy the shows and, uncommon in LA, meet each other.

As company founder/artistic director/crazy awesome director of Hamlet/Lady Macbeth Melissa puts it, they make these shows free and public because 'we believe these plays belong to everyone, and should be accessible to everyone.'

Aside from putting on the free shows themselves, the ISC does outreach to schools, holds a bilingual pre-show workshop for kids, hosts lectures, and promotes local arts groups by inviting them to perform before the shows start. All in all they are a 100% A+ genuinely public-spirited organization that makes LA a better place to be.

But ...

While the shows are free for you to attend, they aren't free to produce. They have to rent the space from the city and pay for applicable permits, security, utilities, equipment costs, and lawn reseeding at the end of the summer, as well as the costs associated with basic production. In their wonderfulness they believe that professional artists should be paid for their work, and their mostly-union cast and crew get health benefits and a decent wage. The company gets some grant money from arts foundations and city budgets, but as they have been going for ten years now people assume they're an institution and don't need the cash, so this is starting to dry up. It doesn't help, either, that California is the 49th state in the nation for arts funding, just ahead of Kansas which axed all arts grants last year. Most of their operating budget comes from audience donations at the summer shows, but they don't start getting that until after the run has started, and they need the production money now.

So they've got a Causevox campaign running, to get the summer season off the ground. (also, check out the donation gifts, they are cool.) Even small donations are gratefully received – it all adds up! If you've ever been inspired by great theatre, and would like others to share that experience who might not otherwise get the chance, please consider supporting these wonderful people. And if you're in LA this summer, drop by and see a show!

... And if philanthropy and celebration of our cultural heritage is insufficient motivation for you, then do it for me: this company and their shows are pretty much the only thing getting me through summers here in one sane and relatively happy piece.