Wednesday, July 16, 2008


IF you sensed a little humiliation in the downtown air this morning, it was because Rubber Repertory had its first ever City of Austin Cultural Contract panel review. Basically, to apply for city funding, you submit an elaborate narrative description of your company's work, itemized budgets, and support materials, and then you're reviewed by a panel of arts professionals. I showed up early (with shirt tucked in) and got a good seat in the city hall board room where the reviews are held.

When it was RR's turn to be reviewed, I sat down at a little table in front of the panel and tried to look comfortable. The primary reader gave the rest of the group a GLOWING review of RR's work, commending us on innovative programming, a strong administrative record, our commitment to pay artists, the Rockefeller grant, etc. It may have been the best review of the day, and several of the other panelists echoed the sentiments. I was sitting proud, proud of our company, proud of dear Austin for recognizing our precious worth, all too PROUD--when one of the panelists commented that while she agreed with what had been said, she was a little unclear on how we reach out to culturally diverse and underserved audiences. And then she phrased it as a question. Gulp. And then I more or less choked. Gulp. Gulp. I stammered something about how we try to reach out to performers who aren't often seen on Austin stages, I asked for clarification about what kind of documentation they look for, I made a series of increasingly clueless expressions, I was coached from the side by the Cultural Arts program manager, I left the question more or less entirely unaddressed. It was a textbook display of how NOT to articulate yourself as an artist.

Had I gotten out of the headlights, I may have addressed our strong success with word-of-mouth publicity and shown how our desire to cast performers from diverse communities sometimes extends to audiences. Or said something about sliding scale ticketing or free street performances or working with college classes. Or simply admitted that this is an area in which we can improve. But I didn't. And all that's left to say is: Shame on you, Rubber Rep Co-Artistic Director! SHAME ON YOU!

UPDATE: We did just fine in the end, receiving 97% of possible funding.

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