Earlier this month, Nancy Hermann, director of marketing for the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, penned an article for the Tulsa World (read more at Tulsa World) calling for a new mid-sized theater. That got the theatre community buzzing about the need for such a venue, and it got me thinking about what a new venue would mean to me.
One of the reasons stated by Hermann for an additional venue is that the local theatre companies “divvy up time in our three [smaller] theaters”, leaving little flexibility in scheduling. To this point, I completely agree that a new venue is necessary. Timelines for load in/out are incredibly narrow and loading dock space is a constant battle; companies are arguing over shared spaces and performing in wrong-sized venues; and some opportunities are being squeezed out of using the space altogether.
However, a venue the size of what Hermann advocates (1,000-1,200 seats) does not remedy that situation for any of the users of those theaters. The reasons many of the performing arts companies choose the Williams Theatre, the Doenges Theatre, or the Norman Theatre are because those theatres seat the projected audience. Very few local theatres would be able to utilize a space that size effectively, leaving the only beneficiaries as Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Ballet, and Tulsa Symphony. Beyond that, most other productions would have to be travelling shows brought in. Now, all of that is to say that I am NOT opposed to the opportunity to build a new mid-sized venue due to this. In fact, I think it’s a great opportunity to bring in some new shows that would otherwise not be an option. But, it will not remedy the situation with the three smaller theatres.
To remedy that situation, I suggest the following be built in conjunction with the new mid-sized theater:
- A small black box theatre similar-in-size or even a-hair-smaller than the Norman. This space would be the perfect size for smaller cabaret-style shows hosted by the PAC or small-group performances (such as play-festivals, new works, recitals, etc). It could also be utilized as practice/warm-up/staging area for the new mid-sized theatre.
- A medium black box theatre sized between the Norman and the Doenges. This space would be the perfect size for dance, larger cabarets, experimental shows, and other performances that are too big for the Norman, but just can’t fill the Doenges.
- A mid-sized proscenium smaller than the Williams, but larger than the Doenges. Some shows work better on a proscenium stage than they do in a black box theatre; however, the Williams can be too big for some of those shows. A theatre this sized would be wonderful for those shows, as well as for lecturers and small-concerts.
I am hopeful that the new revenue from the new mid-sized theater due to new opportunities would help offset the costs of building and maintaining these suggested venues, along with new revenue from being able to support more local entertainers with the new spaces. I completely understand that finances are-what-they-are, but if we are going to do this, let’s do it right and support the local talent that is part of what makes Tulsa the arts capital of Oklahoma. I am grateful for the hard-work Nancy Hermann and the rest of the Tulsa Performing Arts staff do, and thankful she has begun the discussion on a much-needed facility.
What do you think?