We should demand more.
And the first demand is that we should become a free audience. Not a demographic, not a market segment, not a subscriber, not a donor, not the cultured elite or the unknowing masses, but individuals capable of thought, reflection, and above all seekers of experience -- experience above everything else.
We live in an age awash in non-art, manufactured and sold as if it were the real thing. Go to enough theater in the Bay Area and a vague sense of losing track of the world, of watching reality slip away, takes hold. True art, great or not, enlivens; most of what we see is touched by death, the poisonous aftermath of slick advertising campaigns and false mission statements.
The 20th century had answers: manifestos and artist gods dominated the scene and for a brief moment we stood at alert. But in the end, philosophy and worship had no hold on the everyday and modernism's radical triumph ceased to matter. The victors faded into the ether, replaced by art entrepreneurs dolled up in rebel garb.
What's left is the audience. Reviled in the last century and pandered to in this one, it is those individuals who go out into the world to see what's happening who are our last best hope. If only they weren't being hoodwinked, poisoned, and left for dead at the alter over and over again. It's time for the bride to shoot back.
The starting place for The Free Audience is Bay Area theater -- reviews, interviews, and polemics -- but the hope is that in starting an argument a few of us (artists, lawyers, politicians, criminals, bakers, the lazy and the unaffiliated) might come together in a loose collective.
And that a new art might follow.