Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Criticism qua Funding Application

(The cast of the devised physical theater piece. Photo by Amy Clare Tasker.)

When one of the artists involved with Dirty Laundry asked me to write a feature on her show, she said something no one else has said in requesting my coverage: 
I am asking both because I value your insight and so that we would have press for funding purposes as we move into a full production rehearsing this fall.

Since I'm extremely fond of googling myself, I see my writing pop up in lots of places, some expected -- company and artist sites -- some less so, like other people's essays or crappy sites like wikianswers. But I somehow never thought about my articles being referred to in grant applications. It makes sense, though: even if you're an unknown company, such coverage could show funders that you're newsworthy, or maybe even good.

Interestingly, the way this artist phrased her request colored the way I wrote about her show. I only have a bit of development experience, but parts of my article sound very grant application-y:

The artists behind Dirty Laundry thus see their method as a small but significant corrective to a gender imbalance in the power structure in Bay Area theater.

I don't have a problem with adopting the tone of a financial advocate; this project, a coproduction by Inkblot Ensemble and the Collaboratory, seemed very worthy to me. I just hope the writing isn't dry and predictable -- little writing is as devoid of life as grant apps can be!

This experience makes me wonder how blurry the line is between positive criticism and development work. Do the writing modes overlap at all? I'm very familiar with the kind of writing produced by marketing and publicity departments, but development writing is by its nature is more private. Perhaps this would be a good topic for an interview one day.

Dirty Laundry has come and gone, but a second "cycle" might well be in the works; we'll have to see how their funding applications go!

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