“The Theater of Tensions”
Studies in Emergent Order, Vol. 5 (2012)
Theaters exist in several overlapping spontaneous order. As places where plays are performed by actors acting, it is clearly in the artistic order. In the United States, most if not all theaters are also nonprofit corporations. This puts them in the spontaneous orders of philanthropy, the market (insofar as theaters try to get people to pay to see a play), and the democratic order (insofar as a given theater may receive government money). Since different emergent processes are coordinated by different rules biased towards different values, the tensions in theaters must be particularly strong. Is it possible for any theater to act in ways harmonious with the principles underlying all of these emergent orders? In this paper I interviewed several people who run the local theaters in Dallas, TX about the kinds of tensions among the competing values of each of the spontaneous orders in which they have to negotiate. I thus investigate how the values inherent in artistic production interact with market values, urban values, philanthropic values, and democratic values create tensions in theaters that help to mold them into unique organizations.