They set it up as a zero sum game. If another organization is doing even a piece of what you’re doing you’re not unique enough. As if one theatre company doing work about transgender people is enough to overcome the vast underrepresentation that exists. As if 50 theatre companies would be enough. And yet we are set as competitors: for audiences, for funding, for grants. Same with churches: every welcoming and affirming church is set in competition with one another for that much needed resource: butts in the seats.
It’s a game that I am not interested in and yet I am forced to play. I fill out a grant application and they want to know why the work I do matters. Why should we fund a company doing work about transgender issues, we already fund one, isn’t that enough? Um. No? No, it’s not at all enough. It’s not even close to enough.
And yet I have to sharpen my pitch. Differentiate. And, to be clear, we are different than the other companies. But that’s as it should be. We are all different. And we are all doing work that matters.
Can I be really honest? I don’t want to compete. I’m not interested in competition (unless it’s competition against myself). The only thing I care about is doing the highest level of work that it is possible for me to do. I want to drive my company to do better work than we did last time, and better work the time after that. I want us to find ways to raise more money so we can tell even more stories. That’s the kind of competition I care about, not this petty stuff about who got more grant money or who deserves the right to exist.
This is the fundamental problem with non-profits and churches: Scarcity thinking. This idea that there is a limited number of resources to go around. That there is a limited number of people who want to be involved. And on the one hand that’s true: If business remains as usual (for theatre, nonprofits and churches) then there are a limited number of people who will want what we are offering. It will become a competition. We will scrabble for the remaining resources. But if we do something different, if we think outside the box, if we tell new stories, if we find new ways of being, then the resources are limitless.
There will be no limit to the number of people we can reach, even if they don’t think of themselves as “theatre people”. We don’t have to compete with one another.
I don’t want my life to be lived in scarcity mode. I don’t want to resent the success of other people. I don’t want to feel like I am competing with other people. Instead I want to push myself to be the best I can be. If someone else’s success pushes me to work harder and better than that is a win for both of us. But I don’t want to feel resentful because someone went to a “competitor’s” theatre show. Hell, I don’t want to think of another theatre company doing much needed work as a competitor. And I resent the foundations and systems that try to get us to think in such a manner.
Look, here’s the bottom line: I believe there is enough to go around. Always. Always. Always. There is enough money, enough people, enough support. There is enough. But we have to change how we approach our conversations. We have to change our posture toward funding. We have to work together and support one another.
There. Is. Enough. So how will we make sure there is enough?