Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ze Code ... Ze Code, Boss

As I stated in the last post ... the code of ethics for Chicago Storefront Theatre was thrown out into the brainstorming session at the recent Summit meeting and needs a lot more development and thought from the group of experts and participants who were at the meeting and those who are looking to get involved.

First off, I run a nonprofit business. I create art but I run a business. That's just that. There's no running away from it. If you accept donations that are tax deductible, if you have registered with the state, if you are on the radar, you should have standards and you should have ethics. Bottom line. I hate the term "bottom line", but, hell, I'm talking in business speak. Why? I founded a business. Our audiences are our consumers and those who want to work with us are our employees. A Code of Ethics is a way of gaining trust from our workers and our audience. I'm sure you all run a trustworthy business, but what's the harm in having a list of words to agree to confirming and holding us to that fact?

I agree that having the code won't stop people from doing whatever the hell they want to do and it might be "lip service", but, again ... what's the harm? If we break off into committees and one of those committees is in charge of coming up with an initial draft ... what's the harm? Seriously ... I'd like to know. If you don't want to sign it or get behind it, that's your right. But, if a group of theatres do, that's their right, too. Again, most businesses follow one and let their people know about it.

So ... we can create one. Or not. I, honestly, am fine if the Summit group wants to move forward with other ideas. But, if people are interested in developing one, I'll be on board with it and will help to spread the word about it. I would, however, like to know ... if you're cringing about the idea, what are you really, deep down, cringing about? If we break off into committees and one of the committees works on this and another works on resource sharing and another works on real estate, etc, what's the harm? We can't all be stirring the same pot or else we won't accomplish anything.

Here's some Reading Material I found on the nets that I found both informative and entertaining:

How to Write a Code of Ethics for your business or group

Why have a Code of Ethics?

A Person Who Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

U/RTA's Code of Ethics (Example of a group of universities and regional theatre's putting a standard list together that all participating members can agree to abide by.)

And, for fun ...

A Blogger's Code of Ethics

Good day to you all.


Paul Rekk said...


If it's a companies prerogative to sign or not to sign a Code of Fucking Ethics, what's the point? What's the benefit for companies who do sign, aside from feeling warm and fuzzy about themselves for their ethics, which they can already do without a piece of paper? Audiences don't assume a company is unethical -- that comes with poor treatment. And I can think of very few companies in town that would be considered unethical from an audience point of view (shitty, sure, but not unethical). Companies that are unethical from an artist point of view, yeah, there's a few of those. But what's the punishment for that? Your name is scratched off the list? The list that people can be on or off at their whim, effectively rendering it meaningless anyway? And it's just companies? Is it Artistic Directors? Or Company Members? Or are we going to try to keep Actors and Designers ethical too? I know that these are all logistical questions and that you're in the planning stage, but these are the 'moving forward' questions I would like to be addressed.

And from a purely ideological standpoint, you develop a Code of Fucking Ethics and I'm not gonna sign it. That's a given. Because unless you have the broadest, least specific, drippiest "be nice to each other" list in the world, all I see is another rulebook. And if it is the broadest, least specific, drippiest "be nice to each other" list in the world, I won't sign it on principle, because it's a meaningless gesture, an easy pass for everyone to say "I'm officially ethical now."

You may run a non-profit business that feels the need to provide an employee manual. I don't. I play with others who do, and I trust them because I know them, not because they signed a piece of paper. But as for me, I do make art, end of story. And any rulebook passed down to me is going directly into either the metaphorical or the literal fire.

What harm will it do, you ask? Probably none. But it's a waste of time for everyone involved, and in our community, time is a luxury often harder to find than money.

So, logistical or ideological reasons, you can choose, but I cringe and cringe hard, and that's why.

RebeccaZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RebeccaZ said...

Fair enough, P. Rekk.

Now, the code of ethics will carry on or it won't and that's, as I've mentioned many a time, fine.

What do you like about the summit so far? I just read your blog and have read about what you don't like, but, what has gotten your interest and support?

Paul Rekk said...

Here's the problem, RZ. If what you got from my blog was a laundry list of what I didn't like about the summit, you didn't read it close enough. I list what I see as one fundamental flaw (which was actually based on an assumption) and extendedly riff on it, but I don't have enough information to give you a likes/dislikes breakdown, and that's what scares me the most.

As someone who wasn't at the Summit, I'm in awe on the lack of information on what actually took place. No one has provided any minutes of any sort, I haven't seen any official summation from Andy (however brief), and the person who has provided the most detailed list of ideas discussed is the one everyone is complaining about for all the grumbling. And all he could share was a couple of ideas that were always on the front of everyone's minds (marketing, real estate) and a couple of ideas that I really don't care for (the Code of Fucking Ethics, further anonymous complaints).

What I'm getting from this is one of two things: either what was really discussed at the summit is very hush-hush, or not all that much was discussed at the summit. Please, I'm dying for someone to provide something for those not in attendance that will prove me wrong, but as of right now, there's very little I like or dislike about the summit because it seems to me as though there was very little actual content at the summit. I suppose having people get together and talk about these things is better than not, but that implies that these limited discussions weren't already happening, that we need to herd theatre artists together for them to talk shop, which isn't the case.

I was having a hard time trying to decide how to approach the idea of the summit: Signal, WNEP, The Nine, and myself as a blogger all have very different wants and needs. My post helped iron that part out in me. If Signal wants to be involved, I'll leave that to Joe and Ronan. If WNEP wants to be involved, I'll leave that to Don. There are already plenty of bloggers involved. So I'll approach the summit representing The Nine.

And in that respect, there's not really anything I like so far. There was a decent amount of people I respect in one place at one time. But until some of them start disseminating a little information, it sounds like another stitch n' bitch from here.

I don't want to shoot anything down prematurely. I really don't. But I can't tell if the organizers of the summit are keeping the cards hidden or if they're showing and they just don't have a hand worth looking at. And the more conversation that happens without me seeing anything that looks like actual information, the more I lean towards the latter.

RebeccaZ said...

I, too, would really like the minutes shared somewhere. I understand that New Colony has a show opening and everyone's busy, but, I think it would really do some good to get that out where everyone can take a look at it. I asked for it on twitter and Dan Granata said he would write something up but, moving forward, that should certainly go out to the public within 24-48 hours.

I plan on volunteering to do that, if need be, because, right now, I'm at home most of the day with Clara and we're in planning stages with GreyZelda, so ... I've got the time to do it.

Let's hope we get the meeting minutes soon because there was a ton of stuff discussed. At my table alone, we had a pages of suggestions other than just the Code of Ethics but we didn't have much time to go through that list before we made our presentation to the room.

So, yeah ... I'm going to email Andrew Hobgood about my suggestion.


Don Hall said...


Your only argument in favor of spending time and energy writing and distributing a Code of Ethics is that it provides no harm to do so?

Well, then, let's do it!

While we're at it, let's also sit down together and read "The Secret" together and visualize a world where we all have unlimited marketing funds. Why not - it won't do any harm?

ONE: What are any pragmatic benefits of said Code?

TWO: What problem does it solve or help to solve?

RebeccaZ said...

I'll get back to your questions soon but would like to ask you a couple, as well.

Do you want the summit to work?

Why aren't you spending more time talking about the things you do like and exploring them instead of spending time on this, supposedly, "stupid" idea? Are you taking a page out of Karl Rove's playbook? Are you detracting from the larger ideas brought up at the Summit because you, in your heart of hearts, would love it if this whole enterprise failed because you're not the one in charge?

I'm just wondering because I'd love, personally, to hear what you would like to get your shoulders behind and why? I'd rather hear people speak to inspire than to detract.

I'd also like a chance to be able to talk about the ideas discussed at the meeting with those who attended the meeting and those who are interested in attending future sessions before killing it dead in the blogosphere by one or two people.

Don Hall said...


As I wrote, I do want the summit (or any grouping of Chicago theater artists to "work.") I'm really not interested in being in charge - I've been in charge of plenty of things in my life and the allure has been lost.

I, like you, have limited time and energy. If I'm going spend it on a possible advocacy group for the type of theater I dig the most, I'd like it to A) NOT be a repeat of the countless attempts made in the past and B) focus on solutions to actual problems rather than silly time-wasters.

I see discussions of things like a Code of Ethics to be the distractions from actually accomplishing anything of genuine change. It's why (aside from personal circumstance) I abandoned the Off Loop Theater Charter - a room full of artists compiling a wish list to display ultimately is masturbatory and accomplishes nothing.

Certainly, getting together and creating a list of ethical behavior ("I will show up on time") might be fun in a sort of six-year olds playtime way, but it doesn't focus on any specific problem or amount to anything more than a "Let's All Feel Good About Ourselves" happy-crappy, rainbows and butterflies, sugar cookie rubric.

As a business owner you know as well as anyone that our collective problem is real estate and the ridiculous costs involved in producing a show due to venue costs. That's an actual hurdle - a real mountain - and, instead of wasting time away from our various shows and families and lives discussing window dressing, is the issue that, if addressed and worked upon, has the greatest chance of helping all of us as a "community."

Finally, you seem hellbent on showing this Big Bully Who Didn't Like Your Show Once that your idea has merit so bring that to the table.

If this Code of Ethics idea has any substance to it, tell us all why it has merit. And the idea that it doesn't hurt to do it is lame at best.

Defend your idea or drop it.

RebeccaZ said...

I think the real estate idea is really important and I also think we should put our energies behind it.

Do we know how A. Hobgood is going to proceed? Are we all going to go after one thing or are we going to break up into committees? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

As I've said, I'll get behind whatever we're going to get behind. If no one wants to explore this code of ethics thing, that's fine. You're one voice, Don, and if that voice represents everyone else, cool. But, I won't know that until the next meeting. Unless we hear something before then ... which would be really nice.

I agree with you that we don't have the energy to keep on talking about ideas that aren't going to go anywhere. But, you, Bob and P. Rekk are the only ones who have said we should move away from the idea. There were many more folks at the meeting and there have been folks interested in exploring the idea of a code of ethics on other sites.

Here's the thing ... I'll help formulate the thing, if people are interested, but, right now, I feel a bit uncomfortable being the leading voice on the subject if it's not going anywhere. You're right, I don't have the time and energy to explore the specifics if nobody wants to do it. I'd rather put that energy towards what the summit folks think we should focus on.

But, I guess I'm really not sure what the next steps are going to be ...

Anonymous said...


In the end if there are enough folks who think that a code of ethics is a worth while enterprise then it will go forward. I think that the notion that 3 specific bloggers have the power to shut down the conversation is a fiction. The idea that we somehow have an obligation to stop talking negatively about it, also... a fiction.

It isnt that I get a thrill out of suggesting that I think it is ultimately a waste of time (I do by the way think such a code is a waste of the summit's time).

It is my ardent hope that something useful comes out of any such summit. That is why I employ my diligence, my vehemence, my reasoning as to why I wont back any such notion of a code of ethics because for me, it is a distraction from more important issues we need to worry about.

Personally, I think that too much energy has already been wasted on it. You yourself told me that it was not your top priorty, but it seems to have become the primary touchstone in a struggle between a couple folks who would be hard pressed to agree on much of anything, much less a code of ethics.

Whether or not it is a good idea, if there are significant folks who want to do it, it will happen regardless of any Goliath they or you see out there. If I may be so bold, I think you're spending too much time chastizing folks who dont like the idea, rather than consoldating those who do.

The shame of this whole post and comments thus far, is that it makes it sound like this was a summit about ethics more than anything else and that you and Don were set up like a couple of duelists while dozens watched.

And that is not at all what happened.


RebeccaZ said...

Bob -

By all means, keep talking. The idea came from my table so I feel compelled to defend it whether it makes the cut or not.

I agree with great vehemence that too much energy has been spent on it. I also agree with Paul that there hasn't been enough other information disseminated to the blogosphere so we're nitpicking right now on this one little thing that, again, I state, isn't that important to me. If it goes forward, again, I will support it. If it doesn't, that's ok. Seriously.

But, because questions are being raised on this blog, again, I feel compelled to answer. If there are other folks out there who think anything at all about this other than, um, us than I'd love to hear from them, too.

I don't think anybody thinks that Don and I were set up like duelers. Again, when someone combines my idea with fecal matter, I dunno, something comes over me and I feel like defending the idea in case there are others who feel the same way. Call me plum batty, but just don't call me late for dinner.

Or, I could be speaking in an echo chamber.

I think your new blog is just the ticket to start moving the conversation in a different direction and I would love, for the umpteenth time, to see Andrew Hobgood and The New Colony folks start talking about the Summit as well as their very successful show opening. I would also love to see others opinions of the evening and their hopes for moving forward.

Don Hall said...

RZ -

If my comparison to shit makes you want to defend your idea, then DEFEND IT.

RebeccaZ said...

I think the code of ethics should be created for the Summit and its participants. If individual theatres want to create their own, that's great. They can also state that they abide by the code of ethics created by the Storefront Summit.

I think it should be created as a starting point for further undertakings like real estate. It can be a reference point for decision making.

Before creating a code of ethics, however, I think it would be a good idea to start defining what, exactly, the summit is and what it's trying to accomplish. A mission statement, I suppose. Once that's created, than the code of ethics can be created to support that.

A code of ethics creates transparency and will allow those who aren't directly involved in the Summit to know how we're operating.

It will help us create a positive identity for Storefront Theatre and, in regards to the real estate discussion, could provide a validitiy that our city lawmakers and deciders are looking for. You might need a little piece of paper, but those who get bogged down in bureaucracy might see it as a plus. They'll see what we stand for and how they can expect us to conduct ourselves in the business dealings.

Substitute the word "standard" for "ethics". It's still very corporate but maybe it makes ethics roll around a little better in your mouth.

We need to decide what values we, um, value and then create a code of ethics around those terms.

RebeccaZ said...

"You might need a little piece of paper, but those who get bogged down in bureaucracy might see it as a plus."

Change that to "you might not need ..."

Dianna said...

Here's how I feel about the code...

In the same time period that we are challenging each other to do more "dangerous" theatre, to take risks and do things outside the box, we're also considering putting together a list of rules and regulations as well?

It all seems counter-productive to creating great art.

Let me be clear, though. I'm not suggesting that creating dangerous theatre includes un-ethical things (actors being late or dropping out, designers not completing work, etc etc), I'm saying that the whole NOTION of a code of any kind, no matter how harmless it may seem in the germination stage, will feel like a stranglehold on the art, IMHO.

I think if a certain idea comes out of the summit, for example 3 theatres teaming up for a festival, and those theatres want to put to paper some regulations for each other for that PROJECT, then have at it.

One of the things I love about Chicago theatre is that we don't fall into a pigeon-holed category. There is a little bit of sum'thin for everyone. I think the idea of all of us agreeing to a set of rules threatens to homogenize us.

I'm now going to go off and find more ways to create thoughts that include "germination" and "homogenize" in the same paragraph. Perhaps a haiku.

Don Hall said...

RZ -

Maybe I'm hung up on the term "Code of Ethics" - as in if one does not sign on, they are unethical. I see you point but maybe we call it a "Statement of Purpose?"

As for the corporate needs, a mission statement accomplishes the same thing and fulfills most corporate granter's requirements as well.

So, the direction you see the summit is to create another League type organization, then?

RebeccaZ said...

Don ... please don't put words in my mouth that I haven't said in regards to forming another League. I do think that the Summit could provide alternatives so that folks don't have to feel that they need to rely on the League, but I don't know if it needs to become another League because, well, the League is the League.

I do think that we need to come at this from a business stance if we're going to talk and convince the city that we should be taken seriously. We know that we're serious but they don't know that we're serious. And just saying we're serious to the lawmakers and deciders doesn't mean much.

Statement of Purpose sounds fine to me.

Dianna - I don't think art falls into this conversation at all. I think this is pure business. Nothing about this detracts from the type of art you're going to make, be it milquetoast or dangerous. Nobody's telling you how to act, design, direct, etc. It's purely from a business stance. In fact, I don't think the Summit should be about "art" at all. That's a given. We create it. This is about the sides of creating art that gives us pause and struggle and that we, as artists, don't like to deal with so we're all going to be helping each other. Nobody is telling anyone what season they should produce or how we should collaborate on something together. Not at all the point of the summit. In my opinion.

Don Hall said...

RZ -

I didn't put any words in your mouth. I asked an effing question. Your answer is no. Cool. Jeesh.

"I don't think art falls into this conversation at all."

That's the saddest (but most obvious) statement made about this summit than anything I've read yet. Good of you to clarify.

RebeccaZ said...

Don - I didn't mean for my response to the summit question to come off as harsh. I apologize.

I don't know what's sad about it. We create art everyday, which is fun and gratifying. There's no reason why business needs to be a bad time either.

Here's a question that I would like clarified ... what is the point of this summit in the end? I don't think I've ever gotten that question answered. We just kind of jumped into introductions and then brainstorming and then, that was that. What is it all about? I think we all have a lot of different agendas and expectations. I, and I think everyone there and everyone who's been keeping up with everything, would like some clear idea of what will be discussed at the next meeting. Bob asked "What's next ..." and was told that we'll basically find out in 30 days.

If anyone knows, please fill me in.

And, Don, I am appreciating our conversation.

RebeccaZ said...

League question, excuse me.

Don Hall said...

RZ -

I concur - I mentioned to someone recently that the reason almost every theater company that folds falls apart is differing agendas and a lack of clarification of those agendas.

What the hell is this summit's purpose (it was what I hammered Dan with at the meeting itself - why is important for us to have this regular communication? What pragmatic purpose does it serve?)?

I also think our personal reasons for creating art differ as well (not just you and I, but the the reason I think the idea that we have a "community" at all is a question for me.) To me, the business end is never fun but a necessary evil.

As for appreciating the conversation, the thing with me is, I appreciate the conversation and the vigorous debates equally. And the blatantly provocative shit throwing. But that's my axe to grind...

Dianna said...

Well, if it's not about Art, but only business, what's the point?

If you do something "unethical" with a legitimate business, you are bound by the LAW. All those people who have complined of David Zak not paying them, ALL had the right to bring him to small claims court. There are avenues to follow when there are failings on the business side.
And if I sign a code of ethics that's purely business driven, what is the recourse?

Don - you didn't pay me for my show. Well, you naughty boy, we aren't going to invite you to our next storefront gathering.

I guess my point is we kind of have the art end covered. Those that are grossly unethical are usually not worked with as much - people tell stories and word gets around, etc. And, we have the business end covered. Grossly unethical on the business end puts you in the "breaking the law" category.
So, why waste our energy and resources on something that (on the surface) seems so trivial and unneccesary?

(And by the way, I don't at all expect Rebecca to be answering all these questions - I'm throwing them out there for us to be thinking about, much like Bob is)

RebeccaZ said...

"(And by the way, I don't at all expect Rebecca to be answering all these questions - I'm throwing them out there for us to be thinking about, much like Bob is)"

Thanks, Dianna, because I sure as hell don't have all the answers, contrary to popular belief. =)