When Things Suck: Streamline, Then Mecca Aug 31, 2017

by Lane Czaplinski


Following are a few thoughts in consideration of the 17/18 season of live art. This is not intended to be a manifesto and only is offered in the spirit of sharing lessons learned while employed at On the Boards over the past fifteen years.


1. Performances are controlled environments, like sports, that serve as vehicles for reflection and exchange. Rarely does anyone get hurt or at least hurt badly.

2. It is hard to be an artist and even harder to be an artist who is from Belarus or is a black or indigenous person in this country. The former suffers bouts of loneliness and impoverishment while the latter parties suffer these maladies while being the frequent targets of systemic violence and exclusion.

3. If the National Endowment for the Arts were to be abolished it would be like losing an arm or a leg. It wouldn’t necessarily cause death but make no mistake: it would suck.

4. Generally speaking, examining other cultures by making art inspired by them is a flawed proposition. This is because, oftentimes, the culture that is doing the examining has been downright shitty towards the culture being examined. That said, any cross-cultural exchange has its ramifications and it’s up to the participants to determine how things go down.

5. Be wary of thinking that all art has to be about something or make the world a better place. The natural tendency when things suck is to want to do something but this doesn’t have to include making art. If help is required then help. But it isn’t necessary to make a play or dance about helping. I mean, you can. You just don’t have to. 

6. Creating new art is always good but new art is seldom great. These are the stakes and they are totally fair.

7. There is such a thing as too much curation. It’s like too much juicing — you don’t get the benefit of the fiber!

8. Contemporary performance practice and shenanigans are not only for audiences who regularly go to contemporary performances. 

9. Peanuts are free at the Streamline Tavern and the drinks are cheap. Just don’t be an ass. Afterward, you will most likely end up at The Mecca Cafe & Bar where they do not have raspberry vinaigrette nor do they make manhattans. Do not order such things there.

10. On the Boards is a national treasure and if you’re reading this in Seattle, it means you’re one of the lucky ones who get to roll up and enjoy challenging new performances in a decidedly unchallenging environment. People are nice there and if you’re an artist they’ll be especially nice to you. OtB is unique because a lot of special people have been building it since 1978 and a lot of special people are there now helping it sustain itself and grow towards the future. Really, OtB is like that one-of-a-kind hike / bar/ beach / gelateria / gymnasium/cliff / lighthouse. 


It’s one of THOSE places.
It’s where with some frequency you’ll be provoked.
And occasionally moved or inspired.
It celebrates both local and global with heavy pours.
While deftly trading in the ineffable without taking itself too seriously.
Please go there.
And take care of it.


Lane Czaplinski

Lane Czaplinski was Artistic Director at On the Boards from 2002 – 2017. He is the Director of Performing Arts at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH.