Colectiva Agresiva

What do you get when you cross
Craigslist, performance theater, a coffee shop, and unpaid, fed-up thespians? A fascinatingly
organized, artist-driven theater company called La Colectiva that’s more resourceful and visionary than the Warholian commune you might be picturing.

The founding members are pooling their time, production equipment, and industry experience to create an online resource — sharing network and a quarterly public meeting as part of the collective’s infrastructure. What does that mean for San Antonio artists? With the birth of La Colectiva, players and playwrights can no longer claim that San Antonio lacks a cohesive artist community or complain about not having the connections or resources to produce a show. La Colectiva is a tight-knit group of performers of all kinds committed to continued dialogue about their work, their needs, and what they can do to nurture their comrades’ success. For those working outside profitable genres like pop-opera and Disney transcriptions, landing a one-man show at the Majestic could be daunting — maybe even impossible, unless you’re chummy with Billy Crystal. The collective offers counsel based on the successes and failures of its members and maintains a searchable database so you leave each forum with concrete contacts.

As proactive as this sounds, the collective is on the offense. Players are getting played more than they’re getting paid in San Antonio, and production manager Marisela Barrera is sick of people telling her, “Well, it’s worse in Austin.” La Colectiva won’t be your thug-for-hire when a playhouse promises a three-week run and closes its doors after three nights, but it will offer solid advice on how to fix the problem now — and how to avoid it in the future.

“We don’t want to come between the performer and the theater. But when there’s a dispute, we want La Colectiva to be a real place that someone can go,” says Managing Director Miriam Leal. With that in mind, if you are looking for a place to go (whether you’re an actor who’s been swindled once-too-many or just need a way to network), you can stop by 1100 Broadway where someone will be glad to hear a voz simpatico. Otherwise, catch them February 25 at the next artist forum at Ruta Maya Riverwalk, 107 E. Martin. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky San Antonio artists showcased in 2008 as part of La Colectiva’s production-assistance program. If not, though, it may be difficult to persuade an art élevé recruiter that your show can pack a house.

Not every institution is resistant to grassroots theater, community initiative, and the genres it spawns. The City of San Antonio’s
Office of Cultural Affairs has partially funded the collective’s flexible “season,” and more grants will most likely surface in the near future. Felix
Padrón, OCA director, stated that La
Colectiva was chosen as a recipient of a two-year incubator program designed for small, up-and-coming organizations.

“It teaches `La Colectiva` how to be a viable organization, and it grows the roster of arts and culture organizations in San Antonio,” says Padrón. “La Colectiva has done great work in the theatrical realm. They’ve opened doors for emerging artists by giving them the opportunity to present their work in unusual ways and on the grassroots level, which I think is a very creative and effective way of getting the arts directly to the community.”

He added that the Office of Cultural Affairs awarded the organization $5,050 for a designated project beginning this fiscal year. “This is the first time they’ve gotten a dollar amount from OCA, which I think is a great accomplishment,” says Padrón.

La Colectiva Outreach Director Joel Settles describes the arts business in all its glorious dysfunction as suffering from an institutional disconnect: “There’s no artist leadership in today’s art institutions. Instead, it’s all bureaucrats.” Which may explain why a businessperson believes giving a performer stage time is generous enough. Why would he or she want to be paid? But Settles says, “If the guy who unlocks the theater gets paid, then the guys on stage get paid, too. It just makes sense.”

For more information, visit La Colectiva’s website

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