Yesterday I heard an interview on WRR about the Irving(Texas) Lyric Stage.
They have been doing “concert productions” of old musicals. These performances go back to the original scoring and staging of the musical. The main differences between these productions and the originals is that the Lyric Stage productions lack sets, costumes and acting–think an oratorio. The main difference between this productions and most current revivals of these musicals is that they involve a lot more musicians. If you go to most revivals of the old musicals, the pit orchestra has been greatly reduced and there are fewer singers on the stage. To make up for the fewer performers, amplification is used.
What the Irving productions involve are more gigs for professional musicians–in other words jobs.
This began in the 2007-2008 season with a concert revival of Carousel. Hiring professional musicians and actors for such a productions is enormously expensive. How did the Lyric Stage manage to pay for it? They received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). We know that the Tea Party and Republicans want to do away with the NEA because it is wasteful federal spending.
The Lyric Stage has continued these productions: The King and I in 2008-2009, Showboat in 2009-2010 and My Fair Lady in 2010-2011. Kismet is in the current season. But note this–the Lyric Stage no longer receives NEA grants to fund these productions. The first production funded by NEA so impressed local philanthropists that now they are funded with local money. So the NEA grant created employment opportunities in 2007-2008. But those employment opportunities have continued even though the NEA funding has ended!
I have written about another example. Back in the Great Depression the Works Progress Administration (WPA) paid workers to construct a zoo in San Antonio. WPA is history now–long gone having ended before WWII. But the San Antonio Zoo is still there. I visited it a few years ago. I saw crowds of visitors. There were people working there too: various zoo keepers and concession operators. There were also construction workers expanding and updating the facilities. The old WPA program is still creating jobs.
Public works programs can create jobs. They can also produce jobs long after the original government funding has disappeared. Public works are investments in our future.