Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Green Shoots

Have we turned the corner on this recession?

Definitely-maybe, according to the economists and politicians, both groups wary of actually making a concrete prediction for fear that yet again they will be proven wrong (I heard somewhere that none of the last ten or so recessions were actually predicted - they just happened without anyone seeing them coming).

I'm no economist, but I too seem to find myself twinged with a note of cautious optimism myself. It's got nothing to do with the evidence on the ground, (audiences are still staying away in droves) but in the last few days and weeks I've noticed just a little less bitterness in the world around me, a little less looking inwards and backwards and just a little bit of looking outwards and into the future. People don't seem to have quite the look of despair about them now, no more feigned smiles and off-the-cuff remarks masking an all-too-real panic lying beneath. Something has changed.

Though perhaps not for everyone. I talked to someone, a fellow entrepreneur, just the other day about the hardships we've been facing here at Grinder over the past few months. He had little to say, but the few words he did speak and the tone of his voice told me that he and I were living the same nightmare, at that quite possibly he was playing a game with much larger stakes than myself.

I've heard of men in their 60's working at Tim Hortons. Of women in the 70's pushing their walkers into the employment offices looking for a part-time job. And now this Earl Jones fellow (is that even his real name?) is alleged to have engaged in a mass deception so vast and so devastating as to deprive many people who are in or near retirement of not only their life savings, but their sole source of income.

Make no mistake about it: this recession has hurt a lot of people. We all thought that terrorism, bird flu (remember that?) or natural disasters would be the things that would wipe out Western Civilization. Who knew it would be anything as unglamourous as the default rates on sub-prime mortgages and their subsequent effects on bonds, derivatives and hedge-fund trading markets?

At Grinder Productions, we had very little left to lose when the bottom fell out of the economy. In many ways I think that protected us from a lot of the pain, and kept us going a lot longer and a lot better than we might otherwise have hoped. We put in place a recession-survival plan as soon as the markets tanked, designed to keep costs at an absolute bare minimum and leverage what little cash flow that was coming in to our best advantage.

Again, it's not exactly sexy stuff, but it has worked. Grinder Productions is still here: bruised and battered and still in desperate need of patrons, actors and all the people who are needed to make theatre happen. But at least we're still here. We have lived to fight another day.

The Great Depression went through a similar period of "Green Shoots" growth in the early 30's, after the stock market settled down and some ofthe paranoia passed. Those Green Shoots soon turned to brown though, as grim reality replaced panic and fear, and the world was forced to embark on the long, slow path to recovery. I don't know if we'll face the same kind of false hope again, but I think that no matter what happens the Green Shoots that have sprouted here at Grinder will continue to grow for some time yet.

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