Recently there's been a lot of movement towards co-productions, mostly between two smaller-sized companies. But a place where co-productions might be particularly effective is between large institutional theaters and theaters that serve a specialized audience. In NYC I'm thinking particularly of what would happen if theaters like The Public or Second Stage paired up with theaters like Ma-Yi or New Georges, under either a co-producer or associate producer arrangement.
At first it seems like the benefits of such an arrangement would be all on the small theater's side: increased resources, increased visibility, the ability to take on stories of larger scope and to reach a larger audience. But the benefits to the larger theater are palpable too: an influx of new audience members, increased artist diversity, and more efficient use of the space (since theaters that own a building don't always fill it).
But perhaps the greatest benefit to the big theater would be the expertise that the small theater brings to serving their particular audience. Increasingly I find that when big theaters try to do plays that are set in a specific cultural milieu they fall flat on their face and end up having to do big mea culpa talkbacks and apologetic press releases. This kind of arrangement might help avoid that.
These partnerships will take a lot of ego suppression and some flexibility in adapting to each other's working methods. And they can't just be financial in nature (i.e., "Yeah we'll do your whatever show; just give us $150,000.") But the long term goal here is audience development. On both sides of the equation, if theaters keep going to the same pool of subscribers year in and year out, we're not (pardon the expression) diversifying our holdings. Which is bad for the long-term viability of this art form.
Institutions large and small can therefore benefit from sharing resources and expertise (and , and in the process broaden the art we present and the people who see it.