A One-Sided ConversationThis Monday I happened to read this article of the Huffington Post that really irked me. Not because it was wrong but that it was far too true for comfort. I hate to say it but "Wal-Marting" of the theatre world has engulfed the entire nation. We have been programmed over the years to defer our artistic souls to big cultural hubs of the arts like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles etc. Think about it: where do all of our arts awards come from? Where are all of the major publishing houses for plays centered? the majority of these are in the major cities.
Now look at your local regional theaters. What shows are they doing? Have any of them been written by local playwrights or are they just remounts of the latest Broadway Plays or adaptations of some Movie? Are there local actors or theatre artist working in those shows? Are they even allowed to audition? If you look at any of the bios of the actors or staff you'll find that many of them have either just come from New York or are trying to get the resume creds to get to New York.
And don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with pursuing your training, living, or getting a job in the big cities. Like in every field you choose where you want to live and then you choose your career. But it disturbs me so much that our communities are being fed their theatre from a supply chain that trickles down from the big producers in New York to your regional theatres and then to your local theatres. Our ideas of what makes good theatre and who is important in the theatre world have been told to us by books and plays published in New York. If I asked you to name your favorite musical you would probably name a Broadway Musical. Why? Because New York is the only place where musicals come from?
Theatre was and still is the art of micro media, members of the community fullfilling the needs of the community. I've said many times before that the majority of theatre in this world is done by highschools, churches, colleges, and small community theaters. But due to the national nature of the market and our umbilical cord to the big cities it's become harder and harder for these organizations to get funding or make a living doing what they do without becoming part of this big supply chain of big city theatre. Very often it's hard to get them to do new work or more enriching material because of fears that no one will show up because they don't have a big name attached. And thus...
I'm not worried about the mainstream market taking us over, I'm more worried that it's all a one-sided conversation. That in response to this mainstream movement, in this great age or global exposure that the theatre world can give you, that more local companies haven't risen to the occasion to carry on the conversation with New York, Los Angeles, Chicago. etc. and share their artistic talents with them. And anyone who likes to talk knows that a one-sided conversation is never fun.