Sunday, March 22, 2009

Observations on Regional Theatre

The Denver Post interviews storyteller Mike Daisey; and he's highly critical of regional theatre:

Denver Post: People are always quoting to me from your "How Theater Failed America." Can you summarize your premise?

Mike Daisey: The principal argument is that the theatrical establishment in America has lost sight of the values that led to the establishment of regional theaters, and in its place are institutions that value buildings over artists, isolation over engagement and corporate growth over artistic development.

On top and in part because of this is a shrinking and aging audience base, which has led to an art form in contraction, with less and less audience every year. We pay artists and workers starvation wages and make it impossible for a national theater to take root here, while at the same time engaging in orgies of building construction that
defy logic or sense.

We have forgotten that the play's the thing — the show attempts to illustrate that with stories from my years working in theaters across the country, and tries to shake us from our slumber.

Denver Post: You have described the slow death of newspapers as "the next great crisis of the American regional theater." Why?

Mike Daisey: Theater is deeply interdependent on the newspaper industry — theater critics have been an integral part of theater's identity for more than a century, woven into the core rituals of opening night, previews and so forth. With the current model of newspapers collapsing, we will lose that support system of critical feedback, and it will strike a deep blow to theater's sense of itself as a relevant art form.

It doesn't got into a great deal of depth, but reading it forces us to consider a lot of our pre-conceptions.

He has a point about construction: a development director once confided that it was much easier to raise money for constructing a building than anything else. "You can point at a building and show them their money," she said. "It's harder to do that with programming."

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