Thursday, February 21, 2008

Theatre Failing America

It's interesting, because while I agree that these kinds of things are true:
"If you quit there is no way it will ever get better...So complain and quit, or, think of the running as exercise, the jokes as art, and the scraps as a diet. We are supposed to be on the outside looking in. "
"An ability to get over the blows dealt to us by our choice of a life in the theater is as important as being able to show up on time and share your Altoids."
I think this is not:
"He could have written this 20 years ago and it would have [been] valid."
Daisey's article deals with trends. He talks about how 20 years ago young audiences were being desperately sought after, and how today middle-aged audiences are being just as desperately sought. 20 years ago people might've had the same complaints, but they were complaining about it in a context that i think today's theatre producers would LOVE to have. The situation has continued to get worse, things people complained about and thought were intolerable 20 years ago have come to pass, and worse. The fact that some of us survived it doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Your reader responses are advocating digging in, and adapting to the continuously deteriorating circumstances. That's great. It's noble, beautiful, and for a constantly decreasing number of people, it'll be successful.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not inspired by that. Scratching out a living to get my hands on some sustainable portion of these diminishing returns doesn't sound appealing at all, neither does compromising and accepting theatre as a hobby i can occasionally afford to indulge in. I take my inspiration from people who are doing radically different things, from The Missoula Oblongata and the Nonsense Company. These are people who are resurrecting truly independent, radically anti-capitalist theatre. I also get inspiration from the theatre they're resurrecting. I look to the Living Theatre, to Brecht, and to Grotowski. And I look to the punk rock scene. The Refused and Fugazi. These are only the biggest of a HUGE crowd of musicians who are operating and thriving outside all established music institutions.
What Mike Daisey should be saying is not that theatre has failed America, but that a certain mode of theatre has failed theatre producers, which is to say that capitalism has failed theatre. This mode of production has been failing theatre for long over 20 years and it's high time playwrights, actors, directors, and all theatre producers start making their livelihood and their art with a new mode. 

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