I fear the points I am making about "regionalitis" and artists being a part of the community may be being misunderstood. Alwaysabridesmaid writes:
"To suggest that artists cannot come from NYC to work in other communities because we cannot understand how to speak to them is to encourage provincialism in the arts. Actors and directors live in NYC because that is where we get work. We are so dedicated to a life in the theater -- creating it, not teaching others how to do it -- that we need to be where the opportunities are, even if that means not getting to live in the bucolic mountains.We also like to be around and learn from a truly diverse community, because that is how to really learn to make art.To suggest that we all insulate ourselves into small communities and only perform for each other? Means that your student production of the Bronx-set Marisol should not exist. You have a white woman playing Marisol, a fact which I'm sure would make Rivera cringe. Under your reasoning, you and the small, very white community in which you live and work could not possibly understand his work."
First, let me be clear: I am not suggesting that artists cannot come from NYC to work in other communities. What I am suggesting is that this requires acculturation -- the artists need to understand where they are. We generally condemn cultural imperialism in the guise of, say, the British creating colonies in Africa and forcing the native people to conform to their ideas regarding behavior, religion, and social mores. But this is often how NYC artists behave -- like they are going to come to the "provinces" and bring their culture with them, and the audience needs to bow to their greater sophistication.
Let's look at something like color in painting. Look at the use of color in painting done in NYC versus painting done in, say, Bermuda. The colors are different because the color of the place is different, and this is true even in painting that are not landscapes. If you want to instantly be identified as a tourist in NYC, arrive wearing a teal jacket; very quickly, you adapt to your surroundings, dressing in shades of black and grey. Why should this be any different than personal rhythms, worldviews, or interpersonal relations? Would Faulkner have written differently had he not grown up in the South? Would Emerson have sounded differently if he wasn't in New England?
Yes, I know that NYC is where the work is, but does that have to be the case? If we were a truly healthy theatrical community, wouldn't actors be able to live all over this country? And wouldn't that be better for the communities in which they live? When is it that we begin to value artists who live in our community? When is it that we stop looking to NYC to validate our work? Why is it that a wonderful production by a regional theatre only seems wonderful if it transfers to NYC? There is an old joke: "There is no God, and Jesus is His name." Well, to paraphrase: there is no national theatre in America, and Broadway is its name. It is time for the arts to grow up in our nation and become truly national. We are a huge country with a rich populace. It is time to stop thinking about anytyhing east of the Hudson as the "provinces," which is what you are saying when you say anything not from NYC smacks of "provincialism."
And yes, NYC is a more diverse community than Asheville, and that is wonderful. It is something that ought to be reflected in the art that is made there. And Asheville needs to relate to the diversity that is here -- and believe me, despite your lack of knowledge, Asheville is diverse. It has a sizable Hispanic population, and large number of Russian immigrants, as well as a sizable black population. But it isn't NYC by any stretch.
By the way, you are wrong about the woman playing Marisol -- her father is South American. You should be careful about jumping to conclusions in order to make a point. That said, I assume that when you do a play, you will cast according to strict racial lines. For instance, if you do Long Day's Journey Into Night, you will only cast Irish actors in the roles, and a production of Antony and Cleopatra will have an Egyptian Cleopatra. A question, though: even if we had only had white actors to play the roles in Marisol, would it have been better to have not done the play at all? Wouldn't that have opened us up to accusations of "provinicialism"?
I think you raise a valid point, though: did Marisol have anything to say to Asheville? It is a question I, as an artist, should ask myself. The answer may be yes, but the question must be asked nonetheless. That's the point I'm trying to make -- that because I live in the community that I am addressing, I have a better chance of answering that question than someone who sweeps in from somewhere else.
I am not asking you to leave NYC, nor am I dissing NYC theatre. I am suggesting that we need to expand our system of valuation to include other worlds than Manhattan.