Zachary has posted in my comments box a response to the rather heated discussion we have been having concerning his article, "Our Own New Deal: Planting Roots for American Theatre" over at the Brooklyn Rail website. As usual, Zachary makes an elegant case for his ideas, sans the table-thumping to which I am all-too-often prone. He writes:
"I'd like to comment on a few of your comments to clear some things up that seem to have gone astray...I'd like to get back to the original topic at hand.
First of all - I AM saying that we need to leave NYC. No, I am not holding a gun to anyone's head, but I do believe that we need to go. And I'll tell you why...
Matt says: "Zack wants those of us who live in New York to bring our enlightened sensiblities to the world outside NYC. I'm just not sure they need us to do that..."
While I thank Matt for his kind words, I believe that he is misrepresenting what I am trying to say, and perhaps it is my fault for the way I intended my ideas. I don't want "intelligent" NYers to take our "smart" ideas to the "stupid" people of the outside world. What I do want is for ideas to be shared, and mixed. I believe that I am right, the way I live my life and produce my theatre, etc...and those in Kanasas or wherever believe they are right, the way they live their lives and produce their art and whatnot. The problem I see is that there is no national discourse on this, or rather, no local, community-level discourse happening. I don't think either of us are right - what is right is in the middle - and I want to find that. I believe this is due to the fact that over the last 50 years, like-minded people have consistently moved to parts of the country where their are others who think and live like they do. I believe this is has largely led to the current red vs. blue mentality of the country as a whole. Just as there is no discourse when people come to see my shows and nod in agreement with, say, an anti-war sentiment, there is no discourse when we when we discuss the problems of the country in bars where the people having the conversation agree that Bush is great, or Bush is bad, or any other large topic debated in bars. We need to mix the pool.
Now - why should we do this? Becuase, I believe, it is the artists' responsibility to bring new ideas to new people. That is our "job". I am sick and tired of producing politically leftist theatre for politically leftist people. If you do not produce this type of theatre, and if you are not of a leftist state of mind - then I say - STAY in NYC. Otherwise, time to leave.
As theatre artists we understand that conflict is what creates a successful scene, let us now project this into the entire theatergoing experience. While many of our projects call for social change on a massive level, we must understand that the city we play in is the closest pinnacle of what we preach. Therefore, if our mission goes a step further, and we believe that we are a service to the community we play in just as much as we are an emotional and physical outlet, the next logical step is to play in front of an audience who can teach us just as much as we can teach them. A symbiotic relationship with our audience is what we strive for, and we will see the most results through a relationship with audiences elsewhere than where we congregate in vast artistic communities.
Josh hates the fact that he can't have 2 dudes kissing on stage in Iowa. So what do you do? You say fuck it and move to NY? Shouldn't you work on trying to solve that problem rather than abondoning it and letting it fester, getting worse and worse as the years go on? You don't like the fact that you don't have freedom to put on these types of plays in these places - then go and create that freedom, and then put them on. I do not see the point of producing another play where 2 guys kiss each other in NYC when almost every play from Off-Off to Broadway has some sort of "shocking" thing like that in it that would not play to those in Iowa. Isn't this arrogance? And you may say there's nothing wrong with that - that it is your choice - you want to get paid to be a writer where you can have the freedom to produce your work. Great. But the people coming to see your work are not your target audience, unless, as I've suggested before - you don't care about your audience and you simply want a paycheck.
We have to think about our work on a larger scale, and Scott has said this again and again and I thank him for his unwavering support of my ideas. There are larger causes out there than being a professional writer, I'm sorry, and I for one have no interest in that. The system is fucked up - we all know this - you guys write about it on your blogs everyday. And then people like me read them - and I agree with you already - so what's the point of writing about them if you're not doing anything about them?
Fact of the matter is: We must change the way we do theatre, and the places we do theatre. Period. Otherwise, I agree with Scott that theatre as we know it will die very quickly, and then we're all screwed. We have to act - now. And it will take a great deal of sacrifice. Yes, you will not get paid for a while and yes, you will lose your freedom for a while, and yes - your comforts will be displaced for a while - but it is for the greater good. Artists are idealists - otherwise you're just a whore. We must be striving for something larger at all times.
I want a real discourse - like this one, perhaps - where we are talking from different perspectives - not the same. I want to take my ideas to Wichita because I know people there will disagree with them. I want to strenghten my ideas by debating with them - because I know I'm not right about everything, and they will help me to understand that. And then I improve my ideas based on their suggestions. And vice-versa for them.
What it comes down to for me - this country is operating extremely wrong - and we, as artists, can do something about that - but not if we stay in our big cities hiding away from those "hicks who just don't get it." Theatre must have an audience, and don't you want the best audience? Or do you just want people to come see your shows and comment on the artistic values of it - when clearly you're after a larger point? I don't want my ego stroked - I want to make a change. "