To all of you who first encountered Theatre Ideas as a result of the protracted debate concerning "geographism," welcome, and I hope you will continue reading now that things have gotten a bit quieter.
I wanted to write a few words about this blog.
Theatre Ideas is based on a single premise: something is deeply wrong with the state of the American theatre, and without radical change it will continue its slide into irrelevance. As Al gore says in An Inconvenient Truth, quoting Winston Churchill, we have passed the "era of procrastination" and are now in an "era of consequences." It is no longer enough to simply "do the work," one must reconceive the context, refashion the business model, revise the purpose, and refocus the values.
This blog is devoted to several principles, which are regularly accosted by those invested, for whatever reason, in maintaining the status quo. They are:
1. Decentralization. We are a nation of 50 states and 300 million people, and it is disastrous to have a single city serve as the clearing house for a national theatre. Regional theatres should cast regional artists, hire regional directors and designers, and be run by regional producers. The shuttle to NY must stop.
2. Localization. Connected to number one above, regionally-based theatres should encourage the development of local aesthetics. Regional theatres should not be like malls -- the same no matter where you are in the country. The choice of plays, the artistic staff, and the experience itself should reflect the place where the theatre is based. The Era of McTheatre must end.
3. Solidification of the Relation to the Audience. If the theatre is decentralized, and if the aesthetic reflects a local aesthetic, then it follows that the relationship of the artist to the community must be a close one. Artists must be a part of the community in which they live, and fully participate in the life of the community. Arts ghettos, where artists huddle together and only speak to each other, but be opened up to let the voices of individual people into the conversation. The Romantic idea of the artist as outsider, as mysterious stranger, must be replaced by the much older idea of the artist as community voice and leader.
4. The Improvement of Society. The theatre must be committed to making the community in which it lives better. The artist must take responsibility for the effects of his or her art on the community, and strive to create art that makes that community stronger, more caring, more inclusive, and more hopeful. The stories we tell about ourselves create our reality. We are homo narrens. We should act like it. The purpose of art is to entertain and enlighten.
5. Revisioning of the Business Model. Theatre is currently made in the same way an assembly line makes automobiles. A small number of people are involved in the larger decisions, and the rest do their own little part of the process. Each production is created in a predetermined, short amount of time, and productions are run continuously until they are replaced by a newer model. It is time to examine other models, whether this be Daniel Quinn's tribes (see Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure) or some other model.
For additional views, see my interview on the Theatre is Territory blog.
I hope that you will continue to read Theatre Ideas. While occasionally theatre bloggers will descend upon me like a plague of locusts usually in response to any statements that threaten the NYC dominance, normally this blog is a place where new ideas can be considered with commitment and imagination.
Again, welcome to Theatre Ideas.