On a whim, I forwarded a link to my post on Rural Theatre, along with my post "A Vision" and the "NEA Google Map" to Bill O'Brien, the NEA spokesman quoted in the Columbus Dispatch article. I received this very kind email in return, and will likely call him later this week. Here it is (quoted with his permission):
Thanks for writing. I enjoyed reading the first blog you linked below a few weeks ago when someone brought it to my attention.
I would love to see your imaginary theatre flourish some day. In a way, it reminds me of the way the Barter Theater was formed, which is one of my favorite stories from the field. It would take someone of considerable passion to steer it along, which I think is true whether you were trying to make vibrant theatre in Asheville, New York or Dubuque.
I said quite a few things to the journalist on this subject that did not make it into the article. I think he did a great job with it for the most part, but I personally don't think it left you with a very accurate impression of prejudices that do or do not exist in me or at the NEA, but I think I can understand how you made some of your observations.
I became engaged in and committed to excellent live theatre while growing up in a farm in Iowa. Much of the most excellent theatre that I have had a hand in producing occurred in modest (to put it lightly), sub-99 seat spaces.
I'd be happy to discuss eligibility requirements, review criteria or any other topic that could help familiarize you with how we fund theater and musical theater projects here at the NEA. If you don't catch me at my desk, I'll call you back as soon as I am able.
Director of Theater and Musical Theater
National Endowment for the Arts
202 682 5510