Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Response from American Theatre

This was left as a comment on the "Nylachification of American Theatre Magazine" post by Sarah Hart, Managing Editor of American Theatre:

Mr. Walters,

Your concerns about expansive coverage for theatres across the country, regardless of urban proximity, are valid and something we struggle with in every issue. We work to balance a range of diversity over all our issues, including geographic, stylistic, racial, age and size of theatre, while still telling compelling and timely stories. Does it come out evenly in every single issue? Of course not. Does the ongoing reporting in American Theatre show an honest breadth of the work that exists? We hope so.

Still, breaking our national theatre community into reductive statistics is complicated. I doubt an accurate tape measure exists. So many stories reflect national issues and transcend so-called regions. Should we be ghettoizing our writers or training programs because they have a specific address, when their plays or students fan out across America and often internationally? In our April issue is an essay by Wallace Shawn on his writing process; he’s obviously a New York writer, but he reports that his favorite production of his work was done by Rubber Rep in Austin, Tex., whose productions are prominently featured in the issue. Is that a New York story? What about profiles of Julie Marie Myatt and Craig Wright, both playwrights based in Los Angeles, but who have had important productions in Ashland, Ore.; Louisville, Ky.; Houston, Tex.; Washington, D.C.; and Minneapolis, in addition to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Our March issue features the text of a play by Tarell McCraney, who lives in New York, but whose play premiered at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre and takes Louisiana as its setting. He’s interviewed by a Miami-based journalist. Our December cover features a community-oriented production in Arkansas.

That said, I do wonder which features you were counting and which you weren’t; my tabulations come out differently for the January and February issues.

We are eager to receive pitches and press releases from writers and theatres all over the country--from you or from anyone who might read your blog. The more theatres are in communication with us, the more we can look for the right ways and times to cover them.

Sarah Hart, Managing Editor, American Theatre
with the American Theatre staff
I would like a little time to consider my response to this thoughtful and fair comment. If the signature is any indication, and judging from the fact that I sent my original email to Jim O'Quinn, it seems that the staff of the magazine as a group were involved in addressing this question, which is very flattering and, to my mind, shows great willingness to be open to discussion.

Let me clarify my method for delineating the articles, which I also must admit was done fairly quickly. If an article was written by a NY/LA/Chicago-based writer, it went into the Nylachi pile. This included articles by staff members. If the article was about a Nylachi-based artist, or seemed to be receiving attention because of a Nylachi production (regardless of the location of the premiere), that went in the Nylachi pile. As far as the News-in-Brief numbers, I used the datelines as the arbiter.

While I consider my response, if any of my readers would like to communicate with Ms. Hart, please feel free to use the comments box for this post.


isaac said...


I hate to say this, but I think your tallying system was designed in such a way as to ultimately pad your stats in favor of your thesis (That American Theatre is hopelessly NYLACHI slanted). I don't think you did this intentionally, I just mean I think it was methodologically a bit unsound...

If something was about a regional production AND a NY production, shouldn't it at least count for both? And why does something about a production in Kentucky written by someone who lives in NYC considered a NYLACHI article? That one just doesn't make sense to me at all.

Devilvet said...

So, how much NYLACHI outside NYLACHI is too much?


Whereas I dont have anywhere near the consternation I believe Scott has for NYLACHI outside NYLACHI...

I suppose another question raised could be that (gulp) "is any direct NYLACHI link to productions outside Geographical NYLACHI potentially characterized as usurping of Non-NYLACHI opportunity?"

So, Rather than attempting to justify a little NYLACHI connection to a production in Kentucky...the question might be..."Just becuase it happens in Kentucky, does that mean it is god for the Kentuckian Artists?"...i.e. Kentucky Playwrights for Kentucky?

So are there benefits (other than subjective judgements regarding geogrpahical location as indication of quality)...when a little NYLACHI spice is put into the local bar-b-que sauce?

Devilvet said...

...Does the local sauce remain authentically local? Does it not speak to a concern by someone somewhere in power in the local community that local talent is some how less worthy?

Didn't finish my sentence...

If Scott can be accused of padding a article in this arguement...I think American Theatre Magazine might could all depends on your agenda be it conscious or unconscious (BTW "Agenda" does not always equal "mission")

Devilvet said...

On the other hand...what would our scene be like in New Yorkers had too strong a local bias? If they supported fewer international productions or artists who weren't born and raised within a 2 hour train ride of NYC?

Perhaps the reason we see resistance to Scott's notions, is becuase those who are there see they geographical hub less as a region and more as a melting pot...i.e. if you think of NYC as a microcosm of something larger geographically (which doesnt help non-NyLACHI artist commited to staying in their hometown...but I think still expresses the sense many in NYLACHI have, especially those who chose to relocate and are pleased with their decision) Are you able to process the cassandra call of someone like Scott? Does it have to be an us and them arguement?

Is the world truly ready for decentralization, and if a production has any connection to NYLACHI is it decentralized or is it exploitative?

I dont have the answers.