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August 6, 2008, by

How American Theatre saved american theatre

American monologuist and regional theatre reform advocate Mike Daisey has thrown down a blistering response to Theatre Communications Group executive director Teresa Eyring’s How Theatre Saved America, which was published in the current issue of American Theatre.

Eyring argues that the current repertory model in the U.S. is in fine working order:

“Many actors – instead of performing in several shows with a single theatre company in the same season – construct year-round employment by performing in different theatres throughout the year.”

Daisey disagrees:

“If actors manage to create community and continuity IN SPITE OF the institutions, no credit for that reflects back on theaters that refuse to support artists in a meaningful fashion: with staff positions, with health insurance, with a modicum of respect and dignity earned by working craftsman anywhere. Dribs and drabs of roles given when artists can jump for them are no substitute for real institutional support, and to claim otherwise is absurd.”

Daisey ends with a challenge to the magazine to devote an entire issue to the concerns raised in his hit monologue, How Theatre Failed America, opening its pages to “informed bloggers and theatrical luminaries.”

University of North Carolina drama professor and oft-quoted theatre blogger Scott Walters agrees enthusiastically with the suggestion, here.

What do you think? Are theatre’s regional institutions looking out for the artists? Or are they simply working to preserve their own outdated apparatus?

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  1. Michael Wheeler says:

    I am obviously pro-Daisey, but what really shocks me is how facile Eyring’s comments were. The way she uses anecdotal evidence would get you a failing grade on an undergraduate level essay.

    That, and the notion that theatre has ALREADY SAVED America. The way Daisey takes her to task for that indefensible statement is probably worth reading both the pieces for.

  2. Michael Wheeler says:

    This is actually quite sad.
    I just clicked on the link to the first regional company that Eyring cites as proof that small ensembles are thriving in America:
    Theatre de la Jeune Lune.

    The company’s homepage (linked to by TCG) announces that after 16 years the company will be ceasing operations and selling its building.

    Sucks. I remember hearing really great things about that company. Something tells me America isn’t SAVED yet.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That’s terrible. And you can’t get any more Middle America than Minneapolis, MN.

    Never mind Shakespeare. Theatre in general is yesterday’s man.

  4. Obsidian Theatre says:

    I had read about this about a week ago.

    It was a sad story full of artistic conflict and that old favourite…borrowing against a facility.

    The regional system here in Canada is also in a strange state of affairs as economics are driving the number of shows produced as well as the number of out of town actors that can be brought in.