The Playgoer: "Regional" Theatre= American Theatre

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Regional" Theatre= American Theatre

Terry Teachout asks the right question: "why are America’s best regional theater companies not as well known as our museums, symphony orchestras, and opera companies?"

For more, he points us to his freely available WSJ column on the topic here. Money quote:

When a museum in Los Angeles or Philadelphia puts on a major exhibition, nobody in the world of art assumes it to be second-rate merely because it doesn't travel to the Metropolitan Museum. The same thing ought to be true of a theatrical production. That's why the time has come for American playgoers -- and, no less important, arts editors -- to start treating regional theater not as a minor-league branch of Broadway but as an artistically significant entity in and of itself.

As I've said, we already have an American National Theatre, performing the finest plays by our finest trained artists, maintaining a national repertory. It's just not in New York, and not in any one city.

Just ask any good New York actor, director, or designer who spends most months out of the year on the road.


Anonymous said...

Maybe if the regional theaters didn't often regard themselves as Bway tryout houses, nobody else would either.

Playgoer said...

Well, be fair. Maybe SOME do. Yes, Jack O'Brien's Old Globe, Nicholas Martin's Huntington, and a few others have set their sights on B'way. Most others I'm sure dream of a show going there. Many take projects on (with attached "enhancement money") under the promise that a producer really intends to "move" the show.

But that's not even a realistic opportunity for 3/4 of all LORT theatres. And of the other 1/4 maybe one show a season is designed that way.

I believe the best antidote to anonymous's complaint is to celebrate more the everyday work done in regional theatres, and not just cover them when they invite critics expressly to promote a B'way transfer. (Which seems to constitute the Times's regional coverage, for instance.)

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Totally. My only point is that the regional theaters are themselves often comlicit in this nasty business. There's nothing "regional" about regional theaters for the most part. With few exceptions, they do many of the same shows, typically those that have proven successful in New York already and that have small (ie inexpensive) casts. When they do new plays in a major way, they have an eye on a Bway transfer.
Solution: abolish capitalism.

Scott Walters said...

Anonymous is blaming the victim. Because of the lack of coverage of regional theatre productions, one way that the feel they can raise their profile is through a Broadway transfer. The belief, borne out too often in reality, is that donors, foundations, and patrons will take their theatre more seriously (and they will give more generously) once they have the Broadway stamp of approval.

Anonymous said...

True, within a particular circular system and mindset. But not true for those few brave theaters that take their LOCAL status seriously. More generally, the regional theaters can make the choice to opt out of the system and work on a smaller scale.

freespeechlover said...

Can;t we make New York city the nation's capital and dump D.C.?