I'm sorry I had to miss Mike Daisey's one-time-only showing at the Public's Under The Radar of his latest solo think-piece: "How Theatre Failed America." (I'm just glad he doesn't appear to have blamed me!) But luckily Isaac Butler went and wrote about it.
First on Daisey's list... The Outsourcing of Artistic Talent, Particularly Actors. [...] So what Daisey essentially says (And I agree) that the original regional theater model of rep companies has basically devolved into a system in which theaters import all of their artists from other places (mainly New York) and put on shows. And what they don't get about this is that although they think the quality of the show will be "better" and although it's cheaper because they don't have to pay a rep company's salaries etc... No one in the communities they perform for has any real connection to the work they're doing because the casts and crews are these anonymous interchangeable people who rarely come back and with whom you have no connection.My own experience working for regional theatre bears this out. I was amazed when I first noticde more local audience (and even press!) enthusiasm for the "amateur" community theatre across the street from us. But then I realized how important the "community" in "community theatre" is in that case. And we had none.
Think how much the New York audience benefits from seeing various actors and directors grow and stretch from project to project. We compare them to each other, dream up "fantasy casts" for great revivals. At most regional theatres, the subscribers know each other a lot more than the people on stage. Here it's often the opposite!
Of course, there are economic obstacles to the sustaining of permanent acting pools in various cities. A Chicago actor can eek it out. Probably many in DC and Minneapolis, too. But if there isn't a sit-down rep company, or enough companies & local activity to provide steady employment, then you're looking at part-time actors. This is why anyone serious about pursuing a full-time stage acting career has to set up camp in NY, since that's where the jobs are. And if the jobs bring the actors here, then that's where everyone else, including the regionals, will have to come to see them. So it's where the auditions are, as well, for every imaginable regional production, road company, and cruise gig.
Anyway, it seems like just one of many important issues in Daisey's show, which I look forward to catching in its next appearance. Meanwhile Isaac actually already hosted a dialogue about the regional/acting pool question, so I heartily recommend revisiting that (both here and here) for more perspectives. And here's a West Coast take from my friends at Theatre Bay Area.