An abbreviated version of the Letter to the Editor of American Theatre Magazine has been published in the current issue. It is placed along side a letter written by Dr. Scott Walters and an informative letter by Mark Valdez, national coordinator for the Network of Theater Ensembles.
Teresa Eyring also replies saying (it is edited for space):
In the beginning of his performance, he [Mike Daisey] talks about an artistic director who advised that the title wasn’t quite right. But oops…too late. In any event, I was intrigued by the idea that theater could be powerful enough to fail America (as opposed to failing a particular city or group of artists or students or its own values). And it inspired me to choose a similarly hyperbolic title for my coloumn in order to reflect the ways that theater has impacted American life to the positive. I have also written about-and will continue to write about-the troubles and the failures in our system, such as the Feb. ’08 (correction it is Jan. ’08) coloumn on actors’ compensation and underemployment (which recieved exactly zero discussion in the blogosphere). My intention with this particular coloumn was not to dismantle Daisey’s entire premise, but rather shine a light on what is often neglected but very vibrant part of our ecosystem.
After her suggestion I read the January ’08 article “Actors and Money“. There did not seem to be much to the article except for the one known fact that actors do not get paid well, if at all. One positive note, there is one scholarship for actors out there, The Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships, administered by TCG. Eyring also mentions, “According to Actorsâ€™ Equity Association, just 18,000 of its 47,000 members were working in 2006â€“07, with the average number of work weeks at 17 weeks per actor in a year. Nearly 70 percent of these working actors earned $15,000 or less from work on stage; just 6 percent earned more than $75,000.” That leaves 29,000+ actors in need of the fellowship. I don’t think the Fox Foundation has a budget the size of say the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.Â Also the requirement for the fellowship is that the applicant has to be working with a theater associated with TCG.Â I am curious to know how many of the 30% of actors currently working are working with TCG theaters.Â The article ends on what I think is a somber note. The executive director of Actors’ Equity is going “reach out to the theatre community to discuss how we can make progress for actors and theatres through new ways of thinking about these issues in a world that is rapidly changing.” I am all for dialogue, but I wonder if it is the type of dialogue that is going to ever reach the benefit of the artists.
I recommended a type of dialogue the TCG could spearhead and support. Devoting a whole issue to this topic, but they did not respond or include the recommendation in the published letter. I especially liked the idea that they include Mike Daiseyâ€™s monologue How Theatre Failed America in the issue so that people who were not able to see the show can determine for themselves if the show is really all that hyperbolic. I guess the magazine can only have one “hyperbolic” article per issue. My main concern is that the American Theater magazine continues this discussion in a way that goes from one personâ€™s editorial to the whole magazine being a conduit of opinions, from all aspects of the theater community, so that one day we can go from discussion to deconstruction to action and then to a re-birth of the American regional theater that recognizes the need to care for the artists as people and not a commodity to be used and tossed away.
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