Friday, March 06, 2009

From Martin Dockery, whose show THE SURPRISE is currently running in NYC:

I just spent about a half-hour scrolling down your site, reading what you had to say about MFA tuitions obligating debt ridden graduates to get a job outside of poorly paying theater. It's an opinion I've always held myself.

When I entered Columbia for an MFA in playwriting, I was a year out of college and didn't have any decent appreciation of the money my father would be paying for me to go there. By the end, though, 3 years later, I was appalled to realize the massive amounts of debt my classmates had taken on for this degree - which didn't actually teach anyone how to make a career of theater. I mean, we had playwriting workshops and other courses which were, in essence, filler to round out the degree.

All this for some advanced degree that, outside of teaching, would make no difference to anyone. But we weren't there to become teachers. Or, like you pointed out, were we? And surely the administrators knew this. And the professors, as well.

I don't blame anyone for teaching, but they should be aware that they are complicit in perpetuating a system that bankrupts the very artists who are most enthusiastic about this particular art. That they are obligating them to become teachers who will be forced to perpetuate the same system further.

And in the end, what, really are people being taught? How to write? How to act? These are not disciplines that, for the most part, can be taught, I believe. You either have an innate talent, or you don't, and it is experience alone that allows you to improve upon it. (But this is another argument.)

Imagine if all that tuition money were instead put towards establishing small theater companies that mounted their own productions? People would really learn how to create sustainable, vibrant theater.