Thursday, November 29, 2012

Scott Walters: The Wal-Marting of American Theater:

Instead of local arts organizations run by and staffed by artists whose lives are made within a specific community and whose artistic vision is informed by that community, Wal-Mart-style regional theaters and their big-box counterparts, the touring houses who sell Broadway remounts, import generic artists from NYC to do generic plays for a short run after which they depart never to be seen again, taking the community's money with them. This is the system being celebrated by Beth Leavel, as well as every theater instructor who dazzles their young charges with visions of Tony Awards. This is the system that monologist Mike Daisey dissected in How Theater Failed America.

Admittedly, only a fool would assert that New York City isn't currently the dominant city of the American theater, in the same way that Wal-Mart is the dominant retailer. But many would argue that Wal-Mart isn't good for America, and I would argue that neither is Wal-Mart theater. And like the business leaders and legislators who promote Wal-Mart as an economic engine bringing jobs to depressed areas despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, theater artists and educators who continue to promote this system are contributing to the homogenization of the American theater.