To refresh everyone's memory, Tom wrote this. I responded thus. In the comments, Tom said this (largely without edit):
In the first place, I'd like to say that many of my writings have little in common with what I actually do in my day-to-day teaching. They are things I think about, toss over in my head, muse about. I share them in my blogs partly as a way to clear my head, partly as a way to think things through, and partly as a way to make other artists think about these things. These are not necessarily things I say in class, but when I do say them, I always preface them with a caution that these are my personal opinions and observations, that they are not gospel, and they can take them or leave them. I even offer them the possibility of considering that my opinions are, as has been suggested here, the rantings of a bitter old man - I do not hide that possibility from them. What I actually do - every single day - is my best to prepare them for the careers they aspire to - every facet of those careers that I can think of. Obviously, you have only my word for that as well, but if you'd like to investigate it, please do. There are many Fredonia alums in NYC.And now this from Scott. This is normally the part where I profess my respect and affection for Scott and my support, though qualified for his positions. But...I'm feeling ornery, so not this time. I think this whole line of...whatever is crap. And, before you start in (and by "you," I mean Scott) with this being about me defending NYLACHI's evil, evil ways, I think it's crap because it's an impossibly, ridiculously and utterly out of touch way of looking at the business of acting and the ways actors make money and live in places like New York. In fact, I think it shows an odd fixation with NYLACHI (and essentially Broadway) as being the way Scott and Tom measure success.
For the record, it is absolutely and unequivocally my practice every single day in my classroom to do whatever is in my power to help my students succeed in reaching whatever goals they set for themselves. In the particular case I quoted in my TACT blog, the young man in question was in my office just yesterday where I had a 30-minute discussion with him talking about his talent, his potential for success, and what he needed to do to make his dream come true. We also talked about the scene he had just done, which was in fact pretty good. Never once did I say to him, "You're untalented and foolish and you should think about digging ditches." I made sure he understood how difficult it was, that the odds were not in his favor, and that he would have to have no small amount of pure luck, but he was bringing some good qualities to the table. Never did I express to him I thought he was being unrealistic. Frankly, that's none of my business, and he is paying me to help him succeed. You'll have to take my word that I did that as well.
In other words, the portrait about my teaching practices being painted here have no foundation in reality to them. They are assumptions readers and commentators have made; none of them have actually seen me teach. These assertions and assumptions have been drawn from the private ramblings that go on in my head, the various things I think about and write about. I would encourage the readers of my writings to assume the opposite - that I keep my private thoughts and my classroom practices largely separate, and generally I offer my own private thoughts to my students only when pressed. You, as a reader, are actually getting to read things going on in my head that my students almost never hear (unless they are reading my blogs as well, which could be possible, but I am not aware that is happening). I teach in a pre-professional program, and that's what I train my actors for, but I make sure they understand every single aspect of that career, its warts as well as its rewards. I am working to change that, working to be able to offer alternatives, and working to find those kinds of students interested in a different approach to doing theatre in this country. I don't like the waste of talent I see in this country - it's not sustainable. When I have the kinds of students interested in sustainable, community-grounded theatre, I will leave the pre-professional training to others, and I will switch my practices and focus on giving those students the kind of education they want.
First off, I will say this: I was wrong to imply or even state that Tom's post was or should be taken as a reflection of his teaching style or attitude. I don't know how he teaches or the way he conducts himself in front of his students and I shouldn't imply anything about that. And, yes, I do understand that a blog post can be a good way to blow off steam or give voice to the things you don't think you can say in other situations. That said, I do think it's naive to think that, if you're blogging under your own name, that your students don't know about it. Playing the "I don't know if they ever read it" card is just abdicating responsibility. So, apologies, Tom.
But Tom's teaching isn't the actual question. The question is the attitude underneath it.
So Scott and Tom think it's nuts for 1,000 people to line up for an open call for Hair on Broadway. It's a sign of NYC being bloated and over-run with young actors who are just wasting their talent at auditions for a limited number of roles that they're pursuing, at least in part, because of a TV-fed desire to get famous. The numbers, odds and systemic barriers to they're ever appearing on Broadway make it just ridiculous for them to try, so we need to re-think our entire system, which is based on actors dreaming of appearing on Broadway.
Okay. Where do we start? I guess, I start with Dennis' video. Yep, that's a lot of people! And yep, Equity open calls have a lot of people there! And yep, an actor needs to take all day sometimes to go to one. I've known people who couldn't, people who had to leave, people who got screwed over by it. I'm not saying it's the fairest way of doing things, but you know, job interviews for any position rarely are. We also don't get a sense of who got seen, what the experience was like, what happened next for any of them. Did any of them get cast? How many? How many parts were they looking to fill? The full cast of Hair is 32 people. Not great odds, no, but not the worst in the world. One three minute video of a lot of people doesn't actually tell a story, other than there are a lot of people who want to be in a Broadway show. We don't even know what kind of training, if any, these folks have. We know nothing about them except they want to be in a show. We don't know if any of them are already in shows or have other arts jobs or
My issue here, though, is with Scott and Tom's very, very narrow definition of success and waste. Not being on Broadway, not winning an Academy Award is a waste, is talent thrown away. Scott fixates narrowly on the unemployment rate for Actors Equity as the definition of success. As far as Scott's concerned, New York theatre begins at 40th St and ends at 53rd, in a way that, as a New York theatre artist (and a native New Yorker) is not what's it like here.
This isn't the part where I say how great the talent is here. That's not what it's about. It's about the path of an artist and the path of an actor and that there are lots of ways and roads to satisfying work. From outside of NY, maybe it looks like making it to Broadway is the goal of everyone, but from here, you know what? It's not. I'm not saying the city is swimming in lucrative acting jobs, but there are other paths and options. And some of them don't involve the stage at all. And I don't see it as a waste.
It can be a struggle and there are trade-offs and hard choices involved. And, yeah, some people wind up leaving the field. But that's going to happen, no matter what. And some do go back to small communities and form theatres. And you know what? Some get jobs in television. Some make commercials. There are a whole raft of things between not acting and being famous, a whole lot of other ways of being successful. I think that Scott and Tom get that, but instead focus entirely on the narrowest bandwidth as "successful" and want that bandwidth to stay just as narrow, but move a few spots down the dial.
I really don't understand the whole attitude. I actually I do understand it. It's bitterness. When people say, "no one owes you a career in the arts," it's that bitterness that they're responding to. We're all familiar with the stereotypical acting teacher who couldn't make it and pushes his or her students to succeed. This feels to me like the flip side of the same coin. I'm sorry to say it, but it does.
I think CRADLE's a grand thing, I do. And necessary. But if these guys want to stop the madness...well, stop the madness. Let it go. The kids will be all right.