Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Backwards and Forwards

So read this. And then read this. Can you spot any actual difference between the two sentiments about the future of the American theatre? I really can't. But this is "controversial." And this is not. Huh. Go figure.

I've actually spent a couple of days trying to figure out if I even really care. I like Young Jean Lee a lot. I like her writing, what I've seen of it and I certainly like her personally and dig her vibe. So I'm certainly not inclined to rip her. Which meant I had to think about it for a while to make sure I wasn't giving her a pass.

It is definitely hard to hear a smart, talented and pretty successful writer call theatre a backwards art form. But...can you really fault her? It is a bit of a weird, backwards regressive thing these days. Every thing she says about the brain drain is right on. When we talk about it, and I know I fall into it, we tend to put the onus on the writer. The writers are just trying to make it to Hollywood for the fat TV cash and looking for the pay day, we tell ourselves. But Jason's right in the comments: it's become the ass-backwards way to actual freedom as a playwright.

What I find interesting is the way that she basically calls theatre out as entertainment for rich people, but then goes right into how little the artists get paid. If there's a word for this, it's regressive. And, yeah, that's right on.

But what really hurts is that she kind of calls out the folks working in theatre as the remainders. That does indeed sting. Essentially, if you haven't landed a TV gig, you're writing sub-Two and A Half Men jokes and being paid pennies for the privilege. That's a hard pill to swallow. If there's anything, that's controversial, it's that. But, hey, who hasn't said that the theatre's full of hacks these days?

And maybe it's the place. Not in a magazine that's primarily for theatre folks, but in a national magazine. Airing a little bit of dirty laundry, there, aren't you? That might be what's got folks riled up.

But you can't really fault her. Someone has to say this stuff.

(Yeah, yeah...via.)

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