Is this true? Is it significant? What does it mean to Seattle in its struggle to become a world class theatre town?
I have to admit, for all my complaining about lack of institutional support for new work, especially outside New York City, I was still shocked when I read this in Scott Waters blog, Theatre Ideas (crucial reading as far as I’m concerned):
"I make my living now as a screenwriter! Which I’m surprised and horrified to find myself saying, but I don’t think I can support myself as a playwright at this point. I don’t think anybody does." -- Tony Kushner, in Time Out.
My question to you: if Tony Kushner, who I would argue is the best playwright in America today, can't support himself as a playwright, can anybody? And if not, should Kushner's statement be seen as an earthquake that might lead to the examination of the overall theatre business model?
Over a year ago, at Seattle’s Outrageous Fortune discussion, one of our Big House Artistic Administrators stood up in defense of his theatre’s relative neglect of new work development by saying, “We are looking for excellence and we’re just not finding it.” At the time, outraged as I was, I thought he was just talking about local playwrights. But now I understand he really meant everywhere and everyone. When Seattle’s Big Houses claim to want to address vital current issues, they go one of two ways: they mount one-person shows like I am Rachel Corrie and The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, or they yank a “classic” off the shelf and say, “Here, Glengary Glen Ross shows us something relevant about the recent mortgage meltdown that had its epicenter a mile and a half south of here at the WaMu Tower.” When, of course, it does nothing of the sort.
Somehow this nation can support hundreds upon hundreds of regional theatre artistic directors, managing directors, development directors and adjunct staff—a whole class of workers that can only be described as “artistic administrators”; but even our very best writer for the stage must go to film and television for his bread and butter.
We all nod sagely and agree the system’s broken. But if you want to fix it—do more than watch sadly as it dies the death of ragdoll—then I continue to suggest you follow the money and ask impolite questions.