Thursday, March 27, 2008

Exile in the Alley?

Scott Walters, in his last few posts, has taken on the New York Centrism of American Theatre Magazine. In one post, the Managing Editor, Sarah Hart has responded.

Today, Scott responds to some comments about his methodology of labelling articles that mention regional theatre, but are written by New York writers, New York Centric.

He says that it is all in the tone. As an example, he talks about a recent article profiling Edward Albee, written by a New York University professor. The article mentions the Alley Theatre in Houston Texas. but don't be fooled, cautions Walters:

In American Theatre, this surfaces in articles like the cover story about Edward Albee written by Carol Rocamora, a New York University professor, who refers to Albee's "distinguished 15-year teaching career at the University of Houston, where that city's Alley Theatre also gave him a home" as -- get this -- "critical exile." The Alley Theatre, founded by regional theatre pioneer and visionary Nina Vance, is one of the original flagship theatres of the regional movement. It should not be dismissed as a place of exile, least of all in American Theatre. Grinding salt into the wound, Rocamora lionizes the New York-based Off-Broadway Signature Theatre for doing the same thing the Alley Theatre did -- "giving the playwright a new home," and then she concludes the sentence by repeating the same insult: "after a decade of critical exile from New York." While Houston may seem like exile to a New York University professor, for those of us who believe in the value of the regional theatre movement, and who hold to the "anti-capital philosophy" of decentralization described by Zeigler, such throwaway insults are a slap in the face to everything regional theatre stands for.


The use of the word "exile" to describe fifteen years in Houston is an example of such condescension, which assumes a non-Houston audience that would share such an attitude. Poor Edward Albee, stuck in the fourth-largest city in the United States having all his plays performed at a nationally-recognized regional theatre with a 75,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility when he could be being performed in a 160-seat theatre on 42nd Street in New York City. Why, it's just tragic.

With examples like these, I believe that Professor Walters has the publication on the ropes, but to Ms. Hart's defense, she offers that they welcome articles from all over the country.

There are theatre writers everywhere. The blogosphere has shown that. There are probably graduates of Dramatic Theory or Criticism programs living all over the country. Perhaps part of Scott's tribe experiment should involve theatre writing as well. Issue a call for articles from freelancers living in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Houston, Austin, etc. Then, track the articles that have been submitted to American Theatre.

1 comment:

Scott Walters said...

Excellent idea, Art!