Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Cold Hard Truth About MFA's?

Thomas Garvey, over at the Hub Review, takes up the thorny issue of responding to Mike Daisey's proposition that MFA programs are possibly immoral. Daisey suggests that such programs are dubious in how they charge such high tuition to students who will never be able to make the kind of money needed to to repay the loans they must take out to attend.

There is, however, at least one response possible, although it's cold comfort to the students involved: MFA programs keep theatre and theatrical traditions alive past the validity of their economic model. In short, students' tuition is sacrificed not merely to the bank accounts of their professors, but to the preservation of the art form. Now there are those who feel art forms simply should not outlive their economic models - it's an interesting moral quandary, though, for those who feel otherwise, whether or not to exploit the finances of students in order to perpetuate, say, large-scale productions of the classics.

But then there's Daisey's other point - that MFA programs actually harm rather than preserve theatre, by forcing those deep in MFA debt from the very profession they trained for! This argument is less easily disposed of, even though it's worth pointing out that the bills for MFAs don't actually affect the theatre audience, which would have to be the prime mover in any theatrical renaissance.

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