I think, in the last fifteen years, especially with the rise of the grad program as the sine qua non for playwriting, we've cut ourselves off. It's part of a rising, creeping tide of credentialism.
But it's credentialism with a twist. What we prize are playwrights who don't know what they're doing. The whole push toward "theatricalism" and "inventiveness" (usually for inventiveness' sake) is moving us away from a playwright saying, "How do I want to attack this story?" We're venerating the unconsicous parts of being a playwright and downplaying the conscious acts of an artist. And we don't even want to talk about it. Talk about what that means, and how it affects our theatres, the audiences, the work.
From an institutional standpoint, it's making our theatre narrower and narrower, because as the audiences move away to more engaging forms of art (not necessarily more challenging, but more engaging), the main audience becomes the funders. The rich fat cats and the non-profit staffs and boards who are going to be affected by what they hear about in the Times than what is actually happening on the stage.
I see all of this happening without a robust critical life happening.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The Rise of Credentialism
99 Seats (Emphasis is in the orginal):