WSJ.com - Regional Theater's Glamour Gap:
The success of these shows points to another part of the problem, which is that too many people think of regional theater as a place where promising plays are tried out, the worthiest of which eventually find their way to New York. Sometimes that's true -- but not often. Broadway, after all, only has room for a certain number of new productions each season, and the fearsomely high cost of presenting a show in New York means that most producers are inclined to play it safe. If you want to keep up with the latest and best in regional theater, you've got to go where the action is, not wait for it to come to you.
When a museum in Los Angeles or Philadelphia puts on a major exhibition, nobody in the world of art assumes it to be second-rate merely because it doesn't travel to the Metropolitan Museum. The same thing ought to be true of a theatrical production. That's why the time has come for American playgoers -- and, no less important, arts editors -- to start treating regional theater not as a minor-league branch of Broadway but as an artistically significant entity in and of itself. Take it from a critic who now spends much of his time living out of a suitcase: If you don't know what's hot in "the stix," you don't know the first thing about theater in 21st-century America.