Sunday, April 20, 2008

From a playwright friend:

I also forgot to mention that you're bring misinterpreted in interesting ways, a sure sign that you're making an impact.  Some guy at a reading of mine used your essay as justification for theaters losing their tax-exempt status.  He had this weird Jesse Helms-ish take on it, like "Joe Lunchpail shouldn't subsidize weird art."  Upon reflection, he seemed mostly jealous of institutional theaters, though who knows why he couldn't just apply for 501(c)3 status or use Fractured Atlas like everybody else.  I did find him kind of a smug hipster douchebag, and I've kinda stopped caring whether or not people like me, so I jumped down his throat - like, if not for tax incentives all we'd have is Wicked, and every other industry in America gets subsidized, and why not focus your anger on congressional earmarks and the military-industrial complex, and so on. I actually drove him out of the conversation.  It was really refreshing not to be polite.

There's been a lot of extrapolating and crazy-making from my words, especially the essay, over the last few months—on the whole I'm equanimous about it. Fighting doesn't always equal progress and actual communication, but I do know that silence never does, so if I've increased the signal ratio by encouraging people to actually argue and think about what the American theater means to them and what they want it to be, I'm doing at least part of my job.

I also have a vested interest of lowering the politeness level in theatrical discourse—which, I hasten to add, is not the same as throwing away civility. I've just seen far too many "discussions" that should have been full-voiced arguments, too many passions squelched in the face of institutionalized hopelessness, and just too much damn silence, especially from the artists who live and work within the system. I'd rather see some feelings get hurt, and then people have to make up later and grow closer than the palpable quiet and passive-aggressive silence that I feel is too often the stock and trade of our theater.

7:29 PM