Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Guardian's arts blog is following the MFA discussion I began last week—you can read the post on it here. I must address this statement Chris Wilkinson makes:

"Loughlin's passion demonstrates that Daisey's cynicism about the motivation of many theatre teachers is unfair."

It might, if that were the thrust of what I was saying, but it is not. I am speaking very clearly about the institutional choice to charge tuitions that have no relationship with the craft they are teaching. Individual teacher's complicity with this corrupt system will vary, depending on the specific institution's practices.

Mr. Loughlin's passion, which I commented on previously, demonstrates one thing: that Mr. Loughlin is passionate, which is tremendous and commendable. If a teacher is teaching in an MFA program that charges a tuition its students can never pay through the craft, the onus is on the teacher to justify for his or herself how this can be ethical. Mr. Loughlin understands that, and it's why he published a clear statement about how he works, how he practices his work, and why.

But Daisey is absolutely right that colleges both in America and over here are accepting many students who will never make a career out of acting: these institutions may be responding to the demand they get from people wanting to train, but they take no account of the fact that there simply is not a comparable demand for that number of performers in the industry itself.

I would argue they are also creating a demand, by creating a future generation of theater teachers—a kind of Ponzi scheme, if you will.

What is more depressing is that while Loughlin is right to argue that an education is an end in itself, most people who train as actors see it explicitly as a means to a theatrical career. When the acting doesn't work out, they quickly find that their degree is not valued particularly highly by anyone else.

If teachers of theater at large looked within themselves and held themselves to account, I would be fascinated to see what kind of answers they would give to the state of things. They are, on the whole, silent—and I believe this silence is born out of shame and complicity.

1:14 PM