Theater should challenge audiences, should inspire, incite, educate and agitate. Theater for entertainment sake has its place, but when your season is rife with it, with no cutting edge work to present, then you are playing it safe, and playing to a certain audience, and in the process marginalize the rest.
There are dynamic, talented, energetic playwrights who do such kind of cutting edge work, but cannot break into playhouses, even in their own town, because the gatekeepers – the heads of these respective houses – won’t let them in. They instead would rather showcase the traditional, safe, mainstream, nonthreatening theater, thus denying audiences the opportunity to experience work that opens true and honest conversations. The public wants this, yet theaters rebuke them.
So despite the fact that many theaters are in fact struggling financially, they refuse to acquiesce to the demands of the public, content to wallow in the time honored classics, appealing to their upper class, wealthy, elite base, forgetting that Shakespeare designed his plays for the common people, and that plays featuring black people were designed to depict bitter truths, social issues, joy and resiliency.
And local governments don’t ensure that artists have spaces to rehearse their work, because they don’t see the dollar value in it. Artists cannot afford exorbitant loft spaces, and therefore reside in warehouse and other low rent spaces, which developers descend upon like vultures, buy them up, jack up the prices, move the upper class and wealthy in, and boot the artists out. It is a nefarious process that occurs in major cities throughout the country, and transcends color lines. It hurts all artists.
Art is not only about beautifying the world, it is about employing creativity to make it better. Everyone who is affiliated with art is affected by it, whether you are a producer or a consumer. But America fucks over the arts because it only sees us as a commodity, and our natural challenge to the status quo makes us a target, hence the campaign to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, and even the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
What is our value? The human soul, which is enriched by the arts. You can see it in children, who are transformed by drawing, sculpting, playing an instrument, dancing, writing a poem or short story, and so on. Yet arts programs have to struggle to keep their doors open, and they all clamor for grants to enhance their shoestring budgets. But sports teams will receive the necessary funds, to the elimination of the arts dollars because after all, they are an immediate economic pipeline.
You damn right art speaks. Art has a voice. But the powers that be keep trying to silence it, through fund slashing, venue closures, expensive permits and fees, and so on.
When art becomes a casualty, violence becomes a consequence. When you take from the people a great means to create their own reality, to express themselves, to escape from their respective madness, then you put their backs to the wall, and make them fight.
Open your theaters, gatekeepers. Help us artists to make a difference and save lives. Perhaps even your own.