Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From the Managing Director: Supporting local art

I love the Puget Sound theater community. I’ve been part of it in Seattle for over thirty years, since I graduated from a small liberal arts college here in Washington state. I’ve watched the community grow and expand from a few small theaters, each with their own specific identity, to a many-tiered ecology of Fringe, mid-level, corporate giant, and a few in between. Add into that the many and various improvisation companies, puppet companies, single-actor-show festivals, musicians-who-make-theater groups, actors-who-create-music groups, summer park show companies…the list goes on and on. I’ve seen strong artistic companies fail for lack of good administration. I’ve seen big wealthy companies do consistently poor theater and go on doing so because of strong administrative support.

The one thing that runs through the whole magilla is the audience. The Puget Sound theater community couldn’t have grown, changed, evolved in the way it has the last thirty years without the audience support. Seattle loves its theater. Seattle loves its actors, and by extension its directors, lighting technicians, stage managers, costumers, etc, etc. I suspect it even loves its arts administrators. I know I am proud of the community, of all the talented and mostly pretty nice people I know and have worked with over the years.

I do get frustrated, I will confess. I think that Seattle has an inferiority complex of a sort. Seattle seems to think that if something or someone comes from elsewhere, it must be better. If an athlete comes from another city, he must be better than our athletes. If one of our athletes becomes a star, why, she has to move on to another city’s team. I know a lot of that is economics, but whatever happened to team loyalty? (Thank goodness for Ichiro.) I watch some of the larger wealthier corporate theaters bring in actors from another city. They must be better than our city’s actors, they are living elsewhere: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco. The opposite flow is true: if an actor or director or technician is good, he or she moves to New York. Or San Francisco. Or whatever. Again, some of this is economics, but whatever happened to loyalty?

Maybe I’m naïve. But I would rather support a local theater worker than one who comes in for one show, gets a lot of press, and heads back to Chicago. Especially when they are a friend or a relative, since when I see the show I think that there are almost always three local theater community people who could have done the role as well or better.

I look with great hope toward the recent movement towards locally-grown food. Local food is fresher. Local food is a known quality. Buying local means keeping the money in the local economy. Perhaps it will spread to our theaters. Local actors are known. Local actors don’t need to be housed: they live here. Local actors spend their paychecks in the local economy. Loyalty.

And so the Puget Sound theater ecology keeps healthy.

-Keith Dahlgren, Managing Director

1 comment:

  1. Given a choice, I almost always decide to support the truly local theatre production, not the one cast with carpetbaggers from NY, Chicago or LA.

    When companies go that route, they weaken the local theatre community they should be trying instead to build. And I don't like supporting their shortsighted choices.