FlyOver: February 2008 Archives
Joe has raised an interesting issue--one that I would love to do further research on. In fact, I'd love to find a graduate student willing to do some in-depth quantitative research about theater as a career in flyover communities.
For a long time, all I ever heard was that if you wanted to make money in theater, you had to go to Chicago or New York. Lately, I've been wondering if that still holds true. Granted, you're unlikely to become rich or famous working in Michigan. Yet, there has been plenty of interesting anecdotal evidence in which people are moving back to Michigan to pursue theater and arts-related careers because this is where they want to live.
This despite the fact that we've had some pretty rough years as far as arts funding from the government goes. In fact, "pretty rough" is an understatement.
That said, in the past few years, two new Equity houses have opened in the state and I've talked to many performers who are choosing to stay here to make their living. Most of those people are those who can also teach--either at schools or in studio settings. They're also people who are versatile and willing to do commercial and industrial work.
My curiosity is aroused now: What does it take to make a livable career in theater and what sacrifices to you make to do so?
Yesterday afternoon, I saw a production of Miss Evers' Boys.
It was one of those plays that gives you a lot to think about afterward. One of the things that most struck me was this: While the play portrayed Miss Evers in a highly sympathetic manner and helped me to understand why should would make the choices that she made, it didn't change my feeling that her choices were wrong.
In many ways, this was the beauty of the play. It provided all the shadings of gray to help us see beyond the easy outrage that gives people easy deniability ("I would never do such a thing!"). However, even while offering an explanation, it didn't try to justify. Yes, there were lots of shades of gray, but using people as guinea pigs and denying them access to the penicillin that would cure them is still wrong.
Typically, I'm a fairly quick writer. Once the research for my column is done and I've done my pre-writing thinking, I'll spend about a half hour to 45 minutes writing the piece.
However, I've lately felt like I'd fallen into a rut, so I've been taking my Sunday evenings and trying to spend more time with each story.
This past Sunday night, I'd worked on the one half of my column for a couple of hours, writing and rewriting until I finally had something that I was happy with. My husband came downstairs from a nap and I proudly read my lead aloud to him and asked for his opinion.
His reply was short: "It's turgid and heavy handed."
I sighed, re-read it and had to agree that he was right. I thought back to Dominic Papatola's admonition at last year's Institute that if we're in love with a sentence, then we need to cut it because we're too captivated with our own voice.
So back I went and rewrote some more. By the time I finished, the copy was much cleaner and far more focused on the dance concert rather than on how cleverly I could turn a phrase.
It made me realize how fortunate I was to have in my home a critic who would be honest with me rather than simply telling me what I wanted to hear. He said what needed to be said for me to improve my craft rather than to stroke my ego.
Isn't that what we do as critics as well? Don't we serve a far better purpose for theater (or any other art) when we are painfully honest rather than gently reassuring? It's something I have to remind myself of frequently.