CMU School of Drama

Thursday, April 20, 2017

“New York-caliber actors”: How NYC-centrism hurts regional theater

phindie: I see a lot of theater – my average is 150 shows per year. Many of those shows are in New York, and many are in Philadelphia. In 2016, I also saw professional productions in New Jersey, Delaware, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Williamstown, Mass., to name just a few places. The caliber of acting I found throughout the United States was consistently jaw-dropping, and I can say without reservation that many of the actors who have chosen to make their careers in places like Philly or D.C. or Chicago are every bit the equal of those who work consistently in New York.

4 comments:

Delaney Johnson said...

I think that this article was very intriguing as it tackles a stigma that is crippling to the theatre community. It is a common opinion here in the School of Drama as well as in the theatre industry at large, that you will not make it big until you are a household name. This can be said to be an issue in all of working America, but I believe it is more prevalent in theatre than some other careers. You see in theatre it is believed that you must get a job right out of college to be talented. Then you must make it to Broadway. Then you must be a lead on Broadway, and so on and so on until you have officially "made it". However, in the words of this article, "I can say without reservation that many of the actors who have chosen to make their careers in places like Philly or D.C. or Chicago are every bit the equal of those who work consistently in New York." Geographic location and caliber of role do not dictate your talent. I have seen ensemble members in regional shows that excel beyond those who have their names on New York marquees, and thinking otherwise could be detrimental to the mental and physical health of the theatre community.

Simone Schneeberg said...

New York should only be the higher standard because of recognition and because of size but not because of caliber or talent. New York is held at such esteem because of Broadway: the well known scene, the huge theaters, the history. It is a travel destination, while regional theater can be seen without leaving town. If you're traveling somewhere else to see what you could've seen at home before it came to Broadway, it must be because it got better right? It might have more money, more recognition, more support, but it doesn't necessarily mean the actors are more talented. There are talented souls in regional theaters across the country because they want to be and because we need them to be. We spread the beauty of art by not concentrating all talent in one place - granted a lot of talent does amass in New York because of this stigma (everyone wants to be there). I don't think it is necessarily wrong to say the Broadway shows are of a higher caliber because of the money and attention they might receive (they might just be able to do more and polish more), but I think it's wrong to write off any actor who isn't on a Broadway stage.

Sarah Boyle said...

I agree that sometimes it seems like New York and everything else. Perhaps in part because of the Tony awards, and producers starting elsewhere before bringing a show to New York, encouraging the New York above the rest mindset. I also agree that New York actor should not be another way of saying the strongest actors. Of course, not all regional theatres are created equal. New York has a lot of strong theatre companies, but as do Chicago, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, and more. It might be better for the industry as a whole to stop thinking so New York centrically and distribute talent around more. There are only so many roles and jobs to fill in one city. However, the line that this author took issue with also said that he could only see the production done by this one director, and that article wasn’t even written by a theatre writer.

Ali Whyte said...

I completely agree that the idea of New York centrism is a dangerous plague in the theatre community. I think this especially becomes clear when comparing East and West coast theatre. So often I hear that west coast theatre, especially in places like Los Angeles, is just small and experimental and full of actors that are viewed the same way. Coming form the west coast I have seen many many shows there and I can assure you that the caliber of people and production value is every bit as high as that of New York. i think that if perhaps there were an awards ceremony, as I think the Tonys contribute a lot to this New York centric idea, it could really help with this issue in the theatrical community.