Sunday, September 13, 2009

Missing London

I really miss living in London. In many ways I felt more at home there than I do here in California. London is a wonderful city for artitsts. You feel completely accepted and supported there. The entire city embraces the arts and recognizes its importance and effect on society. There is a confidence that the theatre community seems to have that I don't experience in the Bay Area. Theatres seem more willing to take risks and seem to just believe in themselves more. This positive attitude trickles down to everyone involved, and it's dynamic and it feels good. Here in the Bay Area, there is no support for theatre in mainstream culture. The theatres themselves end up with a sort of apologetic self-image. They end up somewhat stifled, afraid to take risks, and get stuck in patterns of behavior that don't further the art. For instance, the trend seems to be to only cast actors that the theatre has hired in the past. This is a direct result of fear that if something goes wrong, the already tenuous attendance numbers will fall even further. Creativity, change, newness is sacrificed because the public at large puts very little if any significant value in the arts and theatre in general.

In London, this just isn't the case. There are hundreds and hundreds of theatres of all sizes. A hit play in some obscure fringe theatre can end up in a major house on the West End within weeks. I saw it happen. A play called "The Mountaintop", was playing at a small fringe theatre in South London. I went and saw it . It was fantastic. A month later it was playing at a major house on the West End. I went and saw it there as well. They simply moved the sparse set and remounted. It was wonderful. Could you imagine that ever happening at one of our major houses here in the Bay Area?

This country needs to get its values straight. The arts are essential. When will we embrace them and affirm them? In my opinion we must or continue to face the greed based decline that we seem to be hell bent to fulfill.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree that London is certainly a better-known "theatre town" than the SF Bay Area, I'm curious about your comment about theatres only hiring actors they've worked with before being a direct result of their fear that if they hired "new" actors, attendance would fall. In all of the articles that I've run on the subject of hiring local actors, I've never heard any company say or insinuate that there is a direct line between hiring new actors and declining attendance. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that companies don't feel this way. I'd be curious to hear your elaboration on the subject.