Steven Leigh Morris and Eliza Bent had a helluva challenge on their hands. Their feature assignments for this issue were survey articles of the broadest possible scope, on theatrical developments that needed to be put in careful historical context—and, at the same time, informed by the widest possible array of up-to-the-minute reportage.
Morris’s subject was the new and more intricate relationships being forged by two very different kinds of theatrical organisms—institutional theatres and independent ensemble companies—and the felicitous impact of those fresh connections on both parties. The creative dynamic between brick-and-mortar theatres and their loosey-goosey brethren can be traced back to the beginnings of America’s resident theatre movement, as Morris acknowledges—but a fast-growing intimacy between the two camps in recent years “represents a new movement in the American theatre that’s been long in-the-works,” he posits. “Group Think” has arrived.
Staff reporter Bent’s similarly daunting topic has echoes not only in the recent past but in the distant recesses of theatre history, when Euripides and Shakespeare and Molière bargained to maintain their authorial presence within the institutions that presented their work. The ever-fluctuating bond between playwrights and theatres, Bent reports, has recently been dealt a dab of Super Glue in the form of a massive new investment from the Mellon Foundation—a development that may herald a new era of writerly involvement in the workings of American theatre companies. The catch-phrase to remember is “Moving On In.”
So this is an issue about change—change for the better, contend most of the dozens of voices cited by Morris and Bent. That theme is elaborated upon in Tom Jacobs’s report “The Missing Piece,” about the University of California–Santa Barbara’s Launch Pad initiative, designed to fill in crucial gaps in the new-play process; and “Equity’s First Act,” Robert Simonson’s rollicking trek through the historic 1919 strike that launched Actors’ Equity and transformed the professional lives of American actors.
This issue also boasts a double-page spread of letters, several of them commenting with alacrity on the January training issue’s coverage of “The Artist as Entrepreneur.” Yale School of Drama’s James Bundy is particularly articulate in his reservations about the place of “market thinking” in the arts academy. The AT team wholeheartedly encourages such debate and conversation, on the letters page as well as online. We’re listening.
And we’re tracking changes—artistic, institutional and otherwise—as they come. Read and respond.