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Jack Erdie in 'STRATA' at Bricolage Production Company in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Rob Long/Clear Story)

Letters to the Editor (October 2013)

Readers respond to our stories about immersive theatre, new work from Ayad Akhtar, and ‘Chance’ magazine.

With, Not To
I wish Diep Tran’s article about immersive theatre (“The Walls Come Tumbling Down,” July/Aug. ’13) had grappled more with theoretical and historical implications of the form. My take is that in some ways the immersive impulse in theatre is a reaction to television, film and, increasingly, digital socialization—analogous to painting’s prolonged reaction to photography (collage breaking canvas boundaries; abstract art; happenings). The production on your cover, STRATA by Bricolage Production Company, is a good example.

One thing is certain. Theatre is forever changed in at least this way: A director and production team now must ask the fundamental question before mounting any show: What is this production’s relationship with the audience?—not only what the relationship is to the audience, a question answered for the past 50 years primarily by one of three answers—proscenium, thrust or round.

John Istel
Brooklyn, N.Y.

From Talk to Action
Teresa Eyring’s executive director message (“Plus ça change,” July/Aug. ’13) has a great final sentence: “It’s okay to keep talking—particularly if we transform the talk into effective strategies for action.” Agreed, wholeheartedly.

How about American Theatre taking the lead on this? What would it be like to extract some principles from Todd London’s The Artistic Home, like the four Ms. Eyring selected for her column, and send these in the form of a questionnaire to current artistic directors of LORT theatres, as well as theatres on “small professional Equity theatre contracts,” asking them for a personal, updated response to those original ideas? Especially intriguing would be a dialogue about “more flexibility in the rehearsal process…flexible subscription plans… programming schedules,” etc. With feedback on such ideas from contemporary artistic directors, TCG could take some specific proposals to management and marketing people as well as to Actors’ Equity Association to see if new ideas could actually be implemented in new ways. An actual dialogue between the theatres and the union could be the key to moving those ideas from “effective strategies” into “action.”

Bill Grivna
St. Louis, Mo.

Inspiring Freshmen
I am an Equity actor and playwright/director currently teaching a theatre in Western culture class at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I have long depended on American Theatre to help me help my students stay connected and inspired by our profession. (Not to mention that it provides the same service for my own career!)

I found your July/August issue to be particularly inspiring, especially Ayad Akhtar’s play Disgraced. As a white, gay, liberal actor/writer/director/theatre nerd, I am always careful to both profess my biases up front to these freshmen, but also to try to expose them to as many different voices as possible. This is to make them confront their own biases and to recognize the universal truths that theatre brings to light. And what better way to inspire them than with this issue of the magazine? I want these freshmen exposed to not only this devastating, provocative play and playwright, but also to the great work that TCG and AT does for us as theatre practitioners.

Brian McKnight, visiting assistant professor of theatre
Department of Theatre, Dance & Motion Pictures
Wright State University
Middletown, Ohio

Chance Encounter
I’m very excited about the new publishing venture Nicole Estvanik Taylor describes in your Sept. ’13 issue (“Object of Art”). I intend to subscribe to Chance magazine, thanks to your coverage.

Also, while I’m at it, I have been a subscriber to American Theatre for more years than I can remember—more than 20—and I want to thank you all for what you do! The magazine has helped me immensely over the years in the classroom, kept me apprised of happenings across the country, and brought me plays I never would have found any other way. Sometimes the isolation of our tiny state can make doing quality theatre quite lonely, and there are many times when American Theatre has shown me the ways to stay connected. Keep going strong and doing what you do best.

Sharon Paquette, adjunct theatre faculty
Plymouth State University
Plymouth, N.H.

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