“We’ve always wanted a theatre magazine to serve as the secular arm of the American theatre,” declared Alan Schneider. “Now we have it, or at least the beginnings of it. It has emerged after a lot of gardening—and it is an indication of how valuable our national theatre really is.”
Nobody disagreed, for Schneider was preaching to an audience of the converted: celebrants at a March 19 press event to introduce the first issue of American Theatre. Alongside the noted director on the auditorium stage of New York City’s Department of Cultural Resources were five of the magazine’s other contributing editors: teacher and critic Arthur Ballet, scenic designer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, critic and translator Michael Feingold, author and educator Richard Gilman, and director and actor John Houseman. What they had to say was challenging, hopeful, enthusiastic. Taken collectively, their comments form a profile of American Theatre‘s still-emerging personality.
Arthur Ballet: “American Theatre will be the history of the future. A whole new generation is growing up thinking that theatre is musical video—I know because I teach them. Theatre audiences are growing, we are told, but what do they see? Not Shakespeare, certainly. Theatre seems to be slipping into a minor art form. This new adventure in publishing by the theatre community itself can change that.”
Marjorie Bradley Kellogg: “I see the magazine as a possible remedy for the isolation of individual artists in the theatre. The typical length of time a freelancer spends in any given organization can be, for an actor, perhaps two months, for a designer as little as a week. Despite the fact that the work is very intense when you are there and that you form very close relationships with people, suddenly you’re gone—and the potential for collaboration building up over time is very limited. We need a forum which people can use to remember experiences and see them as part of an American theatre style in which they want to work, part of a continuity which they desperately need.”
Michael Feingold: “American Theatre can be a forum which will put the phenomena and the problems of different cities and regions into a national perspective. It should provide a way for everybody to discuss what’s going on across the country seriously, responsibly, from all angles. I hope the one thing this magazine never becomes is an apologia for American theatre—it must stand ready to attack, examine and dissect theatre on a national scale for the good of the theatre’s health.”
Richard Gilman: “Criticism of the kind this magazine will have—I don’t mean reviews, I mean the critical mind at work—finally means judgment, interrogation, explication and, above all, testimony. The best criticism is always a testimony to an experience. If the magazine can communicate widespread experiences, the diverse kind of experiences that are taking place around the country, then it will fulfill a function that is not being fulfilled elsewhere today.”
John Houseman: “Theatre is going through an extraordinary transformation. It is apparently destined to continue to be an important cultural, emotional and intellectual force—but it lives submerged in a deluge of mass media, so that numerically it remains and will remain virtually negligible. A magazine of this kind can investigate what the nature of theatre in the modern world is to be.”
An ambitious agenda. To carry it out we will continue to depend on the assistance, both imaginative and concrete, of our contributing editors, as well as the support—spirited, we hope, but never blindly uncritical—of artists, audiences and theatre workers nationwide.
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