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Letters to the Editor

Praise for clowns, multicultural casting, and theatre outside NYC.

Sir Clown

Halleluiah for Ron Jenkins’ article (“Acrobats of the Soul”) in the March ’85 issue! In contrast to the deadly torn T-shirt Bellevue approach to acting, it is most refreshing and rewarding to read an encouraging report on “cabotinage” in the ’80s. The new vaudevillians deserve knighthood for continuing the thousand-year-old struggle to liberate and challenge the tried-and-true forms in the theatre. Come on, clowns, let’s kick some ass!

C. La Tourette, director
Wild Duck Comedy Theatre
New York City

Who We Are

Sharon Ott’s multi-ethnic casting at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (“Casting Across Cultures,” March ’85) is a welcome if belated step by institutional theatre toward a recognition of who we are: a racially diverse society. That our theatre, largely run by members of the white middle class, concerns itself with white, middle-class issues is not surprising—it is the theatres’ claim to represent us all that is silly. Ms. Ott has confronted the contradiction. Welcome to the U.S.A.

A further note: Ms. Ott is concerned with the lack of preparation minority actors bring to the classics. In fact, most American actors do not handle the classics well. We are poorly trained, and get few opportunities to perform either the classics or plays which require the wide range of American dialects. Black and Hispanic English are merely two more incorrect forms of speech with which to approach Shakespeare.

David Wiles
New York City

Not Allowed

Americans need to stop treating the theatre outside New York as though it were not allowed. No matter how many articles appear on the growing influence of “regional” theatres, the fact remains that the answer “I’m an actor” to the question of “What do you do?” will still be greeted with the attitude (if not the words), “If you were any good, you’d be in New York.”

Perhaps because I studied in Germany, I don’t buy this. In fact, I had no great love of the theatre when I was “only an American.” It was after encountering German theatre that I learned how valuable a learning place the theatre can be. It was in Germany that I first saw actors treated as human beings. If only we could arrive at that state in this country!

What’s needed are new attitudes, and most particularly a new vision of the theatre as a vital part of the community. Your magazine is tremendous valuable because it takes a dignified view of our entire “American” theatre—and does not leave me feeling like a hick because I don’t live in Manhattan. Neither did Molière, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Brecht or Sophocles, not to mention the Bibiena brothers.

Jim Dorsey
Atlanta, Ga.

Bright Spot

I have an observation which I hope puts the results of Theatre Facts 84 (March ’85) in a bit more positive light. While I can almost feel the pain of those going under or choking with deficits, I nevertheless see a bright spot: The fact that theatres’ earned income and contributions are rising far faster than inflation is a terribly good sign, and one not shared by many other major segments of the voluntary sector. If theatres can continue to accelerate these factors, while tending to the tormenting job of keeping expenses under control, the future can be hopeful.

Brian O’Connell, president
Independent Sector
Washington, D.C.

Corrections 

Figures for the Canada Council’s 1985-86 arts budget were incorrectly reported in last month’s issue (“Arts Cuts Are Global”). In U.S. dollars, the Council faces a reduction of $796,000—from $49.7 million in ’84-85 to $48.9 million in ’85-86.

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