American Theatre’s annual Approaches to Theatre Training special section, titled “Art for Whose Sake?”, gets a formal introduction here. So let’s turn in this front-of-book note to the wealth of additional coverage packed into the pages of this oversized special edition of the magazine.
You’ll notice right away that the issue’s designated theme—theatre of social action and civic engagement—is broached not only in the training section but in such related articles as Alexis Greene’s “Why Should I Walk with Fear?,” an eye-opening account of the women-focused work of Colombian activist/artist Patricia Ariza and New York City–based Joanna Sherman of Bond Street Theatre; and “Diversity from the Ground Up,” Lisa Fung’s profile of Pasadena Playhouse of California’s associate artistic director Seema Sueko, a proponent of “consensus organizing” for theatre. Diversity issues get further shout-outs in Steven Leigh Morris’s detailed report from the landmark month-long Encuentro Festival of Latino/a theatres in Los Angeles, and Paulette Marty’s Strategies column about how British theatres are contending with gender imbalance in their ranks.
Practical concerns of other sorts get critical attention in reports by senior editor Rob Weinert-Kendt, whose “Small Theatres, Big Debate” analyzes the current status of Los Angeles’s ongoing arguments about the city’s 99-Seat Theatre Plan; and associate editor Diep Tran, whose “Want My Time? Please Pay for It” provides an update on the field’s slow-but-sure progress in assuring fair compensation to playwrights.
My own favorite piece in the issue (presented under the header Antecedents, our tag for excursions back into significant moments in theatre history) provides an early-20th-century lens through which to view contemporary theatre: It’s a newly published account by the seductive French author Colette of her time as a music-hall performer and playwright in Paris. The theatre, Colette writes, is “a world that sustains itself on pride, even vanity,” where “rivalries manifest themselves in all sorts of ways,” but that is as irresistible to her as daily sustenance. “My God!” she exclaims, “How I’ve been bitten, how deeply the poison of theatre has seeped into my blood.”
That depth of feeling, I’d wager, is shared on some level by all who have succumbed to the rigors of theatre as a profession, and it makes itself felt again and again in the varied accounts of artistry and activism that appear in these pages.