A thought exercise in the form of a hypothetical question: if you had to choose between the following two fates for theatre, which would you choose?
Fate #1: It’s 2030. Communities have responded to the pressures of globalization by developing vital local identities through theatre. Everyone in the community participates in the daily process of theatre, taking turns making it and watching it. Theatre is woven into the rituals of life – there are plays for being born, plays for dying, plays for the changes of season, plays for marriage. There are no professionals because theatre is seen as a process between people, and not a cultural product. No one makes a living doing theatre, but everyone does theatre to live.
Fate #2: It’s 2030. A rising tide of global wealth has allowed government and corporate funding to greatly increase their support for the arts. A professional theatre is in every city and most towns, and middle class wages are paid to the artists who live and work there. A sizable portion of the population goes to the theatre at least once a month as an expression of civic pride and cultural savvy. While some amateurs dabble in plays, most leave theatre to the professionals, recognizing its true beauty is best reached by great artists. Theatre is a respected, middle-class, specialist profession that communities support for its civic value.
Of course, this question is somewhat slippery, as a truly vital amateur theatre may help lead to a truly vital professional theatre, and vice versa. But sometimes it feels like the efforts of our profession are geared entirely towards the latter fate, and often in unnecessary opposition of the former. And lately, I find some variation of the former fate feels more like home. How about you?