It's the Arts, stupid
Terry Teachout, theater critic for the Wall Street Journal, wrote in his blog last month about how he chooses the regional theater productions he’ll review each season, and it’s most certainly a good read for anyone involved in regional theater. He writes that he is “the only New York-based drama critic who routinely covers productions all over America.” Although we have seen coverage from publications such as The New York Times for Philadelphia theater, dance and other arts, it is an uphill battle to convince that market that what’s happening an hour and half south is not only worthy of their attention, but truly innovative and influential. Teachout writes, “The time has come for American playgoersâ€”and, no less important, arts editorsâ€”to start treating regional theater not as a minor-league branch of Broadway but as an artistically significant entity in and of itself. Take it from a critic who now spends much of his time living out of a suitcase: If you don’t know what’s hot in ‘the stix,’ you don’t know the first thing about theater in 21st-century America.” With the inaugural Philadelphia New Play Festival in full swing and as I look toward other major festivals later this year like the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe, it’s interesting to think about not only the national media coverage our arts community receives but also the local coverage. With the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News continuing to cut more writers from their newsrooms (something that seems to be happening all over the country), we’ve seen a serious decline in the overall page space reserved for the Arts. Philadelphia events are often relegated to a sidebar, while New York events still get a good deal of page space here, and Shakira’s hips still warrant a half-page. Yet, Philadelphia has seen a tremendous surge in positive national attention as a city experiencing a renaissance. And why are people moving to Philly from New York, or moving back to Center City from the suburbs (and why can’t I find a parking place to save my life anymore)? Sure, the great restaurants and shopping are part of the reason, but it’s the cultural experience that makes me remember any city I’ve visited and enjoyed. And it’s not just the big guys like the Kimmel Center and Museum of Art - it’s innovative theater companies, great clubs, an amazing music scene, and young artists who make this city pulse and are the reason I chose to buy a home here. It seems that SOME of our local media is missing it. As Philadelpia Media Holdings (the company that bought the Inky & DN) struggles to hold on to ad revenues and subscribers, perhaps they’ve forgotten that compelling content might actually sell newspapers too. Why not go beyond the predictable event review, and report on what it’s really like to immerse yourself in this thriving cultural community? Music writers (and a lot of alt. weekly writers) have been doing it for years - getting in the van with the band to get the gritty experience. I’d argue that what goes on behind the curtain in the creation of a new play is just as mysterious and intriguing as what goes on in the recording studio (and I’ve been in both places).
Submitted by canary on Tue, 02/13/2007 - 6:50pm
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