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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In the interest of fairness...

Does anyone actually disagree with Mike Daisey?


David Johnston said...

This is absolutely one hundred percent on the money.

macrogers said...

My agreement is based on second-hand accounts from people I have no reason not to trust, but I have to admit that I have not firsthand experienced the phenomena he describes.

Tony Adams said...

Disagree, no.

Ironic that it is coming from a New Yorker who does one-man shows imported to regional theatres so they can save money by removing actors from the institution, while charging the same high ticket prices as they would for a large cast show--yes

Freeman said...

Tony -

Not to discount your gripe... but I'm pretty sure that Mike Daisey's monologues aren't only performed as a cost-saving measure. He's notoriously good at them.

Tony Adams said...

Not a gripe. Just saying, it's ironic.

LBM said...

I disagree slightly...

I have worked at the Seattle Rep (and some other theaters in Seattle and now in NYC) and while I agree that the model might be broken or at least maimed - I disagree with the fact that theaters are these huge monolithic institutions who have a consistently bloated staff. When I worked there, I often felt like I was doing the work of 2 people. I was trying my hardest, working VERY long days and I was doing it out of a labor of love - because I sure wasn't getting paid enough to live in an apartment without a roommate.

I feel that lately, there have been some real potshots taken at Seattle Rep and regional theaters in the blogger world. The idea that because they only get 40% or so of their income from ticket sales means that they would be just fine if they only got 15% of their money from tickets if they would just fire a few people on staff is laughable to me at a time that their grant funding is also being slashed.

I believe that ticket prices should be affordable (and I currently work for an organization that does that now - but it is because we have government mandated private funding to subzidize those ticket prices...we are LUCKY) but telling organizations that are already subsidizing your ticket by 60% that you don't understand why they cannot subsidize it by 85% indicates a lack of understanding about how many staff people it takes to obtain that subsidized income.

I believe we as a society have to commit to the arts. For the actors, for the institutions who commision and support the arts, and for the audiences. I agree with so many points of Mike Daisey's article, but I also think that we are blaming the soldier for the culture of war, or something like that.

I believe that to blame the current arts 'crisis' and the fact that actors are poor on the regional theaters that employ them is false blame. I do not think that regional theaters are against having actors eat and be employed. Daisey's direct quote is "The biggest reason the artists were removed was because it was best for the institution."
This statement is not 'untrue' - it was 'best' for the organization because they couldn't stay in business under the traditional repertory model. To put up plays and pay actors, they couldn't pay actors all the time. I bet they think that sucks too. A real 'devil's deal' as Daisey writes when mentioning Artistic Directors in his article.

Perhaps our energies would be well spent trying to come up with a system that we believe would work better instead of demonizing the regional theaters who are struggling to survive and continue to be able to hire actors and designers and playwrights.
If we believe there is a better alternative for arts communities outside of New York City - what is it!?

Let's get people paid!

Longest comment in the world... sorry.

Anonymous said...

I think the spirit of most of his essay rings very true. I think- and this is where sweeping generalizations perhaps don't stand up to particular anecdotes- that he gives theatre education work unnecessarily short shrift.

Perhaps he's been around too many under-ambitious programs in his time, but my experience has included some very ambitious and effective teaching artist programs, whether they are pre-show in the classroom prep, or hands-on after-school projects creating theatre with young people. And these programs are often serving (and hopefully creating an interest in) EXACTLY the kinds of people that Daisey points out are missing from the current audiences. I would defy anyone to tell me that is not a part of making theatre to bring those experiences to and create them with those students.

So, from my own experience, I reject folding education programs into the overall thesis of corporate malaise. At least, not in the case of most of the places I've taught for.

But... other than that... I think there is a lot of truth in what he is saying, and I am glad to have read it.

Anonymous said...

I think Mr Daisey is right. And the actors aren't the only ones who suffer for their art... My first full time job out of grad school was working as a production manager/ lighting technician for a large performing arts center. The center rented and booked events for their four spaces, but they also produced some events of their own. The people who worked in rentals/booking, hr, and administration were paid two to three times as much as those of us who worked directly with the clients as production managers and technicians. The rentals/booking and admin people all worked regular 40 hour weeks. The tech staff generally worked 50-70. Even the Union stage hands got paid more than the house technicians because even though they were paid hourly and jobbed in on a per show basis, they had enough other venues to work in that they could make a living wage. Once I figured all this out, I moved over to academic theater where I am now doing a very similar job, but being paid a few thousand dollars more and getting comp time for my 60 hour weeks.
--danielle wilson

Nick said...

I should take time to argue this for real, but here’s capsule version.

Tony is right. And Mike Daisey knows this. So his essay How Theatre Failed America is the lie (the PR piece of the production) that his performance is not. In the performance Mike calls his little production company (he and his director wife) the carrion birds of the regional theatres. They come to perform cheap when the big concept or large cast productions are dropped or fail. Mike is as much to blame for keeping that 40 year old actress friend out work as any well paid artistic director in the system is. The fact that he doesn’t allow anyone to escape blame in his performance piece, including Mike himself, is what makes it the truth his essay is not.

hpmelon said...

Take a look at their prices and their season.