I think class is, to appropriate Pinter, the weasel under the cocktail cabinet. Nobody wants to talk about the fact that 80% of the theatre audience is drawn from the top 15% of America’s economic class. Thus, government support of the arts looks like another handout for the rich...As Dudley Cocke, artistic director of Roadside Theatre in Whitesburg KY says, “the assembled spectators for the typical not-for-profit professional theater production don’t look like any community in the U.S., except, perhaps, a gated one. From such a narrow social base, great democratic art will never rise.” I agree.
Walters' villain? I'd never heard this before:
Who’s responsible? Tyrone Guthrie. He hijacked the regional theatre movement and made it a haven for the wealthy, educated class who would put up with museum pieces in order to appear “cultured.”
Read the whole thing--it's not all negative. (This book, for instance, does look pretty awesome. But when Walters refers to the Crossroads Theatre in L.A., I'm a little mystified; does he mean Marla Gibbs' Leimert Park-based company? I never saw anything there in my many years in L.A., though I did once review a play at the 4305 Village Theatre.)
And while you're at it, why not check out Praxis' interview with Time Out's hard-nosed theater editor David Cote, in which the money quote would have to be this splash of venom:
My younger colleagues are smart and talented, but the most influential critical posts in this city are jealousy guarded by a wizened knot of nostalgia-drenched mediocrities who have no idea what the next generation is doing and can barely stay on top of what’s happening on Broadway. They are advocates of nothing but their own pathetic memories of musicals or plays in the 60s and 70s; they have about as much vision as the bureaucratic philistines we call artistic directors.
His elders aren't Cote's only bete noire. Asked if he has "any unifying theories about the artist-critic relationship," Cote replies: "They are both in league against the idiot public and every form of authority--pope, president, CEO. They just don’t know it."
Well, now we do.