Thursday, March 8, 2007

Theater in Lansing

Lansing is responsible for my having fallen so permanently in love with theater.

At a recent National Endowment for the Arts Journalism Institute on Theater and Musical Theater, the keynote speaker exhorted the 25 critics gathered there to get to where they could see theater--meaning New York or London. I immediately bristled as New York and London have so little to do with theater as I know it and I found the idea that theater happened only in those locales to be hopelessly parochial.

Yes, theater in Lansing is done on a far smaller budget than it is in New York, London, or Los Angeles. All that means is that the artists can be truer to their vision without having to worry about the financial return to their investors.

There's also plenty of theatrical work that artists from elsewhere might look down their noses and and presume to call "bad." They do so, however, because they do not understand the role that theater plays in the community and what each group accomplishes.

There are many theaters in Lansing and I can't think of a single one that doesn't deserve or need to exist. Every one fills its own unique purpose and has different stakeholders that it serves.

Theater as ecosystem. That's another concept we heard a lot about at the NEA Institute and I can think of nowhere where that's truer than in Lansing.

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