I Heart NY

I Heart NY

i heart nyFirst and foremost Scott Walters is a teacher, but in that capacity, he is also a director of student productions at University of North Carolina at Asheville. Last semester he directed and blogged with his students Philadelphia Story.

Scott’s blog posts at Theatre Ideas are filled with Advice to the Players concerning the “fixes” necessary to cure our national theatre. These blog entries are always well researched and knowledgeable but also tinged with that patronizing posture of “the teacher.” He is always more lecturing to students than dialoguing with peers. Scott is a big promoter of ensembles producing theatre across the country but his common method of doing this is to attack or offend some supposed or real aspect of New York theatre. For instance in his current post he finds an alliance with Zack Mannheimer who is attempting to relocate his once Brooklyn-based Subjective Theatre. Zack is on the road now hitching a ride to ANYWHERE BUT NYC. Predictably, such expatriates’ caustic dismissals of the city causes high drama in the theatrosphere from the many theatre bloggers who still live and work within the community.

Scott’s recent response to Praxis Theatre’s 10 Questions interview (with extended elaborations at his Theatre Ideas blog), coupled with his 15 Seconds of Fame at The Impending Theatrical Blogging Event which was a “production” within the Brick Theatre’s Pretentious Festival by NYC Theatre Bloggers, spawned a wide-ranging discussion in the theatrosphere on the nature of our national theatre. This debate segued seamlessly into the fracas that developed around Peter Birkenhead’s controversial Salon article in which he pooh-poohed the Tony Awards celebration and theatre in general.

Of the many theatre bloggers that live in New York and have taken exception to the implicit and explicit slurs directed at their theatre community and city, none have been as ardent in its defense as native New Yorker critic Leonard Jacob de Groot. Catch up on a current episode of the debate at the Clyde Fitch Report. Begin with Leonard’s rant to incite a lynch mob but do not leave without visiting its counter. In an affecting eulogy of actress Anne Pitoniak, Leonard reminds that theatre in New York, including Broadway, can be experienced with all the same riches of community that smaller cities possess.

9 thoughts on “I Heart NY

  1. I can’t speak for Scott, but I’m not sure how promoting theatre outside of NYC is an attack on New Yorkers.

    I’m fairly new to the sphere, so I don’t know if there’s more to the story. But for a lot of the people who stake their claim in NYC, a lot of time seems to be spent vehemently refuting what he says.

    Does he just piss people off, or does he hit a nerve? I’m not trying to pick a fight, nor do I know if there is an easy answer. But I am curious to hear your thoughts.

  2. I am curious if you could give an example of a post “tinged with that patronizing posture of “the teacher.” Not that I don’t believe you — I suspect all of our writing styles reflect our professions — but it would help me understand better if I had an example. I’d also be curious how my writing is more lecture than dialogue than, say, David Cote or Clyde Fitch or George Hunka. I suspect you are reading a tone into my posts.

    Also, I would say that the “implicit and explicit slurs directed at [the NYC] theatre community and city” is nothing compared to the implicit and explicit slurs against those who are not in NYC. Check out the discussion of “red state theatre” for said slurs. It’s gotten to a point where a blog about arts in non-NYC/non-LA venues on Arts Journal is called “Flyover,” and the bloggers refer to themselves as being in the “outback.” Now, tell me that doesn’t come from a common NY-centricity.

  3. Scott, do you have links to the slurs against people who aren’t in New York City? In particular, the explicit ones?

  4. Scott, I think a lot of what you have to say about what theater can be is tremendously valuable, but I think you repeatedly undercut your position by attacking New York theater practitioners with no basis. I can’t figure out why you do it. It’s not necessary to first prove that we’re condescending-assholes-who-sneer-at-the-rest-of-the-country-and-all-agree-with-each-other for your ideas to be legitimate. It’s also demonstrably untrue, and it makes people (like me) so upset they can’t concentrate on your very important contributions to this ongoing conversation.

  5. Mac — I doesn’t start out that way. Initially, my message is that theatre must be decentralized (e.g., regional theatres not doing all their casting in NYC, not drive-by performances by NY-based artists, regional theatre artists being a part of their community, etc.) and the myth of NY as the center of the theatrical solar system needs to be broadened. Inevitably, this quickly leads to NYC bloggers telling me how much they love NYC, and how boring New Hampshire or Iowa is, and that if people leave there to come to NYC there is a good reason, and there aren’t enough people in New Hampshire or Iowa who are interested in theatre to make a living, and so forth. Now why is that necessary? Why are NYC artists so defensive that they can’t let anyone else have a piece of the pie?

  6. Again, Scott, can you specifically direct me to these conversations you’re referring to so I can have a better idea of what you’re talking about?

  7. Sure, Mac.
    First, start with my interview:

    Then read David Cote’s response to the issue about NYC in the comments, and the discussion that follows.

    Then skip to my blog and read the post “Centralization”:

    Then follow the comments.

    Instead of discussing the real topic, people end up focusing on NYC, defending its importance, and in the meantime making snarky references to Iowa and New Hampshire. Joshua James will pound the table about it being impossible to make a living in theatre in Nebraska, totally ignoring the multiple regional theatres there including the Omaha Magic Theatre where former NYC off-off-Broadway playwright Megan Terry has made her career. And the whole conversation ends up about NYC instead of what other places.

    I hope this helps.

  8. Thanks for these links, Scott. They do seem to suggest that there were some off-topic and sometimes defensive responses to your ideas about decentralization of theater, an overall concept that I support.

    But do you see the difference now? You see how you can link to something substantiating (to a degree) one statement you make, but how you can’t provide links to substantiate certain other statements you make, having to do with New York artists sneering at theater artists in other places. That’s because the former statement has an element of truth, and the latter statements are lies. The thoughts you share when you are at your best are valuable enough that you should be making a concerted effort to discipline yourself to avoid tainting them with untruths. I fully support the new direction you’re taking your blog, because it seems as if it will reduce or eliminate this problem.

Comments are closed.

Comments are closed.