Theater and the importance of being local: Intro

How important is theater of the city, by the city and for the city?/Wikimedia

Late last month, on the heels of the success of “Tales of the City,” Carey Perloff, the artistic director of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, blogged on Huffington Post about the play and what it might mean to the regional theater community as a whole. Basically, she argued that it might be a good idea for a city’s theater company to tell the stories of its own city.

I ran into her post on local “script doctor” Mead Hunter’s Facebook page. The comments came thick and fast, some of them from San Francisco where local theater people apparently don’t think fondly of Perloff, because they think that she hasn’t been nearly local enough at ACT. Perloff herself even posted a comment in response.

Trisha Mead, who now works for Oregon Ballet Theatre but also worked at Portland Center Stage and was instrumental in starting Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival, had interesting things to say in that comment thread. And Mead Hunter had started the whole thing. So, I asked them if they would write essays about what it means to be local and why it’s important.

This isn’t a new debate, but the ground under it is always changing, and Perloff’s argument — just because of her standing within the regional theater community — has re-opened it in the here and now.

Here’s Trisha Mead’s essay, which describes the context of the argument in depth and suggests why Perloff’s position is important now.

And here’s Mead Hunter’s essay, which discusses why going local is good business for theater companies.


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