Required Reading

Monologist Mike Daisey must be applauded for his deeply unsettling and deeply sad essay, "The Empty Spaces; Or, How Theater Failed America." This is required reading for anyone involved in American theater. He manages to organize what theater people have known for years into a clear and concise analysis of the current state of the industry, which alternately sounds like a manifesto, a call to action, and a eulogy.

[Thanks to Isaac at Parabasis for posting this.]


  1. Sigh. It's hard when your medium is dying, huh? As a fiction writer, I can relate. At least you have a second new-media career as an internet filmmaker!

  2. After I stopped crying I remembered that these were the exact reasons that I stopped starving to death and started looking for security in the profession that is the only one I can belong to that means anything to me.

    I suppose the talent has always been exploited. That knowledge doesn't make it more palatable.

    What a great piece.

  3. Ah, Cheryl, I'm almost ashamed that you got to see what's happening in my industry. And TNM, I teared up too. Wow.

  4. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeaaahh-- I agree with some of what he says, but not all of it-- here in the SF Bay Area we're seeing MORE new works, not fewer. A playwright friend of mine said that when someone complains about how theatres aren't producing new work, they really mean that theatres aren't producing their plays. The SF Bay Area does 300 world premiere plays a year, according to TBA stats.

    I'm also a little uncomfortable with this us vs them mentality between actors and theatre staff-- that's completely artificial. Of course, he's really only talking about the biggest of the big-- maybe 5% of the companies in the country, so for most of us workingin the theatre, his assessment is more or less irrelevant.

    Yes, it would be kickass if we all could make a living at this, but whining about the staffing at LORT houses isn't going to do a thing. So we should "cut staff"-- fire the underpaid marketing assistants? I mean, what, exactly? His whining about literary departments clearly means he's gunning to have lit managers fired. Like *they* make such a comfortable living.

    Meh. Whatevs. He should be bitching about the lack of corporate/government/private foundation support, which has declined drastically over the past 10 years. Dont' blame the underpaid staff members.

    Have a cocktail and rethink, Mike.

  5. TI8703, thanks for your thoughtful response. Whether or not you agree with Mike Daisey, he does manage to articulate things that theater people (playwrights and actors, as well as theater administrators) have been talking about at least since I started working in the theater 15 years ago. They seem to be the same issues that either keep getting recycled in the nationl discourse--or they're things that never seem to go away.

    I myself take umbrage with his dig at educational youth programs, which are not only vitally important to the development of young people on many levels but are also what have kept me afloat and working and paying my rent for most of my career.