Classical Work vs New Plays

Updated with Ben Fisher’s response.

Carey Perloff, the Artistic Director of A.C.T., recently posted on Huffington Post suggesting that training programs emphasize new works at the expense of classical work:

We have all but abandoned an interest in classical theater or in older literary forms in our desire to push young writers in and out of MFA programs where they successfully learn to write acceptable contemporary plays that might appeal to the watchful eyes of television executives and artistic directors hungry for “relevant” and sellable plays.

Melissa Hillman, the Artistic Director of Impact Theatre, responded with a post on Theatre Bay Area’s Chatterbox:

It’s concerning that the head of the Bay Area’s flagship LORT house believes that the rising stars and new voices of American playwriting have had no exposure to the classics, and that their work is poorer for it. What does she think is missing from the writing of the rising stars of the American stage? Does she really believe that Rajiv Joseph, Sarah Ruhl, and Katori Hall lack “range and longevity”?

And it looks like other A.D.’s theater makers have been asked to respond. So click and follow along.

Update: Ben Fisher has chimed in here:

There are young, sophisticated, intelligent people out there that would pack the house for “The Tooth of Crime” or a rock-opera version of “The Aeneid” (I call dibs, by the way). I think they’re not as interested in “Private Lives,” even though that’s a great play too. If we continue to stress plays — classic and modern — where people sit around a living room and talk about relationships, they are going to stay away. It’s not about old and new, it’s about inclusive and non-inclusive. To truly speak with the power of the past, we have to listen more carefully to the present.

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