The Mike Daisey and Todd Olson correspondence I mentioned earlier continues with a second letter from Olson and second response from Daisey.
It’s a fascinating read, as both Daisey and Olson go deeper into their respective views and clarify some of the comments from the first round. Olson, for example, gives context to one of the paragraphs that caught a lot of people’s attention (including mine), explaining thusly:
And while I’m on the subject of preserving jobs for actors, can I get another thing out of the way…the notion that I disrespect or have contempt for actors. As it happens I just gave an interview around a production that I will be guest directing later this month where I was asked about my “concept” for this particular play. My reply is very like my larger philosophy of the actor’s place within the theatre organization: “a concept is only paper…it is actors that give those ideas life, so they are more than essential. They are the heart and the blood.” Any theatre has but two products: education/community engagement…and the product on stage. THAT’S how important and valued actors are to me personally, and to all of us at ASTC.
Mike, this is an easy one: I’ve directed three to six plays every year for about 20 years; I’m sure there are actors with whom you can speak who can either verify or contradict your knee-jerk conclusion after knowing me for all of…one letter. If I have a regret with my job it’s that I don’t get to spend more time in the rehearsal hall actually making art with actors and writers and designers. You cannot be “shocked” (“SHOCKED!”) that an AD would flippantly make a joke about the Equity cot and then conclude my contempt for those artists without whom nothing I write would get performed, and nothing I want for our audiences would ever take shape. If we ever have the opportunity to work together, I would hope you would see my respect and devotion to the actor and their process immediately.
And Daisey begins to spell out some of his ideas in more detail:
I’d recommend a capital campaign to raise money to create lockboxed endowments to pay for these ensemble artist positions. This insulates your artists against economic shocks, and since they will in time be the backbone of your theater it will help ensure that their salaries don’t get shaved down when times are tough.
The system is similar to endowed chairs at colleges, and development directors everywhere have ample examples and models to use in fundraising and structuring—they don’t currently do this because it isn’t a priority in the American theater. It must be.
You can read the second letter interspersed with Mike Daisey’s comments here, or if you have more time, you can read the letter as a whole first in my comments section and then read Daisey’s response, which might be preferable.
I really hope this conversation continues. It’s an important one.