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Regional theater's art moving off center stage

Critic's Notebook: Fiscal concerns are stealing the spotlight at regional theaters, resulting in facile productions and less risk.

February 19, 2012|By Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times Theater Critic

Given the strong head winds nonprofit theaters are facing, there wouldn't seem to be reason for optimism. Robert Brustein, veteran drama critic and founding director of the Yale Repertory and American Repertory Theaters, held out the hope that "nothing ever stays the same in this country."

"If the NEA and private foundations can increase their subsidies, there may come a time when theaters will recover their adventurousness," Brustein elaborated via email. "But fame as much as money is the spur that drives contemporary theater artists off their true path. And until we start respecting those playwrights, directors, actors, and designers who have chosen the relative obscurity and lower income of the nonprofit world in exchange for artistic freedom and institutional satisfaction, Red State self-interest will triumph over Blue State collectiveness, leaving a once great movement in the same sterile populist void that created it in the first place."

All the more reason Southern California can desperately use a few heroes — or at the very least, a few principled troublemakers unafraid of bucking the commercialized status quo.

charles.mcnulty@latimes.com

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