Career is the Operative Word

by Michael Eddy

I just returned from the annual United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) Conference and Stage Expo. This is my favorite show since it brings together the widest representation of the theatrical production industry—technical directors, designers, technicians, consultants, educators, manufacturers and suppliers; across every different discipline and production craft, be they masters or early career. It’s a wonderful reminder to all of us how diverse, innovative and talented those who follow a production path in theatre are, but it also speaks to the wealth of careers there are in our industry.

Seeing the range of opportunities, the scope of companies as well as the passion of individuals at USITT, I felt fortunate to be the editor of a magazine that covers theatre at this time. It is a thriving industry, for now. However, as we were going to press for this issue, the White House put out its initial proposal for the FY 2018 budget where they don’t just propose cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), they are looking to eliminate both completely!

Without speaking to the abhorrent loss of access and support of the arts as a national value to our society let’s look at it as an industry. Because for an administration that purports to be all about job creation, cutting these programs is nothing more than a job killer.

Recently, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) president Kate Shindle spoke decisively, stating: “The elimination of NEA seed money for theatre is a job killer. Not just for the actors and musicians onstage, or the writers and creative teams who create the material. Live theatre also provides jobs for people behind the scenes, like the stage managers and crew; and the people in front of the house, like ushers, box office and concession staff as well as those who have administrative jobs. Live theatre means work for those down the block: the waitstaff in the restaurants, the bartenders, the taxi drivers and the parking lot attendants, to name only a few. …There is so much irrefutable evidence that the arts serve as an economic engine, even and especially in cities and towns whose factories or industry jobs have disappeared. Altogether, the arts are a $700 billion industry employing directly 4.7 million Americans and millions more indirectly.” 

I am proud to be working with a publisher and colleagues that support both free speech and the need for democratic support for the arts and humanities. At its core, Stage Directions serves the theatre industry at every level—from education to professional—covering those who WORK in theatre. This is profession, not a hobby, it's our careers, our jobs. As participants in the national theatre conversation and as members of the theatrical press, we feel it important to amplify the calls from within our industry to support the NEA and the NEH. I implore all our SD readers to add your voices and contact your elected representatives in our nation’s capital.

We will be bringing you news of what your colleagues in the industry are doing to speak up and speak out. That is why I am pleased to include in this month’s issue Kevin Mitchell’s conversation with Stephen Sachs, Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles. It speaks to the importance of doing what we can all do in our roles to support our industry but also the importance of the theatre to our society.  I welcome your thoughts, story suggestions. and comments.