Acts Of Survival
by Laurence Luckinbill
published in American Theater Magazine July/August 1986
I’m in a bar in the Mission District, San Francisco. The place is strangely familiar. The ﬂoor shakes from the rock band in the basement. Even the sugarbowl is dancing. There's noise, laughter, talk, erratic lighting, and the drinks are big, fast and lethal. The patrons are a mixed bag of Yuppie Boheme—dough and yeast, clay and shapers. The joint reminds me of every theatre bar I’ve ever been in -serviceable, and a bit worn. But why not? In an apocryphal sense it's been open for 2,500 years, and the original owner—a retired actor cum small—time politician named Thespis-—is still around, hocking his chainik. As I slide into a booth, I imagine he whispers that here's the place to meet the new generation, the best and brightest, the most talented: These kids are all going to make it! Sure.
Michael McShane, 25, appears. Not quite Belushi-fat, but with a dangerous heavy lurch to him, he jams himself into a chair. He’s tired and elated. On top of a full day’s work at the phone company, he rehearsed with an improvisational comedy group, Faultline, and has just come from performing a show downstairs. The place was packed. He was paid a hot 20 bucks, but that's the last thing on his mind tonight. “Tonight,” he yells, “tonight, I think we put a nick in the wall of indifference!” Later, coming down, he tells me he's selling his computer to I pay this month’s rent. “It’s okay, though, next month I've got a couple of days work on a film. ” He picks at the lining of his thin gabardine topcoat, which has come loose. “Acting, shall we say. . .”—he looks at me with a tired grin—“. . .abounds in dependency.”
Sixteen years ago, I wrote an article for The New York Times about the way actors live. That year, 1970, I was in a successful Off Broadway play, Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw. I was married, with a baby and a new mortgage on a modest house in Brooklyn. I’d been a working actor for 10 years and was one of the lucky ones-—to a fair degree, I had “made it. ” But like any new homeowner, I was nervous about the bills. Totting up my balance sheet, I was stunned to ﬁnd that my salary from the hit play, against my bare expenses, would leave me, at the end of a year’s run, $1 1 , 700 in debt. Yes, I thought, but I love doing this——it’s what I dreamed of and trained for, and how many people have that in life? Still, the voice of common sense was pointing out that I really couldn’t afford it any more—not, that is, with children, a house, a car and a life like any other young professional man. You couldn't exactly call me a Yuppie, because acquisition was never my goal: but I had been brought up in a strict and striving working-class family which taught that first you achieved an education, then a profession, and home and security would follow. That was the American Dream.
In the previous decade, I’d done 14 months on the road in a distinguished modern classic, debuted on Broadway in a short lived comedy and done, eight Off Broadway four of which had been bona ﬁde hits. I'd been a member of four high minded repertory companies- Lincoln Center Rep, the APA in Ann Arbor, ACT in Pittsburgh and the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland. And I’d done lots of winter and summer stock. From all this, over the 10 years, I had earned atotal of $37,000, or a fast $71 per week (had I been paid every week, which I hadn't). There was no continuity from one salary to the next in terms of growth, mastery of my craft or seniority. Anything I eamed over union minimum was negotiated each time according to the rules of supply and demand. In the current show, I was taking home $100 per week for eight performances; so, to make my nut, I needed a second full-time job. In short, I now realized that I had studied six years, apprenticed for two and lived out of a suitcase for ten more while learning to be an actor in the living theatre, only to wake up at age 35 to the depressing fact that, in any normal sense, I was in a profession that didn't exist.
From the standpoint of earnings, in fact, my one ﬁlm, The Boys in the Band, commercials, two years on a TV soap (which had given me the down payment on the house), even a year as a maitre d’ in a Village restaurant—these qualiﬁed better as occupations than did acting in the theatre. That, it seemed, was a hobby. Still, it went without saying that acting on stage was purer, more demanding, more satisfying, a higher calling. Certainly people in most professions or trades had to apprentice and work their way up; but in other professions there were ﬁrm foundations, ladders to climb, acknowledged goals within a structure. My friends—a lawyer, an engineer, a medical researcher—also loved what they did, but they had no compunction about demanding a living from it. Was the problem economic, merely a matter of supply and demand? Or was it social function: Was the theatre trivial, a luxury, relatively useless except to those of us who must practice it? Had learning to act in Shakespeare, Sophocles, Moliere, Chekhov, Ibsen, Miller and Williams rendered me unﬁt for commerce?
I looked back over my education for clues. Acting in the theatre, I had learned, was a tradition as old as history itself, a fascinating combination of the visceral and the spiritual. I had come to believe that the immediate transaction between actor and audience was a place to realize myself, a way to make a living connection to the great social vision of writers and poets. Slowly, I came to call the vision Art. But since, in an out-of-the-way Southern town in the early 1950s, it was worth at least a broken nose to call yourself an Artist, the ideal of Art shifted subtly to the goal of profession. A professional, I knew, was validated by being paid in some way. Without intending to, I had joined the system. And, almost imperceptibly over the years, professional came to mean for sale. Actor devolved to survivor. Theatre dwindled to show-biz and movies to the industry. And unconsciously I had assumed a defensive stance, like an aging ballplayer: Better stay in shape, better get signed before the season starts! Time was always running out. Ambition became its own goal. I had more children now, thus more absolute needs. And I made some “mistakes” in the status game one played in the “show-biz” world: Believing that acting was acting, I had preferred one role over another without regard to venue, only to ﬁnd that, no, the medium was the message that put you on the “A” or the “B” list. In New York, rising costs had narrowed the actor market. Where talent had once been the great leveler, now people were “starring” on and Off Broadway, based solely on their TVQ. I imagined that to control my life, I too had to become a “star”—then I'd be able to pick my next “project” (“stars” didn’t have mere “jobs") from an overﬂowing cornucopia of “deals.” It seemed the peak of chic to be able to say not what you were doing, but rather what you had turned down. I made the absurd discovery that I could be, simultaneously in different media, a “star,” a“name” and an “unknown.” I was now speaking a foreign language, even to myself. Nothing was what it was anymore. My work was actually getting better, but all the while I had the feeling I was barely surviving-—and with all the bailing and the rowing to stay in place against the drift, I forgot to look up at the night sky, to the real stars. I was lost.
This year I went searching for a new generation of actors. For several weeks I traveled across the country, stopping at Off-Off Broadway theatres, regional theatres, dinner theatres, nightclubs, ﬁlm sets. I listened to young performers-—actors, dancers, singers, comics, musicians. What is it like for them? What do they think they are giving to society, and what do they expect to get? Have things changed since that moment in 1970 when I ﬁrst tried to describe for myself and for others how actors live their lives? The answers, from New York to Atlanta to Denver to L.A., were inspiring and sobering.
SAN FRANCISCO: It took a second after Brian Lohman’s mouth stopped. moving for me to realize he was talking to me—it could have been the beat bouncing his jaw around or the New Wavers surﬁng past, jostling the table. Brian, a cohort of Michael McShane in Faultline, is possessed onstage of a bizarre, self—effacing non—identity that is peculiarly of the ’80s. For a good part of tonight's show, he had worn a sweatshirt over his head. “. . .but not passive,” he mouths above the din. “What?” I yell. “We may be independent, but we’re NOT PASSIVE. We force you to BE INVOLVED.” “Who are you dependent on?” I ask. “Each other, the group.” “But what if you, personally, got an offer you couldn’t refuse?” He muses a moment, then yells, “I wouldn't abandon the group. The group can have a better career than I can have on my own. All I want, personally, is to be a barometer of what's going on, and not to lose touch with the way people are feeling.”
I move across the room to a small family group sitting apart, out of the hubbub. Mark Murphy is 38, his wife Jill is 36. With them is their small daughter. Jill is pregnant. They’ve just moved back to this city where they worked before. lt’s their 30th move in 17 years of marriage and of pursuing lives as stage actors. Recently, when they both had jobs with an established resident company in Oregon, they took a low-cost government loan and bought a little house with a garden. It turned out that the company had a bias against using husbands and wives in the same season—they wanted Mark, not Jill—so the couple chose to leave. They put the house up for sale, but set the price so high they’re sure no one will try to buy it. Meantime, broke, they’ve taken a loan from the Actor’s Fund to make the move to San Francisco and pay rent till the season starts. With a second child on the way, Mark is working as a phone salesman, Jill as a clerk, because even after 10 years of working as dependable and popular performers in the regional nonproﬁt theatre, they haven’t accumulated any savings. When Mark goes into rehearsal, with some coaching on the side, he'll be making a luxurious $630 per week. When the season ends, they’ll be facing another move. They’re thinking about New York this time. But what Mark and Jill really want is to get back to their own house and garden which they can’t afford.
“I’m not gonna give up that house," Mark says quietly. ‘‘I like to plant. to grow things. I just need a theater job that will allow me to own that house and raise my family. And a few fruit trees.” And if that never happens? They look at each other for support. “We’ll keep traveling.” I offer to pay their bar check, but during the two hours we’ve talked, they've ordered nothing—not even for the little girl.
ATLANTA: David Head, on the other hand, grabbed my check, twice. Slamming around this sprawling city in his battered, third-hand Volks, still dressed as cowboy Eddie in Fool for Love (which he produced and is acting in for his own company, Theatrical Outﬁt, this 34-yearvold actor has deﬁnitely taken charge of his life. Handsome, and with a faintly disreputable, speculative air that (probably because it's Atlanta) recalls Rhett Butler, Head has a laidback, amused ambition that seems exactly right for the ’80s. Reaching for my notebook, he casually tears out a page and shows me, using my pen, how by the ’90s his ﬁve—year plan will create an endowment, build a new theatre and develop a stabilized cash ﬂow through a combination of grants and subscriptions. At the moment, though, only he and his managing director take home a living wage for the standard 20-hour days it takes to run their theatre.
Head dropped out of college during the Vietnam era and knocked around the streets in a succession of tough jobs. He brings an old—fashioned American entrepreneurial drive to his theatre project, and plans to make it pay. “Most of our support is from unpaid volunteers. I’m not content with that. You gotta have a speciﬁc goal—we’ll pay people X dollars a week by the year X. As it is now, I give my non—union actors a crisp new hundred—dollar bill and a handshake at the end of a show. It’s a nice gesture——but we’re going to do better. The question is how to handle it so the artistic administration doesn't end up serving the business administration. ”
What's his artistic goal? “Forget about cinematic realism. I like plays which handle problems in a non-realistic way. I guess I'd like to discover the next new ‘ism.’ Actually, I think of myself as a tribal shaman, pulling people around the fire.” He suddenly sits back and rubs his eyes. “I don’t know. All it is really is the need to commune. Not to feel so alone.”
NEW YORK: “The truth is, I wasn’t happy in this town until I found a group my own age to work with. We're developing something new on our own—we call it The Demise of the American Family.” The firm-voiced Cassandra sitting across from me in an East Side restaurant is Cathy Larson. She's 20, and the kind of fresh blonde beauty who was always being discovered by movie studios in the old days; now s e seems improbable, almost anachronistic, certainly in the theatre. She came from high school to New York in a workshop of Smile, soon-to-be-a-major-Broadway-musical. The workshop folded, but Cathy stayed. Now she's trying to support herself with commercials.“Every day I put on my tape called ‘To Get You in the Mood to Be Commercial.’ ” She ﬂashes a toothpaste smile and in a nightly newsbreak voice announces, “Hi, I’m Cathy! I love your product!” She breaks off. “I don’t know. The theatre just seems to be mired in mediocrity. I don’t have any childhood fantasies of fame and fortune. I tend to be very realistic. I could do other things. But I started doing theatre at 13, and the need inside, whatever it is, keeps me going. You see, my family are all scientists and teachers. I just don’t want to be the only one of us not doing something of value. And even though the theatre is supposed to be the expression of what it is to be human, it's all too rushed, no one takes the time to do good work. Ev- everybody talks about money, money, money. . . .” Her china blue eyes suddenly ﬁll with tears. But the realist in Cathy will not let her look away, even as the tears break.
David Hare, another in the long line of exquisitely socially aware British playwrights who would like to cash in with a big hit on Broadway, recently in these pages called American actors, in effect, whores. ‘‘I’m always shocked at their promiscuity,” he was quoted as saying. “These people are allowed to have contracts where they can leave on two weeks notice if they get a superior offer. You can't build an ensemble here. . . .” Allowed to have contracts? If Hare had any interest in looking beneath the surface of the non-system regulating actors’ work, he would quickly realize that without contracts giving us the mobility to earn at least a basic living in ﬁlm and TV, there would be no American professional theatre. One can hardly blame an outsider, however, for confusing the promiscuity of cause and effect, when even one o the most distinguished of our own idealistic dreamers can say—as did William Ball, who created and recently resigned from the American Conservatory Theatre—that he thinks of himself now only as “teaching the actors who are going to be on HBO.” Is this the essential compromise made by those who are trying “to dream a new dream in the real world,” as another artistic director put it? Or is it imperative that we dream a whole new world, and make it real?
Every one of the 30-odd young actors I spent time with as I traveled was talented, educated (many with post-graduate degrees), professionally trained, articulate, determined, optimistic and pragmatic. In spite of having grown up with the celebrity worship that pervades ﬁlm and TV work—or maybe because of it——none had “stardom” as a goal. There was no talk of getting rich, high living, vintage cars. Nobody mentioned Hollywood, seldom even Broadway. What do they want? To work in the theatre for a living wage. How much is that? Across the country, a surprisingly unanimous ﬁgure: $400 a week. That is enough for an unattached young San Francisco comic, a married couple with children in San Francisco, the artistic director of a small theatre in Atlanta. a New York actress living with a roommate in a $500-a-month 14’ x 18’ room with“its own bath!”
These young idealists are ready to give of themselves on a deep level—but in the main, I am convinced, their idealism is without ideas. Their self-analysis is informed, even daring; but their social analysis is non-existent. And without a foundation for structural ballast—the idea of service to a speciﬁc cause, for example—their creative energy will inevitably ﬂoat away or be co-opted into something baser. I admire their uncynical pragmatism——but at the same time they seem more vulnerable than the actors of my generation, less protected by a sense of the ancient grandeur of the theatre, less convinced that a social contract has existed or could ever exist between artists and the public, less hungry for the dignity and respect due the real sacriﬁces for their art. It's as if they’re resigned to being second-class citizens, outsiders with their noses pressed to the glass, wanting in, and without even the purifying rage of revolutionaries who would tear it all down and change it. Maybe my generation didn’t change anything , but in those coffee houses of the ’50s we talked ideas; now the talk is all of jobs. Where will the next one be? When will it be? Will it be?
From the corner of 45th and Broadway, the sickness of our theatre might seem to be a result of daunting ticket prices, theatre rental costs, “star” salaries, union demands, the machinations of a giant, antiquated money machine. In fact, these are diseases (that inevitably infect all labor-intensive commercial enterprises. The real problem—the only problem, as I see it—is the crucial misconception that the theatre is commercial! On the contrary, the real theatre, by its very nature, cannot be successfully commercialized. This discovery came as a big shock to me, as it may come to you, since for so long we have focused on tickets sold, salaries paid, proﬁts or losses tallied. But where this ignorance is accepted, there is rot at the root. The proof is that even in the nonproﬁt regional theatres across the country—which are theoretically shielded from the hit-ﬂop syndrome—-there are signs of the same distress. These theatres, too, are operating on the false perception of theatre as a commercial institution. It is proper to apply the proﬁt motive as measure of success in commercial enterprise, as the number of given units sold is entirely relevant to public acceptance; but to apply that yardstick to any art is patently absurd. But in the theatre, we do it without a second thought, as if merely selling more tickets could make a bad play good.
But, of course, the cost is a factor, chiefly relevant to the quality of the audience. Any New Yorker will recognize this guy as the oracle: the driver of a medallion cab, spanking-clean interior, pics of the grandkids on the dash, Russian-Jewish last name. “Do you like the theatre?” “Love it.” “Do you go?” “No.” “Why?” “I stopped when it went over 40 bucks.” “What would it take to get you back?” “Twenty-ﬁve bucks.” “If it was 15 bucks, and in your neighborhood, would you go, say, once a month?” “In my neighborhood. 15 bucks, I'd go once a week, and take my granddaughter. I think she wants to be an actress.” l rest my case. We need this man. It's ridiculous to think that the theatre can reach everybody, but since when have we tried?
Instead, the reality is that we are self-defeatingly elitist. It is a hard-ticket, luxury item. A grafﬁto on a Geary Street wall in San Francisco’s theatre district says it: “Only two percent of people in the USA can a afford theatre. ” I think the writer’s exaggerating. The figure I quoted for The Times in 1970 from the 20th Century Fund Report on the Arts was four percent of the upper middle class, a somewhat more limited number. Whatever the number, the theatre audience remains a minuscule segment of the population. Why? Target-marketing is no excuse, but it may be an explanation. But theatre is not, in any sense, a value-neutral product. To treat it as such——either by a gentrification, which turns it into a luxury boutique, or by trying to increase sales on the basis of high volume and low price instead of engaging the question in the human dimensions of availability and purpose——is doomed to failure. The great classic theatres of history drew their audiences easily and indiscriminately from all classes of society. And clearly they offered more than a cold purchase of entertainment.
Of all the evils affecting theatre workers, discontinuity is the most destructive. There's constant unemployment out there in Equity-land, but unfortunately the union’s statistics don’t mean much--because at least 50 percent of the “actors” represented in the devastating unemployment ﬁgures are simply not employable. Even in the name of unionism or democracy, it is inhuman to ignore this fact. I have sat in required “cattle call” auditions while 400 eager, sweet souls (and not a few crazies) ﬁled by, equipped with expensive pictures, resumes, class credits and union cards—and not a twentieth of the lot had talent, presence or even the merest ability to hold a stage or delineate a part. I'm not blaming the aspirants for this waste of time and their lives-——but someone’s making some bucks off them. Why shouldn’t a series of regular qualifying examinations be required of all performers, in order for them to advance in their categories of mastery? This might help to winnow the numbers of the unemployed into the realm of reality.
At the same time, it is necessary to point out that even for the talented and qualiﬁed, life in the theatre is a state of permanent unemployment, interspersed with uncertain periods of intense employment at uncertain pay. This is discontinuity is how all actors spend their lives. This is useless and debilitating. This is waste. The “star system” is equally pernicious. The theatre is, in fact, a kind of family, and what family can operate happily in a state of inequality? I contend that there aren't 20 actors in the theatre—in the world—who must be seen whenever they appear. There aren’t 10. When we go to the theatre, it’s to hear a play, not to Crawl into Robert Redford’s hairdo, or up Sting’s nose. Nevertheless, commercial producers must use “stars" even when they don’t want to, to justify risky investments to their backers. But can't we as theatre workers return to a respect for skill over public relations? Can’t we show some healthy, egalitarian contempt for “celebrity”?
A cycle of co-option and re-validation takes another toll on the theatre. There's a constant, wounding talent drain from the theatre into TV and ﬁlm. Often it’s irreversible, with performers “making it” in the theatre, then promptly leaving it, never to return. If theatre were more widely available, if continuity of employment were improved, fewer performers would be permanently co-opted by the more commercial media. Could we then count on seeing productions of The Comedy of Errors with Redford and Sting as the twin Antipholi? No. Would we want to? No. But since “stardom” is based, as always, not on skill but on sex appeal-——and since sex appeal is increasingly a manipulable quality to be given and taken away by the image- and taste—makers-—its half-life has grown shorter and shorter. Thus, yesterday’s “star” is now forced to descend from the coolest medium to a lukewarm one, and from thence to a still warmer one, in a parody of Dante—-until, ﬁnally, he falls into the womb of the theatre, from which he may or may not have sprung. Suddenly, the publicity mills are grinding out copy about how our “star” felt the need to “return to his roots,” to do something “important” for “no money,” and we dutifully admire this noblesse oblige. This is not the right term: at best, it should be called career re-validation. In cases where the retreat to excellence is really a p. r. scam, I suggest that our “star” be required to remain with the play for a full year, with alphabetical billing, and to donate double the entire pittance of his salary to the Actor's Fund.
False commercialism, elitism, discontinuity,“star” worship, co-option. Isn't it obvious that the ideal of service, diminished and debased by these follies, becomes self-service, self-interest, competitive careerism? And if the glories of our theatrical heritage are pointed to as a way of proving that commercialism can't be all bad, my rejoinder is that these good things happened in spite of the system, not because of it. The true glory of our theatre is that there are always those who can rise above it. But for how long, and at what cost?
There are, I believe, solutions. The malaise, which we recognize by the symptoms of feverishly rising prices and overworked and failing organs, is the result of trying to make a sow's ear out of a silk purse. The theatre is a public, not a commercial, enterprise. Like the great public museums and universities, it must be endowed and supported. Like the great public libraries, it must be present, available and cheap (if not free) to use. (Imagine tying the borrowing of a book to the marketplace: “I'm sorry, that book is now one dollar a day—we have four janitors on strike for more money. No, that one is ten dollars a day—it's very popular!") Like Congress, plays and players may still be electable by public acclaim, but their basic support must remain objective, generic. There will always be commercial “show-biz," of course, but let us no longer confuse that with theatre. It sometimes happens that a great museum creates a show or sells a picture which earns a huge proﬁt-—-but that is not the museum's reason for being, or its meaning. Its meaning, we know, is in its permanent collection, in the skill and dedication of its staff. Like museums and universities, the theatre is a place of rest and stimulation, of alertness, judgement, sensuality. A humanist and humane place, a profane church.
This kind of thinking may seem evangelistic, vague, naive. But it’s the bottom line. A hard-headed business mentality has left the commercial theatre busted; the nonproﬁt theatre, which in the past 25 years has made a spectacular leap across the country, is in a deadly struggle with rising costs. National Endowment for the Arts chairman Frank Hodsoll, our government's chief arts representative, is concerned with the problem of “artistic deﬁcit," which he deﬁnes as “the consequence of subordinating artistic goals to balance sheet considerations. " Sounds like the commercial theatre to me. Sounds like the real show is in the front ofﬁce of these nonproﬁt circuses, where managers are juggling the bills and performing quadruple somersaults of fund-raising.
Still, Hodsoll, who is concerned and even passionate about the live performing arts which are his responsibility, wonders why 61 percent of the American public has never seen even one of the performances that a fraction of their tax dollar goes to support. The answer is that the performances are still too expensive, and they're perceived as elitist. Hodsoll's on the right track when he proposes ﬁnding money to promote awareness of the arts, and in his stated preference for ensemble work as opposed to “commercial star entertainment." He has also advocated starting arts education much earlier in the schools with required courses right on through high school. “Of course, that'll take decades,” he says, “but if you don't take those decades, you'll end up with nothing.”
Bravo. But we can also start now. The ﬁrst thing to change is the government's self-deﬁnition of its role toward the performing arts as “supportive of other people doing things. . .rather than undertaking primary support." This year the NEA will channel some $160 million to the arts—that sounds impressive, considering that at its inception in 1964, the agency's budget was $1.5 million. Think again. Denmark, with a population one-sixtieth the size of ours, contributes ﬁve times more than the U.S. in state support to the arts. I asked that country's cultural representative why. He said he thought it had to do with a kind of national pride, a desire to preserve a heritage. Even Britain, with a sixth of our population, devotes twice what we do to the arts.
The essence of thrift, common wisdom reminds us, is not spending less but spending what's necessary. If we tripled the current budget of the Endowment—to $500 million a year—it would be possible to create a theatre which would belong to actors and audience in equal measure; a theatre which could embrace the ideals and use the energy of the best and the brightest of our young artists; a theatre free of the diseases I've described (but perhaps prey to others——there are few institutions immune to the bureaucratic virus). It is an act of faith worth making. The ﬂourishing of ideals is in the national interest.
But is the theatre socially important enough to justify such a commitment? I don't know whether England would have won the war without Churchill quoting Shakespeare, or if Greek civilization would be so honored today had it not been for a handful of playwrights, or if abolition would have come as soon without the novel, and then the play, of Uncle Tom's Cabin. But l do know this: We've reached a point in the life of our country and the world when it is necessary to decide how we will deﬁne ourselves as human. As we choose to oppose slavery because that opposition makes us more human, as we choose to fight hunger and cancer because we have the means and because it is unthinkable not to, as we choose to dig a Panama Canal, or vote for a Marshall Plan, or preserve our primal forests, or explore outer space, we can also choose to support the freedom of art, to invest in our artists, to give them the dignity of full citizenship free of commercialism-—and then to demand of them that they tell us the truth as they see it.
Some other propositions: A permanent Theatre Think Tank to study solutions for the philosophical and practical questions facing the theatre, compose of representation from the theatre (nonproﬁt and commercial), universities, craft unions, funding agencies (government, foundation and corporate) and audiences; the creation by the government, in conjunction with established nonproﬁt theatres, of a Performers Peace Corps, whose members would serve for two years at union scale and whose mission would be to create theatre in U.S. communities where there is none, planting the seeds for an indigenous theatre; a national advertising campaign to stimulate awareness of the power of live theatre to enlighten, elevate and give joy; for all performing artists in the country to stop work for one peaceful extra-legal Day of Unity; an immediate lobbying campaign aimed at increased support from federal, state and local governments, foundations and corporations, with the goal of total support for a national system of nonproﬁt theatres with permanent ensembles of artists.
We actors——survivors like me as well as the extraordinary newcomers I talked to in recent weeks-—have high stakes in such a revolution. “Something has to happen for the new people coming up," is the way Remy Sandri, a 24-year-old theatre student at New York's Circle in the Square, put it. “Something has to click before we get cynical. But, if the theatre doesn't work out for me, I'll go and join Mother Teresa. At least there I'd be helping.”