Monday, July 27, 2009

Sustainability V: Legitimacy Pt. 4 (Local Context)

Well, over the weekend I finished reading Createquity's fantastic summary of Gifts of the Muse, and I thought that I would come in Monday ready to swing on that issue. But I want to carp on a bit about Sustainibility and Legitimacy for another moment, since this is becoming a dear idea for me.

Recently, there was an announcement that the former head of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Adrian Noble, would be coming to run the Old Globe theater in San Diego. In one of the articles (not, unfortunately, the one whose link I just found), Adrian Noble joked that he had never been closer to San Diego than the Los Angeles Airport.

Now, Adrian Noble's legitimacy in that position probably isn't up for debate. For one of Britain (and the world)'s leading Shakespeare directors/A.D.s to take over one of America's higher-profile Shakespeare Festivals is such a no-brainer.

On the other hand, there is something jarring to me to have a theater company turn over its artistic leadership to someone who freely admits that he has no experience with the town he's working in. The implication there is that Shakespeare is Shakespeare, no matter where you do it.

Now, I'm sure that Adrian Noble is a talented director, and I'm sure he's going to make good theater, but... well, obviously, creating good theater isn't enough. Plenty of people have been making good theater for a while now, and it still isn't drawing the crowds like it deserves. The point is that our theater needs to speak to its local context, it needs to find a way to make itself relevant to the people of its community. People that Adrian Noble has never met.

I'm torn, because I feel like if I wasn't wearing my "arts community development" hat I wouldn't be criticizing this move. When I heard about it, my gut instinct was "Yay! San Diego gets some good legitimacy!" I didn't mind that it was a British director. But something about never having once been in San Diego... how does he know what will strike a chord with San Diegans?

Is anyone on the same page as me on this issue?