Recently, while browsing my Facebook, I came across a Kickstarter project that caught my eye: Middle Ground.
Middle Ground is a publicly funded radio show that centers on Middle America. In fact, this national show claims one of its main missions is to exclude Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC.
The head of the program, Celeste Headlee states:
“You know it and I know it. Our news media doesn’t have its priorities straight. The cable news networks have 24 hours to fill every day — how is it possible that they all cover the same four stories over and over? When there’s a drought in Texas, a battle over bus discrimination in Ohio, and software innovation in Phoenix, why would they cover Miley Cyrus’ appearance on Saturday Night Live as a news story?”
It comes as no surprise to me that the American media has some skewed values. Perhaps that is because of its need to target a widespread audience. Middle Ground, however, aims to uphold the sentiment of universality by showcasing quality news stories that exist outside of our countries main centers.
After reading this Kickstarter campaign, I began to think about the theatre scene that exists in the United States.
We are all aware of our theatrical centers for commerciality: Broadway, Los Angeles, and even “try-out towns” like Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C. etc. Certainly it would be foolish of me to think that great theatre only exists in these certain cities. I know that regional theatre exists all over this country.
Still, even when I start to think about regional theatre in America, I am confused by the purpose it serves now. It seems that these playhouses and theaters exist only to house a commercial success than to create theatre of a region, by a region, and for a region.
You see, I think that commercial theatre exists for a reason. I think it’s clear that there’s something pleasantly unifying about this. Still, regional theaters today act more as vessels for a commercial production, than a space for region-specific work.
I would love to see regional theatre that truly utilizes its individual location for work that may not be translatable to a major audience. We have so much commercial theatre that manages to travel from city to city. I wonder about the theatre that is specific to a certain audience, in a certain time, and in a certain (perhaps, nationally marginalized) place.
I commend Headlee for her desire to give stories and specificity to our nation’s “fly-over” states. I urge the artists of America, my peers, and myself, to give our hometowns voices too.
If you would like to donate to Celete Headlee’s Kickstarter program, click here.