Working Class Heroes

Okay, I don’t know anything about the Working Group Theater Company but they sent me a nice email so I checked out their blog. They’ve started discussing an issue I think is much more relevant to today’s art scene than the relative importance or influence of bloggers:Class. Nobody ever talks about the Class System in America, nor its influence on the arts, particularly theater, particularly the downtown/experimental world.

Working Group’s blog references the American Theatre article on Mabou Mines in which Lee Breuer says:

Asked if he is competitive, Breuer replies, “What am I competitive about? Anybody who was truly competitive would put all their energies in a money board. That’s how supposedly it works in New York. Look at the Wooster Group—they’ve owned a theatre all their lives. Look at the difference between us and Bob Wilson. Look at the difference between us and Richard Foreman. Maybe it’s a class thing. They have access to funding and support. Other than art, Richard has never worked a day in his life. I’ve had hundreds of jobs. The competitiveness is against the system itself. The system is out there to crunch me. To avoid it, I have to be crass. I think it has to do with class. We’re not upper middle class like everybody else in the avant-garde. Maybe Mabou Mines is the only truly lower-class theatre.”

Now that is something to talk about. Back in October of 2004 I wrote a post about using the term Art Workers rather than administrator or even artist. I’d like to revisit that discussion. What does it mean when you have to work for a living to support your art when other people don’t? Is there an inherent critical bias? Cultural Bias? Funding Bias? There is a lot to think about there.

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