From the publisher...

A.S. Waterman

November-December 2007

Where is the Classic Theatre?

Louisville has some great cutting-edge theatre. We have every reason to be proud of groundbreaking and innovative works produced by Specific Gravity Ensemble, Bunbury, Le Petomane and Necessary Theatre, to name just a few. But must our range of choices be limited to "groundbreaking or bust"? Where are the classics?

I recently posed this question at a gathering of TheatreLouisville reviewers. "Walden" was the answer they offered. Certainly, Walden Theatre is a theatrical gem, and a landmark in our cultural landscape. But there's something wrong when the great playwrights are exclusively the province of students. Moreover, what is this scenario teaching them? Presumably, these gifted young people dream -- as we did -- of one day performing or directing such coveted roles as Amanda Wingfield ... Willie Loman ... Lady Bracknell ... but, also like us, they won't be able to do that here. It's painful to think that the Louisville theatre community considers the greatest works of dramatic literature to be a right of passage, to be packed away and forgotten.

My daughter teaches at MATCH in Boston, MA, a school that was recently profiled on the ABC national news for the marvelous work it has done in turning the most disadvantaged and problem kids into honor students. The article stressed that MATCH's students recently placed first in the state for math scores. However, what it neglected to mention was that MATCH's teachers also consider the arts to be an essential part of education, and take their students to see live theatre, such as a recent production of Hedda Gabler when they were studying it in class. For our Louisville students to see Ibsen -- or Wilde, Shaw, Miller, take your pick -- they would have to travel far, indeed.

I've become increasingly puzzled about this, so I asked a number of local theatre professionals why their companies don't produce any of the classic works. Most often, the response was that it doesn't fit in with their "company's vision." I can understand it not fitting in with a company's business model, but I find it hard to believe that most directors and producers are so shortsighted as to forget the masterpieces that made us who we are. Many seem to have chosen to remove their glasses -- but not quite all. At a recent meeting of Theatre Alliance of Louisville, an alliance member made a surprising proposal: Suppose that several of our independent theatre companies each sent a representative to form a Classic Theatre Consortium. That group would then work together to present at least one or two classics per year, performed either in a donated public venue or at schools.

An exciting prospect, yes? But his proposal fell flat. There was no interest.

But perhaps it was because the wrong people were listening. I'm now making this same proposal to all of the actors, directors, producers and patrons who read (which is a sizeable number, according to the hit counter). Are you interested in seeing this happen? Email us at
and we'll put you in touch with one another.

Let's add "widest range of offerings" to the impressive list of superlatives we can claim. We owe it to ourselves, our community and the next generation.

Published Nov. 1, 2007

Where is the Classic Theatre: An Update


I've received a number of replies from readers since posting the editorial "Where is the Classic Theatre?" on Nov. 1. It's gratifying to see how many people are in agreement that Louisville needs more classic theatre, and how many voiced their support both for that and for theatre in all its forms. Only one reader expressed the opinion that Louisville theatre should focus only on the new, and that the so-called classics should remain rites of passage for students. I would have been disappointed if I hadn't received at least one such response. After all, as that is the status quo, clearly someone feels that way. Nonetheless, I was tempted to ask him whether we should also close down the art museums and concert halls, or move them to the schools -- or, indeed, why theatre seems to be the only art form for which the question is even raised.

Then I received this exciting email from one of Louisville's best known theatre professionals:


I would like to let you and the readers of know that I am in the beginning stages of forming a classical theatre company here. I have many plans, dreams, goals, fantasies that right now are indecipherable, one from the other. However, have your readers stay tuned for more information on The Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company.

First goal is to hold auditions in the summer for a fall 2008 production.

--J. Barrett Cooper

So there you have it, and you heard it first right here! We'll certainly keep you posted.


Artwork and text are copyright © 2007 and 2017 A.S. Waterman.
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