Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Director says regional theater is best

Cleveland Press November 20, 1973

Patrons of the arts are fickle and support for the arts can and should come from the community as a whole.

Jon Jory, the man with that philosophy, is not an outsider looking in and criticizing but an insider explaining the way things should be. Jory is artistic director of the Actors Theater of Louisville, Ky.

Now knocking the patron, even slightly, is hardly the thing for a man directly involved in the arts to do and what Jory is really saying is that the arts are finding new patrons.

Jory was here recently to talk to the Play House Womens Committee.

He will be back to see the musical, "In Fashion," which Jory adapted from Feydeau's farce, "Tailleur Pour Dames," and which the Play House will present beginning Nov. 30.

Jory was a Play House apprentice during the 1959-60 season, has directed productions at 14 other regional theaters including the Arena, the McCarter Theater and the Pittsburgh Playhouse and was co-founder of the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven. He went to Louisville five years ago to become artistic director.

"In an economically insecure time for the arts regional theater is prospering," Jory said.

He says that the regional theaters are healthier than the New York theater and are offering greater attractions for actors.

"In New York commercials and TV soap operas are the only ways for actors to make a living. The regional theater offers a healthy environment, a chance for an actor to be part of the community, to have a house and yard, to be where people don't regard you as tamed Bohemians."

But Jory is not advocating a long-term, resident company but a company that would attract actors from other theaters, actors who might stay for several seasons. He sees no contradiction in this and in the notion that actors have a chance to settle down.

"We have a 40% turnover in our company in Louisville and that's not so much when you consider that there is a 20% turnover in the audience due to companies in the area moving their personnel around. And these are jobs that are considered more stable than acting."

Jory said that his theater operates at 90% of capacity, has increased its subscription from 1900 to 17,000 in five years, has gone from one 340-seat theater to two theaters seating 640 a n d 250. (The Cleveland Play House has more than 7000 subscribers.)

The theater, along with the Louisville Orchestra and other arts groups, has given up individual solicitation for money.

Instead Louisville runs a United Fund for the Arts in which 12 groups are beneficiaries. Last year $500,000 was raised.

"There will always be a deficit in the arts," Jory continued. "But we can increase our earned income, we can cut down on unnecessary costs. Our income gap between earned income and expenses is 24.5%, the lowest in the country. The average nationally is 51.2%.

"We can sell the arts without compromise. There used to be a notion that you couldn't, a hangover from the time when the arts were patronized by kings and dukes, and later by about 2% of business and industry.

"Patrons like that can be fickle. Some businessmen have fostered the myth that theater people are big babies and can't take care of themselves and some don't like the idea of the arts being self-reliant.

"Now we're starting to get first rate business people in the arts. We used to know nothing about computer technology, marketing techniques, but these new men do.

"The arts are becoming an instrument for becoming what cities want to be, means of ending isolation."