This Seatlle Times story is getting a lot of theatrosphere play. Basically, the issue is that as budgets decrease, the larger LORT houses are shrinking the cast sizes of their shows, and the lower the cast size, the fewer opportunities for actors. This gets compounded by the use of out of town talent.. the few roles that are available are generally cast out of town or, in the case of touring one-and-two-hander shows like Wishful Drinking or The 39 Steps, already have casts.
I imagine that- given that it's still not clear (as far as I know) that Kate Whorisky is even moving to the city where she'll run the second largest theater in town- that the worries are fairly well founded. But then another issue gets raised that often doesn't get talked about in these conversations... actor quality:
Traditionally, artistic directors are free to cast whomever they like, from wherever they want, within budget restraints. And Whoriskey recently told The Seattle Times that she just wanted the best actor for each role — which didn't offer local actors much comfort.
This is where these conversations tend to break down for all sorts of reasons, including simply that actor quality is at least somewhat subjective. I would posit that there is indeed a richer and deeper talent pool for actors in New York. Its the Capital of the Industry after all. But that doesn't mean that there aren't great actors in other cities to use in shows. And there are other side benefits as well-- you don't have to pay to house them, and there's the "home team" effect that Mike Daisey talks about at length in How Theater Failed America. It helps a theater have a community when it's actually part of a community.
Intiman's new managing director, Brian Colburn, didn't know casting was a burning issue here when he relocated from California last year. "Kate [Whoriskey] and I are now aware of it, and want to be very supportive," he says, "not just with roles but also ongoing training opportunities for actors."Yet beyond local pride and lower travel costs, why should theaters give Seattle actors priority? Is it too artistically restrictive? And what's in it for the audience?
Since I'm not part of the Seattle scene and don't know it well, the question for me is... how much time are the Big 2 spending investigating the actors who are already right there in Seattle?
Part of the issue here it seems to me is that using local actors and building a local actor pool is a long term strategy, and theater season planning is a short term enterprise.