For the Next Generation of Great Actors, Boost Arts Funding Now
Anthony J. Piccione
The past couple of weeks have been a time of mourning for many of us, as many beloved artists in theatre, film, music and television have passed away. Among them were the incomparable David Bowie, who left his mark on not only music, but also on theatre and film. Shortly after that, we lost the prolific stage actor and director Brian Bedford,who was best known for his work with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and was nominated for 7 Tony awards. The following day came the passing of the legendary Alan Rickman, who had previously performed on numerous occasions with the Royal Shakespeare Company prior to his success as a film actor.
I think it’s fair to say that talented people like this are nearly irreplaceable and that it is more than appropriate during this time to memorialize them by remember their unique contributions to the arts during their lifetimes. However, as great as their own individual talents may be, that is not at all to say that we should be resigned to the possibility of not seeing other great performers follow in their footsteps.
When thinking about whom those great talents might be – and how they might be discovered – it might be worth thinking about how people like Bowie, Bedford, Rickman and countless others had the opportunity to hone their craft, and to one day share their talents with the world. Part of it may have simply been because they were born with a certain degree of talent, but it’s hard to argue that it’s the only reason. It’s also worth looking into the fact that they had access to not just performance opportunities, but also arts education programs, that helped shape them into the artists that we know them as today. Indeed, during the time in which their generation was younger, funding for the arts was generally not under attack the way it has been in modern times.
To put it simply,without funding for programs such as these, we might never have had the chance to witness these talented individuals as fans or audience members.
Knowing this, I think it’s worth asking: Are we doing enough to prepare the next generations of actors to follow their dreams and enjoy the same sort of success that past generations enjoyed? I personally don’t see how the answer to that question can be anything other than “no”. Yes, there are plenty of great arts education programs that are out there today. I myself have worked at and written about a few of them in past columns here at On Stage. However, the fact of the matter is that there is still more that can be done to ensure that young actors – and young artists of all kinds, for that matter – have access to such opportunities so they can enjoy the benefits of such programs. It is why instead of doing what many people have proposed – at least outside of the arts community, anyway – and cut funding for such programs, we should be doing the opposite, and figuring out how to potentially increase funding for the arts.
So as we move past this period of mourning for the artists and performers that we have already lost in 2016 – and this is something we should also remember during similar times of mourning in the future – we should pay tribute to them not only by lavishing praise on them and looking back on their past work. We should also be thinking about the future, and how we can make sure that today’s youth will be able to learn and develop their talents, so that they will one day grow up to potentially have the same impact and influence that past generations of artists had on society and culture. If you ask me, there’s no better way to honor them than by doing that.
This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Student, playwright, actor, poet and blogger currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Anthony and his work, please visit his personal blog at www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to like him on Facebook(www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org/users/903/anthony-j-piccione).
Photo: Waynesville High School