On this day in theatre history–July 12, 1961–the British government authorized the expendture of
£ 1 million for the creation of a national theatre.
The result: One of the greatest cultural institutions in the world, generating £80 million in revenue annually. Not a bad return on the initial investment.
Meanwhile, in the U.S.:
In contrast to the British way of thinking, here’s an example of how Americans value theatre: In 1999, the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts was slashed to $97.6 million–a $64.3 million cut from its allotment in 1995 (an astonishing 40% reduction in four years). How were these millions in savings spent? Well, that same year the Pentagon requested and received $50 million for Viagra for the troops. Apparently, taxpayers won’t tolerate their money going to support the arts, but Viagra for the troops is just fine. From one form of entertainment to another, I guess. (It should be noted that the NEA allotment has never recovered–its annual budget still remains well below what is was 20 years ago. Viagra remained in the Pentagon budget until 2005 when it quietly was dropped. It is being proposed once again for 2013.)