It is very common for emerging cities to swing between extremes of self-perception. Either there is extreme boosterism on the one hand, or wallowing in the mire of self-flagellation on the other. Both are exhibitions of a lack of true self-confidence.
In that light, I found it interesting to see this review of the Humana Festival of New American Plays in LEO, an alternative weekly in Louisville. I mentioned this festival earlier as legitimately bringing significant artistic attention to Louisville every year. This article’s tone can be gathered from it’s “Stick a fork in it” title. The author is quite critical of both the plays presented, and much of the festival in general.
You might think this would put the essay in the self-flagellation category, but I didn’t see it. Instead, the general tone seemed to be, hey, we don’t really need this thing. To me that is evidence of a rising self-confidence, a belief that the artistic community in Louisville is strong enough that it isn’t dependent on everyone singing the praises of this one two-week festival per year. The authors specifically mentions their belief that local playwrights can and have written better, for example.
This is what cities like New York have. They expect the best and they dish out tough criticism when those expectations aren’t met. But that doesn’t mean they think having some stink bomb play reflects poorly on the state of their city. It just doesn’t even occur to them. Being able to engage in realistic, detached criticism of yourself without going overboard into the woe is me routine is a part of growing up and a journey the cities I cover will all have to make.