When my stepsons were younger, they had a computer game (and I am mortified to say I can't remember its name -- maybe somebody can remind me) in which one of the characters, in addition to regularly saying "Yesh, milord" in a hilarious accent, would suddenly shout a mush-mouthed "We're being attaaaaaaaaacked!" And then all hell would break lose.
That's how it recently feels in the theatrosphere, and specifically this blog. A lot.
On a personal basis, the latest comes from Nick at Rat Sass. I won't reiterate the usual list of complaints, nor the tendency to discuss personalities rather than ideas. I'm not going to defend myself -- I end up doing that too much anyway. But I would like to point your attention to the first comment in relation to this post, wherein Tony Adams innocently asks: "I can’t speak for Scott, but I’m not sure how promoting theatre outside of NYC is an attack on New Yorkers. I’m fairly new to the sphere, so I don’t know if there’s more to the story. But for a lot of the people who stake their claim in NYC, a lot of time seems to be spent vehemently refuting what he says. Does he just piss people off, or does he hit a nerve? I’m not trying to pick a fight, nor do I know if there is an easy answer. But I am curious to hear your thoughts." Nobody responded to Tony, and so I guess he remains as baffled as I am. But I am certain that there is a line of people who will inform him that I am evil incarnate.
What I want to focus on is that here is somebody who feels the need to assert that he is "not trying to pick a fight" by asking a question. Think about that for a few minutes. In a post a while ago, Laura Axelrod indicated she was "afraid" to admit that she sometimes agrees with me. The point I'm trying to make is not about me, the point is that the theatrosphere has gone way beyond argumentativeness to something bordering on bullying.
Laura Axelrod begins a heartfelt post as follows: "I crashed a writing group last weekend. They were meeting at a coffee shop. I overheard them talk about writing, publishing and books. They laughed. Alot. There was a feeling of warmth amongst them. I wanted to be a part of it."
That's why I entered the theatrosphere. I thought it would be a place where ideas could be exchanged and different viewpoints considered. Recently, and especially since the Rachel Corrie controversy, I haven't found that to be the case. All too often, it has been a place for virtual fisticuffs. Now, I'm sure I've played a role in that, and I'm willing to carry my share of the blame. But I am not willing to say that I am the sole source, nor am I willing to admit that everything that has been said against me has been deserved. There is enough dirt to go around.
Laura also writes: "I'm fascinated with conflict. That's why I write drama. But I don't want to blog from that energy level. I don't want friendships soaked in negativity. I don't want to be dragged into funky shit. Conflict leading to illumination is one thing. One-upmanship is something else." I agree. Finally, when all is said and done, I agree.
And I want to go on record as adopting her solution as my own: "I'm not having any more of it. If you know more than me about my experiences and opinions, bully for you. I'm not going to argue. That doesn't mean you're right, it just means that I'm saving my emotions for more worthwhile activities. Like stimulating conversations with warm, supportive and successful people."
I will continue to write this blog, and I hope that readers who are interested in new models of how theatre might be done in the communities outside of NYC will continue to read. But I will no longer be addressing the NYC theatre scene, nor will I be responding to defenses of the NYC scene, nor attacks emanating from the NYC scene. If such posts appear in my comments box, I will ignore them or delete them. I will no longer define my ideas in terms of the dominant mode of production. I plan to be more utopian.
If there are "warm, supportive" people who have been reading, but who have been reluctant to comment for fear of abuse -- this blog is now a safe zone. So I hope you will let your voice be heard. The ideas I want to explore have roots in history, but it is a history that has received little recognition by the establishment. Consequently, there is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of thinking that has to happen. It will require collaboration -- working together. Creating something different is a process that requires additive thinking -- the use of the connective "and" more than "but."
To those NYC bloggers who would like to participate in this project, you are welcome -- just leave the NYC model behind. There are many, many people blogging about NYC and indie theatre -- this blog will not be one. To those outside of NYC, and especially those from communities where theatre is not ubiquitous, I sincerely hope that you will pitch in your ideas. You don't have to be an expert to contribute something useful.
To Laura Axelrod: thank you for the indirect prompt, and I apologize if I have misused your words.
To the NYC bloggers: I think you are good people. I just can't continue to define myself in terms of NYC anymore. It is taking me "off message" and distracting me from the thoughts I need to be having right now.
In addition to the ethical code change, the focus of this blog will expand. No longer will it just be about theatre, but instead it will encompass other art forms and ideas. Most will still end up being applied to theatre, but many of the best ideas are coming from other sources, and I would like to explore them as well.
For those of you tempted to respond to this post with variations on the "pot-kettle-black" theme, as I said above I acknowledge that I am not blameless. But I need to create a new code of behavior in relation to this blog in the hopes of creating a different atmosphere. That code will start with me: I will not be responding negatively to posts on other blogs, nor commenting negatively on other blogs, nor will I be addressing the NYC scene. I hope that others will respect the code when they land here. It is my hope that someone will stumble on this blog, and say, like Laura did about the writer's group she encountered, "They laughed. Alot. There was a feeling of warmth amongst them. I wanted to be a part of it."
No hard feelings.