Friday, March 02, 2007

The Gated Theatre Community

Also from the same article by Dudley Cocke (see below):

With most (80 percent) of its audience drawn from the top 15 percent of the income scale, the assembled spectators for the typical not-for-profit professional theater production don’t look like any community in the U.S., except, perhaps, a gated one. From such a narrow social base, great democratic art will never rise.

Playing Out Front or Right Behind the Song

From Roadside Theatre (Whitesburg, KY) artistic director Dudley Cocke's essay "Art in a Democracy," available on-line at the Community Arts Network website.

"Thirty-odd years ago, a famous folksinger from California came to the coalfields of central Appalachia to perform in a high-school auditorium. A big crowd was on hand as a local string band opened the concert. The local band, rising to the occasion, had the audience’s rapt attention. I’m told that you could hear a pin drop. The famous folksinger followed with some success. Backstage, she made a point to congratulate the local band on their performance, noting that she, too, often sang from the same Appalachian song book. She went on to say how keenly the audience had been listening to their music and wondered what their secret was. "What is that little something extra you seem to have?" she asked repeatedly, each time more emphatically. The local band kindly looked at the floor as she pressed for an answer. Finally the fiddle player spoke up, "Well ma’am, the only difference that I could tell was that you were playing out front of them ol’ songs, and we were right behind ‘em."

Ralph Ellison deftly spins the fiddler’s point:

There is a cruel contradiction implicit in the art form itself. For true jazz is an art of individual assertion within and against the group. Each true jazz moment (as distinct from the uninspired commercial performance) springs from a context in which each artist challenges all the rest, each solo flight, or improvisation, represents (like the successive canvases of a painter) a definition of his identity: as individual, as member of the collectivity, and as link in the chain of tradition. Thus, because jazz finds its very life in an endless improvisation upon traditional materials, the jazzman must lose his identity even as he finds it.

The Charlie Christian Story ("Shadow and Act," p.234)

Artists from all cultures have asked themselves these timeless questions: What artistic tradition am I working within? What is the history and current condition of this tradition? Where do I fit? Who are my fellow practitioners?

"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Show Blog

I have begun an experiment connected with my production of The Philadelphia Story, which had its first rehearsal last night. I have created a blog for anyone involved with the show to blog the rehearsal process. I am hoping that this will serve two purposes. First, I emailed the campus community announcing the creatLinkion of the blog in the hopes that some people might be interested in getting a "behind the scenes" look at the process. I am hoping that a stronger sense of connection between artists and community will develop from this interaction. For the students, I am hoping that blogging about their experience will encourage reflective thought about what they do and how they do it, so that the production process is more than simply putting on a show. After all, it is educational theatre!

In case you'd like to follow the process, and perhaps offer some words of support or advice in the comments box, the URL is: http://uncaphiladelphiastory.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My My My

A small spate of aggressive dick-waving:

David Mamet makes sweeping generalizations about the intellectual and moral superiority of actors.

And Edward Albee takes a swing at all those pesky actors and directors who think they're creative.

Which leads me to this question: in a society that isn't exactly supportive of artists in general, and theatre people in particular, why do we save our largest brickbats for bashing...each other?