Showing posts from February 3, 2008

Mike Daisey Spells It Out

H/t to Isaac at Parabasis. If you have been reading my blog, you must read this: Mike Daisey's "The Empty Spaces, or How Theater Failed America" published in Seattle's newspaper The Stranger. If I haven't convinced you that the current system is broken, Daisey's essay will. Mirror Up to Nature finds it depressing; I find it a trumpet call to a new era in regional theatre, one that isn't beholden to New York, and one that puts the artists in control. The talent of people like Mike's friend should not go to waste.

And Then

For the couple readers who are still on board after the past couple days, click on the Theatre Tribe badge on the right and join people who share your interest in a different way of doing things. We can get to know each other, and exchange ideas, frustrations, and dreams.

Yesterday, I talked a lot about "and then" -- the talents a member of a theatre tribe brings to the table that extends the economic capabilities of the group. As I mentioned, I am drawing from Daniel Quinn's idea of the "occupational tribe," which he describes in Beyond Civilization. He writes, "a tribe is nothing more than a coalition of people working together as equals to make a living." So it is a collective.

Additionally, it is a self-sustaining, ongoing group of people who, "among them, have all the competencies needed to start and run a given business." So groups started by, say, actors and directors without designers are not a tribe -- they don't have all the comp…

Get To Know Each Other

I've been getting a few emails and comments from readers who are finding the idea of theatre tribes intriguing, and that makes me very happy! It also made me realize that there needs to be a place where you all can meet each other and talk about your ideas, struggles, and dreams -- and maybe find people who share your vision that you might join up with. To help get this going, I have created a new private website on Ning that you can join and spend some time networking. This would be particularly worthwhile for people who have been reading blogs, but been reluctant to enter the public fray. This website will be private and much kinder and gentler than the theatrosphere. If you'd like to receive an invitation to join this website (which carries no obligations), email me at walt828 at gmail dot com.

On Cows, Pastures, and Theatres

Over on Don Hall's blog, an exciting exchange has developed over the reasons for creating a company, and the approach to doping so. Adam wrote:
When I left Congo Square my desire was to start a theatre. For many artists, this desire and passion alone would have been enough to call a few friends and get the ball rollin'

But I'm a business guy, so it wasn't.

Instead I had to ask myself some additional questions:

1. Was there really a need for another theatre? Or to put it another way . . . was there a niche in the market that wasn't being adequately served?

2. Did I have any desire to produce art for this underserved niche?

3. Based on my current understanding of the nonprofit market, did I think I would be able to put together the resources (funding, Board, staff, etc.) to pull this off in a reasonable amount of time?

Once I answered those questions probably not, maybe and no respectively I put my theatre idea on hold. The timing wasn't right. That doesn't mean …

Get Yourself a Tribe

OK, so if you have thought about it long and hard, and you think you are someone who can live without the Nylachi dream of fame and fortune, then your next step is to find other people who share this orientation. You need a company, or what Daniel Quinn (Ishmael) calls an "occupational tribe" in his book Beyond Civilization. (You might want to check out my tribalism posts here, here and here to get a better understanding.) So your next hurdle, once you have abandoned the fame and fortune idea, is to also abandon the freelancer mindset. From now on, you are part of a tribe, a company, an ensemble. No more going from job to job and letting other people determine what plays are worth doing and what nitch you do or don't fill. Now, you and your fellow ensemble members are in charge. If this doesn't appeal to you, then for God's sake stay in Nylachi, where a freelancer can make a career.

What goes along with this is a simple rule: in order to be valuable to a tribe,…

International Culture Lab On Board

Folks -- keep an eye on the International Culture Lab blog, which will be participating in the explorations happening here.

And while you're at it, check out Don Hall's latest post "Like Square Pegs in Round Holes" and do some serious thinking about what he says. Is it possible, or even desirable, for theatre artists to focus only on creating art?

Joy and Pain

A tangent: teaching acting. If I were setting up an acting curriculum, I would have students spend the first semester watching the following video and trying to reproduce it themselves. Watch:

I'd have students pay particular attention to the older brother -- how he clearly went from laughing to surprise at how much it hurt to the realization that it was hurting A LOT - and then back to neutral again when his attention is drawn to the TV! It seems to me that this is the foundation of all great acting: portraying clearly on one's face and in one's body the changing thoughts and emotions of a character. Then I would have students spend time paying attention to the baby -- the pure joy that goes across his face.

Sounds easy, right? I mean, how much time would this take for students to accomplish? Well, watch some attempts, and compare them to the original:

And this:

It's not easy. But it is crucial to acting. If you watch one of the first scenes of The Godfather, you will…

Obama's Arts Policy

Courtesy the Community Arts Network blog:

Guardian Article

Thanks to Sarah McLellan for forwarding this article from the Guardian on "Rural Theatre's Radical Force."

Fear of Falling Off the Map

OK, let's start exploring the ins and outs of a new model for regional theatre, keeping in mind the goals described in the post above. From here on out, my steps will be more tentative, since we will be going in new directions where our thought experiments may be contradicted by so-called Conventional Wisdom. While there may be some data that we can use to bolster our ideas, and I will try to locate data to do that, some of what follows may be based on conjecture. All I can ask is that you give the conjecture a fighting chance in the war against Conventional Wisdom. (If you want to see how Conventional Wisdom works against innovation, read Jason Grote's "Long Overdue Response on New Play Development," paying particular attention to the reasons offered as to why his play 1001 couldn't succeed outside of Denver.)

The first hurdle we have to deal with is the fear of regionalism. For instance, Jason worries about "falling off the map" if he leaves NYC. It is…

Draw a Line

For the past month or so, I have used most of my posts to explore the downside of the current regional theatre model. I have alternated data with history, and history with rants (Geezer rants, in Nick's memorable term) in my attempt to create a clear picture of the reasons why we would from an attempt to explore alternatives.

It is my impression that many of my readers have followed my arguments, and acknowledge many of the problems I mention, even if they personally prefer working within the status quo. After a month, I think I need to move on from the description of problems to the development of solutions. This is a much different project. It is fairly easy to describe what one is against, but much more of a challenge to describe what one is for. Nevertheless, it is a necessary step if the discussion is to progress beyond simply rehearsing the same kvetches that have been heard in bars and coffee shops for years.

So draw a line in your mind at this post. While there may be tim…

On Demonizing Tyrone Guthrie

Last Wednesday, I wrote a post called "Betrayal of the Regional Theatre Movement -- The Guthrie," in which is posted a comparison of Margo Jones' passionate commitment to the production of new plays and development of contemporary playwrights with Guthrie's commitment to classics that were at least fifty years old. Obviously, I portrayed the latter as a betrayal. As Tony rightly pointed out, Guthrie cannot be blamed for all those Artistic Directors who have continued his policies to this day. We recreate reality every day by our behavior, and Guthrie only headed the theatre named after him for two short years and then he moved on.

To call Guthrie's policy a betrayal is perhaps too strong -- it implies a level of conscious dastardliness that is undeserved. It is important to remember -- and I should have pointed this out -- that when Guthrie was building that theatre, the American theatre was almost wholly committed to the production of new plays. In many ways, Gu…