Showing posts from February 10, 2008

The Intersection of Creativity and Inspiration

Technology-in-education guru Will Richardson, a former middle-school principal turned author and national speaker, has a blog devoted to his thoughts. Yesterday, he did a post called "Playin' PVC" about a group of high school students who were inspired by the Blue Man Group to create their own musical instruments. Check out the post, and then follow the link to the group's MySpace site.

This is a good example of what happens when you allow students to follow their creativity. Instead of giving them a cookie-cutter "music experience," by allowing them to experiment (clearly, the music teacher has given them space in the music classroom, and the principal gave them time to perform at an assembly) they learned so much more about being an artist, and a showman. And if a science teacher is following up, they probably could also learn some concepts related to the physics of sound.

Would theatre education be better served by this model?

Ken Robinson: Educating for Creativity

If you haven't seen this TED presentation by creativity expert Ken Robinson, it is worth watching. Robinson contends not that we are educated into creativity, but that we are educated out of it. Frequently on this blog I will receive comments that reflect a very deep sense of anger at teachers. Very often, this is connected to something I have written that seems prescriptive or judgmental (who, me?). This tells me something, not only about how my own personal style is received (and I usually attempt to modulate how I say things when it is brought to my attention), but to what extent our educational system is built not on helping students develop the skills and ideas they need to develop their own unique and individual selves, but rather on molding students into a specific shape that mostly matches what the teacher values. If you look at my guest post at "Theatre Is Territory," for instance, you will see something that sounds as if I am trying to allow young people to dev…

On Taking Action

Rebecca Z, in the comments to my post "It's Beginning to Happen," writes: "You're a great cheerleader about "change", don't get me wrong, but how are you going to act upon this need for change? What will you do to make a difference? And, writing about this stuff, while a great start, is not the answer I'm looking for. Feel free to point me in the direction of past blogs where you talk about action you may have taken, but it just seems like a lot of conversation."

It's a good question -- one that I'd like to address perhaps in a roundabout manner by talking about history.
In November 1930, a 29-year-old play reader with a minimal professional theatre experience began a series of weekly talks in which he passionately described his vision for an American theatre. At first, his audience was made up of a few friends and acquaintances – in fact, the talks took place in his own hotel room. But word soon spread of the excitement of his ideas…

Taking Responsibility

In the comments to an earlier post, Matt Freeman expresses objections to what he considers an "us versus them" approach to this discussion. He writes: "We need to stop talking in terms of us versus them, especially when "they" are "us."

Perhaps Matt will find this surprising, but we are in agreement. They are us. That's the point.

I am reading a book entitled NonViolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg. In Chapter 2: Communication That Blocks Compassion, Rosenberg lists "Denial of Responsibility" as one of those things. He writes: "We deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to:
Vague, impersonal forces.Our condition, diagnosis, personal or psychological history.The actions of others.The dictates of authority.Group pressure.Institutional policies, rules and regulations.Gender roles, social riles, or age roles.Uncontrollable impulses." (p 20)He goes on to give an example that I th…

As If I Needed Another Platform

Ian Mackenzie asked me to write a guest post at "Theatre Is Territory." So I wrote something about theatre education, which he aptly titled "Theatre school in the age of compliance." Thanks, Ian, for giving me a chance to talk to your readers.

It's Beginning to Happen...

...can you sense it?

Don Hall feels it. And he's calling for action.
Mike Daisey feels it.
Nick Keenan feels it.
Nick feels it.
Travis Bedard feels it.
Matt feels it. (Note: Well, maybe not. See comments.)
Isaac feels it.
Adam feels it.
The Director feels it.
Mr. Excitement feels it.
Butts in Seats feels it.
Tom feels it.

No matter what you feel the answer is, there seems to be great agreement in the theatrosphere that the current system is broken. We may look back years from now and see Mike Daisey's performance as the tipping point, the moment when the desire for change really started to gather momentum. Or maybe, as Don says, we are all being infused with Obama's sense of hope. I don't know. All I know is that, instead of talking about tips for staying afloat in the current system, there seems to be a willingness to acknowledge there are problems and start considering alternatives.

Don is promising an "Off Loop Freedom Charter" for the Chicago theatre people. Others in…


Nick over at Rat Sass, in a post aptly titled "Nylachi...You're Fired," has designated me the Donald Trump of the alternative theatre world. I love it! I'm going to start combing may hair from way over on the side from now on! I think I can do that pugnaciously pouty mouth thing he does really good, too. I can't wait to have my own reality show, "The Tribe." Here's the show's cut line: "You say you want to be in my tribe? Prove it!"

The issue Nick is discussing is a good one. In a comment on a previous post, he described my fairly stringent rejection of all things fame-and-fortune as Puritanical. In his post, he points to Steppenwolf as an example of a group who might have started out with tribelike intentions, but once they took Balm in Gilead to New York, the actors scattered to film and television. So true. But here is my question: should we see this defection as having benefitted the theatre?

It is one thing to say: yes, I can unders…

McCain says...

...that hope is a platitude.
That pretty much says it all.

He Who Laughs Back (And Then)

Nick at Theatre for the Future has a great post called "Laughing Back" that describes a great real-life example of my "and then" idea in action. Imagine Sandy Marshall and Nick are both in your tribe, and everybody else has similar valuable skills that can be used to extend the economic life of the tribe. You'd be unbeatable!

The only place where I differ somewhat from Nick is in his expressed attitude toward those who make a living in the corporate world. I think if, instead of keeping your distance, you actually got to know these people, it wouldn't take long berfore you discovered that they have very similar desires to your own. Don't believe me? Read the introduction to Michael Lerner's excellent book The Politics of Meaning. Once you realize that the gulf between people is not as wide as we were led to believe, then you can start understanding how to communicate with them, and reanimate their deepest hopes.

Yeah, that's pretty Barack Obama,…

Buckminster Fuller is Right

Matt Freeman at On Theatre and Politics asks whether anyone disagrees with Mike Daisey. The comments seem to indicate that, while there are a few well-taken quibbles, most acknowledge the truth of Daisey's analysis. I'd like to rob Matt just a bit and copy below a long comment by LB, because placing it within the context of this blog might lead us to look at it from a different perspective. And I'd like to highlight in bold a few statements. LB writes:

I disagree slightly...

I have worked at the Seattle Rep (and some other theaters in Seattle and now in NYC) and while I agree that the model might be broken or at least maimed - I disagree with the fact that theaters are these huge monolithic institutions who have a consistently bloated staff. When I worked there, I often felt like I was doing the work of 2 people. I was trying my hardest, working VERY long days and I was doing it out of a labor of love - because I sure wasn't getting paid enough to live in an apartment w…


OK, so I've written three posts to start off this journey toward a sustainable, geographically diverse theatre. I've asked you whether you can give up the dream of fame and fortune and focus primarily on the work as an end in itself; I've asked you to team up with a group of people who share a similar willingness to focus on the work and form a tribe; and I've asked you to consider an approach to the creation of theatre that incorporates additional work outside the theatre to supplement the income of the ensemble ("and then").

Those are big changes from the freelancer's life. Over the past two weekends, my wife and I have been attending a "bee school" where we are being trained as beekeepers. One of the things I've learned is that, when it somes to bees, the unit is the hive not the individual bee. Everyone is committed to the health of the hive, and each bee has his or her own job to contribute. There are many who will say this is impossible…