Showing posts from April 20, 2008

Hick on Rethinking Values

Great post by S. P. Miskowski entitled "American Theatre and the Hick." A taste, but read the whole thing:

The Hick View: It's about time for artists to take a hard look at their values, their options, and their lives and start thinking of ways to create and present live performance without depending on regional theaters. The regional theater model has been a complete disaster because no one has stuck to its principles, so maybe we ought to accept what theater is, what it isn't, and what we can make it. One way to do more than just survive is to recommit ourselves to a model much older than the regional theater (which came into being in this country only about forty years ago).

The old way? DO IT YOURSELF.


Plenty of people in theater will tell you the DIY approach is silly and won't make you rich. Ask them if they are rich. Ask them if their house or car is paid off. Ask them if they have health insurance. Ask them if they're offering you a job when they m…

Lot Full

I did my undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, a huge campus of over 50,000 students. Of course, with that many students, not to mention the faculty and staff of the university, the major problem was predictable: parking. If you got to campus after a certain time, you usually found "Lot Full" signs standing in the entrances to most of the parking lots on campus, and often there were a dozen or so cars sitting in line waiting for somebody to finish class and vacate a spot. Sometimes you'd sit there an hour before there was a space for you.

The point I have been trying to make about Nylachi, and most recently about DC, is that these lots are full. When a lot on the U of MN campus is full, nobody went from building to building trying to get people who had a spot in that lot to move their cars. That would be a waste of time. But if there were other lots on campus that had plenty of parking spaces available, one might go up to the drivers of the…

Link to Blog: "Regional Communities"

There is a link to one of my posts at the "Regional Communities -- Think Local Planet, Act Regionally Website," which does a weekly list of links to blogs and articles about regional thinking. Tom Christoffel, the blogmeister, describes the purpose of this blog: ""Think local planet, act regionally" is a paradigm that balances "Think globally, act locally." More and more, it takes a region, a "community of communities" to solve problems. This is an exploration of emerging regional communities. "Community precedes cooperation." This is my thesis. It comes from over 30 years of working for regional cooperation. Community teams and teaming are collaborative methods for facilitating cooperation without attempting to eliminate competition." If you are looking to expand your conception of the theatre tribe beyond simply an artistic concern, I recommend checking in with Tom!

Breaking News

Wow! Ian's the next Mike Lawler! Big Artist Undies news!

Theatre Ideas Jumps the Pond

I am astonished to find Chris Wilkinson of the Guardian blog weighing in on the anonymous blogging controversy in Asheville and the theatrosphere in a post entitled "Noises Off: Unnamed and Unashamed." Of all the things I thought might attract attention from Europe on this blog, this was low on my list! But thanks, Chris!

Marketing guru Seth Godin, author of The Dip, Purple Cow, and Meatball Sundae among other things, has oft written about how the anonymity of the web supports all kinds of nefarious activity from incivility to viruses to participation in adult chat rooms (how many people, he asks, would be found in adult chat rooms if they had to log in with their actual name...).

Anyway, I tend to agree with Godin -- I'd never log in to a sex chat room if I... no, wait a minute, that's not what I meant to say. What I meant to say is that without the benefit of so many aspects of real life conversation (facial expression, body language, vocal inflection), online commun…

Jason Grote on NPAC Presentation

I must admit to being puzzled by Jason Grote's blog post on the "blog of the National Performing Arts Convention" entitled "Watching the Watchers: Gauging Audience Response." Perhaps it is the difficulty of writing something about an event that hasn't happened yet, but the more I read of his post the more I found myself despairing. Why? The first sentence of Jason's post reads, "While I can't speak to the specifics of the study in question, I generally think that surveys measuring audience response are a bad idea." A little later, he writes, "With all due respect to Mr. Yoshitomi and Mr. Brown, with whose methods I am not at all familiar, I feel that "Measuring the Intrinsic Impact" of any work of art is an idea with potentially disastrous results for the creative process generally." Further down, he draws a parallel to film focus groups (because, I guess, the description of the study reminds him of them), saying "…

Maybe It Ought To Be NYLACHIDC

...except I wouldn't know how to pronounce it. Maybe "Ni -LAH-chee-dik." Anyway, from the Washington Post's "More Shows, Fewer Showgoers":
The number of stage performances and theater companies in and around Washington went up last year, while overall attendance dropped 1.9 percent, according to statistics from the Helen Hayes Awards organization. Despite that dip, 2007 was the busiest year since the first tally in 1985, the Hayes group said, with 67 professional companies presenting 8,050 performances of 454 shows. That is an increase from 2006 of three companies, 402 performances and 20 shows.
Metropolitan Washington is a busier theater district than the Chicago area, according to Hayes Executive Director Linda Levy Grossman. Though Chicago has more theater companies, "the D.C. area still does more work," she noted via e-mail. Even so, derrieres in seats numbered about 36,000 fewer in 2007, the Hayes staff reported, with 1,908,557 people attendin…

Nice Graph, Isaac!

Isaac at Parabasis has done a nice job converting NEA budgets over the years to 2008 money. While it is tempting to blame the precipitous drop on the Reagan presidency and the ascendancy of the Republican Congress, we might do well to remember (especially in this primary season) that the arts didn't do very well during the Clinton Administration, either. I never noticed a particularly strong commitment to the arts during those years.

I wish the Backstage blogger had this graph before getting all oogly-googly about the NEA budget increase.

I'm all for Isaac's Lifeblood Initiative, and frankly I think there would be interest in it at the NEA as well. There actually are grants for new works at the NEA, although they seem to be tied to the creation individual works and projects rather than providing a salary for individual playwrights.

Meantime, I am trying to develop a business model that treads as lightly as possible in the realm of government and private funding, which might b…

On Unexamined Assumptions and Mike Daisey

In my post entitled "Ranting on Teaching, Backstage, and the Level of Discourse," I wrote asbout the "the dismal level of theatrical discourse." When "our journalists show such a lack of depth," I wrote, "such a dearth of critical thinking, such a superficial understanding of theatre history -- well, is it any wonder that our art form itself is about as deep as a child's plastic swimming pool." Case in point: "Shaking Things Up, Regionally Speaking," an article in Sunday's New York Times by Jason Zinoman about Mike Daisey's performance, How the Theatre Failed America.

Zinoman, who apparently keeps up with the theatrosphere, begins by noting the "fevered debate online" (fevered, or heated? Fevered implies some level of babbling hallucination, doesn't it?). He then checks in with a few regional theatre representatives, both of whom exhibit the lack of intellectual wherewithal that leads me to despair for the fate…

Short Elaboration on Previous Post

In my previous post, "Want and Need," I asked the question whether any theatre needs 350 - 400 non-profit theatres. There are some who will point at other cities that have a concentration in a certain industry -- say, Silicon Valley -- and discuss the positive creative effects of having the amount of creative interaction such a concentration affords. And there would be great truth to such an argument -- the circulation of talent and ideas ramps up the creative heat, there is no doubt about it.

Here's the difference between the theatre and Silicon Valley: Silicon Valley, despite being concentrated in a small area, is creating products for the world, whereas the theatre creates products for the locality. If the only people who would buy the computer products created in Silicon Valley were people who lived in Silicon Valley, I guarantee that you would soon find the computer business scattered across the globe.

If you cage up 400 dogs and every day feed them only enough food f…

Want and Need

At the end of the NY Times article on the Off-Off-Broadway theatre numbers, Paul Bargetto, the artistic director of East River Commedia, boggles his own mind with what he apparently thinks is a rhetorical question:

"“You start to show people the numbers involved here,” he said. “What city wouldn’t want to have 350 to 400 not-for-profit theater companies?”

A better question might be: What city needs 350 to 400 not-for-profit companies? I suggest a quick read of Garret Hardin's "The Tragedy of the Commons", which discusses how finite resources (in this case, the theatregoing crowd) can be depleted through overuse, as an indirect response to Bargetto's question. Or perhaps a basic economics text about overcrowded markets (see "marginal benefit," "excess supply," and "allocative function of price.")

For anyone with tribal theatre leanings, this report should be printed out and taped to the wall next to your bathroom mirror as a daily remin…

Arlene Goldbard on Obama

One of my favorite blogs is written by Arlene Goldbard, long-time community-based artists and thinker. Friday, she posted an insightful, indeed inspiring, analysis of the latest Presidential debate in terms of Passover. Great stuff.