Showing posts from June 29, 2008

Mike Daisey Responds to American Theatre

Mike Daisey provides an excellent response to Teresa Eyring's "How Theatre Saved America, Part 1." I am looking forward to whether American Theatre will respond to the suggestion that they devote an issue to this topic, or whether they will do a two-part dismissal and pretend they've dealt with it. The fact is that everything is not alright on the regional theatre scene, and not surprisingly given the way it is set up, it is the artists who are getting the dirty end of the stick. TCG represents the institutions, not the artists, so they may look the other way. Regardless what their response is, it will be indicative of the state of the theatre. Blogged with the Flock Browser

Terry Teachout's July 2 Almanac

"Provincialism is not merely lacking city taste in arts and manners; it is also an increasingly vital antidote to all would-be central tyrannies."
           John Fowles, introduction to G.B. Edwards, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

Thanks, Terry and John!

And to my readers: have a great Independence Day!
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Resource #5: Grassroots Theater

This is a rerun from January 2007, but for people interested in a more geographically diverse theatre scene, Robert Gard's classic is a source of constant inspiration:

As the book description explains, "Robert Gard’s timeless book is a moving account of one man’s struggle to bring his dream of community-building through creative theater to citizens around the country. He traveled across America—from New York’s Finger Lakes to the prairies of Alberta, Canada, to the backwoods of northern Wisconsin—discovering and nurturing the folklore, legends, history, and drama of the region. He talked to ballad singers, painters, the tellers of tall tales, and farm women, whose poetry and painting reflected the elemental violence of nature and quiet joys of neighborliness. Grassroots Theater reminds us that an individual’s creative vision transcends technology, current events, and changing demographics." Originally published in 1955 and re-released by the University of Wisconsin Press …

Resource #4: Ireland: A Novel

So far, my resource recommendations have been specifically about theatre, but often the place where you can find equal inspiration is in books only indirectly or analogically connected to the theatre at all. This is definitely the case with Frank Delaney's wonderful  book Ireland: A Novel. In this case, the book itself is wonderful, but I would like to specifically and enthusiastically praise the audio version, read by Delaney himself., whose beautiful Irish brogue and storyteller's instincts makes the tale pure magic. If you want evidence that telling the stories of a specific place -- in this case, Ireland -- can soar into the realm of myth or dive into the depths of tragic realism, you need only read or listen to this tale, which traces the history of Ireland as well as tje story of a young boy, Ronan, who fall sunder the spell of an old storyteller and spends his entire life trying to follow in his footsteps. Through it all, the melding of history, myth, and imagination ca…

Herbert Blau in 1964 -- Psychic?

"For, my dear colleagues in art. let us face it: the biggest impediment to the growth of theater throughout America has never been, as the cry goes, economics or stultified communities, but the timorousness and self-deceit of people in the theater who are always deploring lack of subsidy and want of opportunity to do 'meaningful things'; who dram of companies 'like they have in Europe.' but wouldn't go beyond New Jersey to find one; who are tame, submissive, and even ignorant of the way their art, often never practiced, has been debased in this country; who let themselves be humiliated and humiliate themselves before the meat merchants of casting offices; who, prey of agents, prowl the studios and seek out showcases rather than create stages in places all over the country that would wlecome them; who drift away from meanigful opportunity when it confronts them because it doesn't pay enough or because it looks impossible or because the new is really intimid…

Ottawa Arts Center: The Start of Something Exciting

Afriend of mine from college, Caryn, lives in Ottawa, IL. She has a bachelor's in theatre with a concentration in creative drama from Illinois State University, and an MFA in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University. She also is an expert signer for the deaf (she signed for Barack Obama when he visited her town), and a wife and mother of four kids. She lives in Ottawa, IL about 90 minutes southwest of Chicago. She contacted me via Facebook not long ago, and discussed her desire to create an arts center in Ottawa.

"OK- hey- I need some great first steps advice for a start up for an arts center in a small town. I have all kinds of stuff I've looked at, but if you were to break it down, ABC your best advice for starting..."

I responded with the URL for the Community Arts Network, and a strong recommendation that she find a copy of Tom Borrup's The Creative Community Builder's Handbook. I also said:

To my mind, the keys are: 1)interdisciplinarity -- have peop…

Comment Moderation On

Dear Readers -- I have enabled comment moderation for the time being as a way of assuring that my comments box doesn't turn into a place for one or two people to endlessly bicker with me, which I'm certain that my other readers find tedious. No, I am not referring to Don Hall or dv -- you are welcome as always. My preference is to have an open forum, but for the moment that is not going to work out. I will likely restore open comments at a later date. In the meantime, I will try to approve comments in a timely manner (if I can figure out how that works -- I have never done this before.)

Resource #3: Engaging Art

Engaging Art: The Next Great Transformation of America's Cultural Life has been one of the most exciting reading discoveries of the summer for me. Edited by Steven J. Tepper and Bill Ivey (former head of the NEA and author of the recently published Arts, Inc.), the book is filled with essays that make you think about theatre and the development of theatre audiences in new and exciting ways. My plan is to devote some attention to individual chapters rather than do a single review -- stretch out the meal, as it were. Today, I'll be examining "Can There Ever Be Too Many Flowers Blooming?," by Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, which was published in 2004.

Schwartz talks about studies that have been done that compares how people's behavior changes according to the number of choices they have. The first he refers to was done by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper "in which shoppers at a gourmet store were confronted with a…


Dennis Baker writes his thoughts on the New York Times article about the OOB production of Epitaph for George Dillon." Truth be told, I behaved like the NY Times myself, writing my own blog post while failing to acknowledge Dennis as the person who forwarded the article to me. So a Big H/T to Dennis, and please give his post a look see.
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What has happened to Theatreforte? No posts for almost two weeks. Have I missed an nnouncement?
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Be Quiet! We're Making Progress!

There is an oft-told story about leadership that goes something like this:

A large group of explorers are cutting their way through a jungle, hacking through the underbrush with their machetes, working with superhuman strength to clear a path to their goal. One of their members breaks away from the group and climbs to the top of a tree in order to get a sense of the landscape. Looking around, he realizes that the group has slowly lost their direction and are heading at a 90 degree angle from where they want to go. "Hey! HEY!" he calls out. "What?" come a voice from below. "We're going in the wrong direction! Wrong direction!" he shouts. The voice from below shouts back: "Be quiet! We're making progress!"

I thought of this story this weekend when I read the editorial by Teresa Eyring in the latest issue of American Theatre Magazine, and an article by Patrick McGeehan in Saturday's New York Times entitled "The Odds Are As Big As The…