Friday, July 11, 2008

Mike Daisey Has "Made It"

Adam Thurman has said that Mike Daisey and I have both made it. We're not Dead Money. We've developed "unique skills to thrive in" the current system. I have done so by being a tenured professor, and Mike has done so by having a 2-person theatre staffed by him and his wife.

Let's skip me, since discussing my having tenure seems to make the theatrosphere turn various shades of red. Let's focus on Mike (Mike, chime in if I get this really wrong).

Mike and his lovely wife, who I had the pleasure of meeting at NPAC and who serves as the director and collaborator for Mike's one-person shows, have created monologues such as How Theatre Failed America. The latter show toured America for several months before settling in for a limited run at Joe's Pub and then transferring for over a month at the Barrow Street Theatre. His other shows have followed a similar pathway: touring the country for several months, and then having a longer run in one place. It's good -- he has control over the material and can develop in whatever direction he chooses. He has a permanent creative relationship with his director, and as they have worked together they have gotten better at creating the material.

It sounds pretty good, huh?

Now do one thing: add a second grade child into the mix. How does that change the situation? Suddenly, Mommy and Daddy can't be spending several months on the road, because little Buffy has to be in school and can't be dragging all over the country. So what happens?

Now, if you were Mike, what do you do? Do you believe that he simply can't have children?
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It's a Normative Issue

Folks, let's be clear about this, because Don is trying to blur this in my comments. This is a Normative issue we are talking about, not a Descriptive one. If Don had said that the current system is like blackjack, neither Mike nor I would have quibbled: the current system has all the flaws of blackjack, and none of its strengths. But when Don trotted it out, he did so not to describe the current situation, but to counter the argument that a call for a more stable system that included health insurance should be the goal. Adam Thurman ended his post with the following sentences: "But my gut tells me that making a living as a professional artist will always be like making a living as a poker player. A few big winners, another group of people that are consistently profitable in the world. And lots of Dead Money. And maybe that's the way it is supposed to be." That last sentence is normative, not descriptive: the way it's supposed to be. So Don is changing his story when he writes in my comments box: "Speaking for myself - I can't speak for Adam - my point certainly is not that the analogy represents the way things should be but the way things are. You and Mike may not like the fact that artists are not only gambling with their ideas but their money and their marriages, etc. but your distaste for reality doesn't change it."

What Don is saying is everything is the way it is, and it can't be changed. Such deterministic thinking ignores history, both modern and ancient. Things do change, there was a different system that worked in the past, and we create reality every day according to our beliefs and behaviors. Want some proof that things were different? Here's something from Bill McKibben's book Deep Economy: "in 1900, in the state of Iowa alone, which was then crowded with small farmers, there were also thirteen hundred local opera houses, all of them hosting concerts. "Thousands of tenors," writes Robert Frank [in Luxury Fever], "earned adequate, if modest, livings performing before live audiences." There were also permanent ensembles of actors in every town in the nation making their living doing plays. The way things are was created in the 1870s by a bunch of businessmen who bought up all the theatres across the nation and created a syndicate. It isn't a carved in stone, it's been ever thus sort of thing.

Mike and I think that the system is wrong, that it doesn't support artists, and therefore doesn't support the consistent creation of quality work. And we say (and yes, I am speaking for Mike now) that a system that is broken can be fixed and should be fixed. Don is saying, "Hey, it sucks, but deal with it. It's reality, and is set in every particular. Suck it up."

And I am not ready to drink that particular Kool-Aid. I believe in progress, and the ability of things to change if people recognize the problems and commit to improvement. And no amount of Don Hall's bluster is going to change that.
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On Blackjack and Theatre

Mike Daisey, after first dismissing Don Hall's blackjack = theatre analogy as "just dumb," responds to Don Hall's frustration at his dismissal and his admiration for Adam Thurman's extension of said blackjack = theatre analogy with an excellent description of all the flaws in that particular analogy. What is most incredible to me, and perhaps most revealing about the point we have come to in our conception of the role of culture in our society, is that two thoughtful, smart people are comparing the creation of works of art to gambling. I have to say it boggles my mind. To on the one hand pound the table about theatre's necessity to the soul of America, and then place it within the context of card players in a competitive game... well, it defies belief.

But let's entertain this analogy further. Thurman describes a poker game where 6800 players each pony up $10,000 thus creating a huge pot of money that will reward the winner with $9M, and the next 679 players with a descending amount to about $20,000. They represent those actors who have "hit it big," as it were -- they've made it, they are working. The other 6100 walk away with nothing. Adam calls these people "dead money," and they represent all the artists who are not "good enough" to "make it," who are "deluded" about their level of talent. Now, Don has taken me to task for having a "generally low opinion of artists," but I would argue that this analogy makes me look like James Lipton. What Thurman is saying, and what Don Hall is seconding, is the idea that 89.7% of theatre people are losers who are deluded about their talent. Really? 89.7% of theatre artists, which corresponds fairly closely to the unemployment rate amongst Equity actors, have nothing to offer our society that is worthwhile?

Thurman's and Hall's analogy rests on a commonly held idea we might call "Artistic Darwinism," the belief that in the arts the "cream rises to the top," and those at the top represent the best that there is. The survival of the fittest, artistically speaking. There are several problems with this belief, at least one of which also plagues the blackjack player: the element of luck. Thurman assumes that the blackjack player who wins is the player who has worked the hardest at his "craft," and who is the best prepared, the player who takes second place is the second best blackjack player, and so on down the line to the ranks of the deluded. The problem is that even the best prepared player cannot overcome crappy cards, no matter which system he has become expert in. The opposite is also true: a player who is not great may win anyway because the blackjack gods were smiling on him that day. The same is true for theatre artists. No matter how well-prepared you are, no matter how talented, you may have a bad audition, you may not be able to attend an audition because you are sick or your mother died or you can't get off work or any number of reasons. The fact is that success is more arbitrary than we'd like to think. Far from a meritocracy, theatre is more like a crapshoot.

Furthermore, unlike blackjack which has definite rules that apply in all cases everywhere, the theatre game has rules that change from place to place, theatre to theatre, and day to day. Whereas two 9's and a three always adds up to 21 and a winner no matter where you play blackjack, the exact same audition performed at an equally high level of preparation and creativity may result in a role in one audition and a cool dismissal at another. Furthermore, the cards do not care how tall you are, whether you are blonde or brunette, whether you are taller than the other players at the table, whether you resemble the dealer's first wife, or anything else. What counts is how you play. Can anyone argue that that is the case in theatre? That the best actors get the best roles without concern for any other considerations? What about playwrights? Would Harold Pinter or John Osborne have changed the nature of theatre had not one single critic, writing against mainstream opinion, demanded the spotlight be turned on them? What might have happened if Kenneth Tynan's newspaper had been short on space and cut his impassioned review of Look Back in Anger? Osborne might look a little less creamy, may never have risen to the top. What if Stanislavki hadn't had a chance to see or read The Sea Gull in its first disastrous production? Would Chekhov be known as a minor short-story writer now?

To make matters worse, while in blackjack there is a clear way of evaluating one's success (your stack of chips is higher than anyone else's), there is no similar way of scoring in the theatre. Who is ahead and who is behind is completely arbitrary, and the rankings will be different from person to person. Is Rhondi Reed a better actress than Deanna Dunagan? In blackjack, we could count their chips and see who was winning, or they could play a game against each other; in the theatre, your guess is a good as mine. In one situation, Reed may be superior, in another Dunagan.

No, when it comes right down to it, Mike Daisey is right: this analogy is just dumb.

But let me throw another thought into the mix. So there's this blackjack game where 6800 people are playing, 89.7% of whom will lose everything. Meanwhile, at a casinos all over the strip, there are games where their are fewer players, where the likelihood of winning enough to make a living and keep playing is much greater than 10.3%, but where the ultimate $9M jackpot doesn't exist. There are many, many who would only feel it is worthwhile to play for the highest stakes, no matter what the odds. I would argue that, given the arbitrary nature of the game, these are the truly deluded. But my question is: if you are thinking rationally, why wouldn't you take your $10,000 down the street?
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Great Article on Flyover

Over at Flyover, a music blogger asks some intriguing questions about "How Polite Should an Audience Be?" Short answer: maybe not too much.
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Don Hall, Mike Daisey, and Me

Don Hall takes a few well-aimed swipes at Mike Daisey and me in his latest post "Sounds Simple, Doesn't It?," which in terms of his take on Daisey is encapsulated in his subtitle: "Mike Daisey Starts the Debate Then Excuses Himself from the Table." In previous posts, I have defended Daisey's not providing solutions -- in fact, Don quotes me doing so. Nevertheless, I must admit to being a little uncomfortable with Mike's "my work here is finished" attitude. Like it or not, Mike has become the face of this issue for a lot of people -- you'll note, for instance, that despite my having written about these issues far longer than Mike has been working on How Theatre Failed America, it wasn't me who was invited to speak to the assembled TCG administrators, or even be on the panel for that matter, and Teresa Eyring didn't call her essay "How Theatre Ideas Failed America"...or something. Anyway. So Daisey finds himself in a difficult situation for an artist: on the one hand, he has created a work of art that has actually influenced the debate on an important issue, which is what many artists dream of doing with their work; on the other hand, as an artist he needs to move on to creating other work, because that's what artists do. So Daisey is now concerned with post-9/11 issues of security, and we are left behind to tend the plates he set spinning on their sticks.

It would be a shame to lose this momentum. The likelihood that there will be other opportunities anytime soon are slim, especially given the attention span of most theatre people. We have already reached a point where Isaac Butler feels the need to apologize for bringing it up at all, titling one of his recent posts "Will You Shoot Me If I Keep Talking About Mike Daisey?", as if doing so is a cause for embarrassment -- because, you know, Mike Daisey is soooo June, dude. Indeed, given these tendencies and Daisey's desire to move on, if I were Teresa Eyring and I just wanted the whole thing to go away, I wouldn't give in to pressure to devote an entire issue of American Theatre to this, but would just let the energy drain away by ignoring it. Because the reality is that, for all the kvetching about the status quo, theatre artists would rather focus on their individual work and leave systemic change to others. And this isn't just true of theatre artists, but all kinds of artists. Last night, I was at a meeting of about ten people who wanted to do something about the lack of local government support for the arts here in Asheville. I suggested that before we focused on the powers-that-be, we needed to create an "us" -- i.e., that we needed Asheville artists to join in common cause. One sculptor, who was supported by another one, said that getting individualistic artists to do anything as a group would be like shoveling frogs into a wheelbarrow, and that given a choice between attending a meeting and working in their studio, we all know which choice would win. In essence, Mike says something similar, and Don concurs: "I have a calling, which I fulfill through my work. I do my part and more. I am an artist—I will nurture, hone, and refine it, and that is what I am responsible for because that is what I am." (Mike Daisey) To which Don replies: "All fair as far as I'm concerned. I suspect that almost every artist on the map will state pretty much the same thing, which is, in essence, "I'm too busy doing some art - let the administrators whose salaries I'm questioning make those decisions."

And there was part of me, last night and this morning, who knew that such single-minded focus is what make artists artists, but there was another part that felt that if they had that attitude then they deserved whatever happened to them. At the moment, the latter opinion has won out. We all would prefer to do exactly what we want to do, but there is a responsibility of every person to be a citizen, part of a community, and to work to improve the lot of the whole. As a college teacher, for instance, I might prefer to spend all my time in the classroom doing what I love to do, help students learn and grow, but the expectations are that I will devote time to research and, as importantly, time to service. And so I serve on committees and donate my time to professional and community organizations, because part of being an academic is being part of the academic community. The expectations toward service, which are an important part of the criteria for my annual reviews and tenure and promotion decisions, nudge me to do what I ought to do. Where are similar expectations for artists?

Should Mike Daisey be held accountable for the discussion he has set in motion? Yes, he should, and to some extent he continues to do so -- the likelihood is strong that his letter to American Theatre will be printed in the next issue rather than Dennis Baker's or my own, and that is as it should be, and Daisey has not skirted that responsibility. Could he do more? Sure. Should he? Yes, I think so, but not alone. What about the rest of the theatre community? When will they take action? When will they join forces?  Because if you don't want to put it on the administrators to create change, then we have to do it ourselves. When will they take a stand?

If the discussion in the theatrosphere is any indication, the answer is never, because far from joining forces in support of the issues Mike Daisey raised and that many have kvetched about in bars and coffee shops for years and years, what I see are artists seeking to pooh-pooh these issues, and to attack Mike Daisey for raising them at all. Don compares being an artist to being a blackjack player, and says that nobody is trying to figure out how to provide health insurance for blackjack players, nor, apparently, should they. Of course, blackjack players seek to make money only for themselves, and what they do does nothing to improve society in any way, whereas artists contribute something valuable -- but let's ignore that. "Nobody forced you to do theatre" seems to be a favorite theme among theatre artists, with the unspoken assumption that once you make such a decision you should expect to be treated like chattel. Others have fretted that the possibility of having a reasonable income from artistic work will take the edge off the creative impulse and lead to complacency, as if there were historical evidence that artists who had money lost the ability to create anything worthwhile. Others have touted their poverty like a badge of honor, a sign of the purity of their creative lives and proof that they haven't "sold out" to middle-class values. R Winsome writes in "Theatre and Labor Relations" that he "strongly disagrees with Daisy's claim that theatre artists are entitled to benefits and guaranteed long-term employment. Eyring's claim that this problem doesn't exist is specious for the reasons Daisy points out, but it does open the door for my conclusion: theatre should not provide such things." Which not only misrepresents Mike Daisey, who has never said artists should be "guaranteed long term employment," but dismisses even the notion that health insurance might be something desirable. At NPAC, Alliance Theatre's Associate Artistic Director Kent Gash, to my total jaw-dropping amazement, said that a expectation that theatre artists be provided a livable wage and the possibility of a stable lifestyle sounded like "entitlement," and he went on to assert, in an argument that lacks any semblance of logic whatsoever, that because African-American theatre artists weren't paid well in the past, nobody should be paid well in the present because African-American theatre artists survived those tough times and "we're not going anywhere" (smattering of applause at such defiance in the face of the powerful "Go Away, African-American theatre artists" movement in America). Injustice yesterday, injustice today, injustice evermore.

It is simply astonishing to me how theatre artists seem to enthusiastically embrace marginalization and economic deprivation, and will attack anyone who dares suggest that things might be changed, much less improved. While theatre artists are too busy making art to confront these questions, and make a big deal about how making that art is more important than any contribution they might make to improve the theatre scene as a whole, they turn as one to attack non-artists who might do so on their behalf, especially if those people are (gasp) academics. And if someone like Mike Daisey actually starts to garner attention and sell tickets and even start to succeed just a wee bit, well, he must be painted as an opportunistic, self-promoting con man who is simply using these issues as a way to fame and fortune.

In a post below, I attributed this unwillingness on the part of theatre artists to engage larger issues to passivity, but I was wrong; this is active self-injury, a masochistic desire  to be dominated and abused, the artistic equivalent of being a "cutter." It used to be religious fanatics who wore hair shirts and scourged themselves with whips, but now it is artists who do so, with the same self-righteous fervor. And if this statement reflects a "pretty low opinion of artists in general," as Don asserts, then I guess I stand convicted, because I have never seen a group of people so bent on self-destruction. It isn't that you all don't agree with Mike Daisey, or with me, it is that you actively resist any suggestion that change is possible or even desirable, and you seek to eviscerate those who would make your lives better. Apparently you are living in a Panglossian best of all possible theatre worlds, a utopia of artistic bliss where the cream always rises to the top and where poverty is just an little obstacle that everybody faces equally and that allows you to show your true artistic superiority. Or the flipside: you are living in a theatrical dystopia that is wholly deterministic -- as Jesus says in Jesus Christ Superstar, "everything is fixed and you can't change it." Regardless, the art form is permanently petrified in amber as far as you're concerned.

To Mike Daisey, I say this: you are the face of this issue, and you have to accept that responsibility, but I wouldn't do much unless you receive some indication from the field that they've got your back, that they are ready to march with you, that they are willing to step out of the rehearsal halls, or put down their beer, take off their hair shirt, and leave the bar, in order to push for change. Otherwise, all bets are off, and you should just say that you were playing a role in How Theatre Failed America, and now you have another role to learn the lines for. And to the rest of you, I say: either step up, or stop whining. Self-inflicted wounds do not qualify you for sainthood.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Robert Butler on Pixar

Robert Butler at Ashdenizen, building on a comment from Laura in Theatre Tribe (see sidebar if you'd like to join), examines the plusses of a long-term ensemble at Pixar in his post "tight-knit beats ad hoc." For those of you who worry about an ensemble leading to "staleness," Pixar provides a great counter-example.
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Keep It Simple -- Carry Your Share of the Load

Over at Theatreforte, Brant, who first ventured into the Mike Daisey / American Theatre Magazine discussion with a series of questions, has gone further with another interesting post in response to several comments. One of those comments came from George Hunka:

The first point [Mike Daisey makes] that is somewhat worrisome is a certain exceptionalism that attaches to theatre artists in contrast to other artists in the US and elsewhere. I doubt that Mike means to slight artists in other fields like painting, sculpture, dance, music or poetry, but it might be said that the same pressures seem to apply to them. Any of these are time-intensive disciplines when it comes to the study and practice of one's art. Are we also to guarantee working salaries and health insurance for them, simply on the say-so that they're artists?

I think it is possible to set up a system that supports artists without getting into the question of policy-making regarding which artists are going to be supported. I don't think Daisey is proposing a complete overhaul of the regional theatre movement, but rather a re-commitment to its original values and intents. For instance, if regional theatres committed to some form of ensemble structure that would provide more than a one-and-done contract for artists, it would help a great deal. This requires little more than a rearrangement of priorities. An even simpler improvement that would leave artists better off would be if Actor's Equity, SAG, and AFTRA joined forces, so that weeks of work in any of those unions contributed toward the minimum number needed for health insurance. Obviously, most actors currently piece together theatre, film, television, and commercials, yet these are disconnected as far as health insurance is concerned. I'm certain there are other solutions -- Daisey proposes, for instance, fundraising for the creation of "endowed chairs" for performers, much like endowed chairs in academia -- that can make substantive contributions to providing a more humane and stable life for theatre artists.

I also would draw a distinction between the performing arts and the non-performing arts -- the business models are much different, and they each require different efforts. While all artists should band together in order to insist on greater respect for artists in general, I doubt that a one-size-fits-all solution is possible. That said, I was talking to my nephew-in-law over the Fourth; he is an orchestra conductor, and he told me that the same problems exist with symphonies as are in the theatre. So those art forms that share a common business model might benefit from banding together. That said, Mike Daisey's piece is about a subject that he knows best, and is a work of art, not an academic study. If it were an academic study, most artists wouldn't read it because they'd think it was "too boring." Daisey has dramatized a situation, which is serving as the starting point for a discussion. It is unreasonable to think that he would provide the solutions as well. Each and every one of us, artists, administrators, and academics alike, need to shoulder our share of the responsibility for provoking change.

The best way to make sure that the status quo is maintained is to make the issue so complicated, the scope so wide, and the solutions so abstract that nothing can happen. We must resist the attempt to make this focused discussion flatulently philosophical. This is about ethics, and about economics.
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Monday, July 07, 2008

Daisey Responds to Brant at Theatreforte

Brant at Theatreforte asks Mike Daisey a series of questions about How Theatre Failed America and his response to Teresa Eyring at American Theatre, and Daisey responds. I responded to Brant thusly:

You are asking a work of art to do the work of research, scholarship, and leadership. As Chekhov said, art doesn't provide the right answers, but the right questions. Rather than ask that Daisey "define his terms," my suggestion for you and for the rest of the theatrosphere is to make the next step yourself. Don't quibble about definitions when the woods are burning. Acknowledge there is a Big Problem, that Daisey has hit on some of it, and start trying to think of how to improve the situation.

In a word, stop being so damn passive!
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Resource #6: Impossible Plays

I tend to be a little cautious about reading books about the English theatre post-Look Back in Anger, not because the books are not enjoyable and inspiring, but because they cause a great deal of envy in my American heart. A book such as Catherine Itzin's Stages in the Revolution (now, apparently out of print), which I read during grad school, had me so jazzed that I was nearly insufferable, demanding to know of my fellow grad students why we didn't have a stronger sense of purpose to our art. (Yes, some things never change.)  While Impossible Plays: Adventures with the Cottlesloe Company by playwright Keith Dewhurst and actor Jack Shepherd is equally inspiring, it is so in a more elegiac way. In many ways, this book is a trip down memory lane for the two authors, both of whom were central to  Bill Bryden's Cottlesloe Theatre Company that performed as an ensemble within  the Royal National Theatre during Peter Hall's tenure. Shepherd and Dewhurst alternate chapters, describing the creation, the creators, and the rehearsal room shenanigans of some of the most interesting productions of the 1980's, most notably (or perhaps simply most well-known), the three-part The Mysteries based on the medieval mystery plays.

The title of the book is drawn from a term originally coined by Jack Shepherd and defined by director Bill Bryden as"an idea that has no basis in drama: no evident narrative; no dialogue," and whose "scope [or] vision" for the piece, according to Shepherd, "far exceeded the means at our disposal." These plays were often adapted from novels or histories, and resulted in productions such as Lark Rise (based on Flora Thompson's autobiographical novel of English village life at the turn of the 20th century) , The World Turned Upside Down (based on the history of the English Civil War), Pirates and others.

The Cottlesloe Company was comprised mostly of hard-drinking male artists with a working class background (sometimes referred to disparagingly by outsiders as the "rugby team," and known among themselves as "The Beasts") who focused on the creation of a "popular theatre" using folk music and what they called "promenade" staging, in which the action moved in and around the often-standing audience. If you ever get an opportunity to see the video of The Mysteries, the power of this approach is evident even in recorded form. What comes through the anecdotes most powerfully is a sense of vision and commitment, a purpose to what they were doing, and the faith and funding of Peter Hall necessary to create dynamic work. Unlike our one-and-done system of play production, the ensemble was the source of inspiration, and the ongoing relationships created the means to build on experiments and discoveries. This is truly experimental theatre, in the scientific sense of experiment being the development of a hypothesis and the tesing of that hypothesis in action, then building on what is learned to further develop understanding. "To have a flow of work," Dewhurst notes, "you need control." Indeed, this is the definition of artistic vision: the vision necessary to create something new, and the control needed to see it through.

And continuity is equally important. "We were  a company by then," Shepherd writes, "for better or for worse. Most of us had been working together regularly for six years, and on and off for thirteen. We knew each other's strengths and weakness. And crucially, in the group scenes, we knew precisely when to take the focus on stage and when to give it to somebody else. It was this ensemble playing that made the productions so successful. Companies are so short-lived these days that true ensemble playing is something audiences rarely see." Future theatre tribe members should take note. "People came to see the cpmany," Shepherd continues, "the way it worked, not the individuals within it. We were a kind of organism, each actor relating to the other, giving and taking focus on stage in the twinkling of an eye." The closest I have come to seeing this ensemble effect in action was in the work of another company, Steppenwolf, in August: Osage County, and it was breathtaking.

There was a strong commitment among all of the Cottlesloe artists toward the development of a popular theatre. This was based on a strong belief that "the humanity the artists and the audience have in common is more important than whatever divides them." According to Dewhurst, while the subject matter of popular theatre may often be historical, "its soul is tomorrow. It is about the spark that is in everyone, the feeling that they do not know how to express. It is about what people will rise to, and not what they will accept. It challenges the apathy that is the other side of acceptance. It is an act of faith. At the same time it is well aware that what it wishes to say must be comprehensible. Popular theatre beats its brains out to be accessible without loss of integrity, because that is the point: to combine what everyone can understand with the highest possible quality of writing, acting and production." Both Bryden and Dewhurst were inspired by the films of John Ford "because it demonstrates that what is artistically very serious can also be liked and understood as entertainment. The highest standards of writing, acting and directing can enhance, not deaden, the enjoyment. The audience can be united, even if they have different levels of appreciation, but there must be no cheap short-cuts to attract them. In that sense, popular theatre does imply a struggle for artistic integrity and a conflict with advertising-influenced low-common-denominator market values."

That is a powerful vision that contains enough challenges for a lifetime of artistic effort.







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New Blog...By a Publicist!

Amanda Ameer, who oversaw the ArtsJournal blog of the NPAC conference and who is founder of First Chair Promotion, has begun her own blog at ArtsJournal called "Life's a Pitch." Checkit out!
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Interview with Patti Digh

My friend, Patti Digh, who writes the increasingly well-known 37 Days blog and who I came to know when I was conducting reading groups for my production of Thousand Kites last fall, has a new book coming out called Life Is a Verb. I am looking forward to reading the new book when it is released. Until then, there is a great interview of her on the AOL Canada website, and I recommend her blog, where she posted on Independence Day the following words:

On this day of celebration in the U.S., it is too easy to take for granted the freedoms we enjoy here. Let's pause--amidst the rambunctious grilling of soy burgers and the shopping for extra long jersey knit sky blue dorm room sheets--to list the freedoms we have.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Fold up that list and put it in your wallet. Pull it out the next time you get angry at the radio talk show host who's talking trash because he disagrees with you. Freedom means opening the space for him, just as wide as the space you open for yourself. I wonder what we could create in the world if we purposefully engaged in dialogue whose intention is co-created, generative action rather than dialogue whose intention is to negate the other person, the other Party, the other religion or sexual orientation or nation?

Good advice for those of us in the blogosphere. myself included, who lean a little too heavily toward dialogue as a way of negating the other person, and to artists in general who sometimes have a hard time opening the space in ourselves for those whose values we do not share.

She concludes:

The fourth of July always reminds me of a favorite quote from a favorite book, Art & Fear: "The American Revolution was not financed with matching grants from the Crown." If we want freedom, we must act. Great change doesn't come with official endorsement. It also doesn't come from a negative intention, but from a generative one.
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