Ascendance, Descendence, Reverence, and New Beginnings

In an essay entitled "The Deep Voice" in his book Rebuilding the Front Porch of America (a book that I recommend everyone in the arts read), Patrick Overton talks about the "ascendant" and "descendent" functions of the arts, both of which are crucial polarities forever linked. The ascendant "reveals what isn't but could be," and the descendent "reveals what is but shouldn't be." This blog has focused on the descendent function. For seven years, I have almost relentlessly focused on the problems with our current theatrical system. I talked about bare employment facts: that 87% of Actors Equity members last year made less in the theatre than did someone flipping burgers at minimum wage (i.e., less than $15,000), and that 58.3% didn't make a dime. Things are no better for playwrights -- the 250 working playwrights who were interviewed for Todd London's book  Outrageous Fortune  that included people like Albee, Dietz, a

Robert Gard Redux

Today, I will be discussing arts pioneer Robert E. Gard in my course on community arts development, which gives me an excuse to report this essay I wrote about two years ago on Robert Gard's 100th birthday. --------------------------- Today is grassroots theatre pioneer Robert Gard's 100th birthday, which I would like to commemorate by reprinting this post from Theatre Ideas two years ago : 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

Rural Arts at

The first article of a weeklong series at about rural arts has appeared: Dudley Cocke's Rural Theatre in a Democracy .  As the week continues, you will find the following: Monday, 5pm EDT: Donna Neuwirth (WormFarm) Tuesday, 5pm EDT: Scott Walters (CRADLE) Wednesday, 11:30a EDT: Nikiko Masumoto (Independent Artist) Wednesday, 5pm EDT: Patrick Overton (Front Porch Institute) Thursday, 5pm EDT: Friday Phone Call Podcast with Noah Siegler (Stage North) Friday, 5pm EDT: LaMoine MacLaughlin (Northern Lakes Center for the Arts) Saturday, 11am EDT: Matthew Fluharty, Rural Arts & Culture Conference Wrap Up (Art of the Rural) I have enjoyed curating this series, and would like to thank all the authors who wroked so quickly to provide excellent articles on the state of rural arts in America. I hope my readers will check it out.


So I just got the following press release. After all this time, I don't really need to spell this out, do I? I'll highlight the cities and link to their counties. Bottom line: rich get richer. Same ole same ole. Thanks TCG and Met Life for continuing to define "innovative idea development" in terms of the same people doing the same thing: in-school theatre classes, expanding upon already existing theatre engagement practices, exchanging artists. Seriously? This is what passes for innovation at TCG? FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                        August 23, 2012                                                                                                                MetLife Foundation and Theatre Communications Group Announce Fifth Round Recipients of the A-ha! Program New York ,  NY  – MetLife Foundation and Theatre Communications Group (TCG) announce the f

Eating the Economic Orange

Leo Hwang-Carlos, who will be at Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield MA this weekend to participate in a rural arts work group discussion, does a great job explaining why the economy is more than the numbers reported by economists. I was particularly impressed by his description of all the ways he participates in the economy, and wonder how young people in high school or college might be educated to think of different ways of making ends meet than simply using a paycheck to pay for goods and services. A more varied approach might free up time for creativity.

The WAITlist

Traditional writers in the mainstream media (and, as I found out a while ago , many leaders of prominent arts organizations) see bloggers as, to quote Spiro Agnew (I can't believe I am quoting Spiro Agnew), "nattering nabobs of negativity" -- people with uniformed opinions, loud voices, and a free platform. As a long-time blogger myself, I not surprisingly don't see it that way. Nevertheless, I do find myself drawn to bloggers who make connections to other thinkers. At one time, there was a badge that labeled blogs as (as I remember) "thinkers blog." I think you were nominated, and then could claim the badge. Theatre Ideas  had such a badge, which is evidence that the moniker "thinker" was pretty loose. Nevertheless, the goal was worthy. I'd like to replace my own blogroll with a more selective list of bloggers whose writings about theatre and the arts are thoughtful, well-read, articulate and broad (not that  my current blogroll lacks suc

Double Edge Theatre -- Ashfield, MA

In a few weeks, I will be traveling to Ashfield, MA for a rural arts working group meeting at Double Edge Theatre. I am looking forward not only to the conversations, but to hearing how the artists who make up Double Edge approach the creation of performances within a rural context. Matthew Glassman, a member of the company, says in the video below that the general approach is that of a kibbutz; others might characterize it as a commune. What I see are people who have figured out a way to create art by sharing resources that would normally be paid separately by individual company members. If Michael Kaiser was truly interested in new models , I suspect that Double Edge might present one possibility. While this approach is certainly not new in the sense of never before seen, it certainly presents a way of making theatre that is ensemble-based, ongoing, international in focus, mythic in subject matter, and rooted in values very different from the mainstream theatre community. It also o