Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Is She too Fat to Play Nancy?"

Some people are annoyed about picking the lead of a Broadway (or West End) show via reality TV.

In my ideal universe, this would never happen. But my ideal Broadway season would feature Sam Shepard, Joe Penhall, Sarah Kane, Suzan-Lori Parks, Martin McDonagh, and John Belluso... and everything would be directed by Alex Timbers, or Katie Mitchell. And star Billy Crudup, Elaine Stritch, Anthony Mackie, and Alfre Woodard. (To prove that Drowning Crow was a cosmic anomaly, of course.) My ideal Broadway season: not bloody likely.

Personally, I don't mind it so much. I mean, are you acquainted with Connie, the winner of the Sound of Music competition? Um, she is brilliant. Seriously, what's worse - picking a populist Broadway star on TV, or warming-over a tired show with Drew Lachey?

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is this - a summary of some very upsetting reactions to Jodie, the recent winner of "I'd Do Anything", who will be playing Nancy in Oliver! come January. "Is she too fat to play Nancy?" Too fat to play Nancy? Good grief. This sort of snarking just shouldn't happen in the theatre community.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

LMDA Tackles Technology

Those of you not on the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) listserv are missing out on some rockin' exchanges about technology's role in the daily life of an arts-maker.

For example, some of the questions being asked and answered:

- How have dramaturgs used technology to communicate with actors/directors/creative teams?
- How have theatre-makers used technology to communicate or interact with audiences?
- What successes (or drawbacks) have literary departments experienced with electronic submissions?
- How do you get creative students to use online resources like BlackBoard?

I don't mean to state the obvious, but human communication is changing. Blogs aren't just for reporting what the writer had for breakfast, and email isn't just for setting up meetings. Databases aren't just for keeping track of a mailing list, and Excel isn't just for balancing budgets. Right? I am psyched to see LMDA discussing how to use these resources to make theatre better, more open, and more efficient!

Now - if we could just get that outdated listserv replaced with a wiki...

The Times Devotes Some Major Space to Cultural Economics

It's pretty unusual that the New York Times, or any publication for that matter, goes into much depth about cultural economics - so if you're into that sort of thing (and I know my readers are!), I highly recommend reading Michael Kimmelman's thoughtful piece on the German performance venue Festpielhaus Baden-Baden.

As you probably are aware, European cultural policy is pretty much the opposite of American cultural policy (as in over there, almost all funds come from the government). In my experience, most American arts-makers swoon over this idea. I'm ambivalent. While far from perfect, I'm a big fan of the diversity in the American arts funding model. Anyway, Kimmelman's article goes into some really interesting detail about the pitfalls of state-funding arts - namely, inertia and complacency.

From the article:
...[T]he system, bloated and not everywhere well managed, inevitably produces much mediocrity. The reality is that about 20 percent of the budget for Berlin’s three struggling opera companies today must come from private contributions. Bayreuth scrambles to raise nearly half its budget from donations and ticket sales. It would have gone bankrupt by now if donors hadn’t made up for deficits due to bad leadership.

The concept behind the Festspielhaus was to rejuvenate this city of 50,000 as a cultural destination. “It was a revolution,” said Rüdiger Beermann, the Festspielhaus’s spokesman, “and also a blasphemy in Germany, even though it always used to be the dukes and the counts and the rich people who paid for the arts. At first nobody, absolutely nobody except our patrons supported the idea, and also the audience and the artists, who enjoyed coming.”

Mr. Mölich-Zebhauser elaborated on that thought one recent morning. “With the private sector comes enthusiasm, competence in finance and responsibility,” he said.

... “The truth is that Americans might do better to increase public funding for the arts a little,” he added. “And here we have to become a little less lazy.”

Cultural Capital Freakout-Geekout!

I will be going to this:

Saving Our Cultural Capital:

The Challenges Facing Independent Venues and Artists in Manhattan
Saturday, June 7th, 2:00pm – 6:00pm
Wolman Hall, 64 West 11th Street

A symposium hosted by The Tank, Milano The New School For Management and Urban Policy, and Fractured Atlas, in cooperation with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer

Co-hosted by Collective Unconscious, chashama, The Field and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

New York City is a world-renowned cultural destination: from big-budget Broadway shows to dance performances in small Brooklyn lofts to Chelsea gallery openings. The performing arts drive the city's economy and tourism and give New York the cultural texture that makes it a uniquely dynamic environment.

As cost-of-living and real estate prices continue to rise, can young artists and small venues still call Manhattan home? New York – and Manhattan, in particular – cannot lose the energy brought by these individuals and organizations, and the higher-market entertainment industry in the city relies on their innovations…but can we still make New York work for the emerging arts? This event will bring together city officials, arts professionals, business representatives, advocates and freelancers for an afternoon of conversation about solutions to the challenges facing independent venues and emerging artists in Manhattan.

This event is FREE and open to
artists, advocates, policy-makers, foundation representatives
& everyone committed to keeping Manhattan the cultural capital of the world.

Saturday, June 7th, 2:00pm – 5:30pm
Wolman Hall, The New School, 64 West 11th Street
2:00pm: Doors open
2:30pm: Keynote speech by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer
3:00pm – 4:30pm: Panel discussion on the challenges facing independent venues and artists in Manhattan, followed by a Q&A session
4:30pm – 5:30pm: Livable New York Services Fair and Happy Hour with complimentary drinks, highlighting the resources available to freelance artists and small organizations including healthcare, accounting and law services. Featured organizations include:
• The Actors Fund
• ArtBusiness Initiative/Seedco Financial
• Arts & Business Council of New York
• Fractured Atlas
• New York City Performing Arts Spaces
• Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

More information:

See you there!