Wednesday, November 5, 2008

AEA Showcase Code reform begins at home

In the spirit of change, community motivation and hard work ahead, I’m happy to spread the word that the AEA showcase code reform movement is again receiving attention. On Theatre and Politics has great information linked to his post regarding this issue.

The showcase code is being re-evaluated by Equity, and Michael Bell - a member of the AEA Off-Off Broadway subcommittee - has announced that he'd like to hear thoughts from code participants on how the AEA Showcase Code works (or doesn’t) for them.

If you've had experiences with the AEA Showcase Code, your voices are instrumental in moving this forward. Share your experiences and suggestions by emailing him or by commenting on his announcement.

Spread the word!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obsession: Katie Mitchell

I've been low-grade obsessed with UK director Katie Mitchell since this fall. The Guardian has a great interview with her today. (Read it, you'll love it.)

Notable for the big conversations happening in the theatreblogosandbox:
Do you suffer for your art?

No. It is a source of great joy for me, and I still pinch myself that people pay me to do it.

Career: Joined the Royal Shakespeare Company as a director in 1998. Is now an associate director at the National Theatre, London (020-7452 3000), where her production of ...Some Trace of Her opens on July 30.

High point: "I don't do highs and lows. Theatre is hard graft, and I try to maintain a steady equilibrium."

Notable just because:

What's the best advice you've had?

A Russian woman called Professor Soloviova once saw a hit show of mine and said: "It looks very beautiful, but there's absolutely nothing going on between the actors." It set me up to ensure that was never the case again.

Quick anecdote:
I went on a Kurosawa and sushi date with an old friend this weekend. After the movie we started talking about how we're both devoted to oddballs like David Lynch and Akira Kurosawa, but I've never liked anything by Stanley Kubrick or Alfred Hitchcock. (I know, right?) I appreciate them as genius artists, but I find their films pretty boring. Anyway, I think my Kubrick/Hitchcock ambivalence is mostly about this feeling I get that neither of them care about their actors. Ms. Mitchell's quote made me think of that conversation, and how live performance can fall into a similar trap of looking great but feeling pretty empty.

Oh, and, bonus, Mitchell's Waves is coming to Lincoln Center this fall. See you there!

Introducing Morgan Tachco!

Ahem! I think an introduction is in order.

I am extremely pleased to welcome a second writer to Resources for Emerging Arts Leaders, my friend and colleague Morgan Tachco.

Morgan is a formidable presence in the New York indie-theatre scene, and her insights and intellect are second to none.

And, of course, I'm always thrilled to welcome another girl to the theatre-blogging sandbox.

And I promise to post more regularly. If only because I'm nervous you'll all catch on fast that Morgan's smarter than me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Notes on the 2nd Indie Theatre convocation

As with many other artists at the Barrow Street Theatre on Saturday, I attended under a few auspices. Personally, I was there for the IT Awards, as an actress/producer and to see how The League of Independent Theatre has evolved since its beginning stages (disclosure: I am on staff at the New York Innovative Theatre Awards and was in the beginning meetings of litny’s Steering Committee as a then member of Horse Trade and a founder of the FRIGID New York festival).

The purpose of the convocation was to reconnect the community, catch up on progress made over the last two years, learn about NYTE’s new web launches, and to introduce the new advocacy group for Off-Off Broadway: The League of Independent theatre, or LIT, or litny. I was excited to catch up with many people I haven’t seen in awhile, and had a good time; some highlights were:

Rochelle Denton’s speech
that talked about how we define ourselves as Off-Off theatre artists and made the case for maintaining our individual definitions, missions, language, goals and to honor our Off-Off heritage while uniting under one new idea – indie theatre. The title had required some defense and justification, as I know of some artists that were confused as to the meaning of the term, whether their work garnered the indie theatre label, what it meant, why it was necessary, etc. Rochelle’s speech did a nice job of clearing the confusion a bit, and besides the fact that she’s hilarious and great to listen to - I’d be interested to read others’ comments. 2.0! Martin Denton announced a “web 2.0” launch to contribute to the existing site that involves an artist directory, an RSS feed, video trailers, evolving his already successful podcast into a video podcast & more, all to be in effect come fall. Congrats and thank you for tapping into this, NYTE.

We learned how AEA members can join the Off-Off Broadway Committee, which is the best trajectory to make code reform a reality: ANY AEA member can call the OOB rep at Equity and tell him you want to take part. He will contact you to attend a meeting, and as long as you attend two, you will be a member. You are not obligated to attend every meeting. The hot-button code reform issue carried a more positive and hopeful tone than I’ve heard in at least a year.

In the end, I was happy to have so many people together and glad I attended, but was with the majority of people commenting on Martin’s blog in feeling left in the dark about LIT’s specific goals for the convocation. There has been some discussion there, Chris Harcum had some good ideas for the league, and John Clancy responded to the confusion with some clarifications. I'd like to hear more people's thoughts.

My most pertinent suggestion to LITNY would be to start an online presence IMMEDIATELY – re-open the blog, start a Facebook group, I’d really LOVE it if they started a ning or something like it – but at least an interim web portal is necessary: where people can read the statement of purpose & articles of incorporation, what litny thinks the issues are directly affecting us and their goals to achieve them, and be informed about litny events. There was mention of a TCG free night of theatre marketing event with litny that I’m sure people want to know more about, for example, and there is another LIT event next week. People need a forum to post questions, concerns, accolades, comments, etc, and most importantly be informed. The point was made that it’s difficult to repeat town hall-like events to gather community opinions – which is true – and the web is a place where most of their prospective members sit for at least six hours a day. It would benefit LITNY to be there, too.

The next litny event will be next week at the UndergroundZero festival on Tuesday, June 22nd at the Manhattan Children’s Theater, which I look forward to. The IT Awards will be at that event and have been given time to discuss The Off-Off Broadway surveys we are conducting in order to better advocate on behalf of the community with litny, currently surveying demographics among individual artists. Our last findings were published in the Off-Off Broadway budget report, which was very exciting, and created a buzz about the actual numbers OOB works with, which were higher than expected with the participating group. We need a much broader base for our current survey: 6,000 by October...You can help make that happen here.

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.”