#43 Plays « Stuff White People Like:
In spite of plays having minimal sets, no special effects, an intermission, and a higher admission price, white people believe that live theater is essential to any cultured city.
It is not known if white people actually enjoy plays or if they are just victims of massive peer pressure from the 45% of white people who have acted in a play at some point in their life.
The only real advice around this subject is to never accept an invitation from a white person to go see a play. Often times you will be supporting their friend or cousin and then get stuck with a $45 ticket (at least) and three hours of trying to figure how close you are to the end.
Cellphone Makers Have No Idea Why We Hate Their Phones:
Here's a couple of their ridiculous, out-of-touch ideas about how make us happy from a panel at MWC:
One panelist suggested that cellphone makers tap into consumers' "neural networks", while another said they should understand their subliminal needs.
I actually know what a neural network is. But WTF does it have to do with making a phone that's not crappy? This is all BS business-speak, and talking and thinking like that is why makers put out shitty, unintuitive phones. They should make a phone with how real people use phones in mind.
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:
"Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field but, you know, I play on whatever field is out there."
Is she fucking kidding me? You think it was a level playing field for Nita Lowey as she was bigfooted out of a New York Senate seat for the carpet-bagging former president's wife? You think it was a level playing field when Clinton bullied and cajoled and intimidated every Democrat to back her a year ago? You think it's a level playing field when you deploy a former president to tear down your opponent?
Clinton has more privilege, more clout, more intrinsic unearned advantages in this race than any non-incumbent Democrat in living memory. And still she failed. And still she whines. There are moments when you almost feel pity; and then you realize what a petty shameless narcissist she is.
George Hunka writes over at Superfluities Redux of some confusion over the title HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA.
(I also don't really understand the question involved, that theatre is supposed to serve or fail that bizarre idea of "America" in some way, whatever "America" is, not to mention China, or Australia, or Mozambique, and whether theatre is failing them, too; it scrapes against the intimation that art, by its nature, doesn't possess explicit cultural utility, but touches the individual instead; the idea itself smacks of that curious contemporary Western pragmatism that castrates theatre's possibilities; but I've been obtuse before and will be again.)
I believe the title is perfectly suited to the monologue it accompanies, and I suspect will make sense to Mr. Hunka, but the proof of this is a bit long and will have to wait for another day—there's been enough already this week.
In more urgent news, my best friend had a baby this morning, which means his new daughter is born on that sacred day between worlds that I wrote about in my mailing—I couldn't be more pleased for John and Jenny. I look forward to a long life of very few birthdays (but triumphant ones when they happen!) for this new creature.
I Write in Brooklyn. Get Over It. :
As you may have heard, all the writers are in Brooklyn these days. It’s the place to be. You’re simply not a writer if you don’t live here. Google “brooklyn writer” and you’ll get, Did you mean: the future of literature as we know it? People are coming in from all over. In fact, the physical act of moving your possessions from Manhattan to Brooklyn is now the equivalent of a two-year M.F.A. program. When you get to the other side, they hand you three Moleskine notebooks and a copy of “Blogging for Dummies.” You’re good to go.
Change the World (Theatreforte):
As for my part. I'm sad about regional theatre. I do think it's broken. No doubt about it. I think my theatre is broken. Our priorities are out of whack. In fact, I kind of think that everything about the theatre, except for the theatre itself kind of sucks.
In my neighborhood:
Leap day is upon us--the rarest day on the calendar, which has no psychic or mythological significance attached to it beyond the need to make all our heavenly accounting books come out balanced. I've always thought that it should mean something, this day that only surfaces occasionally--it should be a night when the walls between worlds are thin, when the fates are shaken loose, when we can hear the rumbling bellows of the afterlife all around us. There should be a celebration, once every four years--masqued balls of exquisite complexity, where no one is allowed to speak, especially not to the lover they bring with them.
Something like that.
It's appropriate that I'm writing to let you know that I have a brand-new monologue that touches on the creepy and arcane, which is opening in Maine, the land of my youth. I'll be in residence at Portland Stage Company creating BARRING THE UNFORESEEN, a show about ghosts, ghost stories and the reasons we tell them, 19th century spiritualism, H.P. Lovecraft and the unspeakable dread lurking under your bed. It plays from March 6th to the 15th, and full details as well as tickets can be found here.
At the end of the month I will be doing a show in the opposite environment--Orange County, California, which I only know from a hideous television program about its "real housewives". I can only pray some of them come to see MONOPOLY! at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on March 28th and 29th, as I will dedicate my performance to Vicki, who is my favorite for her sassy attitude and obsessive compulsive disorder. Tickets and details can be found here.
Finally I'll be offering my intensive on storytelling and extemporaneous autobiographical performance on April 5th and 6th. It's a two day workshop and fills up very quickly, so if you're interested in participating contact me right away for details at dilettante at mikedaisey dot com.
Be seeing you,
* * *
Barring the Unforeseen
A New Monologue, Created and Performed by Mike Daisey
Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory
Maine native Mike Daisey returns to his roots in BARRING THE UNFORESEEN, a monologue told from a vast and unknowable northern province called childhood. Woven together from Maine ghost stories, the history of 19th century spiritualism, H.P. Lovecraft, and the unspeakable dread lurking under your bed, Daisey creates a monologue about why we tell ghost stories, and the precious, terrifying gifts they bring us. Unsettling and inquisitive, BARRING THE UNFORESEEN takes a long walk into the dark, on a journey with a daring audience to come back with answers.
"The master storyteller...one of the finest solo performers of his generation."
NEW YORK TIMES
"Just once, it'd be nice to see Mike Daisey and Garrison Keillor trade places, not so much to hear Keillor's nostalgically mellow take on Daisey's world, but to see Daisey rip the lid off Lake Wobegon and expose its wicked underbelly. Daisey is a mesmerizing performer who spins words into comic and emotional gold, revealing as much about himself as the subjects he is discussing."
"Sharp-witted, passionately delivered talk about matters both small and huge, at once utterly individual and achingly universal."
"Daisey's skill is that he is able to talk about the historical and make it human, the personal and make it universal, so that the listener is both informed and transformed."
"Comic delivery so sharp it draws blood."
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
The Moon Museum:
Now I find out there was already an entire Moon Museum, with drawings by six leading contemporary artists of the day: Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, Forrest "Frosty" Myers, Claes Oldenburg, and John Chamberlain. The Moon Museum was supposedly installed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 12 mission.
I say supposedly, because NASA has no official record of it; according to Frosty Myers, the artist who initiated the project, the Moon Museum was secretly installed on a hatch on a leg of the Intrepid landing module with the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation after attempts to move the project forward through NASA's official channels were unsuccessful.
Myers revealed the exhibition's existence to the New York Times, which published the story Nov. 22, 1969, two days after the Apollo 12 crew had left the moon--and the Intrepid--and two days before they arrived back on earth.
Histriomastix: By the pricking of my thumb…:
My friend Ian McCulloch played the title role, and he and I worked out a totally amateurish but brutal sword fight in which we nearly murdered each other. Heavy swords, bulky wooden shields, no training, fat blood packs taped in hidden places and lots of fucking awesome fake fighting. (I say "amateurish" but my buddy Ian reminds me that we freakin' rocked a 1988 regional theater competition and walked away with a fight-choreography award.)
Anyway, this is a long, personal preamble to say that I am very familiar with Macbeth, love it, and Rupert Goold's production at BAM (through March 22) is quite, quite excellent. Besides having a rock-solid cast led by the seasoned Patrick Stewart, it is visually and conceptually right-on. It uses a Stalinist framing concept, but lets it drift into metaphor in a lovely, unforced way. And it's actually scary.
Air Force Blocks Access to Many Blogs | Danger Room from Wired.com:
The Air Force is tightening restrictions on which blogs its troops can read, cutting off access to just about any independent site with the word "blog" in its web address. It's the latest move in a larger struggle within the military over the value -- and hazards -- of the sites. At least one senior Air Force official calls the squeeze so "utterly stupid, it makes me want to scream."
The Final Verdict: A Day Without A Starbucks:
Now that the media at large has had time to reflect upon the important national matter that was Starbucks' closing for three hours for "training," it's time to take a look at the lessons learned. The real purpose of the event: A PR stunt. The media: Played like a violin. Complicit: Us. Did CEO Howard Schultz succeed in finding the company's "soul?" Of course not! It was never there to begin with.
1 In Every 99 Americans Now Behind Bars:
For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 -- one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.
Leonard Jacobs has written a pointed piece criticizing my essay and what he perceives as "the endless and boring bashing of American Theatre." I'm lumped in with Marsha Norman in his critique, whom I can't speak to at all, so I'll just address some of his points as they pertain to me.
I like Leonard's writing often for its clarity, and near the top he neatly summarizes his issue:
"Everyone who blogs, it seems, seems to have fingers capable of typing all kinds of pissy rants on the American theatre -- regional theatre, I mean -- and everything that is wrong with it. But with the exception of the Zach Mannheimers of the world, I don't see very many people getting off their computer chairs and doing all that much about it."
I'd agree with this—like many things, there are often armchair generals for any field. In fact, it was my dissatisfaction with the state of things that drove me to create HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA.
As a monologuist, I look for issues that I'm personally obsessed with that also strike at areas that the culture isn't examining...and after spending the last seven years working in regional theaters around the country, occupying a unique position where our tiny ensemble (performer and director) interface directly with the management, PR, marketing, tech, and artistic departments at these theaters. So far as I can tell very few others do this without being pigeonholed into a role (like actor) where they are shut out of the conversation.
This growing concern for the state of things as I saw them, combined with MANY late-night drinks with actors, staff, board members and artistic directors, as well as TCG conferences, statistic-reading, hard research and emotional stories led me to the piece. So when Leonard rhetorically asks:
"But what is Daisey doing about it?"
I am doing my job as an artist--I am responding within my form to events as I see them, and trying to bring a conversation that is utterly UNKNOWN to audiences and board members out into the light. I think there is inherent worth to that, and I hope that my efforts will rise above dogma and rhetoric to create art that spurs real conversation, especially among people to whom this conversation (as blase as it may be to Leonard, to the point that he's sick of it) is utterly unknown to general audiences, as naturally theaters do their level best to insulate themselves and their board members from anything like it.
What does Leonard think I am doing?
"He's creating more and more one-person shows because he knows he can and does make a living -- however much of a living it is, and I'm quite certain it's not what he ought to be paid -- doing such shows. He even admits as much in his piece."
Yes, Leonard, I do admit that as an artist I make work. I'm a monologuist—that's what I was long before HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA, and that's what I will be long after that show is memory. I would qualify that while they are technically "one-man shows", they're really monologues—a single voice speaking to an audience, drawing a line of logic and story fully through.
"So he despises the nonprofit business model (that has undoubtedly hired him to perform),"
I'm going to have to blow the whistle on this here—this is sloppy. I haven't ever said that I have some issue with the nonprofit business model. I specifically (and I think it's very clear) have an issue with corporations, the fact that corporations have the rights of people, and the effect (corporatization) that this has on organizations ruled by corporations.
I could write a lot here about how I do feel about non-profit and for-profit theater, but that will wait until another time—I'm not an essayist by nature. The long and the short is that I despise the coporatization of American theater, just as I despise the coporatization of American life—and my issues with the regional theater system do not derive from their non-profit status, though many of their internal structures are obviously shaped by that choice of business model.
"he loathes the over-corporatization of the American stage (that undoubtedly paid for many of said performances and their development),"
I'd argue that I loathe the coporatization of the American stage, period—"over" implies that there is a level of corporatization that I would ever be happy with. ;)
Here we see the Happy Worker charge—since many theaters are corporatized, and I work at some of them, I must approve of their ways and means...I should shut up and be a Happy Worker. This is a Chomsky-esque argument—taken to its logical extreme, I should be living on the side of a mountain in a yurt to ensure that I don't use anything made by a corporation, since I don't approve of their place in our society.
That's bullshit. Some do that—more power to them. Enjoy the yurt. I'm a monologuist and a theater artist, so I need to reach people for my work to exist, and I work in the theaters of America. I work with corporations every day—I pay them to have an internet connection, I pay them for my phone, I receive money from them...they are woven into every part of my life, just as they are in all our lives. I've chosen, as many have, to engage with them, and seek out ways to call them to account in ways large and small.
If I'm uncomfortable with with my relationship with these organizations, and the way theater is run in America, I should probably do something about that. I could start by talking about it. Perhaps even on stage in some way...
...oh. That's right. That's exactly what I'm doing that made Mr. Jacobs question whether I should be speaking at all.
Back to Jacobs:
"and he dismisses with a swat of his all-seeing, all-knowing, all-generalizing hand the efforts of thousands of people who I think frankly do terrific work in regional theatre more often than not"
Here is the second footfall—the I Hate People charge. I have been unrelentingly clear that I am a humanist—I have great and abiding respect for humans of all kinds, especially the ones working throughout the theaters of America. I'm intimately aware of the sacrifices they make, as I have made them, too, and the idea that I am actually decrying them, rather than the corporatized bullshit system that we've all built up around our work is a loathsome accusation I will not waste further words on.
Then Jacobs throws down the gauntlet:
"Here's what I think: STOP PERFORMING IN NONPROFIT VENUES. Will he do that? Will he guarantee that he will never, ever perform in a nonprofit venue of any kind again? How about it? How about putting one's money where one's mouth is."
Ah, the Strawman Comeuppance!
This is the kind of challenge that is really fun to type into a blogger text entry box, but is hard to read later because at a core level it's stupid.
Setting aside that I actually don't have a specific issue with non-profit venues, what Leonard is asking is that I never perform a monologue about changing regional theater at any regional theaters. I think that's hideously dumb—the place where HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA *most* needs to be performed is at regional theaters.
Okay, let's set that aside. Let's assume Jacobs meant that I should *only* perform HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA at regional theaters, and no other monologues, as that would be "unclean".
Well, to start with I don't live in a yurt—as I said earlier, I believe in engagement. I work in the American theater, and I believe in it—if I did not believe in the theater, and in communication, I wouldn't be working on this show so hard to bring the ideas and concepts in it to people.
I'm also an artist, and I believe in my work. I believe my work has great value, and is the kind of work that enrichens and deepens the American theater. I will not let the work that I feel is most relevant to audiences today, that routinely pulls younger people to the theaters, be silenced because I am not always comfortable with all the trappings and bullshit of the institutions around it. My work matters. It may sound immodest, but it is the truth.
It does mean I have a large responsibility to keep an eye on what these corporations do, how they treat their audiences, and I feel that I have been trying to discharge that duty—of which this monologue is a part.
Jacobs finishes up with me with this:
"Oh, wait. That's right. He's performing a new piece. Yes, I know. And how nice of the nonprofit Public Theater to help him along. Doesn't anyone find some cognitive dissonance in this?"
There is absolutely no cognitive dissonance. A theater with a history of producing new work is taking a chance producing something that could even be perceived as critical to its own underpinnings. I think that's courageous, and a heartening sign that some are clear-eyed enough to see past fear and ignorance, and have the kind of calm leadership that understands that an informed inquiry into the state of things, backed by the power of art, can be an enriching and ennobling pursuit.
For someone who is ostensibly tired of "bashing" and "complaining", Jacobs is no stranger to using snark. Near the end of the piece, after talking about Marsha Norman and her unrelated issues for a time, he returns to me rhetorically, snidely asking:
"Or maybe we should ask Mike Daisey how to do it better. "
You may, but I wouldn't presume to preach to my peers.
I will say that we have created a model of a tiny ensemble—there are two members, we share all proceeds absolutely communally, and we have forged work that is successful because we are nimble, quick and obsessed with addressing the issues our culture isn't speaking about. I would not recommend it to everyone, but in these dark times it is a model we've made work for ourselves when many others sputter and fail.
Jacobs asks that people "who launch criticisms should get off their asses and do something about it."
I couldn't agree more. HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA opens at the Public on April 14th. It will reach people who have never heard these issues before, spark real discussions and lead to more. I will be launching a slate of programs around the run with an eye toward implementable strategies and results. Anyone who wishes to discuss this with me can reach me by email.
Mr. Jacobs, I know you are passionate about such matters—let me know if you're interested in participating.
The Twentysomething Girls on the Charles Street Stoop -- New York Magazine:
Last summer, two young girls appeared on Charles Street between Bleecker and West 4th Streets. They perched themselves on the front steps of the brownstone at No. 90, and they’ve stayed there, nearly every day, chatting and smoking and playing with their dogs from late morning to early evening, even in the bitter cold. Block residents are used to celebrities—Sarah Jessica and Matthew live there, after all—but they’ve been flummoxed by these new ladies of leisure, who’ve inspired a flurry of intra-block e-mails with titles like “The Girls” that report sightings as late as 4:30 a.m. Few Charles Streeters seem to know who they are or why they’re there.
You can learn a lot by asking. Haley, the brunette, is 23 and from Alabama; blonde Rebecca is 22 and from Pennsylvania. (They declined to provide their last names.) They grew up spending vacations together with their best-friend grandmas before moving to New York last year, basically for kicks. Haley, who dropped out of premed in Alabama, just started English-lit classes at Hunter. “I don’t like to write, but I like grammar,” she says. Rebecca basically does nothing, nor does she know what she wants to do. They share an apartment a few blocks west; their parents paid months of rent in advance. But even in the dead of winter, they prefer the stoop to their living room—although they chafe at their status as block icons. “We’re not into the fame thing,” Haley says. “But this is what we do.”
L Ron Hubbard plagiarized Scientology - Boing Boing:
Evidence that L. Rob Hubbard plagiarised Scientology from a 1934 German book called "Scientologie." The text seems to map to various hoo-haw from the cult's official doctrine, too.
UPDATE: Comcast paid for people to fill seats at FCC Net Neutrality hearing - Boing Boing:
This is pretty unbelievable--- there was an FCC hearing about Net Neutrality in Harvard yesterday where we had a booth. Comcast was PAYING PEOPLE TO FILL UP SEATS AND CHEER FOR THEM. Tons of folks, including reporters, got turned away. For people that still have a hard time wrapping their heads around what net neutrality is, this about sums up what's happening.
And it's well documented.
Okay, so some folks took issue with my post earlier—the one from the dead of night where I am obviously tired and pissed off.
To people's credit I was treated fairly, and thanks for that. I'm a bit ashamed that I let myself get trolled up like that, but it's been a very emotional, intense time with HTFA and our touring schedule.
I won't take down the old post, because I still do believe in it—I do think there's too much thinky-ness, and too little art in the current conversation. But I certainly could have been less of an asshole about it.
Congress v. Clemens | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper:
A Congressional committee has taken the first steps toward asking the Department of Justice to start a criminal investigation into whether Roger Clemens committed perjury during testimony about performance-enhancing drugs, according to three lawyers with knowledge of the matter.
How many Bush administration officials have lied to Congress under oath? Alberto Gonzales gets a pass and Clemens get indicted?
Oh, for fucks sake.
If anyone has some burning need to write about HTFA the show now, before it opens in April, go right the fuck ahead. I already said as much earlier, and I have no idea why you need *my* permission, but you have it. Rock out with your cock out.
No, I was not trying to stifle anyone's inquiry, and no, I wasn't thinking of anyone in particular when I asked people to see the show in April first. Some people give themselves entirely too much credit.
The short, three-show run was nearly sold out before the article hit the stands, and would have sold out in any case—it's a 240 seat house, and had been selling out throughout the run of MONOPOLY! as well. The Stranger asked me to contribute an essay, and then I did.
I've been very clear about what happened last year, and I'll let my previous statements stand for me with regards to my actions, and the actions taken by that group.
Let me address the idea that I should enter a discussion with my "peers".
Bloggers on the internet are not my peers; they may be nice or nasty, brilliant or banal, but this isn't where I find my peers.
My peers in the theater are found in the theater. I find them through our work, and our kindred spirits in that work. And I am a theater artist. And at the end of the day I will spend all I have to make work happen in those spaces, and bring it to the most people possible for whom I can make the deepest possible connection.
I feel strongly that if there's a weakness in the "theatrical blogosphere" it is this—a suffocating emphasis on systems and organization, on sniping and formal language, and little talk of actual theater—of works being produced, of choices that did and did not pan out, of the brutal lessons of the world of the stage.
I'm in a discussion now—it's a discussion with the culture at large, and I wrestle with every tool at my disposal to use theater as a resonant tool to create circumstances where deep conversations can happen about topics that aren't being addressed. I remain an ardent geek, but the web is a cold and empty forgery of human connection...fascinating and compelling, but lacking the depth and richness of the human experience.
I take inspiration from those who contact me online, who share stories and with whom I begin conversations, but the goal always is the theater—the live moment, the spark. There are more than a few theater bloggers who would be well served by stopping their picking and biting one another over syntax and nuance and turn their gaze to the living theater—and then find ways to bring that alive in their writings on the web.
So, no, I will not "really" enter the discussion, not in such a reductive way. Instead I'd invite more bloggers to be my peers by turn their work toward...well, work. Performances. Theater in action. I'd encourage more of them to make more work that shakes up the status quo, and questions the assumptions our culture makes every day...and if the net is a tool to that end, use it.
(I should not feed trolls. I should know better—but I am young at heart.)
This is a very cute illustration.
Smoking ban workaround in bars: Hold "theater nights" - Boing Boing:
The Star Tribune reports that dozens of bars in the Twin Cities are holding "theater nights" and declaring everyone in the bar to be an actor. By law, performers are allowed to smoke during theatrical performances. (The law in California is similar. I once saw Art Spiegelman give his presentation about the history of comic books and he chained-smoked his way through it.)
The Commodity | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper:
The Greatest American Hero aired between 1981 and 1983:
Despite its short life, the point of the show’s premise has a meaning that radiates back into the deep past (the 19th century) and into the future (the 21st century). What is its potent core, the source of the program’s incredible energy? An American consumer, William Katt, receives from aliens an amazing product: a “power suit.” But immediately after the aliens return to space, the consumer loses the instructions to this amazing product. He himself must now learn how to use the alien product.
For one, the premise of the show turns the alienation that deeply worried classical Marxist thought into a comedy. The worker/consumer literally receives the product from an alien. And because he does not understand how it works, he crashes into buildings, falls from the sky, runs into trees. We laugh at the fate of the clueless consumer. He has no idea what do with his product; it is alien to him.
Slashdot | Do Gamers Enjoy Dying in First-Person-Shooters?:
"Brandon Erickson has an interesting post about an experiment on players' emotional reactions to killing and being killed in a first-person shooters (FPS) with a group of students who played James Bond 007: Nightfire while their facial expressions and physiological activity were tracked and recorded moment-to-moment via electrodes and various other monitoring equipment. The study found that "death of the player's own character...appear[s] to increase some aspects of positive emotion." The authors believe this may result from the temporary "relief from engagement" brought about by character death. "Part of this has to do with the intriguing aesthetic question of precisely how the first-person-shooter represents the player after the moment of death," says Clive Thompson. "This sudden switch in camera angle — from first person to third person — is, in essence, a classic out-of-body experience, of exactly the sort people describe in near-death experiences. And much like real-life near-death experiences, it tends to suffuse me with a curiously zen-like feeling." An abstract of the original article, "The psychophysiology of James Bond: Phasic emotional responses to violent video game events" is available on the web."
A New Standard For Affordable Theater - June 14, 2007 - The New York Sun:
How's this for a deal?
For less than twice the price of a movie ticket, or dinner and a glass of wine, come see a top-notch production by one of America's most distinguished playwrights. Offer reusable and good through 2011.
This may sound too good to be true, but it's not. The Signature Theatre Company announced yesterday that, thanks to the support of Time Warner and a Signature trustee, Margot Adams, all seats for all scheduled performances through the 2010–2011 season will be $20.
The $20 ticket initiative sets a standard of accessibility that other nonprofit theaters are unlikely to ignore.
Dennis Letts - Obituary - New York Times:
Dennis Letts, a retired professor and an actor who made his Broadway debut this season in his son’s acclaimed play “August: Osage County,” died here on Friday. He was 73.
“August: Osage County,” written by Tracy Letts, originated with the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago last summer and opened in New York in December to some of the year’s best reviews. Dennis Letts played an Oklahoma patriarch whose disappearance sparks an acrimonious family reunion.
Mr. Letts, whose cancer was diagnosed in September, was an English professor for 30 years, mostly at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. He performed in community and university stage productions during those years and took up acting as a second career after retiring from teaching. His acting credits include “Where the Heart Is,” the film version of a novel by his wife, Billie Letts; he served as an editor for her novels.
In addition to his wife and his son Tracy, of Chicago, Mr. Letts is survived by his sons Dana, of Wagoner, Okla., and Shawn, of Singapore; and a brother, Ray.
Despite his cancer diagnosis and treatment, he chose to go to New York with “August: Osage County,” performing eight shows a week until very recently.
“You’re talking to a fellow who’s gone from Tishomingo Community Theater to Broadway,” Mr. Letts told The Tulsa World in an interview in November. “That’s quite a step.”
For everybody who thinks Obama is getting only love from the press--check out this crazy push-poll from CNN, of all places...right on their main page this morning:
Monkey Disaster: Oh well hello old friend:
I ate at Applebee's that night. It was packed. In 15 degree below zero weather. If 15 below happened in Seattle, buildings would explode, people would physically shatter apart, newscasts would be nothing but shrieking for 30 minutes straight. This would not be an illogical response or even an incorrect one. Mastering living in Minnesota will involve carrying on with life as if these temperatures are acceptable. That's what I've done with rain most of my life. Okay then.
The Audacity of Hopelessness - New York Times:
The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.
That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance. But he’s actually not even all that loyal. Mr. Penn, whose operation has billed several million dollars in fees to the Clinton campaign so far, has never given up his day job as chief executive of the public relations behemoth Burson-Marsteller. His top client there, Microsoft, is simultaneously engaged in a demanding campaign of its own to acquire Yahoo.
Congrats to Diablo Cody on her Oscar win—I haven't seen Juno, but I was a very early reader of her blog (not this one--way long ago. Pre-City Pages, for those who know what that means) and it had been so long that when she won I was startled, because I couldn't connect her name to the blog I used to read. When I did I had an intense vertiginous moment.
Looking in my email archive I see correspondence back when she was first looking for literary agents for her book--I gave her good advice, but judging from her meteoric rise she knows exactly what she's doing.
It's really great to see people do well, especially people as interesting as she is. Looking through recent years it seems like her blogging has faded off as her other work became more consuming, which is understandable...that's when I left off reading her. It's so cool being reintroduced to her in such a novel way.
Worried About Guns? Ban a Campus Musical :
After the Virginia Tech murders a year ago, Yale University banned the use of stage weapons in a student theatrical production — infuriating actors and educators who believed audience members could distinguish drama from real life. After a few days of ridicule, Yale backed down.
A year later, after another gun tragedy, college officials are still trying to figure out how to make their campuses safe — and theater still is a target. A student production of Assassins, the award-winning musical, was to have premiered Thursday night at Arkansas Tech University, but the administration banned it — and permitted a final dress rehearsal Wednesday night (so the cast could experience the play on which students have worked long hours) only on the condition that wooden stage guns were cut in half prior to the event and not used. Assassins is a musical in which the characters are the historic figures who have tried to kill a U.S. president.
Robert C. Brown, Arkansas Tech’s president, issued a statement explaining the decision as follows: “All of us have a healthy respect for the freedom of artistic expression that college theater represents, and all of us agree that out of respect for the families of those victims of the tragedies at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, and from an abundance of caution, it is best at this time not to undertake a campus production that contains the portrayal of graphically violent scenes.”
While faculty members involved in the program declined to comment on their views, others said privately (citing fear of offending administrators) that they viewed the decision as an overreaction and one that sent the wrong message about theater, the role of art, and free expression. The local newspaper reported that the administration was so concerned about the production that reporters were barred from the dress rehearsal.
Nazi-era singer returns to stage:
A 104-year-old Dutch cabaret singer who once performed in Nazi Germany has given a concert in the Netherlands for the first time in four decades.
There were protests and tight security around the theatre in Amersfoort where Johannes Heesters appeared.
Although Heesters insists he never espoused Nazi politics, he performed for Adolf Hitler and visited the Dachau concentration camp.
Correspondents say many Dutch people have never forgiven him.
R. Winsome: Theatre Failing America:
Daisey's article deals with trends. He talks about how 20 years ago young audiences were being desperately sought after, and how today middle-aged audiences are being just as desperately sought. 20 years ago people might've had the same complaints, but they were complaining about it in a context that i think today's theatre producers would LOVE to have. The situation has continued to get worse, things people complained about and thought were intolerable 20 years ago have come to pass, and worse. The fact that some of us survived it doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Your reader responses are advocating digging in, and adapting to the continuously deteriorating circumstances. That's great. It's noble, beautiful, and for a constantly decreasing number of people, it'll be successful.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not inspired by that. Scratching out a living to get my hands on some sustainable portion of these diminishing returns doesn't sound appealing at all, neither does compromising and accepting theatre as a hobby i can occasionally afford to indulge in. I take my inspiration from people who are doing radically different things, from The Missoula Oblongata and the Nonsense Company. These are people who are resurrecting truly independent, radically anti-capitalist theatre. I also get inspiration from the theatre they're resurrecting. I look to the Living Theatre, to Brecht, and to Grotowski. And I look to the punk rock scene. The Refused and Fugazi. These are only the biggest of a HUGE crowd of musicians who are operating and thriving outside all established music institutions.
The title of the monologue, and subtitle of the essay, is HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA. It's a broad, sweeping title I fully admit and claim—but one of the things it covers well is how the institution of THEATER in AMERICA has FAILED to stand by its artists, and by doing so finds itself rendered increasingly irrelevant. It's also good for talking about how THEATER FAILED to make itself relevant within the social context of my culture, which would be AMERICA.
There are a number of other ways of interpreting the title, which I generally approve of, but let me tell you some titles it is not:
HOW THEATER TOTALLY SUCKS BALLS AND SHOULDN'T BE DONE ANYMORE
(A Seattle-area media outlet did a point/counterpoint piece with two dim bulbs coming to my show believing this was the premise. As you might imagine, it didn't go very well.)
HOW AMERICAN THEATER FAILED; IF ONLY IT WERE EUROPEAN, THEN IT WOULD ROCK
(A journalist's Q&A was very much along these lines.)
HOW REGIONAL THEATER SHOULD FUCK ITSELF AND DIE
(Au contraire—if I really felt that way, I wouldn't be working to save it, and I'd save myself a lot of aggravation.)
And so forth. If I think of more, I'll post them.
Good article over here about my essay—I'll respond to a couple of his points.
I don't think what I'm talking about is "entitlement"--I'm speaking about a fair wage, security and stability for the very best artists on stage in our country. The monologue delves into this more, but I believe that the current state of affairs is more damaging for theater as a whole than it even is for the actors in it—we're robbing our future, and bankrupting our chances of having a vibrant American theatrical tradition by not giving artists the stability they need.
Certainly there isn't going to be a future where everyone who gets on stage gets a pension, that theater becomes some kind of government subsidy—that's idiotic, insane and so far from the issue today that it's laughable. I'm saying that the very best people, the ones we as a culture and an art form should be supporting the work of, get treated extremely poorly by having to live a gypsy existence with no chance of integrating into any community--and its to all our detriment that things work this way. These artists could and should be the backbone of American theater, and we use them very poorly--it's within them that hope lies.
A lot of the article is interesting, and runs through a lot of familiar scenes from my life in garage theater, though it closes with this unfortunate sentiment:
This is classic: really, what we need most is for the artists to stop whining? Really? It's that much of a problem, the whining?
I saw this a lot in Seattle, on message boards, and from a number of other regional sources around the country: an intense disgust with the "whining" of artists. I believe it comes from a Puritan impulse--people who've been working under hard conditions in the trenches for years and years can become hardened. After all, they never make any money—why should anyone else? They haven't gotten to live in the city they wanted to and do theater--why should the next generation? Why should they have it easy?
The short answer is that we should be making things better for the future. I believe the largest missing element in the American theater is its treatment of the artists—if the actors had stability, they could be ensembles. If we had ensembles we could start winning back some of the losses of the past and forging a new tradition that is living and vibrant and based around humans, as opposed to a tradition based around real estate and subsidized buildings. We owe it to the future and to ourselves to make things better. That is the dream of progress.
Wanted: A Theatre Home:
The span of a theatre actor's career is closely tied to how long he or she is willing to live a gypsy lifestyle. I'm not implying a steady regional living can't be made or that there aren't actors who comfortably ride the tide at a particular theatre company; it's just a very difficult feat to pull off. The working theatre actors I know -- and by that I mean the ones who work regularly in esteemed Equity theatres -- continuously hopscotch the country to make a living. They don't own homes, have children, or plan much further than a season ahead.
Jerry Lapidus, who spent years working with developing theatres for Actors' Equity Association and currently serves as the company manager at Seaside Music Theater in Florida, was similarly discouraging. " 'Actor for Life' is looking for the dream of regional theatre that no longer exists, if indeed it ever did," he writes in an email. "This was the idea behind the whole regional theatre movement and the development of the League of Resident Theatres. The concept was that theatres would hire permanent companies of actors, who would move to the surrounding cities, work regularly at the theatre, and have, you know, a real life, rather than just being hired as 'stock' players for a show or a tour. This is pretty much gone, even for the few theatres that once had it. Some theatres today at least try to hire for a season, if not individual shows, but that's usually the best one can hope for."
Mink eyelashes, cleavage buffing, underarm Botox - how the stars are preparing for the Oscars | the Daily Mail:
On the eve of a recent Oscars, one TV star decided she was less than thrilled with her designer gown - or rather the way she looked in it.
It seems there was a tiny bump of fat which stuck out over the back of her dress. Rather than change her outfit, she dialled Manhattan dermatologist Dr Patricia Wexler, who says "it was easier to do a little liposuction than to fix the dress."
With liposuction treatment often taking only a day, Dr Wexler admits this is not uncommon: "I have had designers demanding liposuction for an actress who didn't look as good in their gown as they wanted her to.
Hans Reiser Murder Trial: Trance Music, Belly Dancing and the Minotaur:
Jurors in the Hans Reiser murder trial here were bewildered as they watched an hourlong videotape of the wedding that was replete with a sexy belly dancer, a labyrinth, trance music and minotaur. Some jurors watched with smiling faces while others exhibited disinterest as the birth of the next-generation Reiser family got underway.
That union, which produced a new generation of Reisers -- two children -- ended with Hans Reiser on trial here. The open source programmer and operator of Namesys is accused of killing Nina Reiser in 2006 amid a bitter divorce and custody battle.
Commerce Dept docs: Cheney and oil execs decided to take Iraq's oil in spring 2001 - Boing Boing:
In the late spring of 2001, Vice President Cheney held a series of top secret meetings with the representatives of Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell and BP America for what was later called the Energy Task-force. Their job, ostensibly, was to map out America’s Energy future. Since late 2001 several public interest groups, including the very conservative Judicial Watch, sued to have the proceedings of those meetings opened to public scrutiny. In March 2002, the Commerce Department turned over a few documents from the Task-force meetings to Judicial Watch, among which was the map of Iraq’s Oil Fields, dated March 2001 (above) and a list of the existing “Foreign Suitors” for Iraq Oil. Since that time, Cheney’s office has fought fiercely (and so far, successfully), right up to the Supreme Court, to keep the proceeding secret and to keep any of the private industry officials from disclosing any information about the meetings. Since we all now know the Bush administration’s energy policy, there can be only one explanation for the extraordinary efforts Cheney has taken to keep this secret–he was discussing the potential for a takeover of Iraq’s oil with the companies that might manage the resource, even before 9/11 gave him the excuse to do it.
Slashdot | Did Amazon Induce Vista's Premature Birth?:
"A recent Amazon SEC filing sheds light on the puzzling departure of Microsoft Sr. VP Brian Valentine in Sept. 2006. Valentine is the Gen. George Patton-like figure charged with pushing Vista developers, who dumped the still not-ready-for-prime-time OS into RC1 status as he bolted for a new gig at Amazon. Having repeatedly assured everyone that Valentine was staying with the company post-Vista, Microsoft backpedaled and explained that Valentine decided to leave since the company had shipped a near-final version of Vista. Not so. Although analysts fell for the PR line, it seems Valentine had actually signed an Employment Agreement way back in June calling for him to be on board at Amazon on Sept. 11 if he wanted to pick up a $1.7M signing bonus, $150K base salary, another $500K bonus, and 400K shares of Amazon stock (now worth almost $30M).
A FEW POINTS OF CLARIFICATION FOR THE THEATRICAL BLOGOSPHERE AND POINTS BEYOND
(and if no one reads this, at least I'll have something to point people to later.)
The essay and the monologue are not the same, nor are they derived from one another.
That would be this monologue (How Theater Failed America) and this essay (The Empty Spaces). I know, the essay is subtitled with the name of the show—I wrestled with this, the editor wanted it that way, and that's how it came out. They are not directly related works; they're connected mainly by their creator, who shares the views expressed in both, but each has very different intentions and audiences. The monologue is intended for live performances, and since that is my principal form it probably represents me best—I'm proud of the essay as well, but it was requested by The Stranger for their paper, for whom I've written in the past, and is slanted to some degree toward a specific audience in Seattle. Also, the monologue is 12 to 15 thousand words, while the essay is a little over a tenth that.
I'm very fond of the piece, and delighted that so many have read it—I just want to be clear that isn't some "cutting" from the monologue. That essay would make a very poor monologue—the language would be all wrong for it, and the structure as well. The essay is also not in any way funny, whereas the show is. They're quite different.
Please do not review the show in NYC until it has opened on April 14th.
The only performance HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA has had in NYC was its very first performance, which was the first time it was ever spoken aloud, at the Under The Radar Festival. I'm really pleased with how it went that day—it was one of our best birthings ever—but the show was not open to reviewers for that performance, and therefore I ask that you please do not review it before it opens. If you saw the Seattle shows the ball is in your court—I'd prefer that you wait at this point, but those performances were open to the press, so do what you will.
At the same time, please be clear that I am emphatically in favor of free commentary, and this is just an advisory and a request—you remain a human with free will, and I do think it's good that there's been a lot of foment and discussion. I just want to be clear about what the ground rules were intended to be.
Bear with me if you've sent me email.
I've received hundreds of emails from artists all over the country over the last couple of weeks, and I'm far behind. I've read them all—many are heartbreaking and stirring stories of personal journeys through the arts in America which have been an honor to receive. Others have been messages of support, and many times messages of familiarity as people recognize their own careers in the mirror of the monologue or the essay. I respond to all email received, but given the increase in volume there will be some lag before I do so, and I ask that you bear with me. If a matter is very urgent, please feel free to resend your message if you fear it won't be addressed in time.
Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location - New York Times:
It was nearly hidden on a New York City Transit public service placard exhorting subway riders not to leave their newspaper behind when they get off the train.
“Please put it in a trash can,” riders are reminded. After which Neil Neches, an erudite writer in the transit agency’s marketing and service information department, inserted a semicolon. The rest of the sentence reads, “that’s good news for everyone.”
Semicolon sightings in the city are unusual, period, much less in exhortations drafted by committees of civil servants. In literature and journalism, not to mention in advertising, the semicolon has been largely jettisoned as a pretentious anachronism.
2007 BACCA Nominations Are Announced: Theater News on TheaterMania.com:
Nominations for the 2007 Bay Area Critics Circle Awards have been announced; winners are expected to be named in April.
Nominated performers include Rene Augesen, Joy Carlin, Connie Champagne, Mike Daisey, Timothy Gulan, Maurice Hines, Carl Lumbly, Freda Payne, Ken Ruta, Jack Wills, and Carol Woods.
Hacker breaks link between iTunes and the iPod - Times Online:
A notorious Norwegian hacker known as DVD Jon is preparing for another run-in with the music industry after he released software that lets iPod owners copy music and videos bought from iTunes and play it on other devices.
The program allows people to drag and drop songs from iTunes into a folder on their desktop, which in turn copies the files to other devices such as mobile phones and games consoles via the web.
In doing so, the software breaks the copy protection - known as 'digital rights management' or DRM - that is built into all music that is bought from iTunes. Music bought from iTunes can be played only on the iPod.
tiny nibbles - violet blue:
"I was thinking about how I worked in a cafe for three years after I got off the streets -- it wasn't my first job, which I got at 16 and got fired from for violating the dress code and wearing a spiked collar to work but got enough money in those two weeks to buy a leather jacket that kept me warm on the streets. I painted the Social Distortion logo on the back and studded it. It's easy to steal from craft stores, and I never got stealing, not once. And it's so boring on the streets, I just painted and studded for days in between dumpster diving and panhandling and made my jacket, mine.
"But later when I was 18 I worked in a cafe for three years and I was wondering how many people I served coffee to for five days a week for three years, how many people I smiled to and remembered what they liked and how I loved being the person everyone loved to see there. Nearby there was a fire station, and I opened the cafe at 6:30am alone and the firemen would come in one by one and I knew who loved raisin bagels toasted with butter and Earl Grey with the hot water poured over the bag just *so*. The firemen wanted me to be a firegirl, not just because my bob matched their trucks, but they really wanted me to take the test. They'd invite me to the station for tours and let me sit in the trucks, even in the drivers' seats. I didn't have the heart to tell them I didn't graduate from high school (or 9th grade) so I'd never pass any tests.
"The cafe owners tried to fire me more than once for wearing ripped jeans, and for having a visible tattoo. They had kids in private schools. When I closed I'd fucking rob the place for food. I would fill two grocery bags: one was for my housemates and me, the other was for the whores who worked the four scary gnarly streetcorners right outside my house because I knew they needed food and all had kids in nearby apartments and Odwalla juice was the right thing to steal for whores. No one ever noticed the food missing from the cafe.
Schneier on Security: Security vs. Privacy:
Since 9/11, approximately three things have potentially improved airline security: reinforcing the cockpit doors, passengers realizing they have to fight back and -- possibly -- sky marshals. Everything else -- all the security measures that affect privacy -- is just security theater and a waste of effort.
Featured Link: Leverage Lost (Theatreforte):
Here's an interesting article about the NEA, published twelve years ago in In Motion Magazine. Maybe it's in response to the Mike Daisey thing, maybe not. But it seems relevant to the discussion.
Although the nonprofit arts world contains thousands of organizations populated by tens of thousands of artists, administrators, technicians, trustees and donors, few are aware of its systemic features, nor are there many knowledgeable about its origins and the influences that have shaped its evolution.
As with participants in most large organizational systems, the citizens of the nonprofit arts world find it difficult to perceive changes, even massive developments, that occur gradually.
My deepest appreciation to so many who came out to the show this weekend—it was a life-changing experience for me to bring this show to Seattle, especially so early in its development, and I thank everyone who helped make it possible.
I'll be offline for the next week or so—there may be updates, and there may not be, it's not clear yet—but I am taking some time to digest what's been created and contemplate our next steps.
Be seeing you,
He's Now Ahead:
Even counting the Clinton machine's super-delegates. He's winning it the old-fashioned way - state by state, argument by argument, debate by debate. Clinton should consider stepping aside if tomorrow's votes go the same way. If she couldn't put this thing away by now - with all her party clout, all her chits, all her husband's pull, all her big donors, and all her brand-name recognition - she's not going to do it in the end. All she will do is put her own party through an ordeal it need not experience.
Daughters of Catastrophe: How Theater Failed America:
The final performance of Mike Daisey's new show has sold out, but you can read an interview with Daisey at the link above. I'll write about this marvelous piece in another post. For now, all I can say is that it did more for me as an artist than anything I've seen in years.
This is artistry, compassionate and smart and whole-hearted. Daisey and his director Jean-Michele Gregory offer us a night of soul-searching questions about the nature and value of art, without one didactic moment. It's a healing experience without any woo-woo. It's something every American artist--and everyone who likes or loves theater--ought to see at least once.
James Wolcott's Blog: A Hiss Is Just a Hiss, A Sigh Is Just a Sigh:
It's a poignant fact that the audience for theater, as in so many of the performing arts, is graying and getting stooped--it's not exactly news for anyone in the field. But it's never occurred to me to wonder what it's like for those acting, singing, dancing, and monologuing on stage to watch their audiences wizen away, and now I know. In a rueful, hard-punching first person essay, Mike Daisey (whose performance of his monologue Invincible Summer was the recipient of an unwelcome baptismal dousing) confronts the mortality issue:
The numbers are grim--the audiences are dying off all over the country. I know because every night I'm onstage, I stare out into the dark and can hear the oxygen tanks hissing.
The reliance on life support supports is only part of the atrophy of energy and daring that Daisey (here's his blog) diagnoses and deplores in regional theater, which has evolved into a corporate organism devoted to its own self-perpetuation
~ FREEDOM SPICE IN THE NEW MASH-UP WORLD~: The Empty Spaces...:
And yes, I know why it can't be done. I've been told many times why. An equity technician has to be there and has to be paid whenever a guest theatre uses these spaces... yah di yah di yah... there are multiple other reasons, but the bottom line is : there are tons of well outfitted, unused space in the large theatre institutions that could be lent or rented for cheap to young theatre makers ; which in turn might bring together the dying and the upcoming theatre goer, if only , somebody, someone, anyone, might be willing to break some rules, restructure some things and not care about conforming or complying with the capitalist/donor model of doing things.
When I was at the Mike Daisey show, the thing I was praying and wishing the hardest for, was that, somebody, someone, anyone from the larger theatres was in the audience.
You don't have to wait for something to die in order to reinvent it. It's fear and compliance with the machine that is death. Always.
Huckabee Isn't Conceding Washington | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper:
Oh, that’s so cute. A Republican presidential candidate demanding that every vote be counted—live long enough, I guess, and you’ll see everything.
The question, of course, is why the state GOP stopped counting those caucus votes. And the answer seems obvious: McCain might have lost if they kept counting votes, which would have given Huckabee a three-state sweep yesterday. When they stopped counting the vote yesterday McCain had 25.7% to Huckabee’s 23.9%.
The Playgoer: Mike Daisey's Manifesto
For those of us not lucky enough to catch it on tour presently, Mike has given something like a teaser in the Seattle Stranger and it's a knockout read.
Very angry, very moving, and very, very right.
Tripod Prompts Lockdown at Sheridan College:
When I first heard the news yesterday, that Sheridan College had been locked down because of a gunman, I felt chills run up my spine. Someone from my work had just been sent over to the school to talk about sales, and back at my office we were all concerned. Thankfully it was reported later in the day that there was no attack. Today, however, it's been revealed that the gun sighting that caused a professor to call in the emergency and the subsequent police lockdown was actually... a camera tripod sighting.
The emergency response came about when a professor and eight students reported seeing a suspicious man in camouflage carrying around a "long, tubular object". The police came in and forced students to stay in their classes and dorm rooms until around 4:30pm. Ambulances and emergency vehicles were called in and at the ready, but no gun shots were heard, and no one was hurt. An exhaustive two hour search of the area resulted in the uncovering of no gunman, and no threat.
And today we've learned that this was all triggered by a tripodman, not a gunman.
Lifetime's short now.: I went home and did just what he said I'd do.:
Last night I saw Mike Daisey perform his newest show, How Theater Failed America. If you don't know about him you may still have heard or read him, as he is not only an actor, writer, and fat man who sits at a table, he is also a commentator for NPR and writes for several magazines. I had seen him previously in his break-out 21 Dog Years At Amazon.com ten years ago so I knew what to expect: a sweaty fat man sitting at a table that you cannot take your eyes off of. Talking. Just...talking. And drinking water.
The basic premise of the show is the imminent economic failure of regional theater, which is largely uninteresting to anyone outside of theater and a terrifying white elephant to anyone inside of it. It tells nothing new. Most art does not tell a new story.
However, it struck me, and I had, at the end, one of those tunnel vision moments at the end, where he is speaking only to me, looking only at me, as though hundreds of other people were not present and we were alone together in the dark. He had spoken about being saved by work, nothing but work. Art, starvation, nothing but ramen for months, but it gave him life. And then he said, Go. Go do this work. Be as luminous as I know you are, as you know you are, because this is not political commentary or a failing industry but the only thing that will give you life. Go, work, and Godspeed.
Seattlest: Can't Miss It:
We went to see Mike Daisey's How Theater Failed America at CHAC last night, and if you're interested at all in the fate of live theater, check it out.
From gorgeous new theaters standing empty as cathedrals, to “successful” working actors traveling like migrant farmhands, to an arts culture unwilling to speak or listen to its own nation, Daisey takes stock of the dystopian state of theater in America: a shrinking world with smaller audiences every year.
It's a brand-new show and less polished than his Monopoly!, but it has his anarchic sense of humor, volcanic eruptions, unlikely reminiscences, and corporate critique in spades. It also contains an insider's account of "garage" theater in Seattle in the '90s and how not to introduce children to the work of Jean Genet.
Further thoughts from the forums:
This is simply untrue--first, the current corporate model, where corporations have the rights of individuals, has only been around for a little over a hundred years--that's why we're seeing "corporatization" as a galvanizing effect across many different fields and pursuits, as the corporate model grows into and tries to assimilate different industries.
It also bears noting that I draw a strong distinction between "business" and "corporation"--they're not synonymous at all, and what I'm specifically talking about is the coporatization of American theater, the death of the repertory system and the failure of the regional theater movement.
I won't even address the arrogance and infantilization on display here with regards to the work of artists. That I leave as an exercise for the reader.
The long legacy of Edison's dirty war against Nikola Tesla and alternating current is finally at an end in this country.
The End Of The Chair:
The Supreme Court of Nebraska, the last state to use electrocution, ruled the practice unconstitutional yesterday. From Justice William Connolly's opinion:
We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer. But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it. Condemend prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes. And the evidence clearly proves that unconsciousness and death are not instantaneous for many condemned prisoners. These prisoners will, when electrocuted, consciously suffer the torture that high voltage electric current inflicts on the human body. The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts intense pain and agonizing suffering. Therefore, electrocution as a method of execution is cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Nebraska Constitution.
More from the threads:
I've been getting a lot of reactions to the essay, both online and off--and after tonight's show I spoke with people for a couple of hours, and it was really great to hear from people. We had a lot of folks from ACT tonight, and some people from the Rep are coming tomorrow—I've reached out a lot to as many folks as I can, and I hope it'll make for a good conversation over the days to come.
A site I used to peruse more often back in the day has had some back and forth about the essay. It's interesting because most of the people discussing the essay are from the world I came from, doing theater full-time on top of a full-time job, trying to make it work. While there has been some positive responses there, there's also a strain of criticism that I think is interesting, so I'm going to be indulgent (it is my site; you don't need to read, after all) and address some individual points that pertain to the essay.
The short answer is: yes, the theater owes her a living because she is fantastic.
The longer answer is: yes, the regional theater movement's bedrock was repertory companies that created ensembles of supported artists in regional cities. It betrayed those ideals because it was expedient, and had they had the courage of their convictions not only would actors be better off today but the theater created (and the health of regional theaters) would be much improved if the legacy of this short-sighted decision wasn't still with us.
I have no doubt that if there were a repertory system in place this woman would have found a home in it; so yes, I am saying that if the theater knew what was good for its health, and good for its artists, she would be making a living.
The fact that ARTISTS in a regional city are certain that it's crazy that a gifted actress should be able to retire, afford a theater ticket or even their rent indicates how totally beaten down they've become.
What's sad to me is that this is also from someone working in the arts—you can taste the hopelessness. It's "unrealistic and childish" to even discuss why the regional theater movement has ended up where it is today. "There is a reality to the market forces"...this is from people working in the arts RIGHT NOW.
"We cannot will an impossibility into being." Why? We *willed* a regional theater movement into being...through the blood, sweat and tears of so many, and they would be horrified to see what had happened to their legacy today.
What fascinates me is the strain of Puritanism and stoicism here—it's a viciously reductive worldview where resources diminish every year, and the sooner others figure that out and get out of the pond the sooner the last few can fight over the scraps that are left. It's impossible to argue with or effect a corporation, so people look for the nearest thing to kick—and unsurprisingly, it's usually a person, as they are easier targets.
I think the regional theater movement should do better, and needs to do better, because it's the failures of that movement which have contributed to the decline in theater's relevancy as a vibrant art form. I refuse to submit to hopelessness, but the dark lure of doing just that is very real, especially for those working in the arts—they're on the front lines, and as we become exhausted from the fight people can harden and turn inward.
That's it for this evening...there's much to do for tomorrow.
Opening day. To all those to whom this is a holiday, I salute you one and all.
Gray and rainy in Seattle, but I can't stop the feeling in my heart.
We've sold out all three shows—if you want to get in, show up EARLY...the box office opens at 6:30, and they plan on doing everything they can to get folks in.
I'm off to the theater,
HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA is SOLD OUT for Friday and Saturday nights—there will be a wait list at the door, first come, first served, and some tickets are being held for those walk-up sales, so if you've been locked out get there early to get a chance to get in.
There are still some tickets available for Sunday, but they're going fast—you can reserve your seats here.
You may wish to read an essay I wrote for The Stranger this week about the state of theater in America—it touches on themes and ideas in the show, and if you'd like to read it you can find it here.
Slashdot | U.S. Confiscating Data at the Border:
"U.S. Customs agents have long had broad authority to examine the things a person tries to bring into the country, to prevent the importation of contraband. The agents can conduct their searches without a warrant or probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. In recent years, Customs agents have begun using their authority to insist on copying data brought to the border on laptop computers, cell phones and other devices. The government claims that this intelligence-gathering by Customs is the same as looking in a suitcase. In response the EFF is filing a lawsuit attempting to force the government to reveal its policies on border searches. 'The question of whether border agents have a right to search electronic devices at all without suspicion of a crime is already under review in the federal courts. The lawsuit was inspired by some two dozen cases, 15 of which involved searches of cellphones, laptops, MP3 players and other electronics.'"
A Moment's Pause:
Last week, Lynn and I both got out on our own for a night. Lynn for a baby shower; me to see Mike Daisey's monologue Monopoly, which was a hilarious and touching mix of Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison (the rat bastard), Microsoft, and his life history, as well as a partial account of the early stages of mounting this monologue in New York, where he planned to use the largest Tesla coil on the Eastern seaboard in the show. Mike isn't an egotist; he doesn't particularly paint his life (or that of his family) as fascinating. Rather, he weaves in personal elements, no matter how mundane, into the larger story he tells.
Religious police in Saudi Arabia arrest mother for sitting with a man - Times Online:
A 37-year-old American businesswoman and married mother of three is seeking justice after she was thrown in jail by Saudi Arabia's religious police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.
Yara, who does not want her last name published for fear of retribution, was bruised and crying when she was freed from a day in prison after she was strip-searched, threatened and forced to sign false confessions by the Kingdom's “Mutaween” police.
Her story offers a rare first-hand glimpse of the discrimination faced by women living in Saudi Arabia.
Slashdot | Microsoft Responds to 'Save XP' Petition:
"Computerworld Australia is running a story with a response from Microsoft to Infoworld's SAVE XP petition Web site, which has gathered over 75,000 signatures so far. Apparently Microsoft is aware of the petition, but says it is "listening first and foremost to feedback we hear from partners and customers about what makes sense based on their needs, that's what informed our decision to extend the availability of XP initially, and what will continue to guide us" — a somewhat strange response given that the vast majority of people signing the petition ARE Microsoft customers! The Save XP movement has attracted the attention of the software giant, despite its claims that Vista has sold more than 100 million copies and its adoption rate is in line with the company's expectations. "We're seeing positive indicators that we're already starting to move from the early adoption phase into the mainstream and that more and more businesses are beginning their planning and deployment of Windows Vista," the company said. Nevertheless vendors such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Fujitsu, and more recently NEC, all offer the opportunity to downgrade to XP Pro."
Rat Sass » How Theatre Will Save America:
For those in that great Rain City theatre town and connecting to this collaboration, make sure to attend Mike Daisey’s new show How Theater Failed America. Mike speaks truth to power, which is to say Mike doesn’t lie to himself or his audience as he lays bare the fragile nobility at the heart of his and pretty much all our lives in theatre. I saw the show in New York but to review his performance or critique its subject matter would do this unique storytelling an injustice. The truth he speaks is the foundation of this discussion about building a new model for theatre in this country.
The Reluctant Mr. Jason Grote: A Long Overdue Response on New Play Development:
...but generally speaking, the unraveling of arts funding and the regional theater system - combined with the ascendancy of the MFA program (which I half-think is a scam) and the explosion of new talent (which does in fact exist, whether because of MFA programs or in spite of them) has turned American theater generally into a sort of Hollywood without money and with a few weird leftover bureaucratic imperatives. It reminds me of Nora Ephron's quote that every movie should begin with a title card stating that everyone in Hollywood did everything they could to stop it from being made. That status quo makes little sense for a profit-driven but uncertain industry like Hollywood, and none at all for theater.
Seattlest: Get Out This Weekend: Mike Daisey's How Theater Failed America:
Certainly, Daisey's criticisms sound run-of-the-mill. Who hasn't mocked the theatre for its hoity-toity-ness? But Daisey is not a sitcom writer, and as a theatre artist whose work demonstrates one way in which the theatre has a unique power to criticize the culture at large, he's uniquely positioned to offer a devastating criticism.
Over at the Seattlest Arts Desk, Seattlest Charles and this contributor have had long discussions over bourbons on the rocks chased with gut-rot black coffee as to whether or not the theatre is a spent force, and the Seattle theatre scene, which has largely been a bust this winter, hasn't exactly been helping this contributor defend the theatre's importance. Seattlest Charles and I are taking our tit-for-tat to CHAC this Friday to see if Daisey can resolve our debate for us. Readers are welcome to check out our discussion on Seattlest come Monday, Feb. 11. And for those who'd like to offer their two-cents on the value of the theatre, feel free to drop us a line, and be sure to snag yourself some Mike Daisey tickets before they sell out.
My appreciation to all the fine artists who contributed their work tonight, as well as my sister Mary and my brother Brian--I really had a lovely time and there was a really full house for a great cause, Seattle's Solo Performance Festival. We raised thousands of dollars for SPF, and though I am bone tired now, I am delighted at the wonderful work my colleagues brought out for me when I asked and the arc of the entire evening. Thank you.
The Wire - Friday, February 08, 2008 - Calendar (Seattle Weekly):
How Theater Failed America
Back in 2000, when Mike Daisey vaulted to fame with 21 Dog Years: Doing Time at Amazon.com, I asked a friend who was an executive at Amazon how she felt about a former employee doing an exposé on their culture of “creative capitalism.” She answered that they’d loved the show, and that Daisey was “exactly the sort of creative guy that we want working here.” Then last week at Monopoly!, his most recent show, I sat across from a group of Microsofties who howled with laughter when he said Microsoft Word reminds him of a neurotic girlfriend who’s always looking over your shoulder and offering “helpful” suggestions. It’s part of this talented solo artist’s skill: no matter how much he rants about a particular subject, no matter how much vitriol is spilled, Daisey can do so without raising rancor in the hearts of his targets. He’ll certainly be putting this talent to the test with his new show, How Theater Failed America, which he’s testing out with a brief run at the CHAC this weekend. And while he won’t necessarily be naming names, he does have some particular culprits in mind, “and it’s not audiences,” he explains over coffee. “I’m really interested in talking about how we, the artists, the administrators, the art people, are responsible for our declining audiences and decreasing cultural relevance.” Since its glory days in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the regional theater movement which gave us theaters like the Seattle Rep, Intiman, and ACT has, in Daisey’s opinion, become inexcusably timid with their programming, while cutting off their commitment to sustaining repertory companies of local actors. Seeing as Daisey sustains himself through performing at such theaters (“I’m the go-to guy when the big production of Pericles that they’ve been planning falls through”), this sounds like an act of career suicide. But if anyone can pull it off, it’d be Mike Daisey.
Precursor to radar:
Lasers Make Other Metals Look Like Gold - New York Times:
In a feat of optical alchemy, Dr. Guo, a professor of optics at the University of Rochester, and Anatoliy Y. Vorobyev, a postdoctoral researcher, use ultrashort laser bursts to pockmark the surface of a metal in a way that is not perceptible to the touch — it still feels smooth to the finger — but that alters how the metal absorbs and reflects light.
The result is that pure aluminum looks like gold, and the appearance is literally skin deep.
“I cannot tell it’s not gold,” Dr. Guo said. “It looks very pretty.”
Dr. Guo and Dr. Vorobyev reported their findings in the journal Applied Physics Letters published online Thursday.
Obama vs. the Phobocracy - washingtonpost.com:
The point of Obama's candidacy is that the damaged state of American democracy is not the fault of George W. Bush and his minions, the corporate-controlled media, the insurance industry, the oil industry, lobbyists, terrorists, illegal immigrants or Satan. The point is that this mess is our fault. We let in the serpents and liars, we exchanged shining ideals for a handful of nails and some two-by-fours, and we did it by resorting to the simplest, deepest-seated and readiest method we possess as human beings for trying to make sense of the world: through our fear. America has become a phobocracy.
McClatchy Washington Bureau | 02/03/2008 | Clinton's '35 years of change' omits most of her career:
She routinely tells voters that she's "been working to bring positive change to people's lives for 35 years." She told a voter in New Hampshire: "I've spent so much of my life in the nonprofit sector." Speaking in South Carolina, Bill Clinton said his wife "could have taken a job with a firm ... Instead she went to work with Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund."
The overall portrait is of a lifelong, selfless do-gooder. The whole story is more complicated — and less flattering.
Clinton worked at the Children's Defense Fund for less than a year, and that's the only full-time job in the nonprofit sector she's ever had. She also worked briefly as a law professor.
Clinton spent the bulk of her career — 15 of those 35 years — at one of Arkansas' most prestigious corporate law firms, where she represented big companies and served on corporate boards.
Neither she nor her surrogates, however, ever mention that on the campaign trail. Her campaign Web site biography devotes six paragraphs to her pro bono legal work for the poor but sums up the bulk of her experience in one sentence: "She also continued her legal career as a partner in a law firm."
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Mike Daisey and Special Guests Tell Stories Of Family And Its Discontents
A Benefit for Seattle's Solo Performance Festival
And special guest MARY DAISEY, who will tell her side of the story for the first time on stage, correcting the MANY ERRORS her brother has CONSPIRED TO SPREAD about their family.
Theater Off Jackson
409 7th Avenue S.
Tuesday, February 5th
Doors open at 7, show begins at 7:30
Mike Daisey hosts and headlines a benefit for Seattle's Solo Performance festival. Entitled A FAMILY AFFAIR, Mike will tell stories of families and their wonderful, terrifying and infuriating power, joined by some of his favorite solo performers in the Seattle community: the legendary Troy Mink (THE HAINT), powerhouse Allen Johnson (ANOTHER YOU), the mercurial Suzanne Morrison (YOGA BITCH), the effervescent Mark Siano (HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS) and the delightful Mark Boeker (HELL SONGS FROM THE FLOATING WORLD). At the conclusion of the performance Mike Daisey's sister Mary Daisey will perform a rebuttal to Mike's story, revealing for the first time the true story that lives right under the surface--the one only your family knows.
MoMA's Month of Life Stories - February 1, 2008 - The New York Sun:
"To My Great Chagrin: The Unbelievable Story of Brother Theodore" is Jeff Sumerel's portrait of the manic downtown monologist Theodore Gottlieb. "More exciting than being raped by a gorilla," Woody Allen quipped after an encounter with the late shock-haired émigré from Germany, whose hilarious semi-ironic tirades were equal parts S. J. Perelman and Georg Büchner.
Speaking with mock indignation, bulging white eyes, and a rolling Teutonic accent, Gottlieb sets a mood of otherworldly focus, presaging the imminent arrival of either doomsday or self-pity. Mr. Sumerel draws heavily from footage of performances from the 1970s forward, and from such acolytes as Eric Bogosian and Penn Jillette, before pivoting on the flummoxing revelation of Gottlieb's playboy past and flight from the Holocaust. That's a quintessentially 20th-century journey, but we're also stealing a glimpse at an influential underground figure from an increasingly bygone New York.
I really love this.
Knee-deep in the dead:
Can it really be a little of both? Can a corporation as a whole be so bipolar, on the one hand believing its own press releases, while on the other hand cooly executing what it believes to be the most expedient plan to dispatch an enemy, despite the possibly enormous cost to itself? Can Microsoft really be of two minds on a single deal?
Sure, why not? Individual people are full of such contradictions, and collections of people are further encumbered by groupthink and other ills. But either way, the rah-rah public posturing by Microsoft about the deal certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Perhaps the saddest thing about of the whole situation is that Yahoo, for all its problems, is just one good CEO and a few years away from a reemergence as the strongest real competitor to Google. A takeover by anyone—but especially Microsoft—makes the hopes of such a recovery quite dim.
MacNN | Google objects to MS/Yahoo, may ally with Yahoo:
Google considers the possibility of a Microsoft acquisition of Yahoo anti-competitive and possibly threatening to the Internet as a whole, says company Chief Legal Officer David Drummond in an official blog. The official argues that Microsoft's historic approach of establishing and extending proprietary standards is opposite to the very notion of the Internet; a Yahoo deal could potentially recreate Microsoft's leverage with Office and Windows on a much wider level, Drummond says.
"Between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet," he explains. "Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors' email, IM, and web-based services?"
This is it--the final performance of MONOPOLY! at CHAC. It's been tremendous—nine sold-out shows, fantastic press, incredible demand—the truth is that the show could run in Seattle another month, and probably go open-ended after that and just keep rolling.
But we have work to do: next weekend we'll perform HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA, so we have to draw to a close for now.
I'll miss this run—we've left the huge windows open to the sky during the shows, and the electric arc lamps in the distance have been shining into the space, reminding me of Tesla's dreams—the bright arc struggling against the fall of night.
Official Google Blog: Yahoo! and the future of the Internet:
The openness of the Internet is what made Google -- and Yahoo! -- possible. A good idea that users find useful spreads quickly. Businesses can be created around the idea. Users benefit from constant innovation. It's what makes the Internet such an exciting place.
So Microsoft's hostile bid for Yahoo! raises troubling questions. This is about more than simply a financial transaction, one company taking over another. It's about preserving the underlying principles of the Internet: openness and innovation.
Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.
p2pnet.net - not the lamescream media » Blog Archive » p2pnet RIAA school report:
So music is no longer cultural, something to be enjoyed. It’s a hard-core commodity to be peddled as ruthlessly as any washing machine and the grotesquely powerful corporations which control the ‘industry’ will stop at nothing to make sure their product, and only their product, is dominant and distributed solely by companies and methods nominated and/or controlled by them.
This reign of terror against students —- it’s nothing less —- is not only sanctioned, but encouraged by teachers and administrators who, like their counterparts in the junior schools, have been browbeaten into believing acting for Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG is in the interests of their students.
And of course, these activities are funded by taxpayers, school fees and parents.
It’s win-win for the labels, who are laughing all the way to the bank.
Murakami Interview, Part 1 : selfdivider:
I’ve never spent $17 on a magazine except once: the January 2007 issue of GQ Korea. I was in a Korean bookstore in Los Angeles, looking for Yi Sang’s fiction (I’ll talk about Yi Sang in detail later, such a weird, beautiful writer) when I saw the magazine, with Matt Damon on the cover. Anyways, I bought the magazine because it had a 10-pp interview with the elusive Haruki Murakami, who shuns interviews in general. Perhaps the fact that the interviewer was not a professional literary critic, but a journalism student at University of Hawaii, made Murakami warm up to her - I’ve never read any other Murakami interview in which he is as relaxed as he is in the GQ Korea interview.
“I’m waiting for Adobe and Microsoft to merge and create a product so inefficient it stops time.”
Performance artist hits stride in 'Nani Reese' - THEATER REVIEW - Los Angeles Times - calendarlive.com:
Heather Woodbury has that gift common to all mesmerizing performance artists -- an ability to capture an audience's imagination as much with her story as her singularly flamboyant way of telling it. In her latest piece, "The Last Days of Desmond Nani Reese: A Stripper's History of the World," which runs Saturdays at Bang Studio Theatre, she channels the voices of two women who supposedly speak the same language but have great difficulty understanding each other.
One's a jargon-spewing feminist from Harvard who has trouble saying anything straight; the other is a 108-year-old former stripper living in the hills of Echo Park with her 27 cats and a whirlwind of memories she spits out like a raunchier version of Granny from "The Beverly Hillbillies." All Woodbury needs to conjure both is a pair of red pumps, fishnet stockings and a suggestive shift in her supple spine.
It's now 2014. Amber, professionally stalled and heartbroken, has come by solar bus across the ecologically ravaged Unites States to interview Nani for the final chapter of her mountainous dissertation, "The History of the World, as Told by Loose Women." Hacking her way through the overgrown brush outside her subject's ramshackle door, Amber is greeted not by a friendly old lady but a ghostly recluse toting a BB gun.
As the perpetual student coaxes the ancient burlesque showgirl into sharing the tale of her fierce life (including the episode in which she posed for Salvador Dali at the 1939 World's Fair), a curious thing occurs -- the scholar receives an education from the dropout in what it means to survive and occasionally thrive as a woman unbowed by the blows of the male-mangled world.
Machinist: Tech Blog, Tech News, Technology Articles - Salon:
Early this morning Microsoft held a press call to explain its unsurprising but nevertheless staggering $44 billion takeover bid for Yahoo. Bill Gates was not on the line.
CEO Steve Ballmer and Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, held forth on the brilliance of their plan, while Gates, the co-founder and ruthless tactician who made Microsoft the most efficient cash-generation machine this side of the U.S. Mint, was likely off somewhere trying to set right the wrongs of capitalism.
So you've got to wonder: What would Bill do? Was this Bill's idea? Did he have to be persuaded? Obviously he's not opposed to it (though Gates plans to leave Microsoft in July, he will remain the chairman of its board). But does this move jibe with Gates' early-'90s pugilism, with the take-no-prisoners élan of the Microsoft that everyone once feared? Is it the move of a company getting its mojo back?
Or is this the midlife crisis of a softer, less nimble firm, a company that now has more money than smarts, coasting on last generation's success -- a company desperate to show the world that it still kind of matters?
We are sold out for Friday and Saturday night's performances of MONOPOLY!—there will be a limited number of tickets available at the door, and you'll want to arrive early to get a chance to get in.
There are still tickets available for Sunday as of now—you can purchase them right here.
Analyzing Bush based on his favorite painting - Boing Boing:
The painting hangs in his office, and he tells people that it's a "beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us."
The painting first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1916 "to illustrate a story about a horse thief, and captioned as a picture of his flight from the law. Only later did it illustrate a story about Methodism."