Thursday, July 31, 2008

H B W  !!  (poke,..poke.......)

11:52 PM

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition).:

Horatio thinks he saw a ghost.

Hamlet thinks it's annoying when your uncle marries your mother right after your dad dies.

The king thinks Hamlet's annoying.

Laertes thinks Ophelia can do better.

Hamlet's father is now a zombie.

10:16 PM

Green Peas

9:48 PM


9:24 PM

Magazine Preview - Malwebolence - The World of Web Trolling -

I first met Weev in an online chat room that I visited while staying at Fortuny’s house. “I hack, I ruin, I make piles of money,” he boasted. “I make people afraid for their lives.” On the phone that night, Weev displayed a misanthropy far harsher than Fortuny’s. “Trolling is basically Internet eugenics,” he said, his voice pitching up like a jet engine on the runway. “I want everyone off the Internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed. Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. . . . We need to put these people in the oven!”

I listened for a few more minutes as Weev held forth on the Federal Reserve and about Jews. Unlike Fortuny, he made no attempt to reconcile his trolling with conventional social norms. Two days later, I flew to Los Angeles and met Weev at a train station in Fullerton, a sleepy bungalow town folded into the vast Orange County grid. He is in his early 20s with full lips, darting eyes and a nest of hair falling back from his temples. He has a way of leaning in as he makes a point, inviting you to share what might or might not be a joke.

As we walked through Fullerton’s downtown, Weev told me about his day — he’d lost $10,000 on the commodities market, he claimed — and summarized his philosophy of “global ruin.” “We are headed for a Malthusian crisis,” he said, with professorial confidence. “Plankton levels are dropping. Bees are dying. There are tortilla riots in Mexico, the highest wheat prices in 30-odd years.” He paused. “The question we have to answer is: How do we kill four of the world’s six billion people in the most just way possible?” He seemed excited to have said this aloud.

9:20 PM


9:11 PM


6:11 PM


6:09 PM

Let's Play: If I Were a Right Wing Blogger:

If I were a right-wing blogger, and I found out that Barack Obama was wearing Ferragamo loafers that cost $520, I would spend about 50% of my waking hours making sure everyone knew this. I would mock him for being an out-of-touch elitist and make jokes like, "If you think that's a lot, you should see how much his purse costs " I would send the link to Drudge and wait for Instapundit to pick it up, and then watch gleefully as Fox News ran segments about how Barack Obama's $500 loafers vitiate his entire economic platform.

But of course, I'm not a right-wing blogger. And the $520 shoes belong to John McCain. And frankly, I don't think how much his shoes cost matters one whit for how he'd govern the country.

10:39 AM

Listen to the silence

12:35 AM

Experience: Last year I killed a man | Life and style | The Guardian:

At 9.45am on Saturday, June 23 2007, I killed a man. A perfectly ordinary man, on a perfectly ordinary summer's day. CCTV pictures show him entering the station, unremarkable among all the passengers going to the West End. He waited at the front of the platform until he could hear my train approaching, then he calmly stepped down on to the tracks and looked directly at me as he waited for the impact.

12:30 AM

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


10:08 PM

"It's alright, and it's nice not to be so alone.."

6:23 PM

If happiness can last forever, I want a part of it even just a little bit..

3:20 PM

Scrappy Jack's World-Wide Theatricals and Dime Museum: retro-polis:

Looks like the Bad Times are back.

Gov. Paterson is talking about massive deficits ahead for New York and Mayor Mike is just saying, "Yup.".

Cut service, cut spending, cut city jobs and then those who can will just cut out to the Hamptons, leaving the rest of us to scratch and claw and dance our way through it.

It's the early seventies all over again, without the music, which was the only good thing about the early seventies.

Nationally, we're looking at a criminal and seemingly deranged or at least divorced from reality President, we're stuck in a war we can't win militarily and gas prices are sky-rocketing.

Globally, everyone's mad at us but still wants to buy our jeans and watch our movies.

Taking a universal view, it's all still just a bunch of carbon and hydrogen and stardust.

And here in Rat City, we're all going broke.

3:19 PM


2:20 AM

Identifying Who Survives Disasters — And Why : NPR:

Since 9/11 the U.S. government has sent over $23 billion to states and cities in the name of homeland security. Almost none of that money has gone toward intelligently enrolling regular people like you and me in the cause. Why don't we tell people what to do when the nation is on Orange Alert against a terrorist attack—instead of just telling them to be afraid? Why does every firefighter in Casper, Wyoming (pop. 50,632), have an eighteen-hundred-dollar HAZMAT suit—but we don't each have a statistically derived ranking of the hazards we actually face, and a smart, creative plan for dealing with them?

All across the nation we have snapped plates of armor onto our professional lifesavers. In return, we have very high expectations for these brave men and women. Only after everything goes wrong do we realize we're on our own. And the bigger the disaster, the longer we will be on our own. No fire department can be everywhere at once, no matter how good their gear.

1:43 AM

Lucita'nın Düşleri

1:43 AM

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

8:25 PM

Parabasis: The Bechdel Test:

For those of you who haven't heard of it, the Bechdel test comes from Alison Bechdel's germinal comic Dykes to Watch Out For.  In DTWOF there's a character named Mo who will only watch a movie if it:

(a) Has two women in it who
(b) Talk to each other
(c) About something other than a man

What's so brilliant about this test is how eye-opening it is once you apply it.

8:25 PM

Day 207 - 25.07.08 (2)

1:58 PM

The Monotonous Melancholy of The Ocean

1:57 PM

Groups to pray for lower prices at gas stations:

Two prayer services will be held at St. Louis gas stations to thank God for lower fuel prices and to ask that they continue to drop. Darrell Alexander, Midwest co-chair of the Pray at the Pump movement, says prayer gatherings will be held Monday afternoon and evening at a Mobil station west of downtown St. Louis.

Participants say they plan to buy gas, pray and then sing "We Shall Overcome" with a new verse, "We'll have lower gas prices."

10:05 AM

Disloyal Opposition: Eight reasons even the innocent shouldn't talk to the police:

In one of the more engaging, convincing and easily understood presentations I've ever seen, Prof. James Duane of the Regent University School of Law explains why even angels devoid of the slightest moral blemish should never speak to police officers, tax collectors or other law-enforcement agents investigating crimes. Duane assumes no malice on the part of the police -- just human failings and motivations. In a 27-minute lecture, he details the legal pitfalls people can wander into even by telling the absolute truth.

12:49 AM

walking towards the golden gate

12:21 AM


12:05 AM

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mead Hunter has me confused with someone else in this posting:

Wouldn’t it be grand to wield the power this writer ascribes to Literary Departments? If only, if only… Well, he jumps on a popular bandwagon. Pundits from Richard Nelson to Mike Daisey are pointing the finger at literary managers these days.

This is simply not true. I have not been "pointing the finger" at literary managers. My discussions on the state of American theater rarely delve into literary department hijinks--I spend more time thinking about economic development, artistic responsibility to community, and the creation (or noncreation) of artistic ensembles of all sorts.

I'm sure I occasionally say something about literary management, and I think there's a one-sentence reference in
this essay, but so far as I recall that's pretty much all I've said in the last year or so, while simultaneously saying a hell of a lot about the American theater as a whole.

Personally? I’ve lobbied for both the above-mentioned writers frequently in the past, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. I’m rethinking that now.

I just want to be clear that this public disclaimer is not to get back in Mead's good graces—I just can't be fighting every battle, especially ones I haven't established positions in, over things I haven't been discussing.

Mead, I believe I clarified some months ago that I'm not blaming literary managers in some freaky, hyperbolic fashion for the state of all theater—I think we talked about it via email. I have no idea why you're saying this now, but it continues to not be true.

1:24 AM

day one eighty six. don't wanna break daddy's heart.

1:04 AM

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Talking Business - Apple’s Culture of Secrecy -

On Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me. “This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation. So I agreed.

2:01 AM

Saturday, July 26, 2008


This is it. As I sit in the apartment, I've packed up as much as I can, and after finishing this post I'll head down to Woolly Mammoth to do the last two shows--an intense doubleheader--of IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING.

And then that's it for the show until September.

What's interesting is that with the extension, we're ending this run on July 26th, and the monologue was actually born on June 26th, one month ago this evening. It has been a very intense month, at times almost too intense—JM and I both had some breakdowns after weeks of long performances followed by 3 hours of notes the next day, followed by two hours of me implementing changes in the outline, followed by performance—rinse and repeat.

I actually burned out last week, the night we had a very important guest—after we talked after the show and he left, I felt nothing left inside of me. It was not depression, it was deeper. I was achingly hollow, and I was thinking how wonderful it would be if this would just stop—all of it, forever. No more monologues. No performing. Nothing. Not angry or self-piteous...just cancelled.

It was unsettling, but it's a good reminder that there are limits—I'm confident that in this process over the last 30 days we pushed right up against them. Today I don't feel that ache: I think getting through our loss in the family this week was part of what broke us, but now on the other side I feel almost rejuvenated.

The show is in spectacular shape, and I'm so thrilled at the rest of the national tour we have lined up: now is exactly the right time for this monologue to be flowering, and I'm glad we put the work in now to make that happen.

I also can't emphasize what a joy it has been working with Woolly Mammoth. A company of consummate artists, they challenge a lot of the conventional wisdom about American theater, and the fact that they are thriving says something deep and rich about the absolute necessity of following your vision at absolutely any cost.

The fact that they are the first (and at this point, only) regional theater who will have us perform HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA indicates a commitment to real discussion and self-examination that I think is absolutely hopeful. None of us is perfect, but I've seen wonderful things at Woolly over the last few weeks that really make me feel a light shining in through the window.

All the shows are sold out today—it's been absolutely incredible to receive such a warm reception in a new city. I can not wait to come back in six months and work with these fantastic audiences again in January.

1:58 PM

The Ettes - Crown of Age Promo Photo 2008

12:29 PM

Washington City Paper:- ‘If You See Something Say Something’:

There may be no metaphor in security, as Daisey astutely notes, but he certainly injects metaphor (and simile, and irony, and synecdoche, and peripetea, etc) aplenty into this series of monologues–stories, really–which he weaves with enthralling dexterity of voice, tone, gesture, and expression.  The show is billed as the story of the Department of Homeland Security, but much of the focus is on the history of the atomic bomb.  The piece is obsessively researched, and by interlacing the straight history with his own anecdotes and observations, Daisey is able to infuse a somewhat sterile topic with a folksy, around-the-campfire sensibility.  In some of the most disturbing but memorable moments, Daisey is even able to turn the monologue into something of a ghost story–one minute you’re laughing at the foibles of Bernard Kerik, the next minute Daisey is describing in unsettling detail what would happen if Cohen’s neutron bomb were detonated above the theater, and you feel just a bit sick for joking around only moments earlier.

Daisey is one of those people (I’ve seen him before) who can make anything scintillating, so even if you proclaim to be uninterested in neutrons and bombs and the Cold War and deserts and Tom Ridge and that kind of thing, go if only to spend some quality time with Daisey.  It’s like taking one of your favorite nonfiction authors–I’ll use Ian Frazier but you can fill-in-the-blank–crossing him with your favorite stand-up comedian–let’s say, oh, I don’t know, Robin Williams–and hunkering down in a bar for a few hours to discuss a subject about which he’s read every book possible.

12:27 PM


12:27 PM

The Bauer of Suggestion:

The most influential legal thinker in the development of modern American interrogation policy is not a behavioral psychologist, international lawyer, or counterinsurgency expert. Reading both Jane Mayer's stunning The Dark Side and Philippe Sands' The Torture Team, I quickly realized that the prime mover of American interrogation doctrine is none other than the star of Fox television's 24: Jack Bauer.

This fictional counterterrorism agent—a man never at a loss for something to do with an electrode—has his fingerprints all over U.S. interrogation policy. As Sands and Mayer tell it, the lawyers designing interrogation techniques cited Bauer more frequently than the Constitution.

According to British lawyer and writer Philippe Sands, Jack Bauer—played by Kiefer Sutherland—was an inspiration at early "brainstorming meetings" of military officials at Guantanamo in September of 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial new interrogation techniques including water-boarding, sexual humiliation, and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer "gave people lots of ideas." Michael Chertoff, the homeland-security chief, once gushed in a panel discussion on 24 organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show "reflects real life."

12:11 PM


11:21 AM

What obligation? Maximise what? — Crooked Timber:

And, of course, the long term is a terribly difficult thing to forecast. It would, we can presume, be pretty bad for the S&P500 index if the Antarctic ice cap melted and we all drowned. Conversely, if the continent of Africa were to develop a billion consumers in a first world economy, that would be pretty good for the share prices of most companies on the stock exchange. There is a general long time interest of all humanity in doing good (that’s why it’s called “good”) and corporations and their shareholders do, in fact, share in this general interest of humanity. If you want to argue in any particular case that an act of corporate philanthropy isn’t connected tightly enough to a specific benefit which can be appropriated by the company and that this is wrong, then go for it but don’t expect the courts to agree with you.

Just as a footnote: in comments to John’s post, somebody raised the hypothetical case of whether a corporation would have a fiduciary duty to use slave labour if it was legal to do so. Actually, this isn’t a hypothetical case at all – in Nazi Germany it was legal for industrial companies to make use of slave labour (this is the plot of the film Schindler’s List). Some companies used it, some didn’t. The Nuremberg trials did not recognise the fiduciary duty to maximise profit as a defence.

11:17 AM

dc 2

11:09 AM

Slashdot | PRO-IP and PIRATE Acts Fused Into New Bill:

"Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have just sponsored a new bill, the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008, which would combine the worst parts of the PRO-IP Act and the PIRATE Act. The basic idea is pretty simple: expand the Federal government to create something like the Department of Homeland Security for IP. The Copyright Czar then polices the internet and clogs the courts with thousands of civil lawsuits against individual infringers so the RIAA doesn't have to. Feel free to contact your representatives with your feelings about this bill. Right now, they believe the bill (PDF) will 'protect jobs.'"

11:08 AM


10:47 AM

What Does Rupert Murdoch Want?:

Nobody has captured Murdoch's methodology in fewer words than the Atlantic's James Fallows, who wrote in 2003 that "some aspects of News Corp's programming, positions, and alliances serve conservative political ends, and others do not. But all are consistent with the use of political influence for corporate advantage."

2:52 AM


2:52 AM

This Weekend at the Movies | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper:

I loved the shit out of that show, so don’t get in the comments and start doubting my geek. Among other qualifications: I wrote a fan letter to Gillian Anderson in approximately 1995 (I was 14 or 15) and received a personalized signed photograph in return, attended not one but two X-Files conventions, and scored an invitation to the set in Vancouver from Sheila Larkin, who played Scully’s mother on the show but was actually the mother of a kid young enough to be in a Centrum theater camp with me. Unfortunately, her son saw through my greedy opportunism and quashed my fondest dreams. Oh, and I wrote some fan fiction once and posted it on ye olde Usenet newsgroup I think I was 16 at the time. It’s probably still floating around the internet somewhere.

2:39 AM


2:24 AM

1:46 AM

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sail Cats

11:52 AM

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog » Fannie Mae bailout: Taxing America's poorest citizens to help the richest:

In Roman times the employees of Fannie Mae would be decimated, i.e., they would draw lots and 90 percent of them would beat the unlucky 10 percent to death with clubs. What would be a modern equivalent? At the very least taxpayers should have the satisfaction of seeing the highest paid 100 Fannie Mae employees fired with two weeks of severance pay (it can’t be that hard to find replacements given that the current staff’s primary achievements have been accounting fraud and then insolvency). The newspapers say that it is important for foreigners to have confidence that the U.S. will pay its debt. Let’s pay foreign bond holders in full then, using tax dollars as necessary. After all, a guy in China could not be expected to understand that a bunch of crummy houses in Cleveland were not worth $250,000 each. Let the domestic shareholders get 10 cents on the dollar and let the domestic bondholders get whatever the bonds are actually worth.

11:51 AM

Thursday, July 24, 2008

___|______________ | HDR

5:44 PM

5:35 PM

Midnight Honesty at Noon: I have met the Enemy:

For my money the biggest reason specifically actors aren’t stepping up (outside of the fringe) to positions of leadership on the organizational side is that we’ve trained them to do as they’re told.

In American theater most people come to the business via education. They discover it in high school or college and are trained in either pre-professional or conservatory programs. That training is largely carried out by lapsed or current professionals who teach their student to operate in the system and the hierarchy they know.

That system is of course the current system, and that hierarchy is the primacy of the text, then the director, with the actor doing as they are told.

And they are listening.

4:04 PM


2:55 PM

How a Commenter Became the Online Bogeyman of New Brooklyn -- New York Magazine:

To be fair, reading through the Brownstoner comments, you won’t just find animosity. You won’t just find acrimony, aggression, name-calling, neighborhood-bashing, exotic new curse words employed in inventive combinations, race-baiting, and naked hate. You will also find fear. It’s the drumbeat beneath the symphony. This fear is expressed in different ways, on many different topics. This fear, like a resilient parasite, attaches itself to a variety of hosts. There is fear that your old neighborhood is changing. Fear that your new neighborhood is unsafe. Fear that you waited too long, or got in too late, that you bought at the peak, that your savings are worthless. Fear that your school district is substandard, your block on the decline, your choices were the wrong ones, you can’t go back and fix it now. Fear of roving packs of kids, or rolling herds of strollers. Fear that this isn’t turning out how you thought it would.

12:02 PM

HBW !  number two................

12:02 PM

203/365 birds of a feather

11:33 AM

Parabasis: RE: HTFA IV Priorities (Buildings and People):

From the comments:

Local govt's fund Capital Campaigns in ways that neither they or any other pot of money funds artists. I'm sure that makes sense to elected officials, cuz even if your company goes under, they'll still have a new building and increased property tax revenues going forward. It's almost a no-lose give for them. Artists are more like consumable foods - once eaten, the money spent is off the balance sheet (so eat an artist slowly).

11:30 AM

day 149 - 23 july 2008 In bathrooms and bad motels?

11:19 AM

Steve Jobs' Diet Secrets -

And while Apple employees eat healthy, Jobs takes it to an extreme, one employee says, eating dark green vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus, grilled or steamed. Jobs has been a vegetarian for years but his enthusiasm for green may have taken on an extra dimension since his brush with cancer. Jobs has surgery in 2004 to treat pancreatic cancer, and, again, earlier this year, according to The New York Times, to address "a problem that was contributing to a loss of weight." The veg-heavy diet, however, likely will not help him pack on any pounds. "No wonder he's cranky all the time," one Apple insider says.

11:18 AM

selene luna at the rock n roll strip show 2008

11:18 AM

MacNN | MS reorg focuses on Windows, Apple rivalry:

Microsoft on Thursday said it was undertaking a major restructuring of the company that will help it return focus to its core Windows software. The company's broader Platforms & Services division will now be split into a dedicated Windows & Windows Live division and a separate Online Services division, both of which will report directly to company chief Steve Ballmer. The effort is publicly described as making Microsoft more nimble and should help the company move more quickly fight off rivals in the "very competitive arenas" of operating systems and the web, according to Ballmer.

11:09 AM

Sheng Vue

3:17 AM

Times Higher Education - All the privileged must have prizes:

In the first meeting of my first seminar of my first year, Kushner's son Jared entered my classroom and promptly took the seat across from mine, sharing the room, so to speak. I was drawing an annual salary of $15,500 (£7,700) and borrowing the remainder for survival in Cambridge, in order that he might be given the best possible education. Jared later purchased The New York Observer for $10 million, part of which he made buying and selling real estate while also attending my seminar. As publisher, one of his first moves was to reduce pay for the Observer's stable of book reviewers. I had been writing reviews for the Observer in an effort to pay my debts.

Most of the students I encountered had already embraced the perspectives of the rich, the powerful and the unalienated, and they seemed to have done so with appalling ease. In keeping with the tradition of the American rich they worked exceptionally long hours, they were aggressive in exercising their talents, and on the ideological features of market capitalism they were unanimous. Their written work disclosed the core components of the consensus upheld by their liberal parents: the meaning of liberty lies in the personal choice of consumers; free competition in goods and morals regulates value; technological progress is an unmixed good; war is unfortunate.

I asked each of my seminars whether they had so far encountered a teacher they genuinely appreciated. If so, what aspects did they most admire? Invariably they said good teachers made them "feel comfortable". To sense the sterility one had only to listen: "shopping period" was the name of the week they selected their classes. Once, when I proposed to teach a junior seminar entitled "Anarchist cultural criticism in America", I was instructed to go ahead only if I first changed the title to "America and its critics". Here was the same method of cultural hygiene that has transformed Harvard Square from a bohemian enclave into an outdoor mall.

3:13 AM

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday July 23, 8:00 PM

THE BRICK THEATER, Williamsburg Brooklyn Admission: $10

Best Ten Dollar Suit Pictures presents a TK film * starring Mike Daisey, T. Ryder Smith, and Paul Williis *
director of photography Lila Javan * theme song performed by Joseph Mahan *
written & directed by Lawrence Krauser * designed & edited by Larissa Tokmakova

5:08 PM

2:09 PM

Stravinsky Gets His 'Rite: Remixed' : NPR Music:

In an interview with host David Garland, Greg Saunier of the forward-thinking indie-rock band Deerhoof admits that he's been borrowing ideas from Igor Stravinsky. So it's hard to imagine a better pairing than this Wordless Music Series concert combining Deerhoof with a wild re-imagining of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring by the Metropolis Ensemble. The unlikely playbill was recorded live by WNYC at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn, N.Y., as part of Celebrate Brooklyn.

2:06 PM

Suburbia Sleeps

2:06 PM

Permission granted by Mr. Pierce to repost here:


I just read your interview in Dramabiz magazine and was intrigued.  I am the director of a professional regional theatre company in Columbus, GA, a city of 200,000. I’ve been here for 20 seasons and I’m, ahem, 55 years old.

I am in absolute agreement with your basic thesis and I’ve been preaching this gospel for years.  When the American Little Theatre movement morphed into the American Regional Theatre movement something absolutely essential was left behind – an intimate connection with the community.  In fact, I believe that when local artists ceased being able to participate in THEIR theatre, the fabric of the community was loosened just a bit more and hastened the unraveling that we see today.

We rarely ever acknowledge that those passionate amateurs of the 1920’s, ‘30’s and ‘40’s built the superstructure of our current American regional theatre.  Loyal audiences and facilities were built and sustained.  Even very small towns were raising money from local businesses and individuals for THEIR local theatre.

Once the ivory tower institutions emerged with their giant facilities, executive payrolls and imported personnel, the link was broken with that community and they began to look toward the national foundations, NEA and big corporate givers for support.

So, I’m with you, my friend.

Now, let me tell you something you might find interesting.  I run annual budget of $2.1 million. I’m operating in the black. My audience grew by 17% last season, by 13% the season before and by 9% the season before that.  And catch this – the growth audience is young. My audience is skewing younger every year.

Here’s how we’re doing it.  In addition to our mainstage, studio and children’s series, we also run a Theatre Academy with 750 students (k-12) and an educational outreach program that serves 16,000 children a year.  We created a full voting position for a Theatre Academy student (this year, an 11th grade actor) on the board of directors.

Eleven years ago, I hired an incredible actor/director/playwright/teacher from First Stage Milwaukee as my associate artistic director and made him the director of the Theatre Academy as well as the director of the Children’s Theatre.  By doing that, we removed the “silo” that education programs usually occupy at regional theatres – separated from the main mission of the company.  Today, I have 750 young student actors who are in my building year-round. I also know their parents and those parents have begun to take leadership roles on the board of directors.  Local youth has a SAY in our theatre and we listen.

The emergence of this youth movement over the past several years has had a more tangible impact – more tangible than even audience growth.  We are now six months into a capital campaign for the construction of a Teaching Theatre and Education Center. We already have 5 studio classrooms and we’ll add five more with this project. But, before you react to the capital campaign as more monument-ism, keep two things in mind. One, this education center is all about building audiences for the future. And, two, half of the campaign goal is for just the type of endowment you suggested in your interview.

With this campaign, we will be able to hire resident artists for our main program who will act, direct, write and teach right here in the community year-round.  They will receive an annual salary, health benefits and 401K. They will be a central part of the identity of the theatre and an investment in its future growth and success.  This endowment will also support programming and help us diversify our work by not having to go commercial when the economy turns as it has recently.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is currently doing a study on the impact of our youth education programs on audience growth.  With the graying of audiences nationwide, the Knight Foundation is working hard to identify “best practices” in audience building and, possibly, develop a model that other regional theatres can use to invigorate their programs and re-connect to their communities.

Come see us sometime.  I’d enjoy showing you what we do.  I hope I can see your show soon. It sounds wonderful.

All Best, Paul

Paul R. Pierce

Producing Artistic Director

Springer Opera House

103 10th Street

Columbus, GA 31901

1:28 PM


1:26 PM

Inside the Bohemian Grove (Spy 1989):

The jokes fit right into the Grove's Ayn Rand R&R mood. "My grandmother always said, 'You can find sympathy in the dictionary,'" a guy with a cigar said, walking on the River Road. I'd made it in that day for breakfast at the Dining Circle, the most lavish meal of the Bohemian day, an experience redolent of moneyed western ease. The rough wooden tables were piled with perfect fruit. As I sat down a great glistening arc of melon was slid before me. Today they were offering Alaskan cod, sautéed lamb kidneys, eggs, French toast, bacon, sausages. The encampment's rules about dealing with waiters reinforce the heartless but egalitarian values of the Grove. Tipping the help is strictly forbidden, but so is reprimanding them. It's easy to imagine that many early Bohemians started out as laborers and had to remind more aristocratic visitors that social mobility was a cherished ideal. In the Grove's Club Med-like plan, the meals are covered in the fee for the encampment, which, judging from schedules I'd seen from two years back, ran about $850 on top of annual dues.

A waiter in a red jacket dropped an uneaten chunk of the bright red cod into a waste bin, and the Bohemians at my table talked about presidents. It looked as though Richard Nixon would once again not show. One old-timer said that Nixon was feuding with the board of directors. He was waiting to be asked to give a Lakeside Talk, but the club wasn't going to invite him until he had shown them the respect of visiting Cave Man camp for a weekend or so. In my informant's opinion, there was bad blood; Nixon's resignation 15 years ago had offended the club's honor -- it had been so un-Bohemian. The feud was unfortunate because Nixon and the club went back a long way. In 1953, when he was vice president, Nixon led a ceremony honoring Herbert Hoover's 40th year as a Bohemian. It took place at the Waldorf-Astoria, in a room piled with redwood bark and branches shipped to Manhattan from the Grove. In 1971, when the press corps forced him to cancel his speech at the Grove, President Nixon had wired the club to say, "Anyone can be president of the United States, but few have any hope of becoming president of the Bohemian Club."

12:47 PM

Fence - OM1 Fomapan

12:35 PM

Filling in a Few Blanks in an Old Brooklyn Real Estate Mystery -

Dust has settled on a generation of clutter: bills, egg cartons, newspapers and a vintage scale that provides both a horoscope and a weight for 5 cents. A sign advertises goods that are “fresh today,” the coffee, apples, cheese and sausage that no one has delivered in years. Through the milky glass front window, tins of maple syrup and jars of vitamins are visible, improbably paired on wooden display shelves.

The shuttered pharmacy could be a location in a film about some mysterious cataclysm — killer spores? aliens? — that emptied a 1950s town, or it could be a scene from a blighted city, the commercial casualty of a Main Street abandoned by shoppers and hope.

But it is neither, just a store in the heart of Carroll Gardens, a thriving Brooklyn neighborhood. The store, closed for about a dozen years, sits at the corner of Henry and Sackett Streets, opposite a lively cafe and cater-corner to a trendy new dumpling house.

The store, with its 1920s details and promise of farm-grown goods and specialties from Vermont, might well have been popular with members of the neighborhood’s brownstone-renovating set.

Instead, it is a curiosity. The longtimers seem to know more about the place than they let on, about the eccentric homeopath, Mark Stein, who owns the building and is still seen visiting. The new residents peer into the windows and move on, knowing little about the puppeteers who helped run the place; or the gunrunner who worked as a clerk in a pharmacy that occupied the space before; or, in much earlier days, the British gentleman-thief with a taste for diamonds who lived upstairs. No one seems to know exactly why it shut down.

12:16 PM

Chiuso per ferie

12:16 PM

He's Up and Atom -

In his show "If You See Something Say Something," having its world premiere as part of the Capital Fringe Festival, Daisey tells the story of the birth of nuclear weapons in the New Mexico desert in 1945 and how he believes the possession of that terrible power changed America, and not in a good way.

Daisey traces his obsession with nuclear weapons to childhood. At age 10, he says, he read "On Thermonuclear War" by Rand think-tanker Herman Kahn. "I was a very unhappy child," he says. "It sort of fit in with the rest of everything that was going on. I was fascinated, in an unhealthy way, I'm sure, with the apocalypse."

11:23 AM

The Entrance!

11:04 AM

Zittrain's "The Future of the Internet" -- how to save the Internet from the Internet - Boing Boing:

The DRM wars have shown us that motivated attackers can always break code-signing trusted hardware platforms, given enough motivation. Tethered appliances are designed to allow remote parties to enforce policy on them without the knowledge or consent of their owners -- they're designed to treat their owners as attackers. So while it's possible to torque a PC into attacking its owner with spyware, it's even more possible with tethered appliances, because once you figure out how to slip inside, the whole device is designed, from the ground up, to stop the user from interfering with the "authorities" who have the keys.

Take CALEA, the law that forces phone-switch manufacturers to build in back-doors that allow cops to snoop on voice-traffic without physically accessing the switch. It's pretty implausible that the "police override" built into phone switches has never leaked outside of the police force. After all, the police leak all kinds of "confidential" information (ask a private eye, off the record, how easy it is to get a cop to look up a license plate number). All it would take is one leak to organized crime and the bad guys would have the same off-site phone-monitoring capability as the folks in blue.

I think that Zittrain takes the security claims of appliance vendors at face value, and that this really undermines the argument. Appliances are neither generative nor secure, and it's likely that appliances will be broken in more interesting ways by more creeps as they increase in value as targets. The backlash against PCs will be quickly met with another backlash against everything else, and no one is going to be able to opt out of the system altogether.

11:04 AM


10:44 AM

secret one

10:44 AM

Bravo Asks: What Is Art? | The A.V. Club:

While a challenge like, "This week, create a sculpture that shows who you are as an artist. You have 4 hours and access to everything in the Glad Family Of Products Creativity Bin," sounds about as exciting as "Design a hotel room around one of the four elements," the show does have some possible entertainment value. American Artist, more than any of the other profession-based series in Bravo's increasingly crowded reality-competition thunderdome, has the most potential for legitimately insane contestants. When Pip, a Shock Art acolyte, shows up at Judges Gallery with yet another bedspread stolen from the Atlas apartments smeared with more of his mother's menstrual blood that he brought in a jar from home (show him where in the contract it says he can't bring a jar of his mother's menstrual blood, okay?) repeating, "Being on this show is my art," it will make Christian Siriano's endless chirping of "fierce" seem all the more tame.

2:00 AM


1:55 AM


DVICE: LED dress gives tech fashion a good name:

Designer Mary Huang says, "Integrating technology into a wearable piece can often be cumbersome, so in a successful piece, the design must outshine the technology." We couldn't agree more. Her lighted fashion line, aptly called Rhyme & Reason, also includes an LED scarf. Both run off either battery power or a wall outlet, meaning they can double as lamps when you're not wearing them. Let's see your raincoat do that.

12:41 AM


12:40 AM

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


11:46 PM

Cassettes still a multi-million dollar industry... in prison - Boing Boing Gadgets:

For one thing, unlike CDs, the money in cassette tapes is not plummeting because of audio downloads. According to Bob Paris, owner of North Hollywood's Pack Central, a mail-order business exclusively dedicated to selling cassette tapes: . "[Five years ago], people thought I was nuts when I invested tons of money in analog prerecorded music on tape." Now? Paris' business steadily brings in a million dollars a year.

But who is buying Paris' cassettes? America's 2.3 million prisoners. Which brings us to the second advantage of tape over compact disc: a tape can't be broken apart and used as a shiv. Prisoners are allowed to have them. 60% of Paris' business is in cassette tapes.

Paris' excited conclusion: "[By selling cassette tapes] I have dodged every conventional bullet that has hit most music retailers," Paris says. "I don't have to worry about downloading, legal or illegally. The beauty of it is that prisoners don't have Internet access and never will."

4:49 PM

It's never as simple as it seems

10:48 AM

The American Scholar - The Disadvantages of an Elite Education - By William Deresiewicz:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League dees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.

It’s not surprising that it took me so long to discover the extent of my miseducation, because the last thing an elite education will teach you is its own inadequacy. As two dozen years at Yale and Columbia have shown me, elite colleges relentlessly encourage their students to flatter themselves for being there, and for what being there can do for them. The advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable. You learn to think, at least in certain ways, and you make the contacts needed to launch yourself into a life rich in all of society’s most cherished rewards. To consider that while some opportunities are being created, others are being cancelled and that while some abilities are being developed, others are being crippled is, within this context, not only outrageous, but inconceivable.

2:50 AM

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's whispering its truth, not mine

11:51 PM

A Textbook Case of Intolerance:

Here, for example, is a multiple-choice question that appears in a recent edition of a Saudi fourth-grade textbook, Monotheism and Jurisprudence, in a section that attempts to teach children to distinguish "true" from "false" belief in god:

Q. Is belief true in the following instances:
a) A man prays but hates those who are virtuous.
b) A man professes that there is no deity other than God but loves the unbelievers.
c) A man worships God alone, loves the believers, and hates the unbelievers.

The correct answer, of course, is c). According to the Wahhabi imams who wrote this textbook, it isn't enough just to worship god or just to love other believers—it is important to hate unbelievers as well. By the same token, b) is also wrong. Even a man who worships god cannot be said to have "true belief" if he loves unbelievers.

"Unbelievers," in this context, are Christians and Jews. In fact, any child who sticks around in Saudi schools until ninth grade will eventually be taught that "Jews and Christians are enemies of believers." They will also be taught that Jews conspire to "gain sole control of the world," that the Christian crusades never ended, and that on Judgment Day "the rocks or the trees" will call out to Muslims to kill Jews.

These passages, it should be noted, are from new, "revised" Saudi textbooks. Following a similar analysis of earlier versions of these same textbooks in 2006, American diplomats immediately approached their Saudi counterparts about the more disturbing passages, and the Saudis agreed to conduct a "comprehensive revision … to weed out disparaging remarks towards religious groups."

11:51 PM

11:27 PM

Quincey loves strawberry popcicles!!!

8:21 PM

Eat me (if you are not chicken :)

3:26 PM

The escape

3:26 PM


—I regret letting my rhetoric get heated; I understand why it happened, as I feel very passionately about the plight of my friend whom I wrote about, and of many other friends and colleagues who have given so much for so little over the years, and I have a lot invested in the reformation of how the American theater treats those who work inside of it.

—I regret not learning from history; I haven't been in a flame war for a number of years, and you'd think that one would remember how to keep that from happening. A third party even tried to intercede, but I ignored them—I suspect larger issues this week, like the death in the family, contributed to my blindness.

—I regret trying so hard to communicate with someone whose blog is clearly labeled as "the unrepentant rantings of an unapologetic asshole". It's truth in advertising, and I should have understood that.

—I regret that after his last posting I have to draw the line on further communication on this matter; it was certainly in bad taste for me to suggest anyone do colorful self-harm to themselves, but now the unapologetic asshole is intimating that he may be disrupting my performances in the fall. I suspect that he is just blowing hot air and fronting, but enough is enough.

3:25 PM

Eyes of a Female Rabid Wolf Spider (Rabidosa rabida)

12:28 PM

Theatre Ideas: The Artistic Home: How Long, Oh How Long?:

It is a disappointing book for just that reason. There seems to be little acceptance of responsibility, little recognition of one's personal power, few examples of specific commitments. It was like a 17-day pity party: "Gee whiz, it sure would be better if we did a few of these things, but how can we do that and keep doing things exactly the way we've always done them?"

Mike Daisey has revived this conversation amongst the TCG artistic directors, who apparently circulated his Seattle essay amongst themselves and huffed and griped about it for quite some time. "Naive," they said; "just let him try to run a theatre sometime, then he'll see" they said. With absolutely not recognition that what he was saying is simply an echo of what they had said twenty years ago. In effect, he was asking them, "So, did you ever DO anything about these issues?" The answer, obviously, is mostly no. Rather, over the twenty years since The Artistic Home was published, what has happened, apparently, is that the AD's have decided these problems are intractable, and the best thing they can do is put a few fresh flowers in the guest artist's apartments and make sure they have cable TV.

12:14 PM

Floating lanterns

3:24 AM

Theatrical ensembles --

The long-running practice of highly paid administrators sitting in new, multimillion-dollar facilities while actors are treated "like migrant farmworkers" has attracted some withering recent criticism from the monologuist Mike Daisey and others, who argue that status-obsessed regional theaters have failed their moral obligation to reflect their communities and provide their core artists with a living wage and a long-term commitment. Those who run theaters have responded that such an approach would limit artistic choices and does not reflect financial realities.

2:59 AM

Fiery Earth and Flaming Sky

2:58 AM

Air Force defies Congress, spends anti-terrorism money on "comfort capsules" with "aesthetically pleasing wall treatments/coverings" - Boing Boing:

The Air Force's top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on "comfort capsules" to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world ... Air Force documents spell out how each of the capsules is to be "aesthetically pleasing and furnished to reflect the rank of the senior leaders using the capsule," with beds, a couch, a table, a 37-inch flat-screen monitor with stereo speakers, and a full-length mirror.' Congress told the USAF twice that they could not spend the money on this frivolous project, but they did it anyway...

Changing the seat color and pockets alone was estimated in a March 12 internal document to cost at least $68,240... Air Force documents about the SLICC, dated June 8, 2006, emphasize the need to install "aesthetically pleasing wall treatments/coverings" -- in addition to the monitor, footrests and a DVD player. The beds, according to one document, must be able to support a man with "no more than 50% compression of the mattress material." The seats are to swivel such that "the longitudinal axis of the seat is parallel to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft" regardless of where the capsules are facing, the document specified...

1:27 AM


1:27 AM

My Way News - Unlike McCain, many seniors depend on the Web:

How unusual is it for a 71-year-old American to be unplugged?

That depends how you look at the statistics. Only 35 percent of Americans over age 65 are online, according to data from April and May compiled by the Pew Internet Project at the Pew Research Center.

But when you account for factors like race, wealth and education, the picture changes dramatically. "About three-quarters of white, college-educated men age over 65 use the Internet," says Susannah Fox, director of the project.

"John McCain is an outlier when you compare him to his peers," Fox says. "On one hand, a U.S. senator has access to information sources and staff assistance that most people do not. On the other, the Internet has become such a go-to resource that it's a curiosity to hear that someone doesn't rely on it the way most Americans do."

1:19 AM

You guys wanna see a magic trick?

12:35 AM

The MPAA Thinks You're Stupid | The A.V. Club:

Still, the Motion Picture Association Of America doesn't want to take any chances, which is why they told the director of Watchmen, Zack Snyder, that he couldn't have a guy pointing a gun at the audience in the trailer. Snyder replaced the gun with a walkie-talkie. This way, if anyone from 1903 watches the trailer, instead of ducking and/or running for their life, they'll just drop their bowler hat, curl up into a ball, rock back and forth, and mumble into their shirtwaist, "What world is this? What is happening to me? Where am I?"

From MTV Movies Blog:

“[The assassin] has a gun,” Snyder explained. “So the MPAA said, ‘Look you can’t have him [holding the gun]‘ … I don’t even think it’s one second. I think it’s like 12 frames. He’s pointing the gun at the camera, and they said, ‘You can’t do that.’”

For years, the MPAA has prohibited weapons from being pointed at the “viewer” in advertising, presumably for fear that it will freak them out. That’s why you always see guns pointed at angles on movie posters and in film trailers.

Good job, MPAA. It's good to know that someone is looking out for people from 1903 who have maybe fallen through wormholes, and/or people in America who have never seen a movie or television before. You know what else might freak out and produce visceral reactions in those people? Movies in general. They can be very upsetting. Someone should really do something about all the movies these days.

12:32 AM

Sunday, July 20, 2008


10:51 PM


10:51 PM

Daring Fireball Linked List: iPhone 3G Sold Out Nationwide:

I just went through Apple’s iPhone availability checker for all 50 states in the U.S.: one store in Hawaii has one model (8 GB), one store in California (out of 38 in the state) has one model (16 GB black), and the Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York has one model (16 GB white). That’s it.

So much for my “just wait a week and then cruise in and pick one up in five minutes” plan.

9:31 PM

Say What??

9:30 PM

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Russian Art - Film - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:

In 2006, the British actress whose first appearance on film was in Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, and whose first moment of fame was as Sally Potter's Orlando, Tilda Swinton (now known as the Narnia witch), made this desperate plea at the San Francisco International Film Festival:

"Can I be alone in my longing for inarticulacy, for a cinema that refuses to join all the dots? For an arrhythmia in gesture, for a dissonance in shape?... The figurative cinema's awkward and rather unsavory relationship with its fruity old aunt, the theater, to her vanities, her moues, her beautifully constructed and perennially eloquent speechifying, her cast-iron, corsetlike structures, her melodramatic texture, and her histrionic rhythms. How tiresome it is; it always has been. How studied. The idea of absolute articulacy, perfect timing, a vapid elegance of gesture, an unblinking, unthinking face. What a blessed waste of a good clear screen, a dark room, and the possibility of an unwatched profile, a tree, a hill, a donkey...."

10:30 AM

Friday, July 18, 2008

High court - Le Corbusier

4:53 PM

Moon 20080717.1

4:37 PM

In Mr. Hall's Friday roundup he spares a few words for the argument we've been having. I won't go so far as to say he responds—it's more accurate to say he picks and chooses a few sentences and ignores the bulk of what I've been saying.

"The thing is, there's a pretty big difference with stating an analogy is bullshit and actually proving it is - see Mike? It's an analogy. You can't prove it one way or the other. Arrogant dick."

This is pedantry, and poor pedantry at that. One can certainly assert that an analogy is worthless as it doesn't reflect the actual realities of a situation, which is an argument I've made at length both here and here. If Don isn't capable of addressing any of these arguments, then we're done with this.

In my earlier post I asked that he stop addressing my positions if he won't engage with the actual arguments—to this his response is:

"Then don't read my blog."

I can only assume this means that things won't be changing soon, and whether it's simple intellectual laziness or a descent into the kind of smirking debate tactics I associate more with our president than the theatrical community, c'est la vie.

"What I have read, though, seems pretty fixated on how actors don't make any money and how those regional theaters are fucking over the artist while paying you a check to say it. Not a bad gig, biting that hand that feeds you."

Though you simplify and crassify what I do, and reduce it to one work, this is accurate. As an independent artist I demand accountability from institutions for my work because I have carved out a position that makes that possible. I demand accountability from my industry because I know it is right, and I'm doing what I can to foment change in the arenas that I work within—and both I and my art are mindful of my responsibility.

"There are a few folks I know who have been able to straddle the line and perform selling soap for bread and performing theater for the art of it, but when the money calls, the theater gets the short end."

I've worked in both arenas—I performed for years in the garage theaters of Seattle without the possibility of a dime, and now I work in the national arena. HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA is in part about those two universes, and what they have to say to one another. While you have experience in one of these worlds, I don't think you have it in both, or your argument would have more depth, texture, and humanity to it. It's facile.

"I'll admit, while you have an amazing ability to skewer those analogies of others because they paint a picture of yourself you're not pleased with..."

When and if you actually address any of the very real responses to your bad analogy, we'll talk again. Until then Psych 101 routine doesn't do you any credit.

Now things take a left-turn back into pedantry:

"...your own analogies are ridiculously overblown. An actor makes a choice to stop acting and you equate it with Death?"

Let's look at what I actually said:

"And now you connect the death of my good friend's career..."

This is a bog-standard expression, and clearly "death" here is being use to refer to the end of the career in question, not Death in his grim robes coming with a scythe. Only a fucking moron would actually think otherwise, or someone desperate for a rhetorical point who doesn't have the stomach to argue something out, as they will lose.

In other matters, A number of people have taken issue with a somewhat colorful invective I used at the end of my last post, and have accused me of making the fight personal. I'd urge those people to read again the
post I responded to, and my response itself—I think it's clear who introduced the personal.

Still, it's never attractive to stoop to the level of others, but let me return to the paragraph I wrote just before my outburst:

"And now you connect the death of my good friend's career, after years of her selflessly devoting herself to the American theater and being highly lauded for that work, with a nine-year-old deciding not to play skeeball anymore."

Mr. Hall does not contest any of that, so I can only assume that my interpretation of what he was trying to communicate is valid and confirmed by him. So I will add only this—early in the piece, Hall states:

"As you point out, I've not seen your work - and if you ever come to Chicago - actually in October at the MCA - I'll be there in the front row, fucking myself in the eye with a knife."

You misunderstood me. Please take care of that before October.

4:37 PM

Niagara Falls

12:26 PM

Fraser Speirs – Demographics Is Destiny:

If you haven’t got it already, it’s time to move your head to this place: iPhone OS is Apple’s mainstream platform for 2012 and beyond. It’s a bold prediction, but the numbers seem fairly clear.

None of this is to say Mac OS X is going away. There will always be plenty of tasks that can’t be done or are agonising to do on a machine with a 3.5 screen and less storage than your digital camera. However, iPhone OS is undoubtedly going to be a major force in Apple’s business for decades to come.

Put this another way: my iPhone app, Exposure, has picked up on average 3,200 new users per day since the App Store opened. Exposure already has twice as many users as FlickrExport for Aperture.

10:33 AM


9:58 AM


If it please God,
let less happen.
Even out Earth’s
rondure, flatten
Eiger, blanden
the Grand Canyon.
Make valleys
slightly higher,
widen fissures
to arable land,
remand your
terrible glaciers
and silence
their calving,
halving or doubling
all geographical features
toward the mean.
Unlean against our hearts.
Withdraw your grandeur
from these parts.

Kay Ryan

9:52 AM

Let Me Fall Into the Dream of the Astronaut

9:51 AM

Ze Frank: Videoblogger Ze Frank Lands Movie Deal:

Frank, whose awesome series of daily two-minute Web videos ended last year, told a New York audience at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater he landed a movie deal with Universal. As NewTeeVee points out, Frank follows in the footsteps of the Ask A Nina guys, who are remaking Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and the co-founder of HomestarRunner, home to the series "Strong Bad Email," who just landed a deal to direct a movie with the guy from Napoleon Dynamite.

9:47 AM

bring it on, cowardly human!

9:47 AM

New York Media Scene Disappoints Young Girl:

And so it turns out that she was at what some of us would call a bad birthday party. (It was probably a good party for some others!) And she was a little drunk, and a few years younger than everyone else. It happens. It's a terrible feeling. (It's not as bad as the feeling of being a few years older, but if she comes back after her semester abroad, and puts in 15 years in New York, she'll maybe find out someday!)

This "tiny concentration of hyper-intellectuals has become a juggernaut that subtly controls everything that happens in the industry" is what Roy says she came to believe.

But most of these people to whom Roy refers can barely put on underwear before noon. Like, Gessen maybe controls what goes in his quarterly journal and what goes in his mouth, and that's about it. OH and what goes on his TUMBLR, let's not forget! As for any of the rest of them, they barely control what goes on their own blogs.

3:04 AM

Sea Fret clearing, Whitby Abbey.......

3:04 AM

Washington Times - THEATER: Mike Daisey offers witty bombshells:

Mr. Daisey is more bombastic than the Zen-calm, WASPy delivery that Mr. Gray immortalized, and his style sometimes runs to a caustic, Lewis Black or Sam Kinison-style rant.

Yet his look at our country's fixation on defending itself against enemies real and feigned is searingly intelligent and funny. That in itself would be enough for a few entertaining hours, but Mr. Daisey ties everything together in a graceful, epic sweep that leaves you pondering whether the impulse to annihilate is bred in the bone - and whether vulnerability is a liability or simply the essence of what it means to be human.

1:06 AM

Thursday, July 17, 2008

4:32 PM

The Playgoer: The Nonprofit Takeover of Broadway, cont.:

The company's Executive Director Ellen Richard--formerly of the, ahem, Roundabout--puts the risks refreshingly bluntly:

“As you get bigger and more successful, the stakes go up, and everybody wants more from you,” said Ellen Richard, Second Stage’s executive director. “The artists want more — bigger shows — it’s harder. If you have a 10 percent loss on a $1 million budget, it’s $100,000. If you have it on a $15 million budget, it’s lot more.” The company’s annual budget, which is expected to double, is currently about $7.5 million."

And, as the article reports, the purchase of the Hayes itself will require a $35 million fundraising campaign.

Talk about that corporate-influenced "grow or die" mentality, eh? Something that's received a lot of attention lately, through Mike Daisey's "How Theatre Failed America" as well as some recent articles reporting the "edifice complex" of our more "successful" regional theatres. I believe, in his show, Daisey even characterizes the philosophy as something like, "Nothing proves your success to the world more than building a new building." As opposed to actually producing good work, that is.

3:04 PM


12:43 PM

Lake View

12:38 PM

Think Progress » Sen. Dole attempts to rename HIV/AIDS relief bill after Jesse Helms:

The Huffington Post reports that Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) has introduced “an amendment to name an HIV/AIDS relief bill after the recently deceased Jesse Helms,” who was a “strident foe of HIV/AIDS prevention, research and treatment.”

Helms was notorious for his ignorant comments regarding HIV/AIDS. In 1987 he described “AIDS prevention literature as ‘so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up‘” and in 1995 Helms argued that “that the government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their ‘deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct.’”

12:37 PM

panic! at the disco

12:37 PM

HBW - snail style.

12:20 PM

Second Stage Will Set Up a Broadway Shop at Helen Hayes -

With the Helen Hayes, Second Stage will become the fourth nonprofit theater company in the city to own and operate a Broadway house, joining the Roundabout Theater Company (which leases the American Airlines Theater), the Manhattan Theater Club (the Biltmore) and Lincoln Center Theater (the Vivian Beaumont). It is the latest example of how the lines are blurring between the commercial and nonprofit theater. With the rapidly escalating costs of mounting Broadway shows, the tradition of independent producers has given way to multiheaded producer consortiums and to the larger nonprofit theaters.

12:20 PM

12:19 PM

Jay Raskolnikov -- half hillbilly, Demi-Culture: Artists as Administrators:

We want the cheapest products we can get our hands on, no matter where they come from. What the person who makes them gets paid takes a back seat to us saving fifty cents on a can of tuna. Most unions have forgotten the roots of their formation. That solidarity among all workers was the only way to a better life. More and more jobs in union industries are moving overseas. And unions get blamed for it. But I only know of one union that would boast of a record breaking year that almost half of it's membership worked at least one week in the last year. I can't think of another "profession" that would brag about those numbers, and yet every year more and more students graduate from colleges to make it as an actor. Note, that means doing nothing except for getting paid to act.

Now, I know it is not the job of a union to create employment. A union's job is to create safe working conditions. But something has to change. The reality is that the work on stages is a fraction of the work it takes to get a show up, and accordingly those on stages get a fraction of the compensation. Until more artists take control of the mechanisms of production, take on more of the tasks required to produce theatre, things will only worsen.

12:18 PM

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


5:43 PM

Bush won't demand conservation - Mike Allen -

Bush was asked about an earlier news conference in which he said he had not heard of forecasts that gasoline could reach $4 a gallon, a mark that was soon eclipsed.

“I’ve heard of it now,” he quipped.

“It seems like it makes sense to me to say to the world at we’re going to use, you know, new technologies to explore for oil and gas in the United States … to send a clear message that the supplies of oil will increase,” he said.

“The president doesn’t have a magic wand,” the president added. “You can’t just say: ‘Low gas!’ ”

As the former oilman has throughout his administration, he referred to oil as “product,” in the industry lingo.

4:33 AM


4:29 AM


2:39 AM

DCist: If You See Something, Say Something @ Fringe:

At the intersection of today's American realities and mindboggling fictional dystopia sits Mike Daisey, at a table with a glass of water and a metal briefcase (yes, the one filled with irony). His monologue performance for the Fringe Festival at Woolly Mammoth Theatre is a stellar showcase of storytelling skills, bringing the audience along a trip through the desert to Trinity, the site of the first nuclear bomb test in Los Alamos, with a narrative woven around the history and build-up of today's massive "homeland security" system.

1:14 AM

Black Sheep | HDR

1:14 AM

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Over at Don Hall's blog is a post that I find small-minded and upsetting. In the interest of positivity, he has also posted this image, which I think is wonderful:

Okay, on to the unpleasantness.

Hall begins by creating a new analogy (because blackjack = theater has been working ever so well) and this one is based on arcades, which I know well from my youthful visits to the boardwalks on the New Jersey shore. He says there are people who play games like skeeball, which my mother kicks ass at, either for the pleasure of playing, or for the tickets that can be used to buy toys, geegaws and gadgets.

Hall's analogy in this case is flawed even before he connects it to theater—there are in Hall's world, for example, no people who play boardwalk games for both the simple pleasure of playing them
and the equally simple pleasure of seeing what weird things one can buy with the tickets. You have to choose one or the other.

But in addition to there being a strict black/white division, Hall also passes judgment on the different systems:

"My nine year old niece likes to play for the tickets. In fact, her fun is almost dictated by the number of tickets she accrues over the course of her time there. I don't judge her too harshly - she's nine and my niece, so her young, carnivorous capitalism is sort of funny in a Lord of the Flies way, I guess."

This is obviously pejorative, so we can understand that anyone playing for tickets is "wrong", or at least as guileless as a nine year old. That's the bad one.

"I'm the sort who likes to play the games and often, if there are tickets involved, I have to be reminded to get them before I move on to the next game. My fun is about the experience of battling pixelated monsters and assisting the digital police as the hostage saving sniper cop."

We now know which one is the "right" one—it's this one.

But let's call a spade a spade—this is really about Crass Materialism versus Pure Art For Art's Sake. In Hall's universe there are two ways to work in the arts—either you're in it for Money, or you're in it for the Experience, and the two apparently don't meet.

This is where it starts getting personal and ugly.

"Mike D. thinks that the analogy of the Theater Artist and the Poker Player is "dumb.""

Yes, yes I do.

"He thinks it lacks any illumination of the world he lives in."

I was considerably more absolutist than that—I think it doesn't illuminate
anything compelling anywhere in the American theater, far beyond my own experience. I think it's a deceptive piece of jingoism, not because it doesn't "speak" to me, but because it FEELS true while not actually BEING true.

Hall, if you want to address what I said, reread it carefully
here and here.

If you want to keep writing about my positions, go through and address the arguments I made which systematically explore why your analogy is full of shit. I don't want to hear any more summarizing of my position until you've addressed what I've already put forward.

"He is probably right as his defining characteristic as an artist is that he plays for the tickets."

Really, Don? Please, tell me more—explain to me how I've become Enchanted with Crass Materialism. Explain how I am no different than a nine-year old niece who loves buy shiny crap at the boardwalk—I would love to hear this.

So far as I understand you've never seen my work, so the odds of you understanding what kind of artist I am is slim. I have never seen your work, but you'll notice that I've never passed public judgment on your work's value—because that would be shitty.

You're doing worse than that—you're actually questioning whether there is any heart in what I do, and accusing me of doing it for money alone.

"Certainly, I think it is safe to assume that Mike plays for the fun sometimes, but his work and his words indicate that for him this game is about the tickets."

I see—so, if no one is paying me their filthy money on a given night, perhaps then it can be Fun, but the rest of the time it's about accumulating those worthless tickets.

And you know this from my work...which you've never seen. It must be very revealing, this work you've never seen but know so well.

"For Mike and Scott and a lot of others, the games are about the acquisition of tickets rather than the experience of playing. I have no doubt whatsoever that both will deny that this is so, that they both feel that the tickets are just a much needed element that is missing from the game but remember that the types of games are different."

I do not understand how the fuck I get lumped in with Scott, who is a tenured professor, when assessing how my art works.

I also can't believe the infantilism at work here—"tickets" aren't missing from some "game", it's fucking fair wages and support for people who give their lives to an art form.

"Those of us who play the non-ticket spitting games have the choice to play the ones that provide us with plastic reward and choose not to play them."

Right—all those who "play" for Experience *could* be playing for Money, but they've chosen the righteous path and wouldn't lower themselves to that filthy level.

"I realized, while going from game to game with my niece, that trying to explain to her that it wasn't really about the tickets or the stuff was a task as great as trying to convince Myra that live theater was just better than the movies. She will either figure out that for herself or she won't - the best I can do is to keep playing the games that bring me pleasure and when she gets tired of plastic crap, she might try it my way once. And she might not like it and decide to no longer play games at Dave & Buster's and go do something else with her money and time."

The translation is that trying to convince me to ignore the precious tickets is as fruitless as trying to convince the nine-year-old, because that's how rational I am—I have, after all, chosen Money over Experience, by committing the sin of being a person who makes a living creating independent art.

"And then Mike could write an article in The Stranger about her, too."

And now you connect the death of my good friend's career, after years of her selflessly devoting herself to the American theater and being highly lauded for that work, with a nine-year-old deciding not to play skeeball anymore.

Fuck yourself in your eye with a knife.

4:49 PM


3:31 PM

Bernhard, Daisey, Lemper, Mitchell, Stew, et al. Set for Joe's Pub 10th Anniversary Season: Theater News on

Joe's Pub has announced a partial line-up for its 10th anniversary season, which will feature 300 shows from September through December.

Events will include Mike Daisey's solo show If You See Something Say Something, which is part of the Public Theater's 2008-09 season; Doug Elkins' Fraulein Maria (December 3-13); Soledad Barrio & Noche Flamenca (December 26-31); Sandra Bernhard (December 26-30); The Country Music Association Songwriters Series (September 9, October 29-30); and Ute Lemper in Pirate Jenny Comes Back (November 14-29).

3:13 PM

3:13 PM

My good friend Kyra is opening a Pilates studio in our neighborhood:


I don't generally plug businesses, but I love her, she has artist rates AND I think she has a wonderful eye for typographic design--I really like that logo!

Check out the site here.

2:58 PM

People Have The Power...

2:57 PM

If You See Something Say Something -- Reviewed July 12 by David Siegel:

Who knew that traipsing through the past six decades of America's security culture could be so engrossing? An absorbing, impressionistic solo performance is in store for those who care about the grand arc of American security and defense policy over the decades from the clearly quite gifted mind and luminous voice of story-teller Mike Daisey. Daisey presents a left-leaning political analysis with a great deal of Mensa-level background research and theatrical flourish. He is a very three-dimensional character in the mold of the current crop of leftie-seeming cable guys such as Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann. As an audience you will sit in rapt attention even as his one-man monologue borders on a talk-fest. It is rare when someone can entertain when presenting a perspective about difficult, if not frightening, topics. Here it is the building and use of the Atomic Bomb, the later development of the Neutron Bomb, the psychological and security changes brought about after the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the fact the Congress does not read the text of the bills passed. Really, Congress doesn’t?

He personalizes the events with real people as his props. The production does wander into over long territory, but it remains attention-grabbing as Daisey bobs-and-weaves with the moves of a superior boxer through about twelve historical but out-sequence scenes. This reviewer was left in admiration for a performer who sat down on a wooden chair behind a wooden desk and never moved beyond the electric manner in which he used his upper body to articulate emotions. Daisey’s ability to connect President Washington’s Farewell Address with President Eisenhower’s comments about the military-industrial complex was eye-popping. This is an entertaining one semester graduate school course in American post World War II policy-making condensed into 2 hours by a creative professor who loves his students and wants to enthrall them into learning. At $20 a ticket it’s a lot cheaper than tuition at John Hopkins, Georgetown or George Washington Universities.

How to describe the engaging hard-edged script developed by Daisey? Are the lines the same every night; is it really all in his head or does he do improvisational riffs like a great jazz musician? Even those who have eyes that can be expected to glaze over in boredom at the topics should come to listen to a master story-teller show how to condense, edit and sift away all that could be used into a potent script of frightening issues and provocative analysis all punched up with wonderfully and perfectly pin pointed delivery

2:48 PM

Blue Veil

2:47 PM

All the Country's a Stage:

Theater at Monmouth, the Shakespearean Theater of Maine, was recently highlighted lovingly by monologist Mike Daisey in his Off-Broadway hit "How Theater Failed America": “Cumston Hall is a gorgeous, perfect space on Maine summer nights—some of my best theatrical experiences have been watching that intimate stage.” One of the many claims to fame for this traditional summer stock theater is that its season runs in the rapidly disappearing repertory style—the plays run concurrently, and each actor plays a different role from one night to the next. This year’s productions include the perennial crowd pleaser “Arsenic & Old Lace,” the “Mystery of Irma Vep” and Shakespeare’s controversial comedy “The Merchant of Venice.”

2:17 PM


Jean-Michele's Babcia passed away this morning in her sleep after long illness; she was a feisty and unforgettable woman who always asked if I needed a coat when I was going out and fed our dog bits of banana until he was nearly spherical. She was the very best Babcia I have ever had.

4:09 AM

putting it back together

4:08 AM

You Are Dead to Me:

Phil Gramm took this trip last week after giving the wrong answer about the state of the economy. The former senator from Texas and top economic adviser to John McCain declared that the country was experiencing merely a "mental recession" and that America become a nation of "whiners." Almost immediately, Gramm's lanky frame was sailing overhead. McCain repudiated Gramm's remarks and said he understood people were experiencing legitimate hardship. Though McCain joked that Gramm would be his ambassador to the outlaw republic of Belarus, the campaign quickly got serious about making it clear that Gramm was banished not just to the outer regions but entirely. McCain's top policy adviser said he wouldn't be talking to Gramm anymore and neither would McCain. On Sunday, one of McCain's top surrogates, Carly Fiorina, sent the message again: "I don't think Sen. Gramm will any longer be speaking for John McCain."

Gramm may have spoken some literal truth, but the reasons for his ejection were obvious. He not only insulted the voters but gave fodder to McCain's critics, who say the GOP nominee doesn't understand the country's economy and therefore can't improve it. Gramm was not the first to be sent aloft in this campaign. Last month, Barack Obama lost Jim Johnson, the head of his vice presidential vetting team, once it was revealed that Johnson had an insider loan from a company Obama had used as the poster child of corporate excess.

4:07 AM

The Centre/The Center

4:03 AM » Writers need actors:

The showrunner told me that the studios are increasingly insisting that producers shoot out day player roles in fewer days, in order to save money. Episode-by-episode, this makes sense; why spend more than you have to? But in pinching pennies, the system may be squeezing out the actors it needs. And you really notice it in groups in which you didn’t have a lot of actors to choose from in the first place, such as minorities. If you write a role for a woman in her 60’s, and race doesn’t matter, you can cast anyone, including the Chinese woman. But if you write a role for a bossy Chinese grandmother, you really need that actress in town and available.

If you look at any one actor getting economically forced out of the craft, oh well. Sad story, but Hollywood’s full of ‘em. But when you apply that loss across a swath of your talent pool, suddenly it’s impossible to find that African man in his 80’s you need for your episode. So you’re stuck rewriting it for a white guy, or a younger guy. The product suffers, and TV gets a little more white and boring.

4:02 AM

sea of tranquility

3:35 AM

Congratulations, Taxpayer, On Eating That Shit Sandwich For Us:

By making information about investments as honest, comprehensive and accessible, through laws and oversight, investors could avoid the most questionable of financial junk food and thus get fat on the rest. If they did pour money into something obviously dubious, it was far easier to allow the market to do its job, and make the investments as valueless as they had appeared to be. You could easily tell it was crap before you put your money in. You lose it, it’s your loss.

These were the regulations written out of existence, or circumvented, in the years leading up to the present crisis.

Like with junk food, the companies and people doing the processing make most of the profit—making the producers (the investors) and the consumers (the borrowers) pay dearly for participation in the market—all while whining they cannot afford things like complete and honest information about what they are selling. Loan agents eventually stopped checking income, employment, the value of the property or the credit history of the borrower, because the mortgage companies stopped asking the loan agents to collect this information, because the investment banks buying up these loans stopped asking as well. The investors buying from the banks didn’t really care, as the bond agencies gave the blended investments the highest ratings. The rating agencies, increasingly deregulated, didn’t bother asking for this information either. Without it, it was impossible to predict how the loans would perform. They guessed. They were wrong.

1:06 AM

10 • 365 • words on skin

1:06 AM

One million on US terrorist watch list: rights group:

A watch list of suspected and known terrorists, compiled by the US authorities, has ballooned and contains more than one million names, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.

The ACLU said it derived that figure from a Justice Department report on the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, which consolidates terrorist watch list information.

The Center "had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007 and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month," according to a report by the Justice Department Inspector General, the rights group said.

"By those numbers, the list now has over one million names on it," the ACLU said in a statement.

Among those on the watch list are deceased people, such as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who was hanged in 2005, decorated war veterans, and US Senator Ted Kennedy, the ACLU said.

Nobel Peace Prize winner, former South African president Nelson Mandela, was also on the list until an act of Congress removed his name -- the only way, according to the ACLU, to get off the list.

1:06 AM

Monday, July 14, 2008

Underneath the arches!

6:11 PM

Theater: Only a few make living from stage alone - The Denver Post:

Wendy Ishii made $1,000 a day acting on a soap opera.

She now makes $500 a month teaching theater at a state university, and $14,000 a year running Fort Collins' Bas Bleu, one of the region's most respected theater companies.

"That tells you how much we value teachers and artists in this country," said Ishii, who can keep managing her 16-year-old theater for one reason: "Because I am married to a neuroscientist who believes theater is just as important as curing Alzheimer's.

"But if I were a single mom, no way."

They used to say most actors in Colorado perform for gas money. But with the cost of fuel these days, not even that's true anymore.

6:09 PM

Grand View!

1:21 PM

An interesting post from Don Hall this morning--I'll address a few things:

"Mike Daisey thinks the problem lies in the regional theater model (and given his career track, that seems to be in context);"

This is somewhat true, though what's also true is that I talk about the regional theater movement because I'm interested in seeing it reformed, and I believe it's approaching a crisis point which will make real change within it possible for individual theaters that take the leap. I also know there's a lot of power and cultural investment in those institutions, and I believe that convincing (or coercing) them to return to their original missions would raise the level for artists across the country, as that could re-calibrate the bar for what is and is not acceptable for artists.

This doesn't mean that "fixing" the regional theaters is so straight-forward, and the issue of audiences shrinking year after year and diminishing cultural relevance is the largest pressure point that makes the American theater so unlivable. I also suspect that were I given free reign to work for change, what I would personally envision a "regional theater" turning into to survive and thrive would not look very much like regional theaters today.

"One area that it seems we in the theatrospheriums seem to want to avoid talking about is that for most people in the United States, theater is either an esoteric anachronistic past-time for Other People, a once-a-year amusement park ride, or a thing their kids do in school. The handful of us that feel theater is an important cultural contributor is smaller than the number of people who attend Comic Book Conventions across the nation. In essence, for most Americans, theater does not matter in any way whatsoever."

Agreed emphatically.

"All the talk of creating a new model to get actors in tribes and thus get paid or shifting the priorities of regional administrators to focus more on the actors than the buildings or how to fucking market your show or build an effective Board is literally whistling at the apocalypse. The source of the fire is a systematic apathy for the art form and we aren't discussing that at all."

This I would partially disagree with—I can't speak for the tribes model too much, but I make the argument in HTFA that it's the lack of investment and faith in artists on a local level that prevents real communities from growing and thriving at regional theaters. One of the reasons I'm so adamant about treating and supporting artists better is the knowledge that informed artists who work within a space are the best people to fight for change in the status quo—and they would then be empowered to be on the ground and create works that engage with their community directly and excitingly, to look for real innovations that get asses in the seats.

One of the reasons American theater has stultified and failed to live up to its potential to be a vibrant art form that has strong cultural resonance is the gelding of its artists. My hope is that by putting power back in the hands of those artists this existing infrastructure can start real innovating again.

So...does theater actually matter? Mike Daisey comments that a major difference between a gambler and an artist is that a gambler contributes nothing to society at large and that art does. Really? What exactly does art contribute if most people (and by "most" I mean Almost Fucking Everyone in America) don't give two shits about it?

Don, you've transposed "art" and "theater". People everywhere are still listening to music, television is better than ever, there are wonderful movies coming out every year and the disruptive power of the internet allows people to seek out and find art that they specifically respond to. Just because theater is failing to be relevant in people's lives doesn't mean we can hide behind the belief that the problem is "all art"—as theater artists the onus is on us to make work that matters, and to reform ourselves to be relevant and engaged. If we can't rise to that challenge, we sink, and we'll deserve to sink.

From my limited vantage point, I'd say that the turning point in the 20th century for live theater was when people no longer had to go out of their homes to see stories told. Live theater had it's Golden Age in the 1930's and 1940's and had been declining in attendance ever since. It ain't so much a fire as a slow leak of interest.

Actually, the biggest drop in theatrical attendance was with the advent of moving pictures about twenty years earlier—within ten years theater attendance had dropped ninety percent. Ninety percent!

This is a good example of a drop that is more than it first appears--because we don't remember the great theater of the very early part of the twentieth century, before this die-off, because most of it was pretty bad. Other than the very best practitioners of vaudeville, most of the plays were hammered shit, and as soon as people had ANY alternative to the live theater, they left in droves.

Contributing to the leak is the insistence that theater is IMPORTANT and CULTURAL but without any quantitative examples of how or why it is important or culturally significant and as theater's reach has slowly been amputated, it has become less and less important or culturally significant.

Agreed, with an emphasis that the issue isn't so much that it isn't quantified, but that the stereotype is that THEATER IS IMPORTANT, which is the opposite of real drama, catharsis, or comedy--it's obligation, and it sucks.

Perhaps it isn't important to put out the fire. I'm a proponent of the "burn it all down and rebuild it from the ground up." On the other hand, I'm more often drawn to Nick's thesis that the very act of producing theater outside the norm - alternative to the models we all know are fucked - is revolutionary in itself - a revolution of one show at a time. And given that my personal yardstick of success (unlike the Prof or Mike Daisey apparently) has absolutely fuckall to do with money or monetary value, I suppose that's revolution enough.

I'm a little chagrined to find my goal of treating artists with respect, empowering them within real communities, and taking support that went toward building funds and using them to make more art happen on stage and beyond has been reduced to a desire for "money".

I think apocalyptic visions always suffer from a persecution or infantalism complex, and sometimes both. There will be no "burning down"--if we don't engage with institutions they will remain, eating up huge resources, doing by and large mediocre work and not fermenting change. Some will fail, but most will find ways to continue, because that's what corporations do—they endure.

I think it's valuable to work outside the existing systems, and many are, but if you're waiting for a wiping of the slate clean it will never come.

I could not live without poetry, which has helped me to live my existence more concretely, more deeply. It has shaped my thinking. It has enlivened my spirit. It has offered me ways to endure my life (I'm rephrasing Dr. Johnson here), even to enjoy it. -- Jay Parini

What a great answer to your own question as to why art matters!

11:16 AM

Heron - One Blink Before Being Plonked in The Tuque By A Stray Puck of Pride & The Successive Revelation That She Has Been Pitilessly Pigeonholed as a Candian

3:37 AM

Patrick Smith, Ask the pilot | Salon Technology:

You would think, nearly seven years after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, that TSA would have gotten its act together. Not just tactically, but functionally. Take a look at the typical checkpoint. There are people yelling, bags falling, trash bins overflowing with water bottles. There's nowhere to stand, nowhere to move. It's a jury-rigged circus.

But we should hardly be surprised, perhaps, at the Frankenstein monster now before us. Propped up by a culture of fear, TSA has become a bureaucracy with too much power and little accountability. It almost makes you wonder if the Department of Homeland Security made a conscious decision to present bureaucratic incompetence and arrogance as the public face of TSA, hoping that people would then raise enough of a fuss that it could be turned over to the likes of Halliburton. (Funny, how despite this administration's eagerness to outsource anything and everything, it's kept its governmental talons wrapped snugly around TSA.)

Except there is no fuss. Serious protest has been all but nil. The airlines, biggest losers in all of this, remain strangely quiet. More and more people are choosing not to fly, and checkpoint hassles are one of the reasons. Yet the industry appears to have little concern while an out-of-control agency delays and aggravates its customers.

And it's going to get worse, not better. As I'm sure you've heard, TSA is deploying body scanners that can see through clothing. It is also implementing gate-side luggage checks similar to those that were common in the days following Sept. 11. After proceeding through the main screening checkpoint, selected passengers will be enjoying a second one just before boarding.

To scare away complainers, TSA is also deploying signs at airports around the country. "Interfering with security personnel or procedures in any manner," the signs read, "is prohibited."

That "in any manner" bit is an eyebrow raiser. Does that include questioning or challenging TSA's methods? Are guards not answerable to those they're supposedly protecting, and who are paying their salaries? How about a sign that cuts to the chase: "Don't question us, just do as you're told."

3:24 AM


3:24 AM

At Fringe Festival, A Finely Tuned Fury -

What this master story-spinner produces is pure value, in streams of finely etched argument. Seated at a table, with a dark cloth to wipe his brow, a stack of handwritten sheets from a legal pad and a glass of water from which he never takes a sip, Daisey guides us through a tale of paranoia, politics and paradox. It's the story of a decades-long national obsession with feeling safe that culminates in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which he describes as "the largest expansion of federal power in 60 years."

2:21 AM

Sunday, July 13, 2008


11:22 PM


8:28 PM

I was touched and honored to be mentioned in the opening remarks of the second Indie Theater Convocation at the Barrow Street yesterday.

the nytheatre i: Indie Theater Convocation: Rochelle Denton's Welcoming Remarks:

Welcome to the 2nd Indie Theater Convocation. It is absolutely great to see so many faces out there. And each of you is sharing your seat with at least 3 other indie artists – Melle Powers is in rehearsal but wants notes, so Julie sharpen that pencil and write faster; Pam Butler is out of town but wants lots of pictures, Ryan start clickin’; Emily Otto has a gig in Boston; Leonard Jacobs is teaching at the O’Neill; Mike Daisey is performing in DC; Michael Criscuolo, Ian Hill, and a slew of others are rehearsing. And on and on. Each one is here in spirit and the response has been overwhelming. Thank you, thank you all!

8:27 PM

3:37 PM

Bush Homeland Security Aide Caught On Tape Offering High-Level Access For Donations To Bush Library:

The Sunday Times reports Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for “six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.”

In an undercover video, Payne is seen promising to arrange a meeting for an exiled leader of Krygystan with Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice. (Not President Bush because “he doesn’t meet with a lot of former Presidents these days,” Payne says. “I don’t think he meets with hardly anyone.”) All it will take for him to arrange this high-level meeting, says Payne, is “a couple hundred thousand dollars, or something like that”

12:22 PM


12:17 PM

Sarah and fans

12:15 PM

Freedom Flies | MetaFilter:

The Department of Homeland Security has expressed interest [PDFs] in forcing all commercial airline passengers to wear a taser bracelet that can be used to incapacitate anyone on an airline. This video, from the company that will produce the bracelets, explains how the bracelet would be put on the passenger at the point that they clear security, and would not be removed until they leave secure areas. It would take the place of boarding passes, carry personal and biometric information about the passengers, track and monitor every passenger via GPS and shock the wearer on command, immobilizing him or her for several minutes. DHS official, Paul S. Ruwaldt of the Science and Technology Directorate, office of Research and Development is also excited about the possiblility of using it as an interrogation tool at airports. Ah freedom, who knew it smelled like burning flesh?

12:01 PM


1:56 AM

Link by Link - Poof! You’re Unpublished. -

But in this case, what looks like a personal spat has turned into a cautionary tale, one that reflects the odd and influential community that has grown around Boing Boing. The site, which began as a fanzine in the early 1990s, calls itself “a directory of wonderful things,” and its readers can appear particularly intense. Theirs is the intensity that comes from discovering that, indeed, there are other people who like to create detailed drawings on an Etch-a-Sketch or collect 100-year-old fantasies of what the future might look like or rage at the encroachment of technology companies and the government on personal privacy.

Last week, these readers’ comments were pointed and unforgiving. Among the first to use the H-word was gabrielm, who noted the site’s commitment to a free-flowing Internet. “I have much respect for all of the BB editors, but this really does seem hypocritical,” gabrielm wrote. “How is this any different than a sitewide filter to remove any reference to a particular phrase?”

1:51 AM


1:42 AM

Our Picks -


[ON STAGE] Mike Daisey is, first and foremost, a monologuist. The difference between him and your Aunt Helen, whom you might also be picturing as a monologuist, is that Daisey is actually interesting. His new production, "If You See Something Say Something," is showing eight more times as part of the Capital Fringe Festival, so get tickets now. In his performance, Daisey weaves the untold story of the father of the neutron bomb into the history of the Department of Homeland Security and manages to make it funny. Now that takes talent.

1:07 AM

Saturday, July 12, 2008


12:22 PM

37/365: Gimme some sugar!

10:25 AM

Tynan's Anger: Will any Hulk be good enough for A.O. Scott?:

I don't know what psychological division is more extreme than mild mannered, likeable scientist and giant green angry monstrosity (rather Freudian when you think about it). Never mind that, for most fans of actual comic books, the Incredible Hulk is consistently listed as one of the most intellectually fascinating franchises. He's seen as one of the more psychologically complex comic book characters, where, despite Bruce Banner's relatively sweet, genuine nature, he's forced to live in isolation for what he can become if he gets angry. He's seen as comic book's best criticism of the Cold War spirit, that by combining nuclear science, militaristic values and capitalism with humanity, we've forced ourselves to become an increasingly isolated society with the potential to become fatally dangerous against our will.

10:25 AM

snip snip little one

10:04 AM

301/365 infinity

10:04 AM

I sometimes speak at futurist conferences, and I participated (and then commented at length on, in monologue and book forms) the dot-com boom, so if I seem a little *obsessed* with the retarded "theater = blackjack" meme, it's because I have seen firsthand how dumb ideas that have viral energy can dominate a conversation.

For example, in IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING I address at some length the currently popular idea that freedom and security exist in direct relationship to one another, and that if you have more freedom, you ipso facto have less security. That is an easy to digest idea that you can demonstrate by making a hand gesture, so lots of people begin to repeat it, but it also happens to be totally full of shit.

(I am hungover, and the apartment is full of used poppers and the Slovakian prostitutes that the theater hired for us to celebrate the opening of the show, so I am not going to dissect that idea here. See the show, get the argument.)

Unbelievably, there's more to say about

"And suddenly we got ourselves a tag team brawl where Don and I play the part of the Road Warriors and Mike and Scott playing the role of the Hart Foundation.  And yes, that is a very old school wrestling reference but what the hell, it's Friday . . . let's have some fun."

To start with, it's always a good time for a wrestling analogy, especially when I am so well cast.

"In their haste to bash my comparison of the poker world to the much more noble world of the professional artist Mike and Scott miss a few of my broader points"

No. This is full of spin. I didn't "bash" it, I just talked about how it was pernicious and dumb. Don and Adam are clear thinkers who write what they think, and enjoy provocative thoughts. But the idea is a dumb one. And I am a working artist, and it's equally spinworthy to throw in the "more noble" reference--the issue isn't the social class of gamblers and artists--the problem is that this analogy doesn't illuminate.

And broader points? Nothing in this response reacts to anything I wrote
here debate that would be a forfeit of all those points in discussion--why isn't anything I said  yesterday addressed in this post? Hello? Bueller?

"In this complex economic world we now live in, which is dynamically different then the one that existed just 10 years ago my theory is that the only thing that really creates money/wealth/value is scarcity, which Websters defines as "something in short supply."

I don't think this actually has much to do with "theater = blackjack", but that's probably why I find it more interesting. One of the secret, often unsung strengths of theater is that it automatically creates scarcity--it scales very poorly, when it even scales at all. Traditionlally people see this as a weakness and work to fight it, but I would contend that its precisely this resistance to quick corporatization and commodification that could prove to be a path to theater returning to relevance in the American cultural landscape.

So I get scarcity--theater is swimming in it, because every someone creates great work it exists in that moment and that moment alone.

"So if you want to make a really decent living doing ANYTHING now, people have to believe that there is something about working with you that you can't get working with just anyone."

You're shifting the landscape—I just want artists to be treated better by the institutions that use them. That isn't a "really decent" living--it's just a reasonable living. Even having the security and pay of a middle-school teacher in America today (which is often horrendous) would be an immense gift if it were possible for working artists to aspire to.

"If you haven't been able to carve out that distinct niche for yourself, either in the work you do, how you do the work, or who you do the work for . . . then you are officially a commodity and you will be treated like one, meaning you will get paid just enough to keep you working but never enough to be stable. It's true for doctors, lawyers, plumbers and artists . . . there is nothing sacred about the artistic profession that makes it different."

Except that doctors, lawyers and plumbers don't live in an abusive system with institutions that systematically underpay them if they practice their professions. AT ALL. In fact, you've chosen three groups that many make jokes about being massively OVER paid. I mean, are these really the best examples? Even lawyers, doctors and plumbers who do NOTHING to make theselves "scarce" and inhabit a niche make a solid, secure living. This is almost as bad as the blackjack example!

Doctors do live in a system that is dominated by institutions that are similar, if you squint a whole lot (i.e. hospitals) but in that case through long precedent, negotiations and the state of the dominant paradigm we as a culture have agreed that doctors are important to our health, and so we don't pay them like shit. This isn't actually true everywhere—I have an acquaintance who was a doctor in central Africa (I think Zambia?) where health care has been nonexistant, and so the government refuses to support any real degree of health care support for its citizens.

Why would any country do this? Because it's what they're used to, because it's easier to follow the old path, and because until people are shaken awake and shown why something is important they don't support something—that's human nature.

I leave the connection between the above and the theatrical system as n exercise for the reader.

I used poker as an example of this because to be successful in it over the long haul you have to develop some form of scarcity in the midst of an incredibly hostile environment.

Right—that's what I said. It FEELS like being in the arts, which is also an incredibly hostile environment. That doesn't mean it actually sheds any light on what it is actually like.

So when I make the poker and art analogy, I'm not really comparing artists and poker players  . . . I'm talking about the difficult environment both face and how each side has to develop unique skills to thrive in it. I guess this works just as well with oil derrick workers, foreign war correspondents and prostitutes.

We seem to be agreeing it's a facile—I mean, if the only real connector is that they're both hard jobs that require unique skills...that's really not illuminating.

But here's the thing . . . not everyone will develop those skills.  That's just a fact. Those who do develop those skills will eventually be the ones we call winners. Those who don't will be the ones we call losers . . . or dead money.

Right, right. People who know how to thrive, thrive. Those who suck, suck. I don't see what that has to do, in a specific, illuminating way, with working artists in the theater. And artists who fail  aren't "dead money", because if it worked that way it'd be like HIGHLANDER and I'd be lopping off shitty artist's heads and Quickening and shit like that.

A world like that would be paranoid and super-fucked up—artists would be incredibly afraid to even be near one another...but the reality is, artists strengthen when they communicate and come together.

It. Is. A. Bad. Analogy.

Do you need some examples of people who have developed the skills?  I got two good ones. Scott Walters and Mike Daisey.

OH COME ON. Don't drag me into this shitty analogy—that's low.

Now the question becomes, should Scott and Mike have to go through all the damn struggle to find a path to keeping art in their day to day lives?  Shouldn't it be easier to make it as an artist?

NO IT SHOULD NOT. You've missed the point—this isn't about making it easier to "make it" as an artist—it's about the fact that when you "make it", you haven't made anything at all in the American theater. It's currently a loser's game for the artists.

It's about changing the paradigm so that it isn't about "making it"—it's so that the working artists of the American theater can be treated more equitably by the institutions that currently use them without regard, so that there can be more hope. Right now the most talented artists in the American theater don't receive security or a living wage, while the institutions sit fat on endowment and building funds, believing that *they* are the ones who are poor and utterly forgetting their original mission to be of and for and with the artists.

And as much as people saying they want it to be easy . . . they really don't mean it.

You're right, because I never said I want it to be easy—I want it to be fair. Fair to the incredibly talented artists who have given their lives to rise up and prove their worth in theater. Fair doesn't mean Harrison Bergeron—it means not fucking over the people who create the art that makes the existence of American theater possible.

9:57 AM

cigarette girl

8:55 AM

Friday, July 11, 2008

Washington City Paper: Fringe & Purge - ‘Metro: In the State of Mind’:

Neither a play nor a dance, the performance is an attempt to evoke the DC Metro. As the event begins, performers wind their way into the space: first, a pair of teenaged girls in school uniforms; then a sweating Marine repeating “I see the enemy everywhere” over and over; then a long-haired rock dude, sort of a live-action version of Otto from The Simpsons. The stage gradually accumulates still more characters, including a couple one might at first take for Fringe latecomers awkwardly taking their seats, but who turn out to be part of the show.

To say the performance has a plot would be to overstate the facts, but what is discernable is that everyone talks on their cell phones (they must all have Verizon!), there is a long train delay, leaving the passengers restless, and a father boards the train with his twelve-year-old daughter, who seemingly gets off the train when she’s not supposed to. As the piece progresses, the atmosphere grows more nightmarish, as a man wearing orange tape dispensers around his waist belts out “Happy Days are Here Again” with a booming operatic voice.

But I am giving this piece too much credit. It’s not at all clear that much of anything came off as was intended. Toward the end, a character best interpreted as the train conductor moved into the audience to talk to the stage manager, and I overheard them talking about sound tech problems. Is this part of the show, like the late-arriving couple? Soon the performance ended without the slightest inkling of resolution. We in the audience sat awkwardly, wondering if something else was going to happen–that couple was sitting house left, as if waiting for the other performers to return to the stage. Finally, someone was brave enough to clap. We applauded. The train conductor came out to explain apologetically that the director had been in the hospital, and they’d burned a new CD today but it hadn’t worked. Things had gone wrong. The other performers, presumably mortified by the collapse, never retook the stage to make a curtain call.

12:34 PM

12:34 PM

Scott Walters posts on the dumbness of the  perniciously dumb "theater = blackjack" meme. In the comments, someone says:

"I've learned that no analogy is perfect, so I'm going to have to say it's a pretty good analogy, all things considered. It demonstrates the sheer luck required and the sheer odds against you when you enter the profession."

This is precisely why it's such a shitty analogy—it's deceptive. It FEELS true because fighting to survive in the arts FEELS like being a professional gambler--you're unsupported, a free agent, tryng to hustle and make things work, and the vast amount of people who do it, especially ones who are just starting out, fall by the wayside as the going gets tough.

If that's all it takes, I'll be waiting for blogospheric posts on theatre artists as oil derrick riggers, foreign war correspondents, and prostitutes.

But it's not enough for an analogy to FEEL true—it needs to actually illuminate, and this is horseshit for all the reasons I enumerated yesterday, so I won't go into them
again. Just remember that if people keep liking this analogy, it's because it's sexy and fundamentally meaningless, not because it has anything worthwhile to say.

12:26 PM

Into the jungle

12:16 PM

U.S. defends laptop searches at the border |

Is a laptop searchable in the same way as a piece of luggage? The Department of Homeland Security believes it is.

For the past 18 months, immigration officials at border entries have been searching and seizing some citizens’ laptops, cellphones, and BlackBerry devices when they return from international trips.

In some cases, the officers go through the files while the traveler is standing there. In others, they take the device for several hours and download the hard drive’s content. After that, it’s unclear what happens to the data.

The Department of Homeland Security contends these searches and seizures of electronic files are vital to detecting terrorists and child pornographers. It also says it has the constitutional authority to do them without a warrant or probable cause.

7:48 AM

Whip It Up

7:48 AM

Busted, TSA-Style -

So there's this guy Mike Daisey, a professional storyteller. Not like the lady telling fairy tales at the library. More like Garrison Keillor, but dark, or like Jerry Seinfeld with one really long joke. Had an off-Broadway hit a few years back with "21 Dog Years," a one-man show about his hellish job at He's 35, lives in New York.

So anyway, Daisey was heading down to D.C. to do his new show here next week at Woolly Mammoth for the Capital Fringe Festival. "It's about the sort of secret history of homeland security," he told us. But it's also about a trip he took to Los Alamos, N.M., and the Trinity site, where the first atom bomb was tested.

Anyway, there's one key prop that he uses in the show. It's a small portable safe, kind of a heavy-duty little suitcase with a serious lock on it. And here's the ironic thing, for the guy telling the story about homeland security: He had to get this fishy-looking suitcase through airport security.

But Daisey knew this might be a problem. So he told us that before he packed the safe in its box, he left it unlocked, with the key in the lock. He taped a note saying it was open. And "tied the key with a bright ribbon to make it look not so scary."

So he checks the box at JFK and flies to D.C. on JetBlue. And when he gets here he picks up his safe . . . and it's been busted open. With a hammer! (He thinks.)

"Had they simply opened the box, they would have seen that it was unlocked and empty," he says. "Of course they suspected a bomb. I know when I suspect a bomb, I often attack the box the bomb might be in with a HAMMER."

The prop was ruined; Daisey had to get a new one. (How will he get that one home? "I'll just carry it on and look all suspicious.") A Transportation Security Administration rep, still looking into what happened, noted that the team only has brief possession of bags in transit. (Daisey said there was a TSA sticker left on the box, no note of explanation.) Will he file a complaint? "The monologue is like its own 90-minute complaint. So I don't know if I'm going to go to the trouble."

7:36 AM

Kiss me, I'm Sluggish

1:40 AM

Silhouette portraits At The End of The day!

1:35 AM

Thursday, July 10, 2008

9:34 PM

Scott Walters wrote this earlier today:

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

It is interesting that OUTSIDE the blogosphere I have received a great deal of support from working artists and people from all levels of the American theatre—at this point a little over a thousand emails on the subject, and the vast majority (about 25 to 1) are positive, some heart-stoppingly so.

So I think a more interesting question is that if the online view of the show/ideas/etc is much more negative than the rest of the world's (and I'm not totally certain this is true; maybe it's even a minority online) what does that say about the online discussions we're having? One of the reasons to do HTFA was to reach actors, performers, board members and audiences of all types in their seats, because otherwise they'll never hear anything about how the sausage gets made.

Anyway, I'm accepting my responsibility—I'm busy now, but I'm posting all this so I can't be that fucking busy. I plan to have HTFA distributed in some form or forms for open access this fall at the latest, and I'm in negotiations to find other ways of getting it to cities and towns across America. I'll keep running roundtables, meeting with people, kissing babies...all the things one would associate with responsibility.

Blah blah blah. Now I need to go work on IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING and get ready for tomorrow's opening.

8:07 PM

This Strange Engine

8:01 PM

Christ, bad analogies can be infectious--someone has already written a long post on how much being a working artist is like being a professional gambler after reading Don Hall's short statement about it.

Sigh. Since it looks like the idea has legs, unsteady and nonsensical they may be, let me quickly chop through a few more reasons why these two things don't really have any resonances with each other.

—The author uses a poker tournament as an example. In his example, 6800 people enter, but only 700 leave with any money, in a logarithmic progression with one person getting $9 million dollars. Artists, however, do not enter into closed systems that exist to take money from other artists and award them to small groups within it--that's gambling. Artists are in the open system of society, and they're never getting all their cash at the expense of other artists, because then they would fucking starve.

—Then there's some kind of connection drawn between bad artists and bad poker players. The difference (of course) is that you NEED bad poker players in tournaments, so that then you can take their money. There doesn't NEED to be bad artists in the same way, and there's no problem existing now of bad artists getting too much support (though when depressed, I may say differently)—the author points out that he sees a lot of bad artists get chewed up because they're bad at being artists, which is obvious and no one has ever contested.

—Then he makes a connection between theatrical reform for artists and messing with the rules of poker:

I could decide right now that I'm a professional poker player.  Spend a year saving up 10,000, go play in the Main Event and lose it all in 10 minutes.

There is no analogy that remotely connects in theater in here. No one "decides" that they are a gifted actor who works on show after show except by virtue of long hard work...and it is precisely journeyman artists, deeply talented but deeply unsupported, that are the point, not some hypothetical impossible dude who BECOMES an actor suddenly.

And then I could jump online and talk about how unfair poker tournament's are and how they really should create tournament's that allow everyone to make a little money and maybe even provide the players with health benefits. And I would get laughed at.

Of course they would—it's a game about taking away other player's money. They should laugh. The idea that the theater is even seen as similar enough to this world that it can become people's reference point tells us how badly things have been going.

People would remind me that I decided to become a pro poker player and when I made that decision I accepted all the risks and if I didn't prepare properly (or didn't understand the risk), then that was my own fault.

This is exactly what people say to artists in the American theater: you took the risks, and you pay the price. You will never have children, you will never have a family, you can not be integrated into a community...and if you balk at any of these, you make another choice and you are that much less an artist.

ALSO you will have to remember that they will say this to you EVEN IF YOU ARE ENTIRELY SUCCESSFUL, because as the system works now, a successful theatre artist with a thriving career is screwed.

THE DIFFERENCE IS that you didn't ante up $10, anted up your LIFE. Comparing the two activities is deeply, profoundly insulting.

Look, I love what Mike Daisey and Scott Walters (and others) are doing.  The regional theatre world should actively find a way to fund more money to the artists and the only way that is going to happen is by making some noise. But my gut tells me that making a living as a professional artist will always be like making a living as a poker player.

There is at least one huge difference—it is easier, more stable and more lucrative to be a professional gambler. I know—I have a couple of friends who have been professional gamblers (one blackjack, another poker) and they agree. From the bankrolls to the freedom to choose venues to the amount of cash flowing, across the board it is much simpler and more secure to be a professional gambler.

8:01 PM

7:26 PM

7:22 PM

Some quick responses to Don Hall's posting before I head back into tech at Woolly Mammoth. First, there's the subtitle of his post:

"Mike Daisey Starts the Debate Then Excuses Himself from the Table"

Just to be clear, I was asserting that I don't have an obligation to provide policy white papers, not that I'm running off into the hills, dropping all connection to the industry I work and live within. I am stating that artists don't have to write policy papers to do worthwhile work for I guess as long as "the table" in the above is "policy discussions" and not "working and fighting for change within the American theater", which I feel I'm very devoted to, I can get behind it, though it seems slanted.

I'll also have to take issue with this wording:

"...the cats at Theatreforte try to get him to get specific about some sort of agenda aside from the "Theatre Failed to Provide a Living for the Artists" POV Daisey got rustled up."

My "POV" is certainly not expressed this way, especially by me--this is loaded, tilted language that conjures images of hand-outs.

"I suspect that almost every artist on the map will state pretty much the same thing, which is, in essence, "I'm too busy doing some art - let the administrators whose salaries I'm questioning make those decisions."

I don't agree at all that this remotely resembles what I said--I'm saying that I have been working for change and continue to work for change, and I don't need to give you a policy paper to "prove" my art has validity and worth. Second, I'm really clear in HTFA that we're all implicated in this system, so I reject the idea that this is an administrator versus artist fistfight.

"I guess that that may not be the solution Daisey is looking for. You know - because the administrators are already benefiting from the status quo and thus there isn't really any incentive..."

I'm also asking administrators to get involved because I still believe that there are many good men and women within the system, who work hard to make art possible, and I want to win their hearts and minds to effect change. (I talked about this in my last posting.) Others disagree. I already work within the system, and I can see where it is working and how much good could be done, if an artist-driven voice were allowed to enter the that is what I'm working toward.

"those priorities that need to be simply rearranged are being rearranged (or not) by the arts administrators that currently run the system."

This is true; but I think it's a fairly black-and-white read. There are many administrators who only work in the theater because they desperately, hopelessly love it, and they want nothing more than to believe that it is possible for there to be other paths. I know because I talk to them, and I believe they have momentum and position to effect change quickly, if they can be shown a path and helped to believe in it. Others persue different paths to change, and that's great--but that's the direction I've been heading in.

The constant push to "make a living" in the arts is sort of like making a living as a professional gambler and I don't hear anyone supporting an ethical model to provide blackjack players health insurance.

This is just dumb. I don't know where to start--do I start with how art isn't much like gambling? Or how what society gains from art is wildly different than what it gets from gamblers? Or do we talk about how one form of activity (gambling) is on the ascendency, while theater has been shrinking...oh, I give up. It's just a really facile analogy, and I'm not going to parse it.

The only part of this that is true is that being a working artist *feels* like being a professional gambler. Otherwise, it's worthless.

And when it comes to philosophical stances, the idea that everyone is going to leap on board any one particular viewpoint is lunacy.

I don't know where this blogospheric idea comes from, but "everybody" doesn't have to jump onboard any idea—that never happens. But the dominant paradigm does shift, and as it does it adapts and adopts the thinking of those within it, and it's possible to effect change by altering what the default settings are.

Second, the Off-Loop Freedom Charter. Yup, it's going to happen - I, like Daisey, am a practicing artist doing shows. I'm building the cathedral by carving stones, one at a time. The OLFC is an attempt to get a bunch of like-minded theater folk in the same room and start defining a common philosophy that we're all comfortable promoting without having it get in the way of our day-to-day artistic output. And, whether it is a good thing or not, that involves a lot of quibbling.

I hear you, I am familiar with the quibbling, and that sounds like excellent work. Good luck with it.

12:00 PM

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Sacred Place

7:48 PM

Theatre is territory: How Luminato failed Toronto:

Mike Daisey is right and it’s the same situation up here. Being a theatre artist has ceased to become a profession you can make anything approaching a respectable living at in Toronto for all but handful of our very top practitioners. These lucky folks are still often working 12-hour days and six-day weeks for much less than what any of our non-thesbian friends make. Many of them probably do a little catering on the side to make ends meet. The earth is scorched. Anyone who puts economic well-being in their top-ten list of personal priorities would not come within a stone’s throw of this scene.

Yes, the theatre has always been in trouble. Yes, making art is hard. But the current theatrical economy is a graveyard for anyone who may have to pay bills, rent or student loans. We can see this in what has become of our grassroots institutions, places where the new generation of artists rehearse and perform.

7:47 PM

2:31 PM

2:30 PM

DHB supreme !

10:58 AM

Domestic spying quietly goes on --

With Congress on the verge of outlining new parameters for National Security Agency eavesdropping between suspicious foreigners and Americans, lawmakers are leaving largely untouched a host of government programs that critics say involves far more domestic surveillance than the wiretaps they sought to remedy.

These programs - most of them highly classified - are run by an alphabet soup of federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies. They sift, store and analyze the communications, spending habits and travel patterns of U.S. citizens, searching for suspicious activity.

"There's virtually no branch of the U.S. government that isn't in some way involved in monitoring or surveillance," said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and fellow at the National Security Archives at The George Washington University. "We're operating in a brave new world."

10:58 AM


10:58 AM

Slashdot | Online "Public" Spaces Don't Guarantee Rights:

mikesd81 recommends an AP piece covering a lot of examples of the ways free speech and other rights don't exist on the private Web. One case featured was that of Dutch photographer Maarten Dors, who had this picture deleted by flickr. Without prior notice, Yahoo deleted the photo on grounds it violated an unwritten ban on depicting children smoking. While Dors eventually got the photo restored, after the second time it was deleted, the case highlights the consequence of having online commons controlled by private corporations.

10:55 AM

sparkling zuzzie

10:42 AM


4:49 AM

4:39 AM

More talking with Theatreforte:

"If I could give the "Dr. Strangelove treatment" to the title, I think it could be called How Theater Failed America, Or: How Non-Profit Arts Institutions Pay Salaries and Benefits to Arts Administrators Instead of Working Artists and Why This Is Not Ethical."

This made me laugh. In a good way, because it's funny. Truthfully though, I would probably substitute "as well as" in the place of "instead", as it is more equitable in both directions.

"Notice I used the term "ethical" instead of "fair" because it's clear that Mike is arguing for something much more fundamental than simply getting a fair slice of the funding pie. Rather, there is an ethical imperative to provide "a healthy, sustainable path for artists to live and work." Failing to provide this path has had dire repercussions in other aspects of American society, notably a meaningful engagement between art, artists, and citizens on a local scale."

That's seems fairly accurate.

"But who ought to bear the burden of fulfilling this ethical imperative?"

We should--those of us who work inside and within the institution and institutions of American theater should. After all, it's the systematic undervaluation of artists that feeds and sustains the current state, so we're responsible for doing it to ourselves, and its up to all of us to rectify that situation.

And how did something as abstract as the "institution of theatre" get saddled with this massive responsibility?

It's not all that abstract. WE are the American theater, and we have that responsibility. We create institutions, and since they derive and are born from us, and then perpetuate the status quo, they are also charged with the same task.

Unfortunately, the US government made a promise that it couldn't keep. The corporate model has abandoned American workers across the board. Full-time employment has been replaced with cheaper, part-time, contingent labor while corporate administrators continue to make more money than ever. The institution of theatre is not special in this regard.

I would agree with this, though I'd add that it's our responsibility to hold institutions and corporations to account when they fail us, something which we've become increasingly distanced from doing in all walks of modern life. I'm not comfortable deflecting responsibility onto the government, however much the LORTs love to do this—we are our government, in a democracy.

Mike should be commended for "engendering discussion and fomenting debate" about these urgent issues. But I find it puzzling that he chooses to admonish arts administrators to "do their jobs and lead." After all, he's convincingly proven that the arts administrators are corrupted by a broken system and that they're now driven by self-interest to perpetuate that system until they retire. Arts administrators have had their chance. If anyone is to take responsibility for fixing the broken system, it must be the artists themselves.

That is the pessimistic view, and I grant you there is plenty of reasons to believe that the glass is half-empty. For many reasons, I continue to believe that there is leadership out there, in the theaters--maybe because I have met so many courageous and full-hearted people in positions of authority in the American theater. I continue to believe that if they are freed from fear and have their eyes opened, there will come a point where fear of inaction will trump fear of action, and that someone will be first to take a large institution and work for real equity and change inside the system by remaking it. If I did not believe this, I would not work within the system at all--I would leave.

Why should theatre artists have a subsidized salary and benefits while other hard-working artists - hip-hop musicians, comics artists, fashion designers, indie filmmakers - are left to compete in a free market economy?

First, I think the idea that the salary is "subsidized" is a dirty phrase in our culture, and meaningless--every salary is "subsidized", in that it is paid for indirectly. Second, theatre artists deserve to be paid and have a basic level of security when they work because that's humane, and because the American theatre espouses left-leaning values that embrace social justice and equality, and its hypocritical and shitty to treat your artists like chattel.

Third, I take offense to this cockeyed charge of "exceptionalism". What is this, the Boy Scouts? I have no idea what the lives of hip-hop musicians, comic artists, etc. are like in any great detail, which is why I don't speak for them. I speak in the idiom I understand and the art form I practice, which is the American theater. That is an ecosystem I know very well, and so I'm working within and with it for change.
This posting by Mr. Walters covers much of the reasons why I believe the exceptionalism argument is off-key.

3:51 AM

3:51 AM

Unboxed - If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow -

But Ms. Dweck does not suggest that recruiters ignore innate talent. Instead, she suggests looking for both talent and a growth mind-set in prospective hires — people with a passion for learning who thrive on challenge and change.

After reading her book, Scott Forstall, senior vice president of Apple in charge of iPhone software, contacted Ms. Dweck to talk about his experience putting together the iPhone development team. Mr. Forstall told her that he identified a number of superstars within various departments at Apple and asked them in for a chat.

At the beginning of each interview, he warned the recruit that he couldn’t reveal details of the project he was working on. But he promised the opportunity, Ms. Dweck says, “to make mistakes and struggle, but eventually we may do something that we’ll remember the rest of our lives.”

Only people who immediately jumped at the challenge ended up on the team. “It was his intuition that he wanted people who valued stretching themselves over being king of their particular hill,” she says.

2:16 AM


12:57 AM

Lee and Nick: If You See Something Say Something:

On Friday I got an email about a secret Mike Daisey show that would take place at noon on Monday. Daisey and his director/manager/wife Jean-Michele Gregory were back in New York for one day doing a new show at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater. They'd just been in Sante Fe performing a preview run of the show. After Monday's performance they were off to DC to perform the show there for a few months before returning to New York again in the October to begin a run at the Public.

How often do you get a chance to see a great show on a Monday at noon, for free? Not often enough I say. So I went. The new show is called IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING. It's about the Manhattan Project, but also about 1,000 other things. This monologue was even longer than the last one. I couldn't believe it. Two Hours he spoke. And a packed house sat and listened. It's really very satisfying to be in Daisey's audience. He gives you two hours of good, clean input. And it's interesting to remember that his shows are theater. He's peforming. He's not just reading a script. In fact there supposedly isn't a script. Just an outline. I like to go to his shows and walk out and think, if that was theater, what else could be theater?

(In my defense, I will note that we are endeavoring to make the show run a tad shorter.)

12:53 AM

Meeting the Mire Prince(s)

12:53 AM

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Obama "Clarifies" Abortion Stance:

As noted here, the law governing late-term abortions, which has been upheld by the US Supreme Court, includes an exception for women who would suffer emotional or psychological harm if they were required to bring a pregnancy to term. Only Justices Scalia and Thomas opposed the exemption. Obama’s “serious clinical mental health diseases” criterion goes much further than the Supreme Court, which ruled that “[M]edical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors—physical, emotional , psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well- being of the patient.” That allowance is intended to account not just for serious clinical diseases but for cases such as: A girl who was raped by a relative and couldn’t get to an abortion clinic or didn’t know she was pregnant; a woman whose fetus can’t possibly survive; or a girl who may commit suicide if forced to bring a child to term.

Obama could have clarified his position on abortion in a way that satisfied abortion-rights defenders. (One ardent Obama supporter outlines what she wishes he’d said here). Instead, he “clarified” by tying himself in rhetorical knots, implying that some women seek abortions because they’re “just feeling blue” in the process. I do a lot of things when I’m feeling blue—drinking, crying, and calling my mom come to mind—but I don’t think I’d hoof it to one of the two clinics in the country that still provide (extremely rare) late-term abortions just because I’m having a bad day.

6:21 AM

Monday, July 07, 2008

10:24 PM

9:23 PM


8:00 PM

our view

7:56 PM

Design Observer:

It's been observed, correctly, that the creative output of Sterling Cooper, which is barely ever shown being developed, more or less stinks. As George Lois told the New York Times: “When I hear ‘Mad Men,’ it’s the most irritating thing in the world to me. When you think of the ’60s, you think about people like me who changed the advertising and design worlds. The creative revolution was the name of the game. This show gives you the impression it was all three-martini lunches.” But Don Draper doesn't work at DDB or Papert Koenig Lois. Sterling Cooper is an old-school agency, and in 1960 big establishment agencies ran on smooth presentations, fastidious account handling, and, actually, three-martini-lunches. (Find a used copy of Jerry Della Femina's From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor if you have any doubt.)

7:55 PM


7:31 PM

Theatre Ideas: Resource #6: Impossible Plays:

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

6:58 PM


6:57 PM

Commentary from Theatreforte--you can read the entire posting here:

Mr. Daisey makes a compelling argument, but I have to question one of his fundamental assumptions. He states:

"My piece is called HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA because I am speaking about the responsibility the institution of theater has to America, how it has failed that responsibility, and how we are all implicated in this."

I'm confused because Mr. Daisey neglects to define his terms. What exactly is meant by "responsibility?" Is it an obligation to hire actors as full-time staff with an annual salary and benefits? Is it a duty to challenge, educate, and entertain American audiences? Is it a commitment to expand the formal and artistic boundaries of the medium? Is it all of the above?

That isn't neglect—I'm stating why the monologue has the title that it has. To get my full response, one has to refer to the monologue itself--that's the work that covers these questions at some length, addressing them both as policy and in deeper, emotional terms.

That said, I'll take a whack at a few of these off the top of my head, in brief.

What exactly is meant by "responsibility?" Is it an obligation to hire actors as full-time staff with an annual salary and benefits? Is it a duty to challenge, educate, and entertain American audiences? Is it a commitment to expand the formal and artistic boundaries of the medium? Is it all of the above?

It is all of the above, but not necessarily as narrowly as defined as it is above. Theater has multiple responsibilities, but the two facets I am mostly engaged with in HTFA concern the responsibility of theater to create a healthy, sustainable path for its artists to live and work, and the responsibility of theater to make itself a vital, relevant voice in public discourse. In both respects I believe theater has failed its responsibilities.

Additionally, Mr. Daisey does not define what he means by "the institution of American theater." Does he mean institutional theatre, which would include individual theatre companies? Or is he talking about theatre as an institution, which is a more abstract concept that indicts TCG, LORT, the American educational system, and the entire non-profit funding model from the NEA on down?

The shortest answer to this would be: yes. The slightly longer answer is that it is intimately tied into the institutionalization and corporatization of theater.

In terms of "America," this could include American cities, American performing artists, the American economy, American audiences, or all this and more.

Again, the answer here would be: yes. It has failed America, by which I mean all of us in America—the country, the future of the country, take your pick.

These definitions matter because not all operating or funding models provide adequate attention or remedies to such a broad array of diverse components.

It matters little that not all models work for all situations--that's obvious. What is important is that currently all the dominant models run on the blood of the artists, and so long as they run this way we are all implicated in its failures. It's a huge enduring bias, and needs to be addressed, and it is present in every part of institutionalized American theater.

Some local actors may benefit from being hired as full-time staff in a traditional resident theatre model, but the ensemble model may be more effective in pushing the formal and artistic boundaries of the medium.

I'm not nearly as concerned with the "artistic level" of the end result--I will trust artists to work that out to the best of their abilities. I'm concerned that there is no security of any kind in the art of the theater, regardless of skill level, and that amount of cannibalism ruins good people, destroys the bond that would be created by communities who know and connect with the people they see on the stage, and generally sucks ass. That is a larger issue than any other, in my book, and its this destructiveness that

Now that the proverbial boat has been rocked, it's time for Mr. Daisey and others to get specific about a vision for American theatre and how to best achieve those goals.

In a word: no. Not for me.

I've already created a work that speaks and resonates about these issues, that engenders discussion, foments real discourse and has been lauded by many. I may CHOOSE to work on policy issues in my free time (of which I have vanishingly little) but I am certainly not CHARGED to do so. I have a calling, which I fulfill through my work. I do my part and more. I am an artist—I will nurture, hone, and refine it, and that is what I am responsible for because that is what I am.

Once I have time I'll be publishing a transcript of HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA under a Creative Commons license, as well as audio. Note that this will involve giving my work away for free, even though I have no institution to fall back on—but I understand the shape of things today, and that ideas are more important than money. Ideas can be viral in a way that money never is, because money is ultimately an abstraction, while ideas...ideas are one of the highest forms of human expression. They *make* us human.

Since I am already expressing my vision, I think it's high time that ANY of the people who never write online to speak up with their visions for American theater. I want to hear from the administrators, the artistic directors, the movers and shakers...I'm busy with this work, so let them do their jobs and lead. It is, after all, what they are ostensibly paid for--show us that American theater has a backbone and prove me wrong.

6:41 PM

Cliché photo of a girl and a car, in black and white

6:41 PM

Red poppies in barley fields

4:54 PM

Noorderzon 2008 ~ 21 t/m 31 aug.:
Mike Daisey
The Envoy's Dilemma

World Première
75 min.

World Première of the new monologue

This summer Mike Daisey travelled to Tadzhikistan – one of the least-known places in the world - as a guest and as a highly unusual cultural attaché at the American Embassy in that country. The story of this stranger in a strange country is told against the background of the history of geography - i.e. the system of maps and graphs used to represent the way our world is divided and charted. With in the back of his mind the notion that this very geographical division has partly determined the course of history itself...By combining true stories with invented stories in the real and an imaginary Tadzhikistan, Daisey tries to discover the ways in which stories tend to fade in time when faced with the truth. Everyone who hung on to Mike Daisey's every word for two hours last year, can indulge themselves again this year. The master storeyteller is back at Noorderzon!

4:54 PM


Our good friends Sheila Callaghan and Sophocles Papavasilopoulos  gave birth this morning at 4:15am to young Callaghan Papavasilopoulous. He's bright and healthy, and both the mother and child are doing fantastically--if you know them through the power of Facebook, send congratulations here and here.

9:05 AM


8:50 AM

"He used race very effectively." | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper:

That’s NPR-speak for, “He was a racist piece of shit.”

Jesse Helms was also a homophobic piece of shit who did everything he could to torment people with AIDS during the darkest hours of the AIDS epidemic—and now he’s dead.

I realize that the death of a prominent piece of shit puts people on the radio and teevee in an awkward position. We’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead… and any honest accounting of this piece of shit’s career requires us to speak very ill of the dead indeed. So perhaps simply noting the piece of shit’s passing—briefly, and just the facts—would be the prudent thing to do. It would certainly be better than inviting a few people on the radio to discuss the piece of shit’s life and accomplishments at the precise moment when decorum requires us to put the nicest possible gloss on the piece of shit. To polish the turd, as it were.

Waking up to a discussion of the highlights of Helm’s career and listening to the oh-so-polite NPR host and his oh-so-polite guests dance around the issue of race—never mind the gay or AIDS issues, which weren’t even mentioned (well, not in the section I caught; I literally woke up to this)—until the host delicately observed in admiring tones, “He used race very effectively,” and the guest chuckled and agreed, well, let’s just say that’s was a very unpleasant way to start the day.

12:20 AM


12:18 AM


12:07 AM

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Tomorrow we're performing at the Public, our first New York showing of IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING. We had tremendous response from the list for tickets to the event, and it's now totally sold out--in fact, we had TWICE the people ask for spots than would fit in Joe's Pub! If you got an email back from the intern handling the reservations, then you're in, otherwise we'll see you in October.

I haven't had a chance to talk about the intensity of our process in Santa Fe, and I'm not certain how to address it here--it was really powerful, one that we both felt barely in control of. The show that has emerged is in good shape, considering how much touring has been happening and the run at the Barrow Street...I was afraid that we wouldn't be able to find the center of the show, but fortunately that has not been the case. Over the three days it shrank down some, many scenes rearranged and altered contents and form, and now we're reasonably ready for the show tomorrow. A lot is still shifting and moving--it's a very fluid, early time.

It's a strange thing, to have institutional support--we've wanted it for so long, and now that we have it managing expectations is a big part of the new game. Tomorrow's showing is very intentionally an opportunity to introduce this new work to the Public, and to the people that will be working with us to make this big run happen in October, but it is also a chance to win hearts and minds. When you don't write a script, only by bringing the thing itself can you show people what you're working on, and I'm delighted that the show is in such a raw, fresh state for us to show our partners at the Public--I think it's turned out really fantastically, and I'm more excited than I can ever remember being for a show at such a ghastly hour. (Noon? Criminal!)

Thanks to all of you that are coming out to the show tomorrow--you're quick and vocal support speaks volumes, and it is greatly appreciated.

Onward and upward,


11:58 PM


10:35 PM


9:45 PM

I appear in this documentary, which was covered by ALL THINGS CONSIDERED last week:

Rising Bank Fees Squeeze Consumers

But this is prompting some consumer backlash. Karney Hatch, for example, recently finished shooting a documentary called Overdrawn! inspired by his own experience of using a debit card to buy $65 worth of items, then getting charged $140 in overdraft fees.

In the film — and at the urging of consumer advocate Ralph Nader — Hatch sues his bank, Wells Fargo, in small claims court and recovers the overdraft charges, as well as the legal fees associated with his suit. The movie does not yet have a distributor.

"I guess what was compelling to me was that it's yet another instance of the rise of corporate power," mostly at the expense of consumers, Hatch said in an interview. "The banker used to be the most trusted person in town, and now they're likely the most reviled person in town ... if you even know the banker."

9:44 PM

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12:32 AM

Saturday, July 05, 2008

3:39 PM

Meet Afghanistan's Most Fearless Blogger:

At his most recent blogging workshop, held at the only Internet cafe in Bamiyan, a remote outpost in the highlands of central Afghanistan, Fekrat calls for order. There's no bathroom, just a dedicated space behind the building, and no power, so they've rigged the computers to a generator. Fekrat will pay for the generator's gas with $200 he raised in PayPal donations to his Web sites. "Sign up for a Gmail account," he yells, as the journalists crowd around the computers as if they've never seen one before. Fekrat had to turn people away at the door, but they're still above capacity. He's accustomed to working with limited resources, though, and in the past he has conducted classes with a single connected computer, so he knows how to make the most of the gathering. His mission is simple—get as many people signed up and inspired to write as he can.

12:42 PM


12:05 AM

It's all about balance.

12:04 AM

Friday, July 04, 2008

10:05 PM

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8:36 PM

Remiel: On Google's Web, the User is #1, Google is #0:

A partnership with Adobe will make Flash objects search-indexable, but only by Google and Yahoo.

By participating in this exclusive program, Google implicitly sanctions an anti-user reality. This runs counter to their motto “Don’t Be Evil,” as well as the spirit of their stance on Net Neutrality. The Net Neutrality issue is typically framed as an indictment of broadband providers, but let’s be real, here: search has become nearly as fundamental to the internet experience as packet exchange. Google’s Net Neutrality page describes it as “the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet.”

Sure, we’re all “free” to use other engines that can’t index SWF files. And if the federal highway system creates special lanes exclusively reserved for Ford cars, we’re all still “free” to buy Hondas. Granted, Adobe is a private company, not a government, and Google has its competitive edge to think about. But given their company motto and proclaimed stance on user rights, their participation here is hypocritical.

7:38 PM


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1:09 PM

merkley??? - Birthday #41 Self-Portrait on Friday The 13th In Green Sharkskin & Eighties Golden Ray Bans In His Living Room On a Thronish Type Deal With Hundreds and Hundreds of Megapickles

12:49 PM


12:49 PM

Cyan - Deitada

12:45 PM

keep our animals healthy

12:44 PM

zeitflickr 20 jun 08

12:44 PM

Assessing Jeune Leune:

Last Monday, a day after learning that Theatre de la Jeune Lune would shut down, singer/actress Momoko Tanno walked through the company's cavernous warehouse building in downtown Minneapolis.

Collecting memories, she eyed scenery from past shows, including a boat used in "Figaro," a reimagined Jeune Lune opera that won rave reviews.

"It's such a unique space, and it has all these ghosts," said Tanno. "How could this be lost?"

That is the question being asked after Jeune Lune's board voted last weekend to cease operations after 30 years and sell the building in the face of a $1 million-plus debt. (Theater officials did not reveal the exact amount.) Only three years ago, the company received a Tony Award as one of the nation's outstanding regional theaters.

"Retrospectively, maybe the theater should have launched a [fundraising] campaign earlier," board chair Bruce Neary said in an interview last Sunday. "We had a terrific team on board at the end. We just ran out of money."

Could the theater have been saved? Do theaters have a natural life cycle, as some in the company have suggested? Is this closing an anomaly, or a cautionary tale with implications for other arts groups?

2:20 AM


2:18 AM

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A response to HOW THEATRE SAVED AMERICA, PART ONE and an open letter to AMERICAN THEATRE magazine:

I was recently made aware that American Theatre magazine had published a response to my monologue HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA in its July/August 2008 issue, written by Theresa Eyring, the Executive Director of TCG. (Full disclosure: I met Ms. Eyring briefly at the TCG Conference this June in Denver, and I performed the aforementioned monologue at that conference.) You can read that article here.

I wish I could be delighted at the exchange of ideas, but this article's publication was disappointing for three reasons.

The first is the lack of context given for the piece—it is such an important topic that I wish American Theatre would dedicate an entire issue to it, and open its doors to multiple voices on the matter. A two-page article (even in two parts, as this one is, which will give us a grand total of four pages) can't cover even the preamble to such a topic. It is far larger than my monologue, which is the reason I was inspired to develop the piece—because it touches on the heart of our shared form, and how we treat our artists and our audiences should lie at the core of our concerns.

Secondly it is disappointing because it is such a poor title. My piece is called HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA because I am speaking about the responsibility the institution of theater has to America, how it has failed that responsibility, and how we are all implicated in this.

Ms. Eyring's title takes one's breath away. If it were called HOW THEATRE WILL SAVE AMERICA it would still be defensible, if a bit sweeping—it could fantasize about a nearly unimaginable future when theater will reach out from the stage and save all of America from corporate greed, the military-industrial complex, racism, sexism, and human nature itself by reshaping America.

That's bold. But Ms. Eyring takes it a step further and uses the past tense—HOW THEATRE SAVED AMERICA—informing us that the work is done, the wars have been fought and that we actually live in a glorious utopia right now, one that has been created by the American theater. If one didn't know better, one might think it is an attempt at wit—a shallow attempt to play off of my title for comic effect, ignoring the actual meaning implicit in the words I’d chosen.

It is a shockingly poor idea to make such an assertion in the title, unless the essay that follows brings some serious arguments to bear, and this is the third problem with the piece. HOW THEATRE SAVED AMERICA, PART ONE chooses to accomplish this goal not by grappling with any of the arguments in my monologue, but instead displaying examples of theaters that are working within their communities as a kind of proof positive that theater has saved America. It specifically cites one example at length, describing the work of Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.

I find it reaching to claim that one company from a town of 12,000 in Pennsylvania, however wonderful they might be, contraindicates the larger story of the arts infrastructure in a country of 300 million, but I will set that aside for a moment. In the opening of Ms. Eyring's second paragraph, she mentions my work directly:

"While permanent acting ensembles are indeed a rare commodity at major U.S. theatres, typically ignored—even by the popular monologist Mike Daisey in How Theatre Failed America, which ran Off Broadway through June 22—is the array of ensemble companies working across the country. What about, for instance, the long-term acting collaborations of Minneapolis’s Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Brooklyn’s Irondale Ensemble Project, New York City’s Wooster Group, California’s Dell’Arte International, Pig Iron Theatre Company of Philadelphia, and Touchstone Theatre, also of Pennsylvania?"

While I am flattered to be thought "popular", I don't know if I can agree that I belong to a group that has "typically ignored" ensembles. I programmed and hosted a series of roundtables during the Off-Broadway run of HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA about the state of American theater, featuring luminaries like Oskar Eustis, Richard Nelson, Rocco Landesman, James Bundy and many more in conversation with working actors, technicians, arts funders and more.

One of the symposiums, titled "ASSEMBLING ENSEMBLES", was focused on exactly this kind of artist-driven work, and featured representatives of the Civilians, Elevator Repair Service, Printer's Devil and...wait for it...Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble! The lovely Elizabeth Dowd, a 29-year veteran of Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble was on hand, and an absolutely wonderful and essential voice at the roundtable.

So it is foolish to paint me as someone who has "typically ignored" these ensembles...but even if I had ignored them utterly this would not change the issues argued in HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA. The existence of a good theater in no way invalidates the arguments in my monologue—I am speaking very clearly about failures within the institution of American theater, which afflict the institutions that dominate that world. The existence of any theater company who is doing good work is always cause for celebration, but to ignore the state of the industry as a whole by cherry-picking test cases that don't represent where the vast majority of arts funding is going is disingenuous at best, and irrational blindness at worst.

Once Ms. Eyring is done extolling the virtues of this one small company (which indeed sounds quite excellent—I heard a great deal about their model from Elizabeth Dowd) she moves on to her second argument, which I will recount here:

"In larger cities, there’s another interesting dynamic at play in terms of how theatres and artists productively coexist. Many cities boast one or two major theatres that set down roots in the 1960s and ’70s, alongside a range of small and midsize companies that have sprung up within the community over time: think Chicago, Philadelphia, the Twin Cities, Washington, D.C. In many of these communities, a strong local acting, artistic and production community has also evolved. This group has in effect become a repertory company—not of a single theatre, but of an entire community. Many actors—instead of performing in several shows with a single theatre company in the same season—construct year-round employment by performing in different theatres throughout the year. Audience members get to know the actors of their community by seeing them in a number of plays at various venues. Yes, this arrangement still calls upon actors to freelance and lacks the year-after-year commitment of a seasonal contract with one institution; there can be frustrations when theatres hire too heavily from outside the community, or when there isn’t much opportunity for crossover between larger and smaller houses. But the fact remains that in these cities, the regional theatre movement’s larger goal of making it possible for theatre professionals to make a living in their own communities has in many cases been achieved."

The facts of what Ms. Eyring has set forth here are correct—it's her analysis that is deeply flawed. The fact that actors can create a career cobbled together through blood and sweat in the face of the failure of the American theater to create any kind of sustainable path for its artists does not do credit to the existing system—quite the opposite, in fact.

Often artistic directors and other administrators have made this argument to me—in the New York Times recently Kurt Beattie, artistic director of ACT Theatre in Seattle said as much, claiming that the arguments of my piece are "shallow" to him because they do not apply to his theater, as the majority of the actors ACT employees are local. His argument would be that if ACT hires most people locally, piecemeal when it needs a role filled, it has served and supported the local community—what more could they possibly do?

Kurt is a friend, but he is perpetuating the same falsehood Ms. Eyring is with this analysis—if actors manage to create community and continuity IN SPITE OF the institutions, no credit for that reflects back on theaters that refuse to support artists in a meaningful fashion: with staff positions, with health insurance, with a modicum of respect and dignity earned by working craftsman anywhere. Dribs and drabs of roles given when artists can jump for them are no substitute for real institutional support, and to claim otherwise is absurd.

To steal the achievement of making a career work back from the artists who have made it happen is to heap another injustice on good people to whom almost nothing has been offered...and when they make their own luck, against all odds, institutions are ready to point and say, "See? They never needed any help...they'll figure it out on their own. Let us return to raising funds for a glorious new building--after all, artists will always find a way to get by, and if they don't, there are always more. Buildings, on the other hand, won't build themselves."

Even Ms. Eyring seems to understand this is a load of horse manure, given the number of caveats she includes in the her assertions: she mentions the lack of any level of commitment from the theaters, the absence of crossover between large and small theaters, and the fact that at any point New York actors can be flown in whenever convenient. But then she comes to a remarkable conclusion:

"But the fact remains that in these cities, the regional theatre movement’s larger goal of making it possible for theatre professionals to make a living in their own communities has in many cases been achieved."

This "fact" is worthy of Orwell—and if it is "possible" to eke out a living from year to year, without any kind of security, it owes everything to these artists, and little or nothing to the regional theatre movement, which has systematically ignored and abused the artists who work within it while profiting from them.

Ms. Eyring ends her piece saying, "And this is just the beginning of how theatre saved America." The implication is that we will see a great deal more of her argument in Part Two. I do hope that this response will make her think more judiciously about the title for the second half of this article, and I hope some of the criticisms I've raised may be addressed in its contents.

If American Theatre magazine wishes to address the issues raised in HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA, there is an abundance of informed bloggers and theatrical luminaries who would leap at the opportunity to debate within its pages. If anyone from American Theatre is reading this, I'd be happy to transcribe one of the performances of HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA to create a transcript that would be publishable in the magazine, especially for such a purpose—it's a vital conversation we should be having.

I know that after six weeks of roundtables with some of the finest minds in the American theatre there was much debate over many issues, but not one voice ever argued that it had actually saved America. If Ms. Eyring, TCG and American Theatre magazine want this assertion to be taken seriously, they need to open their doors, let the light in, and engage with the artists, technicians, and administrators of the theater today. If they make this necessary step, they will find both the passion and empathy that has been missing for too long from the national conversation.

Mike Daisey
Working Artist
July 3rd, 2008

9:48 PM

H pink/purple BW!

9:25 PM

The work of Larissa Tokmakova.

1:56 PM

I'm sinking in the quicksand

4:55 AM

Believe Me, It's Torture: Politics & Power:

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered. This was very rapidly brought home to me when, on top of the hood, which still admitted a few flashes of random and worrying strobe light to my vision, three layers of enveloping towel were added. In this pregnant darkness, head downward, I waited for a while until I abruptly felt a slow cascade of water going up my nose. Determined to resist if only for the honor of my navy ancestors who had so often been in peril on the sea, I held my breath for a while and then had to exhale and—as you might expect—inhale in turn. The inhalation brought the damp cloths tight against my nostrils, as if a huge, wet paw had been suddenly and annihilatingly clamped over my face. Unable to determine whether I was breathing in or out, and flooded more with sheer panic than with mere water, I triggered the pre-arranged signal and felt the unbelievable relief of being pulled upright and having the soaking and stifling layers pulled off me. I find I don’t want to tell you how little time I lasted.

4:54 AM

THE BIG HORSESHOE  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4:48 AM

Bush, McCain, Torture:

Is it not a rather fantastic historical irony that the torture techniques that the North Vietnamese used against McCain that forced him to offer a videotaped false confession ... are now the techniques the Bush administration is using to gain "intelligence" about terror networks.

How is it possible to know that everything John McCain once said on videotape for the enemy was false, because it was coerced, and yet assert that everything we torture out of terror suspects using exactly the same techniques, is true? In fact, McCain at least knew somewhere that his own government knew he existed, that there were procedures to eventually release him, that he was on someone's radar. The average prisoner at Gitmo or in the other parts of the detention program believes that no one will ever save him, that he could be disappeared for ever, that there are no procedures for his eventual release and no government to remember him. If McCain uttered lies on tape to stop the torture, why would an Islamist tell the truth?

4:46 AM

BoingBoing vs. Violet Blue:

Having said that, I do believe they’ve made a bad decision, and I would feel remiss if I didn’t explain why, in hopes that my reasoning might persuade them.

By making the decision to remove Ms. Blue from their archives, Boing Boing has, intentionally or otherwise, made the following statements:

1. As bloggers, we do not have the responsibilities of a professional media outlet.
2. We do not feel the need to discuss our policies with our readers.
3. We reserve the right to hide behind our terms of service.

I’ll address these points one by one.

4:21 AM


3:11 AM

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

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3:22 PM

Dark Roasted Blend: The Weirdest Examples of Mass Hysteria:

Things supposedly started innocently enough. Kashasha, near Lake Victoria in Tanzania in 1962: One girl in a boarding school there told another girl a joke. Maybe, "Have you heard the one about?" or "A Jew, an Indian, and Herbert Hoover walk into a bar …" or "Take my wife, please … " Whatever the setup, the delivery, or punch line, the result was laughter. Whether it was a giggle, a guffaw, a chortle, a snort is irrelevant. The listener found it funny.

But then things went dark, weird, and creepy: one girl laughed, but then so did another, and then another, and then another, and then another.

After exposure, the incubation period from nothing to hysteria was short, from a few hours to a couple of days. There was no fever, no physical symptoms, just laughter and occasional crying between short moments of exhausted recuperation. When victims were restrained they sometimes became violent.

No one knew what to do. The school administrators were puzzled, local doctors were confused. Trying to put a lid on the phenomena, the administrators shut the school down.

But that was too little, too late: Whatever it was began to spread. It infected other schools and worked its way into the village, seemingly carried by infected students. It traveled to another village 20 miles away, and another 55 miles from Kashasha.

3:22 PM

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1:04 AM

Judges cite nonsense poem in Guantanamo case - Yahoo! News:

"The government insists that the statements made in the documents are reliable because the State and Defense Departments would not have put them in intelligence documents were that not the case," the court wrote. "This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true."

The judges compared the argument to the logic in Carroll's nonsense poem, in which a hapless crew hunts for a creature that is never quite defined. The Bellman, the ship's leader, led his men across the ocean, guided by a map that was just a blank piece of paper. He rallied and reassured his crew simply by repeating himself.

"I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true," the Bellman says in the poem.

"Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact that the government has 'said it thrice' does not make an allegation true," the court wrote.

1:02 AM

Walmart Logo
Brand New: Less Hyphen, More Burst for Walmart:

In what has to be the most under whelming unveiling yet — and a bad case of stolen thunder — for one of the largest retailers in the world, Walmart (unhyphenated as a single word from now on) just uploaded a formal, band-aid of a press release to their web site confirming the logo change that surfaced over the weekend when The Wall Street Journal reported that the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development had received documents from Walmart with the intent of opening a prototype store there.

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