Everybody Is a Star - Theater - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:
Thus was born the Stranger Gong Show, an audition-free cavalcade of talent open to anyone who showed up. Anyone over 21, that is—all Stranger Gong Shows have occurred in nightclubs (first the Croc, then Chop Suey), and what we've lost in 6-year-old blues singers, we've made up for in drunken rambunctiousness. Keeping everything in check: the mighty gong, which hangs over performers' heads like an appropriated Asian guillotine. Why a gong? Because the original Gong Show's Chuck Barris said so, and good for him: There's no sweeter rejection than a gong, which wraps failure in a deep, regal shimmer.
Despite the name, the point of a gong show is to avoid getting gonged, preferably through skill and talent, though wit can be equally effective. Case in point: Miss Peggy Guy, who in 1976 lit up TV's original Gong Show with a performance for the ages, ostensibly coming onstage to sing, but then spitting out her dentures, becoming entangled in a folding chair, losing her wig, and collapsing to the floor, all in 40 seconds. The judges gave her what she deserved: straight 10s. The moral is another passel of talent-show-verified clichés: To thine own self be true. Quit while you're ahead. Less is more. God don't make no junk.
A response from Hunka. Well, not so much a "response", as my points weren't addressed. But he did make a number of new points:
The definition of success, failure and relevance does not occur in a vacuum, but is very much determined by ideology.
Okay, so far we agree—though the idea that these terms are always utterly relative is an academic shell game. For example, I could have a "successful" theatre that produced no work, if I defined success as creating conceptual work that is never sullied by actual production. But only goofballs work that way.
A post-capitalist or consumerist definition of these words
I don't understand "post-capitalist" in this context, though I think I understand consumerist.
posits that success, failure or relevance is somehow quantitatively measurable (otherwise Daisey wouldn't be able to say that theatre is "failing" at something),
I'm not sure why it has to be quantitatively measurable, or exactly what you mean by quantitative in this sense.
and that some kinds of theatre are relevant and others not.
I suppose there would be a continuum, though I was speaking about what theater's context as a whole is in relation to American society.
After all, which cultural context is Daisey using?
I am using my own cultural context. The one I came packaged with.
What is "relevant" in this context? What is not? Success or failure of an individual artwork (not to mention an entire art form) is something determined by prescriptive aesthetics, and these aesthetics are precisely relevant to this conversation.
Relevant, yes, but they are not the entire conversation, ESPECIALLY when we are speaking about an entire field over an individual work. To ignore moral and ethical concerns is unacceptable.
(Sorry, Mike, about my "blinkered addiction" to them, but aesthetics are culturally determined too, and your theatre is driven by them every bit as much as mine.)
I was clearly speaking about the theater industry, not you. I don't know your work. Sorry you took offense.
I'd agree that of course my aesthetic concern drives my theater, IN CONJUNCTION with my own moral and ethical concerns.
These questions go to the heart of the issue that Daisey is reluctant to address ("It's true that I don't in my current arguments dictate what kind of work should be done. I believe that isn't my role in this discussion," he says), but without responding to these issues (and he needn't dictate, only provide some kind of precise examples) it's impossible to imagine what Daisey means by a "more relevant," "more successful" theatre.
I'm reluctant because it's unnecessary and destructive. My work has been primarily to illuminate and illustrate what is broken in the current system: you do not have to create a new system in order to do that.
That said, long-term my hope is to begin to examine what the shape of work will be. As a simple and clear starting point, I stand behind my own work.
If, like Justice Potter Stewart and pornography, Daisey knows it when he sees it, he's welcome to it. But Justice Stewart didn't do the cause of literature much good with that definition either.
Working for artistic reform in how theater is made in this country does not require the passing of judgment on the work within it. One does not need to be a connoisseur of sausages to recognize there may be serious issues in the slaughterhouse where they are made.
And as to my spelling theatre the way I do, what can I say? Perhaps I feel closer to Europe. "I spell theater -er rather than -re," Mike says. Why? "Becase [sic] I am American." Well, all right.
At least you've dispelled any illusions that you might actually raise the level of discourse.
stevenf.com - Office 2010 preview:
Seriously, go look at this thing. There’s some sort of “mini toolbar” in the title bar of the window in addition to the standard window controls. (Before my fellow Mac users get too sanctimonious, let’s consider Safari 4 beta’s “top tabs”, which my internal jury is still out on.)
Then you’ve got the ribbon itself, which appears to be tabbed, and one of the tabs has what I can only guess is a resize widget. I mean what is happening here?
The first section of the ribbon is “Delete” which has, as far as I can tell, three separate icons for delete. Do you have to use a specific delete button for a certain type of data? Why? What is this about? The delete icons are also two different sizes, and one has a popup menu hanging off of it.
The ribbon has an “Actions” section containing a “More Actions” popup.
The Find section is, unlike all the other sections, unlabeled. It appears to contain a toggle button with a popup arrow underneath it.
I also like the Zoom section which contains a single icon, also labeled Zoom.
This is impenetrable. It’s UI salad. I realize this is not (yet) shipping software, but my god. If you sat me down in front of this, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to begin.
The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.
For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?
Let’s take this moment to nail some colors to the mast. I submit it is better for conservatives to have 60% sway within a majority party than to have 100% control of a minority party. And until and unless there is an honored place made in the Republican party for people who think like Arlen Specter, we will remain a minority party.
Over at the Guardian, Chris Wilkinson has written a post about my back and forth conversation with Todd Olson. In the comments George Hunka writes in, saying:
"I hate to belabor the rather tiresome point that what Garrett suggests has been going on for well over fifty years in the United States and elsewhere."
(For reference, what Garrett has said is: "Now more than ever, we need to make it easier for a lone director, or playwright, or actor to simply book a hall and put up his or her own work.")
Hunka has conflated two points—no one is argueing that people doing their own work on their own terms (as much as possible) doesn't exist. Garrettt is saying we need more of it, by making a more equitable playing field. These are two different things.
This is what Richard Foreman, Young Jean Lee, Richard Maxwell and dozens of artists have done over the past several decades;
Lee just gave an interview in the Nation about how she needs to work beyond theatre to survive. Foreman has a trust fund, and has relied on it or his early work would have been impossible. I don't know Maxwell's circumstances, but I know some of his company members live incredibly close to the bone.
If these are the highlights of the American theater, what does it say about our art form that they're treated this poorly? I would submit that this is a failure of priority, focus, and human connection. I think it's painful to treat these as success stories—if they are, they've succeeded *despite* the paradigm.
in England, Howard Barker has his own company; in Australia Daniel Keene's first plays were produced by his own company.
The focus of my arguements has always been American theater—while I've lived in England, and worked in Australia, their economic landscape for artists is wildly different than America's.
Not to mention many of the performers in both New York's Incubator and Performance Space 122's seasons, who know that the ideology that drives both Olson's and Daisey's visions of American theatre doesn't have room for the kinds of work that they want to do.
I find it hard to believe that you actually believe my work to make the arts more artist-driven doesn't have room for many different kinds of work. I'd submit that any way you'd slice it it has a lot more room for variety and variance, for presenting and self-production, than the current landscape.
Movement forward in the American theatre is unlikely to take place within the walls of the large corporate entities that Daisey and Olson are debating, but on the stages of these smaller venues, who curate rather than produce work.
It depends on what you mean by "forward". If you mean strictly and only aesthetic, you might be right—often the best art comes from the small places. But I'd submit that it's a blinkered addiction to aesthetics that helped lead us to the current inequitable working and living conditions...and that this priority shift didn't even achieve the dream it was reaching for.
I'd say that the way forward needs to focus on a reshifting of priorities away from institutions and onto people. I also believe that the largest theaters and institutions, who control most of the current resources, need to be reminded of their obligations and compelled to act. That's the arena I am working within, so that is where I currently work for change.
Beyond the consumerist ideologies of whether American theatre "fails" or "succeeds,"
It is in no way consumerist to talk about how theater in American is failing its audiences, its artists and its self. It is in no way consumerist to talk about how American theater is failing to make itself relevant in a cultural context.
these companies are redefining theatre and pointing the way to new forms and recognitions;
And that is great. I would just like to see them not have to do it on their knees over broken glass, and then I'd like to see more of them strengthened to stand up and walk.
the current debate about institutional theatre model, whether Olson's or Daisey's, is a debate about real estate and the social safety net.
I agree it's a debate about real estate in part. I see my role as helping to change a discussion that has been entirely about buildings back to being about people, but unless one lives in a faerieland the topic of real estate is going to raise its head.
But "social safety net"? I'd love to hear this explained, because it sounds as though Hunka is equating security and wages for artists with wefare.
In the avoidance of discussing the work that transpires on these stages – the work that these institutional theatres support, and the ideological basis of that support
It's true that I don't in my current arguments dictate what kind of work should be done. I believe that isn't my role in this discussion. I do believe there are fruitful discussions to be had about the state of devised work vs playwright-driven work, and my own beliefs about what is and is not great art, but in an effort to clarify the conversation. That may change in the years to come.
– they seem to want to defend a theatre that is comfortable, safe and secure for both its audiences and its practitioners.
First, there's no way theater today is comfortable, safe and secure for the practitioners anywhere, so I can't be defending that status quo, as it doesn't exist.
Second, while I certainly agree that a lot of theater suffers from making its audiences too comfortable, I don't think my work over the last few years can even remotely be construed as defending that kind of theater.
It is possible to imagine that I could be seen as part of the problem, *if* you believe that nothing except bourgeois comfort can come from any theater that is not on a vanishingly short list of approved downtown experiences. I do not believe this, and I think it's a solipsistic rabbit hole into which people can hide.
But without risk and danger, theatre and art is nothing.
Because I am American, I spell theater -er rather than -re.
When Noah Webster created the new American dictionary he formalized the American spelling of all such words as -er, including the word theater.
Interestingly it was theater owners, who were afraid that the new spelling would not appear as erudite and snobbish as the -re spelling, who clung to the old spelling.
Spelling and cultural baggage aside, I entirely agree with the last point.
FROM THE MAILBAG:
I have enjoyed reading your correspondence with Todd Olson -- producing artistic director at American Stage Company in St. Petersburg, Florida -- and honestly, I see solid points made on both sides, as I think you do.
However, one important fact has been obscured in the dialogue: When Olson says his theater is "fully AEA," he means he has a contract with Actors Equity -- NOT that all of the actors he hires are Equity members. I'm not sure what contract he is on now, but he can and does use a fair proportion of non-Equity actors. Such obfuscation is not uncommon among small theaters with Equity contracts, as they rely upon the misperception that Equity = professional and non-Equity = non-professional to puff up their stature with statements such as "fully Equity."
Why does this matter? It matters because many of Olson's points are predicated on the assumption that all of his actors are Equity. Talk of how his actors have access to health insurance, of the struggles of finding a way to pay actors more than scale, of the comparatively low pay to his staff, or of what he considers silly ancillary Equity requirements (breaks, cots, etc.) is disingenuous, given that many of his actors have no insurance, are paid well below Equity scale, and are not entitled to most Equity protections -- although they do share in the breaks, and I suppose no one would object if they fainted onto the cot.
Tampa Bay has very little Equity work. Most local Equity contracts are SPT, Guest Artist or Special Appearance, none of which pays a living wage. Aside from a mere handful of actors, Tampa Bay actors have two choices: 1) Stay Equity, and work mostly out of town or work rarely (and fail to qualify for health insurance), or 2) Leave Equity, work for less money and no benefits but work more often, closer to home and, ironically, often in the same theaters as the Equity actors. Because the non-Equity actors often rehearse nights, they are better able to supplement their income with on-camera work, meaning they can make more money while costing local theaters less, which enables lower ticket prices, which enables more people to go see a play. For this they get to be classified as non-professional -- even when standing on-stage next to an Equity actor -- and ignored in Olson's consideration of his theater's financial position.
Before largely retiring from acting, I was an AEA member for nine years. I left Equity seven years ago specifically to take a non-Equity role at American Stage (before Olson's tenure), because I recognized that breaking into the most important area theater was a better bet than keeping my Equity card, which limited my professional opportunities, as it does for actors in many metro areas outside of the major markets. (I also came to believe that Equity fundamentally puts its own interests ahead of its members'… but that's another discussion.) I think I made the right choice, but am always surprised to hear ADs expound upon the difficulties of paying all those pesky Equity actors, as if the Equity contract was forced upon them.
While I do not include myself in this company, there are many fine Tampa Bay actors -- including many who have played leading roles at American Stage in the past -- who once were Equity or have the points to become Equity, but who are by choice non-Equity because they believe that's the better status in this market. They became actors to act, not to ensure a guaranteed wage. The old saw that Equity functions as a talent filter, accepting only the best actors, and that therefore one can rely upon a higher caliber of actor within the union is easily exposed in Florida, where Equity's theme park contracts grant Equity cards to teenage dancers who may or may not be able to utter a line.
A theater's decision on whether to have an Equity contract is a complicated one in that it involves not simply budgeting considerations, but also fuzzier considerations of professional stature and reputation, and I judge no theater for going one way or the other -- as long as its finances give it the luxury of a choice. Nor do I judge a theater for jobbing in actors from out of town, although that's a consistent grumble from local actors in any small market. Still, I can't help wondering why Olson does not alleviate some of his budgetary woes by sticking to local actors, Equity or otherwise. Jobbing-in Equity actors requires not only the higher pay scale and benefits contributions, but also housing, transportation and per diem. Are the actors Olson jobs-in from out of town really so much better than any local option that they return their additional cost in higher ticket sales? And does the audience care where the actors live? That's a question I wish more boards would ask.
While they were at it, the board could do the math on how much health insurance could be purchased with the money spent on jobbed-in actors. You wondered why a company would take on a $4 million building campaign when it gave its employees no health insurance. I wonder why a company that offered no health insurance and admitted that it underpaid its staff would blow money on jobbed-in actors when local actors would do as well. Some ADs might say that the proportions of Equity actors specified by their AEA contracts may force them to use an Equity actor for a certain role, and that no local Equity actor fit the bill. But that makes my point -- freed to hire from the far larger non-Equity pool in a market like Tampa Bay, the AD could probably find a suitable actor locally -- and much more affordably.
Full disclosure: Olson might counter that as a local non-Equity actor I played a leading mainstage role for him once (an experience I enjoyed and am grateful for), but I would remind him that I got the role only after a Boston actor bowed out at the last minute and a local replacement was the most expedient solution -- he hired the role locally only when he had no other option. In one of his first newspaper interviews after he was hired by American Stage, he was quoted as saying that creating jobs for local actors was low on his list of priorities. At least we knew where he stood.
In recent public discussions about preserving arts funding in a tough economy, I have heard arts proponents argue that public funding employs artists. I then heard funding opponents say that the artists often are not local, and that they don't want to spend local tax dollars on artists who live elsewhere. It's hard to preserve arts funding when the anti-arts crowd happens to be right.
I have long observed that many artistic directors fall prey to the same syndrome as Olson: They are surrounded by ass-kissing actors desperate for work and willing to put up with any abuse, actors who will never complain to the AD or bring to his attention any perception of mistreatment. Behavior that would elicit a hearty fuck-you if committed by anyone else goes quietly unchallenged when committed by an AD. When the AD does hear complaints, he can easily dismiss them as the product of sour grapes among actors upset at not being hired or at not landing a coveted role. Over time, the AD grows insensitive and callous, oblivious to his own casual disregard for his actors. That's the odor you smell in his letter.
Olson has as much contempt for his audience, whom he has publicly castigated on American Stage's website for complaining too much; he actually calls some respondents to his audience survey "complainers" and bemoans their "rudeness" and "cheap shots" -- all because they dared to give him the feedback he solicited and in some cases did so with a degree of insensitivity he is in no moral position to judge. He's talked to his AD buddies elsewhere, he says, and they all agree that Florida audiences are just the worst! So… he doesn't much like his local actors or local audience. One wonders why he does not simply find another job out of state, and hand American Stage over to someone who understands and appreciates the local scene.
All of that said, I think Olson's apparent disdain for actors (and for your work and its politics) and his sometimes perverse illogic may have upset you past the point of reason. Olson's staff is loyal; after a brief period of defections at the start of his tenure, there has been very little staff turnover at American Stage, and that says something good about the happiness of his staff. As someone who briefly was on his staff (as propsmaster), I can verify that he truly does treat his staff like family -- though perhaps a slightly dysfunctional one. For such a small group, they do a hell of a lot, to great value. And I agree with him that professional theater staff often are undervalued, as their contributions are little seen by audiences. His casual disdain for actors (contempt may be too strong a word) aside, he's keeping a regional theater solvent and producing successful theater in tough times, and for that he's earned some props.
As for the rest... Well, think back to the ADs you've known. Is Olson's insensitivity really exceptional?
Keep up the good work,
ALSO FROM THE MAILBAG, THIS QUOTE:
To make matters worse, [Alfred] Bunn shortly became the manager of Covent Garden as well as of Drury Lane -- the first and last time anyone was foolhardy enough to try this experiment -- and thus master of the whole realm of the legitimate drama in London.
His first act was to slash his performers' salaries. Not uniquely among managers, Bunn hated actors with a passion, but there was reason as well as vindictiveness behind his move, because the payroll at the two great theatres had soared out of control. During one week, six hundred and eighty-four employees were counted at Covent Garden alone. Aside from the actors there was an acting manager, a stage manager, a pantomime director, a property man, and a callboy, an assortment of prompters and copyists, a corps de ballet, a chorus, and a full orchestra. Up in the scenery room in the eaves there were various chief scene painters, assistant scene painters, and color grinders; down in the workshop, a property maker, a machinist, and a master carpenter, together with half a dozen assistant carpenters and two dozen scenery men and stagehands. Backstage were the master and mistress of the wardrobe, with their army of dressers; front of house, a treasurer and an under treasurer, a housekeeper, an assistant, ten money takers, ten check takers, and a box keeper; and, stationed all around, dozens of attendants, lamplighters, firemen, porters, and watchmen. The official theatres had become monsters that chewed through fortunes and spat out bankruptcy, and something had to give.
"The Shakespeare Riots" by Nigel Cliff, an historical account of the Astor Place riot of 1849, which began as a grudge between the British actor William Charles Macready and American actor Edwin Forrest
Crimes committed by Ferris Bueller during his Day off. | Ask Metafilter:
I would like a comprehensive list of each offense Ferris and his friends commit during the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Ideally, please list the offense (criminal trespass to vehicle, battery, etc.) and the category of crime if it was committed by an adult (eg, felony, Class A Misdemeanor, etc.) Illinois jurisdiction. Thank you very much.
The Exact Opposite Is True « Submitted For Your Perusal:
“I am resolutely opposed to all innovation, all change, but I am determined to understand what’s happening because I don’t choose just to sit and let the juggernaut roll over me. Many people seem to think that if you talk about something recent, you’re in favor of it. The exact opposite is true in my case. Anything I talk about is almost certain to be something I’m resolutely against, and it seems to me the best way of opposing it is to understand it, and then you know where to turn off the button.”
FROM THE MAILBAG:
I can not remember if I have mentioned this to you in an email before, but you might want to take a look at the Barter Theatre in Virginia. So far as I am aware they come as close, in practice, to your Platonic ideal of the Regional Theatre as I have seen. They hire a resident company of actors for the year(several started out as interns 20+ years ago), who also tend to work "staff" jobs as well. This gives a strong cross pollination between admin and artists. They produce numerous works set in and around their local area(Southwestern Virginia) commissioned or adapted. They have a touring company(composed of acting interns) who perform works for school age audiences. When they built their second stage it was with the express purpose of producing more work, i.e. the building serves the art, not the institution. Every summer they produce a play festival dedicated to works by and about the apalachian (read local) region of Virginia. Their interns get rigorous training, both studio style and in live performance to hone their skills.
In short they are doing, and could serve as a model for, the very thing you are looking for in Regional Theatre. Incidentally they have an absurdly high percentage of people locally who attend the theatre, as opposed to most LORTs who get less than 5% of the local population to attend. They are not perfect, but I know of no earthy organization of humans that is.
For full disclosure, I work there often as a guest artist, but am not payed salary by the company. While they do job in a few artists throughout the season, that is not due to not hiring local or seasonal artists, but rather because of the sheer volume of work they create (18+ shows a year excluding their play festival) they must needs fill some gaps.
I hope this information proves useful.
Lucas Benjaminh Krech
Interview with Dominique Serrand | January 2009 | MinnesotaPlaylist.com:
0:00.00 – 1. Will you miss your bulding? Peter Brook, Ariane Mnouchkine, and using old spaces to say something new.
3:41.29 – 2. Why couldn’t Jeune Lune survive? Artist-driven work, financial management, and patterns of charitable support from Minnesota’s family dynasties.
7:45.05 – 3. What good and bad do you see in the arts right now? The legacy amendment, the migrant nature of artists, creating new ensembles, the Guthrie’s Kushner festival, health care, and more.
12:07.27 – 4. Is the state of the arts in Minnesota healthy? Healthy institutions versus healthy artists, the United States Artists Foundation, and theater companies in Soviet-bloc Hungary.
16:58.03 – 5. Why does theater matter? Religion and the value of questioning.
19:39.22 – 6. What should we do? Public education, how Dominique discovered theater as a child, and exporting Robert Wilson and Robert Lepage to rural areas.
24:10.06 – 7. What will you do in the near future? Getting used to life without Jeune Lune, risk-taking, and developing a new work with four playwrights.
28:33.23 – 8. What if you were asked to run a new theater? A three-step plan including engaging with public schools, putting artists on salary, and bringing out illuminating, new visions of old work.
ongoing · Less Like Oration:
Consider the 95% or so of the human time-span that predates writing, when language took one form: speech. Whatever is built-in to us about language and thought was built in by evolution, and that process was pretty well over by the time writing arrived.
Speech is remarkably plastic; at one extreme, the monosyllables of technical specialists or lovers; debate flowing around a meeting table somewhere in the middle; and at the long end, oration, notable examples of which extend in length from a handful of minutes to many hours.
There’s nothing much on the Net that’s without precedent in spoken language. What’s new is that written discourse is becoming less like oration and more like conversation. It’s not clear that this is bad.
Gawker - It It Just a Coincidence That Tim Geithner's Lunch Dates Keep Getting Whatever They Want - Tim Geithner:
Breaking: two years of Tim Geithner's daily calendars prove that he was pretty friendly with Citigroup and Goldman. Also he leads a quietly tragic unexamined life of unending meaningless toil, JUST LIKE US!
The Stranger | Slog | Rear View:
Forced Entertainment was performing Spectacular in Bristol a few days ago when an audience member with a Russian accent began heckling the cast, shouting variations on "that's not funny!" while his female companion cackled. He was asked to leave but refused, and the show went on.
At some point later, Robin said, an actor delivers a line about seeing something extraordinary. "You want to see something extraordinary?!" the Russian shouted, then walked onto the stage, shat in his hand, and rubbed his face. At that point, he was chucked out. "The worst thing," Robin said, "is that someone from the theater came up to us afterwards and asked if he was part of our show."
The heckler, it turned out, was Alexander Brener, who stages interventions on other people's performances. "That's his art?" another British artist—Ant Hampton—wondered aloud.
GOP Know-Nothings Fought Pandemic Preparedness:
Famously, Maine Senator Collins, the supposedly moderate Republican who demanded cuts in health care spending in exchange for her support of a watered-down version of the stimulus, fumed about the pandemic funding: "Does it belong in this bill? Should we have $870 million in this bill? No, we should not."
Even now, Collins continues to use her official website to highlight the fact that she led the fight to strip the pandemic preparedness money out of the Senate's version of the stimulus measure.
NEA New Play Development Program hosted by Arena Stage: Is "Regional" A Pejorative Term?:
I think what people are reacting to, fundamentally, in this call to re-regionalize the regional theater, is a sense that many regional theaters, those which established the movement and those which followed to sustain and build on it, have somehow become more satellites than regions. That they are, as Jodi implies and many others assert directly, now orbiting the New York marketplace like moons, reflecting its heat but generating none of their own. I hear from artists, ensembles, and small producers all over the country (including that micro-region: Manhattan) that they feel we're in a period where, to paraphrase one of the responders at the Humana Convening, "we're shipping the same ten plays around the country and every theater's season looks more alike than distinct." This sentiment is particularly acute among new play practitioners, whether playwrights, play labs, ensembles, or new play producers.
Op-Ed Columnist - Money for Nothing - NYTimes.com:
All of which explains why we should be disturbed by an article in Sunday’s Times reporting that pay at investment banks, after dipping last year, is soaring again — right back up to 2007 levels.
Why is this disturbing? Let me count the ways.
First, there’s no longer any reason to believe that the wizards of Wall Street actually contribute anything positive to society, let alone enough to justify those humongous paychecks.
Scrappy Jack's World-Wide Theatricals and Dime Museum:
The first thing to hold in your mind when working with Shakespeare is that he wrote for the stage, not for the page. The Globe was open to the sun, half the audience was standing and the reverent, hushed atmosphere of today’s audience was something a player had to earn and fight to keep against great odds, not something assumed. For the actor, this translates simply to making the primary focus and scene partner not your fellow actor, but the audience immediately in front of you. It is not a job for psychological realism or imitative dexterity; it is a job for speaking clearly and standing still. The audience is directly addressed, of course, in the constant soliloquies and asides, but these moments are not departures from the world of the play but rather logical extensions.
When playing Shakespeare, you are never in Verona, never in Arden, never in Egypt, Rome or England. You are always on a stage, playing a role in front of an audience. This consciousness will both heighten the urgency of your speech and action and add a necessary freedom and critical distance to the degree of your role-playing. By not burying yourself in character, you remain free to engage in the larger wordplay and dramatic conceits of the language. While this understanding is blatantly essential when playing a fool or a rustic, it is no less necessary in the more subtle and complex roles. There is always an awareness in Shakespeare that another living being is watching and listening. To disregard this is as crippling as disregarding the rhythm and meter of iambic pentameter.
The Pirate Google: making the point that Google's as guilty of linking to torrents as The Pirate Bay - Boing Boing:
When The Pirate Bay was ordered shut down by the Swedish courts because it linked to infringing torrents on the Internet, many people pointed out that Google links to whole mountains' -- whole planets' -- worth of infringing stuff. Now, to make the point, comes The Pirate Google, a Google mashup that finds torrent files: "The intention of this site is to demonstrate the double standard that was exemplified in the recent Pirate Bay Trial. Sites such as Google offer much the same functionality as The Pirate Bay and other Bit Torrent sites but are not targeted by media conglomerates such as the IFPI as they have the political and legal clout to defend themselves unlike these small independent sites."
The Stranger | Slog | Sodom in Austin:
A better Rubber Rep show, apparently, was last year's Casket of Passing Fancy, in which the company offered an audience of 30 different "experiences." People would raise their hands when they heard an offer they liked: "Who would like to go on a road trip to Mexico leaving right now?" "Who would like to be blindfolded and dropped off in a part of town they don't know?" "Who would like to have his or her name tattooed on this actor's ass?" "Who would like to experience 'magical thinking'?" (That offer landed one game critic in a locked bathroom for two hours while she listened to her friend, who accepted a different "experience," arguing with three actors about why she shouldn't feel obliged to give them her underwear.)
The show happened last fall, but people keep bringing it up—it left a deep impression in the town's memory.
GROGNARDIA: An Interview with Liz Danforth (Part I):
That said, I find World of Warcraft deeply engaging and interesting not only as my entertainment but also as a game design, an intellectual property, and a fingerpost to the way gaming will change in the future. I’m conducting some academic research, a byproduct of getting my masters degree, looking at what are called the 21st Century learning skills acquired in WoW that may transfer to real life. The core data isn’t coming together as strongly as I expected — it is excellent but not emphatic — but the anecdotal stories accompanying the survey put me in awe, frankly. People are getting a very great deal more out of the game than mindless entertainment, that’s for darn sure.
PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama, Armenians and genocide - Kansas City Star:
Barack Obama was unequivocal during the campaign: As president, he would recognize the nearly century-old massacre of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.
In breaking that promise Friday, the president did the same diplomatic tiptoeing he criticized the Bush administration for doing.
Like George W. Bush before him, Obama did not want to alienate vital ally Turkey by declaring the slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians to be genocide - especially with Turkey and Armenia now exploring reconciliation.
Best Mac Ever? Duh. SE/30. | 43 Folders:
The SE/30 (with a hard drive) was, pound for pound, the best Mac ever made. Not only was it when the Mac arrived as a serious tool for normal (albeit deep-pocketed) people, but it felt faster than homemade snot, and still had the awesome old-school form factor.
I liked using Ci’s and Cx’s and Fx’s and Quadras and whatnot, but no Mac ever brought the total package like the SE/30. In 1991, I laid the shit out of some PageMaker on my SE/30 and a big-ass Radius monitor. Good times.
If I could get away with it, I’d probably still be writing on one right now.
Bea Arthur Passes Away:
Bea Arthur, who memorably played Dorothy on "The Golden Girls," has died, reports the Associated Press. She was 86.
Arthur, known for her comedic chops and distinctive voice, won Emmys for "The Golden Girls" and "Maude." She also captured a Tony Award acting on the stage in the musical "Mame."
We're All Torturers Now:
After Abu Ghraib, the idea that prisoners could be stripped naked and humiliated, or terrorized by dogs, or piled up like Tinkertoys, was not just in the backs of our minds but also back on the table. Less than two years after we learned of the goings-on at Abu Ghraib, Congress had passed legislation legalizing many of the "alternative interrogation tactics"—the stress positions and sexual humiliations—that had so offended us months before. Prisoner abuse that flattened us in 2004 was normalized to the point that it was open to political debate only a year later. And once you have been desensitized to hoodings and nudity, is a little simulated drowning or being bounced off a wall really all that much worse?
The MPs caught abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib later claimed that they did so because they were merely following orders from superiors, orders to "soften up" the detainees who would then be more amenable to interrogation. I keep wondering whether they inadvertently softened up the rest of us as well. We have become so casual about torture that we now openly debate its efficacy—something nobody would have dared do in the first days after Abu Ghraib. The fight playing out between the left and the right now isn't "Did we water-board?" We already knew we did. It is barely even "Was it legal?" Virtually nobody seriously argues that it was. The fight we are having in America now is "Did it work?" And if we manage to persuade ourselves that torture does work, whether it's legal or even moral will no longer matter. And such tactics will never be able to horrify us again.
Parabasis: Todd Olson's Response To Mike Daisey:
I'd like to see a real test / demonstration of Mike's artist/staff hybrid positions in action. I think they can work. In fact, I'd argue this idea is the single most exciting and transformative proposition to emerge out of the echo chamber of the theatrosphere as long as I've known it: That even on the regional theater level, there is an alternative to the compartmentalization and over-specialization that results in the body of the theatre organization not talking to the mind, not talking to the heart, not talking to the feet. Yes, I'm referring to the production, performance, artistic/literary, and marketing departments there. Even more body parts available to be had in this metaphor!
A group of us who work in both large regional and small independent theaters in Chicago (I know, Isaac, groan) have been playing with hybridization - retraining performers and designers in particular to apply their performance and aesthetic skills creatively to marketing, development, education programs. But I'm talking about intensive training. We're teaching ourselves graphic design, web development, we're sharing information, we're getting each other freelance jobs that feed each other's growth. Like all ideas that emerge from a renaissance, this is happening on some level in all theaters, especially those that are embracing things like internet / social media dialogue and finding traction with them. What feels different to me - and needs to be measured, therefore - is this idea that you can both be paid to perform and be paid to market yourself in a theatrical organization at the same time - as if they are the same activity (which of course, they have been since before morality plays). That you can't have either without the other.
We're doing this on a small scale - one of our most lucrative and innovative education programs has actually been corporate training (e.g. actors teaching facebook and social networking seminars to corporations via the ideas of connection, dialogue, and trust).
But that's a local solution, and as Mike says, there is no magic pill solution that works for every market. Because this needs to be a conversation the entire industry needs to have together - and it seems clear from this exchange that some of us need the debate and some of us need to see the results - is it possible / likely to have a single organization or several TRY this and, basically, publish? So that the experiment can spread?
Mannequin 'freaks out' City Council:
PORTSMOUTH — Fearing it may "freak out" pedestrians at Vaughan Mall, the City Council limited its approval of a local boutique shop owner's request to place a seated mannequin outside her store to three months, rather than one year.
"Have we allowed a chair with a mannequin on city property before?" said Councilor Eric Spear. "Because it kind of freaks me out actually."
Councilor Esther Kennedy shared the concern, "I kind of agree with Councilor Spear. It kind of freaks me out, too."
The Fallible Infallible Executive:
It is very rare to get someone with the same stratospheric levels of arrogance and incompetence as you find in Dick Cheney. Let's go to the tape: A war launched on false premises, a trillion dollar debt in a period of growth, a destruction of America's moral standing, the loss of one major city (New Orleans) and the devastation of another (New York City), two horribly bungled military campaigns that have trapped his successors for decades, a political party decimated for a generation, his closest aide in jail for obstruction of justice, his own daughter and grand-child targeted by his own party as second-class citizens in the state they live in. And a war criminal. Did I miss anything?
Why is this man not laughed off every TV set he walks onto?
I've received a response from Todd Olson of American Stage Theatre Company in Tampa Bay, which I've posted below.
BALANCE OUR RHETORIC:
A Challenge for All of Us Who Care About Theatre
Well, Mr. Daisey, I’m not sure that calling me artistically “dead,” “blind,” “a bigot”, “spiteful,” and an actor-hater is the way to honestly continue a discussion about breaking through to new, useful solutions, but let’s keep going anyway.
I agree, and thanks for agreeing to a discussion. I do have to say that if you want to address things I've said, please use more than a selection of adjectives yanked out of context and stapled next to each other—they look like pull quotes and have about as much content.
You’re very right, I think we are giving voice to things usually unsaid, so let’s push forward and see where we get.
Preface: Small Professional Theatres Are Not the Enemy
After considering your response, along with an article sent to me by former Seattle-based actor Larry Ballard which seemed inspired by, in large part, your writing and statements on the subject.
(The article being referred to can be read here.)
Much of your and Ballard’s ire was born from and directed at theatres like Seattle Rep and the Intiman (and amplified later at other similar LORT theatres). I have to say, if it were not clear before, these are SIGNIFICANTLY larger theatres than my own American Stage Theatre Company; The Intiman is six times the size of ASTC – and Seattle Rep is nine times our size. You ask how a theatre of that size could not afford to pay a wage higher than scale… and I completely agree with you. You ask why a theatre of that size cannot pay an actor more the longer that actor works for the theatre…and I also agree with you. With a $9 million budget I would surely find a way to achieve that.
I'm aware how much larger those theaters are than your theater. And I agree: the larger a theater is, the more resources they have, the more arts funding they soak up, and thus have a much larger responsibility in working for change, a responsibility the vast majority of all theaters are shirking.
And frankly, Mr. Ballard’s anecdotes about Rep Board members were embarrassing to me; part of my job as AD is to inform and, to some degree, school Trustees in what’s authentically important within a professional theatre, steering them away from less significant, tangential issues, and tasking them with more important work within the theatre. Ballard’s anecdotes reinforce my earlier suspicion that you, Mike, have had some terrible role models when it comes to not-for-profit leaders.
I can't speak for Laurence—we don't know each other well—but I've known some wonderful colleagues in leadership positions in the NFP world. Some of my favorite people in the world.
I do agree that an ADs job includes guiding the board, and that's why impressing upon ADs that the current system is unethical and corrosive toward creating the kind of theater we need in this country is so vitally important.
So, regardless of how I detail on these pages the financial and artistic challenges at ASTC, your anger and disgust at the actions of theatres-come-corporations will only ever be partially applicable to us. I think your disdain is mostly aimed at a kind of larger waste and misappropriation of resources that ASTC (and plenty medium-sized theatres like us) just don’t have.
Put simply, and not meaning to let myself off any hook, if I had nine times my current resources, there are plenty of problems I would solve differently, including artist compensation.
That's exactly right—we can't let ANYONE off the hook. All of us who work in the theater are implicated by the current system, and it's exactly why we need to fight for change on every level. If I started deciding to let people off the hook, to whom do I give passes? Small theaters? Myself? And why do I get to be the arbiter of who is and who is not fulfilling their duty?
No. Everyone is part of this ecosystem, and we need advocacy on every level. I have seen the story before of ADs moving up the career ladder who had the best of intentions, and seeing nothing change once they reached larger and larger theaters. I will not rely on good intentions any longer.
The truth is that the change is a cultural one, not an economic one—we need to value our people, and we don't: not equally or openly, and it hurts the theater terribly.
Part #1: Theatres Have Nothing Without Actors (Me Included)
I could just as easily called my challenge to you, “In Defense of Staff.” My missive was in direct response to what I gleaned from your words and performance to be a distinctly actor-centric AND anti-staff posture, a self-centeredness that I think is detrimental to better collaboration in our business (actors had been “removed from the premises”…certain departments had “replaced artists who once worked there”…you wished actors would “bitch-slap the staff members”…actors were “the working poor” whom you hoped would, “pierce [the staff’s] mantle of smug invulnerability”…education departments created work that was “thin, lifeless…disgusting” etc.) Not to mention dishing smack on Trustees, audiences, and “pathological” ADs like me. And I’m the one who “talks shit”?
Here's a lot more contextless words via selective quotation from multiple works.
I do think there's some fragments that can be gleaned from here: for example, you give as an example of self-centeredness my statement that actors are the working poor. Isn't that simply fact?
Your words are at time classist, vaguely victim-y, and angrily dismissive of the contributions of any staff member who was not an actor. But maybe I just got everything out of context. Ok.
I do not understand how it can be "classist" to fight for the rights of migrant contract workers who make less than minimum wage.
And I don't know about "victim-y"—in case it is unclear, I don't work as an actor. I'm an independent artist—I don't work with or through the AEA.
This isn't about me. I am defending artists and advocating for their rights because of the unethical conditions I see around the country, and because it's ruining the American theater.
By the way, ALL the teaching artists at ASTC are actors with whom we’re flexible when they’re between acting gigs.
That sounds very commendable.
And do the Education Departments at all the LORT theatres where you work know that you think most of their work is “shit”, supported by grants “to keep [their] shitty programs alive”?
You may have noticed that I'm pretty public with my views—so yes, I think they know.
I've had education folks challenge me on this, and most of the time the ones that do are people who care enough that they're working hard to make things that don't suck, fighting against mandates from schools, theaters and a million directions. And in private conversation they often concur that most theater education programs are poorly implemented, tacked on, and do very little to expose students to actual theater that might actually inspire.
So I felt the strong need to stick up for these folks, and write a testament to all of the other staffs out there, but especially mine.
That's an understandable impulse. What's regrettable is that artists aren't considered part of your staff and your team, so that you'd be in a unified position of sticking up for all of them together as a family.
As you look at a country of failed theatres, you see over populated Development offices; I see Angela and ¾ of Shannon’s time (and that’s it). You see overgrown marketing offices; I see Andy and ¼ of Shannon’s time. We’re a dozen people doing the best we can. You say you know and appreciate what others do and my criticism was unfounded? Ok.
Since you've brought it up again, I'll say it one more time with feeling: I appreciate deeply what all my brothers and sisters in the American theater do. Being critical of your family's practices doesn't mean you hate your family or its members.
Actually, reading your response reminded me of a period in Nashville when I served as Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education for Tennessee Rep. On 9-11 we were half way through the run of WEST SIDE STORY. The building closed (it was also a government building), the adjoining parking garage was barricaded, and performances were cancelled. We lost about $30,000 that week alone. No one came downtown because they could no longer park, and our subscription campaign functionally ended as people stayed at home to see what would happen next. The big topic on our actor e-newsletter week was, “why can’t The Rep hire more local actors?” Talk about not “particularly good team members.”
That's absolutely terrible. I read online about your experiences at Tennessee Rep, and it sounds like an incredible ordeal for you and for the theater.
It certainly seems like bad timing to have a newsletter not have this as the top story, but this is all pretty anecdotal: maybe they didn't get the story in time, as 9/11 caught all of us off-guard. Did they really choose to lead with that article OVER the theater being shut down? That's hard to believe.
My response was, “because we’re dying here folks. We’re writing doomsday scenarios so we don’t declare bankruptcy. We’re trying to keep our doors open so we have jobs for you at all in the future.” Actors have a way of seeing their problem as the central issue at hand. In reality there are just many more moving parts than that.
The theater was in crisis after 9/11. And today, most theaters would say they are in crisis again.
But somehow there's always a crisis, isn't there? We now know that the last few years were a boom time, and if you look at the number of new buildings built in the American theater, that's clear. But while it was happening somehow there was never any money/time/energy for any work in these areas. Why? Because the American theater culture doesn't value artists. It doesn't value people. Until we work for change within that culture, change is impossible.
And may I say: the topic, "why can't The Rep hire more local actors?" is ALWAYS an excellent question, and one that regional theaters rarely have a good answer for.
So no, you’re right, despite some successes we’re “still not creating a sustained ongoing ensemble of artists or providing any kind of security or stability”…but our doors our open, we have less than 1% debt, we are slowly becoming more stable, we’ve vastly improved the staff and artist workplace conditions…and, at least for the near future, we won’t be the next Mill Mountain or Madison Rep or Coconut Grove or Jeune Lune or North Shore Music Theatre or…(keep filling in blanks). Right now, in this environment, there are just many more moving parts to address. Sorry.
It's nice to have the failure of regional theater to achieve what it set out to do actually acknowledged, and if more ADs did this, we'd start moving in the right direction.
The excuse doesn't wash, though—we have to make these issues a priority NOW, because they've been ignored too long, to everyone's loss.
I know how to preserve jobs for actors: stay open.
That's true, but only in the smallest way. We have to think larger than this: it's not enough to simply survive, and retrench year after year. If we do that, little by little our theatrical ecosystem is worn away by brain drain, talent drain, poverty, and infighting. We need to do more than survive.
And while I’m on the subject of preserving jobs for actors, can I get another thing out of the way…the notion that I disrespect or have contempt for actors. As it happens I just gave an interview around a production that I will be guest directing later this month where I was asked about my “concept” for this particular play. My reply is very like my larger philosophy of the actor’s place within the theatre organization: “a concept is only paper…it is actors that give those ideas life, so they are more than essential. They are the heart and the blood.” Any theatre has but two products: education/community engagement…and the product on stage. THAT’S how important and valued actors are to me personally, and to all of us at ASTC.
I think it's one art: education and community should be interwoven with what is happening on stage, but I get what you are saying.
Mike, this is an easy one: I’ve directed three to six plays every year for about 20 years; I’m sure there are actors with whom you can speak who can either verify or contradict your knee-jerk conclusion after knowing me for all of…one letter. If I have a regret with my job it’s that I don’t get to spend more time in the rehearsal hall actually making art with actors and writers and designers. You cannot be “shocked” (“SHOCKED!”) that an AD would flippantly make a joke about the Equity cot and then conclude my contempt for those artists without whom nothing I write would get performed, and nothing I want for our audiences would ever take shape. If we ever have the opportunity to work together, I would hope you would see my respect and devotion to the actor and their process immediately.
I didn't write those sentences, nor did I cherry-pick them to put that bias on display—you did that yourself.
And just so we're clear about some of my bona fides, my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in acting, and I have been a member of AEA for many years. I will hold my list of the part-time jobs I suffered through so I could practice my craft (waiter, paper delivery, paint mixer, short order cook, car parker, graveyard shift janitor, etc.) next to anyone’s. I pounded the pavement in NYC, headshots in hand, and lived below the poverty line for most of my 20’s. I know what an act of bravery exceptional acting is, and to what lengths actors must go to play the casting game. I appreciate both at a deep level.
That's great, but now you're management, and in the end this is about management and labor. Many times in management/labor disputes management will claim intense fellowship with labor—but when the rubber meets the road, I need to hold management accountable for what they are actually doing, not give them medals for having good intentions.
I feel squeamish comparing actor and staff compensation only because we’re in an industry where everyone seems underpaid; it feels like Depression babies trying to convince the other how bad THEY had it.
We all should feel squeamish about this, because the artists doing the lifting are paid and supported as migrant workers below minimum wage. No one is arguing that staff members in theaters make good money—they don't. They suffer for the art as well. But that doesn't change the lack of commitment that theaters show to artists, and the strength they would take if they created ongoing dedicated relationships with artists whom they put on staff.
Only three of our 13 staff positions are at or above what others in their positions make in like theatres (as per TCG), and ten are below (anywhere between 8-37% less than their counterparts), and it’s taken me years to get them this close to those national averages. ADs at other theatres like ours earn about 24% more than I do.
Sidebar: Mike, why would you allow your play to be produced at a theatre who paid their actors $50 per show? Doesn’t that simply go against everything you believe in relative to “stability, salaries, and health insurance”? Are you not in some way enabling the “boss–field hand” relationship, to use your own analogy?
Everyone at Annex gets paid $50 per show—and by show, I mean the entire production. That includes the playwright, staff members, actors, designers—everyone. So I think I'm probably enabling communism or anarchy more than a master/slave relationship.
I can tell from the myriad blogs this discussions has spawned that it drives actors crazy when I point out that in a small way they enjoy something that most other theatre workers don’t:
I think what's aggravating most people is that you're directly comparing a migrant worker job with deeply unstable, broken employment rates against the much greater stability and respect of staff positions. The "benefits" don't seem so very great in that light. I also don't think people appreciated how you were speaking about artists.
...do most actors earn what they’re worth? No. But they are protected by a union in myriad ways and receive contributions to their pension, unlike any other employees here; that 39% payment on top of their weekly salary is not an insignificant expense. AEA actors can also work about a third of a year and receive health coverage for 12 months (much better than any staff plan). AEA stage managers make more than many on my staff, and for a while some staff here did not earn what AEA actors earned. And not everyone on staff gets annual salaries (some are seasonal), and some, sadly, do not receive health coverage at all.
Once again you're directly comparing an itinerant journeyman field of migrant workers against stable employment within a community. It's a senseless direct comparison.
And speaking of which, you say very confidently that my Marketing, Development and Education Directors have “stability, salaries, and health insurance.” As it happens our Ed Director does not; she’s an actress who gets her insurance…through AEA. Our DD gets her insurance through her husband’s business. Our Company Manager does the same with his wife’s job. Why? Because all of these other health packages are better than the package the theatre can afford.
I think it's GREAT that you've already taken a small step in a direction that I would strongly endorse—you have a working artist on your staff now as the Education Director. It's a small but significant one, and more than many larger theaters have done.
It's unfortunate that your health insurance is so poor—I had assumed you wouldn't have a $4 million dollar fundraising campaign for a new building if you weren't happy with your employees' health insurance.
That’s right Mike: your health insurance is better than anyone’s on my staff, and you have to work 20 weeks to get it.
Just to be clear again: I'm an independent artist in the American theater. I'm not an actor and I don’t get my insurance through AEA.
And at the next staff meeting I’ll remind everyone how stable they are, and how lucky they are to have the not-for-profit salary we provide them. Our Education Director took at 30% pay cut in the last budget process; I took a 5% pay cut. No one got even cost of living raises (AEA actors did). Development is still significantly below TCG which puts us at significant risk; if a person has fundraising or marketing savvy these days they don’t usually work at a nfp. I’ve gone through three development leaders and three Marketing Directors in six years either because they moved on to something that paid much more, or they were incapable of the daunting workload that such a one-person department requires.
This is part of the talent and brain drain I'm talking about in the American theater. If theaters worked with their artists—which does not just mean actors, but includes playwrights, designers, directors and more—and created positions that involved the artists directly they could begin tapping into our talent pool and getting employees that have a reason to make an ongoing commitment to live theater, which would help immensely in keeping us from losing folks over and over again. I see this all over the country.
Sometimes I think about stability in the arts and I think we all picked the wrong profession.
I think all the professionals in the American theater feel that very, very often.
I have moved 40+ times to follow work as an actor, then director, and now Artistic Director. I have moved twice since starting a family; I have three children, each born in a different region of the country. I may have to move again some day if I ever want to earn more than I do now (maybe Joe Dowling will retire and give up his $697,000 salary?) I took a 4/5 cut in pay to go back to school to gain more skills and connections. My first AD position out of school I resigned for what I thought were excruciating work circumstances. I was downsized and artistically homeless after 9/11. I have been in one place for six seasons…and I feel like the luckiest man in the business.
Congratulations on being in a place where you feel lucky—that's great. I think most people's journey through the American theater looks at least this tumultuous, if not more so. I'm fighting to give the artists who are not Artistic Directors a chance to enjoy a small part of the stability you have, and I believe if we can do that, we'll have a stronger and more vibrant theater to show for it.
For example, it is nearly impossible for a working actor in the system today to have even one child. You have three, and you get to be with them as they grow up, and care for them. That seems like a basic human right we should be working toward in the theater for our artists, and yet it is on no institutional radar whatsoever.
Stability and security…are relative, and the grass is not always greener.
That's true...but in this specific case, between staff and artists in the American theater today, it's actually cut and dried.
Part #2: One Quick Response Before the Challenge
My sidebar to American Theatre magazine (which you called a “creepy threat”) was only wondering aloud why AT, a chronicler of the state of regional theatre and, to some degree, dependant on revenues from those same theatres, would so openly champion a person who has built his recent career, in part, on the accusations of regional theatre’s failings. Maybe they want to stir it up a bit, provide matter for debate. They have that right, of course. But AT should also know that we who work so hard to make theatres work resent the notion and are allowed to say so, just as you are allowed to say otherwise. I’m quite sure our checks to TCG over the years have not failed.
I do question AT in other ways too. A quick example: recently four artistic directors from around the Tampa Bay area got together to compare notes; how were we all doing in this economy and were we learning anything that would be helpful to others? You know what we found out? We were all doing really well, and for different reasons. So I thought it might be a worthy idea to tell the story of this one community that seems to be bucking a national trend. I sent it to AT and heard next to nothing. Maybe AT will run that story some day, but this month they’re running with a play about men and rape, the state of the art in Abu Dhabi, and all the professional theatres that have closed recently. And you. I guess our successes are less sexy than our failings. But I’ll keep looking for that good news.
I can't speak for American Theatre magazine, which I've had some pretty serious disagreements with myself—to say the least, we don't always agree. I don't know why they didn't want to run your story—you should ask them directly.
Part #3: THE CHALLENGE
I began to put together the various facts and stats you questioned and/or requested, namely the results of our last audience survey (gender and income breakdown), info on our After Hours series, plenty of thoughts on how a libertarian tip toes through the challenging transitions we have had over the past 24 months (and can still stand upright), and how we raised $4 million. But I thought we might be getting ahead of ourselves.
I don’t discount out of hand your detailed counter offer to my relatively simple challenge, though I’m sure you can appreciate what it means to provide anyone with complete access to files, records, staff, artists, Board, and community.
I appreciate it—it's a big step, a huge one. If you're not prepared to make it, that's your choice, but I wouldn't think you'd expect any kind of a substantive answer from me without data.
Maybe if we were drowning in red ink and needed wholesale reinvention from top to bottom, and maybe if we had the opportunity to lay ourselves bare to a consultant with a long reputation of successful organizational turn arounds…I would be quicker to complete this handshake with you.
So I’m pausing, but only for the moment.
But this pause should in no way preclude you from at least addressing my challenge, even philosophically, before you get the keys to our building:
So your terms now are that I still have to answer all the original questions, without any of my own questions answered?
What the hell. Let me see what I can do.
-Can you at least tell me what salary above the AEA-prescribed scale you think it’s fair for an AD to budget for actors (this year AEA scale for SPT-6 theatres is $357/wk)?
In brief, I think you need to be thinking about creating staff/artist hybrid positions, to some degree similar to what you have already begun in the education department. You currently have two working artists on staff: yourself and the education director. Over time you should extend this to more working artists, making them part of your ensemble, and seeking out extremely talented individuals who are willing to make long-term commitments to your theater.
The question of AEA salary levels is a red herring—I'm looking for much deeper change than this, and so are the artists of the American theater.
-Because you and Mr. Ballard seem to think that by reducing all ticket prices to $15 (or pay-what-you-can…even though we have found that on those nights ticket revenues average only about $9 per ticket), that young people and others will then fill theatres everywhere, I think it’s fair in this challenge to reduce single ticket income by at least 55%, or about $336,000. Can you give me any ideas on how you might make that sum up?
I do believe that ticket price is a huge barrier to larger theatrical attendance, but what theaters can do to change that paradigm varies from community to community and is highly individual. It's backwards to simply hack the ticket price by 55% without changing any of the programming—we're talking about the core assumptions of your theater. Affordable ticket prices grow out of designing for them with that as a goal, and I think changing nothing EXCEPT your ticket price would be a great way to get your ass kicked.
I'd recommend a capital campaign to raise money to create lockboxed endowments to pay for these ensemble artist positions. This insulates your artists against economic shocks, and since they will in time be the backbone of your theater it will help ensure that their salaries don't get shaved down when times are tough.
The system is similar to endowed chairs at colleges, and development directors everywhere have ample examples and models to use in fundraising and structuring—they don't currently do this because it isn't a priority in the American theater. It must be.
-Attached is our organizational chart. This year the cost for 12 full-time staff and 3 part-time staff members is $452,215. I want to know if you see any fat or redundancies in our staff model that might offset the adjustments above.
Actually, if the capital campaign is successful your staff costs will go down year over year, as the endowment will grow to cover them. Instead of playing a zero-sum game where the world is constantly shrinking, your yearly budget will eventually have the room to take on new challenges.
On any of these subjects, if you could, even in the most philosophical way, talk about how you would bridge these chasms or restructure for better workability. If you can then let’s consider your consultancy begun. My promise to you is, if your answers sound like there is a hint of promise worth pursuing (and budget work started Monday, so I’m up for all good suggestions), I will enter into this relationship more, just as you suggested.
The broadest strokes are outlined above, and there are more incremental steps that I think should be taken sooner, which can be implemented within a year to begin the process of change. If we continue to work together I'd evaluate what I determined would be necessary and make recommendations per my original conditions.
Attached is our organizational chart, the TCG salary survey comparing our salaries to all other theatres our size, and last year’s budget complete with all worksheets (strictly an internal document). My hope is that you would keep these as reasonably confidential as I would expect from any consultant.
And let's not get bent out of shape about the nature of budgets. Of course theatre is not commodifiable, but it must be quantifiable; every artistic decision IS a financial decision. The first step in the budgeting process is to identify our dreams for the coming year, and then find a way to support and actualize them. It may be “just business” but it’s one of those processes that make art possible. When it works, it is a kind of art in and of itself; and when great art doesn’t have it, it crashes.
Well said. But the dream itself is not commodifiable, and it must never be—the struggle is to rise above it, not by ignoring the world but by responding to it.
I believe when ticket prices rise and rise we're doing the opposite of fiscal management—we're ignoring the truth of what our culture at large is willing to pay. When we cannot find audiences it is often because we are ignoring what our culture is compelled to witness. We need to dissolve the boundaries between artists and staff so that true theatrical ensembles can thrive.
I'm trying to get the American theater to dream a new dream for itself—a larger one, more inclusive of the people who work within it, that respects their sacrifices and works together for cultural relevancy, dramatic imagination, and the living moment. We all need change, and we need it badly.
And to all in the blogosphere, we are not precious about good and helpful ideas, so if there are any out there…
Thank you Mike.
Producing Artistic Director
American Stage Theatre Company
Mike Daisey Responds to Tampa Bay Artistic Director Todd Olson | DENNIS BAKER LLC:
Many theaters with education departments hire teaching artists. Why don’t they offer them a contract in a show as well to help supplement the little money they are paid as teachers? No one is arguing that a theater does not need a staff, but why continue to separate staff members and artists? If a theater has a couple of actors within their staff, then in theory, they also have a resident acting company. The theater can build seasons around those actors to ensure that they have an acting job year after year and a marketing pitch for audiences to come back and see their favorite actors in different roles. This might not be as sexy as bringing in a company of actors from New York, but I know many talented actors who would love to work consistently in a theater and would be willing to do both staff and artistic jobs. I hope it would be an honor for an artistic director to give an artist health benefits, a consistent paycheck, and a deeper connection to the theater, other staff members and its audience by also having them work in other positions.
I think a major point in HTFA is that people should come first before any theater building. I think this includes the staff. To sustain a theater as artistic director the real job is the care of the people. In this hard economic time budgets are being cut, so how can one look to sustain both staff and artists, by bringing both to the table in multi-faceted roles.
Gawker - Bill Kristol Wins Prize - Bill Kristol:
Good morning! Bill Kristol will receive $250,000 for being an asshole who is always wrong this June.
Kristol, the dumb son of a smart conservative who went crazy, is a lazy thinker, a terrible writer, and, as we mentioned, he has always been completely wrong about everything.
So because there is essentially an extensive and quite well-funded private welfare fund for hacks who get everything wrong, the Bradley Foundation is going to straight-up give him $250,000 for no fucking reason.
In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use - NYTimes.com:
The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?
In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.
This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.
Parabasis: Young Jean Lee in The Nation:
Who says she's leaving theater? It doesn't say that anywhere in the interview -- she implies that not being able to pay people a decent living, and having the dominant institutions in our theater produce or program sentimental dreck that most people don't care much about -- is a recipe for creative brain drain. Would any reasonable person disagree with that?
She's also not kicking theater on the way out the door, she's engaged with it, cares about its future, and is 100% accurate in her criticisms. Speaking personally, the most convincing reason to keep writing plays is so that I'll have a competitive edge as a screenwriter. Does that mean I'm ready to throw the entire art form under the bus, or that I hate it? Not necessarily. Conversely, my desire to go Hollywood has a lot to do with the fact that success there could allow me more freedom as a playwright. But my love of the art has taken something of a back seat to cynicism and practical realities. One can only fight the system for so long before coming to the conclusion that the system might just deserve what it gets -- truth be told, despite the good game that most nonprofits talk, their values are not significantly different from Hollywood's. It's just that there's less money at stake.
As for Ken's comments, alls I can say is, no one ever said this was going to be easy. The average downtown superstar who tours Europe and the USA -- and these are people beloved by the NYT and who have been notable for over a decade -- is $30k a year, no health care or retirement fund. No big deal if you've got a trust fund, but otherwise untenable. The alternative for us working stiffs is to write the American Play (see http://threatqualitypress.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/how-to-write-for-the-theater1.jpg), but if I have to compromise my integrity that much, I'd much much rather be making TV money. I just got hired on a tiny independent film and they're paying me twice the largest commission I've ever made for a play (still not enough to live on in NYC, however).
The Stranger | Slog | Attention Fans of Pop-Culture Tragedy:
Rod Blagojevich has been denied permission to travel to Costa Rica to tunnel through dung on I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!
Report: Iraqi Militia Killing Gay Men with Painful Anal Glue Torture:
"A prominent Iraqi human rights activist says that Iraqi militia have deployed a painful form of torture against homosexuals by closing their anuses using 'Iranian gum.' ... Yina Mohammad told Alarabiya.net that, 'Iraqi militias have deployed an unprecedented form of torture against homosexuals by using a very strong glue that will close their anus.' According to her, the new substance 'is known as the American hum, which is an Iranian-manufactured glue that if applied to the skin, sticks to it and can only be removed by surgery. After they glue the anuses of homosexuals, they give them a drink that causes diarrhea. Since the anus is closed, the diarrhea causes death. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile cellphones in Iraq.'
According to this human rights activist, for the past 3 weeks a crackdown on homosexuals has been going on based on a religious decree that demands their death; dozens have been targeted. She says that the persecution of homosexuals is not confined to the Shiite clerics. Some Sunni leaders have also declared the death penalty for sodomy on satellite channels."
Ad Nauseam: Irena’s Vow gets sneaky | Upstaged | Time Out New York:
What Irena’s Vow is up to now, however, strikes us as indefensible. For some time, the show has been running quotes above its daily ad in The New York Times‘ alphabetical Theater Directory (which, though it looks like editorial content, is actually paid advertising). Here are some sample spots: “GIVE YOURSELF THIS GIFT!—NYTimes.com” (April 10); “BEST PLAY IN YEARS!—NYTimes.com” (April 11); “AN EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCE!—NYTimes.com” (April 15); “SEE THIS SHOW!”—NYTimes.com” (April 16).
The casual reader might conclude that The New York Times had flipped for this show. In fact, however, Charles Isherwood’s actual March 30 Times review called Irena’s Vow “theatrical hokum” that was “efficiently manipulative,” “banal” and “ham-fisted,” noting that this supposedly true story “sometimes feels like bad fiction.” So where do all those rave reviews from nytimes.com comes from?
The “Readers’ Reviews” section, that’s where: anonymous comments from anonymous people on the Times site. Exactly who wrote these raves is anyone’s guess. Take the one from March 29, headlined “Best Play I’ve seen in years”—a sentiment paraphrased into one of the ad quotes above. This reviewer signs himself “georgebraunstei.” Who could that be? Could it, for example, be Hollywood lawyer and sometime producer George G. Braunstein, whose site currently includes a plug for Irena’s Vow, and who collaborated with Dan Gordon on the obscure 1975 movie musical Train Ride to Hollywood? Or is it someone else? Is the Irena’s Vow ad using a quote from a friend of the author, or just a completely anonymous stranger with no established critical experience or credentials whatsoever?
But you said…! | Cambiare Productions:
Mr. Daisey is heavy-handed in his calling out of Mr. Olson’s perceived bias, but it’s hard to not see it in the continued lumping of us vs. them with the line item for artists being on the opposing side.
It’s the first thing that needs to go.
And arts admin’s need to do a self check before they get defensive about it. It’s not a crime to be defensive for the people you work in the office with every day. It’s not terribly unusual that you would side with them against the people that job in every couple of months and walk around like they own the place. But recognize that it happens when we’re talking about business models, or we’re never going to be able to talk about this in rational tones.
Further, and listen closely, American Stage Theatre Company and companies of similar size and larger are not the primary producers of live theatre in the country. For every one of you, there are twenty small independent producers, and fifty community theatres. Maybe we don’t matter to you. Hell maybe you don’t even consider us your colleagues, but we are very real. And when you start listing numbers and programs and acronyms rather than talking about what art you produce? You are proving Mike Daisey’s ACTUAL point, not negating it.
Obama, Bush And The Rule Of Law:
No legal authority in human history would judge the waterboarding of a prisoner 83 or 183 times in one month as anything but torture. If it were done to a US soldier, would Dick Cheney refuse to call it torture? Of course not, although it is telling that no reporter has ever asked him this obvious question directly.
And so it is simply an empirical fact that president Bush broke the law and violated his oath of office by ordering the torture of prisoners.
Note that this wasn't an emergency moment, or a ticking time-bomb scenario. It was a decision to torture made months after the 9/11 attacks and re-asserted years after the 9/11 attack, and set up as a program, with elaborate rules, staffing and bureaucracy, to torture prisoners for the indefinite future.
Now fast-forward to February 2007 when the International Committee of the Red Cross notifies the president of the United States that it believes that his administration has engaged in what was unequivocally torture of prisoners. At that point, the president is required, by law and by treaty, to open an investigation and prosecution of the guilty parties. The president failed to do that, another breach of the law. Moreover, any president privy to that information is required to initiate an investigation and prosecution - or violate the law and the Geneva Conventions.
And so Obama's refusal to investigate war crimes is itself against the law.
Microsoft's recent string of extraordinarily bad ads:
Slate's Farhad Manjoo has already torn into the "laptop hunters" ads, which show people shopping for computers on Microsoft's dime. The big problem with the campaign—other than the revelations that redheaded Lauren, star of one of the ads, is an actress; that she bought a sucky laptop; and that the whole thing might have been scripted and staged—is the central premise, which actively propagates the notion that PCs are a cheap fallback you settle for when you can't quite afford that Mac laptop you crave. The game is given away when 1) Lauren dejectedly observes that she's "just not cool enough to be a Mac person" and 2) a guy named Giampaolo, in a follow-up spot, fondles a Mac notebook as he purrs, "This is soooo sexy."
Those are limbic-level responses. They're the kind of deeply emotional brand associations that a company spends years and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to create. Apple marketing has apparently succeeded so completely that we now see people lusting after Macs even inside Microsoft ads. It would have been wiser for Crispin to edit this stuff out.
Scrappy Jack's World-Wide Theatricals and Dime Museum: good news, true words and the MMMQ:
Last week, Community Board 5 unanimously passed a resolution drafted by its Arts Task Force, under the leadership of David Diamond, calling for City and State Agencies to recognize the value that Small to Mid-Sized Theaters add to the financial and community stability of New York City neighborhoods.
One of a large number of emails I have received today:
I'm shaking with fury over that guy's comments about the Equity cot and taking a break every 80 minutes!
The marketing director can go to the bathroom whenever she wants. She can call her friend. Eat a sandwich. We are under the complete control of the director until the stage manager tells us we can take our break to pee. We can't just walk off the stage to get a tampon. That's why we need to be given breaks.
The cot is primarily for 12 hour tech days and two show days.
And a 34 hour a week doesn't begin to factor in how much time actors have to spend working OUTSIDE the rehearsal room to turn in a remotely decent performance.
Parabasis: Olson Vs. Daisey:
But just for the record: I've spent the last couple of weeks in the rehearsal room of an Off-Broadway show. The artists on that show work six days a week, and yes, they take breaks every eighty minutes (for ten minutes) and they get a one hour lunch if you rehearse more than six hours in a day. Why? because the work they do is quite strenuous physically, vocally, mentally and (i'd argue) spiritually/psychically. Not that working in an office can't be. Hell, I think people working in offices should get overtime (or at least comp time) and have better protections too. But that they don't is no reason to get all resentful of the very people who create the work your organization purportedly exists to make. Of course, one of the ongoing themes of Daisey's advocacy and work lately has been that theatre's increasingly seem to see the making of art as a side project to the ongoing cause of Growing Themselves, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence to bring up.
Theatre Ideas: Feels Like Old Times...:
Mike Daisey has been challenged to a cage match by Todd Olson, AD of the American Stage Theatre Company in Tampa FL. Olson says: balance my budget, wretched actor miscreant; Daisey says: bring it.
Reading Olson's letter reminds me of so many comments I've received over the years on this blog. Olson mispells Daisey's name throughout, clearly hasn't seen or listened to Daisey's performance, and has completely misinterpreted Daisey's central point.
Flowchart of how to write for the American theater:
By Chris Braak at ThreatQuality
The Torturers’ Manifesto - NYTimes.com:
To read the four newly released memos on prisoner interrogation written by George W. Bush’s Justice Department is to take a journey into depravity.
Their language is the precise bureaucratese favored by dungeon masters throughout history. They detail how to fashion a collar for slamming a prisoner against a wall, exactly how many days he can be kept without sleep (11), and what, specifically, he should be told before being locked in a box with an insect — all to stop just short of having a jury decide that these acts violate the laws against torture and abusive treatment of prisoners.
In one of the more nauseating passages, Jay Bybee, then an assistant attorney general and now a federal judge, wrote admiringly about a contraption for waterboarding that would lurch a prisoner upright if he stopped breathing while water was poured over his face. He praised the Central Intelligence Agency for having doctors ready to perform an emergency tracheotomy if necessary.
These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.
Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects - NYTimes.com:
C.I.A. interrogators used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique that top Obama administration officials have described as illegal torture, 266 times on two key prisoners from Al Qaeda, far more than had been previously reported.
Google Book Search settlement gives Google a virtual monopoly over literature - Boing Boing:
The Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers (who took part in the settlement) totally missed the real risk of Google Book Search: they were worried about some notional income from advertising that they might miss out on. But the real risk is that Google could end up as the sole source of ultimate power in book discovery, distribution and sales. As the only legal place where all books can be searched, Google gets enormous market power: the structure of their search algorithm can make bestsellers or banish books to obscurity. The leverage they attain over publishing and authors through this settlement is incalculable.
Op-Ed Columnist - The Bigots’ Last Hurrah - NYTimes.com:
Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.
What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.
Cult author JG Ballard dies at 78:
The author JG Ballard, famed for novels such as Crash and Empire of the Sun, has died aged 78 after a long illness.
Wall Street Not The End-All, Be-All For MBA Grads - Gothamist: New York City News, Food, Arts & Events:
In yet another look at how the financial downturn is changing job prospects, the NY Times reports that suddenly MBA candidates are thinking outside of the Wall Street finance firm box when it comes to post-grad careers. One Wharton student was considering rabbinical school while an NYU Stern student started a show company, "For me, the Wall Street crisis was a blessing in disguise." Harvard Business school said its job postings were down 30%, with a 40% drop from financial firms, plus " 78% of Harvard’s second-year M.B.A. students had job offers, down from 90 percent at this time last year." Another Wharton student is now looking at a job at the State Department, "A lot of my peers, we’re exploring things that we used to not even think of as an option. A finance major who was minoring in music was suddenly looking into opening a jazz club. All of a sudden, I saw that a lot of Wharton people were interesting."
I received an email from Todd Olson, the Producing Artistic Director of American Stage Theatre Company in Tampa Bay, Florida, which appears to be the largest regional theater in its area. Addressed as an "open challenge" to me, he sent it to American Theater magazine. It is by turns passionate, heartfelt, spiteful, ill-informed, and nasty...and I am addressing it openly here.
Why would I do this? Well, I think it's admirable when men and women are passionately moved to fight for the American theater. The whole reason I was driven to create HTFA was the pervasive silence on these issues, so any voice raised is valuable, because I believe there's been too much silence within the theater already. And despite all the hullaballo about HTFA, in truth this is the first time that an artistic director has directly challenged anything I've said in any public forum, so I'm inclined to give it weight.
The terms of the open challenge are that he insists I need to balance his theater's budget for him.
The letter is unaltered except for my responses. The only change that has been made is the correction of my name, which was misspelled throughout.
"Balance My Budget: An Open Challenge to Mike Daisey"
Ironically, Mike Daisey has become a kind of national theatre darling ever since he penned "How Theatre Failed America," a misguided rant inspired by an actress friend of his who had dropped out of the business.
To be clear, it was the premiere and subsequent runs of the monologue HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA that have attracted this attention. The essay, which is actually entitled THE EMPTY SPACES and ran in a Seattle alt-weekly, has been read by a number of people, but the monologue was first and endures far beyond the scope and scale of the short essay.
His article has been reproduced in numerous publications, and he has been a featured performer in places like The Public Theater, Berkeley Rep, Yale Rep, and ART (my alma mater). His notoriety was further advanced when, during one of his performances, an audience member poured water on him as they walked out, interrupting his eloquent waxing about "fucking Paris Hilton." And once that hit YouTube it spread faster than Beyonce's nipple slip at the Oscars.
Water was not poured on me—it was poured on my original outline, destroying it, as can be seen in the clip. That destruction was the principal issue in the event. The scene being interrupted is actually more about using Paris Hilton as a way to describe the excessive narcissism of New York City, but it is also true that it uses the metaphor of fucking her as well. What can I say? I like the collision of high and low culture.
Mike's been a guest on Letterman, NPR, and is a contributor to WIRED, Slate, Salon and others. He was even named "Artist of the year" by the terraNOVA Collective in Soho. And now I see him in American Theatre magazine.
I can't figure out if Daisey's newfound fame comes from the theatre's penchant for punishing itself with guilt, or because producers think their audiences want to see what the fuss was all about, or because Daisey – another in an endless line of one-man shows – is cheap.
Two of these are trashy ad hominem attacks, but one of these rationales is interesting—does the American theater have a penchant for punishing itself with guilt? There's something in this that feels true, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it is because our theaters lean strongly to the left, and so have a degree of schizoid behavior when increasingly they value buildings over artists, and watch their ticket prices rise and rise and cater only to the wealthy. That might make anyone feel guilty.
My question after reading his vision for the future is, "why would the Editors of American Theatre continue to elevate this man who has summarily dismissed and dishonored courageous and noble work done in our nation's regional theatres, and deem him an "inspiring" artist of "vision," declaring that, "Our artistic future...belongs to people like these"?
I would humbly submit that the work in question might not ALWAYS be courageous and noble, and that there might be value in even one artist questioning the system, as previously there was no one within it asking these questions.
Or they may simply like my work from the other monologues. It is hard to say.
That reminds me: American Theatre is a product of TCG, which has been sustained for a quartet century in part by membership and advertising revenues from...regional theatres.
Is this some kind of creepy threat? I mean, wouldn't it be GOOD if TCG actually didn't exist only as the lapdog of the regional theater system? This really sounds like a version of, "...if you know what's good for you, shut up." In light of how often the systemic problems in American theater are met with stonewalled silence, the irony is thick.
Having thus cleared my throat...the prime underpinning of Daisey's theatre universe is classicism and a general ignorance about what it takes to run a professional theatre.
Just so we're clear about some of my bona fides, I've worked as a technical director, managing director, artistic director, and festival producer in my time in a variety of theaters. I've also worked with regional theaters for the last decade, where I've negotiated my own contracts, worked intimately with PR and marketing, and have formed close relations with staff members at theaters at the vast majority of venues I've worked. It's from this background, as an independent theater artist, producer, and "contractor" within many theaters that I've observed the system intimately, from spreadsheets to building capitalization to board politics.
To Mike audiences are "overwhelmingly wealthy" and "practically comatose...docile and easy to handle."
The numbers I have seen nationally, as well as common sense, make it clear that audiences are predominantly white and upper middle class to upper class. They are also aging, and dying off (literally) faster than they can be replaced. If this upsets you, complain to the TCG and NEA national studies, but that is the shape of things on a national level.
All Artistic Directors are "dyed-in-the-wool liberals,"
This one is actually simply true. I'm thinking hard, but I do think every artistic director at every major theater I know would identify that way.
and Board members are persons with whom Artistic Directors make "devil's deals."
To be clear, sometimes AD and the board work together to make a devil's deal. And sometimes it seems like it's the only choice available and can't be refused. That's why they're called devil's deals, you know.
Regional theatres have, Daisey asserts, failed. Failed America. Failed the art. Failed artists. Failed his actress friend.
Don't leave out the rest. I assert that theater has failed America, because we have failed to make it relevant and living in the national consciousness. Every artist shares responsibility for this failure, every technician, everyone who works in the field—we have failed.
But I believe that acknowledging and understanding this failure is the first step to finding a path that works. I believe that when I accept that theater has not succeeded, and that *I* am part of that problem, I can finally begin to actually see things as they are, and work for real change.
I work inside of regional theaters constantly, and many of the artists and administrators I most respect work across the country at many of these institutions. I am complicit in our failure: I'm not a barbarian at the gate, because I already tread the boards across the country. But I know that change is possible.
And American magazine finds him an inspiring visionary.
Evidently, when it comes to anyone who is not an actor, Daisey has known some poor role models.
To be sure, I've known some poor role models who were actors as well. ;)
He thinks theatres have sold their artistic souls only to become bigger and build new buildings for the comfort of their non-artistic paper pushers.
Some of this is actually true, about the souls—but the terrible irony is that the people selling those souls do it with the very best of intentions, hoping to build a stronger institution, but thanks to the corporatization of everything in our culture, and to a large extent the ways that development directors believe money has to be raised, our priorities become terribly skewed. No one believes that staff members in any theaters are luxuriating in comfort—that's ridiculous.
In this sense I guess I'm just the kind of Faustian Artistic Director Mike describes. I run the oldest AEA theatre in Tampa Bay – American Stage Theatre Company – one of two fully AEA theatres in our area. Next month we move into our new building – the first new theatre built for a professional theatre company in the history of Tampa Bay.
If you are serious about your challenge, I will need the full accounting for the budgeting and fundraising of your $4 million dollar fundraising campaign to build the Raymond James Theatre.
Because we're an actor-hating fiefdom? No. Allow me to briefly introduce Mike to ASTC.
We have a budget of $1.45 million and produce 12 months out of the year. We never stop. Our audiences span every income bracket (not "overwhelmingly wealthy")
I'll need accurate and current survey data from your audience base to assess what the economic level of your subscriber base is.
and they enthusiastically support our wide variety of offerings; if they were "practically comatose...docile and easy to handle" then that's news to them and us. I'm more of a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian, and my Trustees are among the most generous and resourceful supporters that any arts organization could hope for.
You're the first libertarian artistic director I've met!
Is it hard at all to square libertarian values like fiscal and operational independence with your decision to sell your existing space to St. Petersburg College and rent the new space from them?
It seems like it'll be a complex deal—I can see what the college gets out of it: two spaces for student shows, space for the Florida Orchestra, and the college gets that all-important grant eligibility to pay for things off the top. You lose the lease, equity, and title on your existing space, and get to rent a new space from the college that has 200 seats instead of 140 seats.
On the other hand, the architectural renderings are attractive—I rather like the lobby. Best of luck with that.
But given the myriad hits that not-for-profit theatres have endured since 9/11 (a period during which Mike has flourished), we have had to work harder (and by "we" I mean all staff members not protected by a union; AEA actors have continued to get 3% raises annually despite decreases in all of our staff salaries, including my own).
It almost sounds like you're comparing people who are paid an annual salary with benefits to itinerant migrant workers who are hired at sub-minimum wage in six week stints, with no promise of any ongoing employment whatsoever. I hope you aren't, because it really wouldn't be terribly logical.
To stay afloat we increased artistic programming by 116%, making more opportunities for actors.
That's great, though the way this is phrased implies that you did more shows, which creates more "opportunity", though without data on how many new roles, and whether the extra programming represents more actual artist hours paid or just an increase in late night and other programming that may not pay. I'd need to know more about exactly how this breaks down.
Sure, we increased ticket prices this year to an average of $33.35...but we also started our "After Hours" series and select "Pay What You Can" performances, all aimed at younger audiences and all costing ticket buyers whatever they wish.
That's great to hear. In any event, you're not creating a sustained ongoing ensemble of artists or providing any kind of security or stability. Don't feel *too* bad—theaters with budgets ten and fifteen times your size aren't doing it either, and it's endemic of the kinds of problems I'm talking about.
Daisey mocks, "Better to revive another August Wilson play and claim to be speaking about race right now"...which is a criticism we don't take lightly, being the only theatre of our size in the country to commit to producing the Wilson Cycle of ten plays over the next decade. Why? Because our theatre sits on a historically fragile racial fault line in St. Petersburg, and devoting a decade to actively courting and dialoguing with an African-American audience is a positive thing for myriad reasons.
First, my comment stands—Wilson is dead, and we can argue about how good and relevant his plays are, but I'd say a more compelling and dangerous project would be a locally generated one about the historically fragile racial fault line in St. Petersburg—now THAT sounds fascinating to me.
But hey, I'm not heartless—if Wilson helps you create a compelling work that touches on something particular to St. Petersburg, good for you.
Inconvenient realities that will never directly touch Daisey (but ones he will nevertheless scorn at just as theatres are forced to make adjustments for) are the fact that ASTC, like so many other theatres, have lost a great deal of state and local funding (we've never enjoyed Federal funding) which has forced us to renew our emphasis on education and community engagement, and reinvigorate our endowment campaign.
I have no idea why you'd think that the difficulties facing theaters wouldn't affect me—I work at them, I do advocacy for and about them, I'm engaged on these issues constantly. My friends and colleagues have been fighting for their lives, and like any calamity it affects everyone: the ones who have made poor choices, and those who have always made great ones.
Because of the blood, sweat and tears of my staff (again read, "not actors") we have nearly doubled our subscriptions and our overall attendance has increased 42%, in large part from young and diverse audiences.
This anti-artist bigotry is getting virulent—"not actors"? The increase of your subscriptions has *nothing* to do with your performers? Or the work in any way?
I'll need to know over what period it increased 42%, and what the hard numbers are, especially as for their composition.
Our Education Department now attracts over $150,000 a year in contributed support for their 20 areas of focus. And during this recession we have raised $4 million for a new theatre, offices, and shop.
Whining about other employees within any professional theatre is misplaced, at best, and at worst, just plain ignorant. It's the structural equivalent of a singer complaining at all the money "wasted" on promoters and roadies.
More bigotry. Apparently, I'll be speaking out of turn if I talk about anyone who works in the theater. What I should be doing is shutting up and sitting in the back of the bus, like a good little actor who can't know nothin' bout nothin'.
I am a professional in the American theater, and my observations and first-hand knowledge is valid and real. What's clear here is that my views can never have weight, nor can my voice be heard, because I'm a performer.
I hate to break it to Mr. Daisey, but if he comes to my theatre he would play to no one without the help of the very same people he accuses of supplanting the actor.
I never accused anyone of "supplanting" the actor. There have always been people doing marketing and PR—and in the best worlds I believe it is when the artists themselves are involved in that process, in an ongoing collaboration, and are interwoven with what is traditionally thought of as "staff" jobs.
Instead what has happened is that roles have been assigned, and the performer has been walled off from other areas, cut down from connecting with the rest of the theater and neutered. This compartamentalization is the currency of the corporatization that has infected most American theater.
I need someone to tell audiences that he's coming; that person is called a Marketing Director. And because Mike's show will return (if we're lucky) about 58 cents on the dollar, I need other people to raise those other 42 cents if I'm to break even; they're called Development Directors.
I know who these people are—I suspect I have had more in-depth discussions with more marketing and development directors over the last few years than you would believe. The state of theater is a central obsession for me, and I pursue my obsessions.
These people don't replace Mike, they insure that Mike has a place to play. They are his team members. And there is an art to fundraising and marketing.
I certainly agree—I've never said otherwise. It doesn't feel like you're a particularly good team member, as you talk a lot of shit about actors with little provocation.
Even gushing Daisey fans like the terraNOVA Collective must concede that only by all staff working together does a theatre thrive. No, they're not actors, but I know Mike knows that it takes more than actors to make a theatre experience. He knows this...right?
I know it extremely well. I question what *YOU* know—your readiness to be divisive, to speak scornfully of artists who sacrifice their economic well being and stability to work in the theater—this is an incredible blindness you've been displaying.
Maybe he's been on stage by himself for so long, he thinks that's it.
With apologies to AEA, when I read Mike's scoff that, "It's not such a bad time to start a career in the theater, provided you don't want to actually make any theater", I had an image of going to my development staff and asking them to take a mandatory ten minute break every 80 minutes? Maybe I could supply the Marketing Director with a little cot by his desk? No wait, I'll tell our Education Director to stop working after she reaches the 34 hour mark else she gets paid overtime. But I digress...
It's shocking that an artistic director would show the level of contempt you have for artists so openly. I will give you this: you are bracingly honest about your bigotry. Most mask this.
You've also taken that quote out of context, but I'll make it simple: all three directors you mention above have stability, salaries, and health insurance. You consider them staff and you treat them with respect.
Based on the way you speak about actors and artists in this letter, you do not treat them with the same level of respect. In a few short paragraphs you have mocked them over and over for the few protections they have, you are derisive, and you don't consider them part of your institution and family.
Can you see the wall that exists between the staff and the actors? Between the performance and the office? It is real in many regional theaters and I can tell, from this simple letter alone, that it is very much a presence at your institution.
Daisey's cheapest shot of all is aimed at education! ("Better to invest in another "educational" youth program, mashing up Shakespeare until it is a thin, lifeless paste that any reasonable person would reject as disgusting, but garners more grant money.") How can he lament the graying of the audiences while at the same time dismissing education...otherwise known as audience development? This is where the logic of his rant gets thin.
It's simple. Education programs are only as good as their implementation. Most are shit. Until there is broad reform, showing bused-in kids 45 minutes of ground up Shakespeare built to fit in a school period is a fucking disaster. It fails on every level, except the one where the grants keep coming in to keep the shitty programs alive.
Who on earth does he think will be around in a generation to see him talk about Paris Hilton?
Oh, there will be people...have no doubt of that. I can perform anywhere, and theater will find a way, even if back on the street.
But will theater be a relevant cultural force in the next century?
THAT is the actual question you need to be asking.
Bottom line: the regional theatre movement for which Daisey whistfully pines...
I don't pine for the old regional theater movement. I'm not advocating a return to the old ways—I'm advocating working toward a new path.
...began a half century or more ago, birthing Seattle Rep, Intiman, ACT, and others that Daisey cites from his days in Seattle. But I want to break it to Mike that what kept them alive for the rest of the last century was the work of Artistic and Managing Directors, General Managers, Development Directors, and yes, an occasional wealthy person.
Yes, they did. They are also the same ones, along with all of us, who sold out the soul of the theater inch by inch, and by trying valiantly to keep it alive have landed us where we are today. Nothing is simple: much that has been done was good, or seemed good at the time. Many times it has been good to buy a building and secure a theater's future. But far more often it has been misguided, inch by inch, until we arrive where we are today.
Basically the same group that made it possible for Mike's last play - The Moon Is A Dead World – to be produced in Seattle last Fall.
That production was at Annex Theater. They are a garage theater in Seattle that pays every artist the princely sum of $50 for each show, regardless of role or staff position, and where all decisions are made in a fascinatingly democractic system of discussion and consensus. They are many things, and are quite awesome, but they have vanishingly little to do with the conventional regional theater.
There's only one way for artists to, as Daisey opines, "create great work and make a vibrant American theater tradition flourish." All they have to do is...create great work. Go.
You're not the first person who has said something like this to me, but the naivete takes my breath away—given your libertarian background, I expected more.
After shitting on the artists again and again in this short letter, you turn around and declare that it is, in fact, up to the ARTISTS. If this were ACTUALLY true, why are the artists drastically underpaid and underrepresented? If this were ACTUALLY true, you and your staff should set about finding some incredibly talented artists and simply hand over the building to them and leave. Since all it takes is the artists, give them the building.
Of course, that isn't true: why? Because it's a TEAM, something you said yourself not four paragraphs earlier but in your bigotry and anger have already forgotten. You will need artists who have greatness, but you will also need technicians of skill, savvy marketing people, informed leadership...and a driven dedication to working together. That's the only way greatness can happen in the theater.
Theaters want excellence and originality. We want stories about events of magnitude told by surprising actors whom we cannot take our eyes off of. Maybe that great work is Daisey's story about "fucking Paris Hilton." Or maybe not. In any case, if stage artists are capable of extraordinary art, then they should go about making it, period. The state of the art is and has always been with the artist.
For you to cavalierly heap it all on the people who receive the least support is pathological and telling.
Finally, here's my challenge to Mr. Daisey: let me give you a copy of this year's budget, and then you tell me three things: 1. what salary above AEA scale should I budget for actors, 2. whom should I fire and what should I cut so I can afford that, and 3. how on earth do I make that balance in this or any economy? Mike is also on record as saying theatres should reduce ticket prices to $15, so he should make sure he reduces all of our ticket revenues by 55%.
Yes, I will do this. Here are my terms:
—You'll invite me to do an assessment of your theater as an independent auditor and contractor.
—You'll open all of your files to me, and allow me complete access to interview your staff, your artists, your community and your board.
—You'll allow me to meet with the board, and make a complete report of both my preliminary and final findings.
—You will back my efforts in good faith, will work with me clearly and expeditiously, and evaluate my recommendations to you and to the Board for changes.
In return, I will:
—Make a thorough assessment of the theater, its current state, its future and its mission.
—Compile a report containing clear and implementable policy changes for consideration.
—Work with staff and the board during this time of transition.
—Continue to serve in an advisory role into the future as needed.
If Mike can balance this one budget, I will hire him to bring his one-man show to ASTC or produce any of his plays. Promise.
But if he can't balance this one budget, then he must forever stop with this silly campaign of bashing regional theatres for "failing America."
There is my open challenge, Mike.
An open challenge is one that more than one participant can take part in.
So I'll challenge you in return: read this response again, from the beginning with an open heart. I am not wrong about your bias, and I am not wrong that you have misjudged me. I care about the theater more than you can know, and you must feel similarly or you would not have dedicated your life to it. Listen to the monologue and understand.
You say the "dream" of theatre "is not quantifiable on any spreadsheet." I say, "the hell it isn't." Artistic Directors have to do it every year.
I know it is hard to hear, but if an artistic director has quantified the dream of theater on a spreadsheet, they are dead already. I am sorry to tell you this, but it is true.
Let me know where I can email one big Excel file, and I look forward to your solutions.
Producing Artistic Director
American Stage Theatre Company
I look forward to working with you. Let me know when we can begin.
Link to Part Two
Wynton Marsalis Goes to Washington | Newsweek Periscope | Newsweek.com:
When someone who thinks about these issues as much as Marsalis does grows so profoundly affected by talking about them, it shows how utterly we fail at discussing culture in America. The champions of the arts speak of them today largely in functional terms: as businesses, or as subjects you teach because they'll make kids more employable. There's no doubt these arguments can be apt—last week in D.C., for example. The day after the speech, Americans for the Arts, the advocacy group that hosts the Hanks lecture, sent Marsalis and the singers Josh Groban and Linda Ronstadt to testify before Congress, and 500 activists to lobby their elected officials. Again and again, they described the arts as revenue- and jobgenerating dynamos. I saw one staffer's eyes widen when he was handed a map of all the arts organizations in his congressman's district.
Yet amid all the demands for better funding for the arts, hardly anybody addresses the graver shortfall, which is for better thinking about the arts. If more people joined Marsalis in calling for "a new American mythology," one that granted greater prominence to the arts because they "demand and deserve that we recognize the life we have lived on this land together," the appropriations would almost certainly follow.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Court jails Pirate Bay founders:
A court in Sweden has jailed four men behind The Pirate Bay (TPB), the world's most high-profile file-sharing website, in a landmark case.
Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde were found guilty of breaking copyright law and were sentenced to a year in jail.
They were also ordered to pay $4.5m (£3m) in damages.
"It's so bizarre that we were convicted at all and it's even more bizarre that we were [convicted] as a team. The court said we were organised. I can't get Gottfrid out of bed in the morning. If you're going to convict us, convict us of disorganised crime.
"We can't pay and we wouldn't pay. Even if I had the money I would rather burn everything I owned, and I wouldn't even give them the ashes."
Torture - Ta-Nehisi Coates:
Mr. Obama condemned what he called a "dark and painful chapter in our history" and said that the interrogation techniques would never be used again. But he also repeated his opposition to a lengthy inquiry into the program, saying that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."
I think this is wrong. More than that I think it's dismissive, silly and bordering on insult to any literate human being. In point of fact "spending our time and energy laying blame for the past" is exactly what the justice system does. By Obama's logic murderers would go free in the streets. The real question is not whether you're going to lay blame for the past, but who your going to lay it on, and for which past. What Obama is really saying in this statement is he won't hold this particular group accountable, for this particular past.
This is a dangerous course because it doesn't simply not "lay blame for the past," it shrugs off arguably the solemn responsibility of safeguarding the future. The price of doing nothing, of not enforcing laws, is the implicit statement that it really is OK to torture, that the most you'll face is a wag of the finger. The concern isn't mere vengeance.
We're headed down to Palm Beach today for MONOPOLY! at the Kravis Center on Thursday and Friday—details are in the sidebar.
Posting will be light, as I'm going commando, with just the phone. I may post photos and desiderata, but I'll be more offline than on through the weekend—call it a working vacation.
Also, the GREAT MIGRATION should be happening in the next few days. Fingers crossed, but if the site looks strange/bizarre/absent, that is the reason for the season.
Fifth RIAA Attorney Tapped For Justice Department - Obama DOJ not quite what copyright reformers hoped for... - dslreports.com:
The Obama Administration this week tapped a fifth RIAA attorney to serve in the Justice Department. Collectively, they've argued for the entertainment industry on a myriad of issues, including the argument that ISPs should be forced to hand over personal information on P2P users without a subpoena. Assuming he adheres to them, Obama's own rules would prohibit these gentlemen from working on issues where they've represented the entertainment industry. Still, the collective thinking that permeates the new Department of RIAA Justice worries those who were hoping for more progressive leadership on issues of copyright.
Orange Crate Art: Pullum on Strunk and White:
"Fifty Years of Stupid Grammar Advice," Geoffrey K. Pullum's recent piece on William Strunk and E.B. White's The Elements of Style, is snarky and sensational enough to appeal to a reader suspicious of a dos-and-don'ts approach to writing. How refreshing to be told — by a grammarian no less — that Strunk and White are "grammatical incompetents," "idiosyncratic bumblers," purveyors of "uninformed bossiness" and "misbegotten rules." Pullum's professional indignation shines in this slightly funny sentence: "Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian."
True enough. But Pullum's take on Strunk and White involves a significant degree of distortion and plain misreading.
PRESS QUESTIONS I JUST ANSWERED, POSTED IN CASE THERE IS ANYONE WHO CARES:
1.) What was the reaction like inside Amazon today? Did your sources give you any insight into the mood?
People were complaining inside that the best explanation PR could come up with is "a glitch", because that just sounds stupid, and leads to paranoid ravings. You pay the PR folks, you'd think they could say something a little more full-bodied than that.
2.) What year did you work at Amazon? What was your title?
I started in customer service and ended in business development--I was there from 1998-2001. Today I'm an author and monologuist who tours the country performing.
3.) Was the problem with a French programmer? Can you illuminate what you think happened?
Someone was editing the category systems inside of Amazon.fr, made an error, and that system is global, so it propagated everywhere. I have no insight as to anyone's nationality, or whether it was a language gap, or anything of that nature.
4.) Will any heads roll over this? What do you think based on working there?
I doubt anything will happen. While embarrassing to the public, it will fade quickly as the changes get reverted. Amazon is no longer the company it once was: it's just an online Wal-Mart. Like any behemoth, there's little accountability inside the bubble.
More interesting is that everyone in publishing entrusts their rankings and status to a single provider. That's the story no one likes thinking about in publishing.
Read more here.
FOX NEWS FAIL
Did I get contacted for this report? Of course not--that would require journalism.
And Mike Daisey, a former Amazon employee who's written about his time working there, said it was the result of an administrator on the French version of Amazon confusing the English words for "adult" and "erotic."
No, I said that it had to do with confusion about which tools to tag categories of books. I have no knowledge if there was a language issue at all.
"That doesn't completely explain why books about straight pornography were unaffected,"
Yes, it does--I listed those codes as an EXAMPLE. I have no idea what categories he or she miscoded, but I am assuming "gay" and "lesbian" were amongst them. I am assuming that, but notice how I state that this is an assumption.
If FOX NEWS had contacted me about this, I could have explained some of it to them.
It's not the end of the world, but it is illuminating how poorly they've researched this. It isn't that complicated a story.
Back Talk: Young Jean Lee:
You have a deal to write a movie for Paramount. What does all this mean for you as a writer?
I worked for two years on The Shipment, and a few thousand people saw it. I don't want to stop doing theater--there is definitely something in the live-performance experience that could never be replaced by film. I was talking to Tim Etchells, from a company called Forced Entertainment in England, who's been doing this since the '80s. I asked him, "How do you become you?" He said, "You just survive. You keep making shows no matter what happens." Everybody of the older generation still making experimental theater today, they are such rock stars because they've weathered so many ups and downs. I'm almost 35, and all my life I've never cared about money at all. I made almost nothing--people can't believe what I live on--and I've never cared. And now I'm almost 35, and suddenly, for the first time, I don't want to be poor. That's how you lose people.
HEADS UP ON AMAZON.COM GAY BLACKLIST HOO-HA:
After hearing from people on the inside at Amazon, I am convinced it was in fact, a "glitch."
Well, more like user error--some idiot editing code for one of the many international versions of Amazon mixed up the difference between "adult" and "erotic" and "sexuality". All the sites are tied together, so editing one affected all for blacklisting, and ta-da, you get the situation.
The CS rep who responded that this was Amazon policy was just confused about what they were talking about, and gave standard boilerplate about porn.
The dumbest part is saying it was a "glitch". A "glitch"? Just say that it was one of your workers making an editing error. Really dumb PR move, that one.
Jonathan Coulton » Blog Archive » Payday:
People often ask me for stats about how much free downloading there is vs. actual sales. I’m sure they are very frustrated when I explain to them, in excruciating detail, how impossible it is to know such a thing. I used to track stats like crazy back when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make a living this way. And it was often depressing - songs like Baby Got Back or Code Monkey would get huge traffic and few sales, and the performance of less successful songs like Drive or Resolutions are best left undiscussed. But somewhere along the way the bottom line started improving, and I became less obsessed with tracking every little thing. Now I sort of think of the whole engine as a special genetically engineered cow who eats music and poops money - I have no idea what’s going on in its gut, and I have the luxury of not really caring that much about the particulars.
Gawker - Why Amazon Can't Just Call Gay Blacklist a 'Glitch' - Amazon fail:
The online bookseller now needs to explain why a temporary glitch "recently" discovered has been affecting gay-themed novels going back to at least early February, when (as we noted previously) former gay stripper Craig Seymour saw the sales ranking on his memoir disappear even as Diablo Cody's stripper memoir retained its sales rank. Seymour complained at the time and eventually resolved the issue, so it's not like Amazon didn't have warnings of the problem before this weekend.
Amazon also needs to explain how said glitch appears to have systemically targeted "hundreds" of gay romance books and autobiographies over the past two days while leaving so many similar straight books alone.
The company will no doubt try to do that without reminding its homophobic customers that it is selling hot man-on-man and woman-on-woman and whoever-on-whoever purple prose for gays to read and do lord knows what else at the same time. Better start working on the statement right now if you hope to put it out anytime next week.
Pulitzer Prize frontrunner: Ruined | Upstaged | Time Out New York:
Ruined is the best of the lot by miles, and yet the most it can hope for is an Obie Award or a nod from the New York Drama Critics Circle. It would seem that MTC is content to program its second-best stuff in its biggest space, possibly because it thinks the subscribers would rather see inoffensive mediocrity than a timely play with teeth.
Of course, we shouldn’t cry too much for Ruined. It will probably get the Pulitzer and is bound to be produced in regional spaces across the country, maybe it will make it to the National Theatre in London. Nevertheless, MTC really dropped the ball with this one. Nottage, director Kate Whoriskey and their astonishing cast deserve better. The production has extended a fourth (yes FOURTH) time, now through May 10.
Check out Mirth and Beauty for more...
Jezebel - Is Date Rape Funny? Seth Rogen Explains It All For You - date rape:
If you're thinking about seeing the light-hearted Seth Rogen comedy Observe & Report, you may want to watch this R-rated trailer first...or maybe not.
You wouldn't know it from watching the commercials playing constantly on TV, but in Observe & Report Ronnie (Seth Rogen) date rapes Brandi (Anna Faris) after taking her out to dinner, and today, bloggers are talking about it.
Woman has developed an imaginary, but useful, third arm - Boing Boing:
After having a stroke, a 64-year-old woman reports that she now has a "pale, milky-white and translucent third arm" that she can use to scratch itchy parts of her body. She also says the limb can't penetrate solid objects.
It is "the first case known to doctors of a person being able to feel, see and deliberately move a limb that doesn't exist." The woman underwent an MRI and when doctors asker her to move her imaginary third limb, her brain responded as if she really had the arm. Her visual cortex activity also indicated that she saw the arm.
The View from a Roofer’s Recession: Interesting Times: Online Only: The New Yorker:
The roofer seemed to take the recession stoically enough—his grandfather had made it through worse. But something else was bothering him. I’d noticed that the couple of times we spoke on the phone he was irritable, snapping that if I missed his seven A.M. call the morning of the job—if my cell phone was switched off or not at hand—he’d have to send his crew somewhere else that day. It turned out that cell phones had become a major headache in his work. Customers called him all the time, expecting him to hear every little complaint even while he was wrestling with a roof hatch. Meanwhile, they were more and more unreliable, not answering their phones, missing scheduled appointments. Even worse: they had no common sense any more. They called him about a leak in the first-floor ceiling—two stories below the roof—without bothering to check the second-floor radiator, which he discovered to be standing in a pool of water. It had all begun in the last couple of years, and it was driving him and every other contractor he knew crazy. They were all noticing the same thing.
“It’s the technology,” the roofer said. “They don’t know how to deal with a human being. They stand there with that text shrug”—he hunched his shoulders, bent his head down, moved from side to side, looking anywhere but at me—“and they go, ‘Ah, ah, um, um,’ and they just mumble. They can’t talk any more.” This inadequacy with physical space and direct interaction was an affliction of the educated, he said—“the more educated, the worse.” His poorer black customers in Bedford-Stuyvesant had no such problem, and he was much happier working on their roofs, but the recession had slowed things down there and these days he was forced to deal almost entirely with the cognitively damaged educated and professional classes.
Manifest Density - have you heard of this Twitter thing?:
But it's been horrifying to watch Twitter evolve into a medium used for important (if not serious) communication. First and foremost, I am appalled by our legislators' embrace of a time-suck communication medium that is necessarily superficial, and (more perniciously) one that is so convincingly fake-democratic while actually just facilitating communication with rich, Apple-computer-owning white people like myself.
Its adoption by the mainstream media has been similarly off-putting. As a cheap and fun SMS interface for media outlets I have no beef with it; as a means of personal marketing for journalists, the pretense and lack of honesty is dismaying (Ezra's diagnosis of their motivations as being grounded in a desire to avoid being left behind by the next blog-like internet trend is dead-on, I think — we should thank god we were spared from a hypothetical David Gregory Tumblr). I'd say the median journotweet is something like "getting ready to sit down for an i/v w @spalin. the lady is a tough cookie!" when in fact it should be closer to "complaining abt blogs in line to pick up kids @ sidwell frnds. no poor people around!"
The medium's been a disaster for some of the better bloggers, too. There are a number of hilarious political writers who've tried to ply their wares in 140 characters or less and in the process ended up making their entire authorial voice sound like a cliche. This is not to say that tweets can't be hilariously funny. But if the medium that made your career is less restrictive, your Twittered communiques may just sound like hacky, "gah!"-filled Jon Stewart imitations. It is an almost unbelievably terrible medium for snark, but no one seems to have noticed.
Mike Daisey, Andre De Shields, Twyla Tharp Set for Atlanta's Alliance Theatre Season:
The Hertz Stage will host the world premiere revue The Second City: Peach Drop, Stop and Roll (November 6-December 13), Ismali Khalidi's new play Tennis in Nablus set in 1939 Palestine (January 29-February 21), and Mike Daisey's newest monologue The Last Cargo Cult, about a religion created by Pacific Islanders (March 19-April 11).
Soundgarden Inadvertently Reunites At Area Cinnabon:
SEATTLE—Members of the popular 1990s grunge band Soundgarden shocked critics and fans alike Tuesday, appearing together publicly for the first time in more than a decade after accidentally running into one another at the Northgate Mall Cinnabon.
The unplanned 15-minute reunion was the result of a number of unrelated events, including lead singer Chris Cornell stopping by the baked-goods franchise to buy a Caramel Pecanbon, drummer Matt Cameron taking a break from shopping at the nearby Banana Republic, bass player Ben Shepherd walking by and noticing his one-time bandmates in the food court, and former guitarist and Cinnabon daytime supervisor Kim Thayil working the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift.
According to those in attendance at the packed fast-food venue, the highlight of the incidental Soundgarden reunion came when the rockers reconciled their differences and teamed up for the first time in years to finish off an order of Cinnabon Stix.
naked capitalism: Quelle Surprise! Bank Stress Tests Producing Expected Results!:
The whole point of this charade exercise was to show the big banks weren't terminal but still needed dough, and I am sure it will prove to be lots of dough before we are done. But they now have the Good Housekeeping seal, so the chump taxpayer can breathe easy that the authorities are taking prudent measures to make sure his money is being shepherded wisely.
If you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.
We said from the beginning the stress tests were a complete sham. Just look at the numbers. 200 examiners for 19 banks? When Citi nearly went under in the early 1990s, it took 160 examiners to go over its US commercial real estate portfolio (and even then then the bodies were deployed against dodgy deals in Texas and the Southwest). This is a garbage in, garbage out exercise. The banks used their own risk models to make the assessment, for instance, the very same risk models that caused this mess. And there was no examination of the underlying loan files.
Robot Viking » Blog Archive » Dave Arneson, 1947-2009:
It was Arneson who teamed up with Gary Gygax in the late 1960s/early 1970s to develop a new type of game that combined elements of medieval war simulations with fantasy storytelling. It’s tempting to say that Arneson brought the “fluff” to D&D, while Gygax was the “crunch,” but that’s really too simplistic. It is safe to say that Arneson’s ideas on storytelling, experience levels and rules flexibility shaped virtually every aspect of the RPG as an industry and an art form. Yet he never achieved the widespread fame that Gygax did, perhaps because his personality wasn’t the kind that drew attention. By most accounts, he was easy-going, good-humored and never took himself too seriously. I’ve always thought of him as the George Harrison of D&D.
HYPERBOLIC BUT DEEPLY FELT TECHNOLOGY RANT
Dear Roger L. Kay of Endpoint Technologies:
I understand you're bought and paid for, and so you don't get to use real logic in your arguments, but you have some severe holes in your "white paper". There are some choice moments:
"Fewer crashes, less clutter, and, as time wore on, fewer viruses."
Really? You're comfortable saying it this way? Doesn't it embarrass you, that for the rest of your life people will see online that Roger L. Kay is so stupid and easily bought that he's comfortable saying Macs have "fewer" viruses when actually it's more like they have NO ACTUAL VIRUSES IN OS X and a vanishingly small number of never encountered in the wild Trojan horses? You're okay that for the rest of your life your name is associated with something even children know is demonstrably false? Does that bother you?
This is my favorite part:
But the Apple fans never stopped to ask themselves, why, then, didn’t Mac take the 98% and Microsoft, the 2%? What was there about the closed, integrated, cool system that made it less lovable to the mighty hoards?
There are lots of conspiracy theories on this subject, but it came down to two factors, really. Apple’s premium pricing strategy and the perhaps-related subsequent loss of breadth in the company’s product offerings, partnerships, and customer base.
OR it is the entrenched MONOPOLY that Microsoft has on the industry--you know, the one they have been CONVICTED FOR ABUSING. REPEATEDLY. But heaven forbid you mention any of that...after all, look who pays you. We can't pretend you're not a dog, lapping up any vomit you find to keep the bills paid. Otherwise you'd be free to write an actual white paper on these topics. You know, with journalism, like you were theoretically practicing in BUSINESS WEEK.
Then there is the great breakdown of the family's costs over five years.
1) Why the fuck is the family getting a MAC PRO instead of an iMac? Oh, that's right--because you're a fucking hack.
2) Where is the family's yearly fees for antivirus software? I don't see that anywhere, you ass.
3) I do see MobileMe for five years. Why? That doesn't make any sense.
4) One to One care? Are you serious?
5) You think a Blu-Ray player from Sony will be $300 in FOUR YEARS? Are you fucking high?
6) Ditto the RAM, Ditto the ATI Radeon.
7) How is there are charge for $70 for Other Software in the Apple column, and NOTHING in the Microsoft column? These people are buying no software for FIVE YEARS on the PC side? NONE? If they have all the software they need today, why the fuck are they buying all these computers?
8) iLife the first time, I get that. iLife upgrade makes no sense--on the PC side they'll be using whatever comes bundled, so they can just stick with the first iLife.
9) When I give the people rational computer choices, it is suddenly $2100 for the Macs and $1750 for the PCs--if you are actually being honest with your numbers, which given what a shit you've been, I doubt. Either way, hardware-wise there's a couple hundred dollar gap, and then PCs pay for antivirus for five years, and the rest of this shit is the same or a few dollars more once I knock off all the crap you trumped up.
I don't know if PCs and Macs are the same price. I do know if you get a Mac you can run Windows at any time, which means you actually get two OSes at if you want them, but I don't know how to value that, or how to value ease of use.
I don't have numbers in front of me...but I'm not writing a WHITE PAPER ON THE SUBJECT. You are, Roger L. Kay, you sack of shit. Is it fun, being bought and sold? It's shits like you that stick in the ass of the technology industry and make it such a loathesome place. I hope you have children, just so they can learn what an enormous tool their father is, and have a chance to do something better with their lives to make up for your assclownery.
If I ever see you in Business Week again it had better be accompanied by a disclaimer that Roger L. Kay of Endpoint Technologies is owned by Microsoft, wholly and completely.
You're a disgrace to journalists. You're a disgrace to analysts.
You fucking hack.
In Warrantless Wiretapping Case, Obama DOJ's New Arguments Are Worse Than Bush's | Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Sad as that is, it's the Department Of Justice's second argument that is the most pernicious. The DOJ claims that the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.
This is a radical assertion that is utterly unprecedented. No one — not the White House, not the Justice Department, not any member of Congress, and not the Bush Administration — has ever interpreted the law this way.
Why Was Jesus Crucified? - A historical perspective:
It's rather clear what St. Paul meant by saying that "the preaching of the cross is foolishness" to most people of his day. As Martin Hengel showed in Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross, Roman-era writers deemed crucifixion the worst imaginable fate, a punishment of unspeakable shamefulness. Celsus, a Roman critic of Christianity, ridiculed Christians for treating as divine someone who had been crucified. A second-century anti-Christian graffito from Rome, well-known among historians who study the time period, depicts a crudely drawn crucified man with a donkey's head; under it stands a human figure, and beneath this is a derisive scrawl: "Alexamenos worships his god."
There was, in short, little to be gained in proclaiming a crucified saviour in that setting in which crucifixion was a grisly reality. Some early Christians tried to avoid reference to Jesus' crucifixion, while others preferred one or another alternate scenario. In one version, in a Christian apocryphal text, the soldiers confuse a bystander with Jesus, crucifying him instead, while Jesus is pictured as laughing at their folly. This idea is likely also reflected later in the Muslim tradition that a person from the crowd was mistakenly crucified as Jesus escaped. Many devout Muslims believe that Jesus was a true prophet, so it is simply inconceivable that God would have allowed him to die such a shameful death. Clearly, at least some early Christians felt the same way.
The dark side of Dubai - Johann Hari, Commentators - The Independent:
One doctor told him he had a year to live; another said it was benign and he'd be okay. But the debts were growing. "Before I came here, I didn't know anything about Dubai law. I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada's or any other liberal democracy's," she says. Nobody told her there is no concept of bankruptcy. If you get into debt and you can't pay, you go to prison.
"When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here. He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let's take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go." So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. The debt remained. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank. If you have any outstanding debts that aren't covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country.
"Suddenly our cards stopped working. We had nothing. We were thrown out of our apartment." Karen can't speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking.
Daniel was arrested and taken away on the day of their eviction. It was six days before she could talk to him. "He told me he was put in a cell with another debtor, a Sri Lankan guy who was only 27, who said he couldn't face the shame to his family. Daniel woke up and the boy had swallowed razor-blades. He banged for help, but nobody came, and the boy died in front of him."
Karen managed to beg from her friends for a few weeks, "but it was so humiliating. I've never lived like this. I worked in the fashion industry. I had my own shops. I've never..." She peters out.
Daniel was sentenced to six months' imprisonment at a trial he couldn't understand. It was in Arabic, and there was no translation. "Now I'm here illegally, too," Karen says I've got no money, nothing. I have to last nine months until he's out, somehow." Looking away, almost paralysed with embarrassment, she asks if I could buy her a meal.
She is not alone. All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars.
Tynan's Anger: The Top 10 Quotes from English-language Drama This Decade: 10-6:
Each month, I will be unrolling a top 10 list regarding English-language drama this decade. This first month starts with the best lines from English-language plays this decade. I have admittedly taken a more mainstream angle on this list, because my aim is to gauge which lines will resonate the loudest for the longest period of time in the future.
“If you let a standing army stand too long...it will find something to do.” – Mike Daisey, If You See Something Say Something.
Mike Daisey’s legacy at this point is still tied to his immensely influential diatribe How Theater Failed America, but with this line, Daisey framed the dangers of the military-industrial complex in a succinct manner better than anyone, be it Eisenhower, Bill Hicks, or Naomi Klein. The first time Daisey used the line, he was describing the Cold War change in the Presidential cabinet from Secretary of War to Secretary of Defense, and the line served to show how the military-industrial complex has created a perpetual need for global conflict over the last 50 years. The second time he used it, he put the words in the mouth of George Washington, which added a universal element to Daisey’s view on history, politics, war, and even theater. Daisey validated that the problems that plague our world today are not that different from what they’ve ever been. That Daisey accomplished this without a proper script only makes this achievement that much more impressive.
‘Survey’ Telephone Calls by Bloomberg Campaign Attack Mayoral Rival - NYTimes.com:
He is comfortably ahead in the polls. He has the vast powers of incumbency at his disposal. He has the backing of the city’s most powerful business interests.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg commissioned a poll last month that spread negative information.
As his campaign sought to overpower any candidate considering challenging him, Mr. Bloomberg commissioned a telephone poll last month that spread derogatory information about Representative Anthony D. Weiner, one of the mayor’s possible rivals in the race.
Obama DOJ invents radical authoritarian theory to defend Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping - Boing Boing:
The Obama administration has filed a brief in EFF's lawsuit against the government for its program of illegal, mass wiretapping of Americans, defending the practice, arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed, endorsing the Bush administration's invented "State Secret" theory, and augmenting it with a new theory, that "the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is "willful disclosure" of the illegally intercepted communications." This brief was not written by Bush cronies left behind by the outgoing administration: this is an invention of the Obama administration.
I don't expect the guy to walk on water, but I'd sure like it if he'd stop wallowing in the mud.
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (April 07, 2009) - The Torture Report:
It's been another huge day of data-gathering in the years-long bid to get to the bottom of the secret and illegal torture program set up by Bush and Cheney as their central tool in the war on Jihadist terrorism. You can download the leaked - and devastating International Committee of the Red Cross report here. You can read about the chilling similarities between the Bush-Cheney techniques and those used by the Soviet gulag here. You can read more details of how doctors were implicated in monitoring and measuring the torture of human beings here. If you need confirmation that this new data is real and dispositive, then go read the partisan right blogs. Their total radio silence tells you something.
But Mark Danner's superb piece, after years of superb reporting, comes to an important conclusion that we should not miss. It is that we need to put all the data on the table - including both the precise techniques and who authorized and perpetrated them and also the alleged intelligence gains from the program. Danner sees why this latter point, which I have also endorsed, is so important. Until we can examine the claims from Cheney et al. that torture saved lives, we will never be able to remove the danger of a president reinstigating torture on the same basis in the future. The GOP is not ashamed of using this as a political weapon. Cheney has all but declared that without torture, America cannot be safe. Gingrich is reiterating that. Rove tried to run the 2006 election on the question of who has the balls to torture terror suspects more brutally. Unless we have clear data that can judge these claims, we cannot dispositively prevent a recurrence.
I should be clear. I oppose all such torture as illegal and criminal and immoral even if tangible intelligence gains were included in the morass of lies and red herrings that we got. But if torture advocates really do insist that America needs to embrace this evil if it is to survive, then we need to see and judge the evidence that they keep pointing to off-stage. We need a real and thorough and definitive investigation. If Cheney is right, he has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. And the Congress should move to withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, withdraw from the UN Torture Treaty, amend domestic law to enshrine torture, and allow future presidents of the United States to torture suspects legally.
More sunlight please. Let us have this debate in full and in detail. And soon - before it is too late.
Celebrity Bravo » Adam Rothenberg:
It seems to me that those people who romanticize New York, worship New York, make beatific our dear Broadway, need some education. That's true. But you can't blame New York for the way non-New York theatre people see New York. The Wal-Marting of the American theater, to the degree it exists, is enabled and celebrated at home.
And look -- one can argue that when an Atlanta theater mounts a play and the play is picked up for New York, that's the Wal-Martization of the American theater, too. Ditto if you have an actor trained outside of New York who then comes to New York and makes it big, Beth Leavel-style. But when a play is mounted successfully in New York and regional houses pick it up, that brings income -- tangible, substantive success -- to playwrights. If you take someone like Steven Dietz, whose plays are always done in Seattle and who lives in Seattle and Austin, I believe -- well, his situation really gives the lie to what Walters calls a lie, for Dietz proves that New York need not always be the center of the Dionysian universe. This lends credence to Mike Daisey's argument that there needs to be far more encouraging of non-New York arts communities to celebrate their own within their own, if you will, and that the temptation to indulge in the hagiography of New York must be resisted -- again, at home. New York isn't to blame for great branding -- non-New York communities are responsible for uncompetitive branding.
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (April 06, 2009) - The View From Your Recession:
We rented, despite the constant drumbeat from friends and family who said renting was "throwing away" money. All the places we liked in DC to buy were too expensive at the time. I did not bother with 401K, as I was unconvinced it was such a great deal everyone was making it out to be. We lived good, but also kept stashing away money in savings account. Three years ago I wiggled my way into being re-located by my company to the largest city in Latin America to open an office. Wife and I jumped at the chance, even though it was a huge risk personally and professionally. My company sent me with little resources, so by necessity, I set up a very cost effective operation. I had no other choice.
Three years later, and my wife and I are still based in same city abroad and are doing better financially than any other time in our lives. We have zero credit card debt. I have job security, because the cost effective operation I set up here is now the "model" my company is using for other international offices as they look to ways to cut costs, as most companies now days. Meanwhile, my two cousins back in the USA who were urging me to buy a home for so many years, have foreclosed on their homes. One declared bankruptcy. All my friends over the years who said I was stupid and throwing money away by not taking part in any 401k plans, have seen their 401k's value crash.
The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means - The New York Review of Books:
It is a testament as much to the peculiarities of the American press—to its "stenographic function" and its institutional unwillingness to report as fact anything disputed, however implausibly, by a high official—that the former vice-president's insistence that these interrogations were undertaken "legally" and "in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles" continues to be reported without contradiction, and that President Bush's oft-repeated assertion that "the United States does not torture" is still respectfully quoted and, in many quarters, taken seriously. That they are so reported is a political fact, and a powerful one. It makes it possible to contend that, however adamant the arguments of the lawyers "on either side," the very fact of their disagreement makes the legality of these procedures a matter of partisan political allegiance, not of law.
Don't be so boring | From the Guardian | The Guardian:
It is time the "serious" theatre learns this lesson. We have to give the audiences what they can't get anywhere else. Debate they can get in a newspaper. Reality - well, they can get that on TV. We can offer them "liveness", but few plays, or productions, take advantage of this. Too many screenplays masquerading as plays and an over-reliance on mixed media have imbued the theatre with a heaviness it's not best suited to. Some may argue that technology is the key to spectacle, but most theatres can't compete with the West End technologically. The spectacle we can offer is the spectacle of imagination in flight. I've heard audiences gasp at turns of plot, at a location conjured by actors, at the shock of a truth being spoken, at the audacity of a moment. There is nothing more magical and nothing - nothing - less boring.
Obama Lawyers Invoke "State Secrets" to Block Warrantless Spying Lawsuit | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet:
It's not the first time Obama's DOJ has employed the tactic often used by the Bush administration used to block accountability for government crimes.
Oops, they did it again: lawyers for Barack Obama's Department of Justice have invoked the "state secrets" privilege to block a lawsuit seeking to reverse one of the most scandalous policies of the Bush administration.
World’s Fastest Broadband at $20 Per Home - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com:
Pretty much the fastest consumer broadband in the world is the 160-megabit-per-second service offered by J:Com, the largest cable company in Japan. Here’s how much the company had to invest to upgrade its network to provide that speed: $20 per home passed.
The cable modem needed for that speed costs about $60, compared with about $30 for the current generation.
By contrast, Verizon is spending an average of $817 per home passed to wire neighborhoods for its FiOS fiber optic network and another $716 for equipment and labor in each home that subscribes, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Company.
So what’s wrong with this picture in the United States? The cable companies, like Comcast and Cablevision, that are moving quickly to install the fast broadband technology, called Docsis 3, are charging as much as $140 a month for 50 Mbps service. Meanwhile other companies, like Time Warner Cable, are moving much more slowly to upgrade.
Competition, or the lack of it, goes a long way to explaining why the fees are higher in the United States. There is less competition in the United States than in many other countries. Broadband already has the highest profit margins of any product cable companies offer. Like any profit-maximizing business would do, they set prices in relation to other providers and market demand rather than based on costs.
The New York Times on the Precipice | vanityfair.com:
Many people are rooting for Arthur Sulzberger, and many people like him. It can be hard to persuade those who know him to talk candidly on the record. For this story, Arthur stuck by his decision to get out of the business of being interviewed, and he also declined to permit his employees to talk to me. Nevertheless, many did. I interviewed dozens of current and former Times reporters, editors, and business managers, as well as industry analysts, academics, and editors and publishers at rival newspapers. Nearly every one of them hopes that Arthur will succeed. Few expect that he can.
Only two years ago the New York Times Company moved into a new skyscraper on Eighth Avenue designed by Renzo Piano. Its façade rises into the clouds like an Olympian column of gray type. Whether owing to hubris or sheer distraction, the erection of a new headquarters often seems to spell trouble for corporations, and many had questioned the wisdom of this investment. The new Times building has now been sold, one more measure to relieve the company’s mounting debt. Eyeing the handsome grove of birch trees planted in its soaring atrium, one reporter told me, “We used to joke about how many trees died for a story. Now we ask, How many stories died for those trees?”
Truth in Irena’s Vow | Upstaged | Time Out New York:
Yesterday I received an anonymous fax, taking me to task for saying that Gordon had invented a major plot point involving the birth of a baby among the hidden Jews: “That’s outrageous as this whole play is A TRUE STORY,” the fax writer insisted. “I would like to personally introduce Adam Feldman to Roman who will be at tonight’s performance with his wife Eva. Roman is the living person—the baby.” The review, the writer continued, “makes it clear that [Feldman] did not really see the play nor did he check his facts.”
I would like to take a moment to respond to this particular charge in case others have any doubts on this point.
Scrappy Jack's World-Wide Theatricals and Dime Museum: today is world theatre day:
Last September, we were surprised by a theatrical revelation: we, who thought that we were living in a safe world, despite wars, genocide, slaughter and torture which certainly exist, but far from us in remote and wild places. We, who were living in security with our money invested in some respectable bank or in some honest trader’s hands in the stock exchange were told that this money did not exist, that it was virtual, a fictitious invention by some economists who were not fictitious at all and neither reliable nor respectable. Everything was just bad theatre, a dark plot in which a few people won a lot and many people lost all. Some politicians from rich countries held secret meetings in which they found some magic solutions. And we, the victims of their decisions, have remained spectators in the last row of the balcony.
Twenty years ago, I staged Racine’s Phèdre in Rio de Janeiro. The stage setting was poor: cow skins on the ground, bamboos around. Before each presentation, I used to say to my actors: “The fiction we created day by day is over. When you cross those bamboos, none of you will have the right to lie. Theatre is the Hidden Truth”.
When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.
An amazing recording of one man attempting to teach Verizon customer service simple math.
SUNfiltered : Fresh culture daily. » Blog Archive » Monologuist Mike Daisey and the last cargo cult:
The talented New York-based monologuist Mike Daisey performs his dark, hilarious work in a format similar to the one perfected by the late Spalding Gray: a spare stage, a simple table, a glass of water, and some notes.
Daisey first gained fame for 21 Dog Years, a book and monologue about his experiences working for Amazon.com during the dot-com boom. (Not long after that, Lorne Michaels considered him for a cast slot on Saturday Night Live, but nothing ultimately came of it.) Daisey’s recent monologues include If You See Something, Say Something, about the cold war and the Department of Homeland Security, and How Theater Failed America, a harsh and controversial critique. He performs regularly around the country and overseas, so make sure you catch him when he’s near you.
Theater - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:
Tanja Liedtke: Construct
On the Boards
This is not a review.
Last August, young choreographer Tanja Liedtke had a case of insomnia. She got up for a 2:00 a.m. walk around her neighborhood in Sydney, Australia, and was struck by a garbage truck. She died alone. Construct, her final work, is a North American premiere and may be your only chance to see Liedtke's choreography. A vigorous piece for three dancers with a score by DJ TR!P, Construct is a critically celebrated—and apparently funny—piece about a love triangle and the relationship between making a performance and making a home. BRENDAN KILEY
If you've been following the site, you'll know that there's been an interruption in service—due to my service provider selling off my account to another ISP without my consent, things got hairy while I was on the road, and it's taken awhile to get back into the account.
There are no guarantees that normal service will resume soon—we're still in flux here—but I am delighted to be able to post this, especially as I've received a surprising number of emails from folks checking to ensure that I wasn't killed at the tail-end of my two month tour.
Anyway, the sidebar is updated with new gigs in NYC, and more updates will keep coming as soon as we can get them rolling.