Friday, February 29, 2008

#43 Plays « Stuff White People Like:

In spite of plays having minimal sets, no special effects, an intermission, and a higher admission price, white people believe that live theater is essential to any cultured city.

It is not known if white people actually enjoy plays or if they are just victims of massive peer pressure from the 45% of white people who have acted in a play at some point in their life.

The only real advice around this subject is to never accept an invitation from a white person to go see a play.  Often times you will be supporting their friend or cousin and then get stuck with a $45 ticket (at least) and three hours of trying to figure how close you are to the end.
My Dream Of Photographing Lenin With a Fisherman Has Been Realized
Cellphone Makers Have No Idea Why We Hate Their Phones:

Here's a couple of their ridiculous, out-of-touch ideas about how make us happy from a panel at MWC:

One panelist suggested that cellphone makers tap into consumers' "neural networks", while another said they should understand their subliminal needs.


I actually know what a neural network is. But WTF does it have to do with making a phone that's not crappy? This is all BS business-speak, and talking and thinking like that is why makers put out shitty, unintuitive phones. They should make a phone with how real people use phones in mind.
43 | a tad of light above the horizon line
The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan:

"Every so often I just wish that it were a little more of an even playing field but, you know, I play on whatever field is out there."

Is she fucking kidding me? You think it was a level playing field for Nita Lowey as she was bigfooted out of a New York Senate seat for the carpet-bagging former president's wife? You think it was a level playing field when Clinton bullied and cajoled and intimidated every Democrat to back her a year ago? You think it's a level playing field when you deploy a former president to tear down your opponent?

Clinton has more privilege, more clout, more intrinsic unearned advantages in this race than any non-incumbent Democrat in living memory. And still she failed. And still she whines. There are moments when you almost feel pity; and then you realize what a petty shameless narcissist she is.
George Hunka writes over at Superfluities Redux of some confusion over the title HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA.

(I also don't really understand the question involved, that theatre is supposed to serve or fail that bizarre idea of "America" in some way, whatever "America" is, not to mention China, or Australia, or Mozambique, and whether theatre is failing them, too; it scrapes against the intimation that art, by its nature, doesn't possess explicit cultural utility, but touches the individual instead; the idea itself smacks of that curious contemporary Western pragmatism that castrates theatre's possibilities; but I've been obtuse before and will be again.)

I believe the title is perfectly suited to the monologue it accompanies, and I suspect will make sense to Mr. Hunka, but the proof of this is a bit long and will have to wait for another day—there's been enough already this week.

In more urgent news, my best friend had a baby this morning, which means his new daughter is born on that sacred day between worlds that I wrote about in my mailing—I couldn't be more pleased for John and Jenny. I look forward to a long life of very few birthdays (but triumphant ones when they happen!) for this new creature.
Shadowy morning walk
I Write in Brooklyn. Get Over It. :

As you may have heard, all the writers are in Brooklyn these days. It’s the place to be. You’re simply not a writer if you don’t live here. Google “brooklyn writer” and you’ll get, Did you mean: the future of literature as we know it? People are coming in from all over. In fact, the physical act of moving your possessions from Manhattan to Brooklyn is now the equivalent of a two-year M.F.A. program. When you get to the other side, they hand you three Moleskine notebooks and a copy of “Blogging for Dummies.” You’re good to go.
Park Av.
Change the World (Theatreforte):

As for my part. I'm sad about regional theatre. I do think it's broken. No doubt about it. I think my theatre is broken. Our priorities are out of whack. In fact, I kind of think that everything about the theatre, except for the theatre itself kind of sucks.
In my neighborhood:

Hello All,

Leap day is upon us--the rarest day on the calendar, which has no psychic or mythological significance attached to it beyond the need to make all our heavenly accounting books come out balanced. I've always thought that it should mean something, this day that only surfaces occasionally--it should be a night when the walls between worlds are thin, when the fates are shaken loose, when we can hear the rumbling bellows of the afterlife all around us. There should be a celebration, once every four years--masqued balls of exquisite complexity, where no one is allowed to speak, especially not to the lover they bring with them.

Something like that.

It's appropriate that I'm writing to let you know that I have a brand-new monologue that touches on the creepy and arcane, which is opening in Maine, the land of my youth. I'll be in residence at Portland Stage Company creating BARRING THE UNFORESEEN, a show about ghosts, ghost stories and the reasons we tell them, 19th century spiritualism, H.P. Lovecraft and the unspeakable dread lurking under your bed. It plays from March 6th to the 15th, and full details as well as tickets can be found

At the end of the month I will be doing a show in the opposite environment--Orange County, California, which I only know from a hideous television program about its "real housewives". I can only pray some of them come to see MONOPOLY! at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on March 28th and 29th, as I will dedicate my performance to Vicki, who is my favorite for her sassy attitude and obsessive compulsive disorder. Tickets and details can be found

Finally I'll be offering my intensive on storytelling and extemporaneous autobiographical performance on April 5th and 6th. It's a two day workshop and fills up very quickly, so if you're interested in participating contact me right away for details at dilettante at mikedaisey dot com.

Be seeing you,


* * *

Barring the Unforeseen
A New Monologue, Created and Performed by Mike Daisey
Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory

Maine native Mike Daisey returns to his roots in BARRING THE UNFORESEEN, a monologue told from a vast and unknowable northern province called childhood. Woven together from Maine ghost stories, the history of 19th century spiritualism, H.P. Lovecraft, and the unspeakable dread lurking under your bed, Daisey creates a monologue about why we tell ghost stories, and the precious, terrifying gifts they bring us. Unsettling and inquisitive, BARRING THE UNFORESEEN takes a long walk into the dark, on a journey with a daring audience to come back with answers.

"The master of the finest solo performers of his generation."

"Just once, it'd be nice to see Mike Daisey and Garrison Keillor trade places, not so much to hear Keillor's nostalgically mellow take on Daisey's world, but to see Daisey rip the lid off Lake Wobegon and expose its wicked underbelly. Daisey is a mesmerizing performer who spins words into comic and emotional gold, revealing as much about himself as the subjects he is discussing."

"Sharp-witted, passionately delivered talk about matters both small and huge, at once utterly individual and achingly universal."

"Daisey's skill is that he is able to talk about the historical and make it human, the personal and make it universal, so that the listener is both informed and transformed."

"Comic delivery so sharp it draws blood."
The Moon Museum:

Now I find out there was already an entire Moon Museum, with drawings by six leading contemporary artists of the day: Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, Forrest "Frosty" Myers, Claes Oldenburg, and John Chamberlain. The Moon Museum was supposedly installed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 12 mission.

I say supposedly, because NASA has no official record of it; according to Frosty Myers, the artist who initiated the project, the Moon Museum was secretly installed on a hatch on a leg of the Intrepid landing module with the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation after attempts to move the project forward through NASA's official channels were unsuccessful.

Myers revealed the exhibition's existence to the New York Times, which published the story Nov. 22, 1969, two days after the Apollo 12 crew had left the moon--and the Intrepid--and two days before they arrived back on earth.
Histriomastix: By the pricking of my thumb…:

My friend Ian McCulloch played the title role, and he and I worked out a totally amateurish but brutal sword fight in which we nearly murdered each other. Heavy swords, bulky wooden shields, no training, fat blood packs taped in hidden places and lots of fucking awesome fake fighting. (I say "amateurish" but my buddy Ian reminds me that we freakin' rocked a 1988 regional theater competition and walked away with a fight-choreography award.)

Anyway, this is a long, personal preamble to say that I am very familiar with Macbeth, love it, and Rupert Goold's production at BAM (through March 22) is quite, quite excellent. Besides having a rock-solid cast led by the seasoned Patrick Stewart, it is visually and conceptually right-on. It uses a Stalinist framing concept, but lets it drift into metaphor in a lovely, unforced way. And it's actually scary.
Air Force Blocks Access to Many Blogs | Danger Room from

The Air Force is tightening restrictions on which blogs its troops can read, cutting off access to just about any independent site with the word "blog" in its web address. It's the latest move in a larger struggle within the military over the value -- and hazards -- of the sites.  At least one senior Air Force official calls the squeeze so "utterly stupid, it makes me want to scream."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The town at night.
The Final Verdict: A Day Without A Starbucks:

Now that the media at large has had time to reflect upon the important national matter that was Starbucks' closing for three hours for "training," it's time to take a look at the lessons learned. The real purpose of the event: A PR stunt. The media: Played like a violin. Complicit: Us. Did CEO Howard Schultz succeed in finding the company's "soul?" Of course not! It was never there to begin with.
1 In Every 99 Americans Now Behind Bars:

For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 -- one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.
The Afterlight
Leonard Jacobs has written a pointed piece criticizing my essay and what he perceives as "the endless and boring bashing of American Theatre." I'm lumped in with Marsha Norman in his critique, whom I can't speak to at all, so I'll just address some of his points as they pertain to me.

I like Leonard's writing often for its clarity, and near the top he neatly summarizes his issue:

"Everyone who blogs, it seems, seems to have fingers capable of typing all kinds of pissy rants on the American theatre -- regional theatre, I mean -- and everything that is wrong with it. But with the exception of the Zach Mannheimers of the world, I don't see very many people getting off their computer chairs and doing all that much about it."

I'd agree with this—like many things, there are often armchair generals for any field. In fact, it was my dissatisfaction with the state of things that drove me to create

As a monologuist, I look for issues that I'm personally obsessed with that also strike at areas that the culture isn't examining...and after spending the last seven years working in regional theaters around the country, occupying a unique position where our tiny ensemble (performer and director) interface directly with the management, PR, marketing, tech, and artistic departments at these theaters. So far as I can tell very few others do this without being pigeonholed into a role (like actor) where they are shut out of the conversation.

This growing concern for the state of things as I saw them, combined with MANY late-night drinks with actors, staff, board members and artistic directors, as well as TCG conferences, statistic-reading, hard research and emotional stories led me to the piece. So when Leonard rhetorically asks:

"But what is Daisey doing about it?"

I am doing my job as an artist--I am responding within my form to events as I see them, and trying to bring a conversation that is utterly UNKNOWN to audiences and board members out into the light. I think there is inherent worth to that, and I hope that my efforts will rise above dogma and rhetoric to create art that spurs real conversation, especially among people to whom this conversation (as blase as it may be to Leonard, to the point that he's sick of it) is utterly unknown to general audiences, as naturally theaters do their level best to insulate themselves and their board members from anything like it.

What does Leonard think I am doing?

"He's creating more and more one-person shows because he knows he can and does make a living -- however much of a living it is, and I'm quite certain it's not what he ought to be paid -- doing such shows. He even admits as much in his piece."

Yes, Leonard, I do admit that as an artist I make work. I'm a monologuist—that's what I was long before
HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA, and that's what I will be long after that show is memory. I would qualify that while they are technically "one-man shows", they're really monologues—a single voice speaking to an audience, drawing a line of logic and story fully through.

Leonard continues:

"So he despises the nonprofit business model (that has undoubtedly hired him to perform),"

I'm going to have to blow the whistle on this here—this is sloppy. I haven't ever said that I have some issue with the nonprofit business model. I specifically (and I think it's very clear) have an issue with corporations, the fact that corporations have the rights of people, and the effect (corporatization) that this has on organizations ruled by corporations.

I could write a lot here about how I do feel about non-profit and for-profit theater, but that will wait until another time—I'm not an essayist by nature. The long and the short is that I despise the coporatization of American theater, just as I despise the coporatization of American life—and my issues with the regional theater system do not derive from their non-profit status, though many of their internal structures are obviously shaped by that choice of business model.

"he loathes the over-corporatization of the American stage (that undoubtedly paid for many of said performances and their development),"

I'd argue that I loathe the coporatization of the American stage, period—"over" implies that there is a level of corporatization that I would ever be happy with.  ;)

Here we see the Happy Worker charge—since many theaters are corporatized, and I work at some of them, I must approve of their ways and means...I should shut up and be a Happy Worker. This is a Chomsky-esque argument—taken to its logical extreme, I should be living on the side of a mountain in a yurt to ensure that I don't use anything made by a corporation, since I don't approve of their place in our society.

That's bullshit. Some do that—more power to them. Enjoy the yurt. I'm a monologuist and a theater artist, so I need to reach people for my work to exist, and I work in the theaters of America. I work with corporations every day—I pay them to have an internet connection, I pay them for my phone, I receive money from them...they are woven into every part of my life, just as they are in all our lives. I've chosen, as many have, to engage with them, and seek out ways to call them to account in ways large and small.

If I'm uncomfortable with with my relationship with these organizations, and the way theater is run in America, I should probably do something about that. I could start by talking about it. Perhaps even on stage in some way...

...oh. That's right. That's exactly what I'm doing that made Mr. Jacobs question whether I should be speaking at all.

Back to Jacobs:

"and he dismisses with a swat of his all-seeing, all-knowing, all-generalizing hand the efforts of thousands of people who I think frankly do terrific work in regional theatre more often than not"

Here is the second footfall—the I Hate People charge. I have been unrelentingly clear that I am a humanist—I have great and abiding respect for humans of all kinds, especially the ones working throughout the theaters of America. I'm intimately aware of the sacrifices they make, as I have made them, too, and the idea that I am actually decrying them, rather than the corporatized bullshit system that we've all built up around our work is a loathsome accusation I will not waste further words on.

Then Jacobs throws down the gauntlet:

"Here's what I think: STOP PERFORMING IN NONPROFIT VENUES. Will he do that? Will he guarantee that he will never, ever perform in a nonprofit venue of any kind again? How about it? How about putting one's money where one's mouth is."

Ah, the Strawman Comeuppance!

This is the kind of challenge that is really fun to type into a blogger text entry box, but is hard to read later because at a core level it's stupid.

Setting aside that I actually don't have a specific issue with non-profit venues, what Leonard is asking is that I never perform a monologue about changing regional theater at any regional theaters. I think that's hideously dumb—the place where
HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA *most* needs to be performed is at regional theaters.

Okay, let's set that aside. Let's assume Jacobs meant that I should *only* perform
HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA at regional theaters, and no other monologues, as that would be "unclean".

Well, to start with I don't live in a yurt—as I said earlier, I believe in engagement. I work in the American theater, and I believe in it—if I did not believe in the theater, and in communication, I wouldn't be working on this show so hard to bring the ideas and concepts in it to people.

I'm also an artist, and I believe in my work. I believe my work has great value, and is the kind of work that enrichens and deepens the American theater. I will not let the work that I feel is most relevant to audiences today, that routinely pulls younger people to the theaters, be silenced because I am not always comfortable with all the trappings and bullshit of the institutions around it. My work matters. It may sound immodest, but it is the truth.

It does mean I have a large responsibility to keep an eye on what these corporations do, how they treat their audiences, and I feel that I have been trying to discharge that duty—of which this monologue is a part.

Jacobs finishes up with me with this:

"Oh, wait. That's right. He's performing a new piece. Yes, I know. And how nice of the nonprofit Public Theater to help him along. Doesn't anyone find some cognitive dissonance in this?"

There is absolutely no cognitive dissonance. A theater with a history of producing new work is taking a chance producing something that could even be perceived as critical to its own underpinnings. I think that's courageous, and a heartening sign that some are clear-eyed enough to see past fear and ignorance, and have the kind of calm leadership that understands that an informed inquiry into the state of things, backed by the power of art, can be an enriching and ennobling pursuit.

For someone who is ostensibly tired of "bashing" and "complaining", Jacobs is no stranger to using snark. Near the end of the piece, after talking about Marsha Norman and her unrelated issues for a time, he returns to me rhetorically, snidely asking:

"Or maybe we should ask Mike Daisey how to do it better. "

You may, but I wouldn't presume to preach to my peers.

I will say that we have created a model of a tiny ensemble—there are two members, we share all proceeds absolutely communally, and we have forged work that is successful because we are nimble, quick and obsessed with addressing the issues our culture isn't speaking about. I would not recommend it to everyone, but in these dark times it is a model we've made work for ourselves when many others sputter and fail.

Jacobs asks that people
"who launch criticisms should get off their asses and do something about it."

I couldn't agree more.
HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA opens at the Public on April 14th. It will reach people who have never heard these issues before, spark real discussions and lead to more. I will be launching a slate of programs around the run with an eye toward implementable strategies and results. Anyone who wishes to discuss this with me can reach me by email.

Mr. Jacobs, I know you are passionate about such matters—let me know if you're interested in participating.
Red Tail Hawk

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Twentysomething Girls on the Charles Street Stoop -- New York Magazine:

Last summer, two young girls appeared on Charles Street between Bleecker and West 4th Streets. They perched themselves on the front steps of the brownstone at No. 90, and they’ve stayed there, nearly every day, chatting and smoking and playing with their dogs from late morning to early evening, even in the bitter cold. Block residents are used to celebrities—Sarah Jessica and Matthew live there, after all—but they’ve been flummoxed by these new ladies of leisure, who’ve inspired a flurry of intra-block e-mails with titles like “The Girls” that report sightings as late as 4:30 a.m. Few Charles Streeters seem to know who they are or why they’re there.

You can learn a lot by asking. Haley, the brunette, is 23 and from Alabama; blonde Rebecca is 22 and from Pennsylvania. (They declined to provide their last names.) They grew up spending vacations together with their best-friend grandmas before moving to New York last year, basically for kicks. Haley, who dropped out of premed in Alabama, just started English-lit classes at Hunter. “I don’t like to write, but I like grammar,” she says. Rebecca basically does nothing, nor does she know what she wants to do. They share an apartment a few blocks west; their parents paid months of rent in advance. But even in the dead of winter, they prefer the stoop to their living room—although they chafe at their status as block icons. “We’re not into the fame thing,” Haley says. “But this is what we do.”
Millesgården, with gasworks
L Ron Hubbard plagiarized Scientology - Boing Boing:

Evidence that L. Rob Hubbard plagiarised Scientology from a 1934 German book called "Scientologie." The text seems to map to various hoo-haw from the cult's official doctrine, too.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

UPDATE: Comcast paid for people to fill seats at FCC Net Neutrality hearing - Boing Boing:

This is pretty unbelievable--- there was an FCC hearing about Net Neutrality in Harvard yesterday where we had a booth. Comcast was PAYING PEOPLE TO FILL UP SEATS AND CHEER FOR THEM. Tons of folks, including reporters, got turned away. For people that still have a hard time wrapping their heads around what net neutrality is, this about sums up what's happening.

And it's well documented.
Okay, so some folks took issue with my post earlier—the one from the dead of night where I am obviously tired and pissed off.

To people's credit I was treated fairly, and thanks for that. I'm a bit ashamed that I let myself get trolled up like that, but it's been a very emotional, intense time with HTFA and our touring schedule.

I won't take down the old post, because I still do believe in it—I do think there's too much thinky-ness, and too little art in the current conversation. But I certainly could have been less of an asshole about it.
J school girls
Congress v. Clemens | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper:

A Congressional committee has taken the first steps toward asking the Department of Justice to start a criminal investigation into whether Roger Clemens committed perjury during testimony about performance-enhancing drugs, according to three lawyers with knowledge of the matter.

How many Bush administration officials have lied to Congress under oath? Alberto Gonzales gets a pass and Clemens get indicted?
Silence is not always golden
Oh, for fucks sake.


If anyone has some burning need to write about HTFA the show now, before it opens in April, go right the fuck ahead. I already said as much earlier, and I have no idea why you need *my* permission, but you have it. Rock out with your cock out.

No, I was not trying to stifle anyone's inquiry, and no, I wasn't thinking of anyone in particular when I asked people to see the show in April first. Some people give themselves entirely too much credit.


The short, three-show run was nearly sold out before the article hit the stands, and would have sold out in any case—it's a 240 seat house, and had been selling out throughout the run of MONOPOLY! as well. The Stranger asked me to contribute an essay, and then I did.


I've been very clear about what happened last year, and I'll let my previous statements stand for me with regards to my actions, and the actions taken by that group.

Let me address the idea that I should enter a discussion with my "peers".

Bloggers on the internet are not my peers; they may be nice or nasty, brilliant or banal, but this isn't where I find my peers.

My peers in the theater are found in the theater. I find them through our work, and our kindred spirits in that work. And I am a theater artist. And at the end of the day I will spend all I have to make work happen in those spaces, and bring it to the most people possible for whom I can make the deepest possible connection.

I feel strongly that if there's a weakness in the "theatrical blogosphere" it is this—a suffocating emphasis on systems and organization, on sniping and formal language, and little talk of actual theater—of works being produced, of choices that did and did not pan out, of the brutal lessons of the world of the stage.

I'm in a discussion now—it's a discussion with the culture at large, and I wrestle with every tool at my disposal to use theater as a resonant tool to create circumstances where deep conversations can happen about topics that aren't being addressed. I remain an ardent geek, but the web is a cold and empty forgery of human connection...fascinating and compelling, but lacking the depth and richness of the human experience.

I take inspiration from those who contact me online, who share stories and with whom I begin conversations, but the goal always is the theater—the live moment, the spark. There are more than a few theater bloggers who would be well served by stopping their picking and biting one another over syntax and nuance and turn their gaze to the living theater—and then find ways to bring that alive in their writings on the web.

So, no, I will not "really" enter the discussion, not in such a reductive way. Instead I'd invite more bloggers to be my peers by turn their work toward...well, work. Performances. Theater in action. I'd encourage more of them to make more work that shakes up the status quo, and questions the assumptions our culture makes every day...and if the net is a tool to that end, use it.

(I should not feed trolls. I should know better—but I am young at heart.)


This is a very cute illustration.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Smoking ban workaround in bars: Hold "theater nights" - Boing Boing:

The Star Tribune reports that dozens of bars in the Twin Cities are holding "theater nights" and declaring everyone in the bar to be an actor. By law, performers are allowed to smoke during theatrical performances. (The law in California is similar. I once saw Art Spiegelman give his presentation about the history of comic books and he chained-smoked his way through it.)
Yours truly
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
The Commodity | Slog | The Stranger | Seattle's Only Newspaper:

The Greatest American Hero aired between 1981 and 1983:

Despite its short life, the point of the show’s premise has a meaning that radiates back into the deep past (the 19th century) and into the future (the 21st century). What is its potent core, the source of the program’s incredible energy? An American consumer, William Katt, receives from aliens an amazing product: a “power suit.” But immediately after the aliens return to space, the consumer loses the instructions to this amazing product. He himself must now learn how to use the alien product.

For one, the premise of the show turns the alienation that deeply worried classical Marxist thought into a comedy. The worker/consumer literally receives the product from an alien. And because he does not understand how it works, he crashes into buildings, falls from the sky, runs into trees. We laugh at the fate of the clueless consumer. He has no idea what do with his product; it is alien to him.
Slashdot | Do Gamers Enjoy Dying in First-Person-Shooters?:

"Brandon Erickson has an interesting post about an experiment on players' emotional reactions to killing and being killed in a first-person shooters (FPS) with a group of students who played James Bond 007: Nightfire while their facial expressions and physiological activity were tracked and recorded moment-to-moment via electrodes and various other monitoring equipment. The study found that "death of the player's own character...appear[s] to increase some aspects of positive emotion." The authors believe this may result from the temporary "relief from engagement" brought about by character death. "Part of this has to do with the intriguing aesthetic question of precisely how the first-person-shooter represents the player after the moment of death," says Clive Thompson. "This sudden switch in camera angle — from first person to third person — is, in essence, a classic out-of-body experience, of exactly the sort people describe in near-death experiences. And much like real-life near-death experiences, it tends to suffuse me with a curiously zen-like feeling." An abstract of the original article, "The psychophysiology of James Bond: Phasic emotional responses to violent video game events" is available on the web."
Monday morning in the western world
A New Standard For Affordable Theater - June 14, 2007 - The New York Sun:

How's this for a deal?

For less than twice the price of a movie ticket, or dinner and a glass of wine, come see a top-notch production by one of America's most distinguished playwrights. Offer reusable and good through 2011.

This may sound too good to be true, but it's not. The Signature Theatre Company announced yesterday that, thanks to the support of Time Warner and a Signature trustee, Margot Adams, all seats for all scheduled performances through the 2010–2011 season will be $20.

The $20 ticket initiative sets a standard of accessibility that other nonprofit theaters are unlikely to ignore.
Tossed polaroids and Carmen in her underwear.
Dennis Letts - Obituary - New York Times:

Dennis Letts, a retired professor and an actor who made his Broadway debut this season in his son’s acclaimed play “August: Osage County,” died here on Friday. He was 73.

“August: Osage County,” written by Tracy Letts, originated with the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago last summer and opened in New York in December to some of the year’s best reviews. Dennis Letts played an Oklahoma patriarch whose disappearance sparks an acrimonious family reunion.

Mr. Letts, whose cancer was diagnosed in September, was an English professor for 30 years, mostly at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. He performed in community and university stage productions during those years and took up acting as a second career after retiring from teaching. His acting credits include “Where the Heart Is,” the film version of a novel by his wife, Billie Letts; he served as an editor for her novels.

In addition to his wife and his son Tracy, of Chicago, Mr. Letts is survived by his sons Dana, of Wagoner, Okla., and Shawn, of Singapore; and a brother, Ray.

Despite his cancer diagnosis and treatment, he chose to go to New York with “August: Osage County,” performing eight shows a week until very recently.

“You’re talking to a fellow who’s gone from Tishomingo Community Theater to Broadway,” Mr. Letts told The Tulsa World in an interview in November. “That’s quite a step.”
For everybody who thinks Obama is getting only love from the press--check out this crazy push-poll from CNN, of all places...right on their main page this morning:

Monkey Disaster: Oh well hello old friend:

I ate at Applebee's that night. It was packed. In 15 degree below zero weather. If 15 below happened in Seattle, buildings would explode, people would physically shatter apart, newscasts would be nothing but shrieking for 30 minutes straight. This would not be an illogical response or even an incorrect one. Mastering living in Minnesota will involve carrying on with life as if these temperatures are acceptable. That's what I've done with rain most of my life. Okay then.
London bound
The Audacity of Hopelessness - New York Times:

The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.

That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance. But he’s actually not even all that loyal. Mr. Penn, whose operation has billed several million dollars in fees to the Clinton campaign so far, has never given up his day job as chief executive of the public relations behemoth Burson-Marsteller.
His top client there, Microsoft, is simultaneously engaged in a demanding campaign of its own to acquire Yahoo.

Congrats to Diablo Cody on her Oscar win—I haven't seen Juno, but I was a very early reader of her blog (not this one--way long ago. Pre-City Pages, for those who know what that means) and it had been so long that when she won I was startled, because I couldn't connect her name to the blog I used to read. When I did I had an intense vertiginous moment.

Looking in my email archive I see correspondence back when she was first looking for literary agents for her book--I gave her good advice, but judging from her meteoric rise she knows exactly what she's doing.

It's really great to see people do well, especially people as interesting as she is. Looking through recent years it seems like her blogging has faded off as her other work became more consuming, which is understandable...that's when I left off reading her. It's so cool being reintroduced to her in such a novel way.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Worried About Guns? Ban a Campus Musical :

After the Virginia Tech murders a year ago, Yale University banned the use of stage weapons in a student theatrical production — infuriating actors and educators who believed audience members could distinguish drama from real life. After a few days of ridicule, Yale backed down.

A year later, after another gun tragedy, college officials are still trying to figure out how to make their campuses safe — and theater still is a target. A student production of Assassins, the award-winning musical, was to have premiered Thursday night at Arkansas Tech University, but the administration banned it — and permitted a final dress rehearsal Wednesday night (so the cast could experience the play on which students have worked long hours) only on the condition that wooden stage guns were cut in half prior to the event and not used. Assassins is a musical in which the characters are the historic figures who have tried to kill a U.S. president.

Robert C. Brown, Arkansas Tech’s president, issued a statement explaining the decision as follows: “All of us have a healthy respect for the freedom of artistic expression that college theater represents, and all of us agree that out of respect for the families of those victims of the tragedies at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, and from an abundance of caution, it is best at this time not to undertake a campus production that contains the portrayal of graphically violent scenes.”

While faculty members involved in the program declined to comment on their views, others said privately (citing fear of offending administrators) that they viewed the decision as an overreaction and one that sent the wrong message about theater, the role of art, and free expression. The local newspaper reported that the administration was so concerned about the production that reporters were barred from the dress rehearsal.
Nazi-era singer returns to stage:

A 104-year-old Dutch cabaret singer who once performed in Nazi Germany has given a concert in the Netherlands for the first time in four decades.

There were protests and tight security around the theatre in Amersfoort where Johannes Heesters appeared.

Although Heesters insists he never espoused Nazi politics, he performed for Adolf Hitler and visited the Dachau concentration camp.

Correspondents say many Dutch people have never forgiven him.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

R. Winsome: Theatre Failing America:

Daisey's article deals with trends. He talks about how 20 years ago young audiences were being desperately sought after, and how today middle-aged audiences are being just as desperately sought. 20 years ago people might've had the same complaints, but they were complaining about it in a context that i think today's theatre producers would LOVE to have. The situation has continued to get worse, things people complained about and thought were intolerable 20 years ago have come to pass, and worse. The fact that some of us survived it doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Your reader responses are advocating digging in, and adapting to the continuously deteriorating circumstances. That's great. It's noble, beautiful, and for a constantly decreasing number of people, it'll be successful.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not inspired by that. Scratching out a living to get my hands on some sustainable portion of these diminishing returns doesn't sound appealing at all, neither does compromising and accepting theatre as a hobby i can occasionally afford to indulge in. I take my inspiration from people who are doing radically different things, from The Missoula Oblongata and the Nonsense Company. These are people who are resurrecting truly independent, radically anti-capitalist theatre. I also get inspiration from the theatre they're resurrecting. I look to the Living Theatre, to Brecht, and to Grotowski. And I look to the punk rock scene. The Refused and Fugazi. These are only the biggest of a HUGE crowd of musicians who are operating and thriving outside all established music institutions.
The title of the monologue, and subtitle of the essay, is HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA. It's a broad, sweeping title I fully admit and claim—but one of the things it covers well is how the institution of THEATER in AMERICA has FAILED to stand by its artists, and by doing so finds itself rendered increasingly irrelevant. It's also good for talking about how THEATER FAILED to make itself relevant within the social context of my culture, which would be AMERICA.

There are a number of other ways of interpreting the title, which I generally approve of, but let me tell you some titles it is not:


(A Seattle-area media outlet did a point/counterpoint piece with two dim bulbs coming to my show believing this was the premise. As you might imagine, it didn't go very well.)


(A journalist's Q&A was very much along these lines.)


(Au contraire—if I really felt that way, I wouldn't be working to save it, and I'd save myself a lot of aggravation.)

And so forth. If I think of more, I'll post them.
Chambered nautilus
Good article over here about my essay—I'll respond to a couple of his points.


I don't think what I'm talking about is "entitlement"--I'm speaking about a fair wage, security and stability for the very best artists on stage in our country. The monologue delves into this more, but I believe that the current state of affairs is more damaging for theater as a whole than it even is for the actors in it—we're robbing our future, and bankrupting our chances of having a vibrant American theatrical tradition by not giving artists the stability they need.

Certainly there isn't going to be a future where everyone who gets on stage gets a pension, that theater becomes some kind of government subsidy—that's idiotic, insane and so far from the issue today that it's laughable. I'm saying that the very best people, the ones we as a culture and an art form should be supporting the work of, get treated extremely poorly by having to live a gypsy existence with no chance of integrating into any community--and its to all our detriment that things work this way. These artists could and should be the backbone of American theater, and we use them very poorly--it's within them that hope lies.

A lot of the article is interesting, and runs through a lot of familiar scenes from my life in garage theater, though it closes with this unfortunate sentiment:


This is classic: really, what we need most is for the artists to stop whining? Really? It's that much of a problem, the whining?

I saw this a lot in Seattle, on message boards, and from a number of other regional sources around the country: an intense disgust with the "whining" of artists. I believe it comes from a Puritan impulse--people who've been working under hard conditions in the trenches for years and years can become hardened. After all, they never make any money—why should anyone else? They haven't gotten to live in the city they wanted to and do theater--why should the next generation? Why should they have it easy?

The short answer is that we should be making things better for the future. I believe the largest missing element in the American theater is its treatment of the artists—if the actors had stability, they could be ensembles. If we had ensembles we could start winning back some of the losses of the past and forging a new tradition that is living and vibrant and based around humans, as opposed to a tradition based around real estate and subsidized buildings. We owe it to the future and to ourselves to make things better. That is the dream of progress.