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Step one achieved. Representative Wayne Smith rejected the Senate substitute bill.

It now goes to conference committee to reconcile language.


This committee consists of:

Wayne Smith (HARRIS COUNTY) Ph.512.463.0733 office ext.E2.214

Robert Deuell (DISTRICT 2) Ph. 512463.0102 office ext.E1.706
his chief of staff is Don Forse.

Bill Callegari (HARRIS COUNTY) Ph.463-0528 ext. E2.806

Kip Averitt (DISTRICT 22)   (512) 463-0122  office is EXT E1.606


You support the stripping of the Senate language and passage of the Bill as engrossed by the House or tabling of the bill entirely.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Well that was a fun day.

As you may or may not know, my wife Megan is a lighting designer.

just after 10:00 this morning I got a “WHAT. THE. HELL.” IM from here and then a link to the now well traveled JimonLight blog post letting us know that some Texas Lege members were legislating in crayon again. They gerrymander in chalk so it’s no surprise…

Making my wife a vigilante is a bad plan folks.

See…wha..wha..happened was…

The Texas Senate stapled an accidental paradigm shift to a one-pager House Bill written by Rep. Wayne Smith that was attempting to clean up a couple of spots in the Occupations code. The accidental paradigm shift did nothing more than require that:

(a) A person may not perform or offer to perform lighting design services unless the person is:
  (1) licensed as an engineer under this chapter;
  (2) registered as an architect, landscape architect,
       or interior designer under Subtitle B, Title 6; or
  (3) licensed under Chapter 1305.
(b) In this section, "lighting design services" means the preparation of plans and specifications that depict the placement and direction of illumination of mounted or installed lighting fixtures in the interior or exterior of a building, including the specification of bulbs, reflectors, lens, louvers, baffles, and other hardware. The term does not include the preparation of shop drawings or other directions from a manufacturer for the installation or operation of lighting fixtures.

and given the parties that stood for the bill:

Archer, Thomas J.  (Homeowners of Texas, Inc.),  Austin, TX
McKnight, Peyton  (TCEC),  Austin, TX
Rocha, Susan  (City of San Antonio),  San Antonio, TX
Schulle, Jr., Gerhardt  (Texas Soc. of Prof. Engineers),  Austin, TX
Dick, Alexis  (Texas Department of Insurance),  Austin, TX

The bill is a CYA liability deal. Only it was written in crayon by people who never go to the theatre, so it really did inadvertently outlaw the rogue practice of hanging and pointing lights by unregistered humans.

But @JimonLight got folks moving and we had over a hundred calls in to Rep. Smith and something similar to Senator Averitt.

They are both very tired of hearing from us. According to Representative Smith’s office he will attempt to strip the Senate amendment tomorrow. We will keep an eye on that. If he can strip it completely we win.

If he can’t it may go to conference committee. They may be able to fix it then, we will need to get on the conference committee members as soon as we know who they are, we’ll get you that information.

If the language remains unchanged and goes to the Governor’s desk we have the hail mary, and we need to nail it. If the language passes reconciliation and/or conference committee then it’s on to Governor Perry.

I suggest a timed assault nationally on the Governor’s phone bank – everyone dialing in at noon on Friday. For the truly diligent I would also try to get Ed Robertson, the Governor’s advisor for Texas Commission on the Arts, on the line.

The first action step is to call your own Texas reps tomorrow. In Travis County: Dawnna Dukes, Eddie Rodriguez, Eliot Naishtat, Valinda Bolton, Donna Howard, and Mark Strama. The more people that know that this isn’t just a syntax cleanup formality the better.

If you aren’t in Texas feel free to call the Governor’s Office at
512–463-1782 or fax at 512-463-1849.

Be polite. The people on the phone didn’t do anything to you.

And please do us all one more favor.
I know how easy it is to throw out a twitter post, or blog screed. But do your research first, and read your sources all the way to the bottom. There was a lot of misinformation today, and it didn’t help. So let’s stop the funerals for the industry until they’ve actually accomplished something.

The first flare on this went up on JimonLight went up 30 hours ago. We got the boots on the ground and on the line and have some traction. Talking about the lasting effects as if it’s done distracts and discourages.

Save the snark for the beer after we beat this idiocy back in the box.

Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa

My fantasy team has forgotten how to hit.
As they never could pitch, this is a tough week for me, and I’m going to take my faux-sport frustrations out on this Windows Live Writer box. Theatre: baseball style.

Minor League.

Less than. Incomplete. On your way up, or down, or out.

It has a uniquely negative connotation that sort of sums up how the City-States treat the provinces in just about every field now.

Branch Rickey broke it all. Oh sure, blah blah blah Jackie Robinson, colour line, ripple effect on American race relations… Barack Obama. Mr. Rickey was, as Billy Beane would do generations later, simply leveraging undervalued markets, which is what he had been doing all his career.

In the Good Old Days minor league meant smaller, not lesser. Playing in the Pacific Coast League or the American Association didn’t mean you couldn’t play for the Yankees, you just didn’t. Babe Ruth didn’t get ‘called up’ from the Baltimore Orioles to ‘begin’ his career with the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles needed the money and sold him. The same thing with Joe Dimaggio and the Seals. There was good money and considerable local fame for a fella playing in a smaller professional league in the pre-24-hour news era.

The American and National leagues signed players… and so did the other leagues. The top two leagues had more money which tilted the talent pool in their direction, but it was a trickle not tidal.

Then Branch Rickey, general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, signed… well he signed everyone. If he heard of a guy somewhere who could throw pretty hard, or a farmers kid who was knocking ‘titantic clouts’ (oh purple prose I miss you) he tossed them a contract, a trinket, and a ticket. He negotiated affiliate deals with teams all over the South and stashed all of his players to develop them while already under contract, saving himself thousands in rapidly escalation purchase costs.

And the “farm system” was born, and the identities of those minor league teams evaporated. See, you no longer were a proud Arkansas Traveler, you were a future Cardinal. In a thousand $25 strokes Branch Rickey killed off possible competitor leagues and locked up thousands of ‘prospects’, ushering in monopolistic industrialized baseball.

Lo, and we ended up right in the middle of Scott Walters’ wheelhouse (never groove him anything middle-in).

The theatre I make is backed by less money. The talent I work with isn’t drawn from a national pool. I’m never going to be on the cover of American Theatre. But the theatre I make isn’t less than.

The baseball talent filter is well-financed, broad-reaching and highly refined (no matter how often Albert Pujolses or Mike Piazza’s slip through the cracks).  Theatre’s talent filter is passive and arrogant. “I have the money, they’ll come to me,  I’ll take the cream and stash the rest at Starbucks until I need them”.

There’s a Waltersian rant about the evils of the industrialization of art, but this isn’t the time or place. Let’s distill it down to the thesis:

Industrialization is ALWAYS a wasteful process.
In theatre our raw materials are people.
Those people waiting tables in New York, providing casting directors one more alternative look, with enough talent to be ‘starting’ elsewhere?
That’s wasted raw material.
That’s hurting theatre.

Theatre isn’t baseball. (Theatre got it’s runtimes under 4 hours except for Forced Entertainment) Theatre needs all hands on deck. But there is no interest by the people in the filed to develop others. The machine in New York needs the best player available, they are pushing a product, and they need platinum to make it.


So mail order it.

Give me back all of the talent Austin has bled to 3-in-a-studios in Dumbo and I’ll let them share a three-bedroom in the Arboretum and give them REAL stage time. I will challenge them to think, and create, and to own stages. I will push them to develop confidence in the ability they have, and be honest with what they lack.

And we will knock the socks off of these poor Austin audiences.

Because those performers will be proud to be here, proud to be working these stages, and if you don’t think that makes a difference… and then when you need someone for a part, or you need an entire show, there will be an entire vibrant ecosystem to choose from. Actors who weren’t developed in poorly attended showcases, but rather in fully developed works with real live humans watching will be ready to come play for you.

Smaller towns, yes, but not ‘minor league’

As for me? I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. New York doesn’t need anything I have to offer, and vice versa.

And today? Today, a list of what some critics think was the best recent theatre work in Austin came out. I am proud to call many of those people my friends, and I am proud as hell of the work that went on in this city last year. And this year, and this week. All for almost no money.

All for the love of the game.

A Change is Gonna Come

Leonard Jacobs in the ever invaluable Clyde Fitch report on Monday noted that with a return to simply anemic (rather than starvation) funding for the NEA that the Big Boys might be able to forestall the model change that Mr. Daisey and the head of the galumphing horde has been calling for.

Mr. Jacobs is, of course, right. An increase in funding will perpetuate the status quo. So what?

The change that Mr. Daisey was calling for was never going to come from the entrenched seats of power. In every situation self perpetuates self. Colleges feed aspiring regional/Broadway performers to the regionals and Broadway, and in a few years everyone not earning enough to have kids on (who stuck with it) returns to claim their trophy tenure track position.

And you know what? That has its place. Honestly. They make theatre that a lot of people like, and a lot of people make a living that way – Not enough people, and not enough money, in not the right places by my reckoning. But I am quite literally nowhere near a regional theatre. You can even check Scott’s map. It’s true.

Look, the revolution was always going to be grassroots that’s the only way revolution ever is. Kings don’t throw themselves out of windows because patriarchal succession is a load of crap… they have help.

Stop trying to force other people into the model you want to see.
Create the model you want to see.
Create the artist focused model you cry out for.
Support others who are doing it.

99Seats called out for his practical revolution in a widely shared post, and I was sort of puzzled as to the acclaim because…

Isn’t that what the storefront and indie groups are already doing?

The only difference is the money and the money will come. Success breeds attention breeds respect breeds financial support.

But what choice will you make when that moment comes? Will you cash it in for better board members and a yearly executive salary? Or will you dance with who brung ya?

Further to offending the Audience

We’ve talked a little bit of late around the idea of offending the audience. Whether it has a place, whether it’s indeed the goal of the performing arts.

I stayed out of that debate, because honestly… that’s not the theatre I’m making right now and taking a stand on something that far from my current reality is the perfect recipe for my typey-fingers writing checks my body can’t cash….

But that is not the case for friends-of-Cambiare Nova Arts of Houston. They push boundaries and buttons as a matter of course, and with their production of the opera Edalat Square to open the Opera Vista Festival on the 21st of May, they got pushback.

Edalat Square, one of the winner’s of last years festival,  “…by Atlanta-based composer R. Timothy Brady, the opera  recounts the true story of Mahmoud Asgari, 17, and Ayaz Marhoni, 16, who were hanged in Iran in 2005 for the crime of lavaat, or sex between two men. Brady was inspired by the story to craft a poetic work that offers an unblinking look at bigotry, but is also prayerful and mystical, said Viswa Subbaraman, artistic director and co-founder of Opera Vista.”

On May 5th, the artistic directors of Nova Arts received the following anonymous, hand-stenciled letter AT THEIR HOME:


“You are pigs to mix Islam with gays. You must stop! We will not let you do it.”

THAT is an offended (non) audience.

This won’t of course garner the attention that Ms. Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children did. It is a small production outside of the theatre capitals, and not written by modern theatre royalty, but when you bellow that “they would never DARE write this about Islam”, they would. They do. And then they produce their art in the face of personal, and very real threats.

You not hearing about something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Tell your friends.

(press release)

A Cranky Houseguest

I partook in Grapes of Wrath as my first offering at the Zachary Scott Theatre here in Austin as it barrels on toward summer unapologetically, and I come away with two things:

The tyranny of heightened expectations, and the rules for Standing Ovations.

I paid $40 for the ticket, and another $7.50 because Zach cuts off their internet sales at some point before 3:00 day of show and I had to spend 90 second talking to box office staff.

For $47.50 I expect a lot. I expect polished finished sets, and a little flash. I expect moderately comfortable accommodations. I expect consistent great performances. And all things told? The set was clean and appropriate, and I always love rain on stage. The actual accommodations weren’t bad, though the people traffic wasn’t my favorite.

But the performances were uneven, and for half a day’s take home (and three times what I charge) I want my ass kicked. Make no mistake, there was greatness on stage last night. Janelle Buchanon Jarret Mallon, and Marc Pouhe were everything I love in performance. And the musical choices, performances, and singing were top notch.

But there was a tad too much hee haw for me in what is at its core a funeral march. Not that it can’t have it’s lighter moments of course. Not that it doesn’t NEED it’s lighter moments. For me those lighter moments shouldn’t equal slapstick with a play that has this tone.

And you know what? I’m being unfair. I liked the show. I had a good time.  But I paid a lot for my ticket, and I want the moon.

And of course the audience stood at the end.

The “inflated A” of the theatre world.

Look. I stand because I have to. Because I have no choice. Because something intangible reached down, latched on just below my heart and dragged me to my feet.

If I stand at your show? I’m not being polite. Applauding is polite. Standing is (or should be) the 30% tip of the performance world.

I ain’t clapping because your famous and making an entrance, and I ain’t standing because I paid $50 ( or $100 or $200) for my ticket.

You want a standing ovation from me? Knock it out of the park.