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Walking the Talk

There is a guideline/rule/rubric/something I heard this one time about never responding to your critics. Or maybe it was never respond to your critics publically or some such…

I’m mostly well behaved about such things.

But I want to point anyone who knows the formentors of rebellion who sic their fans and subscribers on someone who doesn’t like a show to what a grown up response looks like.

Mr. Don Hall and his 5-Ring WNEP production The (edward) Hopper Project have gone before the review stand and while you might assume that you can guess Mr. Hall’s stance, would it really be Don Hall if you could?

No it would not.

So if you would please take a look at Mr. Hall’s dialogue with the critics after each review, rather what I would like to believe the bar would be like after the show.

And if you know someone at the Huntington feel free to point them there as well.

Quick thoughts on Outrageous Fortune

I’m not through Part One yet, but I really need to jot thoughts as I go or I’m just going to lose it all.

  1. AD’s honestly believe that there are no good plays anymore. Because of course Really Good Play means Tartuffe.It is really not clear to ADs at major shops who have been running Shakespeare, Moliere, Shakespeare, Chekov, O’Neill for a decade that reading a new unproduced play isn’t going to have the same effect on them, not because it isn’t good, but because:

    A.) You’ve only been working with Hall of Fame scripts distilled by 500 years of production winnowing the field

    B.) You’re older, more experienced, more broadly read and you’re not going to be as easily impressed as you were when you were 22.

    Baseball metaphor: hitters will always tell you that Old Ace Pitcher was the fastest ever, much faster than Young Flamethrower. Because of course he was 19 and seeing Big League fastballs for the first time out of the hand of Old Ace Pitcher and seeing Young Flamethrower’s work after 20 years of seeing Big League fastballs.

    To paraphrase Bill James: The real level of the Really Good Play is not Hamlet or a Doll’s House and never has been.

  2. The book’s opening paragraph’s outline the Utopia found by Chekhov, Brecht, O’Neil, Churchill, August Wilson, Odets and Shakespeare, and Moliere – all writers for the ages who were lovingly tended by theatre’s eager to receive their work…
    Except of course that they were writing members of a group, not Monks on a retreat who returned from the mountain tops wreathed in glory to deliver the Next Work.No one is arguing that groups that develop a work begun by a singular voice can’t work… they’re arguing that they’re broke. Well, not arguing – stating.  What they are also stating is that major nonprofits aren’t doing that. I think that’s a pretty unassailable position.
  3. Everyone wants a comfortable job at a comfortable salary at a nurturing artistic home. And a unicorn. Too bad.That aside, the burrowing of our writers from high school to undergrad to grad to laboratory to internship to retreat to incubator is naturally going to lead to disconnected abstract plays. They are disconnected from reality, living inside a bubble of craft, only talking to other theatremakers and primarily only other writers. To be crass? Inbreeding leads to retardation.(Preemptive rebuttal: the fact the YOU Intrepid Wordsmith haven’t Done That doesn’t invalidate my premise… you are not the entire world snowflake)

    Live life in this world and you’ll be able to write about it.
    My favorite current example of the real world leading to good craft is smaller by Malachy Walsh. His experiences inform the subject and round the characters but never supersede his craft in the creation.

More as I wade through the heartache.

Fences and Walls

I wrote a glorious, witty, self-serving piece about the need for big tent tolerance in both religion and theatre.

Oh my god it was bad. As Treplev says in the the Nina Variations (by Steven Dietz – buy now), “Nothing makes an audience run from the room faster then the phrase, ‘I had a dream…’, except perhaps for this phrase, ‘When I was a young boy…’”

You need my personal history like you need a panel of rabies shots.

The summary line of that post was: Some people like musicals, light comedy, Sarah Kane, Shakespeare, and improv. Stop complaining that X Style/Production is Killing theatre.

It’s not.
You just think it’s stupid.
They mean different things.

Let’s push things forward

That all rattling in my head: religion, and theatre, and the resilience of both remind me of when I was a young boy…

All right I wasn’t, I was like 25 but whatever.

I had one of those Discussions. The kind of Discussion that for me only happens on the Beach or at Diners (or in this case both) about Humankind’s desperate need to define and label and create boundaries for themselves. I belong to this fraction of this fraction of this fraction of the group of people who live in this city/state/country and this is what that Means. We create as small a niche for ourselves in this limitless universe as we can to keep ourselves sane.

Then from the beginning of time we created stories to explain why we were in those niches. Oh we love stories.

And religion gave birth to theatre, and campfires gave way to the public square (of whatever size) to the airwaves but the stories and our need for them never change.

It occurs to me that the reliance of religion on narrative is exactly why there is no significant Right Wing Theatre. Religion fills the narrative needs of bulk of American Conservatives. In many instances with higher budgets and better production values than Off-Wherever Indie theatre.

And for those who aren’t looking for personal but rather group narrative we have the political and athletics realms.


Theatre isn’t going to ever die.
SYSTEMS die. Not forms.
The narratives we weave, and the reflections of ourselves that we crave will never go disappear.

We need to stop reacting out of anger and fear at every turn.
We’re storytellers. On the stage, at the pub, by the campfire, in our living rooms, we will continue to be storytellers.

I’m not saying there aren’t challenges. But the challenges aren’t TO THE VERY FABRIC OF THEATRE ITSELF. The challenges are (in my case) producing the theatre I want to in the style I want to without risking my own money. In many cases it’s a challenge to Have a Career in Theatre. Or to Make Money at This.

Those are real challenges and deserve talking about. But choose your words. How you define your challenges becomes the walls of your world. Make it personal.
Which is exactly what your success will be when you achieve it.

What is your Challenge?

On the walls of the day
In the shade of the sun
We wrote down
Another vision of us
We are the challengers of
The unknown

Challengers – The New Pornographers

Bottled Lightning(tm)

It seems in the aftermath of Diversity Weekend and the subsequent release of Outrageous Fortune that the fog of war has lifted and the folks are seeing the enormity of the problems in front of us.

Of course the problems that face theatre are insurmountable.

T’was ever thus.

We are trying to perform communal alchemic creation in a hastily pasted on corporate structure. We have no funding mechanism that doesn’t involve the kindness of strangers and a talent base that pays lipservice to the good of the artform while silently chafing that they’re not paid on the level of their similarly educated (less romantic) peers. We have no economies of scale, no national infrastructure, no global networking, no buzzwords of any sort to alleviate the problems.

Reflecting on it doesn’t change it. With no disrespect meant, maybe that’s what happens when you’re inside a system and see the cliffs?

There is no system in the wild. Out here in the provinces we just make theatre. It may not be diverse enough, it may not feature enough women, but it’s pretty high quality and getting better all the time… and efficiently produced as hell.

Pride in indie theatre aside, I have long felt that the entrepreneurial model is a bad idea for theatre. We are forced to it because that’s the language our funders speak so we organize that way.

Theatres should be dealt with as record labels and producing groups like bands. Bands meant to be transitory until you find the true connection and labels to be counted on for a style.

The idea that theatre companies are just like any mini-mart (small businesses with small but measurable ecomnomic effects) is patently ridiculous. Theatremaking is as alchemic as any act of creation. It’s chemistry in four dimensions. Every chemical reaction has a limited effect. One of the components will be consumed by the process and the process will end. Of course we expect the theatremaking to continue just the same, because there are budgets and structures and mouths to feed.

And then we question why exactly theaters fall apart, or slide off mission, or stop taking risks, or any number of things that we expect other theatres to manage to do what we can’t ourselves.

Of course these problems are insurmountable, they are built into the system… But we get up and we keep trying because we need to make theatre. Not for Theatre’s sake, for ours. Theatre was here when we showed up and will be here long after we’re gone. Theatre will die the day after Religion. Stop trying to save Theatre and just make the theatre you think needs making.

Happy Anniversary to Us

Two years ago on another windy and cold First Night in Austin Cambiare Productions was born under the 1st Street Bridge.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel like a million years ago.

I’d be lying if I hadn’t claimed more than once that this company was three years old. I wasn’t lying it’s just… that was a REALLY long time ago.

Since that time we produced one final show with Gobotrick Theatre Company, Will produced and I performed in (20% of) a five play cycle of Manuel Zarate’s work, I got married, we presented a reading of Seven Jewish Children, and we wrote and produced Orestes. And then took the rest of 2009 off.

We are better at what we do now.
We have a clearer picture of what it is exactly we do now.

I still have no long term plan.
Well… I have no long term plan for Cambiare Productions.

The long term plan is to finally produce the One True Show that really is everything we want in a production and for Will to get spirited off to Louisville or the Arena and go be brilliant where larger amounts of people can see.

The plan is to feature local artists in roles that showcase them to the best of their ability and let them be noticed.

The plan is to keep growing our process to make it as easy on the cast and crew as it can possibly be, providing them with the most opportunity to shine.

We can do that. We can do that with the resources we have (and a little City help) and the talent this community continues to provide. We can be, for a season, another cog in what is becoming a hotbed of new work development.

I should have a five year plan. I know.
Instead I have two consecutive six month plans.
We’ll go from there.