Entries Tagged as 'Meta'

Austin is a Place

I have been toiling away in the puppet mines on a show called Cruel Circus for the last little stretch, right on the heels of assaying John of Gaunt and and the Bishop of Carlisle in Richard II. We’ll have a little more on that shortly but it was a side project during that time that I want to talk about now.

Howlround is the online journal of the Center for Theatre Commons run off the campus of Emerson College in Boston. They function as a US-focused clearinghouse for folks wrestling with questions large and small about theatre art and business. Editorially they try to run blocks of topical content to concentrate discussion around an idea or problem and attempt to generate heat not just light. Part of that editorial cycle is weeks at a time dedicated to individual city theatre ecosystems. The Howlround editorial team asked me to help curate Austin’s City Series week and I was extremely proud of Austin’s showing.

I wanted to give a broad outline of what it’s like to be a maker in Austin and so I asked Caroline Reck of Glass Half Full, lighting designer Megan Reilly, the Rude Mechs, Robert Faires of the Austin Chronicle, techwhisperer Robert Matney,  and Christi Moore of Scriptworks. Combined with a lovely mash note of Austin past from Daniel Alexander Jones I think it serves as a nice sketch of the past, present, and future of Austin theatre.

I know there are lots of folks who don’t like reading long form blog posts and I know there are folks who only read blog posts by folks they know or that are in list form.

So pretend this isn’t a blog post. Pretend it’s just a small book or magazine put out by a bunch of smart folks from your community. I’ve formatted a collected version for your Kindle, Nook, or Kobo and there’s a nicely formatted web version suitable for printing as well.

To read the collection on the web.

For the .mobi file. (for the Kindle)

For the .epub file. (for the Nook or Kobo)

Thanks to all the contributors for their work and to Austin’s theatre makers for making this a place worth writing home about.

All About… someone else

Tonight is preemptively one of my favorite nights.

As I’ve been annoying everyone with for weeks, I’m… busy. The busiest I have been in my entire life. It’s terrifying and glorious and aside from missing my wife and cats terribly –  this is the dream. It’s rare you are allowed to see such things as they happen but today sums up this period in my life. Tonight I will be onstage as Dr. Royer-Collard, the moral center (ha!) of Different Stages’ Quills at City Theatre, Cambiare is presenting Mariah MacCarthy’s All About a Boy as part of the Frontera Fest short fringe (tickets!), and the lovely and talented Dan Solomon has written a very flattering profile that appears in this week’s Austin Chronicle.

Cut-your-Face

All this on a night off from rehearsing Poor Shadows of Elysium’s Richard II and in the same week that 7 Towers Theatre company announced their upcoming production of Pillowman which I will be in somehow.

It’s a pretty great time to be me.

Except…

A million years ago I started writing a theatre blog to explicate what I want to be as a theatre artist… the sort of art I wanted to take part in or support and the aesthetic that I wanted to champion. But as my wife will tell you, I have no idea what I want or what makes me happy. It drives her crazy.

There hasn’t been a plan. For me or long term for Cambiare. My time in Austin was supposed to be temporary and I forgot to ever adjust my thinking to what I could accomplish here. Much like my office in the new house – I never really unpacked, I just sort of starting going with one eye on the exit. I never set my feet and really rooted and it led to me missing something that I already knew. Something that was, quite frankly the reason Cambiare started in the first place.

If no one is doing the thing you need doing?
You’re the one who needs to be doing it.

I jump started Cambiare because there wasn’t a company in town that would do Transformations and it deserved doing, and because not enough people knew how good Will Hollis Snider is at theatre.

We’ve done an okay job with the things we’ve made, but as Mr. Solomon pointed out in the profile… work has been pretty thin on the ground. All About a Boy is indeed a step in a direction Will and I have talked about: simply workshopping more rather than letting our uninstitutional lack of resources mean that we disappear for 18 months. We need to evangelize for writers and texts we love – that I love.

Because Mr. Solomon nails it (just about: I added an “else”)

Ultimately, it may have taken the promise of leaving town to turn Bedard into the sort of Austin theatremaker that he’s been waiting for someone [else] to become. But at least, finally, he’s bringing the conversation out of the Internet and onto the stage.

All About a Boy is the sort of project I think ADs should be doing.

It’s not my story. It’s not my STYLE of story. It may actually be the opposite of the sort of theatre we would make for ourselves. But Mariah MacCarthy is a compelling writer who makes plays that need to be seen on their feet. There is something about her writing that is alive when actors breathe it… but you have to see that to know it.

And someone has to show you.

I will try to be better about showing not telling.

Let’s all keep digging into the best work we can find and make sure the world knows about it. I’m sorry I haven’t been doing it all along.

Missing the magic, Missing the moment.

– That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighborhood –

Joe Dowling, the AD of the Guthrie is getting crushed by what he considers small fish in the dripdripdrip of social media over creating a very traditional season. He has been largely deaf to the criticism about the Guthrie’s continued lack of support for gender or racial diversity and tin-eared in his responses to it.

– I got news for you, she is! –

It is a pristine example of the fundamental disconnect longterm non-profit organizations run into. Being a community cultural asset with a large budget doesn’t release you from the social contract created when you were smaller. You don’t keep receiving charitable gifts but graduate to being a for-profit corporation answering only to your board.

Mr. Dowling, I understand money pressure. You have a lot of seats to fill and no sure things. So you’re looking for the surest things you can. That is after all what you mean when you say you’re a “classics theatre”. I understand that you have tried a little to fill those non-classic spaces in your schedule with plays from women. I understand the constraint of the western cannon being made of of primarily white men.

But Mr. Dowling that needs to be an obstacle not an excuse.

That girl she holds her head up so high –

Mr. Dowling when you say out loud that there was nothing by a woman that met the standards of your season do you even hear yourself? If what you mean is that there are too few superstar women playwrights I absolutely agree. So as one of the ten most powerful people in American theatre Mr. Dowling? Make one. Annoint one. You seem to be pretty self-assured in your knowledge of the brightest and best of global theatre, prove it. Don’t wait for others to let you know who the marketable enough women to produce are. You tell us.

– When she talks, I hear the revolutions
In her hips, there’s revolutions
When she walks, the revolution’s coming
In her kiss, I taste the revolution –

Mr. Dowling, last night I stood in front of a too-expensive underfull arts palace here on the other end of Interstate 35 for the opening of of Fusebox 2012 and watched several dozen girls from 5 –15 dance and move as choreographed by Allison Orr to punk music by the Coathangers.

The climax of the piece was the triumphal smashing of papier mache guitars as the Coathangers played Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill.

But that’s not the moment that will stick with me Mr. Dowling.
Two thirds of the way through the short set a mike was brought out and set up low (those 5 year-olds are smaller than you remember) and from both sides of the stage those girls came to the microphone and announced their name full voice as the fully empowered rock goddesses that they were in that moment.

It was awesome in the intended meaning of that word Mr. Dowling. No expectation, simply an open microphone and an invitation to announce yourself.

Mr. Dowling, I want every person in a position of power to try make the same accommodation. Not an apology for the social history of the last century because that’s what you’re stuck with, but a creation of a cannon for THIS century prominently featuring the women you feel best exemplify the era. Don’t feel oppressed because everyone thinks they can do your job, recognize that you don’t have to be a slave to our cultural history, you get to help write it.

Rebel girl, Rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world

Rebel Girl You’re My Best Friend

While we wait…

We’re in a holding pattern on a few things before I write out  the final post-mortem on Messenger No. 4 (and get myself a tattoo) so I’d like to get a jump on our next little thing.

It’s going to be a minute or two until we get back to a full production… though nothing like the break between Orestes and Messenger No. 4. While we’re saving our pennies for whatever the next Major Node in our progression and Will does rewrites on M4, we want to stay active in smaller ways and work with even more folks we’ve never met before.

For those of you who came along at some point later than the winter of 2008 (so – most of you) Cambiare’s initial offering as a stand alone company was Transformations, a design as performance piece based on the poetry of Anne Sexton

IMG_9783-2 and created by like 734 women (Will and I helped). It was pretty good,  it was almost even attended! But other than the reading of Caryl Churchill’s 7 Jewish Children for World Theatre Day we haven’t paid any attention to (the creative output of) women since then.

It’s really not intentional, we’ve been doing original stuff mostly and you’re not part of the team. But we’re gonna get us an education now.

Ladies, we want to read your plays.

Now understand that there’s nothing on the table. Maybe not even a staged reading.  We’re not in a position to make any promises. Our goal is to 1.) be in a more education position when we get to a such a point 2.) be in a position to advocate for capable women writers when friends ask about texts the way I brag about Marisela Orta and Callie Kimball now. 

I understand if that’s not enough payoff for you. I wish you well. But if you like casinos in Oregon smart folks reading your work even if they’re not going to risk ten thousand dollars and a year of their life on it we’d love to hear from you.

We’re going to cap submissions at 50. We all have jobs and we don’t want a dead pile. We will read everything we get.

The Call:

  • We are looking for completed scripts from women of any age.
  • Make it a .pdf (be platform agnostic)
  • No character limit
  • No style limit.
  • No length limit.
  • Send it to Submissions at cambiareproductions.com
  • We make no commitment and neither do you, we won’t do anything other than read your script (and talk about it at Trudy’s) without your permission.

I know this is sort of weird call but.. well.. it can’t hurt to ask.

You and you and nothing but you.

Well I hope you’ve been reading along as we’ve been introducing the cast of our upcoming Messenger No. 4 (Or…. How to Survive a Greek Tragedy). If you haven’t been following along you really should check it out, they’re delightful.

I’ve been asking them about their favorite and least favorite moments on stage because at its heart Messenger No. 4 is about the lengths we go to to create the former and erase the latter (both on stage and in life). Whether those erasable forgettable moments happen because it’s truly bad play or because of cosmic confluence – they never quite leave us… nor do those good moments… whether transcendent performance moments or crises managed with casts you adore.

I want to hear your war stories.

What was your favorite moment on stage?
What moment do you wish you could simply erase forever?

Drop them in the comments here or write a post of your own and link it in the comments below.

and here, a portrait of the artist as a young man as an old man.

There’s Always a Choice

Those who operate in near-Travis orbit will hear me repeat phrases and motifs repeatedly as I hammer out a life’s philosophy before I die. “All we have is time and people” for instance. Or lately there’s been a lot of “design for your budget dammit, don’t design as if you had money and build halfway”. On-line it’s a gentle thrumming of “the repetition of asynchronous communication drives me crazy” and #neverbedark and being an advocate and talking about what’s good.

I understand that I’m repeating myself and I promise it’s not some sort of crazy-uncle disease where I just keep telling the same stories over and over again. Consider it me getting off book for The Show. And forgive me for another recurring theme: my repetition of the fact that I don’t have a career. I’m trying to figure out what that means to me and for me.

As a long time generalist I don’t really fit anywhere. It is after all a system made of specialists (on the paid side). But more to the point, only the work qualifies you for the work, and frankly I haven’t done enough to qualify me for anything. I also am unwilling to give up my security for an unpaid internship at this point in my life. That choice limits on-ramps to the paid universe.

Kate Powers asked:
Do you feel like it’s too late for you to dive into a position at an institutional theatre? (assuming that path interests you)

The answer is

Of course I feel that way,
of course it’s not too late, and
I haven’t invented the position and institution that I will be part of yet.

I am not the me that will be hired somewhere yet.
The me that is ready will have 51% answers to 49% questions.
The me that is ready will have an answer to “what do you want?”
The me that is ready, in knowing what it is I want, will be ready to sacrifice something for it.

I believe that the best fit for me will be in an umbrella or ASO type institution that advocates for new work and new work creators. That position will come about as a result of work that I initiate on my own in support of my desire to advance new work.

The obstacle is: That advocacy is rewarding for me. It is ultimately rewarding. But it isn’t fun. Part of my hesitance to move in that direction is that theatremaking is still fun. The idea of giving that up to advocate for others still rankles. It harkens back to my days at the Exit Theatre guarding the doors while others made art.

That’s the sacrifice I’m afraid to make.

There is a place for me in the machine. But that place isn’t as a theatremaker it’s as an advocate and I’m not ready to leave Neverland just yet.

SpiderFreude

Once upon a time in a blog post not so terribly far away I mentioned that you should be careful not to post the same platitudes on Twitter every one is posting every day because I was seeing the same quotes DAY after DAY after DAY and the only thing worse than Successories posters are Successories posters on every single wall of every single office.

The primary offender on a theatre feed is of course the Samuel Becket quote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I love it, you love it, we all own t-shirts and mugs with it emblazoned in Beckett Estate approved fonts…

But every day was a bit much.

The #Newplay convening at Arena Stage was like a funhouse with creator after creator reflecting back about the need for risk and failure. It was it’s own sort of convening game… how many different ways can you say “create a safe place for risk taking”. The answer is: a lot. Most of them involved some variation of the phrase “room to fail”.

I loved it. It was good. It IS good. It’s an attitude and a reality that we need in theatre making.


Spider Man: Turn off the Dark is apparently apocalyptically bad. Last night was the longest listed press opening so everyone went all in and it got the critical lambasting we all knew was coming. I love Ben Brantley raging out as much as the next guy. I love snark and I love the sword of justice falling.

But this is after two years of snark and six months of active schadenfreude on the part of the Twitter community that I am surrounded by. This isn’t even news this was a moment of gleeful grave dancing. Noting that the sinner in this case is not a war criminal I’ll ask: when is enough?


So here’s what I want. In return for your continued bile and your smug derision. I want you to either expunge to phrase “room to fail” and “we need to find ways to take risks” from your vocabulary or you need to append to the end of each use, “in support of projects or people I like at price points I don’t find objectionable even though it’s not my money and never had any way of becoming my money.”

It won’t fit in a twitter post so you may simply add “I’m a hypocrite, ibid.”

I don’t want to hear about waste.
I don’t want to hear about how you don’t like her style.
I don’t want to hear how you think Broadway should crumble into the sea.
Because see, here’s the cold truth:

There is almost no shot I like the theatre you’re producing.

Like, a 15% shot. But by all means go and make it!
A theatre-going culture is a better culture for me even if you aren’t making the art I want to see.
I financially support what I can, I see as much as I can, I advocate for just about everydamnthing on a stage.

You cannot (unhypocritically) root for space to fail for you and your friends and not root for room to fail for Julie Taymor, or as Kris Vire portmanteau’d last night U2Mor.

They, by every non-Glenn Beck account, have failed. They have failed on every card and on a scale I actually literally never dreamed of. [They failed with half the Yankees payroll. Only the Cardinals and Mets do things like that] I would love to have that money. I want the chance to fail that big. Chances are you would too.

But instead of singing me song after song about how much the Spiderman teams sucks: dream the dream. What would YOU build given that kind of opportunity?

Your Theatre Twitter Resolutions

I made them for you so you don’t have to think too hard.

The average theatre human finally discovered Twitter in 2010. There are plenty of folks coming behind you so please get out of the doorway but you aren’t the first either so settle down.

The primary faux pas that folks make when first wading into the Twitter waters (it’s also true for blogging and e-blasting but less so) is ignoring the “social” and focusing on the “media”. So let’s see if we can shift that a bit…

To wit:

  1. I’m sure you’re very good at what you do. That doesn’t mean I have any idea who you are, what you do, or where you’re from and that doesn’t make me stupid. Give context in your posts as to where you are and what you’re doing.
  2. As to #1: Make sure there’s a reason that you’re sending this message about what you’re doing to the universe. Twitter is powerful because it’s a broadcast medium. But as with all broadcasts people stop tuning in if te content isn’t worth it to them (right NBC?). Is this message or event something that belongs in your Facebook posts, on your blog or only in your newsletter? It’s okay to not shout every piece of news to the heavens. (this is of course for company based Twitter-users)
  3. Don’t just cut and paste lines from your press release into the Hootsuite or Tweetdeck window. It reads like your Mom yelling into her cell phone because she can’t hear you very well. Yes this thing works, yes we can hear you. Now say something and say it to us not at us.
  4. Loosen up your tie. It is okay to not have a business voice at all times. Of course comply with your companies agreed upon guidelines (try these to build off of if you don’t have any) but allow the person who is speaking for your company (or heck just you if it’s you) to really speak. Astoria Performing Arts Center, Boston Court, and American Shakespeare Center all have %100 more of my attention than they had before Twitter solely because of the engaging personal nature of their social media presence. You can do it too.
  5. Don’t spam. Don’t spam – don’t. Don’t do it Sam I am. Do NOT SPAM. It’s a block-no-take-backs.
    Okay sure simple advice, but here’s the trick – you probably don’t think you are. If you push all of your content every morning at 9AM EST and you have 9 posts or 35 posts… it reads as spam. No matter how much content you have packed into those 140 character morsels, if you highjack my feed at any point it reads as spam. That doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person – but it is a problem. There are easy (free) technological fixes to the problem in terms of scheduled posts. Look into them.
  6. Be there (aloha).
    Have you ever ridden one of those electricity generating bikes like at the New England Museum of Science? You power a row of light bulbs with your mighty ministrations and are amazed at how much energy you produce! Until about the end of that sentence when you rev your little 10-year-old legs down to normal speed and realize you only light two bulbs. Until you get too tired and need to go get some popcorn and you light zero lightbulbs.
    photo by Jeffrey Smith
    You only exist on Twitter if you’re posting. You only exist broadly on Twitter if you’re interacting with others. This doesn’t need to be full time 24/7 but if you’re not responding to mentions and direct messages you fade from view pretty quickly.
  7. It’s a two-way street.
    I want two things in an actor, the first being an ability to listen. Heck it was the first piece of advice I ever got in college. I showed up eager to prove that I was good and that I knew what I was talking about. My friend Jeff pulled me aside and said point blank, “you need to shut up and listen for a minute”. Everyone at school had done what I had. Given time I 1.) learned more 2.) figured out what I knew (or had experienced) that they hadn’t and was able to share that. It can be unbelievably invigorating being in a room full of smart people who love the things you love, but don’t lose your brain. Follow a bunch of folks or lists, or hashtags and simply see what’s going on and get a feel for the dynamic. Then jump in the game.
  8. The other thing I want from my actors is generosity. Generosity on and off stage. I like’em punctual and prepared so they’re not wasting time, I like them giving scenes as well as taking them ferociously. You have to be generous on Twitter. You can’t have every idea first. In fact the chance that you had ANY idea first is pretty slim. You can’t be working on every concept. You can’t have read every article ever (or written every article ever). Retweet. Link. Share. It does a few things. It lets people know that you’re listening. It gives people in your sphere an idea of your likes and influences. It leaves a paper trail for you of all the things you’ve read and liked. And heck it’s just neighborly. Do avoid becoming a quote machine though or simply a platitude passer. The theatre folk on twitter get the Beckett quote twice daily. Feel free to affirm the group but don’t shop for your affirmations at QuoteWalmart.com.
  9. Have an opinion, but not a binary opinion.
    If you want to rant in talk radio fashion about something? That goes on the blog. If you want to discuss it? Bring it to Twitter. There is no discussing a binary opinion. If there is no grey area, and anyone who disagrees with you is stupid? Go hang out at Digg. Or SomethingAwful.
  10. Stop assuming.
    Don’t assume that your not knowing someone means they’re unimportant.
    Don’t assume ANYONE is unimportant.
    Don’t assume that everyone agrees with you. (You’ll be disappointed)
    Don’t assume that no one agrees with you (and whine about persecution)
    Don’t assume their disagreement means they don’t like you.
    Don’t assume that disagreement means lack of “professionalism” on their part.
    Don’t assume that disagreement means they’re stupid.
    Don’t assume that a person is solely the sum of their posts.
    Don’t assume that a person posting means that that is all the theatre they have done today.
    Don’t assume that no one posted anything while you weren’t looking, before you started looking, or before you knew there was such a thing as Twitter.

And one for free?
If you don’t like someone? Don’t follow them just because you’re “supposed to”. Unfollow and make your life better. I recommend to lots of folks that they not follow me because I’m high volume and not always on topic. It doesn’t hurt my feelings.

And folk? I yammer a lot (in general) about the Right Way, but there is only one real rule though. The Golden Rule of Twitter – don’t do anything that you hate when other people do it.

If the Measure of a Man is the company he keeps…

Then Will, Amanda and I have been blessed indeed.

For a company with as short a production history and as skinny a wallet as Cambiare has, we have been blessed to work with the very best people. Today the B. Iden Payne Award nominations for 2009-10 were released and several Cambiare alums were honored:

Outstanding Performer in Youth Theatre
Rachel McGinnis (Queen Honey, Just Bee) – Pollyanna Theatre Company

Outstanding Director of a Comedy
Derek Kolluri (Dead White Males) – Sustainable Theatre Project

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Derek Kolluri (Dying City) – Capital T Theatre

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama
Rachel McGinnis (Maggie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) – City Theatre Company

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Drama
Gabriel Luna (Lover, Machinal) – Paper Chairs

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Drama
Smaranda Ciceu (Cassandra, The Trojan Women) – UT Department of Theatre and Dance

Outstanding Lighting Design
Megan M. Reilly (Murder Ballad Murder Mystery) – TUTTO Theatre Company and VORTEX Repertory Company

Outstanding Sound Design
Adam Hilton (Bug) – Capital T Theatre
Adam Hilton (The Cherry Orchard) – Breaking String Theatre

Congratulations all, and also to our many friends we haven’t worked with yet who were also nominated. Austin is a town bursting with talent – now we just have to work long enough to work with you all.

5 Thoughts on Social Media and Theatre

A couple of weeks ago Julie Burt Nichols of the Bailiwick in Chicago popped up on Twitter and asked for pros and cons of social media in theatre marketing… I got volunteered.

My answers weren’t needed for the eventual post due to my non-Chicagoanity but spurred by Dave Charest’s repurposing of his answers I’d like to share mine as well.

grungy-social-media-icons(1)What role is social media playing in regional theater?

It is playing a very small role thus far. Like any good business Regionals are waiting for smaller, nimbler companies to create best practices and proofs of concepts around social media that ensure some stability before they risk time or treasure on it. 

Is social media a valuable use of resources in this sector, considering the time and effort it takes to build these kinds of relationships with patrons/artists? 

The time and effort is comparable to a large traditional print/mail campaign. It feels more time intensive because it is every day, but re-aggregated I think you would find that social media consumes about the same or less time than a week of folding and peel and stick. The benefit of crafting a long term narrative for your theatre? Of creating a narrative around your stable of performers (which you should have or be building) and of creating a Voice for your theatre is quite literally priceless. The ability to have instant access to anyone who has mentioned your show or theatre or is on your email rolls? It changes your customer service role from reactive/negative to proactive/positive. Your customer service staff (whichever other roles they fill) can reach our and make contact with people who are happy with the shows/theatre/staff not simply be confronted with unhappy patrons. 

Is it too easy? What are the dangers of using social media for this purpose?

Is social media too easy? The access is easy. The dangers come in message creep and in simply hiring the wrong person. A professional social media campaign requires the same writing skill as any other and planning like any other with additional gaps filled in with personal reaching out. Using SM software in the vein of Hootsuite you pre-write your campaign and time-release it.  If you simply put a junior intern on Twitter and tell them to talk? The informality will turn off most of your older base and the lack of information won’t draw folks to you. Much is made of the informality of the networks, but the non-stars drawing traffic are those that are either dispensing real knowledge or those engaging in real conversation – in shorter words: authenticity. If your feed or representative is inauthentic you will lose all the time you have put into it. 

Does it have a valuable return in relationship to the demographic it reaches?

Proven authenticity is valuable to all demographics, an extended voice/narrative is valuable to all demographics. Getting out of your building and extending beyond the people who’ve opted in to the folks who are interested in your form but never touched your space? Or who are interested in a topic related to the show or season? It may not pay off with the folks you already have – they respond to whatever you were already doing – but it is a fantastic way to reach out to folks where they already are.

What are the pros and cons of social media in the regional theater market?

Pros? Narrative – I think that going forward Regionals are going to need more than "We’re Good" to carry on, they need a personality around the space, the staff and the talent – they need a narrative for who they were, who they are, and who they’re going to be. In the past you let critics and arts columnists do that for you… now you don’t have to.

The cons? You can’t get away with anything. At all. Ever. That has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not  you (or the theatre) are participating in SM that’s part of the ubiquity of information… but it is a con.