Friday, August 29, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

4,693 Words That Changed My Nation

Barack Obama: To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation.

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest -- a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next first lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia -- I love you so much, and I'm so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story -- of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart -- that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women -- students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments -- a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he's worked on for 20 years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land -- enough! This moment -- this election -- is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight.

On November 4, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives -- on health care and education and the economy -- Sen. McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made "great progress" under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisers -- the man who wrote his economic plan -- was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a "mental recession," and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud autoworkers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don't believe that Sen. McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy -- give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is -- you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps -- even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president -- when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job -- an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great -- a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine.

These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.

What is that promise?

It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves -- protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America -- the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president.

Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95 percent of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: in 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Sen. McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy -- wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education.

And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American -- if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime -- by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less -- because we cannot meet 21st century challenges with a 20th century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient.

Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility -- that's the essence of America's promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

For while Sen. McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell -- but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice -- but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans -- have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As commander in chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts.

But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America -- they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose -- our sense of higher purpose.

And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This, too, is part of America's promise -- the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what -- it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you.

For 18 long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past.

You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us -- that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it -- because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I've seen it. Because I've lived it. I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I've seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I've seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit -- that American promise -- that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours -- a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead -- people of every creed and color, from every walk of life -- is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise -- that American promise -- and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

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Will Marx Brothers Place Become a Reality?

The 93rd Street Beautification Association is set to take a big step forward in its two-pronged effort to create Marx Brothers Place and to extend the Carnegie Hall Historic District by one block. Today I received an email asking me if I can put some information on this blog about what's going on -- and how you (all) can get involved. Do it! Don't think about it! Do it!

Here's what I received and what you can do:

We thought you might be happy to know that NY1 has just upgraded the TV news story about historic Marx Brothers Place! It's now much easier to watch, and we think you'll really enjoy this piece by reporter Roger Clark. It's got some great clips from Marx Brothers movies in it!

Just click on this link to see the story about Marx Brothers Place:

Also, as we are in the final push of the preservation campaign (only 1 week left!), we thought that some of your blog readers might like to join other Marx Brothers fans who have signed the two petitions to help protect Marx Brothers Place. So we're sending along the links for the petitions. Please share them with all your friends and colleagues!

Petition to extend Carnegie Hill Historic District one block to include historic East 93rd Street:

Petition to co-name East 93rd Street “Marx Brothers Place” to honor the childhood home of the comic icons:

For more information:

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An Interview with -- Me! -- on Extra Criticum (Part 2 of 7)

I was very flattered when Rolando Teco, whose new blog Extra Criticum is pretty damn cool and has a lot of potential, asked me to participate in an experiment in which his various writers and contributors would ask a bunch of questions of me as a critic. Well, the second installment is up; there will be seven parts. And who knows who I'll alienate this time!

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New Interview: Alexandra Kerry

I did a Q&A with Alexandra Kerry, filmmaker daughter of 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, for Kerry has new book out, Notes from the Trail: Presidential Politics from the Inside Out, which is both a memoir and a large selection of images by photographers from her father's campaign trail.

Here's the tease:

Do you think Republicans will "swift boat" Obama the way they did your father?
They're going to try. Maybe there was an idea in 2004 that swift-boating wouldn't have an impact, but I know the Obama campaign is incredibly smart and has some really great advisors, so they're prepared for whatever happens. It's quite sad that the other party can only devise fabrications to lay claim to the White House. That's just my opinion.

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Kristin Chenoweth to Star in a New Broadway Mini-Musical

LOLOL. Yeah, right. But check this out.

Major props to my friend -- the amazing Amy Rhodes (remember me?)

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New Article: 20 at 20

New York Press asked me to write a short pseudo-snark piece on the Off-Broadway promotion 20 at 20. Fun to write. The idea was what you get when you're seeing an Off-Broadway show for just $20. Here's the tease:

For $20 at Altar Boyz, you would get a tranny in a tank top explaining what vespers is. For $20 at A Brush with Georgia O’Keefe, you would get a coloring book and a copy of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.

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New Review: The Castle

Yes, I caught up on a show that opened four months that I hadn't seen but wanted to, owing, among other things, to my interest in documentary theatre.

This review of The Castle was for New York Press.

Here's the tease:

Molasses in high humidity is an apt metaphor for the New York theater in late August—that lazy juncture between the ending of umpteen festivals and the starting of a new season. It’s an opportune time to catch up with productions missed earlier in the year, and one—a 55-minute amuse bouche of documentary theater called The Castle—has been performing once a week at New World Stages since April, extending its run several times. It’s written by and stars four ex-cons—Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan, Angel Ramos and Casimiro Torres—who sit on stools and recall, using bound scripts, the unusually cruel and moving rollercoaster of their lives.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

An Interview with -- Me! -- on Extra Criticum (Part 1 of 7)

I was very flattered when Rolando Teco, whose new blog Extra Criticum is pretty damn cool and has a lot of potential, asked me to participate in an experiment in which his various writers and contributors would ask a bunch of questions of me as a critic. Well, the first installment is up; there will be seven parts. And who knows who I'll alienate this time!

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New Podcast: TCG Executive Director Teresa Eyring on The Leonard Jacobs Show

I had the great pleasure and good fortune to interview Teresa Eyring, executive director of Theatre Communications Group, as my guest on the latest installment of my podcast, The Leonard Jacobs Show.

Click to download and enjoy! And thanks again, as always, to Martin and Rochelle for hosting the program.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

New Review: The First Breeze of Summer

For Back Stage.

Here's the tease:

Signature Theatre Company couldn't have chosen a finer play, cast finer actors, or more strongly begun its season-long salute to the Negro Ensemble Company than with director Ruben Santiago-Hudson's spiritually uplifting, emotionally resonant revival of Leslie Lee's The First Breeze of Summer.

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2008 Honorary New York Innovative Theatre Awards Announced

IT Awards Announce Honorary Recipients
Judith Malina to receive the Artistic Achievement Award
The New York Theatre Experience to receive Stewardship Award
The Boomerang Theatre Company to receive Caffe Cino Fellowship

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards (IT Awards), the organization dedicated to celebrating Off-Off-Broadway, is pleased to announce the 2008 Honorary Award Recipients.

The IT Awards will announce its fourth annual production awards in a ceremony on Monday, September 22, 2008 at the Haft Auditorium at the Fashion Institute of Technology (Building C, W. 27th St., bet. 7th and 8th aves.). Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door, available at

According to Leonard Jacobs, National Theatre Editor, Back Stage and Chair of the Honorary Awards Committee, "Off-Off-Broadway's evolution over the last decade has been thrilling, especially given the economic challenges faced by independent artists. That the Honorary Awards Committee has had so many qualified applicants to choose from for four straight years suggests the community is strengthening and asserting its rightful place as one of the industry's premier laboratories, the place where some of the most dynamic work can be found."

The 2008 Artistic Achievement Award, presented to an individual who has made a significant artistic contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community.

Judith Malina: A poet, writer, political activist, director, producer and actress, Malina founded The Living Theatre, the oldest experimental theatre group still existing in the US, with her husband Julian Beck. Many people believe that the Living Theatre inaugurated the Off-Off-Broadway movement and introduce the U.S. to avant-garde theatre.

The 2008 Stewardship Award, presented to an individual or organization demonstrating a significant contribution to the Off-Off-Broadway community through service, support and leadership.

New York Theatre Experience ( Mission is to build audiences for and interest in theatre in New York City, with a particular emphasis on emerging artists in the nonprofit sector, by using new and traditional media to connect them with the theatre-going public and advocate for them within the broad cultural community.

The 2008 Caffe Cino Fellowship, presented to an Off-Off-Broadway theatre company that consistently produces outstanding work. This award also includes a fellowship to be used toward an Off-Off-Broadway production.

The Boomerang Theatre Company: Celebrating its tenth season, the Boomerang Theatre Company annually produces a season composed of three programs: free outdoor Shakespeare productions in parks throughout NYC; an indoor repertory series of new, classic and neglected plays; and First Flight, a new play development series of workshops and readings.

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Pinsky to Get Swinsky with the Bardinsky

Received this press release on Thursday:




The Shakespeare Society (Michael Sexton, Artistic Director) will present Lyrics by W. Shakespeare, an evening of songs set to lyrics by Shakespeare, presided over by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, on Monday, September 15 at 6:30pm at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, East 68 Street, between Park and Lexington Avenues. A limited number of tickets, priced at $25-$45, are available from the Kaye box office at (212) 772-4448. For Shakespeare Society membership information, call 212-967-6802 or go to

From Thomas Arne and Vaughan Williams to Duke Ellington and Stephen Sondheim, composers have long been drawn to Shakespeare's songs and poems for inspiration. One of the greatest living American poets as well as a passionate advocate for poetry, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will guide the audience through some of Shakespeare's finest lyrics, set to music by some of the world's greatest composers. Tony Award Winner Michael Cerveris, Darius DeHaas, and Carol Woods will perform.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Three Cheers for Gus Schulenberg's Other Bodies

So last night I started seeing Fringe productions that friends of mine either wrote or directed or are in (or some combination thereof). Gus Schulenberg is rather a new friend -- I was knocked out by his Riding the Bull in last year's Fringe, which is how I became friends with the talented Will Ditterline and Liz Dailey, who are expecting twins (!!) in about a month. (Gus' company is Flux Theatre Ensemble.)

Anyway, together with Will and Liz, we took in Gus' Other Bodies last night -- and wow! Really terrific piece with some extraordinarily gorgeous moments and equally gorgeous language. It's a hard play, perhaps, to follow and to swallow -- the surrealism, the mixed messaging, the strong current of seeming unsurety in terms of where Gus is going, though I thought Heather Cohn, who directed, always made sure the piece seemed as if it was definitively headed somewhere even when the script was strongly hinting otherwise. That's a nice tension to have and it turned out to be pretty gripping from an audience's point of view.

In the second act there was, I thought, one of the most beautiful monologues I'd heard in a dog's age. After the play I asked Gus if he'd mind me posting it here because I felt his dramatization of agony, and his use of imagery, metaphor, and emotional gradients was magnificent. Gus sent me the speech in question this morning and so I am indeed posting it. Don't ask me for the context of the play -- you'll have to see it for yourself. And I know there'll be another run of Other Bodies very soon.

This isn’t theology, Terry, this is fact. This is science, for every cause, an effect. And what cause would effect such suffering? Life can create an infinite variety of feathers and microbes and marsupials but can’t keep its own cells from failing? That is the simplest of tasks, why should it fail? And why should we be created so deeply aware of the suffering that comes from the failing? If that is the effect of life, and in the end, it always is; what on earth could be the cause? A grand device that desires suffering, that is the only cause that God can be; and can you picture Him up there, quivering on his greasy throne, salivating at all the suffering he’ll be dining on every day? He must have the subtlest of palettes to appreciate each nuance of despair.

The thrashing gristle of the car accident, the grey meeliness of lung cancer, the brittle wafer of bone cancer, the faded bouquet of Alzheimers’, the sour chew of Multiple Sclerosis, the hot buzz of malaria, the tequila shot of a stroke, the sweet pate of diabetes, the long cabernet of blood cancer, the warm beef of a heart attack, and that’s just the individual courses, he has the all you can eat buffets of earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and we even give him the dessert of war on the house; and yet each and every one of us comes to that final gate and God says, “yes, yes, I know, so sorry about the sickle cell sarcoma, but wasn’t the monarch butterfly pretty good work? Aren’t you grateful for all the late summers and girls in skirts and water falls and good friends and board games I gave you? And how about love, huh? What’s a little cancer to true love?”

And from the beginning of time we have bought it, because he made us nostalgic, he made us sentimental, he made us remember pleasure better than pain. And so this judge pretends that there is a moral to the story, when there is only his mouth gorging into the wreck of our lives.

Terry, I won’t make that mistake. When death comes for me, I won’t bargain away a thing. I will take each and every betrayal that I have cataloged and I will call him to account and when I do…oh, look, breakfast, are you sure you’re not hungry?

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Arts Advocacy Update LV

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of August 20, 2008:

S.L. County pushes arts boards to diversify
Salt Lake Tribune (UT), 8/19/2008
"Salt Lake County's leading cultural-arts attractions have received a high-power nudge, not a mandate, to diversify their governing boards - now dominated by east-siders. The County Council adopted a resolution Tuesday urging entertainment venues such as the Utah Symphony, Pioneer Theatre and Discovery Gateway children's museum to appoint leaders from each of the county's six political districts. 'It is only fair that since county taxpayers contribute that money,' GOP Councilman David Wilde said, 'they should have more input into how that money is spent.'"
Yeah, uh huh. And we'll tell you what kind of art to create, too. Damn Republicans. Back to their old tricks.

Gov. O'Malley Invites Public Input on Imagine Maryland, 8/15/2008
"Governor Martin O’Malley today invited public input on the recently unveiled Imagine Maryland, a community collaboration and cultural planning initiative to identify opportunities and ideas that will enhance the role of the arts in Maryland. The Governor is encouraging all Marylanders to participate in an on-line survey or attend one of eight upcoming arts forums being hosted by the Maryland State Arts Council."
There had better be some stuff in there about the Maryland Shakespeare Festival.

How Can Arts Leaders Play an Active Role in Cultural Planning Initiatives in Their Local Communities?
CultureWork, July 2008
Tina Rinaldi shares her experiences and reflects on serving as a novice chair for a community cultural planning committee. Drawing on her time on this advisory committee, Rinaldi provides an overview of the challenges and successes for citizen-led cultural review. What does it mean for the arts and culture professional to work in a forum with a high level of community participation? What are the roles of each stakeholder? Rinaldi addresses these and other questions of this dynamic and exigent forum for municipal cultural engagement.
Great stuff for the "How do I get involved?" crowd.

Private sector can play bigger role in public diplomacy
Buffalo News (NY), 8/18/2008
Jay T. Snyder, a member of the U. S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, recommends that the next president form a public-private Institute for Public Diplomacy. "Poll after poll continues to show that people around the world admire, value and want American culture, products and know-how, none of which is in the dominion of the U. S. government. Instead, we should encourage the private sector to do a greater job of exporting these goods and ideas to those who want and need them. . . . The next U.S. president should make an effort to consolidate and guide [existing public diplomacy] measures under a single roof that should span government and the private sector."
Very good advice. And if Actors' Equity would enter the 21st century, theatres could use B roll to promote its shows overseas.

Ban media cross-ownership
Seattle Times, 8/14/2008
"The U.S. House of Representatives has a chance to do what it would not in 2003: take a stand against media consolidation, which is one of the greatest threats to democracy. The U.S. Senate worked in the public's interest when it passed a 'resolution of disapproval' of media consolidation in May. The House has been content to sit on its companion piece, which would kill a new Federal Communications Commission rule that essentially lifts the media cross-ownership ban. . . . A close reading of the current rule shows it is filled with loopholes that would allow for consolidation in almost any market — small, medium and large."
Rupert Murdoch loves close readings...

Draft of 2008 Democratic National Convention Platform Includes Arts
Americans for the Arts website, 8/18/2008
The Democratic National Convention Committee recently released a draft of their guiding principles for this year’s convention in Denver, August 25–28. In the “Renewing the American Community” section of the platform, legislators, party leaders, and policymakers included a specific policy section on the arts, citing the need to increase support for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, arts in education, and cultural exchange. The language in the platform is the most comprehensive language on the importance of the arts and culture this political season, thanks in large part to Americans for the Arts Action Fund’s work with committee members to include statements from its ArtsVote2008 Pro-Arts Policy Brief.
Yay! This is good.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Interview with -- Me! -- About Historic Photos of Broadway

Many thanks to Patrick Lee over at Just Shows to Go You for conducting and for posting a long (great! fun!) interview with me about Historic Photos of Broadway.

Here is herewith added to my blogroll. I'm also proud to call Patrick a friend. Not that you have to interview me to make that happen, but I appreciate his interest very much in the book -- and there's also a contest going on at Patrick's site in which one copy of my book will be raffled off.

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Will the Demolition Review Bill Become Law

Got this news earlier today from the 93rd Street Beautification Association -- the people who won't stop until Marx Brothers Place is a reality! (And it will be, people, it will be.)


The NYC Demolition Review amendment has taken one small step in the legislative process and one giant leap for preservation.

After careful review and consideration, NYC Council Member Tony Avella, has asked the City Counsel to draft legislation modeled upon the Demolition Review amendment proposed by the 93rd Street Beautification Association (proposed bill attached here as a PDF file).

Along with other antiquated laws still governing NYC's fast-paced Building boom, the city has lagged far behind the curve on legal procedures by which to protect historically significant structures. Since only 1% of NYC's inventory is either designated or lies within an historic district, the only status which triggers review prior to demolition, 99% of the city's inventory is perpetually vulnerable to being razed to rubble without any review at all.

The speed with which development has been gobbling up whole neighborhoods over the last five years has resulted in the irreparable loss of historically significant structures, irreplaceable chapters in our city's much vaunted history. Many of these homes and buildings could have easily been recycled, restoring the splendor of their architectural features as well as our city's collective cultural heritage while leaving a much smaller carbon footprint than the "Bigfoot" impact of full-scale demolition and new construction.

The Demolition Review bill, which finds legislative counterparts in the cities of Chicago, Boston and Yonkers, NY (to name but a few), would improve the way real estate development occurs in NYC by protecting historically significant structures and neighborhoods from summary demolition.

If passed, the law would incorporate a mechanism by which historically significant structures would be reviewed prior to the DOB issuing a demolition permit (are there alternatives to demolition? Is there a buyer who would recycle the structure rather than demolish it?, etc.).

The 93rd Street Beautification Association is delighted that NYC Council Member Tony Avella has taken the initiative to move this important piece of legislation one step closer to law. Now we are eager to see the Demolition Review bill, which was designed to protect our city's historic structures and neighborhoods, garner the full support of NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn and all the Council Members.

For more information, please contact us at: or 212.969.8138 or visit our blog at

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Are the Broadway Boom Times Busting?

Two articles lately seem to indicate that Broadway's high-flying post-Sept. 11 years may be either coming to an end or entering a particularly rocky period.

The first was from Michael Riedel, who went through all the shows -- a growing list -- that announced Broadway berths that turned out to be stillborn, either temporarily or perhaps permanently, including the revivals of For Colored Girls..., Brigadoon, and Godspell.

What's also amusing is that while Riedel raises a red flag about the forthcoming Shrek ("A real laggard...that...has yet to break $5 million in advance ticket sales"), in a later story Riedel suggests otherwise ("Broadway hyenas lying in wait for DreamWorks to stumble are going to have to find some thing other than Shrek to gnaw on this fall") while maintaining that box-office isn't great for this show so far ("Advance ticket sales in New York are weak, and sources report rows of empty seats at the back of the house in Seattle").

Anyway, now comes Variety into the discussion, reminding us that there are other shows on hold, too, although the reasons vary. For example, writes Gordon Cox, "the Harry Connick Jr. starrer Nice Work if You Can Get It indefinitely postponed a Boston tryout when producers were unable to reach a deal that satisfied all the parties involved." This is code for the fact that Kathleen Marshall is, ahem, no longer part of the project and that she was the glue holding it together, more or less. This isn't a money thing, but it makes the project more vulnerable to fiscal pressures hitting the industry.

Indeed, I don't think Broadway's boom times are fading, but I do think people are being more circumspect -- everyone got all excited a year ago when, a year ago, it was announced that Spike Lee was directing Stalag 17 and certain people got on my case for not being politically correct enough with my language (as if certain people have exclusive contracts with political correctness). Well, that production has yet to materialize, and that, too, may be a financial thing or it could be a logistical thing. Either way, it appears things are getting tougher on the Main Stem. But hey, let's keep raising ticket prices, right?

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Review: Be Brave, Anna!

Yes, I did it -- I reviewed 21 shows in this year's Fringe. Can't believe it.

Here's Be Brave, Anna!

And here's the tease:

Call her Vickie Lynn Hogan, Anna Nicole Smith, or proof that our culture teems with talentless celebutantes: Tara Schuster's Be Brave, Anna! asks us to feel for the late starlet and nearly succeeds. The 60-minute piece, directed by James Rutherford, parades most figures from Smith's circle before us, blaming all for her demise. But because both author and director have asked Jessie Renee Hopkins to seem even dimmer than Smith was in real life — not an easy task — it's tantamount to placing tacks on a raceway and revving the engine.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

New Review: III

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Despite my caveats, I loved the play. Here's the tease:

One casualty of gay relationships is often the memory of past lives and loves, because until recently such relationships tended to lack offspring. Except to fine-arts scholars, for example, the name Monroe Wheeler — a transformative figure at the Museum of Modern Art — likely doesn't register today in the public consciousness. Nor will writer Glenway Wescott, Wheeler's companion for more than 60 years; nor will photographer George Platt Lynes, Wheeler's other companion during 15 of those years.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

What's Up with Barack Obama?

No, nothing to do with the Faith Forum nuttiness.

Why doesn't Barack Obama have a single critic on his arts policy committee?

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A Talk with John Lahr

Want to see a great talk/lecture by John Lahr, theatre critic for The New Yorker? Click here.

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The End of Criticism?

After weeks and weeks, I'm trying to catch up again on interesting stories that catch my eye. From the Guardian issue of July 13, for example, is this story on how blogging may or may not mean the end of criticism as we have known it.

For the snickering twits who think that, as bloggers, they should be exempt from professional ethics and standards and practices, I'm sure this will be manna from heaven. Um, but you know what? It still doesn't exempt those snickering twits from acting like professional critics if they're choosing to function as them.

I especially enjoyed this graph:

Of course, some newspaper critics are living the digital life to the full. Both Mark Shenton, drama critic of the Sunday Express, and Ian Shuttleworth, of the Financial Times, either blog or weigh in on other blogs. Norman Lebrecht, arts columnist of the Evening Standard, has long written a blog for and is an avid consumer of online opinion. 'What I see out there is quite a mixture. A lot of it is amateurish in a good sense. But I do miss incisiveness, people delivering real information and knowledge.' He also counsels his brethren to think twice before wading in to online discussions. 'One has to be very careful of making any comment. Bloggers are as sensitive as any diva. Criticise them and they will attack you.'

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Review: The Chronicles of Steve: The Bossy Bottom

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

In David LeBarron's kinetic and kitschy solo show, it isn't only the title character who's out in the world searching for love and hoping -- and praying, demanding, beseeching, and assuming -- he'll find it through his tush, through awakening "the drag queen that lives up your ass." There's another fellow, also named David, hunting for the same thing.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

New Review: Thoroughly Stupid Things or the Continuous Importance of Being Earnest

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

You're unfamiliar with Montserrat Mendez, you say? Oh my dear, then you must go off to your garrulous Google or your yappy Yahoo and absorb all you can about him! He is — and I say this with envy — a perfectly marvelous playwright, and his Thoroughly Stupid Things, a sequel to Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, is a comic masterwork.

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New Review: Creena Defoouie

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

In the title role of this surrealistic revenge tale, Charlotte Barton-Hoare is gussied up like a Goth chick and given to bulging eyes and melodramatic poses out of a penny dreadful. As a counselor to the mentally ill, Creena DeFoouie is mad in two senses of the word — in that she's insane and that her beloved sister is dead. Who killed her and why is what drives her nuts — and us too.

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New Review: The Longest Running Joke of the 20th Century

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Some playwrights use peculiar experiences to stoke their art. Yet I'd conjecture that few have been through anything like Stephen O'Rourke's experience working with the mentally ill for the last 18 years. The Longest Running Joke of the 20th Century — perhaps not the right phrase for this monologue — is a talented effort, well delivered by the playwright, to work through the conflicting feelings he's developed for his day job as well as for a playwriting career too often put on hold.

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New Review: Nudists in Love

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

The married couples living in Gardenia are mostly everyday folks putting down roots, watching their flowers grow — natural stuff. But when word gets out that the president of their homeowners association likes to visit a naturalist resort, much shade is thrown in this charming if inoffensive new tuner.

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New Review: Wish We Were Here

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Do I really believe Michael Phillis, who wrote and performs in Wish We Were Here, really watched a genie pop out of a hookah while smoking marijuana? Well, no, but it turns out to be an amusing divertissement of a play. His character — called Master by the genie, played by Christine Corpuz — made the error of asking for infinite wishes when she granted, six months ago, the first of his more traditional three.

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Arts Advocacy Update LIV

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of August 13, 2008:

Program Provides Arts Funding For the Homeless
Downtown LA Scene, 8/8/2008
"In an effort to determine if participating in the arts can help house the homeless, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission last week announced that it has awarded $90,000 in grants to five area organizations."
I know this isn't funny, but this is hilarious. Sorry, you ain't got a home, but look at all that creativity! Ass, please meet head. Yep, shake hands, too.

U.S. shifts 'hearts and minds' fight
Christian Science Monitor, 8/7/2008
"Nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks spawned the question, 'Why do they hate us?' and made the repair of America's poor international image a top foreign-policy pursuit, the Bush administration is taking a new tack in the 'war of ideas.' Out, or at least de-emphasized, is the effort to explain America and its widely disdained foreign policy. In, on the other hand, is a focus on defeating terrorism and in particular radical Islam by largely leaving America out of the equation. The plan, instead, is to promote alternatives to radical violent extremism and nurture the local forces deemed best suited to countering it. 'The key' to the new approach is 'that the US is not at the center of the war of ideas, [and in that way] we can accomplish our goals with people who don't necessarily like our policies,' says James Glassman, the newly appointed undersecretary of State for pubic diplomacy. 'The focus becomes defeating an ideology – not making ourselves liked.'"
Or maybe if we didn't extra-constitutionally elect Republican war criminals...

In the slumping economy, the show goes on
Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), 8/10/2008
"The economic downturn is reverberating among local arts groups more like a stage whisper than a Shakespearean bellow. No high drama yet. But many of these nonprofits are bracing for a stormy second act. . . . At least one item will be missing from some groups' arts budgets this year: 'nonstate agency' funding, which is appropriated directly by the General Assembly to a smattering of nonstate museums, charities and arts organizations."
I also think we should stop funding people who overuse theatrical metaphors.

Reviews for state’s film tax credit aren’t good
Providence Journal (RI), 8/12/2008
A study of Rhode Island's tax incentive program for filmmaking "suggests that Hollywood may be making out far better on the deal than Rhode Island. The state gets back 28 cents for every dollar it gives up to the production companies, according to a recently released state Department of Revenue analysis. That’s an investment return of negative 72 percent." However, "[t]he cost-benefit analysis focuses only on direct economic benefit to the state — namely increased tax receipts — while ignoring the indirect benefits and impact on the economies of cities and towns. The report is also based on general projections and doesn’t look at the details of the production costs of each project."
But think of how those three people benefit...

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New Review: Now That She's Gone: Unraveling The Mystery Of My Mother

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Barbro Snortland was an enigma, mostly an infuriating one, to her youngest daughter, Ellen, from the time Ellen was born, we learn, until Barbro's death in 2002. Now That She's Gone, however, is considerably more than a poignant and insightful recounting of the lives of a mother and daughter who never connected well.

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New Review: Thumbelina: The Story of a Brave Little Girl

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

That writer-director Liza Lentini opts for the actors to make their costume changes before the audience smartly demystifies theatre for young folks and provides unexpected charms for the adults who might join them. At 30 minutes, the piece is a summer breeze spiced with bits of adult parody, such as when the sparrow offers Thumbelina part of her food supply — "regurgitated maggot mix with earthworm heads."

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New Review: Becoming Britney

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

....the show's authors don't know what they want Becoming Britney to become. In one scene Spears is told she has to sing a song about what she wants because musicals require it — and that sends a metatheatrical red flag that comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere. Curley's direction is solid, but the choreography — by Mandy Bell, Lisa Navarro, and Bell — is overdone. And either we should sympathize with Spears or not, but not both. Why undercut such a dippy enterprise?

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Review: The Gay No More Telethon

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Michael DiGaetano, who wrote the book and lyrics, and Albin E. Konopka, who co-wrote the music with DiGaetano, should be more curare-tipped in their satire. Certain numbers — especially a heartfelt ballad, "Everything" — inject truthful and sincere notes into a tale that works best when light in its loafers. And ditch the hoary subplot involving a fake bomb and love matches that no antigay rhetoric can squelch. Abeles and James offer fine performances; the rest of the cast is in need of more rehearsal. Note to director Dennis Erdman: Keep it gay, keep it gay, keep it gay.

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New Review: One Seat in the Shade

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Being a gay couple for 27 years is something to be proud of; it can also evoke a need for change. In John Reoli's clunky, sweet-natured One Seat in the Shade, directed by Bruce Ornstein, one couple learns the hard way what's best for them.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Review: Scratch

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Scratch Scratch off your list. Aimee Gonzalez's plodding adaptation of Medea, directed by Meiyin Wang, resets the tragedy in an urban netherworld in which Medea (KK Moggie) is an agoraphobic shrew and Jason (Adam Tsekhman) is a world-class ping-pong player romantically ensnared by some offstage siren.

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New Review: See How Beautiful I Am: The Return of Jackie Susann

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

For a little more than 60 breathless minutes, Debora Weston holds the audience in the palm of her fist as Valley of the Dolls novelist Jacqueline Susann. Directed by Paul Dubois, Paul Minx's script beautifully conveys all of the author's charming and maddening stylishness and sexiness. Susann, a full-blown narcissist, used her ample supply of sex and brains to leave her stamp upon the world.

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New Review: The Fabulous Kane Sisters in Box Office Poision

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

As Sophia on The Golden Girls would say, picture it: Pocatello, Idaho, 1956. The Fabulous Kane Sisters — loose Lana (Marc Geller) and nutty Nova (Bill Roulet) — are hired to perform at an old theatre. Nearly 20 deaths under mysterious circumstances have occurred at the house, but Shifty (Brent Erdy), the ladies' agent, conveniently forgets to tell them. What the Kane sisters find at the theatre — and why everyone laughs until their sides hurt — is a phenomenal takeoff on mystery films, backstage comedies, and gay camp, including delicious one-liners.

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New Review: Choose Your Own Play

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Long-form improv is notoriously hard to do, as it's usually predicated on being funny, thinking fast, and sustaining it all for a whole evening. With up to 100 characters and 80 possible endings for their story, the Houston-based troupe presenting Choose Your Own Play makes its task especially difficult. So even if the show was only half successful, it might qualify as triumphant.

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At a Barnes & Noble in Stamford, CT -- My Book

So funny. Right over Danielle Steel.

Major props to Mario and Stephen for sending me this photo.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Review: China -- The Whole Enchilada

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Technical snafus, such as wonky mikes and CD players, hardly fazed Brad DePlanche, Eric Hissom, and Philip Nolen of Mark Brown's fabulous musical parody China: The Whole Enchilada. Good thing — it's a laugh riot.

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New Review: The Vajayjay Monologues

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Lindsay Burns' The Vajayjay Monologues is a wonderfully dry riposte to Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. As directed by Vicki Stroich, it mocks Oprah Winfrey's use of the term vajayjay to great comic effect but also seriously questions why society still remains uneasy about women's genitalia.

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New Review: Perez Hilton Saves The Universe (Or At Least The Greater Los Angeles Area): The Musical

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Britney Spears is dead. With her funeral hours away, terrorists Habib and Kebab are set to nuke L.A. Only gossip guru Perez Hilton can save the day -- if Kathy Griffin doesn't steal the show.

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New Review: The Naked Dead Elephant in the Middle of the Room

For Back Stage, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.

Here's the tease:

Playwright-director Larson Rose may never forgive the creators of [title of show] for first getting the idea of a play acted on stage as it's being written. But he needn't worry: With The Naked Dead Elephant in the Middle of the Room, he shows that naked men on stage always win your heart.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

A Fifth Review of Historic Photographs of Broadway

A fifth review of Historic Photographs of Broadway.

Many thanks to my fellow blogger, Sarah B., for the kind words

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes: 1942-2008

This one goes out to my old friend Craig Thornton.

With love,
Boy Genius

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

New Article: Q&A with Max Gross, "From Schlub to Stud: How to Embrace Your Inner Mensch and Conquer the Big City"


Here's a tease:

Max Gross' new book, From Schlub to Stud: How to Embrace Your Inner Mensch and Conquer the Big City, is a geek-genre memoir, the tale a New York City kid growing up heavy-set, Dartmouth-educated and klutzy, who then enters the real world only to find not all of those traits set him up for lifelong success. While his bushy Jewfro may be out of Gross' control (his mother begs him to use more product), this is the story of someone learning that schlubbiness is something to be celebrated, that geeks can—and do—get the girl. Inspired by America's most famous schlub (Seth Rogen), Gross' riotous recollection covers horrible breakups, bedbugs, a hellacious IRS audit, fearsome poker playing, a pair of nagging but loving parents, and how even a slob, over time, can transform himself into a total stud.

On the cover there's a very pretty blonde with her arms around you. Is that your girlfriend?
Actually, she's the granddaughter of a friend of my dad's. It was very funny because I was dating somebody when I was writing the book, and up until a month or two ago, who was very upset with the idea that she wasn't appearing on the cover with me. She isn't blonde, though, and we really wanted a girl who was blonde, who sort of looks shiksa. Whereas the girl I dated, while a genuine shiksa, doesn't look like one.

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Template Problem Apparently Fixed

With great thanks to Jon Stancato of The Stolen Chair Theatre Company.

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Template Troubles

If any of you are having trouble loading my blog (specifically the background), I'd be most grateful if could you email me ( and let me know. There's apparently there's something funky going on with my template.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

My Interview with Theatre is Territory, Praxis Theatre's Awesome Blog

I'm so psyched. Ian Mackenzie of Toronto's great Praxis theatre asked me to participate in one of its 10 questions sessions, which I've been following since I got into this little corner of cyber-spaciness. Ian asked some thought-provoking questions and I hope I provided some adequately ball-busting answers.

And Ian, thank you. I've been a fan of your blog for some time, and I especially appreciate all the attention paid to my book. Thank you, thank you.

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For Those of You Looking for My Book

I am told there's a display at the Lincoln Center B&N. Go! (Very cool!)

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New Review: Hair

For Back Stage. Of course, you really have to read the whole thing to find out what I thought. I'm just saying.

Anyway, here's the tease:

The Public Theater's revival of Hair is so spirited in its heart and mind that experiencing it is like sitting atop a promontory — a mesmerizing high. It's sung so buoyantly, with such sincere embrace, that there are moments when the infectious, durable rock score by composer Galt MacDermot and co-lyricists (and book writers) Gerome Ragni and James Rado floats you on air — a delectable high.

And make no mistake: Hair showcases one physically beautiful cast. Just looking at them — Jonathan Groff's sweet-smiling Claude, Will Swenson's buff Berger, Caren Lyn Manuel's sultry Sheila, Bryce Ryness' sensuous Woof, and Patina Renea Miller's earthy Dionne, among others — is enough to power-launch you on an Apollo mission to a paradisiacal astral plane.

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New Article: The Fringe Festival

For New York Press -- a think piece.

Here's the tease:

You’ve never heard of the New York International Fringe Festival? Don’t worry—I won’t harass you with a “Have you been living under a rock?” joke. Those who’d never ordinarily dip below 14th Street without a passport and booster shots might not know too much about it, anyway.

And the Present Company—the nonprofit group that produces the Fringe—prefers it that way, touting the Fringe as the nation’s largest multi-arts festival. For the past 12 years in August, some 200 plays, musicals, solo performances, puppet pieces and theater works that the dictionary refuses to define play in 20 spaces downtown. Some of them are quite large (“Dude, did they really need that space for that Kabuki King Lear?”), some are quite Liliputian and some are, to be kind, just Fringe-y.

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New Review: Twelve Ophelias

For New York Press. Went online awhile ago. Here's the tease:

Why did Teddy Bergman, co-founder and co-artistic director of the Woodshed Collective, situate his ambitious production of Caridad Svich’s Twelve Ophelias within the vast and creepy bowels of the McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg?

Maybe it’s ghosts. Svich’s play, after all, is practically suffused with them, much in the same way that Shakespeare’s original Hamlet asks the title character—and audiences—to believe that he’s acting upon his dead father’s dictates. Bergman makes a statement by plunking the play into a comparatively tiny sliver of the long-neglected hulk, which was touted as the world’s largest public pool when Robert Moses and Fiorello LaGuardia opened it in 1936. Sense, if you can, the ghosts of yesteryear’s happy kiddies.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LIII

The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of August 6, 2008:

These two stories together earn a single comment:

F.C.C. Vote Sets Precedent on Unfettered Web Usage
New York Times, 8/2/2008

"The Federal Communications Commission formally voted Friday to uphold the complaint against Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, saying that it had illegally inhibited users of its high-speed Internet service from using popular file-sharing software. The decision, which imposes no fine, requires Comcast to end such blocking this year. Kevin J. Martin, the commission’s chairman, said the order was meant to set a precedent that Internet providers, and indeed all communications companies, could not keep customers from using their networks the way they see fit unless there is a good reason. . . . The case also highlights the broader issue of whether new legislation is needed to force Internet providers to treat all uses of their networks equally, a concept called network neutrality."

FCC decision against Comcast lays blueprint for Internet battle
The Hill (DC), 8/5/2008

"The decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to punish Comcast for limiting Web traffic to its consumers is likely to reignite a torrid battle between America’s tech giants and cable providers next Congress. The agency’s move was the first time it waded into the complex 'net neutrality' debate — the push for open, unrestricted access to broadband networks — by directly acting against a cable provider. It could set a precedent for future penalties and provide the legal framework for legislation from Capitol Hill."
God, the cable people really are evil, aren't they? They'll stop at nothing. That's why we have to elect progressives.

Budget cuts loom for arts, parks
Indianapolis Business Journal, 8/2/2008
"After Mayor Greg Ballard’s upset victory at the polls last November, [Indianapolis] arts leaders were in a panic. They worried the no-nonsense former Marine would put public safety on a pedestal and slash Indianapolis’ funding for cultural groups. Now, they say their worst suspicions are being confirmed. Late last month, City-County Council President Bob Cockrum, who, like Ballard, is a Republican, warned the Indianapolis Consortium of Arts Administrators that the mayor intends to phase out the entire $1.5 million in funding it provides for cultural education and outreach."
Another stupid anti-arts Republican.

Film studio neighbors come around
Boston Globe, 8/3/2008

"Even without the promise of a generous tax credit, Plymouth Rock Studios is pressing ahead with plans to create its Hollywood East film studio in Plymouth - and once-wary neighbors of the ambitious project now appear to embrace it."
I continue to be shocked at how it's news that Massachusetts folks are even warming to this idea. The whole idea that they would be "wary" is just silly. It's called an economic driver, people.

Cultural Trust pays out $1.65 million
The Oregonian, 8/2/2008

"There's a credit crisis right now, but that hasn't stopped Oregonians from giving to the Oregon Cultural Trust, which, in turn, is dispersing its funds in record amounts, according to three simultaneous news conferences held Friday in Portland, Eugene and Salem. The trust announced $1.65 million in grants for 2009, an increase of about 21 percent, say trust officials."
Nice bit of good news, this.

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National Arts Marketing Project Conference Getting in Gear

Counting Down to Houston and the
National Arts Marketing Project Conference

More Sessions Announced
Hear how the Science Museum of Minnesota is using blogs, podcasts, social tagging, and other tools to enter into dialogue with visitors.

Not sure you have the budget to begin podcasting? The team at the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State will show you how they took $100 and turned it into podcasts to create an interactive online news magazine, saving over $20,000 in printing costs.

Become a Speaker Today
Apply to lead a Roundtable Discussion or present in the Mosh Pit of New Ideas. Roundtable Discussions are casual conversations led by experts and organized around a single marketing or fundraising topic. The Mosh Pit is an exhibit style session where you can go from table to table to see the most innovative developments and campaigns in the field. Applications for both are due Friday, August 22.

Looking for a way to save? Then be a volunteer. The deadline has been extended to Friday, August 29!

So Much to Do in Houston
Whether it's the Houston Museum District with 18 museums within walking distance or the Theater District that spans 17 blocks, there's always something to do in Houston. Check out the new Discovery Green and Houston Pavilions right across from the conference hotel.

A Great Lineup of Session Speakers
Erik Baxter
Multimedia Specialist
Center for the Performing Arts, Penn State

David Snead
Director of Marketing
New York Philharmonic

Phil Reynolds
Executive Director
Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago

Jenny Millinger
Director of Strategic Initiatives

Jerry Yoshitomi
Chief Knowledge Officer

Andrew Micheli
Director of Programs
Arts & Business Council of Chicago

Chad Peterson
Director of Marketing
Northlight Theatre

Nannette Maciejunes
Executive Director
Columbus Museum of Art

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MTC Gives More Writers Work (and Money)



Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director; Barry Grove, Executive Producer; Daniel Sullivan, Acting Artistic Director 2007-2008) has announced the 2008 recipients of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Initiative commissions. This year’s five commissioned writers are Rinne Groff (Saved), Beau Willimon (Farragut North), Mark Schultz (A Brief History of Helen of Troy), Lucy Kirkwood (Tinderbox) and Hannah Moscovitch (East of Berlin).

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has provided a grant to Manhattan Theatre Club to support the development of plays that address themes of math, science and technology or plays that depict scientists, mathematicians and engineers as major characters in order to bridge the divide between the arts and sciences.

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Americans for the Arts Action Fund Gets Political


Washington DC, August 7, 2008 — Politicians are no longer turning a deaf ear to the arts. To illustrate this point, ArtsVote2008, a national initiative by the Americans for the Arts Action Fund, has commissioned an original, limited edition poster from American artist John Baldessari. The poster features repeated images of ears, imploring voters and elected officials to: “Listen. Reflect. Choose. Vote.” The work will be made available at the Democratic and Republican national conventions at events co-hosted by the Americans for the Arts Action Fund and NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.

“This image on the poster shows that art speaks volumes. It not only reflects the principles of the nation’s electoral process but our position and cause as well,” stated Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. “We are eager for our message to be heard but even more eager to hear how each presidential candidate will incorporate the arts and arts education in their vision of America.”

ArtsVote2008 has had great success in raising the arts as a vital campaign topic. During the presidential primary season, ArtsVote2008 issued a Pro-Arts Policy Brief addressing how the arts can be a catalyst in arts education, economic development, health care, transportation and other areas, and procured public arts policy statements in support of the arts from an unprecedented six primary candidates. Details for ArtsVote convention events and activities will be released at a later date. For more information on ArtsVote2008, visit

“This poster serves as a call to action,” said John Baldessari. “The message is for both the voters and the politicians; take time to listen and reflect on the issues and make your voice heard this election year.”

About the Artist
John Baldessari is a founding member of Americans for the Arts’ Artists Committee and in 2005 was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards. The Santa Monica, CA-based artist is known as much for his influential role as a teacher as he is for the important work he has produced as an artist, having taught at both Cal Arts and UCLA for many years. He has been described as the leading figure of the California Conceptual art movement which began in the 1960s and is credited with breaking down the division between the disciplines of photography and painting in contemporary art. Baldessari has been the subject of major museum exhibitions across the globe and in 2010 he will be among the first contemporary American artists to have a retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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The Problem of Reviewers Who Can't Do Their Jobs Properly

Got a largely ok review of my book this morning from Michael Portantiere (who was fired some time ago as the editor of, but as usual (and why, I would imagine, he was fired) he makes some stumbles. Omitting the name of the author -- or only using the last name of the author in the penultimate graph -- is pathetic and churlish and silly.

And I had to send an email this morning to someone above Michael to at least note his mistakes, not that they surprised me. This is a guy who once sent me an ominous email warning me in no uncertain terms that I shouldn't mention in public or private conversation. I actually sent him an email back reminding him of what the U.S. Constitution says about freedom of speech and that perhaps it is him who ought to shut it.

(The fact is, questions about Michael's professionalism are not unknown to the business. On All That Chat on was a brief thread about him last week that wisely was removed. Stuff like that, out of discretion, really doesn't belong in the public square.)

MP suggests there are "some omissions and mistakes" in my text, then cites a few examples -- three. Regarding Charley's Aunt, for example, the three actors are, despite what he writes, very clearly identified; the spelling of the man's name in the middle of the photograph has several variations and his birth and death dates are unknown. That's not a mistake or omission. That's where the research led me.

MP also says that my text for Outward Bound is in error, but it is not. The actors are not noted by the Billy Rose Theatre Division on the reverse side of the image (if he doesn't believe me, let him go there and look at the photo), but my text does state who was in the production.

MP also says my text for Of Thee I sing is identified unclearly; there, yes, we did not get into who starred in the show but the information is correct.

Given that the book contains upward of 3,000 names and dates, this is pretty picky, no?

And I think if MP's going to suggest there's a "whopper of a grammatical error" in the paragraph on Nazimova, shouldn't he say what it is?

At the end of the day, I simply consider the source.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is Your Work Going to be Orphaned?

A friend of mine forwarded me this earlier today.

You are cordially invited to attend

How Will the Orphan Works Bill Economically Impact Small Entities?

This Friday, August 8, 2008
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Salmagundi Club
47 Fifth Avenue (between 11th & 12th Streets)
New York, NY 10003
Free Admission

Please attend this important industry event in person. Let government officials see and hear directly from those of us who will be harmed if this bill passes.

Until now, the Orphan Works bill has been driven by anti-copyright forces and special interest groups. This will be our first opportunity to be heard in a government sponsored forum devoted to the business interests of copyright holders. The Roundtable will be chaired by Tom Sullivan, Director of the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration (SBA). It will give artists from the Northeast the chance to explain the impact of Orphan Works legislation on our careers and on the art we create.

Will the cost of compliance create an unreasonable burden on individual artists, writers and musicians?
Will the failure to register work lead to the loss of copyrights?
Why should artists be forced to supply their business data to commercial databases?
Will the bill create a new business model favoring large corporations at the expense of artists?
Will this change the nature of competition for all of us?

Nineteen distinguished panelists, all from the creative community, will represent the copyright interests of illustrators, photographers, fine artists, art licensors, writers, musicians and the collateral businesses that serve and are dependent on creators.

Rich Bengloff, President, American Association of Music (A2IM)
Kathleen Bitetti, Executive Director, Artists Foundation
Barbara Bordnick, Advertising Photographer
Terry Brown, Executive Director, American Society of Illustrators Partnership
Gerald Colby, President, National Writers’ Union
Frank Costantino, Architectural Illustrator
Constance Evans, Executive Director, Advertising Photographers of America
Dr. Theodore Feder, President, Artists Rights Society
George Fulton, Advertising Photographer
John Harrington, Press Photographer
Brad Holland, Artist
Deb Kozikowski, Writer
Dena Matthews, Medical Animator
Cheryl Phelps, Art Licensor, Illustrator, Designer and Adjunct Professor
Gene Poole, Songwriter and Musician
David Rhodes, President, School of Visual Arts, New York
Alexis Scott, President, Workbook, print and online directory of visual artists
Frank Stella, Artist
Cynthia Turner, Medical Illustrator

Congress established the Office of Advocacy under Pub. L. 94-305 to represent the views of small entities before Federal agencies and Congress. Advocacy is an independent office within the Small Business Administration.

This event will be webcast. PLEASE RSVP to and include the names of those attending.

You may review the agenda, the panelists and their biographies on the Illustrators’ Partnership blog.

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