Saturday, September 27, 2008

On Vacation

I'm off to Raleigh with Ken to visit some of his family for a few days. Will be back Wednesday morning. Please don't forget about me while I'm gone...

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LIX



The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of September 24, 2008:

Arts, Inc: The Corporate Control of Culture
Multinational Monitor, Sep/Oct 2008
The Multinational Monitor talks with former NEA chairman Bill Ivey about his new book, "Arts, Inc: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights." Ivey says, "[O]ur modern arts system exhibits greater protection, greater control and more remote decision making, all tailored to the demands of public corporations for positive quarterly earnings estimates and positive stock performance, rather than to the public’s interest in the health of art and artistry."
Great piece.

Chamber opposes sales tax increase for arts and outdoors
Minnesota Public Radio, 9/18/2008
"The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has decided to oppose the proposed sales tax increase that would dedicate funding for the arts and the outdoors. The Chamber and its lobbying heft could play a critical role in defeating the proposal which is on the November ballot."
Their reasons are clearly political -- and short-sighted. Dumb.


City-County Council OKs $1.1 billion budget
Indianapolis Star (IN), 9/23/2008
In Indianapolis, "[t]he City-County Council on Monday night passed a barely balanced $1.1 billion budget that cuts spending in 2009. . . . The 12 Democrats who voted against it criticized the Republican mayor for cutting funding for city parks and arts programs, and for not delivering on the 100 new officers who were promised as part of the council's 65 percent increase in the county income tax last year."
Such a strange city. Red state stuff.

Editorial: Funding the Arts
Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/24/2008
Responding to the release of Portfolio 2008, a which provides a "statistical snapshot" of the non-profit cultural sector in Greater Philadelphia, a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial says the report "makes a strong case for enhanced government and philanthropic support of the arts. . . . With so many arts groups struggling financially, and given Mayor Nutter's outreach to the suburbs, the time is right for a regional funding approach to provide a financial cushion for cultural institutions." The mayor is supportive of the idea, and will "soon have an arts czar, Gary Steuer, to explore that idea."
Awesome. What a great progressive city.

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Steve on Broadway on Equus

Steve on Broadway has a nice roundup of some of the Equus reviews, but, strangely, oddly, perversely, doesn't include mine.

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New Review: Equus

For Back Stage.

Here's the tease:

"Sometimes theatre professionals and audiences recall great original productions with an "I was there, you weren't" mentality that excludes the unfortunate and the unborn. The original production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie in 1945 is an example. To this day, Laurette Taylor's Amanda Wingfield is viewed by many — even the generations that never saw her — as the untouchable, unachievable standard. So perhaps it's inevitable that director Thea Sharrock's stirring revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus will be compared with John Dexter's original 1974 staging of the play, for which Dexter and Shaffer won Tonys. But how wrong-headed it would be for this brooding, marvelous play and this revival's gifted lead actors to be viewed on anything but their own well-deserved terms."

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sarah Silverman Convinced Me to Do the Great Schlep

And so schlep I shall -- since I'll be in Florida as of October 16.

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93rd Street Beautification Association Asks CB8 for Ethics Reform

Great letter from the association to the CB8. I don't have the images, but the content of the letter is clear:

Mr. David Liston
Chair, Community Board 8
505 Park Avenue, Suite 620
New York, NY 10022
September 22, 2008

Re: Formal Request for Reconsideration of CB8 Vote of September 10, 2008 Approving Proposal to Construct Penthouse Atop the Penthouse at 150 East 93rd St. in Carnegie Hill

Dear Mr. Liston,

As you know, historic East 93rd Street between Lexington & Third Avenues is a very special block. In addition to the world-famous Marx Brothers House, the block boasts a row of 19th century brownstones that are older than any of the brownstones already within the protection of the Carnegie Hill Historic District.

In addition to these two significant facts, East 93rd Street's unique stepped-down roofscape, in part a function of the block being one of the steepest hills left in Manhattan, has been celebrated by architects and historic preservationists alike. In fact, Place Matters, the partnership project of the Municipal Arts Society and City Lore, is so charmed by our remarkable stepped-down roofscape, it has devoted an entire page to our historic block at www.placematters.org. So, we have no doubt that CB8 can also appreciate the fact that any project that threatens the historic character of our little neighborhood is of grave concerns to the residents of East 93rd Street and the Carnegie Hill Neighborhood at large.

That is why we are writing to you today to express our very serious concerns about the September 10, 2008 CB8 vote approving a proposed Penthouse which the applicant wishes to construct on top of his existing Penthouse at 150 East 93rd Street in Carnegie Hill where the applicant serves as the President of the Co-Op Board.

It is our understanding that the formal resolution of the subject CB8 Board vote has been sent to BSA, but that the matter has not yet been scheduled by that Board. We hereby formally request that Community Board 8 reconsider the subject September 10, 2008 vote, vacate the Board's previous approval of the subject Special Permit and notify BSA of the Board's new action on this matter.

At this point in time, before irreparable harm is rendered upon our block, we respectfully ask CB8 to reconsider its subject vote of September 10, 2008 for the following reasons:

1.) Applicant falsely claimed that his existing Penthouse can not be seen from the street and, thereby, deliberately misled Community Board 8 in his description of the impact of his proposal on the character of the neighborhood.

As shown in the photographs below, the existing Penthouse can, in fact, be seen from the street. If applicant is allowed to construct a Penthouse atop his Penthouse, twice as much of it will be seen.

2.) Applicant failed to provide Community Board 8 with exact specifications (height, etc.) about the proposed Penthouse. When asked at the September 10, 2008 CB8 meeting, by neighbor Marci Wertheimer, for the exact height of the proposed Penthouse and the exact height of 150 East 93rd Street if the proposed Penthouse were approved and added to the top of the extant Penthouse, applicant stated that he only had approximations and no exact measurements.

3.) A laundry list of Public Safety issues are raised by applicant's failure to provide exact specifications, measurements and details for his proposal to construct a Penthouse atop his existing Penthouse at the tallest peak on our block.

4.) Whether this block has yet or ever will be landmarked, it is undeniably very rich in NYC history (as set forth in great detail in the RFE filed with Community Board 8 on September 8, 2008). And while that incontrovertible fact may not yet trigger a review by NYC's LPC, it underscores the importance of Community Board 8 giving due consideration to the impact of this proposal on the character of the neighborhood, historic East 93rd Street.

5.) The applicant deliberately misled CB8 in his assertion that 150 East 93rd Street is surrounded by nothing but high rises. The photographs above and below show that 150 East 93rd Street abuts a row

of tiny brownstones that are only 4 stories tall and are older than any of the brownstones that are already within the Carnegie Hill Historic District.

Because of the applicant's deliberate mischaracterization of the neighborhood that will be affected if his proposal is approved, CB8 has not yet had an authentic opportunity to seriously consider the impact of this proposal on the character of the subject neighborhood.

As illustrated by the photograph above, the block is dramatically dwarfed by 150 East 93rd Street, our tallest peak already. If CB8 were to grant the Special Permit requesting approval to add yet another Penthouse to the top of applicant's extant Penthouse, the disparity in scale would be far more lopsided, and surely stick out like a sore thumb on our ancient little block of 19th century houses.

6.) In light of the Manhattan Borough President's recent efforts to strengthen the public’s protection against construction projects not thoroughly vetted, and the fact that even the DOB refused to approve the applicant’ proposal to construct a Penthouse on top of his existing Penthouse, CB8 should reconsider and vacate its September 10 Approval of the subject Special Permit so as to ensure public safety; protect the continuity of the neighborhood's distinct and historic character and to encourage the necessary construction reforms being pursued by the Manhattan Borough President's office.

Thank you for your swift and thorough attention to this formal request to reconsider and vacate CB8's September 10, 2008 approval of Mr. Mark Martinez' Special Permit for his proposal to build a Penthouse on top of his existing Penthouse at 150 East 93rd Street.

Respectfully Submitted,
Susan Kathryn Hefti
Co-Chair, 93rd Street Beautification Association
93rdst.beautification@gmail.com

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93rd Street Beautification Association Pushes the Demolition Review Bill

This just in --

John McCain is suspending all Social Security payments and flying to New York to make sure the City Council passes the Demolition Review Requirement that the 93rd Street Beautification Association is proposing.

Here is an email that I received today on this issue. Interesting read.

93rd Street Beautification Association
Keeping Our Block Historic & Green
http://www.savemarxbrothersplace.wordpress.com/

Anybody who thinks that the NYC Demolition Review Bill (which is now making the rounds in the New York City Council) is bad for business, just isn't paying attention at all. Over the last several years, NYC has gone from being a mere image projected against a Green Screen in a Hollywood Back Lot (which generates $0 revenue to our town) to being an actual physical location, syphoning production crews; entire casts; staffs of writers and stables of stylists along with producers, directors and stunt coordinators away from the traditional cost-effective fare, offered by Los Angeles and Toronto, and transplanting a string of hot TV Series (eg., Ugly Betty, Entourage, Fringe, 30 Rock) and countless movies (both independent and Hollywood Studio Feature films) to the Big Apple, instead.

To our good fortune (and not a moment too soon), along with these shows and movies comes a much-needed financial boon for a city, first shell-shocked by the tragedy that befell us all on September 11, 2001, and now reeling from the more recent fallout from an insatiable appetite for junk securities, which at first looked like a life-line out of the unimaginable shock of the first tragedy, but now, just like the Emperor himself, stand naked before us all (without so much as a price tag discreetly dangling before its modesty).

The welcome shift in the Film & Television Industry, back to NYC and its Boroughs (which had all enjoyed an earlier heyday thanks to filmmakers and artists like The Marx Brothers), has happened, in part, because of the generous tax incentives offered to TV & Film projects, a shrewd calling card in a budget-conscious climate such as ours. But the real draw for New York City has always been its incomparable photogenic complexion: eclectic, storied and stunning. The incontrovertible fact remains - there is no other place like it on earth.

When Hollywood Locations Scouts and Managers, the people that actually see the scenes in their minds eye before the scenes ever get produced, talk about New York City, they can't help but gush about its remarkable historic architecture. The New York City that is a magnet for the creative juices of the Film & Television Industry is not the bland-box-condo-complexes that developers have been allowed to ram through with sleepy Community Boards looking the other way, but the New York City that is as distinct and unmistakable as a fingerprint. It's the New York City whose architectural inventory and residential neighborhoods spell out, in the visual vernacular widely memorialized in film and video, a town whose mise-en-scene couldn't possibly be mistaken for that of a Canadian surrogate (as in the recent excellent, but very oddly set film, Elegy).

Much has been written about the phenomenon of Hollywood East (which stretches well beyond Manhattan into Long Island City, Coney Island and Jackson Heights, Queens, to name but a few well-trod locations). But an article in The New York Times today vividly illustrates the critical, and therefore fragile, symbiotic relationship between historic preservation and the sustainability of this still nascent industry (which is always a mere boarding pass away from LA and Toronto).

What is most striking to us about this article is how it so clearly connects the dots between the economic windfall NYC is currently enjoying, from the glare of the spotlights, and the specific premium placed on a real-life backdrop of HISTORIC ROWHOUSES in particular, just one of the many architectural treasures we are campaigning to save on Marx Brothers Place in Carnegie Hill.

At this unpredictable moment in NYC's economic narrative, Members of the City Council, Melinda Katz and her powerful Land Use Committee in particular, have a fortuitous opportunity to make an historic contribution to the health and future of our great city by protecting that which helps to sustain its residential neighborhoods; its tourism; its much vaunted history and its long-term economic muscle. With only 1% of NYC's vast building stock triggering even the most cursory review before a demolition permit can be issued, a vital economic resource (the rest of the historically significant structures in our town) that is helping to stem our city's current financial hemorrhage, remains dangerously vulnerable to summary demolition.

It is the confluence of tough times, practical measures and leaders with true vision that make great moments in history. And Members of the New York City Council are standing at that very nexus right now. Before our city looses the historically significant catalogue of architectural structures that help define its character, and now contribute to its wealth, members of the New York City Council should embrace the Demolition Review Bill before them, and adopt this important piece of legislation into law, today. It's time for our elected officials to step up to the plate and protect New York City's economic future.

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Book Signing!! Drama Book Shop, October 7, 5:30pm

I will be speak about and sign copies of my book, Historic Photos of Broadway, at the Drama Book Shop on Tuesday, October 7, starting at 5:30pm.

Here are some more details on the event.

The address of the Drama Book Shop is:
250 West 40th Street

It will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.

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The Stupidity of Hollywood

A friend of mine who runs a blog out of Los Angeles sent me this email, which is supposedly real and written by someone who works at MGM. Laugh, laugh, I thought I'd die.

And if it's fictitious, it's brilliant.

Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 5:09 PM
Subject: RE: SWP Mtg. Kristi w/ Kristin and Matthew

Hey Ryan-
I'm sorry, b/c I'm covering for Lindsey's usual asst., could you tell me, who's Rosh Hashanah and why would he/she affect Kristi's meeting with K and M?

Thanks! I really appreciate it!
Michelle

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2008 New York Innovative Theatre Awards

It was pleasure to be a presenter last night (with the fabulous Akia) of the Cafe Cino Fellowship to the Boomerang Theatre Company. Fun hanging out backstage with Tina Howe and Edward Albee and some of the other presenters, too.

Here are the winners:

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE
Recipient: Elena Chang, Noshir Dalal, Jon Hoche, Kelley Rae O'Donnell, Melissa Paladino, Maureen Sebastian, Andrea Marie Smith, Paco Tolson, Temar Underwood
Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Recipient: Andrea Caban
You Got Questions? I Got Answers!, Coyote REP Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE
Recipient: Rob Sheridan
The Two Lives of Napoleon Beazley, Incumbo Theater Company

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE
Recipient: Megan Byrne
No End of Blame, Potomac Theatre Project

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE
Recipient: Cameron J. Oro
The Accidental Patriot: The Lamentable Tragedy of the Pirate Desmond Connelly, Irish by Birth, English by Blood, and American by Inclination
The Stolen Chair Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE
Recipient: Stephanie Barton-Farcas
Elizabeth Rex, Nicu's Spoon

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY/MOVEMENT
Recipient: Qui Nguyen
Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR
Recipient: Edward Elefterion
The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
Recipient: Kevin Hardy
The Night of Nosferatu, Rabbit Hole Ensemble

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
Jessica Wegener
Fight Girl Battle World, Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
Sean Breault
Art of Memory, Company SoGoNo

OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN
Dan Bianchi
The Island of Dr. Moreau, Radiotheatre

OUTSTANDING ORIGINAL MUSIC
Dan Bianchi
The Island of Dr. Moreau, Radiotheatre

OUTSTANDING FULL-LENGTH SCRIPT
Bekah Brunstetter
You May Go Now, Babel Theatre Project

OUTSTANDING SHORT SCRIPT
Aliza Shane
The Three Sillies, The Looking Glass Theatre

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ART PRODUCTION
Recipient: Removable Parts, HERE Arts Center

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL
Recipient: Yank! A New Musical, The Gallery Players

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION OF A PLAY
Recipient: Burn, Crave, Hold: The James Wilde Project, Blessed Unrest

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Americans for the Arts Report Card: Republicans, Too Busy Lying, Flunk

I received this press release today. Not surprisingly, Republicans are anti-arts imbeciles who'll bankrupt the country before celebrating its artists.

AMERICANS FOR THE ARTS ACTION FUND PAC ISSUES CONGRESSIONAL REPORT CARD ON THE ARTS

Maine Tops List as Best State Delegation, Alaska and Wyoming at the Bottom

Arts Advocates Have a Chance to Vote smART on November 4


The Americans for the Arts Action Fund PAC issues its Congressional Arts Report Card, covering the 110th Congress (2007-2009). The entire Report Card containing letter grades and numerical scores of every Member of Congress based on his or her voting record on arts issues can be found online at www.artsactionfund.org/stay_informed/special_reports/.

The 2008 Congressional Arts Report Card reveals that 181 members (43%) of Congress received a grade of A or higher. When the grades of the Members of each state delegation are averaged on a state-by-state basis, the highest scoring state delegation is Maine, with a perfect score of 100. Alaska and Wyoming are the lowest scoring state delegations with a score of 20 points each.

Additionally, the Arts Report Card shows that support for the arts is bipartisan and growing, as evidenced in the nearly 24% increase in membership of the Congressional Arts Caucus since 2000. Also, 21 representatives improved their Report Card scores by one-letter grade or more from their 2006 Report Card grade.

The 110th Congress is decidedly pro-arts. Congress voted to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts from $124.4 million to $144.7 million. This $20 million increase by Congress lays the foundation for a full restoration of NEA funding to its 1992 level—$176 million. Additionally, the number of co-sponsors on the House’s Artists Deduction Bill (H.R. 1524) has increased from 71 to 102.

“As the arts and arts education increasingly established a foothold during this year’s presidential campaign trail, the Report Card will serve as a compelling guide for the public to make overall arts-informed decisions at the ballot box on Election Day,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. “Although the Report Card shows that Congress is progressively acknowledging the importance of the arts and arts education, further support is needed in arts funding.”

The Report Card assigns each Member of Congress a letter grade and numerical score based on his or her voting record on specific arts and arts education policy issues. Four separate congressional actions are covered, and each is weighted based on its importance to the arts -- with the greatest weight given to four votes on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). A perfect score equals 100 points, and the points are correlated to a letter grade of A+ through F. The Report Card also includes a detailed arts voting record for each Member.

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One Ticket for A Tale of Two Cities

I'm finally catching A Tale of Two Cities at this Wednesday's matinee. Who wants to join me? If so, email me.

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John McCain Promises Lies, Death and the Apocalypse to the American People



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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Liza Minnelli Responds to the Fiscal Crisis -- 20 Years Ago!

Note the surprise in the final video. :-)





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[title of show] closing; uber-believers aim to make it to become the theatre's Rasputin

oy. so in honor of [title of show] -- a show i liked enough to have a good time at but never thought was the second coming of jesus christ, and a show that would have never gone to Broadway had it not been for the overweening sense of sanctimonious super-overentitlement of its creators, particularly, it seems, Hunter Bell, and which is closing, according to playbill, after 103 performances and 13 previews -- i'm only using lowercase letters in this post.

and then, as i was cruising talkinbroadway.com this afternoon, there's a string asking whether [title of show] could move off-broadway. god almighty, what the hell is this show -- the rasputin of the american musical theatre?

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Did Rob Weinert-Kendt Take Down Hilton Als?

Oh my, I think he did. I read Als' review of Thomas Bradshaw's Southern Promises when I got my copy of The New Yorker, of course, but frankly I sort of dismissed it -- it's rather a naked and astonishingly weak attempt to, as Rob suggests, move the goal posts left and right and sideways.

There's something about the tone of Als' review, I agree, that suggests that just because the critic deigned to visit P.S. 122 (major kudos to publicist Ron Lasko for persuading him to go), Bradshaw must therefore represent some sort of vanguard, if not strictly some avant-garde.

As for me, I have not seen the play as yet, and frankly I've been debating whether I should. And that is because of my strong and still-not-fully-forgotten reaction to Bradshaw's play Purity a year and some ago. Truly, it was one of the most uncomfortable nights I've ever spent at the theatre. I will never, ever forget the sight of Bradshaw standing, arms folded, at the back of the house, smiling from ear to ear as people literally streamed out of house by the score, offended by the two simulated rapes of a child on stage; as the playwright, pleased with himself beyond all measure, comprehension and sanity, overtly thrilled to seeing women cry and men disgusted; as Bradshaw delighted in hijacking his own dramatic concept with such stark gratuitiousness and showy alienation. Artaud and Brecht might have been beaming from their respective graves, but it was such a sad occasion because it was all in the name of some misguided mind-fuck.

So here comes Hilton Als, it seems, to proclaim Bradshaw some messed-up messiah, and Rob is right to question the quality of Als' review, the critic's motivations for covering the play, and, in a "broad brush" way (his phrase), suggest that the rest of us question whether blurring the line between criticism and agenda setting is in the best interests of the form. It seems to me that the question is: Does agenda-setting damage the artist in the long run, for isn't the conferring of status really about the critic's self-aggrandizement first and the art itself last?

I'm also very pleased to see Weinert-Kendt tackle Als' footloose, fancy-not-so-free discussion of stage artists "purposefully incorporating blackness into America’s primarily white avant-garde theatre":

...it's not my area of expertise, but does Suzan-Lori Parks not count? Or George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum? And is that unappetizing list of black theater sub-genres, which I guess includes and dismisses everything by August Wilson, Douglas Turner Ward, Lynn Nottage, Kia Corthron (and these are just the names I can pluck off the top of my head), really relevant to the question of the scarcity of black artists in the avant-garde theater?...
Read the comments on Rob's blog, too. It's not the first time he's taken Als to task, if memory serves, and I guess it won't be the last.

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Arts Advocacy Update LVIII



The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of September 17, 2008:

ArtCast: Episode 8
ArtCast, September 2008
Bob Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses the organization’s new partnership with The Aspen Institute and how it is helping leaders across the United States gain a better understanding of the arts as a tool for job creation, economic impact, education, and cultural diplomacy.
Not a long one, but a very interesting one. I also find Lynch to be great to listen to or talk to.


Making a case for the arts
Indianapolis Star (IN), 9/13/2008
"City arts leaders have decided to join [Indianapolis] Mayor Greg Ballard's fight against crime. In turn, they hope he'll keep the arts near the top of the city's agenda. . . . The symphony, paintings and piano recitals feel soft compared to the hard tasks of economic development, urban renewal and crime fighting. Yet, the arts have a place in addressing each of those issues, helping steer young people away from crime as well as attracting skilled professionals and the businesses that employ them."
Please, Mayor Ballard? Please, if we throw a sop to your fight against crime, please if we kiss your ass and beg and plead and scratch and claw for your attention, please, oh pretty please with sugar on top actually pay attention to the goddamn arts that you're so eager and excited to give a budget cut to?


Education and the arts
Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2008
Responding to the new RAND study that argues schools must expand arts education to build a new audience, a Los Angeles Times editorial questions, "if our society is placing less value on classical arts, is it proper for schools to try to change a cultural trend? If the popularity of video games miraculously plummets, few would want schools to create a market for the genre. The advent of the Internet calls into question even the future of literacy as we know it, a shift that mightily concerns newspapers across the nation."
These are kinds of broad-brush questions that are important to ask. Although the whole idea of questioning whether it's "proper for schools to try to change a cultural trend" is a little disturbing. I mean, video games are a cultural trend, sure, no question. But to posit the idea of arts education as a cultural trend -- I mean, that's just offensive. The reductionism of the American mind appears to be continuing unabated.


Opinion: San Jose should become an incubator for the arts
Mercury News (Silicon Valley, CA), 9/11/2008
Ann Markusen, an economist at the University of Minnesota, says San Jose should nurture its artistic side. "The nation's 10th largest city does not even rank among the top 50 in artists' share of the workforce. That's surprising, since high-tech businesses rely heavily on creative talent to bring products like software, video games, music and communications gear to the market. Close encounters between engineers and software designers, on the one hand, and musicians, visual artists, creative writers and performing artists on the other will boost creativity and ensure that the region retains and diversifies its high-tech prowess."
It's called economic incentives. They'll get it, eventually. Artist housing, too.


Proposed Copyright Law a 'Gift' to Hollywood, Info Groups Say
Wired, 9/10/2008
"A dozen special-interest groups urged lawmakers Wednesday to squelch proposed legislation that for the first time would allow the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute civil cases of copyright infringement. The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act, scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, also creates a Cabinet-level copyright- patent czar charged with creating a worldwide plan to combat piracy. . . . [The bill would] encourage federal-state anti-piracy task forces, the training of other countries about IP enforcement and, among other things, institute an FBI piracy unit."
I nominate Clint Eastwood for the cabinet-level post. Failing that, Bob Barr. Failing that, Elizabeth Hasselback. She'd be great at telling pirates where to go.


Arts Agency Chairman Is Moving On
Washington Post - AP, 9/12/2008
"Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts since March 2003, plans to announce today [September 12] that in January he will leave the federal agency he is credited with helping revitalize. Gioia, a prize-winning poet and critic, said he will become the director of a new arts program at the Aspen Institute, an international organization that conducts forums on contemporary issues. . . . During his term, Gioia spearheaded a vigorous program of initiatives that quelled much of the criticism of the agency, especially from conservative groups. Also, through a landmark study on reading, he gave adult literacy an unexpected platform."
He's almost irreplacable in the sense of someone being able to placate disparate groups. But, of course, someone with the vision and the balls to turn the NEA into a real endowment, one separated out from appropriations battles and cultural wars, would be his ideal replacement.


Congressional Arts Report Card 2008
Americans for the Arts Action Fund PAC, 2008
"Americans for the Arts Action Fund PAC has produced this Congressional Arts Report Card as a guide to help you make arts-informed decisions at the ballot box. The guide contains carefully evaluated legislative benchmarks that form a detailed arts record, including a numerical score and letter grade, for each Member of the House." House Members received grades chiefly based on: "Four major floor votes on arts funding"; "Membership in the Congressional Arts Caucus"; "Introduction or cosponsorship of arts-related legislation"; and "Signatures on 'Dear Colleague' letters to the Appropriations Committee, asking it to increase funding for the NEA or for arts education."
Everyone should read this. I love this.


IRS Releases New Form 990-EZ
Chronicle of Philanthropy, 9/10/2008
"The Internal Revenue Service today [September 10] released the latest version of its Form 990-EZ, the short version of its informational tax form for groups with 2008 receipts of less than $1-million."
No snark -- this is important stuff.


Nonprofit groups turn to survival strategies
Providence Journal (RI), 9/7/2008
"Mergers and acquisitions are daily events in the world of for-profit corporations. Now they are becoming more prevalent among nonprofit organizations trying to cut overhead costs and attract scarcer contributions in a sagging economy while continuing to provide important services."
Just wait until this trend really hits the theatre world. And it's coming, don't be mistaken about that. It's coming.


Wall Street Woes Endanger Funding for the Arts
New York Sun, 9/16/2008
"The turmoil on Wall Street will affect a wide swath of New York City's cultural institutions, hurting corporate and individual donations at a time when these organizations are facing what one philanthropist called a 'perfect storm' of economic pressures. . . . . Among the other pressures already facing institutions have been the recent cuts in city funding, diminished earnings on endowments invested in the financial markets, and New Yorkers trying to save money by refraining from buying their usual subscriptions or by buying less expensive tickets. And now the crises at two financial institutions that have been major supporters of the arts will reverberate across the cultural landscape."
Perfect storm, indeed. Thanks, Lehman.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alaska Women Reject Palin Group Creates One of the Biggest Rallies in AK History

I received an email from someone who received an email from someone who received an email from someone talking about the Alaska Women Reject Palin rally, which was just huge by Alaska standards. The email included a ton of photos, which I'm including. I don't know who wrote the following (even if I did I wouldn't use the person's name), but between the narrative and the images, I'm hopeful about the world today. Just a little bit.

First, here are articles here, here, and here about the event.

And now the narrative in the email:

[The] Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was to be held outside on the lawn in front of the Loussac Library in midtown Anchorage. Home made signs were encouraged, and the idea was to make a statement that Sarah Palin does not speak for all Alaska women, or men. I had no idea what to expect.

The rally was organized by a small group of women, talking over coffee. It made me wonder what other things have started with small groups of women talking over coffee. It's probably an impressive list. These women hatched the plan, printed up flyers, posted them around town, and sent notices to local media outlets. One of those media outlets was KBYR radio, home of Eddie Burke, a long-time uber-conservative Anchorage talk show host. Turns out that Eddie Burke not only announced the rally, but called the people who planned to attend the rally "a bunch of socialist baby-killing maggots," and read the home phone numbers of the organizers aloud over the air, urging listeners to call and tell them what they thought. The women, of course, received some nasty, harassing and threatening messages.

I felt a bit apprehensive. I'd been disappointed before by the turnout at other rallies. Basically, in Anchorage, if you can get 25 people to show up at an event, it's a success. So, I thought to myself, if we can actually get 100 people there that aren't sent by Eddie Burke, we'll be doing good. A real statement will have been made. I confess, I still had a mental image of 15 demonstrators surrounded by hundreds of menacing "socialist baby-killing maggot" haters.

It's a good thing I wasn't tailgating when I saw the crowd in front of the library or I would have ended up in somebody's trunk. When I got there, about 20 minutes early, the line of sign wavers stretched the full length of the library grounds, along the edge of the road, 6 or 7 people deep! I could hardly find a place to park. I nabbed one of the last spots in the library lot, and as I got out of the car and started walking, people seemed to join in from every direction, carrying signs.

Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn't honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn't happen here.

Then, the infamous Eddie Burke showed up. He tried to talk to the media, and was instantly surrounded by a group of 20 people who started shouting O-BA-MA so loud he couldn't be heard. Then passing cars started honking in a rhythmic pattern of 3, like the Obama chant, while the crowd cheered, hooted and waved their signs high.

So, if you've been doing the math… Yes. The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was significantly bigger than Palin's rally that got all the national media coverage! So take heart, sit back, and enjoy the photo gallery. Feel free to spread the pictures around to anyone who needs to know that Sarah Palin most definitely does not speak for all Alaskans. The citizens of Alaska, who know her best, have things to say.

And now, here are the images:
























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New Article: Mandy Patinkin



For Back Stage, I have on the stands and on line a long profile of Mandy Patinkin, who is playing Prospero in CSC's Brian Kulick-directed revival of The Tempest.

Here's the tease:

In The Tempest, one of the last plays William Shakespeare fully authored, the character of Prospero is a conundrum. For 12 years he's been marooned on an island with his young daughter, Miranda. Struggling to survive, he blackmails the spirit Ariel into being his servant and compels the mortal Caliban to be his slave. For reasons equally simple and complex, Prospero is hero and antihero, protagonist and antagonist. Perhaps it's those contradictions that make him the perfect role for Mandy Patinkin to play.

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Laura Axelrod Ties Money and the Arts; Scott Walters Caresses His Cerebrum

Laura Axelrod, over at her not-celebrated-nearly-enough Gasp! blog, has apparently been engaged in a minor yet friendly dustup with that avatar of all things clattering and chattering, Scott Walters, with regard to the meatiness, or lack thereof, of theatre blogs.

Mind you, Pol Pot could be back from the dead and rampaging across southeast Asia, Dr. Mengele could be managing the greatest scientific breakthroughs in the history of mankind, Osama Bin Ladin could be perpetrating the murders of God only knows how many more of my precious American kin, and the stock market could be heading through the worst kind of thrashing since my grandfather woke up in October 1929 and learned that my well-to-do great-grandparents were down to about a nickel, and this dude, who I’ve noticed often worships syntax and sophistry over solidity and substance, is whining because theatre blogs aren't spending sufficient time blogging about theatre (as opposed to theatre and politics), and thereby abandoning the call to lead a bayonet-driven charge through the economic and aesthetic barricades. Harrrumph.

Anyway, when not celebrating National Very-Long-Sentence Day or wondering how the departure of Dana Gioia as the head of the National Endowment for the Arts will affect that organization, particularly if John McCalamity and the Alaskan Mynah Bird are elected, I’ve been catching the recent posts on Laura’s blog. On September 14, she had a great preview post called Money and the Arts, concerned in a general and very understandable way with to the probably economic impact of the unfolding financial-sector disaster:

It amazes me that my theater, literature and visual arts friends just don't want to hear it. This has the potential of being a generational-altering event; something that has been gathering steam for almost a year.
And then, on September 15, in a post called Markets and Roles, Laura responded to Matt Freeman’s terrific blog post on the same subject...

The fact of the matter is, some of the most untouchable financial institutions in the country are in serious jeopardy. Lehman is filing for bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch is being sold to Bank of America. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are being taken over by the government. AIG is seeking a loan from the Federal Reserve.

How is this going to affect the arts? Here's some potential problems I can see. But it's something we should all be talking about.

One quick example is your day job. If you've got one, you're probably wondering how this will affect you. I know mine has to do with planned giving and investments. Which means we're directly affected by the markets. I'm also vested in our retirement plan, and that's, of course, invested.
...by writing this in her post, which I’m excerpting below and which moved me a great deal:

But I will say that after I wrote the entry and went to bed, I thought about how it might be unfair for me to judge others by my values. For instance, we all have a different definition of what it means to be a writer or artist. Maybe for some people, it doesn't include understanding how society works...
And then, on September 16, Laura filed a brilliant post called Where We Stand, which attempts, however difficult it may seem right now to do, to put some perspective on what the national fiscal meltdown will mean for artists. Here’s an excerpt:

The American mythology is based upon the belief that if you work hard, you will succeed. If you haven't achieved material success, you are lazy, immoral and unintelligent. Rather than basing our definition of America on the Constitution, we pluck out a single phrase from the Declaration of Independence: "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

This mythology has found it's way into the spiritual lives of Americans. Prosperity theology promises material abundance for the spiritually enlightened. In this case, poverty is not only a sign of bad character, it's also a sign that God isn't smiling on you.

Most writers and artists have fallen into this money hell. We've taken out enormous student loans to pay for our education, with little opportunity to pay them off by working in our chosen profession.

Some of us chose to be artists so we could rebel against this way of life. Yet, telling the truth means alienating an audience that is complicit in keeping this belief system alive.

Success as an artist in America means making your work palatable to the masses, who are sleepwalking their way through life. Waking them up is dangerous, and dangerous work is rarely produced, exhibited or published.

Success as an artist in America means making your rebellion slick and chic. Our materialism is insatiable. It looks for the newest trend. Rebellion is crucified until it can become safe to hang in the comfort of our own homes. It is disturbing until it is tamed.

Success as an artist in America is defined by the bottom line. Respect is given to those who can achieve the most sales.

In this environment, it is easy for an artist to become a reactor instead of an actor. Rather than shaping the culture - presenting a new vision - the artist comments upon her present circumstances. The commentary is cathartic for the artist, but it doesn't present any real solutions.

When this commentary is rejected by the system it is rebelling against, the artist can have a variety of reactions.

It may validate her feeling of disempowerment. But is it fair to ask a system to embrace commentary that is attempting to destroy it?

It may lead her to believe that being an artist in this system is about suffering. But is it fair to ask the artist to have a miserable life without any personal benefit?

This is where we stand right now. Our generation has created celebrities out of people who have no talent. We have funded our lifestyles with imaginary money. We watch scripted reality t.v. shows.

Our way of life is a lie.
First off, clearly there's much substantive discussion in the theatrosphere (this being one of many example), and what particularly amazes me is that while months have passed since I’ve given Walters’ blog serious study, he’s still going on and on about “new models” for making work but not actually doing something about them -- like articulating them and putting them into action. In a post, for example, called Money and Art, he praises Laura and writes:

I think Laura is right, and we do need to talk about this. On an immediate level, any slump in the economy that negatively affects the stock market will affect foundation endowments, which means grants will be smaller and harder to come by. If the economy suffers, people have less disposable income, or are less free in disposing of it, which will impact ticket sales. When people are suffering in our society for economic reasons, money gets shifted in that direction and away from the arts, which are considered "extras." If tax collections decline because there is less money in the economy, then school budgets decline as well, and arts education suffers.

The fact is that the arts live on the fat of the economy.

But Laura wants us to deal with this on the personal level, not just the macro level. "I'm not saying that we should come up with a public policy position on the matter. I'm talking about dealing with this problem both in our work and in our lives."

So much of our conversation tends to be about money and how it impacts our artistic choices and opportunities. It seems to me that there are several possibilities every time we create a production:

1. Lose money
2. Break even
3. Make a little money
4. Make a lot of money...
From there, Walters begins to explain what these four possibilities mean in action, and then he reaches what is, from what I can tell, one of the rare times he has tried to articulate what a new economic model might look like:

My question is whether there is a way to disconnect from the commodity economy. Is there a way to make the arts less a product? Is there a way to move the arts into another type of economy? For instance, while still based in a money economy, a church doesn't really sell a product, but rather something else -- an experience? A shared identity? An extended family? [Etch-a-Sketch erase*] In Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken talks about a workshop that took place at a large agricultural chemical manufacturing plant, where the attendees, all employees of the company, were introduced to the "spaceship Earth" model and then put into groups and given a goodly amount of time to create a spaceship that was enclosed, needed to be self-sufficient, and had to last for 100 years. One of the interesting things is that the employees created a model that took along actual artists rather than a stock of DVDs and CDs, because for a 100-year self-contained trip they wanted people who could contribute new stuff that pertained to their journey. How might we get our artistic contributions looked as in this way?
This is fascinating stuff, but for me, what it doesn’t do is translate the abstract into the specific. For a new economic model to take hold, governmental intervention, for example, would be necessary. By this I am not implying socialism. But consider the tax code: If a new economic model required the end or radical restructuring of the nonprofit system, that’s a governmental effort.

But before I go down that road, little doggie, I take issue with Walters' glib idea that “the arts live on the fat of the economy.” What? If that were the case, would the arts not have been swimming in money for the last few, especially given the historic excesses being flushed out of the market in recent months, weeks, and days? The last time I checked, the whole demand for new models, the whole belief that there’s something not-strong in the fundamentals of our artistic-creation system (to be McCainish about it), is predicated, in part, on the lack of funding, on the lack of stability, on what ensues when Ayn Rand-style free marketeers throw artists to the wolves and encourage the laws of supply and demand to set their sociological and cultural value. No wonder Walters posted a whole slew of comments on Laura’s blog questioning, if also applauding, her posts.

I’m sure that by my posting this, I’ll ruffle all kinds of feathers -- after all, if you’re not in the clique of the theatrosphere, you’re nothing, as a certain other blogger, who shall remain nameless, made quite clear to me last year. (And, after all, Walters has adamantly refused to add me to his blog roll, as if I'm suffering from the intellectual cooties, which is like the pot calling the stoner stoned.)

Still, I thought it would be worth giving major props to Laura and stating that while some folks think Walters is a great blogger, not much has changed in the blather-for-blather's-sake department, especially when it comes getting off one’s ass, getting away from the computer, and actually doing something. Talk, in other words, is still cheaper than Lehman Brothers stock.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sarah Palin: If Elected, I Will Not Use the Letter "I"

What is "verbage"? What a dumb reactionary Republican hack.

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New Review: Beast


For New York Press.

Here's the tease:

Let’s say a major American playwright wrote a new work explicitly supporting or justifying the U.S. invasion of Iraq, even at this late date. Most likely he or she would receive from the left (led by the theater’s liberal lions and powerbrokers, no doubt) something tantamount to the fatwa bestowed on Salman Rushdie after the publication of The Satanic Verses. Still, for variety’s sake, why not write such a play—something attempting to spit-shine George W. Bush’s evil folly?

No major American dramatist, so far as I know, has obliged my idea as of yet. Instead, what we have witnessed this decade is the slow, steady accretion of new antiwar plays—the resurgence of a genre that last peaked after the grisly, soul-searching end of the Vietnam War. While such plays can and usually are barnburners, the problem comes in when they preach to the choir, reaffirming what audiences believe as opposed to challenging the reactionary viewpoint. Beast, a new play by Michael Weller (a major playwright since his Moonchildren opened on Broadway in 1972), is a case in point.

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New Review: Three Changes



Oh, Nicky Silver, I seriously wish I could have given a better review to your new play at Playwrights Horizons, Three Changes, than the one I had to write.

But in my Back Stage review, I wrote:

The title of Nicky Silver's new play is Three Changes, about which one thinks, Gee, only three? If there had been more changes in the writing process, might this seriocomic misfire have worked?

As in the best of Silver's work, Three Changes benefits from the playwright's topical, often mordant humor. It's also consistent with his interest in anatomizing families, including one emotionally quiescent female character. Staged with dispatch by Wilson Milam, the play is nonetheless thematically diffuse.

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Jonathan Larson: Still Dead, But Grants, Via the American Theatre Wing, Live On

JONATHAN LARSON GRANTS TO BE ADMINISTERED BY THE AMERICAN THEATRE WING

Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation and the Larson Family Entrust 12-Year-Old Program to ATW Beginning with 2009 Honors

Now Accepting Grant Applications for Deadline of November 1


The American Theatre Wing and the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation (JLPAF) announced today that beginning immediately, the Wing will be the new home for The Jonathan Larson Grants.

The Larson family originally established JLPAF following the untimely death of Jonathan Larson on the eve of the worldwide success of his musical Rent. Its mission was to commemorate Jonathan’s legacy by providing recognition and financial support to up-and-coming creators of musical theatre. A restricted endowment at the Wing will be initially funded through the resources of the JLPAF and the Larson family to insure that the grant program is sustained for successive generations of emerging musical theatre creators.

The American Theatre Wing is accepting applications for the 2009 Jonathan Larson Grants now until November 1. For complete guidelines and application materials, visit www.americantheatrewing.org/larsongrants.

“We are extremely proud that the American Theater Wing has agreed to take on—and hopefully to eventually extend—the work of the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation,” said Allan Larson, president of the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation. “Because of the Wing's world-wide recognition as home of the Tony Awards, the establishment of the ATW Jonathan Larson Grants Fund is a major step toward assuring that a much larger group of aspiring theatrical writers and lyricists will always have a place where they can seek recognition.”

“All of us at the American Theatre Wing feel very honored that the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation and family have seen fit to entrust us with the future of the Jonathan Larson Grants,” said Ted Chapin, Chairman of the Board of the American Theatre Wing. “In addition to recognizing excellence in theater through the Tony Awards, the Wing has a long history of supporting theatre professionals at the beginning of their careers, and the Jonathan Larson Grants will add to that mission.”

“As we have explored this opportunity over the past year, I have been moved by the Larson family’s absolute commitment to providing support and recognition for young musical theatre writers, in order to help them as Jonathan was helped by others during his own evolution as a theatre artist,” says Howard Sherman, Executive Director of the Wing. “This is a great responsibility.”

Jonathan Larson’s dream was to infuse musical theatre with a contemporary, joyful, urban vitality. Although he did not live to see it happen, his dream was achieved through the phenomenal success of his musical Rent. The Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation was built with the understanding that without grants that supplemented Jonathan’s meager income, Jonathan himself might never had written Rent. The grants program was established 12 years ago as a place for individual creative theatre artists to turn to for help and to provide financial support and encouragement. JLPAF has recognized and supported more than seventy-five composers, lyricists, and bookwriters at the start of their careers. In 2008, the foundation awarded grants to Gaby Alter, Susan DiLallo, Jordan Mann & Jeff Thomson, Joel New, and Jason Rhyne, as well as City Theatre in Pittsburgh. Other past recipients include Nell Benjamin, John Bucchino, Kirsten Childs, Ricky Ian Gordon, Amanda Green, and Michael Korie.

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Lynn Forrester de Rothschild: Hillary Supporter, Racist Anti-Obama Bitch

Very sad to wake up this morning and learn that Lynn Forrester de Rothschild, a major Hillary supporter who very publicly discussed her concerns about Obama, is turning turncoat and giving her endorsement to McCalamity.

Read this article and read between the lines. The article quotes her as saying:

“This is a hard decision for me personally because frankly I don't like him,” she said of Obama in an interview with CNN’s Joe Johns. “I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.”
What? Is she deaf? She can't articulate a reason why she doesn't trust Obama beyond the tired "elitist" charge (single mother = elitist?). So, really, I think it's because Lynn Forrester de Rothschild -- nice working-class name, that -- is just a big nasty racist. I feel like she hasn't given me a reason to call her anything but a racist. Yeah, she's a racist who can't bring herself to vote for a man of mixed race -- far more qualified than McCrash -- for president.

So endorse him, traitor. I hope when some nuke goes off somewhere, God forbid, you're in the middle of it. But then, that would be too good for someone like you.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Problem of Getting Press

I was away for the weekend and just now catching up on some blogging.

Earlier today I got an email from the representative of an Off-Off-Broadway company. I don't want to mention which one it was, but the person said that they had googled their company's name -- just to see who might mention whom -- and found a reference to it on this blog, namely in connection to a press release that I published a long time ago, like last year or some such. It was kind of a sad email to receive -- the person, for very understandable and sympathy-inducing reasons -- was lamenting the fact that despite having taken so much time with their press packet, the amount of press that they received was very low. And could I shed some light on why that is and what the company did wrong.

I felt so bad after reading that email. This town is so bloody unfair. And I just wanted to paste in, below, what I wrote in my email back to that person, for what it may be worth to everyone else:

Thanks for your note. I think the only thing that I can say is that you're in a very, very, very congested market. At any time, there are 300, 400, 500 shows of varying lengths and qualities running, all vying for everybody's attention. It's not a question of the brilliance or cleverness of a press packet (although it's an excellent idea to send a note, as you're doing, and reintroducing yourself), but a matter of logistics. I've done a lot of speaking on panels and such on the subject of how to get press, and one good way, although it can be costly, is through a press agent. In years past, I worked extensively as a director and playwright in the OOB world, and I had exactly the problem that you're experiencing. The best advice I can give you is to keep reaching out, keep calling and emailing and knocking on doors. It sucks, but that's really the way to get on the radar in NYC. Persistence, I think, pays off in the long run.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Theresa Rebeck Sounds Bugle, Female Playwrights Charge?

Just caught wind of playwright Theresa Rebeck's screed in the Guardian (courtesy of a post by Jason Grote and a post by Matt Freeman) regarding the ongoing paucity of female dramatists being produced on Broadway.

Rebeck has a right to be angry, concerned, or furious, depending on what angle she's taking. She writes:

Boys, boys, boys! This year on Broadway it is a celebration of boys! Step aside, girls - it's time for the boys!

The New York Times tells us this week that this is the Year of the Man. This year is nothing like last year, when there was actually one new play, written by a woman(me), on Broadway. At the tail end of the season a revival of Top Girls by Caryl Churchill snuck into the lineup too. And then lots of awards went to Tracy Letts -who is a man, but whose name sounds like it could be a woman's name. So that's TWO women and one guy whose name sounds like a woman's. It was exhausting dealing with all that estrogen. Time to give the men a chance.

Could we get real? Every year is the Year of the Man, with a couple of women who manage to crawl their way into the lineup. In the 2008/2009 season, as it has been announced, the number of plays written by women on New York stages will amount to 12.6% of the total. Want to know the same figure for the 1908/1909 season? Let's see, it was ... 12.8%!

One might put this trend down to something like, hmm, discrimination. But actually what we're told is that the plays that are produced are just the plays that were worth doing, and that playwriting is in fact a Y-chromosome gene. So women should just back off, because putting plays written by women into production because maybe audiences might like a really well-written play that was well-written by a woman would be pandering to ideas of political correctness. And art doesn't do that.
Well, there's so much here I agree with and so much that I don't. I think the fact that Rebeck developed those statistics is fabulous -- and since I have the Best Plays book covering that year, I'll check myself. I actually thought her figure for the 1908-09 season was kind of high.

However, Rebeck does omit that Broadway, in the sense that we think of it today, didn't exist 100 year ago. Among other things, the real heart of the theatre district was south of Times Square. And touring was different, and the star system still existed, and play-development programs...well, what play development programs and graduate school programs were there? Women couldn't vote in 1908. I don't think omitting these things -- and sort of picking a statistics out of the air because it was a century ago and looks good on paper -- is the same thing as a honest century-by-century comparison.

More than that, there's something about Rebeck's tone that bothers me. Was it necessary to mention that Tracy Letts' name "sounds like it could be a woman's name"? What's next -- that Michael Learned works because she has a man's name or that Stacy Keach works because he has a woman's name?

No, what Rebeck really wants to do is beat up on Charles Isherwood for his "Year of the Men" piece. Are such articles reductive and faux-trend starting? Of course they are -- that's what they're meant to do. In practical terms, and in terms of the long-term cultural trends, it's never "Year of the Men" or "Year of the Women" any more than it's "Year of the Slob" or "Year of the Neatnik." Rebeck should know better than to engage the same kind of glib, not-thought-through reductionism that pisses her off in the first place.

But there's yet another point here. Why is she all about Broadway, Broadway, Broadway? Yes, I know she was the only woman to have a new play produced on Broadway last year. But, um, how many new plays were produced on Broadway overall, exactly? Notice how it's Theresa Rebeck writing this screed, also, and not Sarah Ruhl? Funny thing, that.

And I really, really have a problem with Rebeck when she writes:

One might put this trend down to something like, hmm, discrimination. But actually what we're told is that the plays that are produced are just the plays that were worth doing, and that playwriting is in fact a Y-chromosome gene. So women should just back off, because putting plays written by women into production because maybe audiences might like a really well-written play that was well-written by a woman would be pandering to ideas of political correctness. And art doesn't do that.

What art does is celebrate the lives and struggles of men.

It also apparently celebrates big nasty women who wreck their children's lives. Last season, Mama Rose once again held the stage; the mother in August: Osage County is a real monster too. So two terrifying women in plays written by men were up to their old tricks. This, we are told, is really what made last season a woman's year.

Notice how she codes what could be construed as homophobia in her statement: men writing about "big nasty women who wreck their children's lives," "two terrifying women in plays written by men," hint hint? Why doesn't she just come out and call Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein -- oh, and Tracy Letts, too -- misogynists? I guess Lillian Hellman never wrote any plays about nasty or terrifying women. Telling people what to write -- as opposed to telling them what to produce -- is wrong.

So, as I say, I think she Rebeck has a good overall point, but it really could be sharper -- and less, um, nasty and terrifying.

Finally, at the bottom of Jason's post, he posts a letter sent to Dramatists Guild members by playwright Julia Jordan. The first paragraph of that letter reads:

As some of you know, I've been working on the lack of gender parity in the production of plays in the new york theater scene. Already there has been a meeting of over 150 female playwrights in New York and the Dramatist Guild is announcing that it will no longer give grants to theaters who discriminate against female writers.
OK, that's fine. But here's my question: What constitutes discrimination? And who is presenting the critical proof, the irrefutable empirical evidence of it? And will the DG -- or any of its male or felame members -- actually put their money where their mouths are and actually come out and say in a very public way that, for example, Todd Haimes and Tim Sanford and Lynne Meadow and Carole Rothman actively, willfully and deliberately discriminate against female playwrights? I bet you they wouldn't dare.

So call me a misogynist if you like for not clicking my heels and saluting Rebeck in every way. I don't recall being told that there's a litmus test for proving that one is not a woman-hater.

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Les Misbarack

Yes we can. One more day. One day more.

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Emerging from Seclusion, Doris Day Gives Her Opinion of Sarah Palin

Well, sort of.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Arts Advocacy Update LVII



The content below is from Americans for the Arts' Cultural Policy Listserv, email blast of September 10, 2008:

Cultivating Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy
RAND Corporation, 2008
"Audiences for classical music, jazz, theater, visual arts and other art forms have all declined as a percentage of the population in recent years, and as this new RAND report argues, reversing that trend will require more than simply expanding the supply of art and people’s access to it. It will also require cultivating more demand through arts education and other means to ensure that there are more people sufficiently knowledgeable about the arts to want to engage with them. This study, the third in a series by RAND on the evolving role of state arts agencies in building arts participation, examines what it means to cultivate demand for the arts, why it is important to do so and what state arts agencies and other policymakers in both the arts and education can do to make it happen."
Where is the action plan for making politicians understand this? I read through some of this, and I'm not seeing it. Great study, though.


Cultural Theme Planned for 2012 Olympics in London
ARTINFO, 9/5/2008
"The London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) announced on Thursday that it would launch a four-year program of cultural events to lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games. Designed to highlight the country's arts and culture, the $70 million project will comprise 500 events, including a Shakespeare festival and a light show at Windsor Castle, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation."
What about a Shakespearean light show?


Drescher to become voice of US
Melbourne Herald Sun (Australia), 9/6/2008
"Television star Fran Drescher will serve as the newest envoy for US public diplomacy, with trips planned later this month to eastern Europe, the State Department said Friday. Star of the television comedy hit, The Nanny, Drescher will join baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr and US figure-skating superstar Michelle Kwan as envoys who help polish Washington's image abroad."
We come in peace. We bring you bagels.


Ballard's plan to cut arts funding by a third elicits outcry in Indianapolis
Indianapolis Star (IN), 9/9/2008
"Arts supporters and anti-tax activists sparred Monday over half a million dollars in the City-County Council's hearing on the city's proposed $1.1 billion budget for 2009. Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to cut public funding for the arts by a third, to $1 million, next year dominated the discussion by about 25 speakers in front of a crowd of roughly 100. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget Sept. 22 and is not expected to make major changes."
Red state = stupid. What's bizarre is that the mayor is cutting a tiny little portion of his budget. Why? Clearly he's arts-threatened and arts-unfriendly. Like I said, red state = stupid.


Our Arts Funding Quagmire
Hartford Courant (CT), 9/7/2008
Frank Rizzo criticizes Connecticut's "loopy two-tier funding for the arts." Permitting some organizations to circumvent the state's competitive arts grant funding by lobbying for a special budget line is "political, unfair and inefficient."
Right on, brother. Rizzo's usually on top of what's right.


Republican VP a Museum Foe
artnet, 9/4/2008
"Much of the copious news coverage swirling around Sarah Palin, Republican John McCain’s surprise pick for vice president, has focused on the relative inexperience of the freshman governor of Alaska. . . . However, the 44-year-old Palin had proven experience with one thing during her brief tenure in government: slashing museum funding."
The woman is a lying, sneaking, theiving, conniving, unethical, immoral nutjob. She is a menace to the nation. That's not misogyny. That's truth.

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Huge New Award for Playwriting Soon to Be Announced

I received a Media Advisory today, and this is major, major news. This event is invitation only, but all playwrights should have this on their radars going forward.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE FIRST RECIPIENT OF
THE STEINBERG DISTINGUISHED PLAYWRIGHT AWARD
A MAJOR NEW AMERICAN THEATER AWARD
LARGEST THEATER AWARD OF ITS KIND


Who:
Participants include David Rockwell, Oskar Eustis, William Zabel, André Bishop, Polly Carl, Martha Lavey, Eduardo Machado, Marc Masterson, Carole A. Krumland, James D. Steinberg, Michael A. Steinberg and Dr. Seth Weingarten

What:
The announcement of the first recipient of The Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award (‘The Mimi’), and the unveiling of the trophy design by Tony Award-nominated scenic designer David Rockwell.

When/Where:
Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 11:00 a.m.
The offices of Schulte, Roth & Zabel
919 Third Avenue (enter at 55th Street)

The Steinberg Playwright Awards advance the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust’s tradition of encouraging artistic excellence in the American theater. And fittingly, the Distinguished Playwright Award, to be presented every other year, has been created to honor and encourage the finest American playwrights, whose bodies of work have made powerful and significant contributions to the world of theater, and whose future works we eagerly await.

The ‘Mimi’ will honor a mid-career American playwright whose body of work has already been recognized and will have a cash prize of $200,000, making this by far the largest award ever created to honor and encourage artistic achievement in the American theater.

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Is Community Board 8 Corrupt?

Is Community Board 8 corrupt? I don’t live on the Upper East Side, so I can’t say for sure. It's also a question of what one considers to be corruption, as you'll see shortly -- this can surely be debated. But because I happen to believe in fair and honest public policy, and because I believe that clean government, especially at the grassroots, at least gives a running shot to clean government all the way up the political food chain, and because I believe in citizen empowerment without citizen corruption, I wanted to blog about a series of emails I received today from the 93rd Street Beautification Association, which as readers of this blog know is actively spearheading the effort to create Marx Brothers Place, also to extend the historic district that exists in that part of Manhattan, and, finally, to preserve, protect, and defend the architectural integrity of a grand swath of the Upper East Side.

It turns out that while the unpaid (but majority wealthy) members of CB 8 have been getting an earful from the local non-rich regarding the Beautification Association's noble efforts, it would appear that members of CB8 are vulnerable to pressure, of the political or perhaps the payment kind, from a businessman who’d rather pockmark their neighborhood with needless and ugly development.

The association's email stated that despite the fact that the NYC Department of Buildings disapproved proposed plans to build a penthouse on top of an existing penthouse at 150 E. 93rd St., the CB8 voted last night to "turn its back on both the Department of Buildings" and -- equally important, though just as immoral and disturbing -- "on the important collection of tiny 19th century houses" on the same block. In other words, CB8 has put a thumb in the eye of the association's efforts.

Why would they do this? According to the email, last night's CB8 meeting (which did not have a full compliment of members), “was a very brief and, at best, cursory moment for public inquiry....a board member in the first row (a tall older gentleman in an elegant suit) raised his hand and said that because the CB ‘always approves’ this sort of thing" -- stuff like building a penthouse on top of a penthouse -- “it was time to end the discussion and simply approve the owner’s application for a special permit...”

What’s revealing here -- if no surprise, really -- is how corruptible people like those on CB8 really are.

Here's why: It turns out that the penthouse-happy building owner, Mark Martinez, has a large contracting business, Interior Management. According to the email, it is possible, if not probable, that CB members have hired Martinez in the past to do work for them and received favorable contracting rates in exchange for ram-through votes like the one held yesterday. Or, for that matter, Martinez has promised or insinuated promises of favorable contracting rates for the future in exchange for the aforemention ram-through votes.

Either way, the point is simple: the block, the neighborhood, the Upper East Side be damned or be dead, whichever one comes first. The dude wants his penthouse and will stop at nothing to get it.

The funny thing is that he apparently had his toddler with him. How very Sarah Palin-esque. One would have thought he could afford a sitter.

Do you remember how, on Sept. 11, 2001, we were all one New York? Well, not anymore.

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New Review: What's That Smell: The Music of Jacob Sterling


For New York Press.

Here's the tease:

Oh, what a wonderful performer Pittu is. Blessed with an elastic face that illuminates a stage, the initial sight of his spiky, blond-tipped hair, largely unbuttoned shirt and red speckled sneakers smacks you like a semiotic tsunami, connoting nothing more or less than total aesthetic quackery. No wonder Sterling’s awards—recalled rapturously by Swagg—include the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Foundation Genius Grant for Emerging American Composers as well as the TJ Maxx Endowment for Achievement in Lyric Writing.

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New Article: Critics Emerge From the Shadows -- As Playwrights!


I wrote a Web Exclusive story for Back Stage on how the Abingdon Theatre Company is starting its season with two plays by critics -- first The English Channel by Robert Brustein and then Beachwood Channel by L.A. Weekly theatre editor Steven Leigh Morris.

Here's the tease:

By definition, the critic-artist dynamic is adversarial: Writers may toil for years, followed by directors and often dramaturges fine-tuning things, followed by actors leaping into the fray as the play at last takes shape. Then, after so much effort to calibrate each element just so, who crashes the party but that caviling coven of critics, none tied to the production process, all ready to brandish pens and render their verdicts for the public, be it caustic or complimentary. Who can blame artists for their frustrations and fury?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Does the New York Theatre Know How Green It Is? The London Theatre Does

Major props to the Eco Theater blog for a recent post on how green or not green the London theatre scene is, as per an article in The Stage on the subject -- which leads, more specifically, to the actual report in full, released by the office of London mayor Boris Johnson

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

As for That Bootleg YouTube Video You Love, AEA and the League Are Watching You

This is a really terrific, if not especially revelatory, Washington Post article on the problem of bootleg Broadway videos on YouTube and what, if anything, the unions, the Broadway League and media mega-corporations are going to do about it, or can do about it.

It's excellently written and while it doesn't make me want to sneak my camcorder into a theatre (actually, I don't own one), it doesn't make me feel guilty about cruising YouTube and another of my favorite sites, BlueGobo.com.

And don't worry, the powers-that-suck will find a way to profit from this conundrum, too.

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Welcome to the Blogosphere, Zev Valancy!

Here's a big shout-out to my friend and colleague Zev Valancy, who has launched his Chicago-based blog, On Chicago Theatre, with news (admittedly purloined from the estimable Chris Jones) that the Bailiwick Theatre in the Windy City is closing. Wow.

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