Saturday, March 07, 2009

From the Blogroll X

At A Poor Player, Tom Loughlin writes about attending the Southeast Theatre Conference. His rant, which arrives about midway through the piece, contains some moving blog writing -- the best I've read in some time. It makes me sad, sure, but it gives me tremendous perspective and even, weirdly, a little hope. Here, then, is what's salient in his post:

I have not been to a theatre conference in a long time. At some point way back when in the dark ages I came to the conclusion that these types of conferences were only for people committed to the status quo. These are not the sort of things you attend if you want to have intelligent discussions about theatre. For the most part, everyone involved with the whole affair is really committed to concept of postitive messages and positive experiences about theatre. There is absolutely no sense in the affair that anyone connected with it really wants to think differently. In other words, my ideas for reform weren’t welcome to the party.

Fair enough, but at least at this point in time there are really no alternative conferences to go to. At places like SETC, NETC, and ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) the emphasis is 97% on “how to succeed in the theatre business by trying a little harder.” It’s sefl-perpetuating, narcissistic, and almost cult-like. Anybody interested in having an adult conversation about what might be wrong, what might need reform, etc., is faced with the reality that everyone else there has drunk the kool-aid of pre-professionalism. You might as well be talking to a wall.

I think the saddest experience of my day yesterday was attending the keynote address at which Beth Leavel spoke (or rather performed). A graduate of Meredith College and University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Ms. Leavel won the Tony Award for her performance in the title role of The Drowsy Chaperone. Her IBDB listing indicates she’s been in exactly 6 shows on Broadway since 1980. Almost 13 years of her career has been performing in 42nd St., the original and the revival. She was in the right place at the right time with the right show to win her Tony. She is funny, and she appears to have a very quick comic mind. She enjoys playing the comic diva. She had the assembled multitude of college thatre majors eating out of her hand.

But she had nothing serious to say, really. Neither did the theatre majors. All the questions and all the talk was about how to succeed on Broadway and be like her. As I walked through the halls of the hotel complex during the afternoon I grew more and more sad watching all these young dressed-up kids with their audition numbers pinned to their chests waiting for their turn to show everyone what they could do and begin their climb up the great Broadway ladder. They know nothing else at all about theatre except this professional business model, and they have no sense of independent thought in terms of thinking how to push back against it. They’re just buying it hook, line and sinker.

At Arts Marketing, Chad M. Bauman sings the praises of Michael Kaiser, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and asks what he should cut if something must be cut from an arts-organization budget.

At Between Productions, Robert Cashill observes how film critics are "dropping like flies."

At Createquity, Ian David Moss promotes a backlash against the backlash criticizing the $50 million in stimulus funding for the NEA. Ian and I get into rather a scrum, but I'm particularly glad I found his blog and I am now proud to call myself a loyal reader. You should all visit his blog regularly.

At The Critical Condition, Mark Blankenship writes thoughtfully about the A/X ad that was too racy to be shown in Times Square -- um, can't offend Disney, don't'cha'know. But Mark does go on a bit too long regarding how similar his butt is the bare butt in the image. How cheeky.

At CultureBot, Andy provides the 411 on the new Richard Maxwell work, People Without History, which seems all rather Rush Limbaugh these days, and writes about SITE Fest at Arts in Bushwick. He also takes a shot at the Dentyne playwriting contest in tandem with Manhattan Theatre Club, just for something to chew on and offers an interview with Rachel Chavkin of The TEAM.

At Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals, Chris Caggiano discloses how to get Stephen Sondheim's autograph (open your wallet, girlfriend) and offers a long, long, long list of upcoming musicals, including American Psycho, Betty Boop, The Hudsucker Proxy and the Untitled Mandela Musical, which I will not attempt to name.

At, the question arises: Is Congress about to give Social Security to illegal immigrants? The answer: no. Take that, right-wingers.

As Gasp!, Laura Axelrod contemplates arts funding during a depression, and her mere use of the dreaded "D" word left me depressed. (I must thank her, too, for referencing my recent post on the NEA funding guidelines.) She also offered photographs of Alabama snow.

At The Hub Review, Thomas Garvey genuflects over the Pet Shop Boys and we all know why. He also expresses relief that the new head of New Rep will actually act like a Boston artistic director and not a whore on the way to New York glory. Here it is in his own words -- words that make me think "Gee, where's the tea party?":

Add to that the fact that the B.S.O. is also often administered from Lincoln Center - James Levine is here for less than half the season - and you get the impression that to many people on Boston's boards, we're still some sort of adjunct of the Big Apple. And to plenty of other Bostonians, this is how the local arts scene should work - as an adjunct of New York's. But count me out of that crowd. I'd rather see us grow an indigenous arts scene of quality than attach ourselves to the overscheduled careers (and careerism) of global stars. That leads to artistic decisions which aren't really tailored to our city, its talent, or its audiences, and I think that gap shows up in the resulting performances; I mean, could anyone claim the Huntington and the A.R.T. have been having good years? (You all already know what I think about the B.S.O.) True, sometimes compromises have to be struck, particularly with globe-trotting classical music talent; but isn't it time the city began to demand that it at least be the central (if not the only) focus of its artistic stars? Boards of Directors may love to bask in the reflected glory of their "world-class" talent - but maybe the city they're supposed to be serving would be better off with a little more attention from its supposed leaders.

At In the Wings, Jonathan Jovel writes forcefully and really very eloquently about the lack of arts education in the United States. He uses the case of the NEA stimulus funding to engineer a larger, probably controversial yet necessary conversation about what kind of society has such an ambivalent, tortured relationship with arts education. Read this excellent sentence:

The intrinsic value and nobility present in the pursuit of the arts must be excavated out from under the oppressive forces of ingrained neglect. This change must begin in our collective approach to education and must further spread to our societal values as a whole.

At Interchanging Idioms, Chip Michael considers the aesthetic pros and cons of the on-screen opera experience. It's here to stay -- it may actually become a fad, if you ask me -- so this is a very good discussion to have.

At Jamespeak, James Comtois weighs in on the Watchmen film.

At The Fortress of Jason Grote, Jason Grote blogs the ongoing fundraiser for WFMU. And I think to myself, "Hey, Jason, if I give you some money, can we talk about how I can get my own radio show?" "How about I give you a lot of money?" "How about...?"

At Kampfire News, Katie Rosin offers a welcome dose of very good news: the arts section of the New York Sun will rise again!

At The Producer's Perspective, Ken Davenport exalts the screen-to-stage adaptation (Ken, are you invested in 9 to 5?); discusses what he calls "the position known as missionary" (hint: it's a marketing post, not something else); explains his affiliate program for Altar Boyz; and points out two jobs in the industry waiting for applicants, including one that I, er, really hope he considers me for. Coffee, Ken? On me?

At On Chicago Theatre, Zev N. Valancy does his part to spread the word about the About Face Theatre and makes me cry with pride that he's writing for the Onion.

At Parabasis, Isaac Butler ponders the re-raising of the color-blind-casting debate with the announcement that Phylicia Rashad is going into August: Osage County. I won't use this week's From the Blogroll to opine on this, but I was deeply amused by one poster on TalkinBroadway's All That Chat board who suggested that Sandy Duncan will soon do A Raisin in the Sun. And maybe B.D. Wong will play John Adams in 1776. Isaac also weighs in on the $50 million in NEA stimulus money but is careful to criticize it only by first criticizing the critics: "I don't think it's necessarily worth the angry invective." Is that what civil debate is called?

At Splattworks, Steve Patterson takes the Oregon legislature out behind the woodshed and beat them all absolutely silly for raiding the Oregon Cultural Trust. The third word in that name is, of course, completely ironic.

At Storefront Rebellion, Kris Vire gives a clue as to what happened when Robert Falls called a critic on a review he really, really, really, really didn't like.

At The Wicked Stage, Rob Weinert-Kendt unveils an image from a 1907 production of Hedda Gabler starring the timeless, priceless Nazimova (first name Alla -- and she was Nancy Reagan's godmother). Then he gives Jon Robin Baitz some affectionate snurgles.

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Jason Grote said...

For starters, it's probably best to know the station -- it's WFMU, not WFUV ;). But I will surely coach you in exchange for a pledge. Pledge live Sunday night from 9-10 and we'll thank you on the air and read whatever (FCC safe) message you want!

Leonard Jacobs said...

Jason -- I'm an idiot! I'll fix the station letters right away, with apologies...