My peers in the theater are found in the theater. I find them through our work, and our kindred spirits in that work. And I am a theater artist. And at the end of the day I will spend all I have to make work happen in those spaces, and bring it to the most people possible for whom I can make the deepest possible connection.
I feel strongly that if there's a weakness in the "theatrical blogosphere" it is this—a suffocating emphasis on systems and organization, on sniping and formal language, and little talk of actual theater—of works being produced, of choices that did and did not pan out, of the brutal lessons of the world of the stage.
I'm in a discussion now—it's a discussion with the culture at large, and I wrestle with every tool at my disposal to use theater as a resonant tool to create circumstances where deep conversations can happen about topics that aren't being addressed.
I remain an ardent geek, but the web is a cold and empty forgery of human connection...fascinating and compelling, but lacking the depth and richness of the human experience.
I take inspiration from those who contact me online, who share stories and with whom I begin conversations, but the goal always is the theater—the live moment, the spark.
There are more than a few theater bloggers who would be well served by stopping their picking and biting one another over syntax and nuance and turn their gaze to the living theater—and then find ways to bring that alive in their writings on the web. So, no, I will not "really" enter the discussion, not in such a reductive way.
Instead I'd invite more bloggers to be my peers by turn their work
toward...well, work. Performances. Theater in action. I'd encourage more of them to make more work that shakes up the status quo, and questions the assumptions our culture makes every day...and if the net is a tool to that end, use it.
For the record, I like Mike Daisey. I like his performances and though I don't know him personally I admire what seems to be his genuine passion and mission. From what I gather he has a deep care for how the personal relates to the larger environment and how our actions and experiences are deeply connected (whether we choose to admit it or not) to the machinations of history, big business, society, etc. For instance, in his show Invincible Summer, he had a long passage about the horrible waste in the budget of the MTA in New York City. He punctuated each increasingly absurd example of fraud by contractors and government employees by reminding the audience: "This has been reported and is known by EVERYBODY." Yet the waste continues.
It is hard to explain if you have never experienced a performance by Mr. Daisey, but by his particular talent of weaving in strands of intensely personal stories from his life he makes this sequence resonate far more than it would if separated and presented as a unit in itself. Honesty, in a way, begets honesty in his performances.
So the above post of his makes me sad because I think he is wrong about the theatrical blogosphere. And I think he knows it. He chooses, in the passage above, the lazy way out. He chooses a pat dismissal of voices that have been sounding the clarion long before his monologue How Theatre Failed America. But it is worse.
How does he go about his dismissal? By perpetrating a patent falsehood: That the theatrical blogosphere is a bunch of people who are not creating or engaging with theatre, or discussing that engagement in sort of practical or constructive way. (On this last part he may be half right, but I will discuss that later.)
The theatrical blogosphere is filled with (and this is just a sampling:)
A Poor Player
(Some of the above cross multiple disciplines.)
All of the above, produce, create, direct, write, write about, teach and most of all care deeply and passionately about the theatre. They are involved in the active participation of the theatre culture and deal with the problems on a day to day basis. And almost none of them are involved in perpetuating the type of theatre system Mike seems to be diagnosing with both his monologue and his essay in the Stranger.
Almost all of them are trying to create challenging work, work out of the mainstream. They experiment with form, substance, marketing, design, atmosphere and theory.
They are also, at times, arrogant, pig-headed, jaded, unrelenting, long-winded, and ideological. I think almost every theatre blogger would have to agree.
Of course, there is no obligation to speak to anybody for any reason, especially if these people are not directly involved your daily work or have value in your plan. But Mike, if you are listening, do you really believe, after reading some of these blogs that the people writing them are not trying to create a better theatre or make a change? I suspect you don't read them regularly, or much at all. (I could be wrong.)
And I am going further on a limb and make statement that even many others bloggers might disagree with: The MAJORITY of the theatrical blogosphere is made up of the type of people I describe above.
The biggest irony is that Nick at Rat Sass, who is the real catalyst for the post at Mike's blog, is probably the epitome of Mike's prescription in the last paragraph.
All that being said...Mike has an excellent point about discussing post mortem of theatrical projects. This kind of goes hand in hand with his comment on his New Year's resolution to be honest about work he sees.
There is a tremendous hesitancy to discuss the aftermath and the reception theatrical projects in the blogoshphere. Don Hall seems to be the most straightforward I have encountered in this respect. If he embarks on a project, we can generally expect an after-action review at some point which will cover everything from the business and marketing angle to how the aesthetic goals came together to the clash of personalities. (Though we may wince sometimes.)
George Hunka and Isaac Butler, two of the Old Guard bloggers had ventures together as writer and director in the theatre minima. It did take some time, but we did get post-mortem. There are others too who are helpful in this regard.
But for the most part, there will be a big buildup, with a lot of talk about what the project is about, (including the usual pre-show publicity.) Then the show will open, a short post will be written about what a great experience it was, and then regular posting will resume.
I don't except myself. I haven't been all that forthcoming with any real details of the practical realities of my theatrical ventures, other than generalities.
So to Mike: I want you to know that you don't have to speak with anybody you don't want to. But I hope you won't hold it against me that, I'll consider you my peer.