Friday, June 17, 2011

Postcards have arrived!

Postcards have arrived! by arthennessey
Postcards have arrived!, a photo by arthennessey on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Postcards for our film The Oblique Sector arrived today! They look great.

Check out our film's website at

We'll be at the Nantucket Film Festival next week!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Some Posts You May Have Missed

Tom Garvey on Teatra Zar's limited engagement at the Charlestown Working Theater:

American theatre doesn't really do "raw" anymore. In fact I can't think of a professional show I've seen in the last oh, five years or so that dared to flaunt its vulnerability, much less its rough, warts-and-all humanity. Or one that risked looking long and hard at the dark places within us without the props of adolescent bravado or alienated chic (or, in fact, cultural or literal amplification of any kind).

But somehow the Poles have clung to that defiant ideal, long after the American theatre has forgotten all about Grotowski, artistic community, and (eeek!) poverty.

Bill Marx at the Arts Fuse on the recent departure of Dance Critic Deborah Jowitt from the Village Voice. Jowitt's editor wanted her to write more balanced reviews, thinking that most of her critical output was limited to things she liked.

There is an interesting complication. Jowitt, I suspect, sees criticism as a necessary means to support dance as an art form. She doesn’t challenge Park’s characterization of her reviews, and her vision of criticism as a means for encouraging analysis rather than judgment is a respected part of the history of arts criticism. For some important critics in the past, the purpose of criticism is to illuminate, educate, and engage audiences, not risk turning them off. Generally, the most powerful supportive critics have used their writing to fight for art that they felt was being unfairly neglected by mainstream culture—the rhetorical strategy is to make audiences aware of the difficult talent on the margins, to explore the compelling value of art that, because of moral or stylistic reasons, puts off audiences who, given sufficient understanding, would see what they were missing.

On Howlaround, Hal Brooks interviews playwright Annie Baker, (Boston recently saw a festival of her plays.)

HAL: What are your hopes for the American Theater?

ANNIE: That theater artists start reading more.

Ben Yalom, in preparation for a convening at the Dramatist Guild Conference, throws out an important question:

This convening arises from a belief that, as a field, we have serious difficulty having useful (and sometimes hard) conversations about the quality/excellence of each other’s work. We do this fine, at the bar, without the artists present. But how can we have more useful and constructive conversations?

We need to improve the quality of our work. We make constant demands of audiences, of funders, and more. To have strong arguments for the worthiness of the time and money of these various constituencies, we need to raise the bar. And to do so, we need as a first step to be able to talk about quality: What is excellence? And how can we strive for it? How can we have better conversations to encourage and inspire one another to aim higher?

On Superfluities, George Hunka posts a video

On the eve of the Tonys, it’s a pleasure to be able to offer “The Critic as Thinker,” a Philoctetes Center symposium from 27 October 2007, that features two of these fine critics, Eric Bentley and Robert Brustein, as well as Stanley Kauffmann, as they survey both their own careers and the changing landscape of theatre in the post-war era. Roger Copeland moderates the discussion, which traverses a wide variety of topics, including the original reception of The Playwright as Thinker, the newspaper review as consumer guide, the disappearance of the middle-brow play (this to my mind is alive and well, but let it pass), Marxist politics, and the alleged responsibility of Frank Rich for the decline of American theatre.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

David Mamet Seems To Enjoy Holding Court Now

This time for the British Financial Times reporter John Gapper.

There isn't much new in this interview. However, I get the feeling Mamet seems to be enjoying this attention he is getting for his recent conversion to conservatism.

Here, the famous playwright is asked by the reporter if anyone disputing Israel's land claims and believing in reallocation to the Palestinians is anti-Semitic:

Uncharacteristically, Mamet hesitates slightly as he starts to answer and I wonder if he will back down, or at least hedge his answer. "Well, at some level ... listen ..." He throws his head back and looks briefly at the ceiling before emitting a grunt of relief as he abandons caution.

"Yes!" he exclaims. "Of course! I mean you Brits ... " He smiles ruefully. "I love the British. Whatever education I have comes from reading your writers and yet, time and time again, for example reading Trollope, there is the stock Jew. Even in George Eliot, God bless her. And the authors of today ... I'm not going to mention names because of your horrendous libel laws but there are famous dramatists and novelists over there whose works are full of anti-Semitic filth.

As far as artistic content, this interview has only a few lines regarding any theory or advice.

Unlike his pretty ridiculous theories about acting, Mamet is always succinct, understandable, (though pretty obvious,) and workman-like when he offers up tips about dramatic writing.

Case in point:

I take the opportunity of having this master craftsman in front of me to ask about writing. He commences by defining where others go wrong. "Anyone can write five people trapped in a snowstorm. The question is how you get them into the snowstorm. It's hard to write a good play because it's hard to structure a plot. If you can think of it off the top of your head, so can the audience. To think of a plot that is, as Aristotle says, surprising and yet inevitable, is a lot, lot, lot of work."

For more reading, here is a roundup of two theatre blogger reactions to Mamet's recent statements about liberalism and conservatism.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Don't Blame the Boards So Fast When Theaters Fail

In response to Brendan Kiley's Seattle Stranger piece about the Intiman Theater's collapse, Jeremy Barker, writing at Culturebot, questions the very popular meme of the moment: bad boards are the main culprits in some of the recent arts organization financial failures.

As regular readers know, one of the things we’re skeptical of here at Culturebot is “Big Ideas,” of which they arts has far too many, and unfortunately, I think that blaming boards has become the new “Big Idea” in the current moment, with so many institutions at every level facing crippling financial challenges. When an institution finds itself in collapse, someone has to be blamed, apparently. Sometimes it’s the artistic director (who spends the budget like he’s using an ATM card till he hits the overdraft limit), now it’s the board (for not saying no sooner). The unspoken assumption is that, in all cases, the institution itself was inherently good and needed to be preserved, because, apparently, it served and would continue serving its function well. But not only is it ridiculous to always assume that the institution should have been saved (they fail for different reasons, after all), but I can’t help but wonder if, in fact, it’s not sometimes good that they fail.


...maybe the Intiman just needed to close. At a certain point, its debt load was so high that continuing to operate would have required (and, if they re-open, will) lesser works, skimpier budgets, and therefore quite likely lesser achievements, because so much money will be spent servicing past deficit-funded operations. That the crisis at the Intiman hit in the current economy is predictable: slowed ticket sales and less charitable giving finally meant that it couldn’t meet its current obligations as well as covering the previous year’s deficit. Like a Ponzi scheme, to which the model bears some resemblance, it only collapsed when the in-flows were insufficient to cover the outflows, which were building up over time.

But if we actually believe in the Intiman’s achievement, as I think we should, then maybe it’s just a sign that the cost of accomplishing that was higher than potential revenues. They had a good run, but if they can no longer credibly meet the expectations of either the artistic community or their audiences, they should stop, because what’s the argument for them to be sustained through paying out for diminishing returns?

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Theater Boards - A Delicate Balancing Act - More on Intiman Closing

This week we have seen the closing of another theater - Florida Stage.

Right on the heels of this, we have Brandon Kiley's article in the Seattle Stranger in which he tries to get at the bottom of the Intiman closing, but finds few people willing to go on the record.

He is able to draw some conclusions though:

The board/staff relationship is fundamentally flawed. Boards do too much or too little. They either don't raise enough money to keep an organization going or complain that they don't feel enough sense of participation. Sometimes the board members don't even attend the performances of the organizations they're ostensibly there to oversee and support. (That was a problem at ConWorks and Giant Magnet.)

Sometimes board members try to apply the lessons they've learned in the business world to their arts organization, typically with disastrous results. "The board is there to support us in doing things that don't make sense in the business world," Czaplinski said. "Putting weird art onstage is not going to make you a lot of money, but boards are there to help you do it anyway, because we enjoy it and we value it. And if we have a show with naked people onstage and the public gets riled up about it, it's an opportunity for the board to do some arts advocacy."

"Nonprofits are creatures of market failure, by definition," Linzer concurred. "They're nonprofits. But some board members try to transfer their experience in the corporate boardroom to the nonprofit boardroom, and it's like they went to the wrong boot camp." It's presumed on too many boards that if you're wealthy, you must be smart, and if you're smart, you can tell a theater how it should be more like T-Mobile

Monday, June 06, 2011