Friday, January 24, 2014

OPPORTUNITY: Cheap Space

I know you need cheap space. There's two opportunities for it, courtesy of the League of Independent Theater.

From the website -- first, the Charter Barter Program:
The League’s Real Estate Committee is creating a new initiative with several NYC Public Schools. We are piloting this program in one school in the first and second quarter of 2014 in Long Island City.  We are looking for one company that is in need of rehearsal space in the first two quarters and that has an interest (and preferably some experience) in education and working with students. In exchange for up to 25 hours of rehearsal space per week for two months, we are asking the company to offer either a one day per week workshop or a two week workshop at the close of the rehearsal process.  We need a partner to help us build this program that we are hoping to replicate throughout the city.  If we can make this one work we can say goodbye to the rehearsal space shortage in NYC. 
You must be a member of the League to participate. Preference is given to member companies and artists in good standing who have demonstrated a commitment to the League in the past or a willingness to assist the League with upcoming initiatives. Members of companies using the space will be requested to join the League as well. By applying for the space, you acknowledge these conditions.

Secondly, the Subsidized Space Program:

In 2013, the League initiated a program to offer member companies and artists heavily-subsidized rehearsal space. It is approximately 5,000 square feet of commercial real estate located in Midtown. Since its inception over 20 companies have used the space. 
This is an opportunity to have a month (or more or less) of exclusive use of the space.  You are able to leave props and costumes (neatly) in the space. There is only a small upfront cost of $200 to offset the cost of insurance, plus perform 5 service hours.  (One person, 5 hours within 3 months of the closing of your show. Gleefully and competently.) We will be asking for a deposit on your first day of rehearsal as well, but that will be fully refunded as soon as the space is vacated in great condition. 
You must be a member of the League to participate. Preference is given to member companies and artists in good standing who have demonstrated a commitment to the League in the past or a willingness to assist the League with upcoming initiatives. Members of companies using the space will be requested to join the League as well. By applying for the space, you acknowledge these conditions.
Membership in the League is FREE and easy to join. Just sign up here, and you can get involved with advocating on behalf of artists and helping to conquer the problems we face.

I'm Still Here

I promise.

It's been a big bizarre change of pace for me in life.

My day job continues to consume.

I'm now the Director of Operations for the League of Independent Theater.

I'm working on my own solo show, written and everything'd by me (although with plenty of collabofriends at my side, don't worry).

But I'm still here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

LOCAL2013: Voter Guide for Artists

I wanted to keep you more in touch with what the League of Independent Theater has been doing for this election (NYC city-wide). I got too tied up to blog about it. (I will likely blog more about it once the election passes).

However, I have put together this voter guide based on who the League of Independent Theater has endorsed in this election. Print it out, take it with you, and make your voice heard.

(For more background, go to the League's website and see the list of candidates we've endorsed, the platform that those politicians have endorsed, and our endorsement videos, like this one:)


See more at the site!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Is Theater Inherently Elitist?

Question: Is Theater Inherently Elitist?

Yes.

Theater is labor, resource, and real estate intensive.

Theater must therefore be expensive to recoup its costs.

Or theater must rely on the patronage of an elite who can support it.

Theater cannot be mass produced, so it must appeal to specific, local audiences.

Theater is inflexible in format -- you must show up at the appointed time, and view it for the appointed length of time.

Mass produced media is less expensive to create, less expensive to consume, easier to distribute, and easier to consume.

I notice that most of the blogs answering this elitism question seem to be caught up in the content of the plays. Probably because they're written by writers, who are concerned with the writing.

I'm a producer, so I'm interested in how plays are produced, so the answer to that question seems pretty obvious to me.

Friday, June 14, 2013

SHIT YOU SHOULD KNOW: DecideNYC.com

Another part in our continuing series on Shit You Should Know.

It's an election year.

It's an important election. (Mayor, a majority of city council seats, and many other positions are open and competitive -- meaning the city politics could pretty drastically change).

It's really hard to get good information.

That's why you should know about:

DecideNYC.com


  • What it is: A very easy to navigate web guide to find out who is running for what positions, and recent news about them. (They also operate a useful Twitter feed).
  • Why you should know about it: Because this election is big and complicated but it's also going to determine who is going to piss you off with bike lanes and massive development projects and etc. (By the way, if you want to know who on that list is pro-arts, keep an eye out for the League of Independent Theater endorsements).
  • Why you should know about it now
    • The election is coming up swiftly and really, the primaries will settle most of everything by September 10th so now is the perfect time to get involved.
    • If you do check out DecideNYC and are as happy with their quality local coverage as I am, contribute to their project like I did today. Quality local coverage is hard to sustain, as New York sees all too clearly, so support it where you can!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

REVIEW: 3 Kinds of Exile

Typically, I don't enjoy writing a negative review -- I try to find the positive in the production, or I don't write a review at all. I figure that usually a bad play -- if it made it far enough to be seen -- is either a good idea trying to climb out of poor execution (in which case I focus on engaging with the idea and how to better present it), or a bad idea that I don't engage with (in which case I don't feel like a bad review would contribute much.

I also don't write bad reviews because I try to approach reviewing with a semblance of humility. I have only just read Isaac's self reflection on the rush to make harsh judgment, and I worry about stepping over the line myself.

So why am I about to write bad words about John Guare's 3 Kinds of Exile, now playing at the Atlantic Theater Company? Because, as a fellow theater producer (albeit a much less successful one) I have honest questions about how this reached the stage on front of a paying public, in one of New York's premier theaters without anyone raising an eyebrow.

This Goes Beyond Bechdel
Suppose you and one of your friends get together and decide to write a staged biography about a striking actress you knew (Elzbieta Czyzewska). Would you really decide that the best way to present her life would be to have two men talk about her, occasionally imitating her, rarely quoting her, and instead rattling off a series of facts about her life in chronological order? (For 40 minutes?).

The theme of the biography is (so near as I can tell), that Elzbieta was given short shrift by directors and producers who constantly promised her big come-back roles, but never delivered. (Included in that number is a young playwright named John Guare, who seems fairly sad that he was forced to cut her from a play he wrote specifically for her).

And here she is, one more time, being presented to an audience without truly bringing her voice in the space. A few moments of imitation, but otherwise, she is quite literally an object, a portrait invoked at the beginning and end of a long story.

That's the content of the second of the three acts. (The first is a monologue by a man about himself, so there's not really much room for a woman there, apparently).

What about the third act? There are female actresses in there. They get two moments:

1) A moment where the lead character is pronounced to be attractive by two ladies, and they try to sleep with him.
2) A bride whose only line of dialogue, repeated, is "Fuck me."

Seriously. There's a female character who can only say "Fuck me." And yes, it's in context of a criticism of traditional marriage. But I really don't think that's enough! Not when it's basically a punchline in a long series of gags.

Somewhere, in a full 100 minute piece about exile in which there are female characters -- one of which is about a real-life female person -- there has to be more than three lines to encapsulate their experience, more than a few quick gags to capture their voice.

Am I the first person to ask this question? How did this play make it all the way to a major venue in New York today without someone along the way raising an eyebrow?

The Magical Other
The third act is basically the story about how a sexually repressed Polish exile finds his way to Buenos Aires, and a tempting Latino seduces him away from that rigidly structured world. This tempting Latino is presented as being magical -- hypnotic, satanic.

Guys, I'm not crazy here, right? Did nobody wikipedia this?

It's Kind Of Hard Out Here For an Artist (What?!)
So, that's already two big problems that seem to me that should have been huge liabilities before this play made it to the stage. There's another one that sticks out to me, which is that both the second and third acts are tragic stories of unrealized, victimized artists.

Don't get me wrong -- if you're a true master, you can make a good tortured artist story. Amadeus is probably a good example in that genre. I'm willing to let Sunday in the Park with George slide, mostly on the back of its music.

But for the most part, the staggering majority of "tortured artist" stories tend to be exercises in self-indulgence; here, the self-indulgence goes so far that John Guare, as an actor playing the role of John Guare in the play written by John Guare, refers in the third person to a character in the story who is John Guare. At which point a projection of John Guare is visible, as though we don't get that the person standing in front of us describing the story is the same John Guare.

Both protagonists in the second and third acts are presented as will-less victims, buffeted by their fate, misunderstood by their peers and family and lacking all agency in the world around them. Which is as negative an impression of artists as you could devise. And very little that is sympathetic is provided about them either. Instead, we are simply asked to connect to their suffering because it is suffering, and because artists are noble creatures that should not be in pain, I guess.

Editing?
All of this, as well as the overly long span of time that the three pieces take up and the repetitive, over-explanation of the messages and morals in each of the pieces (replete with unending rhetorical questions), indicate to me that John Guare was basically allowed to do whatever. It has a very unedited feel; my play-going companion detected a distinct "undergraduate thesis" vibe. 

I don't know how it got here. I don't know how it edged out the thousands of equally competent playwrights and plays that are circulating out in the world. I'm not sure how the bizarre casting, the uneven acting styles, the offensive choices, etc. were allowed to stand in a venue with those kind of resources.

My god, what Taylor Mac or Aaron Landsman or Sarah Ruhl or Susan Lori-Parks or a thousand other people could have done.

Regret
I want to end my review by honoring the people who worked on this. Genuinely. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to trash a production, knowing the time and dedication that came from a talented group of performers and designers. I'm just baffled how this incredible wealth of resources came to be marshaled for this production.

(As required by law, here is a disclaimer that I got the tickets for free.)

Monday, June 10, 2013