Tuesday, December 25, 2012

PRAGMATIC: Things I've Learned From Business, Vol. 1

I may be a producer, a performer, a director, and a writer (all at different times), but I am also someone else -- I'm a salesman of IT software to businesses. Yes, that's right, when I'm not scheming about how to create fake people and kill them or how to create new rituals in America, I'm telling C-level executives at large New York based companies how they can better improve their processes.

Part of the reason I've stuck at this job and continued to enjoy it is that it gives me some secret all-access pass into large companies and how they work -- from notable media companies, to financial services, to non-profits and higher education organizations. I am, of course, not going to use any names (to protect the innocent), but I figured I might as well share some of the things I learned.

The area of IT technology I work in has to do with process optimization, which is why I find it so broadly applicable. Really, it has to do with how do groups of people work together to get things done.

ITIL (or the Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is the framework of processes that IT organizations have to deliver service. At the end of the day, it's just a common language to make sure that IT people have an understanding of the different parts of their job.

One of the advantages of ITIL is that the focus of ITIL is on service. All of the IT processes are put together from the perspective of improving service to "customers" -- where customers can be within the company or outside of it.

When you see bad processes, it's probably because they're not service-oriented. Nobody is thinking about the end user. For instance, here's a video that Google Analytics put together showing what some e-commerce websites do wrong:

In this hypothetical online check-out, it's clear that nobody has looked at it from the consumer's perspective -- it's not service oriented.

So ITIL preaches that you need to be service oriented. Another way of putting it is that you need to create value. Their way of looking at value has two levels:

  1. Utility; Is it fit for purpose? (i.e. does it do what it is designed to do?)
  2. Warranty; Is it fit for use? (i.e. do you have enough of it, is it available enough, etc.) 

A little handy logical diagram that they use:

It's a little jargon-y, but they're being specific around it: does it help you do more ("performance supported?") or is it helping you do what you do easier ("constraints removed?"). Those measures of utility and warranty are more technology specific (after all, the arts are not exactly worried if someone hacks into them and distributes them on the internet...), but I think it helps demonstrate what has to come together for a work to create value: the right thing, and access to it.

That's it for tonight. More to follow.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

POLICY: We Are Not Lawyers But We Need To Be

If you were paying attention to the internet today, Instagram rolled out some upcoming changes to Terms and Conditions, and got slapped around because of the perception that it would allow them to sell your photos to companies for use in advertisements. They've put up a notice explaining that this was not their intention, and that they're going to rewrite the language to make it clearer:
The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. 
Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.
I'm curious about how this will turn out after the rewrite -- after all, it's all well and good for them to talk about intentions but the proof is in the pudding -- but I have two thoughts coming out of this:
  1. Instagram users, and Facebook users, and iTunes users, are not lawyers, but they need to be. The issue is that legal language is not the same as the English language as it's commonly used, and it's especially confusing because it looks like English. One of my colleagues at my day job who deals with contract language all the time said that "Grammar has nothing to do with contracts" -- it all has to do with the consistency of the way the words are interpreted. A lay person can probably understand most of what they read in a contract, but may not. But each of these seemingly dry changes to legal languages may have deep impacts on your actual rights as a user of these platforms.
  2. Our legal system is built adversarially, and it doesn't quite work in this space. Contracts, usually, are agreements between two parties. That means that lawyers from both sides work on language that they both feel comfortable with, and that both sides have a similar understanding of. (When they fail, we have lawsuits). Having listened to corporate contract negotiations, verbiage and wording is something that both sides will put in input on -- trying to imagine the ways the wording could be interpreted and refining the verbiage until both sides are comfortable. When it comes to social networks, we're not really at the table. The only example of another model is Facebook's governance votes, but again -- it's not from a perspective of equal footing. Certainly, users are not proposing their own language to Facebook. At best, we can only revolt when it goes too far.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Ray Mark Rinaldi writes in the Denver Post to describe the vacancy at the top of the NEA:
[Rocco Landesman's] departure gives President Obama a chance to put someone new in the job, a leader who can operate less in fear of being called to the Capitol to explain a grant for an offbeat performance art piece and more toward carrying a banner that puts culture back at the forefront of American identity. 
Some actor who can flash a smile on behalf of arts education, some tech guru who can dazzle with ideas about how the Internet can bring Shakespeare to rural areas, some corporate executive who can convince us that our art economy can rise through public-private partnerships, something Landesman pushed effectively, but never got any juice from. 
Our next NEA chair needs to make the fine arts trendy, return talk about poetry, literature and classical music to the national conversation. He needs Twitter followers.
I think the areas of substance are what we need to drive. Although our next head of the NEA should be a great face of the agency, I think he needs to drive controversy by proposing to change the face of the NEA.

Oh you know what, why pretend. I'm really writing this blog post to repeat that Adam Huttler should fill the vacancy.

PLUG: Cool Opportunities

Cool opportunity number one:

Fractured Atlas is seeking a full-time Program Specialist for a newly-created position.  The Specialist will manage components of Archipelago, Fractured Atlas’s cultural asset mapping tool, along with the organization’s participation in the Initiative for Sustainable Arts in America.  This position reports to the Research Director. 
This is an exciting opportunity to join a cutting-edge nonprofit organization working at the intersection of culture, technology, design, and data. The successful candidate will be a creative “doer” who takes pride in delivering to the highest standards of performance time and time again.
The "Research Director" is Createquity's Ian Moss, and the goal is something I'm very passionate about -- how good data enables the arts and arts organizations. I've also been vocal about creating arts infrastructure. That's what Fractured Atlas does when it creates the technology for data.

Wait a second, speaking of Createquity's Ian Moss, here's another cool opportunity:
Are you smart? A good writer? Interested in how the arts fit in to the bigger picture? Why not join this blog? The Createquity Writing Fellowship was designed to continually bring new voices into national and international conversations about the future of the arts. So far we’ve introduced eight bright, (mostly) young writers to the world, and we’re just getting started. You could be the next to join them, all while receiving mentorship, research assistance, and guidance on your writing from yours truly. Think of it as your very own virtual graduate practicum in arts policy. Details and application instructions, as always, are available at the Createquity Writing Fellowship page, and applications are due January 8.
Two great ways to contribute to arts policy and the arts community, in truly professional environments.

PRODUCING: Yet Another New Model For Funding

In addition to fundraising through Kickstarter/IndieGoGo, Kiva (the microlending organization) has a new thing called Kiva Zip, which they wrote about on Fractured Atlas' Blog:
Kiva Zip is a new development from Kiva, which aims to extend access to capital for entrepreneurs in the United States. They are offering 0% interest loans up to $5,000, which are crowd funded by individual lenders from around the world. Since they launched at the beginning of this year they’ve funded over 80 entrepreneurs across the country, with businesses ranging from hot dog vendors to yoga instructors. A number of independent artists have successfully fundraised on Kiva Zip over the year and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
I hope artists are judicious with this. A 0% loan sounds very much like free money, but it is not. Even a 0% loan must be repaid. I would never, for instance, take out a Kiva Zip loan for a theater production, because theater productions lose money. Loans are good for things which will, in the future, make you more money. A new camera for a photographer is probably a good candidate for a loan -- the outlay is once but the profits recur.

ARTS POLICY: Shared Arts Infrastructure

Leah Hamilton at ArtsBlog asks "Has Endowment Become A Dirty Word?", by examining a successful model, the Springfield Arts Collaborative, which supports arts organizations the following:
Seventy-five percent of funds raised are divided equally among the five founding arts organizations (Springfield Ballet, Springfield Regional Opera Lyric Theatre, Springfield Symphony, Springfield Little Theatre, and the Springfield Regional Arts Council). 
The remaining 25% is allocated between three shared funds designed to benefit the Springfield arts community as a whole: the “Arts-In-Education” fund (which will fund the action goals in the Any Given Child plan), the Creamery Arts Center Fund, and the Landers Theater fund (an historic theatre in downtown Springfield). The Community Foundation of the Ozarks manages the funds and their distribution. 
That "Creamery Arts Center"?

In the arts community, more than 30 local groups share The Creamery Arts Center. The 35,000-square-foot building, once home to the Springfield Creamery Co. and later the first distribution center for O’Reilly Automotive, includes administrative offices, as well as an exhibition hall, board room, arts library, arts classroom, film editing bay, a shared costume shop, and set design/fabrication studio.
I'm interested to hear from Springfieldians about what the impact of this has been. Are costs for arts organizations lower? Are more independent art organizations able to start up and remain viable?

Still, on the face of it, this seems like a great structure to multiply the value of any donor contribution in the community, and to help make the maintenance of arts more efficient. I don't know if "Endowment" has become a dirt word generally, but the National Endowment of the Arts certainly has, and if it focused on arts infrastructure like that, 

NEWS: Small Shoots of Good News

“DoD needs to demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine HUMINT before undertaking any further expansion,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in a report on the new legislation. 
Longstanding problems with defense human intelligence cited by the Committee include:  “inefficient utilization of personnel trained at significant expense to conduct clandestine HUMINT; poor or non-existent career management for trained HUMINT personnel; cover challenges; and unproductive deployment locations.” 
The Committee noted further that “President Bush authorized 50 percent growth in the CIA’s case officer workforce, which followed significant growth under President Clinton. Since 9/11, DOD’s case officer ranks have grown substantially as well. The committee is concerned that, despite this expansion and the winding down of two overseas conflicts that required large HUMINT resources, DOD believes that its needs are not being met.” 
Instead of an ambitious expansion, a tailored reduction in defense intelligence spending might be more appropriate, the Committee said.
While in my home country:
Facing indictment for breach of trust and fraud, Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, resigned his post Friday afternoon amid mounting political pressure, upending the campaign landscape five weeks before national elections.
Lieberman is best known as running for the Knesset on a platform of banning Arab parties (which passed the legislature but was struck down by courts), or for trying to require Arab-Israelis to swear a loyalty oath to a Jewish State, or for flushing the toilet while being interviewed for the radio, and for his deputy foreign minister who forced the Turkish envoy to sit in a small chair to humiliate him. The party he created just merged with the Likud to create a super-majority for super-conservatism.

Unfortunately, much like the similarly respectable Silvio Berlusconi, Lieberman is already predicting he'll be back to his job soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

REVIEW: Hearts Like Fists

Flux Theatre Ensemble
at the Secret Theater

November 30 - December 15
Tues - Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 7pm

What's a heart? Fortitude? Love? Arteries to choke with donuts? In the new play Hearts Like Fists running at the Secret Theater through the 15th, all of the above.

If that's a schmaltzy intro, then I have to apologize -- I don't have playwright Adam Szymkowicz' ability to tightly wind sap around action and produce a surprisingly hilarious, kinetic production that meditates on the subject of fear, bravery, and love in between.

In the world Flux Theatre Ensemble has deftly woven, Doctor X (Gus Schulenberg) - a mad, jealous evil genius - is on the loose. He's slaughtering young lovers as they sleep, stopping their hearts as they lay vulnerable. The only thing standing between him and a terrorized city is an undercover crime-fighting organization called, aptly, the Crime Fighters. Meanwhile, Lisa (Marnie Schulenberg) is a head-turning young lady falling in love with a young doctor, Peter (Chinaza Uche), who is in process of creating an artificial heart. When Lisa collides with Doctor X and is drafted into the Crime Fighters, she -- and everyone around her -- need to decide exactly strong their hearts are.

If the play -- which features monologues and conversations about what love is like and how it feels to be in it -- seems like it's headed for sap-town, it very well could be, if it wasn't for three things: the strong crafting by both Adam's script, the energetic direction by Kelly O'Donnell, and most especially by the invested, deeply felt performances by the ensemble.

One of the finest example is Chinaza Uche's Peter. I commented in my review of Obskene on how the sometimes ridiculous news stories in that plot were salvaged by performers who imbued them with every bit of passion and seriousness, without forcing or pushing. In Obskene, Uche vividly rendered how extremely hot it is in the fake news stories -- and it carried the imagery into being new and unexpected.

Here, Uche brings that vivid, earnest performance to a young man afraid to pursue the love he truly feels, worried of his own weak heart. A worse playwright would give Uche weaker, less interesting material to work with -- but even with Adam's sharply written and intelligent writing, without Uche's powerful performance, we would be tempted to dismiss it as just another waffling young man.

Gus Schulenberg's Doctor X is in a similar boat. As the stock mad scientist, he could be consigned to a witty version of the trope crowded with figures from Doctor Robotnik to Doctor Evil to Doctor Horrible (and a thousand cheap imitations in between). But with Schulenberg's invested performance, Doctor X slides seamlessly and honestly between mad murderer, young lover, and sad wanderer.

Connecting to these characters allows Szymkowicz' script to hit very open, naive notes without ringing false. It lulls us into being open to hear those monologues about what it feels like to be in love, and how scared we are by it. Because what Szymkowicz is saying is definitely true, and new -- but without the care taken, we wouldn't be ready to hear it.

Of course, this is only half love story. The incredible fight choreography by Adam Swiderski and Rocio Alexis Mendez keeps the action flowing, and the script have plenty of punchy one liners and understated comedy.

The ensemble, Jennifer Somers Kipley, and Chester Poon, are also worthy of a stand-out call. I have a pet peeve about walk-on characters that have just one line to say -- it's impossible for me to ignore the time and effort that every member of the cast puts into a show, even for the smallest part. Luckily, the ensemble here is used well -- from the pre-show, where Poon sets the stage with fight choreography, and through the rest of the production. There aren't a lot of times where ensemble gets their own round of applause during a scene change, but this ensemble earns it.

Go see it. Because you need to be laugh really hard. Because you need to connect with well-fleshed, three-dimensional characters. Because, as Hearts Like Fists puts it: "The world is dangerous. Love is scarse. Crime is prevalent." 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

PERSONAL: Good Week for the Internet

It has been a great week here in New York for the internet reaching out and fostering human connection. First, thanks to Ian Moss for organizing Createquity Office Hours -- it was a great opportunity to meet some of the other great writers for Createquity, and other sharp people in the New York arts community. It's great to remember that there are innovative people at all kinds of organizations, from visual, musical, and performing arts.

And then, on a wholly different note, went to the live show of the Earwolf podcast How Did This Get Made at the Bell House, where a packed crowd of hipsters all tried to figure out why the movie The Devil's Advocate is as bad as it is:

At any rate, that's something people should consider when they go on about how live performance creates community and the internet makes people alone. I think together they make a powerful couple... like peanut butter and jelly when you fry it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

RESPONSE: Batman the Movie

By which I mean the Adam West feature film. After having read some pretty gritty late-Batman material (The Killing Joke, Knightfall, and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns), it's worth a visit back to the time when Batman was inherently funny. Exploding shark bites his leg? Of course he has shark repellant spray! (He also has Manta Ray spray, which I presume he was saving for a sequel). Every enemy, every question, has a gadget waiting to be used. 

The current wave of comic book movies seem to want to bring this Batman-grit-machine  to every other super hero. I'm just curious whether that rehabilitation machine is ever going to reach deeply silly comic heros like Aquaman.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

PRAGMATIC: Art Is For Lovers

RVCBard has a great post on writing theater for fandom. Meanwhile, Seth Godin is writing about creating products for customers who care. These are related ideas, in my mind. If you're going to imagine someone outside of yourself engaging to the work you create, you should imagine someone incredibly excitable and passionate -- who, given the right consumption, will come out swinging for you.

That's all. Go read those posts.

REVIEW: Proprioception

The Shop Theater
Nov 29 - Dec 2

As a final project of a student of the Experimental Theater Wing, you'd be comforted to know that Proprioception's is open about the experiment on display -- probing very specifically into the reason that time slows down between two people in love. Here, the question is neurological: how peoples minds inexplicably sync up through love, and through music.

The format of the performance is this: two Johns (Keenan Jolliff and Trevor Salter) each play out moments in their relationship with Daniella Rivera) Meanwhile, John's roommate played by John Gutierrez is being driven by John (Keenan Jolliff) to pursue a relationship with a girl he has a crush on. Woven through this, Andrew Guay MC's a television program, channelling a doctor whose research addresses the notion of time on the mind. Guay also directly addresses the audience and engages them in thoughts of memory and connection.

The description above may make you believe that this is a philosophical play, full of musing. And I'm not going to lie -- sometimes it goes there (sometimes a bit too much). But what keeps the play moving and vital and grounded is the physical body in space -- something that creator Keenan Jolliff and his company of performers understand well.

The body is used abstractly and realistically; for huge sweeping emotions and the depth of the tiniest moments. For example, at one point early in the play, John (Keenan Jolliff) comes home with a new "boner jam" (definition 3) to rock out with his roommates. His dance with one of his roommates (Devante Lawrence) is hilarious and sharp, but when the moment transitions into John berating his other roommate (John Gutierrez) for not following up on his desires, the dancing continues fluidly -- with John jumping onto a table and fluidly gesturing while continuing his angry rhythms.

This kind of use of the body strikes home for me -- when I was in college, a few years into my movement training, I volunteered at a local middle school (Thompkins Square), and I vividly remember being shocked at how evident the physical traumas and explosive waves of puberty are on young men and women that age. Teenagers are fidgety and neurotic because their bodies are enflamed with chemicals -- and there's something truly transparent and endearing about a performance which leverages that kind of vibrant energy.

And yet, while John's dance on the tables and sofas of his apartment manifest explosive emotion -- a very Grotowskian use of internal impulse -- the movement of Andrew Guay, during his conversations channeling the Doctor, comes from a different world of movement -- the abstract, post-modern vocabulary of symbolic movement. 

Unlike Keenan's fun, over the top dance movement, this abstract world of movement does not spring from deep impulses, but rather from a gestural language -- it adds to the punctuation and the rhythm, helping transform what could be philosophical chatter into something more musical.

Guay is not the only one to enter this world of movement, but he wears it best.

A third realm of movement comes into play in a touching and poignant movement piece on a couch between two young, new lovers; starting from those little hand movements and adjustments you do in the presence of your crush, eventually finding their way to synchronistic, mirrored -- but still naturalist -- movement.

As with every other aspect of the work, what pulls it off is the fact that it is genuine, and heart-felt. In these moments, these performers are transparent, and you are in the same place as these people -- because it ties into your memory.

The real accomplishment, however, is not how any one of these modes of movement are used by the ensemble, but how fluidly and comfortably they can move between them. 

The moment on the couch culminates at the height of connected realism, and then leaps into moments of abstract gestural dance between the two. Daniella Rivera's character is slow-dancing with John (Trevor Salter), and it explodes into moments of expressionist, fluid duet. A monologue by the mostly-silent Devante Lawrence -- rapid-fire, serious, into the microphone, contemplating how impossible it is for two human beings to truly understand each other -- culminates in a hilarious run of implied Halo slaughter.

One of the tough parts of trying to dramatize the feeling of being in love -- especially amongst the young -- is trying to create something that doesn't fall flat, feel small, or shrink in the face of the experience. The fact that Keenan and company have brought together a broad palate of the human body's response is indicative of how deeply felt this work is; no single mode of expression is good enough, but they're all united in the same place.

As I said, the experiment is about whether our relationship with time is subjective; whether love is truly the moment where our relationship to the world around us syncs up with that of another person. A meditation on mirror neurons.

In a way, it's also a meditation on why performance works. After all, watching other people do things, talk about things, etc. is not necessarily a replacement for doing it ourselves. The theory that music, or love, or theater can make you sync up to the experience of another person is the whole reason to practice those arts -- to build a connection to others. 

Whether through the direct address conversation to the audience (asking them to supply their own cherished memories, even in safe anonymized format), the narratives presented, or -- most engagingly -- through the physical movements sparked, Proprioception is a bold gamble toward that noble cause.
Are not words and sounds rainbows and illusive bridges between things which are eternally apart? - Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra

UPDATE: Proprioception is sense that the body has of itself, also known as Kinesthesia.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ARTS NEWS: Freelancer Medical Center

Fractured Atlas is one option for health insurance, but another option is the Freelancer's Union. I actually have a day job that provides me with health insurance, but for those who don't, those are two options. I haven't done any compare/contrast between the two -- I'd love to hear from recipients of both.

Here in New York, the Freelancer's Union has kicked their healthcare up a notch, via Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn:

Thanks to Horowitz’s vision, Freelancers Medical is open to FIC enrollees, offering primary care as well as preventative and personal wellness programs (guided meditation, yoga, mental health services, and nutrition counseling). 
Very smart to have preventative health and wellness programs 
“I’m thrilled to launch Freelancers Medical, our new cutting-edge healthcare program with a dedicated primary care practice in the heart of Brooklyn,” said Horowitz and quoted in a recent press release. 
“Forty-two million of the nation’s most innovative, entrepreneurial workers struggle to cover their basic healthcare needs because they’re freelancers, and don’t have the luxury of work-sponsored health insurance. That’s why we’re harnessing the growing market power of the independent workforce and re-imagining what healthcare can and should be for new economy workers.” 
At Freelancers Medical’s primary care practice, patients can expect:
–No co-pay
–Free Wi-Fi
–Access to doctors and health coaches by phone, text, email, and Skype
–Free workshops onsite focused on health, wellness, and prevention, including healthy cooking classes, smoking cessation programs, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and ergonomics.

PLUG: Createquity Office Hours/Artful.ly

If you read my blog, chances are you read Ian Moss + co.'s fantastic art policy blog Createquity. (If not -- what's wrong with your life! Go fix it!). So I probably don't have to tell you again that Createquity has office hours on December 6th. I will just say that I have RSVP'd for it, so -- yeah, come chat.

ALSO. If you click the RSVP link, you will see one of the slickest RSVP/order interfaces I have ever seen! That's Artful.ly, which is a service for not only selling tickets / managing reservations, but also managing your audience. Check it out!

(It's a project of Fractured Atlas, so it's yet another good thing Adam Huttler's team has brought into the world... and another reason he should be NEA chair! I don't care what you say about your chances, Adam!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

POLITICS: The Next NEA Chair

Barry Hessenius has some good questions for selecting the next NEA chair. He also has some names for possibilities for the next chair. I want to loudly second one of his endorsements:

Adam Huttler - an innovator’s voice - his of the next generation of arts leaders and his appointment would signal a new era at the agency.
Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, seconded and thirded.

I've talked at length about how one of the ways we can reform the NEA to answer its critics is to shift its focus away from direct subsidy and towards arts infrastructure. Read that post if you want to follow my logic, but I really strongly, strongly believe it. And the big inspiration for that thinking is Fractured Atlas. One organization does far, far more to support thousands of arts organizations across the country -- by providing tangible infrastructure for many smaller arts organizations to exist.
Putting forward someone who can make the argument that the government can help artists without making them dependent, who can multiply the value of the dollar of the government, and can find new models of support -- I really believe it would change the framing of this zero-sum argument we've been struggling with for so long.

PRAGMATIC: On The Need for Communal Experiences

As the need for communal experience increases in our increasingly ala carte world, it is worth noting that the play is no longer the thing. The thing, as it were, is the experiencing of the play with other people.
Although I agree that we've created a theatrical culture that does not foster communal experiences, and I agree that live performance is exactly the sort of forum for that communal experience that people are hungering for, and I even agree that the experience of the play with other people is an important part of that -- I don't think we should give up on live performance.

But we would need to change it.

I think I've said this before, but if you want your arts to be communal, you need to think about the different ways people participate in the arts. I think the future of theater is interactivity.

Américana Passover, the show I recently closed, represents the second of my theater company's productions committed to this principle. And the results are striking. One of my audience members told me, "I was trying to imagine what a piece of theater would be that needed its audience, and this was it.

From one review
The dinner table is an intimate, comfortable place. However, be prepared for some fearless questions that demand fearless, honest answers.
Among the most captivating of the night’s events were the topics of conversation I found myself discussing with my seat mate. As a New Yorker, I often keep my walls up and avoid interactions with strangers at all costs. Sharing deep, personal details with a random stranger that circumvented all polite chitchat felt like a cathartic way to spend an evening.
Our approach is to create a space, within which there is a performance, and simultaneously within which there is the ability to share the experience around (and through) the performance.

I will try to break down some specifics from within Américana Passover over a few upcoming posts, but for now let me just say -- performance can still be that communal focus points. But we can't turn out the lights and tell everyone to shut up and expect that to happen.

Friday, November 23, 2012

RESPONSE: On The Appropriate Use of German in Children's Theater Reviews

The centrality of the holiday to the childhood Weltanschauung is neatly encapsulated in the synthetic holiday jingle concocted for the musical by Mr. Pasek and Mr. Paul, which is remorselessly reprised: “It All Comes Down to Christmas.”
-- Charles Isherwood, review of A Christmas Story. I hope the harried mothers looking for something to do this holiday seasons took Philosophy 201...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

RESPONSE: The Killing Joke

Not to horn in on Parabasis territory, but having never been a comic/graphic novel person in my youth, and now having a sister who is amongst other things a comic writer and illustrator, I decided that it was time for me to start giving myself a rudimentary education.

I started with the Alan Moore/Brian Bolland collaboration Batman: The Killing Joke. The image of the Joker as presented is interesting, although the flashbacks to Joker's past don't quite add up to what I was hoping it would get into -- the philosophical sketch that Alan Moore places at the center, that a madman is only separated from a normal man by "one bad day" is interesting but not the meatiest.

What struck me, however, is really Brian Bolland's treatment of the Joker's face. The Carrot-Top-like young comedian, and the manic, brutal face of the murderer-rapist Joker are fantastic opposites -- but the moments where they blur between the two are just visually interesting. Seeing as The Killing Joke really is, more than anything, a portrait, I feel like Bolland really delivered the visual equivalent of that.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

HUMOR: The Musical, Gangam Style

James Fallows uncovers the true roots of Gangam Style: Agnes De Mille and Aaron Copland.

PRAGMATIC: Can Getrude Stein be Staged?

I went and saw a show adapted from Gertrude Stein's Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights recently. And a few years ago I saw another staged piece adapted from Gertrude Stein (I can't remember the source work on that one, but I know that the latter wasn't adapted for the stage). In both cases, I was led to ask -- can Gertrude Stein be successfully staged?

It may very well be able to, as a sample size of 2 is not enough for me to make a bold pronouncement. But both of the Gertrude Stein staged works made me question whether it's possible, or at least advisable.

Gertrude Stein's text in Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights is repetitive and circular, ad nauseum. The sentences explore sound and language, and the patterning of words, but the play is so abstract as to leave the performer at a loss. As poetry -- even performed poetry -- it makes absolute sense, but the attempt to overlay character on top of it rebels against the language's deconstruction.

Living human beings don't say the sort of things that Gertrude Stein imagines. It's the language of thought, the language of logic, but it's not tied to the physical realm of language. It reminds me of the passage in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the computer Deep Thought deduces the existence of everything from rice pudding to income tax before even being plugged in to its data banks. The ideas spin around and around each other, trying to develop, all the while exhibiting a language structure on the level of an esoteric Dr. Seuss.

So, I open it up to the mob: have you seen Gertrude Stein performed as a theatrical production in a way that has conquered the language?

REVIEW: Obskene

HERE Arts Center
Talking Band
November 1-17th

The intellectual crux of Obskene is in the title: Ob-skene, the Greek term for off-stage, is where the worst parts of Greek Drama happened - the blood, the guts, the sex, and everything else. Because cooking children and feeding them to their parents is not the sort of thing you would put on-stage (for practical and puritanical reasons), those events -- which were often the most crucial parts of the story -- would happen off-stage. Somehow, that word also became "obscene", describing the sort of content that happens off-stage.

Obskene is not an obscene performance. You might forget that, though, as your stomach turns and you cringe away from what you're hearing. It's also theatrical-and-not-theatrical, an interesting balance as it probes the relationship between the seen and the unseen.

Obskene is really two performances, linked through their relation to the whole, but otherwise self-sufficient moments. It's not like two one-act plays; both of them are meditations on the theme, mostly in the form of monologues.

(photo: Discovering Oz)
The first part is a series of adapted monologues from the great Greek tragedies: Medea, Bacchae, Suppliant Women, Hyppolytus, Clytemnestra, and the Roman Thyestes. The selection from each work follows the same format: a Messenger (Paul Zimet), runs into the a sparsly laid out scene (one table, one chair, and a background of stars), and declaims a horrible event which he has witnessed off-stage -- Clytemnestra butchering her husband and having sex amongst the blood, Hippolytus dragged into a bloody mess by his wild horses, the Bacchants tearing apart Pentheus' body piece by piece, etc.

The form of the original tragedies is that these monologues by the Messengers would come at the climax of the play, surrounded by a drama of characters and politics. Here, the monologues come as climax after climax, becoming a sustained anti-climax; a rush of words that strain to shock and disgust but can sometimes blur into an undifferentiated stream of violence.

Between the moments of monologue, however, the other Messenger (Ellen Maddow) is preparing some sort of stew, mostly by sawing through raw meat with a knife. And it's here that the actual obscenity strikes; when Ellen Maddow's Messenger tells the story of Atreus slaughtering and cooking his twin brother's children, and feeding it to them, she reaches a point where Atreus delights in his crime and only wishes that his brother knew what it was that he was eating. Then, here eyes alight down, and we see the meat -- which has been horrifically torn at until this point, and you can't help but have your stomach turn.

(photo: Discovering Oz)

The second part, also a series of monologues, takes the format of a bustling news room, with people on the phone and on radios trying to get detail about a dizzying myriad of stories, which are presented through monologues to the audience. Most of these monologues take the format of news stories, written by Marcus Gardley, John Jesurun, Ellen Maddow, Deb Margolin, Lizzie Olesker, and Paul Zimet.

Most of these news stories are on the level of serious Onion News Stories, falling flat the way many hypothetical future news broadcasts seem to -- making a joke out of today's controversial issues by proposing a future that doesn't make sense from today's current state. For example, John Jesurun's monologues "Mexican States" brings broadcasts from four Mexican states on the US border that have given up in the face of drug violence and chaos, and have demanded annexation by the United States.

The real achilles heel of these stories is their abstract notion, and it's here that a few of the monologues break out. Particularly, the monologue written by Paul Zimet, "It's Hot Out There", paints a horrifying and devastating picture of New York after rising world temperatures have made the US almost impossible to inhabit. On the abstract level, it's just as full of implausibilities -- birds that fall out of the sky fully cooked -- but the focus is on tangible imagery, vibrantly rendered by the Reporter (Chinaza Uche).

The difference between those stories is best illustrated by Ellen Maddow's monologues "Special Zone", which begins as a matter of fact story about a "Special Zone", separate but equal, being established in a Supreme Court ruling authored by Justice Antonin Scalia (haw haw is there nothing he won't do) where those who wish to marry animals are consigned. As the monologues progress, however, it transforms from a reporter's dry and abstract story, to an up-close view of a woman whose love for her boa constrictor will never be returned, and will eventually lead to her being swallowed up. The Reporter (Anastasia Olowin) follows that arc, and becomes just as wrapped up in it all -- and the results are heartbreaking.

Lastly, another fine example is David Greenspan's haunting "AVery Exciting Study", which aptly closes the evening, telling the story of a scientific advance from the perspective of the lab animals whose spines were cut to facilitiate the testing. (Perhaps for me it was made more poignant by recent events). Again, the focus is not on the abstraction of the events, but on their tangible outcomes, rendered simply and rivetingly by John Kurzynowski.

In the end, the performance is not about any of the horrifying stories we hear, or the stories which fall short of being horrifying. It's a reflection on the act of telling the story.

It's a very important problem to crack right now, because as our world population gets larger and larger, and our fates get increasingly interconnected, the suffering out there. In the weeks after Hurricane Sandy, and the big gaps in people's experience of the same event, it seems more crucial than ever that we figure out how to actually transmit tragedy. 

And we do it through tangible descriptions. That's what the loss of international reporting creates -- a lack of on-the-ground, tangible reporting. Take, for example, Edward R. Murrow's visceral reporting from Buchenwald at the end of World War Two:

In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children — enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts....
(I chose one of the least visceral passages, and yet you can still feel it.) This is the visceral power that the Greco-Roman tragedy has:
When with the victims he has satisfied himself, he is now free to prepare his brother’s banquet. With his own hands he cuts the body into parts, severs the broad shoulders at the trunk, an the retarding arms, heartlessly strips off the flesh and severs the bones; the heads only he saves, and the hands that had been given to him in pledge of faith. 
And is absent from most modern reporting:
CAIRO — The Egyptian transportation minister resigned Saturday after 49 children were killed on their way to school in southern Egypt in a collision between their bus and a train.
The state-run news agency said a total of 51 people died in all in the accident near Mandara village in Assiut province. Another 16 were injured. 

There is an undeniable down-side to the visceral, tangible reportage: the allure of sensationalism, blowing thing out of proportion. But if a train tragedy is reduced to a math problem, it can dull our ability to feel and connect to them.

So what, then, is obscene? It's a tired trope to point out that it's not words. It's not the seven words you can't say on television and it's not saying the word vagina in a state house.

But if Obskene proves anything, it's that words can be obscene: they can carry the tangible, present weight of obscene acts; they can conjure them and make them real and bring a power of violence into being that is, in fact, difficult to stomach. It does not mean that we cannot say them, but they can bring that violence into a space. (See also: CK, Louis).

The form of the production, as directed and arranged by Tina Shepard, is adept at highlighting this -- through the moments of failure as well as the moments of success. For there are definitely times where performers fail to get across a tangible, reified understanding of tragedy or pain. And then there are moments where you can hear the snap of a rat's spinal cord, and where you can sit with the pain as it tries and fails to understand why.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

PRODUCING: On The Virtues of Good Data

Every year, I have to file a report for Fractured Atlas on how my company spends its money. The difficulty is that, up until now, the labels for our expenses don't necessarily align with how Fractured Atlas categorizes expenditures. So my previous process for putting this together was a long, multi-step process of going through the various budgets (which at the time were per-show) and hacking them together to calculate what Fractured Atlas needed to know.

Frankly, I was sick of being frustrated and annoyed by the reporting process (and the tax filing process), so I decided to re-design all of my data. Instead of all these different spreadsheets, I created one big spreadsheet that included all of the raw data for expense with the appropriate FA and Tax codes, across all of my different shows and administrative.

Then, I uploaded it to a cool web-based analytic tool called Explore Analytics, and used it to put together charts like the one above.

  1. Rather than having to put together Excel formulas for each purpose, or copying-pasting from among a number of different spreadsheets, I just create one spreadsheet and use an easy, web-based interface to put it together.
  2. Because it's a web-based tool, it's really easy for me to publish charts like the one above -- including embedding it in this blog.
  3. If I suddenly want to look at the same data in another way, it's very quick for me to do:

Now that my latest show is done, I'm leveraging this for our internal show reports, but this time I am going to share some of that data (the kind that I can share) here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

POLITICS: Election 2012

Not going to tell you to vote, or who to vote for: if you're anywhere on the internet, you'll already have heard that roughly once per second every second you've been online.

I will, however, say that while I was waiting in line to vote (a two hour process) I did some research on my local candidates, and the only thing that was particularly interesting was this video, of a local Civil Court judge running for re-election:

Please vote. it makes a difference in peoples' lives.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

PRODUCING: The Show Must Go On, II

The New York Innovative Theater Foundation has put together a list of cancellations and postponements, as well as statuses on a few venues that need help.

PRODUCING: The Ethics of "The Show Must Go On"

It's been a week now since the MTA shut down the subway system in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, and the events of the last week have led me to wonder the wisdom and ethics of the phrase, "The Show Must Go On."

Here's why.

CASE ONE - The Show Must Go On. Get There?

I have a friend who is working on a show. (I'm not going to call them out -- in fact I know multiple sets of people on different shows for whom this applies). Because they were going to perform the week after Hurricane Sandy, they decided they still needed the rehearsals. Despite the fact that, for most of the week, there were no trains in or out of Brooklyn.

So they held them, and some of the actresses had to walk the Manhattan Bridge to get home.

(another, non-theater anecdote: a friend of mine with a restaurant job was told in no uncertain terms that she was expected to be at work the day after the hurricane (at which point it wasn't even clear that the horrifying replacement buses would be available). Cabs would be reimbursed for groups of two or more employees, but other employees would have to pay for their own.)

Now, my heart warms that performers are so game that if their director says, "Hey, you know what, you need to get to rehearsal," they go. But how fair is it for the director to put them in that position?

My approach was to cancel the performances I was running that week, and to keep canceling them until  such time as there was a subway that ran to the venue. And when that subway was announced (the beautiful, beautiful, 4/5 line) I rode it myself to see whether it really was running along its schedule, or whether it had delays.

CASE TWO - The Show Must Go On. With or Without You?

Stickier, unfortunately, was the fact that once travel was restored within Manhattan/Brooklyn, it was not yet restored between Manhattan/Jersey. Now, most of our audience were within the New York City area, and thus were able to get access, but one of our cast was stuck in Jersey. 

Since our work is largely improvised and interactive, it was technically feasible to resume the show. Because of limitations on the space (and other limitations: see below), we decided we'd have to move forward without the actress.

It seems bizarre and unpleasant to continue the show without a person integral to the performance. But in this case, I had to weigh that against not having those performances at all, and in the end it seemed like the smaller price to pay.

CASE THREE - The Show Must Go On. Indefinitely?

Of course, I had another option, which was to keep scheduling shows further and further into the month. But I decided that I couldn't do it. The performers that work with me were working from early August through early November, and their contracts said that they were done working with me on November 4th. For me to take even another week would mean rescheduling, fighting between different commitments (work, other projects, schooling) that weren't planned around.

After talking with the cast, it seemed that one week would be manageable, though not easy. And although at the end of the day I wouldn't be able to make up for every performance I lost, it felt to me that was all I could reasonably ask to them.


I felt like I was navigating in the dark on each of these decisions. Some theaters were dark, simply because of power. Others continued having performances. (One even sent out an email which said "The L Is Running" which, when you clicked on it, told you that they were just kidding... but that their own shows were running. I was not amused.)

Through all of this, though, I kept hearing that phrase, "The Show Must Go On." I guess that phrase is supposed to refer to one person. Like, the show must go on, even if I am upset/in trouble. But on the flip side -- does theater, does performance, have the right to override the people who participate in it?

PLUG: Américana Passover Resumes... with a Review!

My company, Organs of State, has announced the make-up schedule for Américana Passover. Only two nights still have availability: Tuesday the 6th and Thursday the 8th.

Just in time for these pick-up performances, a review:
Organs of State have devised a project that blurs the line between performance and reality so deeply that you may find yourself unaware of which is which. Set in a small room off of the Two Moon Art House & Café in Park Slope, Brooklyn, distractions are limited and ideas are boundless. With performances taking place during the three weekends leading up to the 2012 Presidential Election, I arrived with a drilled-in apathy and left with a desire to break out of it, and a want to include myself in our America. The ritual is guaranteed to evoke something different in each person who takes part, and is truly an immersive experience rather than a spectator’s event. 
Unfortunately, seating is extremely limited (since there are only nine seats per night) so if you want to get in on the action, email me.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

LEGAL COMMENTARY: Bullshit IP Lawsuit #23001

The suit was filed on Thursday in Federal District Court in Oxford, Miss., against Sony Pictures Classics, which released “Midnight in Paris,” and reported by Variety (registration required). It hinges on a single scene in the film, when its time-traveling protagonist, played by Owen Wilson, states: “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”  
Faulkner’s original formulation of the line in “Requiem for a Nun,” which was published in 1950, is: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Even so, Faulkner Literary Rights says that the film, for which Mr. Allen won the Academy Award for original screenplay, is violating its copyrights.
Yes, that's right, it's a lawsuit over TWO SENTENCES. In a movie, where the movie is clearly quoting the source material. With attribution.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

CRITICISM: How To Talk To Artists About Their Work

Prerequisite reading:

  1. Jason Robert Brown, on how Sondheim told him never to tell an artist what you really think of their work. At least, not immediately.
  2. 99Seats, very validly hoping that Brown is joking.
  3. Bob Bullen, with a little radio play that demonstrates how post-show feedback usually goes.
My three cents:


The radio play that Bob Bullen wrote is pretty illustrative, and it gets to why I, as an artist, never ask people how they liked my show directly afterwards. I don't expect them to answer me immediately. It's stressful. I thank them for coming and let them stay or not stay or whatever.

I'm in a particular place of burden; I am not only the artist, but the producer -- I'm the one biting at my fingernails hoping that the play is a success because it's my pocket book that will hurt. And I'm the one who invested my heart and soul into a work that I really do believe will get out there.

So if, two minutes after I just went through it, and in the middle of several more weeks of working on this, someone tells me what they think, like really what they think, there's nothing I can do about it. At that moment. It just hurts. And you have to go out there and continue to represent the work for what it is. It's hard.

(And guess what -- I bet your feedback is going to be a lot more useful after you've had a chance to think about it and figure out why it worked or didn't work).

So I am sympathetic to the idea that immediately after a show it might be painful to say that the work is a failure.



I don't think that means that you should just blow smoke up an artist's ass and tell him everything was wonderful. I know that it smacks of evasion when people told you that they're "interested" or that they're "thankful for your work" but hey you know what? Very little productive is going to be exchanged thirty seconds after the work goes up. 

My approach -- even for shows I liked -- is to thank the artists for having put the work together, and -- if I'm interested in discussing it, good or bad -- offer to catch up with them after the show wraps up completely to talk about it. I guarantee you you can have a more productive conversation in this format.

But they do have to hear it.

They do have to hear it.

Saying that you love it when you didn't, that's some useless shit.


A lot of people have asked me to give feedback on their work during the process of putting it together, some of which is work that I've found to be pretty bad. If someone asks me for my input and my feedback, my goal is to figure out what they want to do, and to push them towards the decisions that make it more effective for that. 

I try (in my very best way, and probably usually fail) to approach it with as much humility as I can, as though it was something I've written -- lord knows I've written some awful things consigned to bottom shelves.

(Unless I really disagree with what they want to do, in which case I weigh in on that question; or unless they aren't clear on what they do, in which case I push to refine it). Unless the premise of the piece is irretrievable ("I wrote a play about paint drying, is it exciting enough?"), there's usually a way to drive them to help them out.

It's not my job to tell them that they suck or they should quit or get out of the circus. That job's for best friends and spouses. You focus on the ways that the work can be more effective.

Also, one more bonus point:


Seriously, whether it's my younger sister or Stephen Sondheim, they're just a person. Reading through the comments section of Jason Robert Brown's post with talk about "The Master" and everything... everyone is a person! Talk to each other like people! People are respectful of each other's feelings, but also don't lie to each other.

Friday, October 12, 2012

PLUG: Américana Passover - My Thoughts

NYTheatre.com put out some questionnaires to artists working on my show, Américana Passover.

If you're interested, here are my thoughts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

PLUG: Américana Passover

I'll make this quick and to the point.

For two years I've been working on a piece with my performance company, Organs of State, called Américana Passover.

We started with the election season, at the beginning of the 2011, and the first seeds of our current performance season, What The State Provides. My collaborators and I began to wonder what was possible for America -- at a time when Americans largely feel that we're on the wrong track, what would it look like to instigate change in that kind of change.

We decided that what we wanted to do was create a new American ritual. Based around the Passover Seder, we decided to tell the story of the promise that was given to us, the promise that we were all created equal -- a promise that still to this day is not fully realized, a promise that we struggle each day to bring into being.

And we decided that we wanted this passover ritual around a table, with food.

It's finally here.

For the three weeks heading up to the election, we're inviting nine people per night to engage in this ritual with us. It's at Two Moon Art House & Café, home to a beautiful little community in Park Slope.

Because there's nine seats per night, it's an extremely intimate affair, so if people come in a group, you can basically curate a little private performance.

And also, because there's nine seats per night, tickets are limited, so if you want to come, get yours soon.

Friday, October 5, 2012

FUN: Cage Chaser

I've decided that any time I write a protracted post about politics or aesthetics, I will give you all a Nicolas Cage chaser (or other ridiculous actors, if I run low on the Cage well... if that's possible).

So here's the gem:


Thursday, October 4, 2012

POLITICS: Why Vote For An Objectionable Man?

First, you'll want to read Conor Friedersdorf's Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama, and/or George Hunka's Throwing away my vote, or L'Hôte's you're either with us or you're against us, all of which, generally, say "Although Barack Obama has many attributes which I agree with, and although I find him better than our two-party alternative of Mitt Romney, I cannot vote for him because of his record on the War on Terror/human rights." (This is a reduction of what each of them said, but if you don't want it reduced, go see what they wrote).

Second, you'll want to read 99 Seats' Dealbreakers, where he lays out a pretty good counterargument (he's responding mostly to Conor Friedersdorf).

But lastly, also read Isaac's response Why Do You Vote? where he hits the argument closest to home for me:
It seems to me the main issue here is a fundamentally disconnect on questions fo[sic] why we vote for President. I simply do not believe that in our current governmental system and the rules of how the Federal Government works that voting for President is a moment for personal self-expression. I believe it's a moment when we choose between the available options on who would do the best job running the Executive Branch of the country, which includes managing an enormous bureaucracy, appointing a wide slate of other executives (and judges) and working with the Legislative Branch to craft and pass laws.  There is no way that any candidate who is not a Republican or a Democrat can reasonbly be said to have the capacity to do those things, as many of them involve working with an entrenched two party system in the legistative branch.
I agree here largely with what Isaac says -- that the vote for the President is a tactical decision taken among different outcomes. Now, I can absolutely see that there are some moral failings that can't be overlooked. I don't necessarily disagree. But at the same time, the tactical context matters.

But I want to add something there. Because there's a word Isaac uses that's getting over looked. Voting is a moment. Voting is one moment in the electoral process.

As an example, if you looked back to 2008, you were faced with two candidates, neither of whom fully backed equal rights across the political spectrum. For many people, that's a central issue to their lives to exactly the same degree as our conduct in wars overseas. And on the eve of the election, it seemed like a pretty rotten choice.

But they stuck on after the election, and to L'Hôte's point, they did not accept that it "wasn't their time" or that they should rally behind the president. They put pressure throughout his presidency, supported and highlighted congressmembers who backed their position and broke with the president, and continued the campaign.

So, unlike the "liberal" L'Hôte describes in his article, I'm in no way dismissing or discounting the important work that needs to be done pushing back on the President and his stances.

But here's the thing. If this really is a passionate issue -- and I have no doubt that it is -- I find it difficult to conscience taking an act which, even if it's the more morally correct one, increases the practical odds of the man who said he'd like to double Guantanamo Bay getting elected. It's very hard to overlook that.

I don't believe that discussing primary elections is a cop-out. We had an exceptionally close primary election when Barack Obama was selected, and in part one of the few actual differentiators between himself and Clinton was that he was willing to raid across the border into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden -- something that put him to the right of John McCain and closer to Sarah Palin.

The problem is -- that was a popular position. And it remains popular. The problem isn't "liberals" (read: centrists) telling people who are concerned about these issues to sit back; the fact is that the electorate backs them.

Which isn't to tell them to stop trying. I say get out there and keep up the fight.

For instance, there are many, many issues on which I oppose and even detest Rep. Ron Paul. But when Paul talks about the limits of government, reducing the number of wars, etc., I support him on that. When he talks about abolishing the Fed and re-introducing the Gold standard, I think that it's madness. I'm glad that he's in Congress. I'm glad he's not my "lesser of two evil" choices for the President.

All I'm trying to say is that the Federal Presidential Election has been magnified out of proportion, especially when for the last four years we've complained about how weak the President is in the face of a divided Congress. There are so many different pressure points and places to act throughout the political season, and when it comes to the two choice, two party, Presidential election, I'm going to vote tactically, for Barack Obama. For these reasons.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


This ad season has been brutal. Ever since the primaries wrapped up, I feel like I've been watching a whole shit-ton of mass-produced, grave-voices-over-shocking-press-clips, formulaic ads. I didn't realize how much my distaste for political ads was from the fact that they're all exactly the same, except with the words rearranged.

So anyways, hat tip to State Supreme Court candidate Bridget Mary McCormack for leveraging connections to get this West Wing homage done. Ostensibly it's an ad to encourage people not to forget to vote for the non-partisan section of the ballot, but she gets her 30 seconds of self-promotion in at the middle. Whatever. The point is, I didn't feel like someone stole a few minutes of my life away from me.

That's what I miss about bonkers ads like Mike Gravel's:

Or even the bizarre ones Herman Cain put out.

Please! Obama and Romney! Or anyone else out there -- put a modicum of thought into your ads!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

PRAGMATICS: Too Culturally Relevant?

As a producer, you want to stay culturally relevant with the work you're producing. But maybe there's such a thing as being too culturally relevant? At least when it comes to marketing.

Above is a photo on the Occupy Wall Street. The police are standing next to an ad for "Byzantium Security", which has that reference to the 1% "that matters," clearly intended as being provocative. If you go to the website, you see that this actually is a website.

Except in the bottom right hand corner, you see a "Copyright Cinemax" information, which links you to info about the tv show that this is promoting.

And you know, if Occupy Wall Street hadn't come back to lower Manhattan, I'm sure this would have just been a tongue-in-cheek satire and possibly effective (I have questions about whether ads that in no way look like ads for the things they are promoting are actually effective).

On the right hand side there's a range of reactions, like "Wow it's crazy that this movie hit a nerve like this!" and "THIS IS PHOTOSHOPPED OBVIOUSLY" and "No guys, it's real"!

But when I actually went and looked up what the TV show Hunted is, all I came away with was... is this it? Really? Because all it is is a pretty standard futuristic spy adventure. This ad just sets up the antagonist. The show (at least from the info I'm reading about it) doesn't seem to be any examination of class or privilege the way that the framing above seems to strongly imply.

So the question is -- as a producer, are you doing your show a disservice if you tap too strongly into the zeitgeist?

FOOD: A Worrying Sign:

It's definitely a bad sign when you have to answer questions like "What is this food?" and "Why is this food square?" and "Is your meat real or fake?"

Those are all screengrabs from the McDonald's FAQ page about meat.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

PERSONAL: Where Is CultureFuture?

There's a lot going on, and I'll fill you in soon, but mostly, I blame the internet. How am I expected to blog when people have put all the cut-scenes from the game Civilization II online?


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PRODUCING: Finding Non-Traditional Performance Space

Our friends over at Fractured Atlas have a post up about finding non-traditional performance space. I am not linking to it just because I'm quoted! I am linking to it because it's something very near and dear to my company, especially because of what we've done and what we're about to do.