Friday, July 29, 2011

PLUG: The Greatest Story-teller of All Time

Or, at least, the greatest story-teller I have ever met. Ladies and gentlemen I am pleased to present to you Mr. James Monaco, accompanied by Mr. Jerome Ellis:

(Update: You know what, that one was really grim. Here's James Monaco being absurd in the funny direction:

LEGAL COMMENTARY: Stop it, Atheists!

In the days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, some workers and mourners at the World Trade Center site seized upon a cross-shaped steel beam found amid the rubble as a symbol of faith and hope.
Enlarge This Image

For the past five years, the 17-foot-tall cross was displayed outside a nearby Catholic church. On Saturday it was moved again, to the site of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, where it is to be in the permanent collection.

But the move quickly provoked a lawsuit from American Atheists, a nonprofit group based in New Jersey. It argued that because the cross is a religious symbol of Christianity and the museum is partly government financed and is on government property, the cross’s inclusion in the museum violates the United States Constitution and state civil rights law.
No. Shush. As an atheist, this sort of thing really, really pisses me off. The beam-cross happened (past-tense) and, as such, became a part of our history. And although it may not be how I would have chosen to my body commemorated if I had died that day, it was an honest expression of sorrow and loss, not an attempt to evangelize or promote.

This kind of logic takes the sentiment that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" to absurd proportions. The government can and should be able to make preservation of our historical record, even if that historical record may have religious connection. I searched "historical cathedral" and the first hit was the Cathedral of St. Augustine on the National Park Service website. The fact that it's a cathedral doesn't mean that it's not a historical site "worthy of preservation" (as the NPS' website has it. Nor does the cross.

Of course, we wouldn't want this:
[Opposing lawyer Jay Sekulow] pointed to parts of the lawsuit naming four individual atheists, who are described as having suffered “dyspepsia, symptoms of depression, headaches, anxiety, and mental pain and anguish from the knowledge that they are made to feel officially excluded from the ranks of citizens who were directly injured by the 9/11 attack.”

All of that being said, I hope the 9/11 memorial takes opportunities to gather other historic tokens of grief from other traditions. But it shouldn't be required to discard a historic object because that object is religious. Why not throw away the Jefferson Bible while we're at it?

After all, there are plenty of things to get upset about that are 9/11 related. Here's a good one:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
I Thought We Already Took Care of this S@#t
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PLUG: One Of My Favorite People

Unfortunately I can't embed, but my friend Spencer Novich is one of the greatest performers I've ever laid eyes on, and I'm proud that he was a core part of the first production I ever created and self-produced.

Enjoy Cirque du Soleil, buddy!

OPEN QUESTION: Actor's Unions Worldwide

Hopefully I'll get a chance to respond to the money/quality questions that Gus raised, but the article that brought my attention to it also responded to my post laying blame on actors in dangerous conditions on Actors' Equity's refusal to update the showcase code.

Chris Wilkinson responds by saying:
So maybe it's fortunate that the UK version of Equity manages to find a much saner balance.
Which leads me to my question: does the UK version of Equity manage a saner balance?

That's not rhetorical, that's a real question: how do other unions work in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, etc. -- specifically in reference to independent theater (which at least here in NY we define as working in theaters under 100 seats, with budgets around $10-20,000 per show)?

What restrictions do these unions put on independent theaters? Do most independent theaters work under contracts with those unions, or do most operate using non-unionized actors?

I'd love to learn from some global readers.

RESPONSE: Zach Braff

Zach Braff is apparently the Eric Bogosian of our times. RIP Matt Freeman.

(For all the mockery, the B- that Braff has on StageGrade proves that he's at least as capable as the Royal Shakespeare Company's King Lear)

LEGAL COMMENTARY: Star Wars is in the Public Domain!

Hah sorry, made you look. It's in the public domain in the UK, in the context of costumes:
Andrew Ainsworth is a Londoner who designed the original Storm Trooper helmets for George Lucas’s Star Wars. Ainsworth has been casting new armour from his original moulds for the past eight years, selling them to fans at up to £1,800 a throw. Lucas sued Ainsworth in a US court, which held that he had violated Lucas’s copyright; but because Ainsworth has no US assets, Lucas had to bring suit in the UK to collect. However, UK law affords only limited copyright to costumes, and the UK Supreme Court held that costumes are not sculptures, and only get a 15 year term of copyright in the UK, meaning that Storm Trooper armour is now in the public domain in Britain. The court also found that Ainsworth had violated US copyright.
Could you imagine what would happen if Star Wars ever entered the public domain? At the earliest, Star Wars becomes public domain in 2072. At the earliest.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FUN: Yes! Kick 'em While They're Down!

See if you can catch the punchline Jon Stewart deploys that brought a smile to my face:

RESPONSE: A Quick Note about Dynamic Pricing

Oh no, I don't actually have a strong opinion on the subject. I feel as though I don't understand quite enough about how customers (and in this scenario, they are customers, not community members) respond to dynamic pricing.

But Don's assertion is thus:
What I see is an industry desperate to find a way to sustain itself financially without using the very creativity that fuels the work. I see an industry trying desperately to ape the for profit models of industries that still have a viable demand for the product they supply. And the choices being made are lacking.

What I find odd about that assertion is that the assumption that the model being emulated in the airline industry (in the current specific instance, Qantas) is any more successful than ours. There may still be a viable demand for the product in the airline industry, but the airline industry is faced by a number of similar challenges: high labor costs and other fixed costs, along with expectations that prices should be lower. Challenges that are similar to ours.

Some airlines combat this with dynamic pricing; some airlines have taken the nickel and dime approach; some airlines actually combat this with quality (Jet Blue!).

As I think I've said before (oh yes, I did), the challenges theaters face was thus:
[I]t seems to me like there's a fixed amount of money in the system, and that money is simply not enough.

Seeing as there is not enough money, people basically wind up either:
  1. Compromising their mission to provide more popular fare that they can squeeze revenue out of.
  2. Compromising their artists in the form of low wages, etc.
  3. Compromising their staff (such as an entire literary department).
  4. Compromising their audience (through the form of high ticket prices).
  5. Failing.
Little seems to have changed. So some organizations are going to define themselves by preserving their professional staff and their money for artists. Others will compromise their audience. And that's the choice each theater makes... which actually does get back to the larger point Don was making. About what kind of airline/restaurant/theater you want to be.

If I was going to bring in an airline to counsel me on my theater, I would probably bring in Jet Blue, and I'd ask them: you seem to understand the air passenger's experience. Can you look at my audience-member's experience with fresh eyes?

Not unlike this story from 99% about Toyota telling a cancer clinic how to improve care.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

PLUG: Bubble & Squeak Update

If you read my review of Bubble & Squeak and thought, "Man, I need to see what he's talking about," well you can! Because it moved on to the finals, you can see it tomorrow! Details here.

PRIMARY DOC: Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal

A brand new primary doc that should be kept for posterity's sake: the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

It certifies three things:
  1. We listened to the recommendations.
  2. The military put together all the policies they need.
  3. Let's do this thing.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

PLUG: Things You Should Do With Your Time

Apply to be a writing fellow with Createquity. Writing for Ian remains to this day some of the best writing I have ever produced, thanks to the mentorship and drive for excellence which Ian brings. The blog is one of the most respected arts policy blogs on the web, it gets a lot of high profile attention, and you'll feel incredibly proud about yourself.

PRAGMATIC: Reset II: Reboot vs. Reset

So, apropos of my post a little bit earlier on the end-of-episode reset, 99 Seats probes whether re-staging a show is the same as rebooting a comics franchise.

I'd like to draw a distinction between a few different things, because I think it actually illuminates a different audience relationship between themselves and the work.

Theater: A revival is a restaging of a previous work in a way that attempts to be faithful. In modern terms, this usually means matching the script, the choreography, and the interpretation as faithfully as possible; only the actors are given lee-way to adapt the characters to themselves. (In film we'd call that a remake, in the shot-for-shot remake way)

Comics: There's never really a reason to do a "revival" of a comic series because we still have the original comics. The 1967 run of Hair is inaccessible to us because it was a live performance, and it was over. The Fantastic Four comics made in 1967, however, are still with us, thanks to the tireless work of collectors. So there's no need to "revive" it -- if you want the original, it's still there.

What's the difference? The difference is that theater is "live", hence it shares the same root as "revive."

Theater: A reinterpretation is a chance for a new director to tell the story in their own way. Maybe it reaches the level of being an adaptation (e.g. Chuck Mee's Iphigenia 2.0), or is just a drastic restaging (e.g. when Peter Brooks directs a classic).

Comics: Typically, when an artist is given reign to retell a story, it's either part of a reboot or they reinterpret the story in a new storyline. Still, it's fairly common to let an artist take over a comic and make it their own.

Not much difference.

Comics: A reset in an episodic work is when at the end of an episode or an arc, everything returns to a "status quo" state. For instance, at the end of the Death of Superman arc, eventually Superman returns to life and mostly things go to roughly where they were at the beginning of the Arc.

Theater: Theater tends not to be episodic to the degree that comics or TV are. Although I can think of a few limited examples of really episodic feature films (e.g. the James Bond series, the Star Trek movies), I can't think of any equivalents in theater. Even classic comedies don't tend to "reset" at the end, they typically leave the characters better than the status quo at the start. The only really prominent reset I can think of is the mid-act reset in Waiting for Godot...

What's the difference? There's a whole different set expectations set on an episodic work (many comics, many TV) than on singular works (most theater and feature film). Whereas episodic works sometimes need to maintain a status quo to keep from jumping the shark (Simpsons, Star Trek, etc.), other episodic work forgoes the reset in favor of letting the changes accumulate (the Wire, Mad Men, etc.), and we tend to recognize the latter as more complex.

Comics: A reboot in comics or other works is when the creator decides to start from square one and ignore all of the established canon. Most commonly, it's used in a progressing episodic series where there aren't regular resets, and therefore the canon is so full of events and information that it's becoming hard for the lay person to follow. The unsuccessful characters are killed, conflicts that have been solved are returned to conflict (Clark Kent has to woo Lois Lane all over again!).

Also note that reboots can happen when an episodic series has completely failed, but people want to salvage the world. See: the terrible Hulk movie.

Theater: As with reset, theater tends not to be as episodic of a form, and thus "rebooting" is never necessary. If every production of Shakespeare's Hamlet added another story to the Danish prince's life (now he's living in America! And in the last production, he was elected to Congress alongside MacBeth, who represents Boston!), we probably would reboot it at regular intervals so that we don't have 400 years of Hamlet stories burdening our productions.

What's the difference? The word canon is the distinction. When we create plays, we rarely wind up creating a world in which adventures continue to take place. Even Hamlet doesn't inhabit a world where regular stories are progressed, where there are canonical stories to tell. It's not Star Wars' expanded universe, or the Star Trek universe, or Tolkein's Middle-Earth. And I haven't seen a play yet that tries to create that world, and have that need for a reboot.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ARTS POLICY: Protecting the Performers

An absolute must-read:
I recently talked with Carole Swann, an actor currently recovering from a violent accident, which resulted in a broken humerus bone, incurred while rehearsing a play. When I asked exactly what happened during that fateful rehearsal, Carole described how, while rehearsing a scene, the actor she was working with twisted her arm. The actor is also the Artistic Director of the theatre company. Carole describes how everyone in the room heard her bones snap and she had to be rushed off to the emergency room.

That's right, her bone was audibly snapping in a rehearsal for a play.

This was the first “on their feet” rehearsal of the fight scene, and the last one for Carole. She has been out of commission for several months, her arm in a complex sling, recovering from surgery, out of pocket scores of thousands of dollars. She was unable to do basic things such as washing dishes, tying her shoes... the list goes on and on.

She explained to me in our recent interview that this Artistic Director doesn't “believe” in professionally choreographed stage combat because, “it doesn't look authentic.” This is an extremely dangerous misconception. Professionals who've trained in stage combat and seen stage combat done well know you can make a scene scary to the audience and not painful to the actors.

Carole says, "You know in most areas of work in the world it would be so completely unacceptable to be doing such unsafe things in the work place, right? But why is it that with theatre it's not taken that seriously?" Excellent question.

It's not just theatre, film actors also engage in what Carole calls "improvised violence". I was recently listening to a radio program on a very well respected radio station about staged violence in film gone awry. The host was talking to actor Y about actor X (a very famous wealthy actor), let’s call him the scene partner. The actor said that while he was doing a scene with the partner, when they were at a very intense moment where the partner really thought he was that character, he was so in the moment and connected to his character that he actually smacked the actor repeatedly, for many takes. This move was unplanned and the actor was not pleased. The actor told the radio host that the slaps were hard… and hurt... a lot. No one on set yelled stop, or cut. Finally the actor had enough and halted the whole shebang... probably to go get some ice. He explained to the radio host that his partner was doing "The Method".

One of the tragedies here is that because Actor's Equity is so hard to work with (I mean come on, just let me video tape the performances!), people in independent theater wind up dismissing it entirely. I've heard artistic directors say they never work with Actor's Equity, or that they only work with actors willing to lie to Actor's Equity about whether they paid transportation, or about whether the show was video-taped.

I can't work with Actor's Equity, because I also refuse to lie to them. I once did an AEA workshop, and I wound up producing one budget for their consumption, and one budget that reflected the way the performance was actually going to work -- without unlimited metro cards for the cast, and with our lighting designer being paid slightly more than the actors ($100 more. Not per hour or per week, just... $100 more.)

All of that bullshit aside, the standards that Actor's Equity tries to set for actor safety and breaks are very important. Even though I don't participate in Equity contract work anymore, I try to hold to those standards. And the practices listed above very much don't stand up to that.

REVIEW: Bubble & Squeak


Before I sat down to write this review, I got quite heartening news that Bubble & Squeak had advanced to the final round of Samuel French's Off-Off Broadway Festival. Fantastic. Well deserved.

I don't know what to say about this thing beyond what it actually is. Evan Twohy's play is a short story about Declan (Willy Appelman) and Dolores (Arielle Siegel), whose honeymoon goes horribly astray when they realize that the cabbages that Dolores has stuffed in her pants are illegal and may lead to the death penalty. So they hide in a church made of hay.

Scratch that. Describing what this play is about makes it sound ridiculous and stupid. Actually, wait, no, that's exactly what this is. I hope high schoolers never get their hands on this script, because it's exactly the sort of wildly absurd madness that I'm sure they would love, and would absolutely butcher.

So was this a ham-handed string of stupid cabbage jokes and determined racism against the Polish?


Because you honestly couldn't mean every moment of a play as hard as Willy Appelman and Arielle Siegel meant this play. They had the good sense to let the audience worry about the cabbages and the hay church (prop design by Meagan Kensil, by the way, which may be the first time I've given a shout-out to a props master), and focus their energies on each other, and on the simple tragedy that befalls two naive, gullible, beautiful people who just wanted to go on the perfect honeymoon.

So that's one lesson you learn from the insane absurdity working in this play: honesty buys a lot of hilarity.

There are traps in this play. A million traps. Director Tom Costello navigates them beautifully. For instance, it is pretty much revealed to us from the get-go that Dolores has cabbages in her pants, from the first moment that Declan mentions that having cabbages is illegal. But it's halfway through the opening scene before we first see her rise with the cabbages in her pants. And it's only halfway through the play as a whole before we catch a glimpse of the actual cabbages themselves, and even more time before the cabbages are revealed, or before Declan and Dolores actually have to eat these pants-cabbages.

I can't believe I got to write those sentences.

So from the actors, dealing with absurdity means focusing -- with an almost reckless abandon -- on the characters honestly negotiating their relationship. From the directors, it means slowly staging up the jokes, so that no matter how ridiculous you think the last moment was, you realize that it's nothing compared to the next moment.

The first lights-up, for instance, is Declan and Dolores sitting behind a desk fronted with a massive blood-red flag with the aggressive Polish Eagle on it, looking nervous. By the end of the first scene, that massive blood-red Polish flag is probably the most innocuous thing about the play.

Oh, and it contributes to the really full-throated anti-Polish racism of the play. In a loving, hysterical way. As a Pole, I found it quite great (but then again, Poles tried to wipe out my whole family and the village they came from).

I won't talk much about the other play I saw that evening because I was not impressed. I just have three things to say to them:
  • Don't kill every person a character ever loved and assume that the character will "develop."
  • Angry people don't flip chairs. Fucking insanely losing-all-control people flip chairs. If you are not fucking insanely losing control, you are not flipping a chair.
  • People rarely talk about their life in metaphors, and if they do, they don't deliberately coordinate it across a number of characters.
Seriously, I haven't had this much fun watching someone eat a cabbage since, well, I was last eating at Lomzyniankia. The phrase "mad-cap hilarity" comes to mind.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Mind 7/11-7/18

Crazy days we live in:
Great eulogies, all from Iconic Photos blog:
Big changes in the arts world:

LOCAL: Tobacco Warehouse Struggle... Ends

And not well for St. Ann's. The court ruled that St. Ann can't use the Tobacco Warehouse to build a new home. Back to the drawing board for them. This might mean them leaving DUMBO.

Friday, July 15, 2011

PRAGMATIC: The End Of Episode Reset

I was just now watching an episode of Star Trek's Original Series (Operation: Annihilate! if you really must know), and I realized that there's something fundamentally different about the way that stories unfold in a television series where everything resets.

In the episode, Dr. McCoy tests a solution for their problems that involves blasting Spock with incredible amounts of light -- enough that it risks blindness. Spock is blinded; then the nurse arrives with information that it could have been avoided, because the problem only needed to be blasted with infra-red light, which would have been okay on Spock's eyes.

There's a fantastic moment where this comes to a head; Spock is sitting, blind, McCoy faces him, his face full of the horror that he made an error in haste that blinded his friend, and Kirk storms off.

Next time we see Spock, he's healthy, striding onto the bridge. Turns out that Vulcans have a secret eye-lid that he had forgotten about "much as you humans ignore your appendix." TURNS OUT EVERYTHING IS FINE!

See, in your more contemporary HBO finely-written gritty drama, the next ten episodes would have been about how McCoy's and Spock's relationships have changed irrevocably; McCoy, wracked with guilt, would probably fall off the wagon and become an alcoholic, whereas Spock would slowly find himself consumed with bitterness at everything they've lost.

On the one hand, the great thing about Star Trek was how quickly they can float through different premises. One of the things that makes me less excited about Battlestar Galactica or other science fiction is that you're often saddled with the same premise or idea for episode after episode. Star Trek basically starts each day afresh with a whole new planet, a whole new strange mind-game to play. (By the way, DS9 failed at this, and that's why I don't like DS9. And don't even say Enterprise.)

Anyways, I'm not just talking about science fiction here, I'm talking about television-- and really, any episodic medium. I am not the comic book junkie that the hive-mind at Parabasis is, but it seems to me that over time, Marvel and D.C. turned away from the end of comic reset, and strayed more and more into the complex multi-arc. It's an important consideration for episodic narrative structures.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FUN: Barack Obama Tells a Creation Myth

Via Dave Weigel:
If you're just a little tired of the debt ceiling story, take a break and absorb the glorious weirdness of "Son of Strelka, Son of God." Scientist/audiophile Dan Warren used the audio of Dreams for My Father to create a bizarre creation myth, in which a savior with the body of a dog sees the apocalypse and brings about a new world. Here's a sample.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

ARTS NEWS: The Initman Is Apparently Bankrupt

I don't mean they ran out of money (although that did happen). I mean they seem really bankrupt.

Here's the kind of response Paul Mullin got when he reposted their call for ideas:
Keri Healey It makes me furious that the timeline for this research into the future artistic direction of the theater is framed by the board (at least in this article) as important "if we want to start approaching funders." Right back to the old dependent-on-funders model that got them where they are. Why not rethink that construct, too, as they look at alternatives for operating models? What I wonder about is how the implosions at Intiman and Giant Magnet might change the way local funders look at all arts organizations in the coming years. I suspect the level of trust funders have with arts organizations dropped quite a bit recently.Jim Jewell Keri, you are without doubt right on. We need to develop a different stance, more proactive and self-sufficient and more engaged with the audience, if we are going to win back that trust.
Or this one:
Stephen McCandless I maintain that the Intiman doesn't need "new ideas". The management was totally incompetent. To shut down in the fashion they did sternly suggests that their operating principle was "How can we be broke, we still have checks."


Stephen McCandless (continuing) They went over budget, spent their reserves, spent their endowment - all over the course of several years. And when their MD leaves suddenly and suspiciously, only then do they cop to a problem - and even then have no idea how large it is until an outside consultant set them straight. There [was] no one at the wheel. Nobody paying attention. No administration. You can't just let go of the steering wheel and they claim you need "new ideas" about vehicle suspensions. YOU DON'T. YOU NEED A DRIVER. Who authorized the spend-down of a one-million-dollar endowment and didn't simultaneously raise concerns about the theatre's finances? Who? It took years for this to go wrong. Years. And they act like it's an emergency that reflects on the state of American Theatre. Talk about a sense of entitlement. I might as well try doing a cartwheel and then talk about how the resulting trauma reflects on the state of American Gymnastics and our chances for gold at the next Olympics.

Now, I don't know almost anything about the Initman or about the community around it, but even if -- and this is a massive even if, it sounds like -- even if they've done nothing wrong, they have not only depleted their money, but they've depleted the goodwill of their community. I haven't read anything that backs up the Initman since their saga began. Who is going to work with them? Who is going to subscribe?

If my arts organization depleted its community that deep, I wouldn't even bother worrying about money troubles. This is a deeper and far more troubling form of bankruptcy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

LEGAL COMMENTARY: Geithner Ignoring The Debt Limit

From a Constitutional scholarship angle, GOP Representative Mike Lee is pretty accurate when he says that Timothy Geithner can't ignore the debt ceiling:

By the way, NPR's Planet Money did a great job explaining the history of the debt ceiling. If you follow the history, you see that it used to be that every single piece of debt had to be passed in an act of Congress. The debt ceiling is Congress' way of delegating its powers to the executive branch, within the limits of the debt ceiling. But just because the powers are delegated (in the same way that the War Powers Act temporarily delegates the ability of the President to deploy troops in "hostilities" within certain limits) doesn't mean that the sole power now exists with the executive.

That said... I really hope the debt ceiling goes up soon.

RESPONSE: Vital Services in the Blogosphere

There's really nothing in our space of the blogosphere like Createquity. These last months they've really stepped up their game: check out this post as a great index of all of the incredible content that Ian's three writing fellows generated.

Aaron, Jennifer, and Crystal really created some works that are unique, incredibly stimulating, and... and I'm still reading them, because there's so much information. Thanks to all three of you for giving me something to do on the subway that makes me a better artist. And thanks to Ian for making it happen. And apologies for anytime I misread a by-line and assumed it was Ian writing it all!

Expect me to plug the fall writing fellowship when details are announced!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

RESPONSE: Copyright or Wrong pt. 2 - Remix vs. Adaptation

Isaac raises some excellent points in his response to the open letter from Nick Olivero, whose show got taken down by copyright lawyers after he violated his license to mount a production of Little Shop of Horrors (my initial take here).

I spent my ride to work thinking about Isaac's response because I am of two minds about it.

So, here's the valid point Isaac raises:

I think there is a difference between art that legitimately creates something new out of borrowed fragments of other work and work that simply seeks to "improve" on some work by changing the text. And because these things are grey, I think our law should try to reflect that, even if that means leaving some stuff up to judges.

So far as I can tell, an artist should be free to layer an interpretation over the text (his example: "a radical resetting of Death of a Salesman on the moon"), or to radically depart from the text (his example: "Girl Talk-- the remixiest of all remix art-- doesn't include anything original, but arranges the fragmented source materials in innovative and illuminating ways, often distorting them (speeding them up, changing pitches etc.) to make them fit. The result is something new. ").

The line that made me stop was: "[T]his is a production that billed itself as Little Shop of Horrors and wasn't." The implication being, I suppose, that if Olivero had titled his production "A Small Store-front of Mysteries" there might not have been a problem?

So, here's where I agree: an author does have a right to transparency when his/her work is being reused, so that audiences don't think they've seen the original work.

My issue is that it's difficult to untangle when a project is an interpretation, a remix, or not-remixed/interpreted-enough-to-be-new.

For instance: my friend once did an interpretation of Company where all the characters would be male. In his request for licensing, he got permission to change pronouns where necessary to adjust to changes in gender. He did not disclose that ALL the characters would be male, however, and therefore Stephen Sondheim threatened our university with a lawsuit, and my friend was forced to write a letter of apology.

The changes proposed to the text were "she" to "he." You can't say that it was a "new" work, nor can you say that it's an interpretation that leaves the text intact -- well, it leaves most of the text intact. It just makes very small changes to the text. Which Stephen Sondheim believes makes the show not only not Company, but not allowed to be produced.

Or how about this: a playwright has multiple published versions of a play. You take the different versions of the text and synthesize them in to create a text that you think best captures the original intentions of the text. I was once in a production of The Hobbit that did that from two playwrights' versions of the text. And I think we've all been in productions of Shakespeare that does that with the folios. That to me is "adaptation" not "remix", but the idea that you shouldn't be able to do it unless the author agrees strikes me as a bad idea.

If there was a clear white line between "remixing" the text and "adapting" the text -- when the use of the playwright's text is similar enough to not justify the remix, and when the remix has become a creature of its own -- then it would be easier.

My Mind 7/4-7/11

Reviving this ol' format now that I'm back on the regular-blogging bandwagon.

New stories told in new ways:
  • A comic-book about augmented reality, told in a comic book form with a UV flashlight to reveal a second story. Described as "Franz Kafka's Bourne Identity."
  • Joe Biden is out there telling his big fucking stories via Twitter. So far: one tweet, no gaffes.
Local color:
Possibly important, possibly meaningless:
Things of beauty:

RESPONSE: Oklahoma as American Hubris

David Kotok uses Oklahoma! as a lead-in to discuss America's distorted grain policy, and American Exceptionalism.

Monday, July 4, 2011

RESPONSE: Loathesome and Irresponsible Article Headline of the Day

Until a full trial runs its course, there's not much we can say about Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Evidence still hasn't been provided by either side, except in the press -- but in the press, there's no chance for cross-examination. Speculating wildly about the man's innocence is just as misplaced as speculating wildly about his guilt. And the way that article is framed is just insane in its absurdity.

ARTS GOSSIP: Puppets Beat Spielberg!

Via the Guardian:
"We didn't have any input into the film, but we saw Mr Spielberg and he was a straightforward and very nice man," said [Tom] Morris[, War Horse's co-director]. "He was telling us that, when they were in the middle of filming, he was quite frustrated as the real horses weren't nearly as expressive as the puppets. They wouldn't do what you wanted them to do."
Puppets beat Spielberg! Theatricalization beats reality! Brecht beats Aristotle!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

ARTS NEWS: What's Lost Was Won

In case you blinked and missed it, the governor of South Carolina (GOP Governor Nikki Haley) used a line-item veto to erase the state arts commission, but the funding was quickly restored by the legislature.

This, and the Kansas story, points out something interesting: state legislatures, even Republican controlled ones, don't want to throw the arts under the bus. That's a small comfort, considering as they're willing to hack and slash so much that it just about destroys the arts council anyways, but they're not willing to let it go away. They'd like to support the arts in name only, at least.

Friday, July 1, 2011

RESPONSE: I "Like" This

Yeah, okay, gimmick. Fine. Still, it's cute. I think the deadpan honesty of the man sells it, rather than just making it a gag.

LOCAL: Victory and Failure on the East River

Two great experiments on the East River are showing mixed results.

First up, the East River Ferry (previously here). Update:

City officials are happy as clams with a new East River commuter ferry, which more than 9,800 people boarded in its first three days of paid service.

“I would call this a roaring success,” said Economic Development Chairman Seth Pinsky, whose agency is administering the service.

New York Waterway signed a three-year $9.3-million contract with the city earlier this year and launched its expanded ferry route this month, picking up waterfront commuters in DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint before dropping them off at Wall Street and Midtown.

Although I think the service could be improved -- a 14th street stop and integration into the MTA service would be ideal -- I do think it improves the city, and it's a nice ride. Well, not too nice.

Second, the Smorgasburg food fair on the river:

Since opening in May, Brooklyn Flea’s weekly Smorgasburg has been a hit — but not for the farmers who have set up the greenmarket on the banks of the East River every Saturday.

“Most people are coming to the Smorgasburg to snack and have a good time,” said David Sherman, the greenmarket’s manager. “Not many are coming with canvas bags to do their grocery shopping. It’s hard to compete with a kimchee hot dog.”

I was there myself, and I have to admit, I came to have a great sandwich that I could walk onto the pier with while chatting with friends. I didn't come to buy any Anarchy in a Jar. I'm not a particular foodie, though -- my cooking skills are actually getting worse, by my reckoning.

Still, I do think it would be a shame if it slowly morphed into just another vendor fair like the kind of crappy ones that spring up in Manhattan from time to time.