Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This used to be my playground.

This particular spot in the web is now simply a redundant archive.

The world goes on over at Blog.cambiareproductions.com, it’s much prettier. You’ll like it I promise.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Is there anybody out there? Or: Why World Theatre Day

I’m not really a joiner. I lurk, and then I lurk, and then I lurk some more. So how the hell did I find myself mixed up with a super committed group of theatre makers pushing to better establish something that had no direct pay off for our already overbooked lives?

Mostly wrong time, wrong place, and a dash of big mouth, but really it comes down to one thing:

Community is damned infectious.

The thing that surprises everyone who ever commits to a new community fully and deeply is how many folks Just Like You there are, and how quickly bonds grow. It was true in the quick pseudo-families that grew out of Usenet and IRC in the mid-90’s and it’s true of tech like Twitter (broadcast, single-channel IRC) now.

We as theatremakers spend a lot of quality time with 3 or 4 or 50 people in tight quarters under looming time/budget/artistic constraints, and we cultivate a deep and pervasive bunker mentality.

If you don’t believe that, you’ve never talked to an indie theatremaker, or read a 22 year-old’s mission statement asserting that THEY will be the one group in any town doing new work.

Then you read a broad swathe of theatre blogs, or talk to the trajillions of theatre folks on Twitter, and they’re all going through the same things you are. And you get the desire to swim with the larger tribe for a minute, not just the pod you create with.

Combined with my strong desire to tie my local community more tightly together and I think it’s pretty obvious why I’m not sitting this one out.

There are of course cynics who want ROI and TPS reports, and budget numbers on every activity. Chris Wilkinson seems to embody this cynicism with a mention on his Guardian blog post:

So it's nice to start this week's roundup on a more upbeat note. According to Rebecca Coleman at the Art of the Business blog, the International Theatre Institute's World Theatre Day is coming up on 27 March. Coleman has teamed up with the Next Stage blog to throw a World Theatre Day party. "Everyone's invited," she exclaims. To kick it off, they have created a new blog for people to exchange ideas about how to mark the day.

This is all great in theory, but there does seem to be something paradoxical about the idea of a World Theatre Day. After all, it is true that great art should be able to reach across cultural and geographical divides. But theatre, as a live and communal event, is something that cannot easily be separated from the location in which it takes place. As such, it is surely impossible to create any kind of meaningful theatrical experience which can be shared by people around the world. But maybe we should just wait until 27 March and see what happens.

World Theatre Day isn’t about creating a global theatre experience. It’s about celebrating the local theatre experience globally. World Theatre Day is an acknowledgement that we are all doing this thing that we love.

And the internet allows us to share those local celebrations and revel in the fact that we’re not alone in our pursuit, and that no matter how many times they try to prove it to us mathematically, theatre is not dead.

So on a theoretical March 27th:

Mr. Walters and his students do a free reading on the quad in Asheville, and take pictures or video and share them on the World Theatre Day media hub (hosted on Tumblr) where if you scroll down a little bit you see folks from the Player’s Ring in Portsmouth reading Augusto Boal’s address before their show, and then there are some pictures from an alumni gathering at a performance at the Barksdale in Richmond or a Middletown town celebration after an opening weekend performance of Cotton Patch Gospel at the Wayside, then some video from My First Time in Vancouver, and pictures from the theatre community parties in Austin and Chicago where all of the theatremakers not performing have gathered to celebrate the life that is in theatre even in this global anxiety attack.

Maybe I’m naive.

Maybe I’m the only one who thinks that seeing a couple of thousand folks who are all paddling in the same direction I am exist, and want to celebrate with me even if we are separated by geography is spectacular, and would energize me….

But I’m pretty sure I’m not.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

You’re a Maggot.

So I have this cute tongue-in-cheek post all ready to go about how I sat 8th row center for Legally Blonde and had a really good time, and the Don Hall has to go out and enjoy Xanadu.

I can’t compete with that… so you get a city redevelopment post.

Let that be a lesson to you (somehow).

Every moderately sized city has it’s ebbs and flows. Immigrants come and go, college students come and go, money comes and goes. Hell entire INDUSTRIES come and go. Working classes find the step up the ladder they need to move into Bigger and Better. Eventually we end up with Bad Neighborhoods.

Cities DESPISE bad neighborhoods except for the concentration of Bad it gives the police force (theoretically reducing some costs).

Cities (by which I mean the government) want those areas “cleaned up” (by which THEY mean richer and whiter), and they will throw good money after bad to do it.

But the answer every time is artists. The creative class. They share an income bracket with the poor and working class, love a good dive bar (more or less) and [generalization] are self-starters who are Doing Something. They move into an area and MAKE it cool. They create the entertainment and art that Cool Seekers (um) seek. They create a critical mass of people who WANT to be in a place, and then retail and commercial developers follow along with a refreshing of the residential. Artists are the carrions crawlers of urban redevelopment.

Now I get the arguments against gentrification. I do. I lived in San Francisco when SoMa got overrun by hipster loftdwellers, and I’m in Austin right now where property values are evicting folks east of 35. But these areas were/are going to be redeveloped regardless of my liberal hand-wringing, so bear with me.

Why shouldn’t cities use their normal ecosystem proactively?

Why shouldn’t they create tax incentives for artists to live in depressed or recovering areas of their cities? Follow that with tax incentives to developers to allocate a percentage of their projects to municipal arts uses for free/low cost gallery/theatre/performance space? Or tax incentive to commercial developers to allocate free /low cost (utility included) co-work space for city arts groups?

For the city the increased tax base will more than cover the tax incentives, and for artists, lower rent, improved resources, and increased presentation venues will allow MORE time for creation, and better exposure to the community at large.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cult Classic not Best Seller

So for those of you who missed an interoffice memo, Cambiare Productions next show will be Orestes. Date and venue vexingly TBA.

Normally it would be Euripides Orestes, but I can tell you pretty convincingly that it will NOT be Euripides Orestes by the time we’re done with it (and that I will consistently be able to SPELL Euripides by the time we open – bless you spell check).

We’ve been saying clever things for some time in story meetings, things like “Fuck Euripides”, and “Euripides Sucks!”. We’re all smart folks promise.

The thing is? Eurpidies write great words. He did. That’s why we want to use them in the first place. Story. Characters. It’s all there except…

Well. They hadn’t gotten around to finishing creating our art form yet, and hadn’t really decided to have any action ON stage. Full credit to them, I mean we weren’t that far removed from the whole thing being a concert for the human voice anyway, so they were innovating a whole lot more than I ever will. But I want my theatre to be more active. I’m not dead yet ergo my theatre shouldn’t be either.

Which works for us.

This is our second adventure in Greek Mashup-land having thrown four texts in a blender to create a very well received Elektra hybrid two years ago. That was of course before there really was an “us”. Will and I were working on our second show together, and it was mostly Will driving creation with the cast (including me as the not-normally-in-this-show Agamemnon) helping fit the pieces together, and nailing the dance that was added.


But here two years and two and half shows later  we know a little bit about what we want and how we work together, and most importantly? What our specific weaknesses as producers and storytellers are.

So we’re taking Euripides apart. Character by character. Scene by scene. Motif by motif. We will rebuild it in such a way that Orestes participates in his own story, and is not simply a commentator on the actions around him. There will be very real consequences for the humans in this moments, and in our one true betrayal of Euripides… Apollo  isn’t going to save them from themselves.

These characters will own their strengths and weaknesses in all their mythic size. No matter the eventual style of the narrative.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And then?

As most of you have no idea, I am an assistant to engineers to pay the rent. Prior to that I was a docketing clerk and baby paralegal for some lawyers.

I’ve spent the majority of my last 8 years surrounded by branded professionals. Their certifying bodies all require that they perform some sort of professional development each year to maintain fluency in modern techniques, methodologies, and developments.

So how about us?

What passes for professional development in the theatre world?

Finally reading Mamet’s True and False after a decade and slapping together a snarky blog post?

Viewing productions?

Reading George Hunka?

Do you try to maintain any sort of ongoing development process? Or set play reading goals goals for yourself annually? Do I get an hour of Modern Play Reading credit for reading Adam Szymkowicz's(excellent) Food for Fish? Classics credit for tearing apart Euripides for my upcoming Orestes project?

I honestly don’t know.
I know many actor continue to take classes and workshops yearly. Do directors? Playwrights? Do you go grab Tisch’s curriculum and grab a few ideas to plaster over holes in you own book larnin’? 


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


If you have ever been blessed enough to spend quality time with me in a planning meeting for any theatrical endeavor you are sick to death of hearing me say, “We have two things: time and people.”

So I’m sorry Will and Megan.

On an indie theatre level you probably don’t have space, or money, but you have people who are passionate about what they do, and you have time.

Argue with me all you want on the time front, short of 6 shows a year you have enough time to do things the hard way. If you are doing 6 or more shows a year on an indie theatre level I would argue that you should buy a healthy life insurance policy.

Wrangling about “but my life is so hard” aside, given that you have only time and people: leverage them.

Look around your grocery store, how many celebrity magazines are there? 3.5 trillion? People love people. It’s a true truth. But looking around at theatre marketing in town (and previously in San Francisco) groups try to sell concept. I know I’ve been guilty of it.


(April Perez in Elektra)

Sell your people.

Put them on your posters. Put them front and center in your press releases. Build your pitches to local media around them.

Create shots they can use going forward.

Link your people to roles prominently so you can create a true history for your company.

A community needs it’s stars. It’s needs a talent base that it feels invested in, or it’s never going to commit.

Self Ad

While I’m thinking about it:

Bootstrapping video game designers in Austin?

I will do free voiceover for your game. I would appreciate a copy of the finished game, but I’ll even waive that if you’re really stingy.

You need the free talent, I want more VO experience. We all win.

Contact info is all over the place.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Big Shiny Hammers!

I do love a good exclamation point.

Adam Thurman is on point again, so we’re going to have to respond.

Mr. Thurman points out in his post, “Choose Your Weapons Wisely”, that it’s easy in a world of Software of the Day to try do be present on every service at the expense of doing anything of note on any of them…. so cut it out.

Which is off course correct. So please don;t read this as disagreement. To paraphrase Josh from the West Wing, I make it a habit not to disagree with Adam when he’s right. I am however going to repurpose his message a bit for people who aren’t representing established institutions. Like say… me.

When representing an established institution it’s easy to get message creep the further you spread yourself. It’s easy to waste the time you should be using on point for you next production or fundraiser in learning / fiddling / socializing. There is no real value add (for the company/theatre) in the extra granularity of the online relationship providing by something like Twitter.

If you’re part of a two man shop? That granularity, that fleeting one-on-one with someone a world away can lead to the resources you need to stop reinventing the wheel. Or a first step in creating a relationship.

I have been blogging here for a minute and built relationships with other bloggers, and to some extent made in roads with the theatre community here in Austin. But in my quest to keep this blog on task and not allow it to devolve into a personal mishmash of what’s in my head at any given moment (THE CARDINALS!??!?!) makes it difficult to just have a conversation.

I am very much in retail audience building right now. I had 253 people show up to my last show (nine performances). To be fully self-supporting I need (roughly) double that. For the next 2 years that means a lot of hand shaking and baby kissing. I need to be accessible, and to build relationship as broadly as possible.

Thankfully we do good work, so once we get a person we can get them to come back without begging.  But that first exposure is still a lot of legwork, and (I) you need to use whatever tools you can.

So circuitous story summarized: Don’t just use it because it’s new and shiny. But neither should you discard it immediately because it’s new and shiny. Check it out. Kick it around, and see if it can work for you. Does it help your workflow? Can it make your art/company more accessible and transparent?  You probably won’t know until you try it.

And for goodness sake, grab your name and your companies name on whatever it is that is gaining steam. Just in case.