Friday, August 29, 2008

Let America be America Again

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I am the very model of a modern theatre generalist.

Scott Walters in response to a Mike Lawler post posits that theatre specialists are a symptom of our industrial approach to theatre and need to be dodged on a regional level…

I am of course paraphrasing, so please take a moment to visit the horses mouth.

Welcome back.

I am that theatre generalist working regionally (though I think the word clouds the difference between what I do and working at a regional theatre), and I think Scott has over-simplified.

Not about my value to an indie theatre company. I am ridiculously valuable to an indie theatre company (or TWO!). I can do whatever it is you don’t have one of, and do it competently.

But if you get twenty of me together and make a troupe of me?

You’re going to get competent theatre.

Never brilliance. I am not a brilliant theatre maker. Maybe there is a breed of brilliant theatre generalists out there, but I haven’t met very many (i.e. any – but I’m being generous). But that’s kind of the point of generalism no? breadth in lieu of depth.

With specialization comes virtuosity, which for my money is required for brilliant theatre.

Let’s be generous to me and say that I’m a 7 across the board.
At everything.
Graphic design, floor mopping, acting, sound design, carpentry, board oping, networking, marketing… whatever. I’m a 7. Comfortably above average.

I am by definition never the best person for the job. I am never your first call for anything. because 1.) there is necessarily someone better 2.) you’ll “save me” for the slot you can’t fill.

You wanna see some burn out?

It’s not just a question of the industrial approach to theatre, it’s a question of wanting the Best Available person for the position.

In baseball terms?


Kevin Youkilis.

Can you win with 9 of him? Maybe… but I doubt it.

What Scott meant to say (TOTALLY putting words in your mouth Scott… it’s like I’m a playwright!):

Indie theatres should be built on a core of generalists. A core / corp of people who can get shit done affordably and capably, spiced with truly virtuosic talent to transcend the Just Okay.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Oops I did it again…

And I know better…

We all have quirksfaultsfoibles that slow our pace towards whatever it is we’re headed.

Most of us, by the time we reach the relative age of maturity, have some idea of what those are. Some of us manage to course correct for those quirksfaultsfoibles and end up where we’re headed anyway.

Not me.

Overandoverandover again.

Forgive the seeming interview speak:
One of my greatest weaknesses is that I’m not selfish enough.
Combine that with a decided lack of a Big Picture plan for my life in theatre and you will find that I have managed to get exactly nowhere.

And I did it again.

Over the past 6 weeks I have been locked in the process of show selection for the November slot we have reserved at the Dougherty Arts Center. This is for a project with my Not-My theatre company, and we had chosen to do a published work rather than new so we could focus on Production rather than development.

After plowing through a large number of scripts we finally have zeroed on one we’re pretty excited about (which I will talk much more about once we’ve actually secured the rights).

Except that: there’s nothing in it for me.
There isn’t a role for me, I’m not directing, and it’s already written.

I will end up as the TD, the LD, carrying a bunch of the production / promotion load, and when it comes off well the only people who will have any idea that I contributed will be the people already in the room. I don’t need to sell the people in the room. They know now.

And to move from this rut in my life, more people need to know what I can do.

Not to mention that to stave off burn out there needs to be a payoff. Some kind of payoff. The satisfaction of a job well done doesn’t refill the tank.

But at no point in the process was I smart enough to be selfish and insert myself into the selection criteria.

I’m an idiot.


I work with really great people. They would throw their weight behind a pet project of mine in a heartbeat. But remember the whole “no big picture plan” thing from a few paragraphs ago?

Yeah. I don’t have a pet project or dream role in mind, so there is no direct reimbursement to be had.

Oh the joyous 1-2 punch of my theatrical idiocy.

Don’t be me, and don’t be ashamed. Be selfish.
Be your own best advocate. No one is going to hand you anything

Friday, August 15, 2008

Product trial: Scribd


You can embed .pdfs on your site. Or on your blog.

And your audience can download them if you’d like.

Read this document on Scribd: Transformations OPT

Friday, August 08, 2008

Practicing What I Preach…

Rubber Rep is anyway.

In my last post (Get Out The Map) I credited Rubber Rep for cultivating fans with their consistent high quality work. Now I’m going to have to go back and slap a design commendation on their chest…

Today they announced the launch of their new web site, designed by Organic Web Designs, and it is a clean modern site that is very indicative of who they are as a company.

But we all have our own aesthetic ideas, let me know what you think:

Visit them now!

To be clear? This isn't the level of design and execution I think is bottom line for a company that means it. I think this is a really great site, and something to aim for when you're thinking about how your going about your own.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Get out the Map, Get out the Map…

Isaac asks if these posts from Jason Stoddard can apply to theatre:

I answer:

10. Divorce yourself from bad design.
I think this is important both on the web and in production.
We accept a lot of unacceptable tech from companies that obviously don’t have money. Not being able to do Big in no way excuses you from doing it Right.

As for the web? I think I can mostly exclude current company, because most bloggers aren’t afraid of technology. But in general the theatre community is morally opposed to and doesn’t WANT to understand it. And their (lack of) web presence shows it.

It’s cheap and easy to set up your own site. And if you’re afraid to do even that? Make a blog your company site. But have SOMETHING, and make sure it looks better than high school class projects. We’re trying to sell stuff here people!

9. Bring us together.

This is my primary goal in most areas, but especially for theatre artists. *SniffSniff* We don’t even talk anymore. We get so lost in rowing our own boats we’ve stopped looking around to see if anyone is headed in the same direction. I talk about this enough, moving on.

8. Stop devaluing yourself.

And not just by not getting paid. Remove the word ‘just’ from your vocabulary. Your knowledge, skill, and experience are worth something – decide on what and how much. And then don’t be afraid to ask for it – even if it’s nothing more than someone else’ expertise in your weaker area on your next project. Ain’t nothin’ free. Including you.

7. Embrace reality.

We can rant and rave all day every day about how crappy conditions are for theatre artists here on the ground, and how we would make them better. BUT…
We need to operate in the here and now. Take the challenge. You don’t need to embrace the bizarre punk-martyr ethos that some of the more exotic blog commenters seem to feel is The One True way to go about doing indie theatre, but you do need to find ways to make the most of the cramped inappropriate spaces and the credit cards limits you’re operating under. Don’t ignore your limits, know them, embrace them, then Innovate to overcome them.

Also? Do theatre.
If you want to make films the cameras are over there.
(and you’re going to need a bigger credit card)

6. Lose the negativity.

Both in talking to one another, and about your lot in life.

This is a public space, and everything you say can and will be held against you. I’m as hotheaded as the next guy, and I would love to go toe-to-toe in an ad hominem war with noted curmudgeon Don Hall (being as I am doing bad work in the sticks and all).
As much fun as that would be, my job is to make sure he’s wrong, not to prove it to him rhetorically. All the while not looking like a douchebag to anyone who’s looking at me or one of my companies later.

And none of us are working in spaces that are too big, too well equipped, or have budgets we just don’t know what to do with. There’s a difference between seeking change for the greater good and whining, mind the gap.

5. Define your messages.

I believe that you shouldn’t make plays just to make plays, but I also know that part of the reason I started writing here in the first place was because I’m not sure what my message is yet. But I think in the long run you need clarity because the audience won’t show up in force until they have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting when they show up. Like WNEP or LA’s Neo-Surrealists, or the Rude Mechs here in Austin, have a mission statement, have it mean something, and don’t lie to your audiences unless that IS your mission.

4. Get visible–on all levels.

Be transparent. Folks like knowing what they’re getting, and what they’re getting is you and your company. We have a great medium for your being available 24-hours a day via web presence in a very inexpensive, customizable way let them see you. Even (maybe even especially) the goofy non-theatre related parts of you.
Be accessible.

3. Create fans–and benefits.

Goes hand in hand with #5. Rubber Rep here in Austin has been putting out quality product so long that their shows sell themselves (even when they’re not doing Wallace Shawn premieres). Consistent excellence is the best audience aphrodisiac.

Barring that breakthrough, don’t be afraid to put your rep company front and center. The same (again quality) faces up front make people comfortable. It may not make you the star, but if you’re making theatre to become a star you’re probably doing it wrong anyway.

Both speak to the need to give an audience something to hook in to, something to identify your company with to become fans of.

Then give them deals. Create coupons on your site and others. Group packages, free nights, BOGO’s, theatre company nights, any reason really to bring a friend. You will have warmer audiences if they’re making a night of it, even with just one other friend, and if that house is full even they aren’t all full price tickets.

2. Create your own worlds.

An offshoot of #3, with an additional  hat tip to James Comtois, Qui Nguyen, and Ian Hill who I think accomplish this in exactly the way that I imagine it. Their pieces all speak to each other, and have a clear style.

1. Fund a big idea or two.

I think fund is the wrong verb. But undertake works for me.

Like what? A theater museum? The Chicago Theater Database? The Off Loop Charter? The >100K Project?


Solutions to larger problems (or gaps anyway). A moment away from working on your next show perhaps, but no less needed by the community at large than your next work.

Alright, so that exercise turned out to not really be applicable to anyone who reads this. Well done me. It’s already written so I’ll throw it out there… Carry on all.

And Isaac? The (much) shorter answer is yes, I think it can apply….

After these messages…

One more quicky before we get back to the meat:

A shot from the wedding, easily my second favorite shot, featuring part-time preacher, part-time Sooper Delishus writer, full-time awesome - Christopher M. Keating:


My Beautiful Bride:


Something for Malachy and the other Yankees fans
(MAN it’s going to be a fun end of the year!):


And my favorite shot:


The tattoo says, “We are strong, We are the good ones.” from the Anne Sexton poem Rapunzel, which Megan turned into a performance piece, which launched the eventual creation of Transformations last spring.  As read by Kacey Samiee it was quite a favorite of the entire cast.


Back to our regular programming in juuust a moment.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

SooperDelishus Sharethrough

Click though for full size.