Monday, September 29, 2014

Vote for Comment of the Week

Voting ends Friday, noonish.

Student #1 has left a new comment on your post "Actors of Color Gain Ground":

As a woman and as a person of color who potentially wants to be in the entertainment industry, I understand why television wants to see more representation. I too wouldn't mind seeing more hispanics, women, or other people of color on television but I feel like a lot of times articles like "Actors of Color Gain Ground" forget that women and people of color do have ground. Modern Family and Scandal aren't the only TV shows airing strong women and people of color and the roles they portrayed have been portrayed for years. The Cosby Show was on television in the mid-eighties showing the life of a successful and loving African American Family. I Love Lucy, about a strong smart, successful, American woman, started airing in the 50s and was produced by cuban, Desi Arnaz, who also was a lead actor for it. Women and people of color have been on TV for a long time. Although all shows on television don't portray actors of color or strong women, America isn't completely made up of people of color or strong women, there are caucasian families and women who aren't part of major leading jobs, con tries, or corporations in America too. We aren't really breaking ground, nor do I think it is completely necessary at act as if we are. I appreciate the commotion about people of color and women being more present in entertainment, but I wish it wasn't at the expense of losing recognition of how much ground we have already earned.
Student #2 has left a new comment on your post "Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Play ‘Dry Land’ Confronts Abort...":
"The extreme also make an impression," is what comes to my mind in reading what this playwright is trying to do. The topic of abortion is a very touchy subject for a lot of people of both genders. Some see it as a form of taking a future great life while others see it as giving the mother/ parents the choice to take care of their own life. While one approach always seems highly selfish on the surface I get the sense that the playwright digs deeper into this issue. The other approach pushed forward the believe in destiny and fate and that our lives are predetermined and that free will is nothing more than a misconception which while is a big theme seen in a lot of plays, it looks to be not the route the playwright is taking. Theater is meant to mimic real life and get the audience thinking while sometimes also entertain but more at it's core inspire everyone to change and look at the world around them with more openness. I applaud the playwright for what they are trying to accomplish.
Student #3 has left a new comment on your post "What a piece of work is a (wo)man: the perils of g...":
This reminds me very much of how everyone that saw the senior thesis show Oleanna two years ago was still talking about it even a month after the show closed. That production promoted a huge amount of discussion about how gender roles effect questionable situations, and how people's reactions would have differed if the casting was the traditional male teacher and female student, or vice versa, or if both characters were male. 
I wouldn't go so far to say that equal opportunity "should never be applied to theatrical casting", because it can most certainly be applied, but there's only so much changing you can do to a script before it A) becomes a different show, or B) stays the same but loses the integrity of its message because it was not cast the way it was written to be cast. Shakespeare is especially difficult because not only do you have to consider how characters played by the opposite gender have to justify how their characters would think, feel, and act, but you also have to make accommodations in the writing to keep the iambic pentameter. How much rewriting can you do until you're creating a knock-off version of your original show in order to prove your point? Or, as another example, how would a director go about changing the script when he or she decides to produce an all-white production of The Color Purple? For some plays, yes, gender-crossing is extremely doable and can be done so to prove a point, like Oleanna. But for other shows, it would almost be an injustice to the playwright to simply do away with how they wrote their characters.
Student #4 has left a new comment on your post "Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Play ‘Dry Land’ Confronts Abort...":
Theater is about making a point, or conveying a message, or starting a movement. People want to see risks being taken and life being explored; thats what makes theater so interesting. Rather than finding this conversation of abortion, shocking, I find it brave and admirable. If theater is too afraid to confront controversial topics, than it's not really fulfilling its purpose. I'm strongly supporting the idea that theater is not about playing things safe, but rather exploring boundaries, and testing limits. I also find it interesting that the playwright is barely 21. But I think this gives us insight into the new up and coming generation. Our future is starting to be more involved and further engaged in social awareness. I also saw "Obvious Child", the indie film that also touched the topic of abortion, which I think further emphasizes this shift in entertainment that is accompanying the shift in generation. I'm so excited to watch this unfold as I think this strengthening connection between art and social awareness is vital.
Student #5 has left a new comment on your post "What a piece of work is a (wo)man: the perils of g...":
While I agree it's important to be wary about changing the rules of the world when cross-dressing/casting any roles, Lawson's argument gets into some problematic territory. Because we live in a world of more fluid sexualities and gender expression on a spectrum rather than a binary, we ought to reconsider how we present our largely hetero-normative theatrical cannon. Yes, a production that does not decide to change the pronouns for all women playing men's roles might be confusing at first...but then again, shouldn't individuals have the right to choose their own pronouns? (Then again, I would have to make a case for such a production being modernized. This acceptance of non-binary gender expression would not be as welcome in Shakespeare's time, or even as recently as the early 20th century, and therefore the production ought to reflect the time and place in which such gender expressions could be welcome and normalized in the world.) As for changing the psychologies of the characters by changing the casting, doesn't the gender-spectrum model also defy this view, given that a biological woman can think like a man? I didn't miss the Freudian implications in Propera's and Miranda's relationship in Taymor's Tempest (and in fact such implications make me a little uncomfortable reading the original text), but instead I see how a father's fear of letting go of their child is the same as a mother's fear. 

Lawson drives his point home later by claiming that such gender changes would be met with much more apprehension in more contemporary texts. It may be more obvious for us to see how contemporary playwrights write with gender-specific psychologies in mind, since we are more familiar with their modern expressions of gender. But isn't the fact that gender identity is constantly changing and being reconstructed by society even more a testament to the fact that we should challenge these standards in casting? 

This all comes together for me thinking about the BFA Thesis production of Oleanna two years ago, which cast two women and made the conflict between the teacher and student over race and altered the conflict based in gender. Some people took issue with the fact that the teacher had a husband offstage (originally, the male teacher has a wife), so that the teacher's sexuality did not become a threat to a female student, who files a harassment charge. Though the evidence may not have been explicit, how do we know that the female teacher was not a bisexual or lesbian woman still in the closet? And did her sexuality even matter in that situation, if rape and harassment are more about power than about sexual desire? 

I think these are the very questions theater ought to be exploring as we redefine gender and sexuality as a society.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Worth a Look

Here are a few posts from last week's Greenpage that might be worth your time...

Theatre’s Economic Reality

Opening the Curtain — KCRW: If LA theater were a pyramid it would have a really wide base with really, really steep sides. At the bottom of that pyramid, in terms of numbers of seats not quality, would be the under 99-seat theaters - there's a ton of them. At the top of the pyramid would be our resident theaters - Center Theater Group, The Geffen - there are only a couple of them. In between those two levels there isn't a lot of middle ground or midsize theaters.

Actors of Color Gain Ground

Backstage: This fall could mark a watershed moment for actors of color on American television.

ABC will debut a line up featuring an African-American family in “Black-ish,” a gay couple with an adopted Asian daughter in “Modern Family,” and Kerry Washington staring as a political fixer on “Scandal.”

On Thursday night Viola Davis will join that schedule when her series “How to Get Away with Murder” premieres. Meanwhile, the CW is launching “Jane the Virgin,” starring Gina Rodriguez, and Fox is set to debut “Empire,” which stars Terrance Howard, early next year.

Cosmopolitan says it never wanted ‘Nocturne’ show

Las Vegas Review-Journal: They never wanted a separate show in the first place.

That’s perhaps the most surprising revelation in The Cosmopolitan’s response to a lawsuit filed by the producer of “Vegas Nocturne,” the now-closed show component of the interactive “supper club” Rose.Rabbit.Lie.

The hotel’s response, filed Friday in Clark County District Court, alleges “Nocturne” spun out of an integrated concept where “no one component would overshadow any other” and ended up costing $60,000 per show and losing $1 million per month for its six months of operation.
 

Premiere: The Making of The Boxtrolls' Awesome Steampunk Contraption

WIRED: One of the coolest things about Laika’s upcoming flick The Boxtrolls is the Mecha-Drill. It’s hard to explain why it’s so amazing without spoiling part of the movie, but the short version is it’s a huge steampunk contraption piloted by the film’s Big Bad, Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley). It also was, as Laika president Travis Knight told WIRED, “the biggest puppet we’ve ever made.”

Let it rip! When fart jokes were comedy’s last taboo

Salon.com: Like movies, jokes exist at different levels of naughtiness, and till recently those levels were surprisingly distinct and well defined—something I realized in researching this guide, as I noticed that certain funny things never appear at all in certain media. Farting is a good example: an innocuous phenomenon with no obvious reason for being tabooed (unlike masturbation, anal sex, or suicide, whose suppression was more comprehensible) but one that for most of the last century was conspicuously absent from mainstream American humor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Vote for Comment of the Week

Voting closes Friday noonish.

Student #1 has left a new comment on your post "Spamalot: Pennsylvania school cancels production b...": 

I sighed my way through this entire article. Heres the thing: I can totally understand a lot of the reasoning to cancel a production of Spamalot in a high school setting. The show could be considered slightly risqué in a public school setting. However, it was made painfully clear that this decision was made on the homosexual basis. 

"I am not comfortable with Spamalot and its homosexual themes.."

Not to mention that the decision seems like an afterthought, they and already written the check to license the play, which means SOMEONE had to have already read the play and several people, probably from the school district itself (that's how my school had to get productions approved) had to approve the show for production in the first place! Then, once someone realized that there were homosexual situations displayed, they had to scramble to come up with an excuse as to why the production was being cancelled.

This issue will never be corrected until further education, starting at a young age. At what age do we learn that it's "normal" for men to date women? 

Student #2 has left a new comment on your post "Controlled Chaos: House & Monitor Sound For Pharre...": 
This article is one of my favorite interviews that I have read in any sound magazine. This is because typically in interviews that I read the interviewer talks a lot about equipment and how they interact with new technologies that come out but this article talks about how it is to work with artist and what that is like. I think that working with the artist is the most important part of being a quality sound engineer. One thing about this article that also interests me is the way both engineers think that the best part of their jobs is growing with a band or artist from the bottom to the top. This is something that I would really like to do. I have a group of friends at home that started a band and are really great. While I'm at home I mix their live shows and mix them in the studio. What is nice is that now they are getting bigger and playing the NYC nightclub circuit and it has been rewarding for me to mix them ant our high school talent shows and now mixing and seeing them play for real people in NYC. We also are all in college at the same time so when we're not together there is no shows that go on without me.

Student #3 has left a new comment on your post "The World Wide Theater at Our Fingertips": 
I am a very big fan of the idea of making theatre free and accessible. It irritates me so much that if there is an incredible production of King Lear in New York, someone in Hong Kong won't be able to see it. With the advent of the world wide web, there is almost no reason that productions shouldn't at least start to be put online. The National Theatre took a step in the right direction by starting to allow some access in the form of limited screenings in select theaters, but it's not far enough. I really think that adding streaming to theatre can only be a good thing. I am not, however, a fan of the idea of allowing "tweet seats," or anything of that nature. Some would see a conflict in that distinction, but I absolutely do not. You have to consider the way in which a technology changes a theatre's space. Streaming shares an insulated space with the world, whereas "tweet seats," and the like disrupt a theatre space in a crude attempt to bring in a younger audience, which I find tactless. Anyway, I loved what the bloggers (Alex and DCW3) mentioned about the "universal theatre," a theater that exists outside of the bounds of geography. It's a beautiful way of using social media to actually connect in a real way. Theater, and really all art, is a way of sharing a truth ("mirror up to nature" and all that). Wouldn't it be incredible if we could share that truth even further than the confines of a blackbox or a proscenium? the truth is we can. The one thing that disheartened me about this article was that it left the idea as just that - an idea, an abstraction, rather than showing steps that have been taken towards some sort of universal theater. Sure, they half-heartedly attempted a project with "Leaving Dynamite," but the fact that they couldn't sustain that project speaks to the ADD nature of our generation, the generation raised on the internet. That said, there always be failure before success, unless success is accidental, and since no one has ever accidentally streamed a production before, I doubt this will be the case. THere's a lot to do, and a lot of ways to do it. I honestly think some amazing things are about to happen in the world of theatre.

Student #4 has left a new comment on your post "Stagehands the foundation of Made in America": 
It's always interesting reading about the various ways that IATSE locals are portrayed in the news. We go from the negative press that they've often gotten in NYC at various venues and then the praise that they have in this article. It's nice to see some positive praise for people that do a lot of unrecognized work in our industry. 

There are a couple things that irritated me with this article. The praise that the workers were getting for putting in 14+ hour days is highly misplaced. It's not a good thing that stagehands are having to put in 14+ hours over more than 10 days. That's not a safe instance and should be worked on so that this doesn't happen. 

Also, the stagehands being told to leave an area as a performance was starting is a good thing. Gallo's comment about it being atrocious they were told to leave and that they build the stage gives them right to be in the audience is irritating. Yes, they work very hard to set up the stage but that's their job, it does not give them the right to watch a free show. 

This is an interesting viewpoint to see how stagehands are viewed city by city and event by event.

Student #5 has left a new comment on your post "Harvard Lampoon president Alexis Wilkinson on how ...": 
I think Alexis Wilkinson makes a really good point when she talks about why most of her staff, and organizations in general, have issues with diversity. She talks about the inclination to hire and work with people you know and are friends with- a perfectly normal and reasonable way to behave, but in the end it can lead to a serious lack of diversity. It's not malicious or intentional in any way, but it does have serious effects we should be aware of. We definitely have this in theatre- it's something that we actually support. I know a major factor in my decision to come to CMU was the connections and alumni network you get out of it, and while this is really great for helping students make their way in the world and get jobs, it means we'll often be working for and with people who have similar backgrounds to us- people who were able to go to prestigious, expensive universities, and gain connections that many people with fewer opportunities don't have access to. 

On an unrelated note, I was impressed with her attitude towards the new website that they had created- she said that she felt that they might not even keep it up after October, and that she thought that every executive board should get to make its own decisions on what they wanted to do, and not be chained to tradition. This is an interesting perspective, and I have great respect that they put so much work in to one thing (the website is really impressive) when they knew it might not be permanent at all, or even last more than a couple months. It's great that they're willing to put in so much work into something just to see how it turns out, without worrying about the future or concerning themselves with worrying about their legacy.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Worth a Look

Here are a few posts from last week's Greenpage that might be worth your time...

Are You Following The South Williamsport Spamalot Controversy?

Adaptistration: The 8/26/2014 edition of Slate published an article by columnist and Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts Interim Director, Howard Sherman that examines the decision by South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Junior/Senior High School administrators to cancel an upcoming production of Monty Python’s Spamalot by Eric Idle due to what the school’s principal, Jesse Smith, described as the musical’s “homosexual themes.” Smith’s decision was upheld by South Williamsport Area School District administrators even after Sherman’s article produced evidence that the principal and school superintendent, Dr. Mark Stamm, deliberately obfuscated and misinformed the public on their “homosexual themes” issue serving as a cornerstone for their validation.


New York Street Fair Offers Rare Look Inside Film and TV Production

Variety: After a seven-year hiatus, Museum of the Moving Image, Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, and Kaufman Astoria Studios have brought back New York on Location, a free event that offers a behind-the-scenes look at film production in New York.
The day-long affair will take place Sunday, Sept. 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the backlot of Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens; at the nearby Museum; and on surrounding streets.


How Many Women Work Off-Broadway?

The Clyde Fitch Report: The League of Professional Theatre Women has released the results of a new gender parity study regarding women employed Off-Broadway from 2010-2014.
This study, part of their initiative called Women Count, covers 355 productions from 22 theater companies. The thirteen employment categories included in this study range from playwrights, directors and stage managers to choreographers, sound designers and set designers.


Who’s Really Scalping Ticket Buyers

TicketNews: When concerts are sold out minutes after going on sale, primary ticket sellers like Ticketmaster and artists themselves have been quick to point the finger at the secondary ticket market for buying the best tickets and pricing them above face value. They have even supported legislation in attempts to limit secondary ticket websites’ influence in the market. But a recent story in the Huffington Post pulled the curtain back on a little known fact in the live entertainment business; many artists are scalping their own tickets.


Harvard Lampoon president Alexis Wilkinson on how writers’ rooms should deal with gender and race

Salon.com: Last week, Harvard’s 138-year-old comedy mag, The Harvard Lampoon, launched its first Internet parody site, the Huffington Psst. It’s a mirror-image of Arianna Huffington’s traffic monster, with content taken down a notch or ten.

The project came to fruition under the leadership of Lampoon president Alexis Wilkinson, a woman who made headlines earlier this year for becoming the first black woman to lead the organization. Wilkinson, who has seemingly brought the venerated comedy institution into the 21st century with a new interest in Internet parodies and a heightened awareness of race and gender issues, recently opened up to Salon about her year as president, her observations about diversity in the comedy-writing world, and where the Lampoon may be headed next.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Vote for Comment of the Week

Voting ends Friday noon-ish.

Student #1 has left a new comment on your post "#Ferguson: Rebuild and Unite":

"Theatre has the ability to serve as the mirror to society, casting an abstract and beautiful light in the darkest situations. Theatre art carries the responsibility of sharing these realities from all perspectives."

I literally felt like these words spoke directly to my theatre practitioner soul, and why I find it, as well as all other creative art forms to be so incredibly important to us as human beings. We have social responsibility in this world. We should care about those around us, and not just those directly in our circles of life. In fact we should take greater care for those outside of our circles. Those people who have extremely different circumstances and walks of life. We should be trying to understand them, and cherish these differences. I feel that art is the way to celebrate life, explore it, and expose it. I have such sadness and frustration regarding the circumstances around Ferguson tragedy. I hope that we as a theatre community, and essentially artists can do our share in documenting this history and helping the world gain insights and exercise their minds to be more invested in social responsibility and change. 
Student #2 has left a new comment on your post "Who Needs Art? There’s Plumbing":
Like Sydney, I actually found it really interesting to read what Melamid's ideas. I didn't feel angered by his words either. I think that a lot of people are going into the arts because it's an easier way out of the "real world". A lot of us are always saying "oh, I would never want to be a plumber" "I would never want to be a lawyer" "I would never want to be confined to a cubicle" but we forget that we need people with those jobs. We need plumbers because they make our daily life so much better. We need lawyers to defend the innocent and help people get the justice they deserve. We need those people with cubicle jobs because they make an impact on our life. Most of the time, art is selfish. Initially, it's a person saying these are my thought and my emotions and my life that I want everyone to see. Of course art is beneficial to the world and we need it, but not everyone needs to be what we define as an "artist". You know, a plumber is an artist in their trade, as is a lawyer, and a cubicle worker. I think everyone and every job is just as important as the next and we should not criticize him for being a hypocrite. These are his thoughts and if he wants to be an artist, let him be an artist. I mean, who are we to judge? I have a lot of friends who started out studying something like engineering or English and now they are artists, costumers, performers, etc. And then I have friends who studied art and work in an office. I think it's up to us to say what is right for us and even if we don't agree with what someone is saying, we should say that we disagree, we shouldn't call them names. That's something I need to work on too. We have our entire life to figure out who we are so even if you're 20 or 50 or 70 or maybe even 90 it's ok to day something that might be a little hypocritical... we're all still trying to figure out who we are! 
Student #3 has left a new comment on your post "Two longtime Elvis impersonators say to know him i...":
It really interesting to see how people got into impersonations. Both of the guys said that people had told them that they looked like Elvis when they were young, but only one of the guys was a fan before. I completely agree that you have to know someone to be able to love them completely. These two men have really gotten to know Elvis on a more personal level than most people would have. It's really funny that Shandor says that the hardest part is staying in shape. Welcome to acting, good sir! So much of today's media is focused on image and not just talent, though being able to sing and dance the part is important too. I guess it is even more important that they keep Elvis's image because he was a real person. They could actually go for older Elvis and get a bit of a stomach when they get older. Now, THAT would be interesting to see: as they age, they age their Elvis impersonation too! That could work out really well for them. He had such a different style from when Elvis was young compared to when he was older.
On the note of impersonations, we should really get some Fred Astaire impersonators! That would take a lot of work too, though it would be great to see revivals of some of his movies. Ginger Rogers would be interesting to see too. They were both such talented people in all aspects of performance. 
Student #4 has left a new comment on your post "Robo-readers, robo-graders: Why students prefer to...":
Based on the title of the article, I was ready to write a rant about how computers could never help a student's education in the way that the teacher does. However, the actual subject of the article really surprised and fascinated me. Of course it would be ridiculous to replace teachers with grading computers (essays are at their heart a way of measuring how well a student understands a topic or how well they can construct an argument, not how well they can write long sentences with lots of clunky vocabulary). However, using computers to help a student write better (while not claiming to address the actual content of the essay) is a great idea. It makes complete sense that students would be more comfortable with having their work proofread by a computer- it makes me nervous giving my writing to my friend or parents to proofread, let alone having a teacher check it. I don't want someone who's opinion I care about to read less than my best work, even if it would lead to it being better in the future. In addition, editing is an awful task for anyone, and I know many students skip that step entirely, preferring to just hand in a less-than-perfect draft. Simply sending it to a computer, which would spit out some helpful comments and corrections with no judgement attached, sounds quite wonderful. If it was available, I would definitely try this program out. 
Student #5 has left a new comment on your post "At Disney and Universal, Musical Theater Fans Find...":
I'm horrified that these amusement parks don't abide by Equity rules. Re: Nikki, I'm sorry that you've had a negative experience with union members. But is the eagerness to work a non-union show a question of how much someone cares about their craft, or how desperately these [likely early-career] performers need a job? I am particularly concerned about the performers in these locations, since Disney theme parks especially have been known for overworking their employees. The union regulations are there to a) protect the actors, first and foremost, and b) to make sure other people in the industry don't justify lower pay and/or fewer protections because "such-and-such production could do it." Though the pay grade for "London Rocks" sounds aaaaalmost close to a small theater role ($414.96/week for a lead doing 42 shows; I believe Equity guidelines for a small professional theater say an actor should get $500/week PLUS benefits for a traditional 8-show week...are my numbers right?), the reality is that these performers are spending way more time and energy than they would in a traditional theater setting because of the "always-on" nature of their work. More the reason to protect them! 
That being said, I had no idea that such well-renowned composers were writing for these shows, and I'm impressed! That in itself is also a lesson in how artists (especially writers/composers/lyricists) need to diversify their portfolios in order to keep working and keep up with the industry.