Friday, March 30, 2012

Worth a Look

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

Designers - sign up to By Design Day 2012

PLASA: By Design Day, the annual fundraising day for Light Relief in the UK and Behind the Scenes in the US and Canada, takes place this year on Tuesday April 24 on both sides of the Atlantic.

Context is everything.

2AMt: In the rush to parse statements and assign blame this weekend, it seems like we’re missing the point. This isn’t–or shouldn’t be–an attack on Mike Daisey’s art or his ability. What’s on the stage–and on the page, in this case–is a dynamic, compelling, electric piece of theatre. Download it and read it, or go see it if you’re near a production of it. If you want to produce it, use that Creative Commons license as creatively as Cody Daigle did and open your audience up to a larger conversation.

Mac Wellman: Pushing Boundaries

HowlRound: When I had just left college and moved back to New York, I had the great fortune of meeting Mac Wellman. He was something of an idol of mine, having read his plays as an undergraduate. I couldn’t believe that he was willing to meet me and talk about theater. We met at Lupe’s, a small Mexican restaurant, one that he still frequents, and talked for a couple of hours. From that day forward, he turned from idol to mentor, as he spurred me in the pursuit of my own work as a director. Over the years I’ve had the chance to direct several of Mac’s plays including Fnu Lnu, The Fez, Description Beggared; or the Allegory of Whiteness, and Bellagio. Each play presents a distinct theatrical world, strange and familiar, odd and funny. His roots in poetry shine through in his carefully selected words that are evocative and playful.

Are women getting any closer to equality in theatre? In her 1970 book review of Eva Figes' Patriarchal Attitudes: Women in Society, Rebecca West poked fun at male repression of women in the workplace: "Once Freud and his disciples got a female on the analytic couch and found traces of intellectual activity, they attempted to persuade her that she … was seeking in work a substitute for the male sexual organ." West – who briefly trained as an actor – had personal experience of discrimination in the performing arts. In the 1920s, having already made her name as a novelist, essayist and journalist, she wrote a play and sent it to theatre managers. After 14 copies were "lost" (three of them by the then manager of the Birmingham Rep), she gave up. How, I wonder, would she have responded to the statistics compiled by Sphinx Theatre Company showing that women – 52% of the population – make up just 35% of actors, 17% of theatre writers, 23% of theatre directors and 9% of film directors?

Chasing Yale

Stage Directions: There is a very ugly, smelly disease among many, many people in our industry right now, and it’s called OMG WHAT IF I DON’T GET INTO YALE Syndrome. The symptoms of this disease are basically sweats and bad attitude about not getting into one of the “top” places to study Entertainment in some form or another.
I have three friends right now who whine about their degrees, and how they’ll never “make it big” because they didn’t get their degree from Yale. Or Northwestern. Or they didn’t study with Ming Cho Lee, so how on EARTH will they ever get their genius recognized? The perception seems to be that there is just a small cadre of schools who really matter, and if you study there, you are guaranteed a spot on America’s Next Top Designer (which I just invented and you may buy rights from me directly) or you get to star in your own sitcom, called Another Actor Makes It Big. This is a particularly pernicious fantasy. (Who wouldn’t want to take the chance at actually succeeding in the fashion that it seems people who go to Yale succeed?) But it is a fantasy all the same.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

USITT Wednesday

Three meetings today at USITT:  Technical Production Leadership session, Rigging Without A Grid, & Knots.  Here's what I finally came up with for the Rigging Without a Grid session:

The "10 things" slides were supposed to be sort of a gameshow.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

And These Too...

A few extra Greenpage articles since there was an extra week in this cycle...

Jonah Lehrer on How to Be Creative Creativity can seem like magic. We look at people like Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan, and we conclude that they must possess supernatural powers denied to mere mortals like us, gifts that allow them to imagine what has never existed before. They're "creative types." We're not.

SXSW Keynote: Bruce Springsteen Speaks to the Young Musicians and the Old Guard "Rumble, young musicians, rumble," Springsteen told the crowd. "Open your ears and open your hearts. Don't take yourself too seriously, and take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don't worry. Worry your ass off. Have unclad confidence, but doubt. It keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town-and you suck! It keeps you honest. Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideals alive and well inside of your heart and head at all times. If it doesn't drive you crazy, it will make you strong.

SAG, AFTRA Weigh In on Possible New Media Contracts for ‘Terra Nova’

Backstage: Online companies such as Netflix, Google, and Amazon have made clear they are interested in developing more original programming, but another trend we may see is one of canceled network shows finding homes online. Both kinds of programming would challenge the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists because new media provisions in the collective bargaining agreements weren’t established to support that type of work. Last week’s buzz about Netflix picking up the canceled Fox show “Terra Nova” is the most recent possibility of seeing a network production shift to online.

Theatre Bay Area and WolfBrown Release Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact And The Value Of Art

Stage Directions: Theatre Bay Area and arts research firm WolfBrown have released the results of their two-year nationwide study on the intrinsic impact of the value of theatre. The study is published in the book Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact And The Value Of Art, and it contains the findings of their study as well as interviews with 20 artistic directors and a selection of essays.

Bound By Broadway: The State of the American Musical

HowlRound: It is no secret that Broadway is the driving engine behind the development of new musical theater, largely because it’s one of the only ways a musical can be profitable. When musicals succeed on Broadway, an entire channel of distribution opportunities open up, from tours to licensed productions at regional theaters that have trained their audiences to expect a Broadway brand.

Architecture Lighting Project

It was really nice out the other night, so the Architecture Lighting class took their work outside.  I happened to be around and so I shot some crappy video.

Here's the preshow:

Here's the opening moment:

Here's a little bit of the middle, the main focus at this point is under the ceiling though:

And here we are under the ceiling:

All in all a pretty neat show, and a cool event for the campus.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Worth a Look

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


This American Life: We've discovered that one of our most popular episodes contained numerous fabrications. This week, we detail the errors in Mike Daisey's story about visiting Foxconn, which makes iPads and other products for Apple in China. Marketplace's China correspondent Rob Schmitz discovered the fabrications.

Bring back the 40-hour work week Everybody knew that eight hours a day was pretty much the limit for a guy swinging a hammer or a shovel; but those grey-flannel guys are just sitting at desks. We’re paying them more; shouldn’t we be able to ask more of them?

The short answer is: no. In fact, research shows that knowledge workers actually have fewer good hours in a day than manual laborers do — on average, about six hours, as opposed to eight.

How should Shakespeare really sound?

Telegraph: Inspired by working with Kevin Spacey, Sir Trevor Nunn has claimed that American accents are "closer" than contemporary English to the accents of those used in the Bard's day. The eminent Shakespearean scholar John Barton has suggested that Shakespeare's accent would have sounded to modern ears like a cross between a contemporary Irish, Yorkshire and West Country accent.

What The Hell Is Project Management, Anyway?

Fast Company: Project management seems like a classic chicken-and-egg career conundrum: How do you prove you’re adept at managing projects if you haven’t worked as a project manager? Beyond that, what does project management really entail, and how is it different from, you know, being a manager? And what tools do the pros actually use, since there seem to be a new one released every week?

Jane Espenson: On Sex and Writing (Not That Kind of Sex)

huffingtonpost: WHAT DO WE WANT? WHEN DO WE WANT IT? Well, we want there to be more women TV writers. In fact, a good number of you probably want to BE women TV writers. And, now. We would like that now. Here is my argument for why hiring women writers is a sensible thing to do. There are a lot of reasons why a particular writer might not get hired to work on a staff: lack of talent, inability to write to specifications, combativeness, slowness, and offensive hygiene. In no rational world does the sex of the writer deserve to be on that list.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Emergency Surgery

I don't know if I ever got around to blogging about it, but a couple of the pieces we did in the fall for Maker Faire have had some additional life.  Last December we loaded two of the larger pieces up on the green roof of the Gates Center.

It makes a really nice display, and as a benefit is visible from the Purnell Center main staircase so we can see them all the time.

When we put them out there we joked about having a pool as a fundraiser for Senior Showcase.  We'd sell dates for when people thought the plywood would fail in the weather.  They made it all through December and rain and snow and just recently I started to think they would make the full six month display they are allotted.

But as it turns out, had we done the pool the winning date would have been March 16th:


Then there was a flurry of emails and today I found myself with a crew putting together an emergency repair call.  We knew we had a problem with the stegosaurus, but when we got to Gates we found that the other piece had taken on a fairly epic lean as well.

The failure we knew about looked even worse when we got close.  I started to think maybe repairing it might be impossible.  One of my guys thought we should just create a pool of tar around the base so it would look like it was stuck in a tar pit.

First thing we did was try to right the Parasaurlopholous.  After getting our hands on it we couldn't really figure out why it was still standing.  We also found that pretty much whatever we did it still wanted to lean.  I guess the pieces had warped into a stable but leaning shape, so when we tried to make it vertical it wanted to fall and if we left it leaning it seemed more stable.  In the end we tweaked things as best we could and tried to get the center of mass back over the center of the footprint, but I think probably in the not too distant future this piece will faceplant.

That right leg just has so much splay in it.

Then we went on to survey the damage to the larger piece.  It had a broken femur...

and also a broken foot...

We'd actually strategized a little about this one before coming over.  I felt like any repair to the legs was just going to be a band-aid, so we fabricated some quick steel stands so we could take the weight with the stands and just use the legs and feet as outriggers.  We installed the stands and then scabbed together the legs as well as we could.  It turned out we had to make them a little longer too in order for them to touch the ground in the new position (we failed a little, the left front foot is hovering a little bit off the ground).

Still, looks pretty good.

So here's an "after" photo.  I'm a little surprised how close we got to the original positions.  Not bad for two hours of work.

I do think it might be time to start thinking about a pool though.  It's unlikely the Steg will fall now that it is on stands, but that Parasaur... just a matter of time.

Wanna pick a date?

Spring 2012 Critical Path Project

Really who am I kidding?  the Critical Path part of this project disappears next to the Rube Goldberg part of it.  So here we are at the 2012 Basic PTM Rube Goldberg Project.

From BPTM2012Rube

This year the class was smaller, so instead of five groups we had four.  Because of that I increased the number of events per person per group to 5 from 4.  I also did away with the required parallel path in the full class machine.  Mostly that last bit was because the old way was just a lot less interesting to watch.

I started out the day of this time talking about what I was hoping people get out of the experience.  Every year I debate doing this project on the grounds that it really doesn't help them learn anything about critical path.  They do a CPM analysis of their machine, but the evaluation there isn't very complex since at most there are two parallel paths at any time.  It is a fairly graphic representation of how if one task falls apart the whole project stops, but in the end I think that's fairly intuitive.

So what do they get?  Well, to start with, the thing has a fairly epic, immovable due date that requires everyone to be done at once.  That's not typical of the projects they've done to date in other classes and I think is fairly representative of a theatrical collaboration.  They get experience working with a group.  They've done group work already, but the interconnectedness of this project ups the thing to a new level I think.  Then also there's the dimension of the groups having to work together which is something they haven't already had, and again I think represents theatre work pretty well.

One of the original reasons for giving this project is that it absolutely defies being done in one last minute all-nighter.  If they don't plan ahead and work on it over time there is just no way it can possibly be successful.  I feel like this is a big lesson, and since the first year I have always presented the project by saying "this cannot possibly be successfully achieved at the last minute."  Even with that admonishment they usually do wind up with an all-nighter at the end.  I think this year's group had their first successful run at 8:30am.  I must admit I still do think it's fun coming in to the room for class and seeing this:

From BPTM2012Rube

So, planning ahead, working in groups, working in groups of groups, working to a hard deadline - all useful management behaviors to master, and maybe just a smidge of critical path as well.  Of course you can add on top of that all kinds of engineering learning: more planning, materials, tolerances, repeatability, "clean and workmanlike manner," reset time... and I guess there are even some design issues being drilled here with respect to composition if nothing else.

This year's group had an unsuccessful first run and had to make some modifications before the second trial and in the break one of the other instructors said "there is so much learning happening right now."  I guess maybe I should stop questioning whether it is a worthwhile use of our time.

Without further delay, here are the students explaining what should happen:

and then here is a fixed position video of their successful run:

and finally here is a "tracking shot" from one of the cameras you see in the last video:

Last but not least here are some still photos from the event:

All in all a successful day of school.

After getting the videos online this time around I went back and watched the video from each of the prior years - this is the fifth time around.  It's a pretty neat body of work.  I'm glad I've been recording over the years.  If you are interested, the other videos are all someplace here on the blog or mostly accessible through my YouTube.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Half of the spring semester is gone.  It's going pretty well I suppose...  There was one of those random shooting things a few blocks from my house last week.  Feels odd having it so close to home...  I hope folks keep the pressure up on Rushbo.  He's had a long run.  Right Mr. Snerdly?  Could be time to be done with him...  I have to say, I didn't notice the solar flare...  Wouldn't 4pm on Monday be a better time to start Daylight Savings?  Then we could all punch out an hour early...   The cadre of allies at work continues to erode.  It's sad...  Should I be someone that goes to SXSW?  I wonder...  Trying to decide now if we should file a formal assessment appeal.  We won't hear the result of the informal appeal until after the filing deadline...  I had this really scary thought today.  It goes like this: "Romney/Rice 2012"...  Is it possible we're done with snow accumulation for the winter?  That'd be real nice...  They cancelled Terra Nova.  Now I don't have to decide if I want to keep watching...  That cat we were going to take to the shelter 1000 years ago?  I think maybe she's reformed...  I am still sick.  It's been forever...  Since it seems like every couple of years we learn another food dye is a health hazard, maybe we should just stop dyeing food...  I mean, I'd take a new iPad, but I don't think I'll be upgrading...  Which would be worse: one of the current GOP candidates getting the nomination or someone we haven't seen yet getting the nomination?  Careful what you wish for...  The Pittsburgh Home Show is this weekend.  Time to start thinking about home projects for this year - or to decide if the sheer volume of work last year means we take a year out of that cycle...  The Steelers cut Hines Ward.  That's a shame...  My boss went out of his way to thanks someone else for my effort, again.  Not really sure what to do about that...  Been watching West Wing on DVD.  I cannot understand why that show isn't on TV anywhere...  Still liking the new laptop...  I owe so many posts, most recently the 2012 Critical Path/Rube Goldberg project... For a minute there it looked like I might be going to Las Vegas next week, but then less so...  I believe my interest in Pinterest is fading...  It is possible I might care about Basketball again...  If like 98% of women use birth control, who are these representatives representing when they come out publicly against birth control?  I just don't get it...  Been feeling all week like I would like to buy something new...  Yup, shoulda bought that Apple stock: woulda, coulda, shoulda...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Worth a Look

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

The digitalization of live performance

You've Cott Mail for Mon Feb 13: The success of the Metropolitan Opera's HD broadcasts in cinemas around the world has some New York theater producers seeking similar returns. A new company, Broadway Near You, plans to produce 3-5 theater broadcasts this year, and to develop a subscription series for viewers across the country and abroad. And a Brooklyn-based company, BY Experience -- which distributes broadcasts for the Met and the National Theatre in London, and last year produced a broadcast for the Roundabout Theatre -- is working on three more U.S. theater productions this year.

Rose Brand Announces Top Scholarship Finalists

Stage Directions: Rose Brand announced the finalists of the Rose Brand Scholarship today on their Face Book Page. The top 10 were comprised of graduate and undergraduate students from across the United States. The finalists will now be judged by a panel of high profile experts in the industry, which includes Scenic Designer & Tony Award Nominee, Anna Louizos; Hudson Scenic CEO Neil Mazella; Scenic Designer & Tony Award Nominee, Beowulf Boritt; and Production Designer & Emmy Award Winner, Joe Stewart.

Julie Taymor Blames Bono and The Edge for 'Spider-Man' Problems in Latest Court Filing

Hollywood Reporter: Julie Taymor, former director of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has filed her response to the producers' countersuit over her departure from the show. The Academy Award-nominated director describes what 8 Legged Productions had to say in January as "over thirty pages of highly sensationalistic, false and misleading allegations aimed at blaming Taymor, as a co-author of the musical, for problems encountered in development of the musical and assassinating her character and professional reputation."

Are Contact-Less Screws The Future? There are all kinds of fasteners available that can solve just about every fastening need. We have screws and nails, and when we don't want to see the fastener, we have glue and a lot of clamps. But if the Invis Mx from Lamello is any indication of what is to come, contact-less screws just might be the future. Yeah, I am talking about a screw that never touches the screwdriver.

ETC Offers Classes at 31st Street Studios

Carnegie Mellon University: The Entertainment Technology Center will offer some classes at the 31st Street Studios in Pittsburgh's Strip District this semester, where students will have access to an advanced motion capture system and opportunities to take part in major film productions. The studio on Feb. 27 announced it would partner with Paramount on Location, a division of Paramount Studios Group that provides production support services, and Knight Vision Motion Capture, a digital production company. Knight Vision was founded by James Knight, who developed motion-capture techniques for the movie "Avatar."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Worth a Look

Here are some posts from last week's Greenpage that might be worth your time:

Do You Need Permission To Take A Photo With A Chair In It? You Might In France...

Techdirt: The British Journal of Photography (BJP) brings us yet another story of aggressive assertion of copyright wreaking harm on artists -- the very people it allegedly empowers. It concerns some photos in Getty Images' stock library that have chairs in them. Because a few of those chairs are "famous" in the sense that they were produced by a couple of designers that worked with the architect Le Corbusier, the heirs of those designers, together with the Le Corbusier Foundation, have sued Getty Images in France for copyright infringement -- and won.

Female playwrights still face sexism – it's time we admitted it What would the playwriting landscape look like if all submissions to theatres were done anonymously, removing any question of gender bias? Or at least, when plays were sent out to be considered by reading committees, the title page was removed? Some theatres already operate in that way, most notably Liverpool's Playhouse and Everyman, where readers don't know whether the author is Alan Bennett or a first-time female playwright.

TEDx Broadway videos are live.

Ken Davenport - Opinions from a Broadway Producer: One month ago, almost to the day, several hundred passionate people converged on New World Stages for the first ever TEDxBroadway conference. It was a very exciting day, with great speakers from our industry like Jordan Roth, Greg Mosher, Randy Weiner, Damian Bazadona and many more. And it also featured great speakers from outside our industry like Patricia Martin, Barry Kahn, Steve Gullans, Juan Enriquez and, you guessed it, many more.

ACE to include 'green clauses' in funding contracts

The Stage: Arts Council England is to incorporate eco-friendly clauses into its funding agreements with national portfolio organisations, making it the first arts funding body in the world to have environmental sustainability as a requirement of subsidy. As a minimum requirement, NPOs will need to measure and improve their water and energy use, with the new clauses embedded into all funding programmes over the next three years.

What Values Matter In Arts Grad Training Programs?

Butts In the Seats: This weekend Scott Walters quoted an extensive comment made on another blog about the value of MFA acting programs. The gist is, students are ill served by the programs which need to focus on training students for 21st century opportunities. This struck a chord with me because I had recently read a Fast Company article about how UC Berkeley’s Business School started to screen applicants based on whether they embodied the school’s core values. The school had decided to embrace these values in the interests of creating a “reduction of overconfidence and self-focus, which are perceived to be excessively present among the business graduates and leaders of the top business schools.”