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Public and Roundabout Change Policy in Playwrights’ Favor – NYTimes.com

25 Mar

Public and Roundabout Change Policy in Playwrights’ Favor – NYTimes.com.

This is really good news, and in no small part due to the activism and advocacy of Richard Nelson, Todd London and Ben Pesner, Craig Lucas and others. Todd and Ben put out in public (Outrageous Fortune) the stark facts of how little most playwrights make, and now there’s a response.

Notes towards a political theater

10 Mar

In “Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction” poet Wallace Stevens lists such a fiction’s essential qualities. His list:
1. It must be abstract
2. It must change
3. It must give pleasure.
Late in life, he remarked elsewhere that he would add a fourth quality: “It must be human”.
I think these qualities give some useful clues in the struggle to create theater against political atrocity. I’ll just focus on the first two here, since they’re less self-evident in their applicability.

To take the first: “It must be abstract.” One of the recurring features of the path towards genocide is its crushing literality. The gap between word and deed, word and person (which abstract thought and imagination enable) is systematically narrowed, and then closed. Continue reading

Facebook | NoPassport theatre conference: UTOPIA

3 Feb

Looking forward to this– Utopia in Performance at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe. 
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If you’re in New York and are interested in transnational perspectives in theatre making, do come.  Here’s a little about this gathering, which is more artist-based than academic in tone:

Join Migdalia Cruz, Teresa Eyring (TCG), Jeff Janisheski (O’Neill Theater Institute), Catherine Filloux, Karen Hartman, Melanie Joseph, Oliver Mayer, Chiori Miyagawa, Jeff McMahon, J.T. Rogers, Ian Rowlands, Alberto Sandoval, Octavio Solis, Saviana Stanescu, and a distinguished roster of for the 4th annual NoPassport “Dreaming the Americas” Conference held this coming year at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City with pre-conference event at New Dramatists. This coming year the two-day conference will focus on a wide range of contemporary works for theatre & performance, viewing utopian spaces from a variety of formal perspectives. Keynote speeches will be delivered by Erik Ehn and Henry Godinez. There will also be a book launch for the release of four new volumes from NoPassport Press from Migdalia Cruz, Karen Hartman, Chiori Miyagawa, Octavio Solis amd Saviana Stanescu.

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Interview with Mac Rogers

15 Jan

Mac Rogers is a Brooklyn-based playwright (there are other locale-based playwrights, but they do seem to be particularly thick on the ground in Brooklyn.) I particularly like his observation on the weirdness of theatre blogging, and the advice for new playwrights: the interview is here on Adam Szymkowicz’s website. It’s part of Adam’s regular series of interviews with playwrights– well worth a visit!

Study Focuses on the Care and Feeding of Playwrights – NYTimes.com

14 Jan

There’s some great discussion in the blogosphere regarding this:

Study Focuses on the Care and Feeding of Playwrights – NYTimes.com.

Curious: That NY Times headline could just as well substitute “Giant Pandas” for “Playwrights”… and the playwright-in-residence solution parallels the zoo or conservation park.

The same logic pertains: the problem for both endangered species (playwrights and pandas) is that the environment to which they’re adapted has changed and no longer supports them. Pandas can’t do much about it but maybe playwrights can. Form companies. Self-publish.

Or maybe it’s time to find the other door in the wall.  Maybe I”ll write fantasy novels or work for a video game company designing games for teenage girls where they don’t have to blow up the world in a muscle suit to have an absorbing adventure.  Any other suggestions?


Update on CHAT festival

7 Jan

The time’s approaching for the CHAT festival at UNC Chapel Hill. It’s been so much fun to write for this event, as part of the Virtual Performance Factory.. Like many playwrights, I’m well acquainted with “development hell” and this gig, by contrast, has always involved a guarantee that the thing will be taken into full production—in collaboration with Icarus, a commercial video game company (Fallen Earth producers).

The brief? To write a short script for live performance with audience interaction (no, Mildred, not the dreaded “audience participation” where people are hauled on stage before the rest of a seated audience for ritual humiliation–but a way of scripting for an interactive space where the audience become a part of the event). Also to include: virtual and video-game elements, which are being designed and produced by Icarus.

My piece involves a head-injured soldier who lives in a cardboard-box homeless village under a freeway, but steps through the “doors” of memory into another world–the world of remembered war-fare, modeled on an action video game. Continue reading

Playwrights on Writing – latimes.com

7 Jan

An interesting series of interviews with a wide range of contemporary playwrights, published in the LA times.
Playwrights on Writing – latimes.com.

I discovered this through The Loop Online, a free playwrights’ networking and information resource which is curated by the indefatigable Gary Garrison–Well worth joining for playwrights!

Out and about

4 Dec

I’ve been out in the argy-bargy theatre world lately. In meetings and seeing shows. A nasty recent epiphany (talking to a financial sponsor/ board member at a recent opening): In the US, there IS no “not for profit” theatre any more. The rhetoric continues, but the reality is that it’s all tap-dancing for the dollar. And with less funding (and the cultural argument for serious arts subsidy pretty much lost–hello, the US can’t even get first world health care) there’s more emphasis on the whims of the wealthy who want to see their money effectively and flatteringly deployed. Outcomes! Outreach! Messages! Is this what art is about or for? Imagine this formula applied to science and what it would do for innovation and discovery, which usually presents itself as heresy or nonsense —at first. So much for R&D in the arts, which basically runs on failure in order to find stuff out.

I think of the art and artists who have ripped a hole in the fabric of my cosmos–Beckett, Kane, Churchill, Parks–and I’m damn sure I’d never have seen their work if it depended on the current arts climate in the US to thrive. Instead I would have seen cute, quirky, topical and earnest little fables from artists who don’t threaten the bottom line, who are “topical” in a slug-line kind of way, and with whose bio the producers can tick the hot, or young, or minority, box on the funding application.

OK, I’m taking a Tylenol and going to bed.

Landscape of the theater

2 Aug

I finally read John Guare’s play, Landscape of the Body. I loved it–a dream of flesh and song made of “what if . . .” and grounded in a gritty time in his city. (I was curious because someone told me that my writing reminded them of his… Ah, I said sagely—then decided I’d better catch up!)

However I note the following about this play, to measure the distance between 1977 and 2009’s production landscape:
1. It has a cast of 11
2. In the preface, the author wrote this:
“I finished the play. I wrote the title page. I wrote a page dedicating it to Adele. I was exhausted. I was thirsty. I put the phone back on the hook. Bill finished reading the play a few pages after I finished typing. He said, “I’ll produce it.” “When?” “It’s May. Let’s do it in July.”

Trojan Barbie in print

19 Jul

Theatre Forum, Issue 35 includes my play Trojan Barbie, with accompanying article by Robert Scanlan, along with other interesting fare such as Kirby Malone’s “Silence and Darkness: A Live Movie for the Cellphone Age”.  Malone and White have been working for years at George Mason Univeristy to produce “live movies”– a form of live performance that incorporates film, video projection and virtual elements.