Theme

A friend of mine once said, “as soon as I can imagine myself doing the same thing all day long, I’ll go to grad school for it.”

He doesn’t mean that he can’t imagine himself in a steady job… just give him a second to explain.

“Sometimes when  I wake up in the morning I want to go to Africa and teach, and then by lunch I am imagining myself in a mime troupe backpacking through Europe, but by my evening jog through the park I want to spend the rest of my life behind a camera.”

I started monitoring my own ideas in this way. Until I started seeing a theme I wasn’t going to worry about getting an M.F.A. and running with it.

My last post with the mention of the Jeune Lune was the beginning of a more recent theme. Since then I conversation with David Catlin of the Lookingglass Theatre. We discussed a great deal of the approach he and his respected theatre company takes when approaching a text, theme, and physicality.

I had some frustrating (and some wonderful) experiences viewing ensemble work. The connections may have been tied to a big idea, but they failed to edit their work. There has to be a theme. There has to be a connection. It can be episodic, it can be continuous, but it has to connect! When ensembles do well I want to cheer, but sometimes I feel like there has to be something more underlying it.

Physical seems right, but the weight for me doesn’t come entirely from an ensemble approach. I think it comes from the text. I want to work with a good dramaturg, and a novel playwright that is either from history, or making it.

I’m thinking about doing the same thing, all day long.

Arts in Crisis

On August 12 I had the opportunity to meet Michael Kaiser. President of the Kennedy Center for Performing arts in Washington, D.C. I have since finished reading his book, “The Art of the Turnaround.” Inspiring moments, such as this, cause the arts manager inside of me to cheer. My body says, “of course you have to keep doing challenging artwork,” “of course your audience will receive it.” Ideas that are so common sense that they are almost extreme in the world we work in.

What is usually the first thing to go in an arts organization when facing cut backs? The experimental, the challenging. Suddenly we need to put some butts in the seats, but ticket sales never balanced the budget. Commit to a big project, get a big return. Investors want to know specifics on what they’re creating, and something new and revolutionary will normally pique their attention much more so than an old standard. There are all kinds of arguments on either side of this coin — I get that, I also get that there are numerous more points in what goes into this paragraph — just read the 10 rules in Mr. Kaiser’s book.

I started reading blogs about three years ago. Many of them being arts management blogs. I also saw Milwaukee Shakespeare and Madison Rep close their doors last year. One of the electronic news articles regarding Madison Rep’s closing included comments from numerous peanut gallery types saying something to the extent of, “good riddance, they don’t use local actors anyway.” [Sidenote: there is a great deal of hubbub about Madison’s new local equity house using local actors. More on that some other day.] That being said, I also saw the closing of the Jeune Lune. This closing was not necessarily recession related.  Great product, great base audience, great cast, great direction, but just couldn’t fully address that debt.

As Mr. Kaiser says, “there are no less characters in “Hamlet” than there were when Shakespeare wrote it,” but our proudction costs are going up. Mike Daisey spends a good amount of his time discussing the importance of why solo performance matters and how the resurgence of a trend from the 80′s will bring theatre’s back into the black.

I guess my look backward here forces me to ask, does arts management really interest me, or is it producing that really interests me? Or is it the freedom to put the experimental next to the old standard? Or the experimental into the old standard? What is the big picture? Where do I stand inside it?

Next?

What kind of a blog name is Next?
First, it is a reminder to me to not dwell on too many past experiences. Posts here will be for me to collect thoughts on what to do… Next. Therein, I don’t want this to become a journal or diary, although I am sure it will often resemble one as most do at certain points.
I started reading a great many blogs 3 years ago and only now have I felt as though I could contribute my own thoughts into the ether of the internet. I hope that I can share some of my favorite blog posts here as a running history of observations and novel ideas I hope to draw from in the future.
Looking forward to what’s next.