Friday, July 31, 2009

how to help us

Conflict of Interest theater company is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of Conflict of Interest theater company may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Go here to donate.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

know your funders

The corporate arts world lost one of its pioneers this week. In an obituary published in its July 27 edition, the New York Times chronicled the life and achievements of George Weissman, who passed away at the age of 90; He was largely responsible for funneling of cigarette money to the arts via Phillip Morris (later rebranded Altria).

Mr. Weissman began his corporate ascent in the movie and public relations businesses, and one of his early tasks as a young marketing executive at Philip Morris — which became part of the Altria group in 2003 — was to help develop the very effective masculine mythology of Marlboro cigarettes.

He applied similar deftness when Philip Morris acquired Miller Brewing in 1969 and came up with the new Miller Lite brand.

Mr. Weissman also pushed Philip Morris to become a major donor to arts groups, particularly experimental undertakings like the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He said in an interview with The New York Times in 1990 that the arts initiative began with a traveling exhibition of modern art in 1965.

“We wanted to demonstrate to our own employees that we were an open-minded company seeking creativity in all aspects of our business,” Mr. Weissman said. “And we were determined to do this by sponsoring things that made a difference, that were really dangerous.”

In an interview with Forbes in 1983, he said that giving to the arts also impressed customers, and that more people go to museums than ballgames.

I don't smoke. Cigarettes are bad for you. I also try to avoid the Kraft "family" brands, as they are also largely bad for you. Those are individual decisions -- do they naturally carry over to the artistic organization you're trying to forge? If so, where is the line when you're looking for funding? Do you decline money when its source is tainted? How clean does your funding need to be? As an organization soliciting funds, do hold individuals to different standards than corporations? Should you search for every penny (especially pennies that don't dictate content), and hope the good you do with your output outweighs the evil of the money's source? These are questions that are best settled at the outset, since the answers could have an enormous impact on the scope of your funding down the line? It's important to know whether such questions bother the members of a group -- if they do at all. From the obit:

[Weissman] seemed to have trouble understanding the view of those who argued that arts organizations should refuse tobacco money as tainted. “Do you stop the Bolshoi from coming here because you don’t believe in the Russian system?” he said in an interview with The Times in 1987.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the madness of race and bloodlines, continued

Over at the Huffington Post, Harry Shearer (as always) makes a great point about the phenomenon about the so-called "birther" movement: rather than a sudden emergence of a lunatic fringe, it fits into the growing toolbox of what passes for political discourse in this country: want to stand in opposition of the current administration? Deny its very legitimacy!
Bill Clinton was reviled by Republicans, partly because he won and partly because he won with the aid of a third-party candidate (Ross Perot), meaning that he enjoyed a plurality, but not a majority of the popular vote. George W. Bush was reviled by Democrats because he didn't win the popular vote at all, and was handed the electoral vote by a 5-4 decision of a Supreme Court so unsure of its reasoning that it insisted its decision in Bush v. Gore not be used as precedent.
The opposition, in both cases, was fueled, energized, and supercharged to a point of near mania by the whiff of illegitimacy. Both the opposition to Clinton and the opposition to Bush drew power, endurance, and bile from the feeling that the incumbent was a rank usurper.
This obsession with illegitimacy reaches back even further. It is, perhaps a sign of our nation's "maturity," moving us in alignment with the older societies of Western Europe. The culture wars of the past centuries in American history involved more or less newly arrived tribes competing for real estate in the new world.

As these original tribes have sired offspring, the argument has shifted, and in a naked wrestling match for power, the ability to stake a true claim of origin has become a new tool.

This goes a long way in explaining the corner minority and multi-ethnic playwrights and performers find themselves in; legitimacy means claiming a bloodline, a community, to which one effortlessly belongs. Rather than seeing racial identities as invented, they are misidentified as organic -- to admit that your identity is created from scratch during your lifetime is to surrender hard-won cultural ground.

But as the political screeching of the past twenty years has shown, with everyone too terrified to move an inch from their hard-won square-foot-plot of turf, there is absolutely no chance of any collective movement.

So long as you argue that Obama isn't the rightful president, there's zero chance we'll be able to enter a substantive debate over his policies. And so long as we argue that there are mutually exclusive ethnic camps in this country, the stories we try to tell will sail over each other's heads.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

the perniciousness of "I" (playwriting I)

There's a reason theater people get lampooned as a bunch of ineffectual navel-gazers: it's because we are. But that's nothing a little discipline and a bit of cold self-reflection can't fix. Let's delve in, shall we?

Theater is a wonderfully fungible realm in which to work: more than film or fiction, it allows you to gather a bunch of strangers into a dark room and force them to accept the most ludicrous of precepts. There are many self-respecting cynics of the twenty-first century who will cry at the plight of an actor who is clearly pretending to be dead, will accept without question that two actors on stage within five feet of each other cannot hear the adjacent conversation, and will laugh uproariously at a joke they know is coming.

But the fungibility of the form does not conceal when a given effort is flaccid; you can't use the generosity of an audience to allow dramaturgical sloppiness. There are still things that make good theater good. Some basic tenets I think are true:
  • Theater isn't therapy: if you can't tell a mental health professional at $100/hour, don't expect to charge strangers admission to your analysis session;
  • Basing plots on "real events" is the refuge of the unimaginative: no one cares if that's how it happened -- if it's not believable on stage, it doesn't belong on stage;
  • Identity politics is a coward's game: defending writing based on one's gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, health status with you haven't lived my life is no better than that's how it happened.
Theater isn't therapy
(Also looking at you, actors.) Two points. First: the overall direction of therapy is a movement towards resolution: one unearths unpleasantness in order to become whole. Similarly, there is a notion that good theater leads an audience to resolution, which is nonsense. A good piece can lead an audience to murderous rage; it can leave an audience queasy with implicated guilt; it can leave them wishing for a missing scene to tie it all together. It need not end with an empty kleenex box and a hug. There is no time in theater for some misplaced search for universality -- some mistaken idea that all plays speak to all people. (This is dangerously close to a past era when stories and casts failed to resemble society at large in gender, sexual orientation, or skin tone -- oh, wait, that's still true.) Nevertheless, it's nonsense to think that good plays should bridge a gap and speak to everyone -- effective stories are narrow ones: you don't try to tell the history of mankind, you tell the story of one woman and her travails in one day, one decade, one life. The audience can be given some credit to extrapolate as needed. (If they can't, it's the wrong audience.) But don't get too narrow.

That leads me to the second reason theater isn't therapy -- hey, Playwright: don't just talk about you. If you do (as is your right), you'd better allow that it's the audience's right to extrapolate -- and since they're not you, their conclusions might not resemble yours. That is, you might be mistaken enough to think that their extrapolation is wrong. (Woe is you.)

Basing plots on "real events" is the stuff of the unimaginative
You're going to waste everyone's time in order to perform a transcript of ... real life? Are you mad? Reality television is an affront to professional storytellers. If you think the monotone confessional of your neighbor on the bus was compelling drama, by all means enjoy The Rock of Love Bus Charm School. If the only reason you like it is because you can say shitty things about the people on screen without getting your hair torn out, recognize it for what it is: a guilty pleasure, but no replacement for good stories. And believe me, you need good stories. Those lucky enough to be read to sleep used to get this for free. Now we have to pay for it. That's adulthood, people. Hollywood ain't giving it to you. You can rely on them for Dance Your Ass Off and G-Force. Jiggling dancers and talking hamsters. Up to you.

Reality-based dramaturgy is ... really, really lazy. (I'm not talking about good found-object theater, obvs. Relax, I love Anna Deveare Smith and the Tectonic Theater Project and Eve Ensler, too. But they have a bunch of shitty, shitty imitators.) It's either lazy or it's the most egregious example of passive-aggressive bitchiness ever known. You have a problem with your friend's boyfriend? Write her a letter; don't stage a play about how hurt you feel. Unless you're three years old, at an intervention, or in a therapist's office (see "Theater is not Therapy," above).

(Glaring exception: history plays. Another post to come on why I love these. But re-telling a story that's based in fact is different than regurgitating, word-for-word, real events. The best history plays are artfully told lies.)

Identity politics is a coward's game
I'm brown. I think Alan Keyes is a certifiable lunatic, Clarence Thomas is a non-introspective asshole, and Pat Buchanan should be sent to the moon without a helmet. But I'll be damned if all I'm going to write about is how hard it is to be brown (and double-damned if I use a script to catalog all the instances people were mean to me because I was brown -- see "Basing Plots on Real Events...", above).

And hey -- something for all you brown-skinned, t-cell-challenged, and penis-deprived theater practitioners: theater is a straight white man's game. Seriously. Not because they're better at it, but because they sign the checks. You're playing in their country club. You know what happens when you go to the country club uninvited and in too big a number at once? That's right.

I'm not saying dress up like a lawn jockey and to talk like Rochester -- just be smart about your subversive discourse. Unless, of course, you want the reach of your dramatic output to be roughly equal to the crazy guy who screams on the subway waving his dick around.

Don't get me wrong, lunatic dick-waving has its perks -- total creative control, for starters. But accept the fact that the world is a playground for the rich and powerful, and the rest of us pay rent. Doesn't mean you have to say or do everything they want -- but they wont want to bankroll your play if all you're gonna do is bitch.

What we should to is entertain; there is such a multitude of ways to achieve that simple verb that if we took that action as our lodestar -- before soothing our psyches, before educating and browbeating -- it would make our plays, our performances, better. What's not our job? Changing the world.

But we'll get into that point another time. I have a northbound A train to hop on.

Monday, July 27, 2009

are there any limits to presidential power power left? (pt. 2)

and as if the ever-expanding power of the executive wasn't bad enough, now this. From the July 24 New York Times:
Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.
Of course, there's a minor wrinkle in this plan:
A decision to dispatch troops into the streets to make arrests has few precedents in American history, as both the Constitution and subsequent laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.
The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.In the discussions, Mr. Cheney and others cited an Oct. 23, 2001, memorandum from the Justice Department that, using a broad interpretation of presidential authority, argued that the domestic use of the military against Al Qaeda would be legal because it served a national security, rather than a law enforcement, purpose.
Sound familiar?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

are there any limits to presidential power power left?

Lost in the vital -- absolutely vital -- debate about whether the President should call a police officer "stupid" is the question of whether there are any checks left on presidential power. As the party that claims to adhere to a narrow interpretation of the Constitution, the GOP nevertheless has a legacy of being the party that believes most stridently in an unchecked executive.

An incredible piece in Time by Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf gives a detailed account of Vice President Dick Cheney's attempt to obtain a pardon for his aide "Scooter" Libby. It includes this sentence:

Cheney will continue to insist that the Commander in Chief and his lieutenants had almost limitless power in the war on terrorism and deserved a measure of immunity for taking part in that fight.
To anyone with the faintest memory of the Watergate scandal (ostensibly the worst Constitutional crisis this country has ever seen), this is a chilling phrase -- and an argument that no one would have dreamed of making in 1973.

While we wrangle about war crimes and political points and getting mad at each other over the remnants of the Culture Wars, it bears repeating that the fundamental question of whether we have a President or a King is one that is never settled -- it requires continued vigilance on the part of the people to prevent the creeping powers of the Executive Branch of government.

Unless the idea that the concentration of power in the hands of one man and his unelected aides is continuously derided as foolish, small-minded, and un-American, it will loom a larger and larger threat.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

new COItc company members (same people, shiny new titles)

As announced in an email to subscribers: COItc has grown to six core members --
Coordinating Director: Sergei Burbank
Director of Development: Jessica Hochman
Executive Director, Stage and Film: Adam Karsten
Managing Director, Film: Sara Wolkowitz
Managing Director, Stage: Leah Bonvissuto
Director, Readings/Young Artist Development: Marlene Clary
If you've been to more than one of our shows, you already know that this is familiar bunch. Pretty much everyone on this list has been working with us for months, in come cases dating all the way back to the halcyon days of 2007. I'll try to encourage them each to write something for the blog, and you'll be hearing more in the months to come about what they plan to do, but in the meantime, here's a sampling of what they've already done:

Jessica Hochman
For three years she worked as the assistant to the both the Executive anDevelopment Director for the Partnership for After School Education (PASE), a non-profit organization that networks New York City’s after school programs in order to create best practices in the field in order to set high standards for youth development in the after school hours. During this time, Jessica continued to work in the New York City theater community in various capacities as she had been since 2002. Her credits include a two year run as the light and sound coordinator for “The Belgian Summers Sketch Comedy Group”, a monthly sketch comedy show. For the Fringe Festival she was the light and sound coordinator for “The Great Subway Musical” and “Exploring Demetia.” Jessica has been apart of every Conflict of Interest production , as the assistant Stage Manager for the inaugural show “The Danish Mediations,” and as House Manager for “McReele” and “Timor Mortis.” This summer she was able to assume the position as Assistant Producer for two Festival showcases, “Wrestling the Alligator” (Planet Connections Festival) and “The Third Seat” (BoCoCa Arts Festival). Though she has been known to wander on stage from time to time, Jessica enjoys working off and backstage because there are so many unseen elements that are necessary for a show to run, and she finds this work quietly gratifying.

Adam Karsten
As a film director he directed the mid-range feature film, Other Than Emily (2009); wrote and directed the short, Shy of Serenity (Reel Time Film Festival-2008); the television pilot, Miss Swiss (Award Winner Indie Gathering Festival / Gloria Film Festival-2007); the documentary, Ed. L., (New York International Film Festival-2007); and the short, Bored of Education (New York International Film Festival-2006). He has produced and directed numerous corporate and documentary films including: Sprint-Cellphone, HydroTech Environmental, ThomasNet, AKRF, Inc., McKinsey & Co., California Closets, the national store advertising campaign for the Tweety jewelry line, and numerous other company demos throughout New York City and across the United States. As an independent stage director he directed the following original works: Wrestling The Alligator, at the Planet Connections Theater Festival (NYC); The Trouble With Doug with the New Artist's Festival at Goodspeed Opera House; The Danish Mediations (by Sergei Burbank) at the Access Theater (NYC); La Mambopera, at City University (NYC), I Gotta Crow at the Touhill Center in St. Louis; the reading of A True Story Based on Things That Never Actually Happened...And Some That Did, at the Abingdon Theater (NYC); and the premiere reading of Incomplete at the Matthew Corozine Studio Theater (NYC).He is also the Director of Musical Theater at Five Towns College where he directs several main-stage productions each year. He has directed additional New York City productions at the American Actors Theater (Happy Hour), Beckett Theater and Studio Theater (Serious), Sargent's Theater (Much Ado About Nothing), the Theater Studio (Snoop), and at Jimmy's 43, War Crimes (video direction), and the European tour of the musical, The James Bond Story. Graduate of Carnegie Mellon and Lincoln Center's Directors Lab.

Sara Wolkowitz
Sara is an independent filmmaker who has directed both documentary and narrative films. She is the co-founder (and director) of an all-women production company based in Brooklyn, Indecent Exposure Productions. Films she has directed include "Pretty Girl" produced for the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival, and "Chords" which has been shown at a number of festivals including the 2008 Los Angles Womens' Film Festival and the 2008 Hawaii International Film Festival. While at Vassar ('05) she directed a documentary about the organization “City Year”, and her junior year she studied in Prague, Czech Republic, where she co-wrote, co-directed, and edited,"Kinderspiel," named "Best Film of the Year" at the Vassar Film Festival, and seen at a number of other festivals. Sara also has a background in the theater; this includes "Black Comedy" which she directed at Vassar College. In New York she stage managed and assistant directed two off-off Broadway shows with Woodshed Theater Collective. She also directed and co-created a one woman show "Eleanor Is Sibling Challenged" performed at the Magnet Theater. She also had a year and a half stint as the additional Child Wrangler for "Hairspray" on Broadway. Currently she’s directing a documentary, “The Acting Company: Still on the Road 2008-09”. She also just returned from a trip to Kenya filming for a prospective documentary about the organization LitWorld and its work in quality literacy education around the world.

Leah Bonvissuto
Leah Bonvissuto directed Stephen Belber's McReele and Sergei Burbank's The Third Seat, both for COItc. Past credits include Brecht's The Elephant Calf in the late night series at the Jean Cocteau Repertory and A Man's a Man at Mo Pitkins in FringeNYC, both with Giant Squid Productions. Leah graduated from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Drama. Selected credits include Sondheim's Assassins and A Little Night Music, Eden by Marina Shron at Chashama, Darian Dauchan's Texaco's Last Stand for the Ignite Festival at the Ohio Theater and Secrets Women Share and Out of Control, both for the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Her educational direction includes a production of Fiddler on the Roof with 200 middle schoolers and Cabaret and Anything Goes at Saint Peter's College. She directed Crother Spyglass and The Resistible Rise of Fatlinda Paloka as a double bill at Theater for the New City, George Bernard Shaw's The Philanderer at Theater Ten Ten and Monetizing Emma for the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. Leah is a two-time member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab.

Marlene Clary
Marlene Clary is an actor, director, and soprano soloist; she has appeared in leading roles in summer stock, Off-Broadway and regional theaters. Marlene is an experienced choir and theater director though her many years of work at Berkeley Carroll School, where she has been honored with the Dexter D. Earle Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

that's all folks

A well-earned congratulations to everyone who worked The Third Seat. Thanks to a fantastic cast and crew, the staff of Ceol Irish Pub (Associate Producer Jessica Hochman suggests the shepherd's pie), and the BoCoCa Arts Festival. They've put together an innovative and dynamic new festival--here's to many happy returns.

Please pardon the TS cast and crew (a few of us have been working COItc shows nonstop since last September) as we all face-plant into our pillows for the next 60 days; leave a message after the beep...

the madness of race and bloodlines

My goodness -- for a mongrel nation founded by religious nutjob refugees, convicts, slaves, and indigent laborers, we sure are crazed about the niceties of the upper class and the purity of our bloodlines, aren't we?

Henry Louis and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The momentary arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is not a snapshot of race relations in this country. Roughly 7.5 million Americans are in some way connected to the prison system; 93% of that population is male; 70% of that population is non-white. These numbers were true the day before "Skip" Gates spent four hours in a police station in Cambridge complaining of claustrophobia, and they were true after he was released without charge.

Decode Professor Gates' words at the last link: his outrage comes as a member of his class, not as a member of his "race." He is shocked -- shocked -- that he could find himself in this position, although a cursory reading of statistics would show that the odds are not stacked in his favor. Gates shouted (according to the police) or rasped (according to him): ‘Is this how you treat a black man in America?' As a scholar of the history of slavery and the descendants of slaves in America, it's kind of a nonsensical question. Of course this is how black men are treated in this country by the apparatus of law enforcement. So his surprise is a bit puzzling, unless you realize the missing operative word in his question:

This missing word is common.

His outrage wasn't about how he was being treated by law enforcement: it was that he was being treated this way by law enforcement. He is a Harvard Professor standing in the doorway of his home in Cambridge who can identify himself as such with the proper paperwork. But his authority misfired: he wasn't shown the deference of his position. And if you think this is non-Ivy sour grapes, ask yourself: why even say the words? This is my house. That's the important point of fact, isn't it? Why does your job even enter into it -- unless it has a currency, a value; unless it operates as a talisman to make men with guns transform from something you fear into something that fears you (and your lawyers).

According to Gates' own account, upon alighting on his porch, a police officer said: ‘Thank you for accommodating our request. You are under arrest.’ Can you imagine if such gentility was the norm in first responders? Instead, far more disturbed individuals clearly in need of assistance are tasered to death. (Talk about humiliating.)

Professor Gates' PBS specials decode the family trees of black notables: actors, celebrities -- the black elite. The programs help Oprah Winfrey, Chris Tucker, and their ilk -- individuals who don't need grounding in a society over which they already occupy the upper rungs. A much more interesting program would be interviewing the poor, the imprisoned, society's castoffs: I don't see him interviewing Federal prison inmates; how did they get there as descendants of slaves? How does that family tree influence where they are now? Might not sell so well, but interesting questions nevertheless.

True Blood

And a note to all "Birthers," who continue to harp on about the President's birth certificate:

Please continue. We have some familiarity with groundless witch hunts in this country; they always end well for the ringleaders. (Here's a hilarious preview of the madness to come: Lou Dobbs = secret immigrant.) And here's a prediction: the next time this article appears it won't be in jest. (Are you now, or have you ever been...?) The reactionary right has always been good at ideological consistency, condemning their own for the pure evil they see all around them, right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

the hunt continues (or, witches in pinstriped suits)

The most acerbic of the anti-banker hysteria is over, but that doesn't mean we wont kick a financier when they're down (provided we can find them).

I argue in an upcoming article in DramaBiz Magazine (Dancing for the Medicis -- will post the pub date when I know it) that theater artists should hesitate to join in the populist hatred of bankers because corporate giving constitutes a large share of artistic budgets. (To know thy enemy is good, but to know thy funding source--divine.)
Today the Economist reported on its website that there is a sharp rise in financial crime in the United States:
OVER 730,000 counts of suspected financial wrong[d]oing were recorded in America last year, according to recent data from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Institutions such as banks, insurers and casinos are required by law to report suspicious activities to federal authorities under 20 categories. Financial institutions filed nearly 13% more reports of fraud compared with 2007, accounting for almost half of the increase in total filings. The number of mortgage frauds alone rose by 23% to almost 65,000. But not all categories saw an increase: incidents [of] suspected terrorist financing fell. Just under half of all filings are related to money laundering, a proportion that is little changed in over a decade.
(They've got a handy chart as well.) This brought to mind John Kenneth Galbraith's 1955 book The Great Crash, 1929; he chronicles how, in the wake of the stock market's implosion, numerous instances of embezzlement came to light that had previously been overlooked. But there was no sudden surge in financial crime: throughout the 1920s everyone was getting rich--it was just that no one noticed (or cared) how that wealth was generated.

I suspect history is more or less repeating itself. Now, are people resorting to crime because they're in desperate straits? Absolutely. Are cash-strapped homeowners being preyed upon by predators, in some cases the very same people who sold them subprime mortgages not too many years before? Again, yes. But it's the number of reports suspicious activity that's spiking -- any gains today are assumed to be ill-gotten. A few years ago, those same gains might not endure such scrutiny.

Suddenly, we're all checking over each other's shoulders with some healthy, if belated, skepticism. It happened in 1929, and it's happening again now.

Roy Clary Nominated for outstanding performance(s) in McReele

Last night the nominees for the 2009 New York Innovative Theater Awards were announced. Among the nominees: Roy Clary, nominated Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role for his triple-duty work as mourning father Jim Cragen, smarmy politico Donald Smathers, and complacent incumbent U.S. Senator Gerry Phillips (R-DE) in COItc's October 2008 revival of Stephen Belber's McReele, directed by Leah Bonvissuto.

Belber’s 2005 play follows world-weary Delaware journalist Rick Dayne as he rediscovers his zeal, working for the exoneration of death row inmate Darius McReele from a sixteen-year murder conviction. Darius’ magnetic personality makes him a darling of the media lecture circuit, leading to national attention and political viability. The local Democratic Party taps McReele to challenge the Republican incumbent for his U.S. Senate seat, and McReele in turn taps Dayne to be his campaign manager. When questions arise about McReele’s true culpability in the crime for which he has been cleared, Rick’s attempt to salvage his faith in humanity runs up against his all-too-human desire to win at all costs. The piece will maintain as its lodestar the vitally important lesson all citizens forget at their peril: that politicians serve merely as warped reflections of ourselves.

The Fab Marquee's Dianna Martin was enthusiastic but guarded about COItc's revival:
Considering the political climate and the tension, hope, and fear in the air with November 4th less than three weeks away, one might expect the theatres to come alive with political plays.
It is difficult, however, to find the gems that go beyond the generic squabbles of left vs. right; or attempts to re-create yet another Orwellian 1984; or yet another parody of the current administration. Few shows take the time to dig deeper and really develop character studies that portray what could happen on an even much smaller political scale, and the transformation that can occur to people when they try to do good - and are caught between that desire and the consequences that even the best intentions can bring.Conflict of Interest's production of McReele, written by Stephen Belber, is one of those gems. In the rough, but a gem nevertheless.
Presciently, Martin called out Roy's performance:

Roy Clary was a joy to watch, playing three different roles: the father of the murdered teen; the Democrat Party man; and the Republican Senator that McReele was running against. His ability to create three separate characters that were all very believable and very different was wonderful.'s Eugene Paul was a fan as well:
Stephen Belber’s disturbing political play, last seen uptown three years ago, resumes its life on the stage in these more than disturbing political days with a crisp, stripped down, new production that retains its edge and underlines its power to get under your skin, if you have any political morality or conscience left.

Monday, July 20, 2009

third seat pics (or, sepia is your friend)

The Third Seat, part of the inaugural BoCoCa Arts Festival, wraps up our 2008-2009 season. One show left--this Thursday at 6pm! Buy tickets. There's no better way to end your season than in a venue (Ceol Irish Pub) where the audience (and cast!) can drink during the show. It's been a long season. We've earned it.

Karen Sieber's production photographs of THE THIRD SEAT show (again) why she's great and why we use her whenever she's available for our shows (hello, actors: she does headshots. check her out:

Laurel Lockhart

Gamze Ceylan (l) and James Bentley

Laurel Lockhart (l) and Roy Clary

Laurel Lockhart, Sergei Burbank, James Bentley

James Bentley, Sergei Burbank, Laurel Lockhart

Here's the synopsis:

Sean struggles with his grief and drug addiction, living in the ruins of his parents' decaying bar in central Brooklyn. Unable to keep a firm grip on the present, he slips involuntarily in and out of his past, talking to his dead adoptive mother, Estelle, and straight-laced brother, Brian, who died on 9/11; even his drug dealer appears to him only has Harold, his dead father. Sean grapples with the guilt of the multiple betrayals of his brother, and especially by a phone call Brian tried to make on his last day that never came through. Enter Emily, Brian’s widow, who has always been caught between both brothers. She must fight her instincts and get through to Sean, saving him before tragedy claims their whole family.

And here's the rehearsal process, as summed up in Jim's facial expression:

Yeah -- I have no idea either, Jim. (And I wrote the damn thing.) Pass the Guinness. [sb]

(All photographs by Karen Sieber.)

blogs suck -- now here's another one (or, hello)

Dammit, how the hell did I end up here?

There have been a number of times in my life when I've muttered this choice phrase.

  • Drunk and shoeless, giving a graduation speech at the ol' alma mater;

  • Sober and nearly crashing a stolen car into a mailbox on a foggy Ohio road at sunrise (sans drivers license);

  • Luring, via subway, an attempted transvestite kidnapper into a police sting that may or may not have been set up in time on the other end.
All true stories. But blogging? Definite Cake taker. (Cake topper?) Cake something.

Back in my wayward and wasted youth of five years ago, around the time of George W. Bush's re-election, I started a short-lived "broadsheet" as a means to channel the collective despair many of us felt as we discovered after Election Day that most Americans actually believed:

  • Elvis was still alive;

  • the moon landing was faked;

  • the Earth is flat; and

  • all in all, things were going pretty darn well with the Bush administration in power.
(This was the same year Britney Spears released "Toxic," and seemed to really have her stuff together again. How naive we all were, not just the red-staters...)

The "broadsheet" was really an Adobe Acrobat file with articles, poems, and script excerpts by some of us. Stream-of-consciousness writing unfit for any mainstream (print) publication? Check. Self-published? Check. Posted to a website for download? Check. You know what this sounds like. And yet, for some reason, I went out of my way to differentiate what we were doing from a blog, forgetting that if it walks like a duck...

It's hard to remember what exactly it was that made me act such the idiot curmudgeon when it came to blogs. I was buying domain space on the Internet. That's like an old man buying a house next to a skate park and then shrieking at the teenagers to get off his damn lawn with their skateboards and their baggy pants and their music.

I think it had something to do with its (perceived) lack of editorial refinement. Because running spell check makes your writing better and more ethical (right, Judith Miller? Sorry, that's another 2004 reference. See, closer to the turn of the century, there were these things called WMDs...)

Five years ago, dinosaurs like me thought that the real world and the digital world were on equal footing; that newspapers and magazines were just experiencing a dip; that Tower Records would be replaced by another bricks-and-mortar record store. I still called them record stores.

Five years ago, I was an idiot. I was also an obscure wannabe actor with too many opinions about things that are not theater, not enough opinions about things that were, very few friends, and no dramatic work to speak of. Today all of those things are still true. But the one big difference is that I work as Coordinating Director for Conflict of Interest theater company, and so now I have colleagues who do outstanding work, some of it with COItc, some not. We're going to talk about those things that they do.

And the not theater stuff. I still have some opinions on that. [sb]