Wednesday, March 31, 2010

damned if you do...

I try to avoid much discussion of Broadway-level production -- because, you know, why? -- but an interesting pair of items came to view this past week. First, the news that The Miracle Worker will be closing at a total loss to its backers:
After only 21 preview performances and 38 regular performances, the Broadway revival of William Gibson’s play “The Miracle Worker” will close at Circle in the Square Theater next Sunday, the producers David Richenthal and Dini von Mueffling said on Sunday. The show cost $2.6 million to mount and will close at a total loss to its producers and investors, a spokesman for the show said.
Patrick Healy notes that the production -- starring Abigail Breslin -- was notable for its unabashedly starfucking producer:
Plans for the show drew attention in the theater industry last fall when Mr. Richenthal explicitly shared a viewpoint that many producers hold privately: “It’s simply na├»ve to think that in this day and age, you’ll be able to sell tickets to a play revival solely on the potential of the production to be a great show or on the potential for an unknown actress to give a breakthrough performance,” Mr. Richenthal told The New York Times. “I would consider it financially irresponsible to approach a major revival without making a serious effort to get a star.”
He was perhaps coming on strong in response to the disabled community's unhappiness with Breslin's selection over an actually disabled performer, but at least he was honest about the goals and necessities of commercial theater. He's also wrong.

A few days later, the Times noted the critical and commercial success of Next to Normal:
"Next to Normal" is among the 25 percent to 30 percent of Broadway shows each year that become commercial hits. And while this musical benefited from positive reviews and three Tony Awards last year, several theater producers and directors said the show’s recoupment was as significant as it was unlikely, given the tough subject matter, lack of star performers and shrinking audience in a grim economy.
So good on them. Nevertheless, keeping score on this is akin to taking sides between late night TV hosts. After all, who cares? They're all rich.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sausage Gets Made, continued [All's Fair (Six Western)]

Part of COItc's pipeline for 2010-2011 includes development of the new play All's Fair (Six Western), the recipient of a performance residency at Centrum (Port Townsend WA). Throughout the year, we hope to post the thoughts of various members of the development team and track its progress.

Below, the playwright continues to recall some of the thought process behind the work. (Part Two is
here.)

The details of why I shared the script with Leah elude me, but I do remember quite clearly that it pissed her off. Now that I think about it, we were running up against a submission deadline, and being nowhere near done on anything else at the moment, I grasped for the AF(SW) script simply because it was a completed, if disastrous, draft. Leah was decidedly annoyed she hadn't been shown it before.

As Managing Director of Stage for COItc, Leah more or less has free reign of all my work as an assumed add-on; I didn't want her to feel I was holding out on her. At the same time, I didn't feel compelled to shovel shit onto her desk, which is what I felt this was.

Leah had other ideas.

The most exhilarating aspect to this group has been the evolution of our aesthetic; I can't define it quite yet, but it's there. Timor Mortis, McReele, and The Danish Mediations/slots had different directors and designers, but they nevertheless held our company's stamp, somehow. And one thing I've learned to trust is that if I don't like a script on the page, I can throw it into the middle of the group and watch something remarkable happen. Leah's gut told her she could do something with this script. As anyone who's worked with her knows, it's a mistake to doubt her judgement.

As just as it had been born out of some desire to stretch the framework of showcase performance infrastructure, in discussions Leah and I found that we were mutually tired of the entire showcase process, start-to-finish: the limitations of COItc's budget and schedule made every aspect of the process feel rushed. We wanted to do something that took its time, was better considered, and had time to breathe.

In the truncated timeline which had developed over time, the various aspects of production were stacked over each other in a haphazard fashion: the hiring of actors and designers were to distinct processes that occurred simultaneously, but without any discussion between the two groups until later in the process. That, we both decided, needed to change. Instead of parallel tracks, we were going to get a designer months in advance to help us create a world for the actors to step into from day one.

For that, we needed a designer who not only shared our mutual aesthetic seamlessly, but who had an appetite for a really intimate, long-running discussion about an incredibly wacky setup to begin with; someone who for practically no money at all and very little to show for it in the months -- up to a year -- to come, would still throw him or herself in headfirst. We needed a nut. One of us.

We needed Kina.

Friday, March 26, 2010

oh, david

At least now we know why Marissa Shorenstein resigned. So she could talk to the NYTimes without reserve -- because hoo, boy. The man is just lying left and right at this point:
Gov. David A. Paterson personally helped draft a statement last month that he hoped would be endorsed by a woman involved in a domestic dispute with one of his top aides, proposing language asserting that there had been no violence in the encounter, according to three people with knowledge of the governor’s role.

On the night of Feb. 16, with The New York Times preparing an article on the aide, David W. Johnson, Mr. Paterson told his press secretary the key points that needed to be included in a brief statement that was sent to the woman, Mr. Johnson’s former companion, the three people said.

He said that the couple’s breakup months earlier had been unfriendly but not violent, and that any charges related to the altercation had been dropped.

The language that was drafted, according to the people, was sent in an e-mail message to Mr. Johnson’s former companion, Sherr-una Booker, through an intermediary, a woman who was a friend of both Mr. Paterson and Ms. Booker.

Ms. Booker refused to go along, telling the mutual friend at one point in the process that she would not participate in “a lie,” according to two people briefed on the exchange.

Mr. Paterson, who himself had spoken with Ms. Booker several times in the preceding 10 days, was disappointed that she would not endorse his statement.
Meanwhile, let's not even list the number of things that need to be fixed in New York State's budget right now. The priority is clearly getting a criminal aide off the hook, yes, Governor...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

we'll be mentioning this show a *lot*. get used to it


We can finally announce that we've been invited back to participate in the second annual Planet Connections Festivity in June. (You might recall our award-winning effort last summer. Probably not, though.)

This year we'll be presenting the original play War Crimes in the Robert Moss Theater, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor, on the following dates. You can buy tickets now:

Thurs 6/10 @ 9 pm
Sat 6/12 @ 4 pm
Tues 6/15 @ 6:30 pm
Thurs 6/17 @ 6:15 pm
Sat 6/19 @ 9 pm
Sun 6/20 @ 6:30 pm

Seriously. Buy your tickets. The sooner you buy tickets, the sooner I go back to eviscerating David Patterson. It's win-win for everyone.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

fan-effing-tastic

Some of our friends moved to Austin. Now we know why. A bar in Austin during SXSW:

[via ekai's flickr photostream]

Monday, March 22, 2010

everyone calm down

We have no idea what the true effects of this healthcare reform legislation will be -- either way. So folks readying for their healthcare Utopia/Armageddon...get to work (if you happen to have a job). Not much is changing for a while, so whatever.

The main point for today is this item:
former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama and the Democrats will regret their decision to push for comprehensive reform. Calling the bill "the most radical social experiment . . . in modern times," Gingrich said: "They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years" with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s."
He's factually correct, of course. But the Democrats were punished for being, by present consensus, on the right side of history. Following Ginrich's own historic parallel, health care reform is right for America, but the ensuing misguided rage will benefit Republicans. So ... good on the GOP?

[WaPo via Gawker]

UPDATE: Here's the AP rundown of the bill. Best bullet-type list I've found so far.

Monday, March 15, 2010

new podcast episode

A new episode is ready for download. As always, there are three ways to listen:

(1) Stream the episode below
(2) Visit our podcast page and listen online: conflicttheater.podOmatic.com
(3) iTunes users can click this link


Monday, March 8, 2010

plans for Friday?

On Friday, join us at our sister company Oracle Theatre Inc's latest installment of Truth Be Told (moderated by yours truly, and far more expeditiously than last time).

Press Release below:
Oracle Theatre Inc Presents.......

Join us for a night of new works, as Oracle Theatre Inc presents scenes by NYC playwrights:
Steven Beckingham, Duncan Pflaster, B Walker Sampson, and Ella Veres.

March 12th, Friday, at 7:00pm
Shetler Studios - Penthouse 1
244 West 54th Street (between 8th and Broadway)
12th Floor & then ask for the Penthouse

Cover at the door is $5. A small reception will follow the performance.

"Truth Be Told" is our longest running program, that promotes collaboration and the development of new projects by a variety of different artists. If you are interested in presenting at a future event, please let us know! Join us and continue to support the arts.
For more about OTI, visit the website at www.oracletheatreinc.com

Friday, March 5, 2010

hulu is not cable

I know from personal experience that (a) Viacom does not have a sense of humor, and (b) it likes to crush those it perceives as its enemies, no matter how small. So I was ready to spit some bile at their withdrawal of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report from Hulu, one of my new favorite things.

But, frankly, it makes sense:
The three-year-old Hulu dominates the burgeoning market for online TV viewing, with more than 44 million monthly visitors, according to ComScore. The site’s monthly video view totals have skyrocketed in recent months, from 580 million last September to 1.01 billion last December.

Three of the broadcast networks, ABC, NBC and Fox, own stakes in Hulu. Viacom’s decision may suggest that the economics of Hulu make less sense for content providers that lack equity in the Web site.
Hulu is not Comcast, or Cablevision, or Time Warner -- it's a new economic model. So it makes sense that you can't just throw your content out there and make money the same way. it makes more sense to run your own portal and put the advertising dollars in your pocket -- especially since you don't have to build broadcast towers, lay down cable, or launch satellites.

(I still say than when conglomerates take this pipeline/production co-ownership model out of the virtual world and into the real one, as we've mentioned here, it's still a really bad idea.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

the law needs to change

This is an addendum to the post on our outmoded copyright law.

The dominant narrative of the Apple-versus-HTC lawsuit is that it's really a proxy war between Apple and Google (and as a fanboy of both, it hurts me deeply when mommy and daddy fight). As such, the story will end with an out-of-court settlement worth more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes.

But if it didn't, if the arguments were followed through to their logical conclusion, the Times' Bits blog has some interesting takes on the implications of Apple's patent infringement argument:
Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School, outlines a similar case in his book “The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It.” In 2004, TiVo sued the satellite TV distributor EchoStar, accusing the company of infringing on its patent on DVR technology. After some drawn-out litigation, TiVo ended up winning the case, and a Texas judge ordered EchoStar to disable the DVR functions on most of its set-top boxes. An appeals court is reviewing the matter.

“The judge simply ordered EchoStar to connect to the DVR boxes via the Web and destroy the functionality,” Mr. Zittrain told me in an interview. “Patent law is a completely different universe online. That means if the court were to side with Apple and issue an injunction that insists HTC kill the phone, or at least some of its functionality, they easily could.”
Just as entertainment companies are grappling with selling digital (non-physical) copies of their wares, a company could alter or eliminate the functionality of smartphones in their consumers' hands simply by flicking a switch. Remember Amazon's Kindle/1984 debacle?

There are some voices -- as there have always been -- calling for sanity to prevail:
Eric Von Hippel, a professor of technological innovation at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, [...] said that these lawsuits pointed to a bigger problem with the patent system. “It’s a bad scene right now. The social value of patents was supposed to be to encourage innovation — that’s what society gets out of it,” he said. “The net effect is that they decrease innovation, and in the end, the public loses out.”
We're not holding our breath for change on this front.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

nothing new under the sun? TRY LESS SUN

Aside from all the death and destruction, this side effect is just ... neat (and terrifying):
The massive 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile may have changed the entire Earth's rotation and shortened the length of days on our planet, a NASA scientist said Monday.
The quake, the seventh strongest earthquake in recorded history, hit Chile Saturday and should have shortened the length of an Earth day by 1.26 milliseconds, according to research scientist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
"Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth's axis," NASA officials said in a Monday update.
The computer model used by Gross and his colleagues to determine the effects of the Chile earthquake effect also found that it should have moved Earth's figure axis by about 3 inches (8 cm or 27 milliarcseconds).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

the need to fight on multiple fronts

Trouble bubbling over in paradise -- specifically at UCSD.
Students at the University of California, San Diego, held an off-campus “Compton Cookout” Feb. 15 to mock Black History Month, with guests invited to don gold teeth in the style of rappers from the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, eat watermelon, and dress in baggy athletic wear.

Outrage ensued from the relatively small black student population here and their supporters, who grew more inflamed when a satirical campus television program broadcast a segment on the party and used a racial epithet to denounce black students.

On Thursday night, a third incident, a student’s hanging a noose from a bookcase in the main library, spurred a large, multicultural mass of chanting and drumming students to occupy the chancellor’s office for several hours on Friday and fed a simmering, some say much-needed, debate over race relations.
Which is all well and good, but I don't think it's just race relations that needs to be discussed.

Don't get me wrong -- I do believe open discussion is useful -- especially when it entails an honest appraisal of how to counteract (not eradicate, which is impossible) the prejudices that we all hold in our hearts.

However, I think this flare-up, by focusing on a segment of students who seem to have missed out on a few decades of basic human progress and empathy, misses the larger point. When a person uses satire, it is to voice views they know will be viewed by the larger population as repellent, but can be distanced from themselves personally because it is intended to be humorous, and to show a lack of humor in their targets. This is a popular tactic, with everyone from The Daily Show to The Yes Men on one side, and James O’Keefe to Glenn Beck on the other taking part.

But there's a common thread to true satirist: there is a single agent provocateur at the center of the mission, who uses over-simplified positions to illuminate a larger point. When someone creates an event where an entire segment of people are placed up for ridicule (think this year's Super Bowl ads and their attitude towards women), that is not satire -- it is a panicked laugh.

When a privileged group sees the decline of its power (United States foreign policy, straight white males in the current recession), more often than not that group will lash out in irrational ways to shore up their power -- or at the very least slow it down: (the war in Iraq, popped collars/the inexplicable popularity of Tucker Max).

And make no mistake, this ridiculous event in San Diego was a response -- to the celebratory month, to the election of a black president, to the ongoing commodification of black masculinity in every popular arena.

So was the badvertising campaigns during the super bowl which chose to depict women as emasculating harpies: suburban/rural men, losing more jobs in the current downturn than women, seeing as if for the first time their stagnating wages over the past decade, need someone to blame, someone to hate.

And who better to blame the the coons and c*nts who are making this once-great nation fall into a misegenated mess?

But since lines like the above are still too distasteful for most, we have hate speech masked as "satire". And if you want to be outraged, that's your right. Occupy chancellors' offices, why not? Better yet, skewer it -- like this person did:



But above all, understand that there is a larger dynamic at work here than black-versus-white, male-versus-female: it's the ugly death rattle of a privileged class. They deserve far more pity than bile.

(Especially since bile makes them think they're still relevant, and encourages them to stick around...)

Monday, March 1, 2010

new podcast episode

A new episode is ready for download.


As always, there are three ways to listen:

(1) Stream the episode below
(2) Visit our podcast page and listen online: conflicttheater.podOmatic.com
(3) iTunes users can click this link