Posts Tagged ‘theater’

The Serenity Poetry Series

September 6, 2016
PoetsPoetry Readings Have a Long History

One of the more memorable evenings I’ve spent in stage theater occurred at a small forty person theater in Seattle called the Odd Duck.  A playwright, whose name I can’t recall and wouldn’t tell you if I did, had written a piece for the playwright’s group show.  His stuff was very watchable, but violent, bloody and transgressive.  It was also highbrow and stuffed with old Greek myths, all in all a bit crazy.  The playwright himself was somewhat likeable, but largely an ass.  And not only was he an ass, but he worked at it.  We’d go out drinking and he’d work his magic to get us kicked out of the bar.

Of course, he was left to direct his own piece for the show.  No one else would do.  And he ended up firing several of the actors, finally using a last minute replacement, who took on the role because he didn’t want the evening to suffer as a whole.  The short version is that they got in an unspoken argument on stage regarding the phrasing of a line of dialogue.  The playwright, (as I remember), wouldn’t feed the substitute actor the next line, until the actor would say the last line as the playwright felt it demanded.  This went back and forth, with missteps and false lines for a minute or so until the new actor said “this is bullshit” and  the playwright tossed some food at him.  The actor tossed it back.  A French fry flew out into the audience and hit me.  So I picked it up and tossed it back, striking the playwright on the nose.  He turned to the audience and glared at me.

I remember thinking, in a gleeful moment, that this was making all of the big theater productions feel like canned vegetables.

            For ten years or more I frequented playwrights groups regularly.  Actors would read our scripts and then the clutch of us would discuss what seemed to work and what didn’t.  Then, we’d re-write, or not.  Then have it re-read, or not.  Then seek a staged reading, or not.  Then seek a production, or not.  Then seek a better production or not.  All the while internalizing critiques and struggling to make the work better (more re-writes).  The theater is exhausting.  When you witness a musical production (one of the most arduous stage endeavors undertaken) which has finally made it to a prominent stage, you have to wonder what the hell they have left to sing about?  And how they even have the breath left?

The trick is that they work for the parts of the experience you don’t get paid for.  They work the parts without immediate remuneration or audience approval.  That’s where the fun is.  That’s what keeps them going.  (The rest is ego.)  That’s what kept our group of unsuccessfully realized playwrights working.  We were having group sex with each other’s talents.

(Scot Adams in his book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”, nails this in Chapter 6: Goals Versus Systems staring page 30.  I recommend it.)

Aside from all of that, the process of dramatic production is one of constantly preening the narrative so that it meets expectations.  What kind of expectations?  Well, the expectations of others.  The audience has goals.  The audience has expectations for delight, surprise, the exercise of favored emotions, commanding characterizations, heightened dilemma, and a through line which embraces a widely favored public narrative – all of which is either at war or at least in a small struggle with the artist’s very individual, specific take on the world.  You cannot remove the politician from a popular piece of work.  Huge numbers of people all claim (honestly, I would suppose) to hate politicians.  But politicians are the only persons large groups of people will listen to in large groups.  Inside of every successful artist is a successful politician.   They aren’t necessarily likable, or positive influences, but they can claim the support of a vast segment of the population as a group.

The general public opinion of artists who are not successful is that they aren’t any good.  But from my years of experience I’ve found that people rarely persist in doing something they aren’t any good at.  (I was pleased to read that Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, agrees with me.)  And there are a vast number of ‘not very good’ artists out there, persisting.  From my years of experience with artistic habituates, I’ve found that nearly to a person, each artist held a shard of genius… possibly a very slender one, at times no more than the thinnest, near invisible gossamer thread.  But that winning at theater is more a game of poker.  You need at least five good cards which augment one another – plus to cop another phrase from Scott Adams again, ‘the X Factor’.  There has to be something about your work which grabs and energizes a particular set of fans.

Talent plus the X Factor is a rare occurrence.   But talent alone is not.  It is literally everywhere.  And this is what unheralded groups of like minded, unrealized artists mine.  They mine one another’s talent, and cast themselves as each other’s audience.  They enjoy the experience of utilizing their talent and enjoying the products of talent.  That’s not a goal, but it’s the system of these small groups of artists who meet and work and persist.

In Seattle, during my time, there were several groups of theater people who would meet to conduct staged readings of new work.  Most of the groups were formalized with a inner cadre of either officers or first rank members.  They received the readings.  Lower members on the totem pole received readings of lesser length and when chosen.  The goals were to produce work of the first rank.  Their goals were to get plays into the local theater or even more prestigious places.  They rarely put up productions of their own.  And you needed to pass muster to join.

Then, there was my favorite group.  It had no officers.  It generally had only one or two members who had taken it upon themselves to do the administrative and organizational work necessary to sustain the group.  And they generally emceed the meetings.  There were no dues, no officers, no qualifications to join – except that you had to be there.  (One fellow brought in a pretty good play written while living on the street.)  Anarchism was the politics.  The meetings were pretty much “Hello.  Who have we got with something to read tonight?”  Playwrights would raise their hands.  One would be picked and he would pick some actors from the audience and hand them a script.  And then, “Showtime!”  If the script worked, we had fun.  If it didn’t work, oftentimes the discussion was better.  Even conversation is a chance for writers to show off their wit.

What was the track record?  The prominent personalities in the local theater world in town vied to become leaders of the more formal organizations.  And those who reached prominence in these organizations were constantly badgering the theaters in the press about using local writers.  They all had lofty goals and big ambitions.  But these goals were not reached, their ambitions unrealized, and the organizations collapsed.  Five years was about the life span.

My group had no goals, other than to meet and do original theater.   We put on 3-4 shows a year, very few of which were ever reviewed in the local weeklies.  We were referred to as amateurish, without standards, and the artists who came through the group and eventually rose to prominence, nearly to a person, never mentioned our group in their resumes.  But, as I was leaving Seattle, our group still throve, about twenty years along.  And the majority of the local writers who eventually were produced in our regional theater, passed through our group.  This information wasn’t and still isn’t generally shared.

Presently I run the Serenity Poetry Series at a coffee house in Vienna, West Virginia.  My goal is to create a place, much like that theater group of mine in Seattle, where we all have ‘skin in the game’.  Anyone who loves the memorable, decorative, clever, or verbally notable for one reason or another is welcome to attend and share.  (You may even attend if you don’t.)  They might share poems, writings, song lyrics, or even jokes.  They can be yours or others.  Your artistic goals are your own business.  But the enjoyment is ours.  There is no audience to speak of, and this is not a career move.  There’s no fame in it – just artists showing off and exercising their talents.

There’s no audience in it, except us.  And there’s no money in it, except ours.  But to quote Scott Adams again:   “…we all know that money distorts truth like a hippo in a thong.”

And we’re all wondering to see what an audience would do!  Drop by if you’re in the area. We meet the second Friday of every month, 7-9 pm, at the Serenity Coffee House in Vienna, West Virgina.

(If you would like to see more of Carl Nelson, visit:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html  )

 

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Culture

December 21, 2014

audience4

The Audience is a Mob

One of my favorite Sammy Glickisms is, “Talent can get you just so far,” he said.  “Then you got to start using your head.”

One of the things I seem to have to keep learning, and re-learning, throughout my life, is that people take themselves seriously.  This isn’t easy, and isn’t easy especially for a writer to do.  No matter what is said about a character inhabiting a writer’s head and taking over control of their pen – we all know who is calling the shots.  Writers may play about with psychosis, but in the end, it’s still their psychosis.   (This might be one reason I’m often amused by the claim that reading fiction broadens one’s horizons.  Fiction, or any work of art for that matter, is probably the most totalitarian thing out there, with perhaps the most limited view of life available – currently in print.)  Writers do with characters as they please.  They do not need to take their characters ‘seriously’.   That is, the characters have no power over them.

 

On the show, “I Love Lucy”, (which is problematic, by the way), Ethel and Fred and Lucy and Ricky all have their flare-ups, their fights and wars.  But, in the end, another portion of their nature appears, goes to work, and resolves the situation amicably.  This is what can happen when people don’t take themselves too seriously – another portion of their personality can go to work.   In real life however, real people take themselves real seriously.  One clash with your real neighbor, and that could be the end of things.  Two clashes, and it’s probably a cold war.  Three, and “we will see you in court”.

audience6

Why do I say all this?

Well, it’s because that as a writer, and especially as a playwright, who with maturation has the opportunity to experience an audience and mull their reactions – you begin to see that you are strung between two poles.  On the one hand is the situation of you as the talent and as the creator, whose delight is to take characters and run them through their paces, place them in situations, raise the stakes, swing for the fences!  No subject is out of bounds.  No outcome is beyond the pale.  No emotion is suppressed.   No remark need go unmade.  All is made up and needn’t be taken seriously.  But what if this did happen?  That is always the question posed.

On the other hand, there is the audience who are very real, and whom each and every one take quite seriously.  You not only have to capture their interest…  that is, change their focus from their own very serious concerns to immersing themselves in your own conceit.  This is damn hard in and of itself.   But you also must be very careful not to press any of their buttons, that is, to challenge their personal ideology – or they will close you out.  You will lose their participation.

Well, Whitman noted “I contain multitudes”.  And Lincoln remarked, “you cannot please all of the people, all of the time”.  So if everyone is a crowd, and you can’t please everyone- where does this leave the poor playwright?

The trick is it seems, is to find something a sizeable crowd either hates or loves to the exception of whatever else transpires, and trumpet that boldly and with a sense of urgency.  It could be that, “Racism is a profound evil.”, or “Poor people deserve respect.” or, “Don’t be a prude.” or any number of the current shibboleths that hold sway over the makeup of the current theater audience.   In other words, you must use every trick and caboodle at your disposal for turning the theater audience into a mob; a nice mob – you don’t want them trashing the place for goodness sakes – but a mob, nevertheless.

audience1

I experienced an excellent demonstration of this.  At the party following a production of my own, a good friend of mine, using the actors cast, put on a roast of a scene in the play, “Saving Harry”.  He took the scene, which involved salesmen at a large metropolitan dealership, and transposed it to hicks in the rural South.  I loved that scene.  It was a favorite of mine.  And I think the audience enjoyed it also.  But their reaction was fairly muted, throughout the production.

Transposed, the same scene was hilarious.  It got a huge reaction!  And I added a lot of the laughter myself.  I enjoyed it very much.  But what it did was to change the audience from individuals who could think and consider – into a broadside against rural hicks, creating a roaring, rolling mob of ridicule.  And I roared myself.  There’s no getting around it.  But it stands in my life as a very firm lesson.  The audience is a mob.

Why do I take the time to remark on all this?  It’s all just theater, right?

Well, as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage…”

Photos from Google Images

Seattle Celebrity News!

March 28, 2014

Lazzo Laughs6WEb Lazzo Laughs9bWEb

Troupe Comique to Make a Movie

While shooting promo photos for the upcoming Midnight Mystery Theater, (Coming to the Eclectic Theater in May.  Watch for it!), Mystery Theater writer/director and producer John Ruoff, revealed in a private chat that he was planning to produce a full length silent movie utilizing the Theater Comique players.  This is all he was wont to say.  (And, of course, it’s just about useless speaking to a mime, except to say that they appeared very excited!)

John Ruoff / Artistic Provocatuer

John Ruoff / Artistic Provocatuer

Midnight Mystery Theater Players

Midnight Mystery Theater Players

Photos by Carl Nelson

 

The Seattle Celebrity News!

November 12, 2013

Editor’s note:  Here are a couple follow-ups from things happening about town:

Wanda Moats as the DUCK, appeared here with Wendy Cohen as the CHICKEN in WARP Theater's production of Scot Bastian's play, "The Other Side"

Wanda Moats as the DUCK, appeared here with Wendy Cohen as the CHICKEN in WARP Theater’s production of Scot Bastian’s play, “The Other Side”

Our DUCK Goes On to Appearance at the ACT Theatre

Our DUCK, Wanda Moats, has picked herself up off of the roadbed and is appearing as  part of a reading in No Number Home at ACT this Saturday November 16 @ 7:30 pm, and an excerpt on Sunday @ 2:00 pm. Tickets are pay what you will. Love to have you all attend and see our own quacker in another incarnation.

Flame in the Mirror Excels!

Irish Father talks to Son in Flame in the Mirror

Irish Father talks to Son in Flame in the Mirror

Also, I don’t know which Muse our playwright/actor/voice master/ John Ruoff was listening to when he wrote, Flame in the Mirror, but it has broken all box office records for the Eclectic Theater during its run there after a great critical write-up in “Drama in the Hood”:http://www.dramainthehood.net/2013/10/flame-in-the-mirror/

John may have been listening to the right Muse this time.

John may have been listening to the right Muse this time.

Photos by Carl Nelson

Travelling Expenses

November 2, 2012

…and Poet

The Bloke.
I’m not a good bet he said, I’ve been in the bush too long, too self reliant too independent,
I wouldn’t know what to do with a woman’s love.
Don’t get me wrong, I love you, but I think you’d be better suited to city bloke,
I’m from the bush you’re from the city, I’m all dust and hinterland, you’re pale and smell of roses, I love the earth, you love shopping. Our cultures are as alien to each other as the ocean is to the land.

I’m a simple bloke and you’re, well, you’re more than that.
I don’t even know how we met, how you did that, walked into me and took my heart.

I have nothing that you could value apart from my love, and I know that doesn’t work in the city. If there was some way I could change myself I would probably do it even though I know I wouldn’t be happy having done it, if it meant I could wake with you next to me.

The thing is, I kind of function okay on my own. I have no expectations to live up to.
If I spend my last dollar at the pub, I have no one to blame but myself, I can take my own blame but I couldn’t take yours.

So just know this. There is a heart out here in the outback that will always love you, always know you, and every time I have to chase down the herd, or break a brumby, my heart will beat with the same strength that it did when we made love.
You made me know I was a man; you let me know what love is.
Copyright Paul Eenhoorn 2013

Photo from “Sizzle Shoot”

From the Editor’s Post…

October 28, 2012

Editor’s Note:  I was thinking a little bit about plays…

From “Saving Harry” with Chuck Brastrup and Daniel Woods.

Getting ‘Stupid’ Right

The most important part of crafting a play is getting ‘stupid’ right.   Plays can have great dialogue, ready wit, sparkling language, lots of drama, but if they don’t get ‘stupid’ right, there’s a good chance it will not be a hit.  ‘Stupid’ is that thing below all the language which makes everything move.  Some playwrights are born getting ‘stupid’ right and some have to really work at it.  ‘Stupid’ is what young people drink to become.  ‘Stupid’ is what happens in extreme situations.  ‘Stupid’ is what the young woman who has the handsome software engineer boyfriend over for dinner says, after she’s heard about Moore’s Law for what seems the fifteenth reference, as she pours him some wine, “I think,  tonight, I’m going to have to get you a liiitttttle stupid.”

Responding to stupid is something everyday audiences are good at; cultural mandarins sadly, not so good.  Cultural mandarins (and many critics) are like alcoholics; it’s hard to get them drunk; it takes a lot, and when you do it’s often on stuff which will make you go blind.

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 20, 2012

Monolithic Local Theater Continued…

LEVEL ORANGE

If you’ve ever had a job, you can understand how water runs uphill.  The boss points it out, and the workers all nod and marvel.

This is a bit how I felt after reading in this past week’s Puget Sound Business Journal:  “The Seattle area has a long history of supporting new theatrical works, often with great success on Broadway and elsewhere.  Now the drive that built that legacy is gaining momentum with new programs and investment in cultivating art at its earliest stages.”  (I shake my head and marvel.)

“It’s part of a strategy that brings money back to local theaters that own the rights to the new works,” continues Valerie Bauman, staff writer.  “For example, 5th Avenue’s “Hairspray” has generated more than $1 million in royalties since it was picked up on Broadway.”  (I shake my head this time, with greater understanding…)

I have to say that it’s all part of a strategy that’s beginning to take on a form, here in Seattle, as the local News continues to fluff it up.

In my first piece here in The Editor’s Perch on “Our Monolithic Theater”, I pointed out that regional theaters here and elsewhere have no record of ever producing a mailed play script – unless that playwright first had a relationship with the theater.  It was also shown that our local theaters refused to pick up local shows which were clear hits, responding that they had never found one which was right for their theater.

Now, it’s becoming plainer what makes a play ‘right for their theater’.  It’s pretty simple, really: THEY own the rights.  (And they get the million dollars.)

In return, as was covered in our last piece, the playwright gets to talk to other playwrights, access to their copy machine, and also a reading… if monies can be found, and patience is acquired.  All these things, I repeat, which could be accomplished (and probably has been accomplished) by the playwright him/herself within a few days around here – even if they were living out of a box on the street.

The New Works Program at the 5th Avenue Theater, however,  is promising a little more: “The program also provides an opportunity for artists to get feedback and exposure at the earliest phase of creating a script, a song or a performance.  Along the way, they’re paid for their work.  (This is a pleasant sounding way of saying, along the way you are selling your rights to the work for peanuts, so that we get the royalty money and write the plays destiny.)”

 

This is the Brave New World to be of our Regional Theater.  And it gripes me.

I try to get my son to eat more naturally made bread, but he likes white bread.  I point out to him that bread with all sorts of whole wheat and grains still has much of the natural nutrition you should seek in a meal.  But he points out to me the laundry list of nutritional additions, almost as long as his forearm, listed on the side of the white bread plastic sack – while my list is ever so small.

Institutions are like my son.  They prefer white bread.  It’s soft; it goes down easy; it hits that golden mean and it’s got all of its benefits listed right there on the side for all to see.  It has ‘proof’ that’s it’s nutritional sound and will build your body in “12 different ways.”  All ‘natural’  bread has is that it’s natural.  Its list of ingredients is very short.

Not long ago I saw a matinee production of the “Pullman Porter Blues” by Cheryl L. West produced by the Seattle Rep.  The set was good; the acting was good; the direction was good; and the writing was good.  But the story was boiler plate liberal.  The regional theaters have been refining this formula for as long as I have been alive.  The play was 4 years in development.  And I imagine in 4 years a regional theater could really leach out all the natural nutrition a fresh script provides and replace it with politically pure proven supplements.  You may have experienced the audience this sort of racial testimony play attracts: a lot of White people who nod and say, “aaahhh!”, as they notice each of the ingredients the playwright has posted on the side of the package.  And then there is a smattering of well-dressed somber Black people.  And God knows what they are thinking.

Playwright Thomas Bradshaw / Photo by Sara Krulwich NY Times

Contrast this with the plays of another Black playwright, Tyler Perry, whose plays went from small church productions to major venues which attracted Black people by the droves.  His plays weren’t right for the regional theaters.  Or more recently contrast this with the plays of Black playwright Thomas Bradshaw, whose “Job” now runs at the Flea Theater –  a private theater run by the husband of the actress Sigourney Weaver – through November 3rd in New York City.  His material “is best described as life with all the ghastly extremes – incest, rape, racially motivated murder – added back in and depicted in a deadpan style that has prompted both big laughs and angry walkouts,” says the New York Times.  I’m doubting this play had 4 years of development.  It sounds like it was popped right out of the oven… or rather it grew beyond all bounds in the writing and shoved its way out on its own.

Being a writer, all I really want is to have my say, and I’ve had it.   I can’t say I’ve attracted either the audience or critical approval to fill a larger venue, even if one of our regional theaters were to approach me.   I’ll practice my craft elsewhere, thank you.  As long as people love to perform there will be live theater.  So look around, I may be there.  All we need is “two boards and a trestle.”

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 15, 2012

“Hope we get there by curtain time!”

Finding Theater  on a Small Island in the South Pacific

The great thing about live theater is that it can be created anywhere!  with very little… and still work just fine.  Here’s an account of happening on some on a tiny island  in the far away South Pacific:  http://www.sailblogs.com/member/pantarhei/?xjMsgID=244898

From the Editor’s Perch

September 16, 2012

Our Monolithic Local Theater

As a playwright of 15 years experience, I’ve become conditioned to having my the hairs on the back of my brain stand up whenever I hear a theater worker gush about how much they respect playwrights.  I imagine it’s something in the realm of how an African-American reacts wherever someone remarks, “Oh, I just love Black people!”  They suspect that somewhere in this person’s experience there has been a great black maid… truly one of the family

Because my experience in the Theater has been that most theaters like their playwrights either dead or out of town.  Directors will declare it can’t “be done” that way.  Dramaturges will insist that ignoring their advice is tantamount to intentionally blemishing their career.  And the Producers will say that if they do not get their way, although they love the play so much!! the production will be cancelled; the play will be dropped.  If the playwright is not dead, or out of town – they may soon want to be.

 This is because most mid to high end theater nowadays is not creative.  They are production entities.  They are like the copyists of the old-time Louvre.  Known, established hits of the recent season are imported, and the theaters’ job is not to fuck them up.  The critics report on how well they have done this.  “Yes!  In this production they magically recreate the flair of Titian’s brushwork.”  It’s educational.

Copyists

 WELL, all that has changed!  according to a recent article in the Seattle Times by theater critic Misha Berson:  “Move over, coffee: It’s playwrights’ day in the sun in Seattle”.  The larger theaters all say so!  And, apparently, it’s all come upon us quite suddenly.   

 Three months ago in a meeting of the Dramatists Guild at the ACT Theater, representatives from the Rep, ACT, Issaquah’s Village Theatre, and the 5th Avenue, announced that they were now intent upon establishing playwriting entities within their theater’s organizations in order to foster the creation, work shopping and perhaps production of New Plays.  

I asked them a number of questions then.  First, why all of a sudden?  Local playwrights have been doing everything short of tossing bombs at their doors for the past 15 years of my experience in an effort to make just this sort of thing happen.  Their non-committal answer was just a general shrug and a few general statements to the effect that, the time seems to be right, or it seems to be what is currently in the air.

Well, who can really say?

 (This writer suspects that it is the money.  You want to understand any organization, you follow the money.  And major theater in this town has seen patrons and income steadily decrease in numbers over the past many years.  At the next Dramatists Guild meeting the Artistic Director of another major theater in the area said that she had had to let all of her assistants go.  If this is true throughout the industry, then the next jobs to be lost are going to be those of the very people who were  speaking to us.  This can be a motivator.

 

But why, suddenly, are they so chummy with Playwrights?  WE haven’t any money.  Trust me. 

 I suspect it’s either due to a major change in grant or funding priorities among the philanthropic entities, though your erstwhile reporter here has come up blank.  Perhaps they are just getting desperate and are casting about wildly in their death throes like large animals.  Or perhaps, when you take the money away, people become creative… or at least open themselves up to the idea.)

 Well, part of the answer is that they are not really chumming up.  They are allowing the playwrights into their theater.  When asked the benefits of this, the lone playwright of the group who was part of this newly hatched program said, “Well, I get to talk to other playwrights.”  He thought for a while.  “And I get to use the copy machine.”

Let’s see. “I get to use the copier machine.”

(Hallelujah!  I thought.  I have to say, this whole charade was getting me pissed.)

 They all made it very clear that they were not just opening the theater doors ala carte.  They planned to contact select writers with invitations.  These writers would then be allowed to work and talk with other writers somewhere on the theater grounds.  And out of all of this, if the powers that be deemed the product of sufficient quality –  some portion of this would at some point have scheduled readings – when they could be arranged, if the budget was there for them.  And hopefully from this might come some productions.  (Smiles all around.)

 (I was steaming.  ‘I could scratch something out today, have it read down at the Odd Duck tonight, and in a show there, or in the TPS Theater by the end of the next month!’  My ears were blowing smoke.   ‘And all without having budgeted a dime’.  A street person could DO this.)

 And in case they had qualms about the dubious quality of such work coming out of a rundown place such as the Odd Duck?  I would remind them that the two playwrights they so prized, and had produced upon their own stages, and had been just now passing congratulations back and forth about – had passed through just such a scenario at the Odd Duck, in years past, themselves.)

 So I asked them, “Why not just save your selves a lot of time and effort and money and just cut to the chase?  Go see the shows produced around here which have done well and give them a leg up?”

 (I didn’t add, “Because that’s what you do already!)

 It was not just a question of quality, was their answer.  It was also finding the show which was right for their theater.

 “But in ten years you haven’t yet found a show which was right for your theater?” I asked.

 Believe us, we’ve looked, was their answer.

 (This kind of shit just makes your jaw drop.)

 “But Joe Boling, an independent fellow who had tried to see how much theater he could attend within the Seattle area within a year, by attending every day… (They all nodded their heads and smiled.  They all knew the guy.)  …found he couldn’t see all of the productions, within a year, there were so many!  You couldn’t find one success out of all of those produced scripts, over the past 10 years which was suitable?”  I asked again.

??????

Believe us, we’ve looked, was their answer. 

They didn’t blink.  They didn’t break ranks.  You’ve got to hand it to them, when it comes to p0litical playbook, these folks know their way around.  They appear when they are invited, and then they come bearing gifts – to mute any criticism which might rear its ugly head.  That would be unseemly.  And it had muted me.  What I should have continued on to ask was this:

(“Let me phrase this question another way – since it seems you have to be hit on the head with a big stick!   If local theater producing new, local plays has created audience with a series of hits – while your theaters have been steadily losing audience…  Wouldn’t it be more logical to say that perhaps your theatre is not ‘right’ for this town?”)

 But they propped their sagging tits of an argument up this time with a few anecdotes about how time consuming and taxing watching new theater could be.  Which led to the condolences passed amongst themselves, (they were all on good relations), regarding sacrifices that a person makes for the theater… 

 So I figured that was enough questions from me for a while.  Since no other playwrights attending followed up on my queries, I just sat and simmered. 

 The other playwrights asked questions about how one became picked by a theater; how one should best submit their work to the theater, and on and on; just dogs, basically, who were sitting on their hind legs asking politely what the protocol was to be for chasing the bone.  And one thing the panelists agreed upon was that there was no equation to give!  They were looking for quality, and then something which tugged at their heart.  But one thing we could do was to research the theater we were sending our scripts to.

 (A little background here:  The Dramatists Guild recently supported a study of the state of live theater in this country, which caused somewhat of a sensation when it came out around a year ago.  Not only was it shocking how little even quite ‘successful’ playwrights made from their theatrical productions (not even close to a livable income).  What struck closest to many of us (especially me!) was the finding that there were no scripts produced in major theaters around the country from mailings.  The playwrights in all cases that were produced had a personal relationship with that theater.)

 For example, said the fellow from the largest theater.  If I receive a script and it has blah, blah, blahs name on it.  I know that that person hasn’t researched our theater at all, because they haven’t been the literary manager here in several years.  So into the round file it goes…

“You’re kidding me. The guy thinks HE’s still the Literary Manager?”

 (The arrogance of these people just twists me in knots.  At ten cents a sheet, the playwright may have spent $12.00 for the copy, another several dollars for the binder, maybe $3.00-$6.00 for the postage, and then double that amount for the return envelope and postage.  This is not to mention the year (or years) and turmoil spent to write it.)

 So I had to ask:  “So, after you have produced a new play, how do you go about selling it to the other major theaters.  Do you just make sure you get the names correct and mail it to them?” 

 (And even though a person would need be an idiot not to suspect the answer, they were either too blindsided, arrogant or stupid not to suspect I was being arch.  Because they said…)

 Oh no, no.  We try in every way we can to get them here to see it!!! 

 About this they all agreed.

 And then it was pretty much over.  I left without speaking.  If I did start talking, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop.  And also, it was pretty clear that neither the panelists nor the other playwrights were much interested in what I might have to say, might be.

 But to finish up, I think I’ll just say what I have to say right here:

 I agree with Jon Jory (founder of the Humana Festival) that the future of live theater is probably at the amateur, semi-professional level of production.  What I see happening here are the deaths throes of a large, monolithic creation which is currently stumbling under its own weight, and fighting to retain what employment there is.  Large theater as we know it is going down… It’s getting re-sized, re-packaged.  Who knows, maybe even chopped up for its parts…

 (An administrator’s head… maybe an arm?   Here’s a thumb.  Maybe get it bronzed?  Ha, ha.)

 But theater as it’s about to be will be coming to your block.  And who knows?  Maybe soon.

And more about that, later. 

Photos by Carl Nelson of Person and Actors whose sentiments may very well not be mine.

Seattle Celebrity News!

September 12, 2012

Ollie’s Day Out has found it’s legs in actor Arthur Goodman

OLLIE Keeps Going!

Actor Arthur Goodman, who played the role of OLLIE BROWNSTONE in The Dangerous Theater’s production of Ollie’s Day Out recently, likes the play so much he’s touring it to the “over 55” communities in his Denver area.  So – to the delight of his contemporaries – our OLLIE, spindly 84 year old legs, pee stains and all, continues to teach that younger man PAUL a thing or two about talking to a blonde in a bar!   And Actor Arthur Goodman seems to relish the job.  Arthur reports that the play has been “greeted with enthusiasm”.   And he plans to keep performing it.

With 3 actors and one minimal set, Ollie’s Day Out, is a breeze to travel – with a role any elderly thespian with an urge to perform can chew their way through.  Plus, you get to woo a lovely young woman every evening and drink!  If you’re an elderly actor who’s still able to hobble up onto the stage – and hasn’t kicked the urge – this could be the play vehicle for you.  Just contact our office here at Seattle Celebrity News! for script rental and arrangements.  Our secretary is standing (well, sitting, kind of…) by.

Eager to take your calls!

Photo by Carl Nelson


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