Working Title: Loquacious Lucania, How Many Degrees Is He Away From You?

This week Will Leschber speaks to Carl Lucania about all Six Degrees of Separation

As you all know, dear readers, usually we crack this blog open with a fun diatribe about a current event or some personal goings-on, then loosely shoestring-link it to a current SF play and top that sucker off with a perfect film pairing to whet your insatiable appetites. Who doesn’t like structure! It’s fun, right?! Well, blog fans, let’s just forget the formalities this week and jump neck-deep into Custom Made Theatre’s production of Six Degrees of Separation, directed by Stuart Bousel.

Six Degrees of Separation cover copy

I reached out to Bay Area actor and all-around stellar human being Carl Lucania about a film suggestion, as I’m wont to do. Instead of sending a single, well-crafted sentence and being done with it, Carl had the grace and good humor to send over a comprehensive five paragraphs and eloquently over-achieve. Carl, you are my hero! Since he can turn a phrase better than this little blogger, let’s just let him do the heavy lifting. The loquacious, learned Lucania not only provides a perfect intro to John Guare’s play, but also throws in film pairings AND a few cross-disciplinary recommendations spanning literature to fine art. Whew! Sit down and listen up; class is session! …You best just read on, folks.

Take it away Carl!!!

Happy to help…

Six Degrees of Separation covers a lot of ground. At the face of it, it’s a story of a middle-aged, upper-middle class white couple in early 1990s Manhattan whose world gets turned around when a young black man, pretending to be Sidney Poitier’s son, insinuates himself into their lives. Within that framework there’s a a lot of commentary on class, race, art, and both personal and world politics. And it manages to do all of this in a very succinct, smart, and entertaining 90 minutes.

six-degrees color chart copy

One of the main themes we talked about when we started working on it was duality: how a story is perceived is entirely up to the person perceiving it — so there isn’t just one reality or story. As Americans, we’re told that we can be anything we want if we’re smart and work hard. And this story turns that ideal on its head. The central character is very smart and works very hard. But is he just a con man? Or is he living the American dream of bettering himself? And it’s the same duality with art: is Duchamp’s Fountain a brilliant work? Or is it just a porcelain urinal in a museum?

Duchamp with fountain copy

One movie that comes to mind is Mike Nichols’ 1988 comedy, Working Girl. For one, it puts you in Manhattan right around the same time period and it also explores a similar theme of someone very clever attempting to jump class by pretending to be something she’s not. And they manage to work quite a bit of social commentary about being a woman in a man’s world into a fairly standard rom-com with Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver. Plus it has Joan Cusack in one of my favorite portrayals of a big-haired, big-mouthed girl from Queens.

Joan Cusack smirk copy

If you want to get cross-disciplinary in your preparation: go stare at a Kandinsky or Hockney at SF MOMA, listen to a recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats or read Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. They are all referenced quite a bit in the play. And if you haven’t seen Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner then you’re missing out, because it’s amazing.

My plug: come see the show. I got on board because I love working with Stuart Bousel and I knew this was his favorite play and I wanted to be a part of that. Our three leads (Genevieve Perdue, Khary L. Moye, Matt Weimer) carry a big load and make it look easy. There’s a large supporting cast, thirteen of us in all, and not a slacker in the bunch. It’s been wonderful to watch this crew get up to speed so quickly and expertly deliver the goods. I think this one will stick with you for a while.

xo, Carl

Carl Lucania Six Degrees Production pic copy

Six Degrees of Separation runs May 19 – June 18 Wed 7:30pm; Thurs-Fri 8pm; Sat 2pm & 8pm. Additional information and tickets can be found here: http://www.custommade.org/sixdegrees.

Theater Around The Bay: They say that “Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal” , but like…don’t actually Steal Stuff, that is Bad

Playwright Peter Hsieh weighs in on content theft and trying to be a good member of the creation community.

I like Jessie Eisenberg. I can’t explain why but I always have. There was an interview he did on a late night show, something like Letterman or maybe Leno, where he talks about his acting debut in a grade school production of Annie/Oliver Twist. He explains that they did half of Annie and half of Oliver Twist in order to avoid paying royalties and goes on about the line changes and random additional characters courtesy of the drama teacher so that all of the kids had parts. The interview was funny, they laughed about it, the audience laughed, I laughed.

I like Jessie Eisenberg.

I like Jessie Eisenberg.

I’m sure Jessie Eisenberg’s school didn’t make a killing off ticket sales, his drama teacher isn’t wasn’t lauded as some sort of visionary who changed the landscape of theatre, and the victims, the creators of Annie and Oliver Twist, will probably be okay. So is this right? No. As much as I’d love to see a Sunday in the park/Grease, this isn’t right and it should not be condoned (however small the damages).

Josh Ostrovsky: Instagram screenshot clown and content thief.

Josh Ostrovsky: Instagram screenshot clown and content thief.

Enter Josh Ostrovsky aka TheFatJewish of Instagram fame who has recently been put on blast for stealing other people’s jokes and passing it off as his own. When I first caught wind of this I didn’t really know who he was and like most people thought ‘what’s the big deal?’ The nature of social media in great part sharing and reposting things, most people do it. So what’s the big deal if somebody gets a few more likes and follows because they’re the Meryl Streep Swag Lord of finding funny stuff on the internet and reposting it? In the case of Ostrovsky ‘a few more likes and follows’ equates to 5.7 million Instagram followers, a book deal, a modeling contract, numerous brand sponsorships , recently a deal with Hollywood mega talent firm, Creative Artists Agency; all this from blatantly ripping off other people’s material and passing it off as his own. His Instagram account is composed almost exclusively of comedic text and memes that he copy, cropped, and pasted from other people’s accounts sans credit or compensation. He is valued at 6000 dollars a post while a majority of the people he steals from don’t get paid for their original material and aren’t represented by CAA.

Original Joke.

Original Joke.

I’m not going to go into detail about what a talentless, unoriginal, piece of filth Ostrovsky is or give examples of his theft because Gawker and Rolling Stone both have really well written articles that do, and you should check it out if you are curious, but what I will say is that there should definitely be repercussions to dissuade others from following suit. According to Splitsider, Comedy Central has canceled a Television deal with Ostrovsky and in my opinion others involved with him should do the same in order to send a message loud and clear that stealing other people’s work is wrong and should not be rewarded.

…and this

…and this

I recently talked with a fellow playwright who mentioned she will never submit her plays to any competition that requires blind submissions, which is the play with the author’s identifying information wiped, because she is afraid someone might steal her play. I’ve been pretty fortuitous as a playwright and sometimes director. I have never had (or at least found of about) my play stolen or performed without my consent and I’ve only had my one of my plays butchered and one production that blew up in my face over the 50+ that I’ve had the pleasure of being part of. Personally, I’m okay with submitting to festivals and competitions that require blind submissions. Most of the submissions I find on the internet through NYCPlaywrights blog and Play Submission Helper and I also make these submissions via the internet. I’ve heard stories from playwrights who have had their plays performed and even published without their consent and of instances where writers, directors, or actors have failed to get credited. It’s tough.

Social Media allows emerging artists a lot of great opportunities, opportunities to share and promote their works to new audiences, to connect and collaborate with other artists; but with great opportunity comes great (or rather vary levels of) peril. The internet is like the Wild West but with a lot more stupid people and pictures of pets and stuff. Even something as trivial as posting funny pictures and jokes has become a topic of controversy. That someone like Ostrovsky is able to parlay his ill-gotten social media fame into a lucrative comedy career while the people he ripped off receive no credit is something to worry about. Concluding my rant, what can we do to be socially responsible artists? I’m going to close with a few of the basics:

1) Be original. Produce awesome, challenging work that you can call your own.
2) Don’t steal other people’s work. Just don’t do it.
3) Don’t be a dick on the internet. It’s not cool.
4) Community. Be part of it. Create it. Having a positive community of artists is invaluable.
5) Give Credit when it’s due. Do it. Just do it.
6) If you run talent firm, don’t represent content thieves.
7) Support your fellow artists. When you see something awesome tell your friends, share via social media, the artist(s) will appreciate it.

Peter Hsieh is a playwright from San Jose, CA. Currently he is drinking coffee and editing a new feature length play.

Peter Hsieh is a playwright from San Jose, CA. Currently he is drinking coffee and editing a new feature length play.

It’s A Suggestion, Not A Review: Art May Not Be a Democracy – But It’s Not a Dictatorship, Either

Dave Sikula waves the flag of theater revolution.

As I’ve mentioned, one of my favorite pastimes is watching old movies and TV shows. In my case, “old” means shows of the 1950s and ‘60s. (As I write this, I’m watching episodes of What’s My Line? and I’ve Got a Secret.)

"Do you deal in a service or a product?"

“Do you deal in a service or a product?”

With old television in mind, I had another one of those coincidences today that makes writing these posts so interesting.

The first part of it was an episode of Naked City, which was an early cop show. Based on the movie of the same name, one of the things the show (like the movie) was notable for was being shot on location in New York. In fact, the narration of the film (and the first season of the show) mentioned how all the locations were real and that there were no sets. (As the show went on, this “rule” was broken regularly, and obvious sets were used. In fact, there’s one set of a duplex apartment that gets used so much in the second season to represent different locations, that they must have thought the audience had the attention span of a gnat.)

"Look out! He's got an axe!"

“Look out! He’s got an axe!”

The main reason I watch the show, now, though, is that it features early appearances by “New York” actors who have gone on to greater things. (Nowadays, of course, the only way to see New York actors is to see Equity shows in the Bay Area … ) It’s interesting (for me, anyway) to see Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Maureen Stapleton, Sandy Dennis, Christopher Walken, and (my favorite so far) William Shatner as a Burmese sailor with a German accent. This week’s episode featured George C. Scott as a sculptor who had been commissioned to create a statue of a revolutionary leader. In an obvious analogy to Fidel Castro, the revolutionary became a dictator, and Scott’s character came under incredible pressure to stop sculpting and destroy the statue. Despite a cash offer of $20,000, pickets at his apartment house, and even a sniper killing his pregnant wife, Scott refuses to give up on the project because Art is more important than anything else …

Or something.

Now, I’ve long advocated for art that gets people agitated and causes controversy, but this was taking it too far for even me – especially when the sniper shot the statue itself. (Spoiler: Scott keeps sculpting it, plugging the bullet holes with clay.)

(By the way, after searching for images from Naked City, I just want to warn you: don’t do Google Images searches for “Naked City.” Just sayin’.)

The second part of the coincidence actually came earlier in the day when I read this story. In Manchester, England, there’s an artist named Douglas Gordon. He’s won the Turner Prize, but his work seems to consist of adapting and mashing the work of other, better artists and taking credit for the results. (See also “Lichtenstein, Roy”) As far as I can tell, Mr. Douglas has neither a theatrical background nor training, but was nonetheless engaged to direct a show in a relatively new $40 million theatre. (I’ll pause here while my brother and sister artists wonder A) why and how Manchester spent $40 million on a theatre building while our own governmental agencies provide next-to-no support for theatre companies, and B) how and why an artist was hired to direct a play when so many qualified directors can’t get work. Must be an English thing … )

The answer to the latter question may be found on the theatre’s website: Manchester International Festival “ has invited Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon (Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait) and celebrated pianist Hélène Grimaud to create Neck of the Woods, a portrait of the wolf brought to life in a startling collision of visual art, music and theatre.” I guess because they don’t have enough wolf theatre in northern England. (Who does, really?)

Despite the presence of actress Charlotte Rampling, the BBC reported the general media reaction:

The Daily Telegraph said Neck of the Woods had “the unmistakable whiff of a vanity project,” with a script that “simply isn’t very good,” while “Rampling looks terribly uncomfortable most of the time.”

The Guardian, meanwhile, described it as a “humorless and sedate Red Riding Hood retelling” that “takes itself very seriously” and is “so old-fashioned you wonder if Gordon has any familiarity at all with contemporary theatre.”

Well, Mr. Gordon took exception to the notices and decided to take matters into his own hands – literally. The BBC notes that “the show begins with the sound of an axe, and the stage has a number of axes screwed to it.” Mr. Gordon took one of those axes and tried to chop a hole in the theatre’s concrete walls. After knocking out a few chunks, he drew a demonic hand around the holes, then signed and dated the resulting “artwork.”

This guy...

This guy…


...did this.

…did this.

As might be expected, the facility’s management didn’t take kindly to the act and will be allowing Mr. Turner to pay for repairing the damage. (Apparently, management doesn’t feel the benefits of having this uncommissioned sculpture outweigh the chance to get rid of it.)

If you haven’t guessed by now what these two have in common, it’s not that sculptors are stubborn boobs; it’s that there are times you really need to let go and not take your work so goddamn seriously. I’ve never quit a show (I may have once, but I’m not 100% sure), but if someone offered me the equivalent of $150,000 to stop working on one, I admit I’d to consider it. And in the second case, who the hell takes reviews that seriously? Well, Mr. Gordon does, but what anger management issues does a guy have that he reads his reviews, gets mad, tries to figure out what to do, makes up his mind, puts on his shoes, gets a jacket, finds his keys, gets in his car, drives to the theatre, goes in, says hello to the staff and crew, heads into the house, finds a way to remove one of the axes he’s attached to the stage, then attacks the concrete wall of a new theatre because some reviewer thought you were humorless – which is something you’ve just, ironically, proven.

We’ve all gotten bad reviews (and if you say you haven’t, you’re a liar – or an amnesiac), but we’ve all laughed them off or called the reviewer “an asshole who just didn’t get it” and moved on. But this guy? I don’t want to see anything by this guy.

There was actually a third story I also heard about this week, but it’s one that will go unmentioned because there are things I just can’t – or shouldn’t – talk about. Suffice it to say that, when I saw a quote on Facebook (and I hate quotes on Facebook) that said something to the effect of “Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right,” I took it to heart – and that comes from an opinionated hothead.

To bring my headline into this, no, Art isn’t a democracy. If you solicit opinion before making a movie or pander in an attempt to make everything appeal to the lowest common denominator, you’re just going to end up with a bunch of bland crap. (Although I have to admit this formula has been working for Disney for decades.) You’ve got to be bold and individual, even at the risk of offending people. I know I’ve seen a lot of stuff I didn’t like, but (in most cases) it was because I didn’t agree with the choices the director made. I’d rather watch an evening of bold, stupid choices than a bunch of stupid non-choices. At least the first one makes me think of how I’d do things differently.

On the other hand, if you’re so bloody-minded and determined to make art that, if you’re criticized or corrected, your only recourse is to hit a building with an axe or let your wife get shot, well, that’s another stupid choice.

Everything Is Already Something Week 57: How to Be an Artist in 11 Easy Steps (or 1 Really Hard Step)

Allison Page is an artist. OR IS SHE?

STEP 1:
BECOME INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT TO BE AROUND
Your friends, acquaintances and total strangers are sure to notice you’re becoming an artist the moment you start parting your hair really far on one side and talking about yourself all the time. Good talking points are — “No, I wouldn’t know about that. I’m just always writing, you know?” as well as, “Don’t you just love Brecht?”

STEP 2:
DON’T SMILE EVER BECAUSE ART ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE FUN
If you’re going to be an artist, you better turn that smile upside down. Art is hard, man. It’s supposed to be a struggle. You think Edgar Allan Poe was having a GOOD TIME? Oh yeah, Van Gogh was just YUCKIN’ IT UP. No. If you’re going to art, and you want to art GOOD…you can’t smile. Everybody knows that.

Vincent Van Gogh: Laugh Riot.

Vincent Van Gogh: Laugh Riot.

STEP 3:
CONVINCE YOURSELF YOU’RE DONE LEARNING
Hey, you know everything there is to know about your art. Don’t ever let anyone convince you there might be more than one idea about something. Someone else makes some art? YOU MUST SEE NO MERIT IN IT. Unless that artist is from the 1800s. Then it’s okay but only because they’ve been dead forever so they can’t be real-time competition to you. #SarahBernhardt4Life

STEP 4:
ONLY MAKE LIKE FOUR THINGS EVER
Listen, who cares about watching your art grow over time through trial and error; success and failure? NOBODY. THAT’S WHO. Spend three decades on one precious thing you think is a goddamn masterpiece. After all, you only want to be popular after you’re dead, anyway. That’s how to REALLY art. Throw everything else in the trash.

STEP 5:
DEVELOP A MYSTERIOUS SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROBLEM
Opium is always a good choice. It’s niche enough to be interesting, without the flamboyant flashiness of coke. If it’s good enough for Sherlock Holmes, it’s probably good enough for you.

STEP 6:
MEN: GROW A BEARD
Hemingway. I rest my case.

WOMEN: PUT YOUR HAIR IN A BUN ON THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD
Topknots keep your face tight and emotionless, like an empty shell and also an artist. If this doesn’t work for you, cut it reeeeaaal short.

Get it, Gertrude!

Get it, Gertrude!

STEP 7:
GET YOURSELF ABANDONED BY A LOVER
It’s okay if you didn’t even like them that much and it was kind of a mutual thing, you can just lie about it. Keep the details foggy. If someone gets too inquisitive, get a far-off look in your eyes, and mumble something about the ocean.

STEP 8:
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, NEVER TAKE FEEDBACK
Treat all feedback the same way: like it’s coming from a talking horse. Whether it’s from the most well-known artist in your field, or from your “friends” and “loved ones”, tell ‘em all to fuck off. Then lock yourself in a room and X their eyes out with a sharpie in all your photos. Resist the urge to change even if you think they might be right and just trying to help you. THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK.

STEP 9:
DATE SOMEONE WHO WEARS A TRENCH COAT AND TREATS YOU LIKE DIRT
Insist they’re “unique” and “troubled” and “so talented” but never say what kind of talent it is.

STEP 10:
EMBRACE AN EXTREME AND CONTROVERSIAL POLITICAL VIEW
If you can somehow manage to make it sound like women are werewolves or witches, that should help.

No caption necessary.

No caption necessary.

STEP 11:
JUST BE A DICK, ALREADY
Be mean for the sake of being mean. Ridicule everyone else’s work. Drop a kitten out a window. Befriend a 19 year old so that when you’re dead, that ONE person can talk about how kind you were, but also just hard to understand because you’re so “interesting”. They’ll write a memoir about you and though they’ll get some slight fame out of it, console yourself with the fact that you’ll be much more famous than they will. Of course, you’ll be dead, but that’s how you wanted it anyway, because you’re an artist.

For those who feel like this is not the strategy for them, there is an alternative.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST IN ONE HARD STEP:
Make art.

20120627

Allison Page is a writer/actor/co-creative director at Killing My Lobster in San Francisco.

Everything Is Already Something Week 48: I MADE IT!

Allison Page, sliding under the finish line.

You’ve heard it before: “I can’t wait until you’ve made it and I get to say I knew you back when…” Well, I am happy and proud to say that everyone who’s ever said that to me can cash in on that statement because I MADE IT, BABY! That’s right. I have reached the tippy top goal. I have climbed the mountain and am standing at the top with a flag pole and the flag is waving in the wind with my visage printed proudly on it. And what is the goal? What have I accomplished? Am I on Broadway? Or in a Scorsese movie? Or in a Broadway adaptation of a Scorsese movie directed by eight of my personal heroes?

US director Martin Scorsese poses during

No.

I’m working on things I’m passionate about.

OH SHIT THAT’S SO DISAPPOINTING, ISN’T IT? Sorry, cab driver from two years ago who is waiting to brag about my fame – that’s my version of making it. I don’t have those other goals. All I want out of being a theater artist is to be a theater artist. Would a trillion dollars be cool? Yeah, obviously. I’d love to fill a yacht with caramel sauce – who wouldn’t? But I am in no way, shape, or form attempting to make that happen. I want to work on things I care about…and that’s all. I just want to always do that. But nobody wants to hear that. That’s not sparkly and fun. And it’s maybe a little too easy, some might think. I mean – it isn’t – so those people are stupid, but they’ll still think it along with “I wonder what mud tastes like.”

I’ve felt this way for quite a long time. I doubt I’m the only one, either. But it sure seems hard to understand if you ask my grandma. (Other things that are hard for her to understand include “Why won’t you eat my sauerkraut salad?”) Every person working in some sort of artistic field goes home for the holidays and has to answer some questions. Except those few people that come from a family of other artists who totally get it, and even then they’re still your family so there’ll be something somewhere they don’t understand about your life. But the truth is, grandma, I’m doing exactly what I want to do right now.

I heard this great/cheesy thing yesterday: “Don’t wait for someone to discover you. Discover yourself.” UGH, SO CHEESY.

get-attachment-1.aspx

But I totally agree with it. Everyone’s got their own goals and dreams and hopes, but I’m not trying to climb any ladders. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t do that, if that’s what you want to do. And that also isn’t to say that if some giant thing came along I wouldn’t do it. If Scorsese comes knocking, cool. But I’m not waiting for that. How awful would that be? If I spent my whole life waiting for something to happen when in reality I fully have the power to just do shit myself? And that isn’t the sound of me settling either. I can see how someone could say that (GRANDMAAAAA!) I actually am truly fulfilled doing the small and mighty things, because they don’t feel small to me, they feel important.

Oh God, this is too inspirational. I can’t go on much longer. The point is – I MADE IT! Someone play a trumpet for me! Roll out the old bath towel – we can’t afford one of those long red carpets to walk down – and let’s get this party started!

get-attachment-2.aspx

No, but really, I have to go figure out how to raise a few thousand dollars for this show next year otherwise the set will be made out of cardboard. Heyyy, cardboard set. Not a bad idea.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director/person who exists in real life as well as on Twitter @allisonlynnpage.

It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: “It Looks Like (Pause) A Small Controversy. Bad Luck to It!”

Dave Sikula, king of controversy.

I ended our last meeting with a question from the estimable Eric L. of Oregon:

“How do you think this incident compares to the Beckett’s objection and legal action against Akalaitis’s production of ‘Endgame?’”

I’m glad Eric asked me the question, since I’d forgotten that particular incident.

Musing it over (thinking isn’t good enough, of course), I have a few thoughts and observations.

In 1984, Ms. Akalaitis was hired to direct a production of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” for the American Repertory Theater in Boston. In spite of Mr. Beckett’s well-known insistence on his plays being done exactly as he had written them, Ms. Akalaitis determined that the play not only needed to be moved from its creator’s stark setting (“Bare interior. Grey light. Left and right back, high up, two small windows, curtains drawn. Front left, touching each other, covered with an old sheet, two ashbins”) to what the New York Times described as “an abandoned subway station, layered with trash as well as a derelict train,” she also added an overture and underscoring by minimalist composer Philip Glass (coincidentally, her ex-husband) that was, to quote the Times again, “peripheral but supportive, a fierce scraping, like the sound – to extend the underground imagery – of a subway car careening off the track at high speed.” Hardly the post-apocalyptic wasteland Beckett describes.

 ART's "Endgame."

ART’s “Endgame.”

It’s unclear from my research whether Mr. Beckett was asked in advance if the changes were permissible or learned about them by reading ART’s publicity — the Times, in the review linked to above, summarizes the production as “Nuclear Metaphor ENDGAME,” so the cat may have been out of the garbage can well in advance – but, regardless, when he found out what Ms. Akalaitis intended to do, Mr. Beckett hit the metaphorical can lid and filed suit to stop the production. A settlement was ultimately reached, and a statement from the playwright was inserted into the program:

Any production of Endgame which ignores my stage directions is completely unacceptable to me. My play requires an empty room and two small windows. The American Repertory Theater production which dismisses my directions is a complete parody of the play as conceived by me. Anybody who cares for the work couldn’t fail to be disgusted by this:

As the author intended.

As the author intended.

Beckett also objected to black actors being cast in two of the play’s four roles, which caused Robert Brustein, the then-artistic director of ART to bemoan the playwright’s apparent racism:

I was really astonished. Beckett was a playwright who we revered. We were shocked. We had black actors in the cast playing the parts of Ham and Nagg, and we were most upset about his objection to that.

Was Beckett a racist? Who knows? Given Beckett’s boycotting of apartheid-era South Africa and his concern for human rights, the charges are doubtful. Critic Thomas Garvey of the Hub Review defends him, noting:

Beckett always disapproved of productions of his plays that “mixed” the races (or the genders in ways not specifically described), because he felt that power relations between the races and genders were not a part of the artistic material he was trying to present, and so he wanted to leave them out entirely, as he felt they would inevitably draw attention in performance from his central concerns. He was happy, however, to see all-black productions of his plays – or all-female productions of single-sex scripts like “Waiting for Godot.”

"Waiting for Godot" in New Orleans -- heaven only  knows what Beckett would have made of this one.

“Waiting for Godot” in New Orleans — heaven only
knows what Beckett would have made of this one.

(At this point, I’ll just note the cross-gender casting in Alchemist’s “Oleanna.”)

It should also be noted that Mr. Garvey didn’t have much use for Ms. Akalaitis’s production, saying that she’d “pasted her usual dim downtown appliqué onto ‘Endgame’ – she dopily literalized its sense of apocalypse by setting it in a bombed-out subway station … it proved to be bombastic and, well, stupid).”

Now, with all of this in mind, two things occur to me – but, since I’m 600+ words into this – and am beginning to enjoy my reputation for taking forever to get to the damn point – I’m going to deal with them next time.

Everything Is Already Something Week 36: The Day The Theatre Died

Allison Page gets serious for a moment. Not really.

It’s hard out there for an artist. It’s even harder out there for a company of artists. If you were a theater company, and standing in a room with a bunch of other theater companies, I would get up on a collapsible stage and say, “Everyone look to your left. Now everyone look to your right. Some of these people will not survive the next few years.” and everyone would either go “Oooooo.” or “Uh oh” or roll their eyes, or laugh awkwardly, knowing it’s true. The theater community has been shaken up even more than usual lately. Intersection For The Arts, San Jose Rep…there are more fatalities and you’ve seen and read about them, I’m not going to go on about who they are, the point is – we’re dropping like fucking flies over here. And I really hate saying this, but the more I think about it, the less surprised I am.

Remember Vaudeville? No? Oh, that’s because it’s been gone since the early 1930s. People didn’t want to consume their entertainment the same way they had been, and with movies easily accessible everywhere, Vaudeville fell out of the interest of the public.

The ONLY Theatre In Los Angeles!

The ONLY Theatre In Los Angeles!

In a twist of fate, movies took the same blow they had dealt to Vaudeville when television came into play. People could be entertained in their own homes for free, and movies became a less frequent event in the lives of many. With the improvements made to all-things-internet, many people now don’t even bother with traditional television and watch things directly from their computers, tablets, phones, or have the images grafted directly to their eyeballs for all of eternity, or however the hell a google glass works.

I love theater, and I don’t think it’s dead, but I do think it has moved back into its parents’ basement much to the chagrin of the entire family. I feel frustrated that it can almost never sustain itself without resorting to asking for lunch money which it then uses to buy case after case of Miller High Life.

get-attachment-2.aspx

I hate that even the most successful theater in the area, a theater with lots and lots of seats, shows and actors imported from New York and wherever else, still has to fundraise huge amounts of money (recently $100,000…a number I can’t even think about) to make things happen. But I guess that’s something that brings up a discussion about whether or not theater is both an art form AND a business (regardless of non-profit-ness). A business which requires yearly (or more frequently than that) gigantic gobs of money in the form of donations, doesn’t sound like a particularly well-run business to me. And I hate the thought of always scrambling, wondering if you’ll be open the next season, and knowing that if you don’t raise X amount of money with your elaborate Kickstarter campaign of relatively meaningless perks and rewards, that things could get very sticky for you and yours.

Maybe that sounds harsh, I don’t know. I feel frustrated with the state of things lately. I hate begging for money. More than that, I hate needing to do it. I hate that this thing that can bring a little happiness and magic to a bunch of lives all at once, doesn’t seem valuable enough to pay for itself. Obviously costs in the bay area aren’t helping anything. When I started a theater company in Minnesota, I did get a grant. A one time grant which was, I believe, around $1,000. I used it to buy a lot of basic things which we used to build a stage, build a set which could be moved around to create a different set, and generally to get things going. That’s the only grant I ever applied for. After that, I used the money earned from each show to put up the next one (supplemented by some of my own cash, for which I would try to reimburse myself later). I did that for five years. A theater company existing for five years having received only one grant? That’s pretty fucking great. But that would be really hard to make happen here. The cost of just renting the space in which to perform for a few days is more than the entirety of the grant I received in 2003.

Perform in our great new Abandoned Asylum - er - Brand New Theater Space for only $7,200 a week! WHAT A STEAL!...Extra $2,000 if you need someone to operate the light board. And you definitely need someone to operate the light board because it's made out of bones.

Perform in our great new Abandoned Asylum – er – Brand New Theater Space for only $7,200 a week! WHAT A STEAL!…Extra $2,000 if you need someone to operate the light board. And you definitely need someone to operate the light board because it’s made out of bones.

When Kickstarter became a thing, artists went bananas. Finally, a great way to crowdsource funds to make your dream happen. It was a revelation. Initially I think it felt like an amazing way to make someone’s biggest, most long-awaited aspiration come to life…and now it’s everyone’s biggest aspiration THIS MONTH. So instead of feeling like we’re supporting a one-time artistic dream project, it feels like everyone wants us all to pay for every single thing that they do. It’s overwhelming. I should mention that I contribute to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns all the time. When I see a project I like, or when a frequent collaborator or friend is working on something, I donate to it. But I’m definitely starting to feel like it’s going to be too much at some point. Particularly when the numbers start ticking up and up and up. I miss the scrappy days of yore. Scrappiness is a trait I really admire in others, and something I try to exercise in my own life. The pilot episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, shot by the guys who thought it up, was made for a famously small amount of money. Depending on who you ask, it was somewhere between $85 and $200. Meanwhile, I know a guy who just tried to crowdsource $60,000 for his independent film. I’m not suggesting he should make it for $200, but I am suggesting that $60,000 might be too much to as your friends to pay for. And as it turns out, I’m right. Because his campaign was unsuccessful and his donations added up to only $5,000 and because it was done on Kickstarter, I’m assuming that means he got a whopping $0. And this was a campaign which included some moderately fancy names.

I don’t know. This feels like a time of change and uncertainty in the performing arts. I’m not sure what the next chapter holds for us. I will continue to support the projects I care about (for example, the SF Olympians Festival, which supports the work of over 100 artists every year: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/san-francisco-olympians-festival-v-monsters-ball ) but I wonder what funding for theatrical projects will look like in even two years. When will people start to feel maxed out? Is there a better way to do this? Are we making things too big, too complicated, too expensive for their own good? For their own sustainability?

I don’t have the answers, but I am working on them in relation to my own projects in the next year. I’m spending lots of time and energy trying to find a way to not spend every available dime, and to be a nimble creator of nimble things. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t have any other choice. Money doesn’t grow on fake trees even if you spend $10,000 to build them.

Allison Page is an actor/writer/director, and Co-Creative Director of Killing My Lobster. You can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage.