Monday, February 25, 2008

Hot Sexy Models? I think I'd actually like to snuggle with an older model

So, people are clamoring for a new model? A new model for making theatre? There is a lot of diatribe about tribes. Alot.

So tell me in 250 words or less how you are going to change theatre for the better?

"But, I can't do it in just 250 words?" Well then, you're dead at the starting gate.

How are you going to change theatre? I'm not opposed to change. But, all this talk of tribes seems to me to be more of a return to the old ways (Living Theatre, Hoffman School of Byrds, Wooster Group, Judson Church)...and I like that but...

I don't need a sound bite, but I need a simplification please...it is getting a touch too pedantic for me.

Please. How? I don't need someone to tell me...please read these five books...please read my 25 part post on the issue...I need some to excite me and inspire me with their succinctness, sincerity, and simplicity.

27 comments:

Tony said...

Here's my shot at a 250 word summary (that's a tough assignment:

We live in a fractured society; few know their neighbors; people are clamoring for community. I look toward a theatre that explores how stories and the art of storytelling can cross cultures, heal old wounds, reconnect peoples, create communal experiences and forge new paths forward. A healthy theatre should be a gathering place, like the town-squares of old; one that provokes and entertains, wounds and heals, challenges and affirms.

Instead of the institution dominating the stage, the meeting of actor and audience sharing a story should dominate the institution. All should be paid what they earn together, equally—while sharing an equal burden for operating the theatre. All involved need to actively work at getting people in to see the show. We need to work as hard, if not harder, at this than at making a show. If one refuses to help earn revenue, they should not share in it.

We need to open the closed-loop of theatre folk primarily/solely doing theatre for other theatre folk. The image of the lone artist needs to give way to the image of an artist communicating with his/her community.

If theatre can truly peer into our collective consciousness, our nightmares and ecstasies, the tragic and comic—it must be done collectively. Art and entertainment should find their way back to another in the stories that give rise to both. We must see past the veneer of entitlement--if we expect people to see our work, we have to give them something worth seeing.

Devilvet said...

Tony,

Well written, kudos on the eloquence. However how does this "change" theatre or the theatre model?

The first and last paragraph seem to me to be describing the act of making theatre. So even though on a wider perspective I admire those paragraphs for their eloquence, I don't think they address my original inquiry. I think that they are very generalized statements that could apply to the intent or mission of the majority of companies out there.

Now, the second and third paragraph are a start towards answering my question. They proclaim a goal or intent toward action that seems to be aimed at "change" the first changing the economic model, the second addressing a change within the audience...

"the meeting of actor and audience sharing a story should dominate the institution. All should be paid what they earn together, equally—while sharing an equal burden for operating the theatre. "

and

"We need to open the closed-loop of theatre folk primarily/solely doing theatre for other theatre folk."

I can't make people respond the way I want, but I can say if I had my druthers, I'd ask you to focus more on how you intent to accomplish the goals in paragraph 2 and 3.

GreyZelda Land said...

Here's my sound bite ...

Sings: I'm fucking Matt Damon!

Have you seen that Sarah Silverman video? It was on Jimmy Kimmel? He responded with one about his relations with Ben Affleck?

That's where my brain goes these days when I start reading Scott Walters' blog, for example. It just starts bopping around to silly Sarah Silverman songs.

I look forward to reading what people write while I just keep on doing what I do ... making theatre that is truthful to me and my little group so hopefully it resonates with others as well and also watching videos on youtube.

=)

RZ

Devilvet said...

RZ,

To be fair to Scott, he is not the only one. Alot of bloggers are on the new model. I think Scott is a wealth of content, but I am hoping for a more concise approach. I do glaze over sometimes when I go to Scott's blog, the way I glaze over at a board meeting, etc...Not becuase I'm in opposition to what he is saying, but rather becuase it starts to sound like Lucky's monologue in Godot to me after a while.

Nick Keenan wrote that he was interested in forwarding the conversation, and I agree. I guess I am also asking for a concise description not of the message (I get the nessage) but of tactics towards the perceived goal.

We are reading alot of monologue and manifestos...I'm interested now in an evolution towards conversation and debate (devoid of emotive contention) about the tactics.

P.S. Sarah Silverman is not the answer ;(

GreyZelda Land said...

"Sarah Silverman is not the answer."

That just made me laugh out loud.

I'm with you on the next tactical steps.

What are your ideas on possible actions?

I would be curious to start talking about what theatre companies think they're doing right instead of constantly talking about how we're doing it all wrong and how we should constantly be fixing ourselves. If we could collect those positives and see if they could make that new model, that could be helpful.

RZ

Tony said...

"I'd ask you to focus more on how you intent to accomplish the goals in paragraph 2 and 3."

Yes.I concur. No idea how to fit that into 250 words or less.

Devilvet said...

Well, it is too late right now...but I think with the next mammals production,

1) I am going to invite folks from instant theatre at Chicago Dramatists or The Write Club to do a 5-10 minute piece before the next mammals show. Both of these groups generate alot of short play material.

2) I also like the idea of theatre companies committing to black box approaches and co-producing evenings of one acts. Imagine an evening where Mammals, Greyzelda, and WNEP each do a 30-45 minutes piece with a brief intermission between. No set or very low set, costumes and lights...

3) I also like the idea of co-production collage, sort of equisite corpse where different companies work on low tech langauge and character driven shorter works together.

Build art as a community rather than as a bunch of seperate entities.

These are my ideas thus far.

Devilvet said...

"I'd ask you to focus more on how you intent to accomplish the goals in paragraph 2 and 3."

Yes.I concur. No idea how to fit that into 250 words or less.


Why not? Give me an outline then. Can you outline tactics in less than 250 words? I'm not trying to be combative, but if you can't... Tony you should seriously expect that to be the major obstacle to you enacting change.

I am already convinced your goal is noble... now....how....just the facts.

GreyZelda Land said...

I'm totally with you, Bob. I think building up the community and collaborating more with each other will be incredibly beneficial. We'll start sharing audiences, generate new ideas and inspirations, etc.

RZ

Tony said...

To play devils advocate: why the need for such brevity.

Do you know of one piece of writing of less than 1000 words that truly begat change?

Scott Walters said...

At the risk of making your eyes glaze over (I know! All those big words!), I'll take a stab:

1. Decentralization. Get out of the major cities and gather somewhere else that isn't already choked with theatre. No drive-by guest artists from Nylachi.

2. Localization. Form an ensemble that will stay together for a while. Preferably with at least one resident playwright attached who writes plays for the ensemble. Become an active member of the community. Listen.

3. Tribal economics. Pool income. Take out what you need to survive. Each member brings more to the table than their theatrical specialty. Ensemble controls ancillary income. Everyone does everything.

4. Education. Teach young artists the entrepreneurial and collaboration skills needed to control their own artistic lives and truly co-create.

There -- 142 words to spare.

Model doesn't appeal to you? No problem - nobody has a gun held to your head. Stick with what works for you. If you'd like to try something new, this is a start.

Devilvet said...

Tony,

I think that I want brevity for a few reasons.

It encourages a little more call and response...conversation versus the monologue or manifesto.

I am interested in action. I am interested in breaking things down into digestible, actionable pieces.

One of my teachers at college when speaking of theatre said "half as long, twice as good"

The longer one speaks the monologue or manifesto... the longer it takes to get to a conversation.

I acknowledge the need for the monologues. Now, I am saying lets think in dialogue about how we are going to work together

Long, monologue=you performing for me

Shorter, more succinct better enables conversation between us...that is why I want it short (not necessarily so sweet)

Changing the theatre model requires the participation of non-theatre folk in your paragraph 3. They'll insist we succinct. I do think that movements and change starts on well thought out foundations, but it has to get to a place where the message is precise. Or people tune it out. There is nothing combative or dismissive about my voice when I say, hmmmmm....interesting... now get to the point.

Human nature, the nature of motivation, and media I think support my notion toward succinctness. 250 words was an arbitrary choice..My goal is keep it succinct.

Less rhetoric more discussion.

Isn't it obvious that the movement will have to evolve in that direction?

Devilvet said...

Scott,

Thanks for 142 words. It would be my hope that you don't see this post as combative or dismissive. I am not questioning the value of your goal. Or even the value or your posts. I welcome more discussion. And ask that you acknowledge that I buy the message. Now, lets take it to a new step a new level. I think that level demands succinctness. I'm not telling you, you have to start making shorter posts ;)

I sincerely believe that in order to enable more people to act on changing the model, we build on the bulk of rhetoric with with specific recipes.

Maybe that's an interesting notion. Every recipe I incredibly succinct.

Can't we see how that enables the "movement"?

Paul said...

"To play devils advocate: why the need for such brevity."

Because if y'all are planning to pitch this idea to the world, you better have a better version of the elevator speech than you currently have.

Which is, no offense, it would be awesome if we could put a bell around this here cat's neck.

Ian Mackenzie said...

What am I doing to change theatre?

Excellent question. Here’s my first attempt at answering it:

I ask questions and I listen. I can prove it: I’ve interviewed more than 50 theatre makers in the past 15 months. You can find the interviews at my theatre company’s blog. These interviews are me learning. Learning is action.

By posting the interviews, I take that insight and make it public. This promotes conversation. Conversation is action.

I bring the tools of “traditional marketing” to Toronto’s independent theatre community. A strong brand is a reflection of a company that knows what it has to offer and has found a way to offer it in a succinct, seductive package. There is a tremendous opportunity to bring marketing disciplines to the independent theatre category. This is where I’m working for change.

In the past few months, I have been involved in bringing an independent theatre company into the ad agency I work at as a pro-bono client.

(If anyone’s interested, find the names of the top 10 ad agencies in your town, I bet at least one of them would be willing to do pro-bono work for a decent, local independent theatre company. Start by speaking to one of the company’s Art Directors. Tell them you need posters for your upcoming season.)

I am writing about change here. Writing is action.

What are you doing?

Devilvet said...

I bring the tools of “traditional marketing” to Toronto’s independent theatre community. A strong brand is a reflection of a company that knows what it has to offer and has found a way to offer it in a succinct, seductive package. There is a tremendous opportunity to bring marketing disciplines to the independent theatre category. This is where I’m working for change.

Alright, I agree those are good things. I do see that as admirable marketing plan, but I don't see it as "change" at least not the sort of changes that Scott is talking about.

Again, maybe I'm projecting, but the last sentence feels potentially hostile...whether it is or isn't

what am I doing...I am doing what I think I can...

I too am asking questions and listening. I too am writing about change here (although...I am not sure that I wholeheartedly agree that writing is action at least relative to the sorts of action I believe those who want to change the model are ultimately striving toward)

Also, in the comments above I have posted some possible strategies I think might help enact change. Strategies I am going to attempt to pursue as production within the next 12 months.

OK...am I just projecting here...or are people slightly pissed off that I am asking for a development toward succinctness?

I feels to me like every time I try to enter into the conversation, anything short of "rah rah sis boom bah" gets a pithy passive aggressive tone in response...

I am projecting here? Or is that the case?

Devilvet said...

BTW, guys I am not trying to shoot down change. I am trying to enable it.

Ian, great blog. I really am trying to have the conversation.

Scott, you already know I read you.

Tony said...

DV, would your thoughts be different (in terms of discussion, not on change) if instead of online tools, we were writing letters back and forth the way the artists of old were?

I think here is where we may part. I see that not necessarily as a monologue, but as another form of discussion, only with a fancy new type of envelope that gets the letter arriving immediately.

Devilvet said...

Tony,

Change can start with letter writing to each other. But it needs to evolve beyond letter writing.

I think this new technology has to enable us to communicate in more active direct ways than merely immediately deliver letters.

I have to say I am sincerely surprised how resistive you are to succinctness. And I am frustrated that rather than attempting the challenge, or even an outline, you choosing to defeat verbosity.

Again I can only speak to my druthers, but I'd like to see the letter writing potion of this call to change metamorph into a newer more immediate more direct entity.

Maybe, we should outline what tactics we will all do in the next 12 months to change the theatre model for the better.

We have to find a way to stop writing about a virtual change, and enable ourselves to actually change in the next 12 months.

Tony said...

Not resisting, merely asking questions.

I think there are many issues linked together, and we need more than looking simply at how shows are produced. What shows and why are valid examinations as well. I think a general tendency in our current society is to resist in-depth examination and focus on a few sound bites. Not saying you do, but it's out there in every facet of our culture.

Ian's marketing discussion is very important as well. One huge thing we can do a better job collaborating on is convincing people why they should see a show like Mexican Wrestling Macbeth, alongside/or opposed to Jersey Boys. Not because it is good for The Mammals, but because it is good for all small theatres to work to build audiences.

A few steps I am taking are: Producing a far broader spectrum of work from many cultures, building a diverse audience base that reflects the communities we are in.

Building a company of people with many talents and backgrounds to expand not just what, but how we do shows.

Paying people a portion of the box office if the show makes any money, so we can try to pay everyone and also hopefully encourage everyone working on a show to help bring people in.

Ian Mackenzie said...

Devilvet,

I love that you've asked this question. It's a great question. I wish more people were asking it. I was inspired to try to answer it. I tried to do so succinctly, as you requested. If my answer sounded terse, that's probably why.

I ended by asking you what your succinct plan for change was. Just throwing the ball back. I am genuinely interested.

And I didn't realize I was supposed to relate my answer back to Scott's tribe model. I love his model. I'm not there yet.

I believe marketing is the way I can affect real change in Toronto's theatre community. I think theatre has forgotten how to sell itself – and this has widespread implications for its ability to produce relevant, quality work.

So, I am making my investment for change in helping independent theatre figure out how to sell itself back to the communities that need it. I believe this to be a radical position – independent theatre companies working with ad agencies is definitely not the status quo in this town.

I suppose all this talk of marketing may appear hopelessly conventional from some angles. But from where I stand, this is what I see.

Devilvet said...

Ian's marketing discussion is very important as well. One huge thing we can do a better job collaborating on is convincing people why they should see a show like Mexican Wrestling Macbeth, alongside/or opposed to Jersey Boys. Not because it is good for The Mammals, but because it is good for all small theatres to work to build audiences.


Well, nobody ever came and saw a Mammals show becuase it was good for the Mammals. Everyone whom I've been fortunate to have in our audience was there becuase they wanted to see the show. I never had a problem getting people to come see Mexican Wrestling Macbeth. Maybe I'm being too specific here with your example, but it would be a waste of my time to draw parallels between Jersey Boys and Mexican Wrestling Macbeth. The title alone elucidates the absurdity of that, IMO.

But, ok lets make it the heading of a Recipe - What would we call it?

Removing the Audience's Negative Preconceptions of Performance based on perceived budget? Now, can someone come up with 3 ways to approach this? Under 250 words total for the 3 points?

Tony said...

not avoiding your question, just been swamped the past 2 days. I'll try to respond in more detail asap.

Did want to make a clarification. Mexican Wrestling Macbeth was an arbitrary choice. Should have said something to the effect of why it is important to promote strong work by other companies, not just the ones we are working on. 'twas poorly worded. (hard to write with the little one on my lap :)

Scott Walters said...

Hey, devilvet! No, I didn't take it badly when you made this challenge. Well, at first I did for a few minutes, but then I saw the value of the challenge and really tried to boil it down. And I appreciated the second part of the challenge for action steps -- that made me think again, and I liked what came out. And now your suggestion that it be made into a PowerPoint or something has me thinking again. I think we need to team up -- every once in a while, when you see me getting more and more Gothic in my pronouncements, you issue a challenge that I actually speak American English in bite-sized pieces. It helps me. And I truly do appreciate it.

Devilvet said...

Should have said something to the effect of why it is important to promote strong work by other companies, not just the ones we are working on.

I think this is a worthy goal. However, (to beat the Mexican Wrestling/Jersey Boys analogy to death) I would start with the companies and projects that I felt had the greatest affinty to what my company/tribe does.

August Schulenburg said...

Thinking locally and working incrementally outward, here's how I'm learning to answer your question:

1.) As a playwright, write at least an hour every day.
2.) As an artistic director, create space for artists I believe in to work together at least once a week.
3.) As an audience member, check out a new theatre company's show every two weeks.
4.) As a producer, host a free event sharing the development of my company's work every month in a non-traditional location to a non-traditional audience.
5.) As a member of an artistic community, meet every two months with other members of that community to discuss shared issues.
6.) As an artist, search outside of theatre to the communities of music, visual arts, dance, and look for potential connections.
7.) As a New Yorker, take the search of 6.) beyond artistic communities into other groups, like churches, political organizations, schools, etc.
8.) As an American, advocate for a political structure that encourages the growth of the civil society of 7.)
9.) As a global citizen, apply 1.) through 8.) humbly beyond our country's borders.

These are things I myself can (and am trying to) do; with the experience of time I may be able to form those 9 steps into proposals that reach beyond my own actions with a greater specificity, the way Scott eloquently does. I know what is beginning to work for me, and for my company; I am not yet able to presume that work-in-progress is a recipe for anyone else.

Asking how to change theatre for the better assumes we all agree what theatre is, and what better looks like.

And I am way over 250 words.

Devilvet said...

August,

All the best to you in your efforts.


Asking how to change theatre for the better assumes we all agree what theatre is, and what better looks like.


Scott has his changes to propose, we all do. However we are not going to discover where our passions for change align until we voice them.

Whereas all your goals seem straight forward and well intented for the management of your life in theatre, they don't elucidate for me the targets of your dissent within the model.

Please risk more specificity. Frame it in a question if you have to. Use the Socratic method.

My 2 cents

Thanks for the outline though. I think it the direction for us to go into. It speaks well towards your intent...Now achieve your goals. As, a director I cant guide an actor to a specific performance until the character's want is defined...as succinct action.

I look forward to reading more on your blog.

p.s. as a fellow playwright, I know you could have edited that down to less then 250 words...;) you were only at 273.

(183 word response)