Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hey Mac...To answer your question and then some...

So Scott can speak for himself (and probably will even though he is "Closed"). But he wrote something in my comments section to the previous post that got a response from Mac Rogers. And that I want to talk about.

First, I want to address the rules or terms of engagement as I see them in vigorous online debating. I know not every one will agree with me, but there is value in trying to elucidate for my readers how I attempt to make my approach.

Second, I want to answer more fully Mac's question about where the vitality is to be found (IMO) in the blogosphere.

Scott wrote:"...the theatrosphere...has become a polite, self satisfied home for production publicity, and apparently a really good place for bloggers to get jobs working together..." That is super abbreviated but basically Scott lists those people who are to his mind using the Internet for something other than promotion...

Mac took exception to Scott's comment :"I'm sorry, are horrible, abusive arguments now the equivalent of vitality? the making of art now counts for nothing? Does everybody endorse this? Seriously?"...OK...valid question...

I think it is useful to reference something Scott directed toward Mac yesterday...

Scott: "...this is how we do. Sorry you find it scary. I don't have a show to promote right now, so instead I have to actually have an idea.." This was Scott's response to Mac answering Scott's question...

Coupla things...Scott is right in that "this is how we do." even if I see him standing on the bball court with one pant leg rolled up to the knee as he says it (smirk). But..BUT...who is the "we" here? I interpret the "we" to be those of us who either in public forum or privately via email have an agreement and a line of communication that says "hey you...give me your best shot.". I know Scott, Don, myself have this sort of arrangement due to our emails...which Scott wrote about on his guest stint at Praxis. I believe that Nick is a willing participant in this sort of thing, even if he maintains the sort of distance from the ruckus that I perceive he feels necessary to maintain a sort of Shaman like position (hope that doesn't offend Nick, it is just sort of how I've been seeing it the past few months...)

Now, does Scott have such an arrangement with Mac? I don't know. I don't think so from what I glean of their back and forth on Scott's blog and now on mine. I have written plenty defending Scott, Don, and my own sparing...however I do think that when someone sees of bunch of guys sparing...they will hesitate to "enter the ring"...they will even hesitate to shout something from the wings out of apprehension that someone "in the ring" will take that shout as an invitation to spar. So, I would say that I think Scott started a quick spar with Mac. Who didn't want to spar, who just wanted to answer the question..."Why aren't you as mad or as vocal at Don's words as I am?"

This reminds me of a bit of back and forth I had with Ian not to long ago regarding the uses and misuses of the word "community" as a marketing tool. I did what I think Scott did here, which was to spar a bit with Ian's contribution in a manner which was upsetting to him. I think Nick Keenan and I had a similar such introduction in the comments field of Don's blog. In both instances, I used my tough talking persona and it was interpreted as a sort of assault or a useless declaration/defense of an apathetic approach. In both instances that wasn't my objective, but that seemed to be the result for the gentlemen on the other side of the commentary table metaphorically speaking. I didn't withdraw my response or silence my argument, but I did apologize to the gentleman either publicly or privately regarding the way they appeared to take it, and we all seemed to rededicate ourselves to our objectives and our desire to move toward a better future for all involved and invested in the elements of our debate (generally the future of our shared art form). So, when someone says to me..."please be more polite when you speak to me"...I will always attempt to accommodate...

but when someone says "please be more polite when you speak to Scott"...my response is more along the lines of his which is "this is how we do".

However, my unsolicited advice to Scott is don't growl at Mac if he doesn't have the same arrangement you and I have. Not if you want more engagement/response with Mac and others (I am assuming that Scott will still be present and talking even if his infamous blog is having a indeterminate hiatus). Scott put it well to me in a email when he said that Don, He, and I sometimes get addicted to the dust up. We just need to avoid any collateral dust toward our fellows who just want to watch us go at it rather than get into the mixup. That was more along the lines of what I was trying to say in the last post rather than "Now that Scott's gone...I'm ready be nice to each other."

And make no mistake, all of you regardless of your protestations (is that a word? I like it anyway) you either like to watch us go at it or you just are hanging on in hopes of that big resolution at the end of the narrative. Those site visits always jump jump jump up when there is drama to be had. That is not to say that we should place more value on the drama that on a mannered exchange of ideas, but it aint just Don, Me, and Scott that are drawn like moths to the flame of a vigorous debate.

I am more comfortable with the term "Vigorous" more so than "vitality"...
which is my segue into Mac's question...



I see nothing wrong with using the Internet as a tool to promote your art, to meet and commiserate or applaud the efforts of like minded artists, or to vigorously debate issues. I think there is room for all of it. If the blogosphere were merely nothing but 25 sites all taking Don's no holds barred approach or 25 sites merely listing the projects of a given blogger... that would be...dull. I refuse (at least today) to place a hierarchy of value on who is doing more or is doing better at using the blogosphere to vitalize theater. We all have to speak to that which we are compelled to. And, the great thing is we all also have our own space of virtual real estate where we get to have the last word.

I like having a blogosphere where I can have Praxis' (Ian's ) 10 questions, Nick and Scott's Manifestos, or heck even Mr. Hunka's pedantic investigations. I would say that we all would do better to not only read those blogs where we agree with the mission or tone or even the topics discussed, but that we also have much to gain by visiting those sites where we disagree (be it vehemently, vigorously, or civilly based on your arrangement).

I think it is wrong to look down our noses at a site that focuses more on dramaturgy or manifestos. I think it equally unfortunate to denigrate sites whose main focus is publicity or to roll your eyes when someone links to a positive review of a piece they have going up. There are ways in which to argue that publicity is the first step toward sharing production where one trucks their ideas, or that mere thought is in itself a form of action (I disagree but I know there are those who hold to this notion passionately).

Now that being said, Mac...I will also add that for me personally, I want more. It is your blog baby, but I want more. I want not only for you tell me that you have the Blueprint going up, I want you to tell me how it is all unfolding, how are rehearsals going, what sort of obstacles are you overcoming, I'd love pictures of you berating your actors...ok how about just working with or smiling at your actors. James put up those fight choreography photos. I love that kind of stuff. I want mp3s of a monologue from a piece you are working on. I want to know and learn from your process. I want us all to share these sorts of experiences with each other. I want reports from folks we invite to our rehearsals on what we say while there. I don't want to dictate which content is good and which is bad...I want us all to dedicate to putting up MORE content. I want to be able to feel like I'm a part of the show, the rehearsal, etc...

So, that is my answer and unsolicited advice to Mac as well. I am working hard on my graphic novel of the Mammals Clay Continent. I also try to put up lots of photos of what we are doing. I want to start putting up more audio and video...There are only so many minutes in the day, but I think we got lots more available to use to share...I think we still just scratching the surface.

25 comments:

Mac said...

Damn, Devilvet. That's an astonishingly thorough and thoughtful response, far more so than the comment of mine that triggered it. You're absolutely right. If rancor isn't to be the order of the day, there has to be something to take its place, something substantive and invigorating. Online minds need something to chew on or they start chewing on each other.

Maybe self-promotion isn't the problem so much as shallow self-promotion, self-promotion that plugs a show without discussing in detail what it has to offer and what went into making it. Maybe a good initial model is the early posts at Nick@'s International Culture blog:

http://www.intlculturelab.org/blog/

It does no good for me to whine about the theatrosphere without contributing to it.

Mac said...

Damn, Devilvet. That's an astonishingly thorough and thoughtful response, far more so than the comment of mine that triggered it. You're absolutely right. If rancor isn't to be the order of the day, there has to be something to take its place, something substantive and invigorating. Online minds need something to chew on or they start chewing on each other.

Maybe self-promotion isn't the problem so much as shallow self-promotion, self-promotion that plugs a show without discussing in detail what it has to offer and what went into making it. Maybe a good initial model is the early posts at Nick@'s International Culture blog:

http://www.intlculturelab.org/blog/

It does no good for me to whine about the theatrosphere without contributing to it.

GreyZelda Land said...

I'm not contributing a lick to this and I apologize, but, I must say ... I really enjoy the color of turquoise on black that you used in this blog and is being used over at Storefront Rebellion. It's sharp.

Rebecca

RLewis said...

If this were a political discussion, Bob, did you just make the case that it's more important to discuss flag lapel pins, corkscrew landings under sniper fire, and 20-year pastors rather than national healthcare, gas prices and war in Iraq? (rhetorical)

I come for the shop-talk, but I stay to kill time at the day-gig. It's odd, theater blogs are dominated by playwrights, and I assume that they're good, so you'd think that they could make their points - vigiously, passionately, debatable - without having to poke someone else in the eye (whether that someone wants you to or not).

Theater is soooo hard to do well. It's sooo hard to get folks off their couches to come see it. And I like that we don't always agree on how best to jump these hurdles, but I bet it's not necessary to continually finger someone as if their mission in life is to ruin the theater.

There are really great people in our community all over the country, like you sir. I still think that each deserves the respect of everyone else for even trying to make a life in this mess. I believe there are many observing these public blogs without commenting, and they take their cue from how we treat eachother. ...but maybe I'm wrong.

Devilvet said...

@Rlewis - I dont know if I get the rhetorical joke. I think the overall think I'm arguing for though is that there is room from all of us in this blogosphere, and that ultimately even as we build a community, we have a responsiblity to ourselves as well to share what and how we are compelled to.

Also if playwright wrote plays whos characters were are consistently civil to each other as some want all the bloggers to be...who that make for interesting theatre? I think playwright do "conflict" well...and that sometimes that is why we "stage" conflict on the blog...but the awesome thing is rather than having to choose who gets the 8 oclock stop on the cable station we all have our own space.

Ralph, I want more information about Floydada show than were it is being held. Man, I want you swamp me over with content about it...I want to be up to neck with it. I want this as much if not more so that a good online spat. However, for those of us who want the spat we can have both. We truly can.

Tony Adams said...

This is something I continually struggle with.

When I'm the most active offline, and would have the most amount of content about shows and specifics I have the least amount of time to blog about it. As the time available drops it turns more into self-promotion at best, or a week or two off at worst.

I could do it at night, but that would mean almost never spending time with Jr, which I'm not about to do.

Not sure how to rectify the two.

Recipes anyone?

Devilvet said...

uhhhh...you all see how my comments has no spell check...typos to the extreme...apologies

Devilvet said...

Tony,

Tomorrow at devilvet.blogspot.com...potential recipes for way in which we can all increase the content in more postive ways on our sites...

-DV

Devilvet said...

"more positive ways"

sheesh

Scott Walters said...

Excellent post, dv! See what happens when I'm not peppering you with low blows and kidney punches?

In the past, I have taken offense to people who insisted on reacting to something I've written in terms of some hold-over grudge from some past dustup. No, not taken offense, felt hurt by it. So it wasn't cool of me to do the same toward Mac. What I heard in Mac's comment was an echo, an overtone, from the past, when essentially he called me an uncultured dog who was too unmannered to be responded to, and I thought I was seeing the same thing here. If that wasn't the case, then I apologize for reacting in such a short fashion. As the bumper sticker says, nice women rarely make history. The same holds true for anyone who wants to create change. The insistence on manners very often supports the status quo.

That said, I second dv's proposal for an expanded approach to discussing one's own productions. Getting a rehearsal room view would be very interesting. As a director, I know how dangerous this can be -- we almost never want anyone to observe how we work (my colleague says that directing and sex both share that shying away from public observation). But damn, wouldn't it be interesting to read about that? In fact, I'd love to try an experiment where I posted video of problematic portions of a rehearsal and asked the blogosphere to make suggestions for what to do to make it better -- now THAT wouldbe harnessing the potential of the internet.

Anyway, sorry if I got snappish, Mac.

Mac said...

I do appreciate the apology, Scott.

Rather than take issue with your contention that I at one point called you "an uncultured dog who was too unmannered to be responded to," I will instead offer the link to the relevant discussion here:

http://theatreideas.blogspot.com/2007/08/active-passive-and-active-non.html

and let anyone who cares take a look and decide for themselves if that's actually what I said.

I'm torn about the issue of writing about the rehearsal process during that process. It's a delicate environment, easily endangered - but that doesn't mean there isn't a nuanced and careful way of sharing at least portions of it with the public.

Devilvet said...

mac wrote : Yeah, Tony, that's my biggest problem - when I most need to plug, I have the least time for extra writing. It's a much less credible excuse for me, though, since I don't have kids and never post anyway!


I accidentally hit the wrong button and then got booted off my daytime system again...apologies to Mac/Tony for the delay

Devilvet said...

"I'm torn about the issue of writing about the rehearsal process during that process. It's a delicate environment, easily endangered - but that doesn't mean there isn't a nuanced and careful way of sharing at least portions of it with the public."

ok this is an excellent place for us to start. Mac, please endulge me...elaborate about the delicacies of the environment. Lets try to map the obstacles...then we can strategize possible tactics. Mac, you can do it here or at your own site, but I would be very grateful if you continued the dialogue...

-dv

Nick Keenan said...

Can I just say, it's really confusing to be the second Nick in a room. I think I'm picking up all the references here. ;-)

There's a number of theaters doing some really interesting work in publicly opening up their rehearsal process through a blog. It works great, though when it's done with real depth it also can open the process up to greater anxiety and flak. That's not a bad thing - I believe it's better to expose a production to that kind of harsh self-scrutiny in rehearsal rather than opening night - but the production team, especially the cast and director, really need to buy in first. dv, you've done it, we've done it with New Leaf with a focus on those things that become challenges, and pointing out the theaters that do this work has become a regular feature on my blog. I dig that shit. I think we should also seek to do it with OTHER people's work, because that gives us a break the self-promotion habit. I'm hoping to do more posts in the future that are kind of reviews of in-process productions with other artists. It's one of the real innovations that is emerging from the theatrosphere: a culture of open discussion during the creation of the work.

As excited as I am for that possibility, it's REALLY tricky and risky territory. I had a friend once who started blogging about the faults he found with his fellow classmates, and I don't think we need that guy around. As critics need to recuse themselves from reviewing workshop productions, I think there's some ethics and strategy to be considered in opening up in progress work, so that the work isn't sacrificed in the process.

As for (shit) Scott's restructuring on and the conversations that necessitated it. From where I'm driving, one of the biggest problems with staying on the constructive conversation horse (whether it's through vigorous debate or in-depth kudo-giving) is that most readers and writers have different rates of processing. I prefer a little reflection before posting - like a day - and if I feel like I can't afford to wait that long my ideas and my articulation of those ideas get really fucking sloppy and reactionary. That's just me. And yes, I can attest - when we get in fights, the hit count soars and suddenly whatever we were talking about becomes water cooler talk in the industry. Happened to me with this Theater in Chicago blowup the other day. And I know for a fact that people are watching these conversations closely, because offline people ARE talking to me about what they're seeing go down. There's a moment of thrill for readers when there's a fight, but after the initial opinions are formed it becomes unseemly, disappointing. (e.g. the TimeOut Chicago Jeff Citation postin January that went nuts). I like that the conversation is continued off the blogs, but I don't like that sensationalism and mudfights always take the drivers seat in getting us there.

Maybe what we need is better coordination of our sensationalism. I think that happened with the Value of Theater day. That's one of the few times I felt like the theatrosphere achieved some kind of alignment. (Which, it ultimately happened thanks to Scott and Slay coordinating us all behind the curtain)

I know I'm not alone in thinking that the rate of posting and sportsmanlike aggression in the tone that you, Scott and Don prefer - and Nick, Mac and I and others can certainly navigate through - contributes to a lack of public involvement. I think it's the reason that readers read voraciously but don't speak up. They are brought in by the noise and the mud and the subject matter.

But readers have to commit themselves before getting in the way of the flying mud, and it shouldn't be surprising that they're not willing to go there.

I appreciate now how you and Don like to put on that thick skin - you treat the blog like theater, and that's really unclear to a new reader, but this post has done a lot to clear that up. Of course, your future and past readers won't necessarily read this. So unless the tone of the conversation can shift, it looks like this space is inhabited by crazy geniuses. Watch but don't touch. Even if new contributors don't get hurt - which they do from time to time, I certainly got hurt a lot at first because I care about the subject matter deeeeply - it ends up being a lot of work to keep up with, and writers end up burning out. Just like a young theater.

When bloggers stop cross-blogging because the tone of the conversation has shifted into , we have a problem.

I don't want to see anyone handicapped - I'm glad we all have different ways of talking. That's the link I see between theater and theater blogs - in both you show up and you try to get in this other person's head for a while. It gives you perspective.

I'm glad we're learning this, and I'm really, really saddened to see Scott burn out on blogging. The NING thing is going to be a better way to get what he wants done, and I think it's the right move. I can't only blog anymore either if I want progress. It's just the brass in my orchestra.

I think if we can explore this idea - opening up the process of theater to each other and ergo to the public, we're going to have a much richer conversation that keeps us all going. Remember that we've always fought about our conversational styles, but we became buds over wireless mic technique. And wireless mic technique is infinitely more interesting than the way we all talk at each other.

Mac said...

No problem, DV, but give me a day - I have a show opening tonight.

Laura said...

Thanks for giving all this such careful consideration. I'm convinced that we're getting on a good track here...

Devilvet said...

@mac word and crazy positive energy...the great thing about being in NY is you dont have to worry about Don's review of your show....(I keed I keed). Have an awesome opening dude...

@laura - Great, thanks for speaking...as I said in your comments yesterday...you show speak when you feel compelled regardless of other peoples' POV

@nick - thanks for the thoughts - I want to take more time to process them. But, I am thankful for your perspective

-dv

Paul said...

Some people don't get into the mix because some people just don't like throwing mud on the Internet. After a while, it just gets douchey.

Devilvet said...

Paul...

What did you call me?!!!
You talking to me?!!!

(wink)

I cant promise less douchery, I can only promise that I'm listening...I'm listening...

(samuel jackson voice)I'm trying real hard Ringo

-dv

RVCBard said...

Some people don't get into the mix because some people just don't like throwing mud on the Internet.

Yeah, because where I come from mud isn't always just mud. Hint, hint.

Devilvet said...

RVC,

Today I'm slow. I'm not getting the hint. Help me out.

even if you have to at my email devilvet at g mail com

dv

RVCBard said...

Go here.

Paul Rekk said...

She's talking about poo, man!

GreyZelda Land said...

Hey, Mac -

What is your blog's URL, if you don't mind me asking.

Thank you!

Rebecca

Devilvet said...

I'll answer that it is slowlearner.typepad.com

My theatrical blogroll has been primarily other chicago artists. It was sort of my way to justify not having to keep adding more and more links until the roll was hundreds on blogs long.

But, I'll proabably be expanding it some this weekend.