Thursday, May 08, 2008

Recipes For Putting Up on your blog More Content Relevant to Your Art

I was considering waiting until I got some feedback from mac before moving forward, but I'll go ahead and start, and then mac can join in when he's ready. Still hoping for that post though mac.

I have been debating about how to create this post. My initial draft feels very much to me along the lines of the sort of self-help posts one finds on, truisms simplified to a point where reading them might leave you sort of shrugging your shoulders and thinking "Well, I could have come up with that too if I took five minutes to sketch it out a bit"...But I cant be profound every minute of the day. So, I'll start small and maybe epiphanies will come later. If these recipes seem to be too much stating of the obvious, or you are convinced it wont work, go ahead and tell me why and how it needs to improve. So lets talk about way to create relevant content about the theater we are making.

First... every story... has a story. I want to know more about how this play/production came to be. Explain the conception of your baby to me(did he just say that?). What book did you read that made you want to tell this story. What painting at the museum inspired you to put pen to paper and create your opus. If you are the director, then tell me what it was about this script that attracted you, what was the first thing you noticed. What was the first line that made you stop and think to yourself...I like this play.

That is a great place to start. But, if you want to go even further, lets say as the director, you can talk about the biggest challenge you face and your tactics for overcoming it. You can talk about the sort of ideas you want to share with your design team. You can talk about how awesome your actors are and the reasons why you love working with them.

If you are the playwright, you can talk about the toughest decision you had to make regarding a scene or even a line you had cut. You can tell me which character was the hardest one to write for. You can tell me whose voice was the easiest to find. You can tell me the music you like to listen to while you were writing the play.

Some people might tell you this is navel gazing. That even though we have this blogosphere, that the work should speak for itself. I say nod, smile, shrug your shoulders in their general direction turn around and forget about it... and share share share.

Second, always have a digital camera at rehearsal. This one is simple and to my mind, unless there is gratuitous nudity in your show (or maybe because of it if you aren't shy) should become a must have for every production at some time (if not all the time) during the rehearsal process. First off, it has been said (and I understand) that many folks are wary about sharing things outside the rehearsal room that happen in the rehearsal room. Actors have to be given space to risk and try new things and take chances. If they are worried about how a certain bold choice they made in rehearsal will play on on tomorrow's blogosphere...well I know that I as a director wouldn't be interested in that all. But...but here is the thing about most actors that I'm sure you all know yet still need to be reminded. They spent all lot of time, energy, money, and heart trying to get in front of cameras. If they know ahead of time that you plan on taking pictures during rehearsal, there most likely wont be a problem. If the camera suddenly appears during a candid moment, well that could be touchy. However, fully disclosing that you want to publish pictures of them on your site or your blog should in most circumstances be totally embraced by your performers.

Third, just because it isn't skeptical, objective journalism doesn't mean it isn't interesting or valuable. No one is berating skeptical objective journalism. But, you as a creator of the performance don't have to tell me everything that went wrong at yesterday's rehearsal in order for me as the reader to take you seriously or find value in your content. It is perfectly acceptable to focus primarily or only on the positives. I'm not saying you should tell me it is raining when really the muses are took a leak on that first run thru. But don't let one instance of damage control suddenly stop some sort of content from getting on the web. Total disclosure isn't required every minute of every day about your production in order to share with me the reader something I'll value or enjoy about your product or your process.

I remember seeing how when Sam Peckinpah or Steven Spielberg were told to
report progress to the studio execs, they would rather stage scenes that had nothing to do with their shoot. Peckinpah was staging pictures of himself incapacitated (maybe some of them weren't staged) and Spielberg would fabricate dailies with his actors in scenes from other movies...ok maybe this doesn't tell me much about your show, but it could tell me alot about the energy and fraternity among your ensemble and that too can endear and interest me regarding your production.

But if you have a confidence, mature cast that takes the work seriously but are able to not take themselves too serious, while welcoming the risk... then the sky is the limit regarding the kind of content you can create and share on your blog that is relevant to your work.

Fourth, whether or not you want to invite discussion on what you share is totally up to. This one is very important to people who are excited about sharing but worried about some kind of negative outsider presence spoiling the fun. Just because you are posting pictures or telling the world all about your process, if you don't want to worry about possible comments from the peanut gallery, then explicitly say so. Personally I would find negative comments from outsiders about my rehearsal process invasive, so I wouldn't do it to another. On the other hand, I have frequently put up notes and design concepts, etc. and asked for comments and ideas. I have never regretted it.

You can certainly use your blogger settings and your prerogative about not only what you share, but who you let respond. Tony Adams has very explicit rules about how and who he will let comment on his blog and who he wont. RVCbard has made some requests for the sort of discourse she wants on her blog and I think people will respect that if they know. So, please share...and please let the reader know the rules of the house.

Finally, Make your blog content part of your preproduction strategy. How much time do you spend between deciding to do the play and going into rehearsal? Do you write up Dramaturgical notes? Do you make storyboards of how you want the play to look? Do you make lists of active verbs to enable your actors? What other sorts of stuff do you do and create and setup during pre-production? All of this is helpful and useful when it comes to sharing with me how your process unfolds. All of this is great material to get me and others interested in actually seeing your work.

Also figuring how you want to populate your content on the blog before going into rehearsals enables you to get assistance from others if that is necessary. For example, just today Jesus Contreras and I talked about him helping out with photography for The Meatlocker Graphic Novel which will eventually be coordinated with a production probably next year. Pre-production planning enabled me to enlist his support. If we had started the ball rolling six months ago, you'd be seeing the images at my blog now rather than in the fall.

Nick Keenan talked a little while ago about thinking of ourselves not only as theatrical folk, but embracing other forms of media in coordination with our theater. I think that is the wave of the future. Our kids, if they follow and evolve in our footsteps will be the most multidisciplinary arts gang ever. Why let the next generation have all the fun?

OK, that's all for now. Please lets discuss how achievable some of these ideas are. And then lets commit to trying them out.

Tell me your thoughts.


Mac said...

I'm working on it, DV - and I'll incorporate stuff from this post...

Director said...

Sounds good to me, DV! All I gotta do now is find a local theatre to work with. I just moved to Atlanta, so I'm kind of lost with local theatre, but...

I'll keep it in mind :) And you're absolutely right, I'd LOVE to see that kind of stuff from everyone else!

Nick Keenan said...

Deee-licious. What a wonderful how-to.