Friday, September 12, 2008

Is there a lacking commitment to the theatrosphere?

There has been a sharp decline in the amount of theatre talk lately. This is something I perceive to be all over the blogs I frequent. There are some well viewed blogs that I tend to visit highly infrequently (why bother naming them since it will at best produce a pissing war)... But, I'm not so concerned with the places I don't go. I am concerned with the sites I know and habituate as a reader/commenter on a daily/weekly basis.

This week there has been some grumbling from Scott Walters about the tone and content as of late. I agree that there is something missing lately, I'm not sure I agree at all with his manner in which to address it. Whether you call it vitriol, invective, or passion... the tone got to a place where people took it personal... and I don't know what to do other than to throw my hands up.

We all have agendas here. These agendas are multifaceted and leveled. Sometimes our various pet causes and issues run parallel and sometimes they don't. But each and every one us while we are committed to our ideas must also realize that some days, when it comes to the things that we decided to take on, we have to carry our own water. Well can passionately cry out or shout out for someone to speak to us on that which we care about, but we must also be wary of biting at those with whom we wish to commune.

I have been scolded in the past often for my 'glass is half empty' take on the assumptions/perceptions/ and to my mind misuses of the word community. But, if the theatrosphere is to become and remain a community, we have to find ways to challenge and cajole each other that show some sort of appreciation for that end. If the tone of our debates, etc reaches a pitch where it seems like we are rather exiling certain folks from the community of the theatrosphere because of a distaste or impatience with their approach or their path... well then what to we get? A bunch of angry individuals instead of a system of support or community.

I am not saying we must play nice. Hell, anyone who looks through my talks with Don Hall or Scott Walters will know, I aint interested in tea time talk. But, at the same time, let us encourage more than we scold. Let us not lose our sense of humor, and let us aim more often toward fraternity rather than condemnation.

We must always strive to be supportive as often as possible. And where we disagree we have a duty to expound on it, without attempting to digitally exorcise that which we find distasteful at the expense of our community.

The direction of inquiry this week I fear leads to a place where people share less, skulk and bray self admiration at the expense of others more, and we all lose.

Perhaps a page has turned in the system of blogs I think of as our theatrosphere. I hope not. It was a source of great joy, provocation, and community for me.

Hey, you know, if I'm using that ....gulp word... something must be changing.

lets make a push to talk to each other more often. Let us share more!!! Share more people!!!

Ask for more if you want more!!


RVCBard said...

Response on blog.

Director said...

I'm just busy, man. Real busy.

Soon, however, pending my upcoming move to the City of Wind (mostly generated by Don Hall's farts in my general direction), my theatrical brain juices will flow, and all will be well in the land of milk, honey, and cheez-its.

Paul Rekk said...

"We must always strive to be supportive as often as possible."

I say we must always strive to be as honest as possible. Our own specific natures will determine whether that honesty is supportive or destructive, which is also necessary knowledge to have.

If Scott's honest opinion is that the American theatrosphere is a 'thought vacuum' and that is the way he feels most comfortable addressing the issue, cool. That's a good thing to know from this point forward.

But these discussions are no good without naming names -- you're (royal you) asking specific people of a limited set to change but refusing to recognize which specific people they are or are not.

If you have no gentlemanly desire to make this public knowledge, I totally understand, but then don't make any of it public knowledge. If bloggers have taken an approach to blogging that you (royal you) find so reprehensible as to demand them to change or leave, contact them privately.

Because this entire conversation is nothing but the theatrosphere devouring its own tail. I guarantee potential audiences and American Theatre magazine alike don't give a shit. If the blogs are supposed to function as a harbinger of change in theatre, this is a pretty shitty way to reconvene and sally forth.

Devilvet said...


I don’t see much profundity in the restatement of “supportive” to “honest”

I’ll gladly change my sentence’s ‘always’ to ‘often’, but let me also state that Honesty was a given.

And, it is a seeming perpetual shame that folks keep using ‘honesty’ as a synonym excusing shitting on others who don’t toe the line of what certain bloggers think ought to be some sort of theatrospherical party line or method and purpose for online existence… but let’s assume ‘honesty’ from here on out.

"But these discussions are no good without naming names -- you're (royal you) asking specific people of a limited set to change but refusing to recognize which specific people they are or are not.

If you have no gentlemanly desire to make this public knowledge, I totally understand, but then don't make any of it public knowledge. If bloggers have taken an approach to blogging that you (royal you) find so reprehensible as to demand them to change or leave, contact them privately."

Is this aimed at the royal me or royal Scott? ;)

To be clear…I am not DEMANDING change...I am merely asking folks (all folks btw) to write about more theatre more often... I am not demanding it... but I am asking for it (also of myself)... I qualified about the not naming blogs because I am certain there has to be some relevant theatre writing out there that I am missing. However, I think a lot of folks know who I want more from (especially since I do often email them).

I will also say that I disagree with your statement and Scott's statements in my comments the past few days about what the blogs are or should be in what seems to be a declarative sense.

Blogs can be many things; among them is possibly a harbinger or change, but not solely or exclusively. There is room for all kinds of blogs with all kinds of purpose. And, it is ok for me to wish for more theatre content out loud without it meaning I’m finding current directions (or lack thereof) reprehensible.

Write whatever you're going to write when, but no one needs to get assy with me when I politely talk about the sort of theatropshere I yearn for. I am permitted to wish out loud across the theatrosphere without turning to talk of reprehensibility


Paul Rekk said...


I'm afraid you're taking my 'trying my hardest to be polite' tone far too personally. Scott's digs riled me up far more than most, and I'm trying to play at a more rational level. Most of what you're reading into is much closer to the royal Scott.

I'm not shooting for profundity, but honesty can mean cheerleading for each other, shitting on each other and anywhere in between. Honesty is a good thing, but it's not always a positive thing, so I have a hard time saying we should always be supportive when I know that I don't support everything that everyone is doing or saying.

And I'm not saying blogs should be anything -- that was any extremely big 'if' in my post. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

The reason I'm getting so rankled about all this has a lot to do with recent shifts on my blog. I see myself as writing much, much more about theatre as I ever have, but it's transferred to an experiential standpoint rather than a purely theoretical standpoint. And it's sometimes hard to find deeper, broader, and more intelligent topics when using actual shows as a base, because actual shows are not always deeper, broader, and more intelligent. I'm very conscious of that fact and of the fact that some of my entries are much less incisive than others because I am not able to make those connections. But I continue to force myself to write about each show to at least try to get there.

And maybe no one in the whole damn room is referring to me. Maybe I'm standing on a soapbox and everyone is in fact crowded in another corner, denouncing someone else. But nobody will actually say what they're talking about, so I find myself quick to defend my approach to blogging, because I know that it is hit or miss, but it's one I don't see many others attempting.

Scott Walters said...

I'd like to talk more about art and process, too. In fact, that's what I'm asking for. And that means making an effort to take the next step beyond the immediate stimulus to look for the import, the pattern, the observation, the heartfelt emotional link, the focal point. It's more than floating topics and links, but actually trying to touch someone else with an idea, a feeling, and observation. I'm complaining about the linkology I see so much of, in which the blogger reveals nothing about themselves except their ability to refer us to other people and ask us what we think.

And just to put your mind at rest, Paul: no, I'm not talking about you.

Nick Keenan said...

To follow up with this, dv, in more specific ways

I think I know what the sharp decline is. It's september.

- Beginning of classes that some of us teach

- Beginning of seasons and all that entails (rehearsals, scheduling, marketing, blah, blah, blah)

- Shows that open in September, at least in chicago, tend to be the BIG ones. This month I have the pleasure (?) of slogging away for Amadeus at Chicago Shakes, Turn of the Century and Million Dollar Quartet at Goodman, all while trying to keep New Leaf's Six Years and The Side Project's gi-normous Cut to the Quick one-acts festival on schedule. These are ENORMOUS shows designed to make a splash.

- People who have slowed in August are often waylaid by the faster pace of September. As most of us don't consider blogging a primary career, it gets the axe in favor of sleep.

- Oh. And scariest election ever on the way.

We all know all this. I think we sometimes forget that blogging isn't the primary method of practicing theater, it's a secondary one, and therefore can't always be a priority.

I agree that browbeating people who are clearly exhausted is not a good strategy to raise the level of debate in any environment, online or offline. It is an academic solution, but I personally find that practice is what I need this month. I learned a lot from the discussion this past year, and now I feel like if I don't implement it, I'll just spin my wheels and re-conceptualize without really testing those new ideas out.

Devilvet said...

Good to hear from you Nick.

I agree with most everything you say, but I think September thing is just one contributing factor... A big one yes... but it aint the whole enchilada.

Scott Walters said...

And the idea that browbeating (sic) is an academic tactic -- well, not so much, especially in today's academy. Consider it might just be a personal style choice on my part, just like everybody else in the 'sphere. The constant hammering on what is, after all, a cliche really is a cheap shot almost every time it is used, and unworthy of an intelligent conversation.

Nick Keenan said...

that's fair Scott, academics can certainly be squishy.

Here's the core thing that I'm trying to say that I feel like you're too busy picking apart my spelling errors to notice: I like your message and your positive example when you set it. A lot. But I see you - and all of us - waste a lot of your own energy and thought space being angry and indignant at other bloggers. That's a game we play, not constructive conversation. I say this to defend your message, because it's something I support and a lot of people support with our work. Think here of mac rogers or you, or any number of folks you get in scraps with... These are people who believe in the core principles we share about what a new theatrical model, but over time I think this habit of yours of discounting our valid contributions because they don't look intellectual rigorous enough for you is ultimately damaging to that thing you're trying to do.

I say this from watching you, and I hope you understand it comes from a place of respect. I don't want my criticism of your methods on this single point to shut you down, I hope that I can provide feedback here that you can use to focus your energy in the places you have the most leverage.. You're back to the work i think you do best now: uncovering and propping up the strongest ideas in the theatrosphere through careful analysis. I thank you for that and hope you hear what I'm saying: when some folks are most effective, they are silent on their blogs. Let them have that freedom to know how to best contribute and apply their time to what needs to be done.

RLewis said...

I just want to second Nick's terrific comment above. At this point, I could have never said it so nicely. Paul has some good points as well. And Bob, you're a champ for bringing this up.

Recently, I've spoken with more than one person in the real world who thinks the theatrosphere could be a great thing, but it's just not worth a fight/insult after every comment. That's their opinion, not mine yet, and they have a right to it, but I do understand.

Nick Keenan said...

Oh, and spelling errors and trailing sentences galore because I write on an iPhone sometimes now. So sorry about that.

I may just start recording audio.