Friday, May 30, 2008

So Where Are Those Two Articles You Promised?

Well, I've been giving myself so much blog homework lately that I missed a few personal deadlines. Apologies to all. I blame the US government for encouraging me to drink so much this previous national holiday. Seriously though all the beer from Sunday, Monday, and the Wine on Tuesday put me on my ass.

WNEP completed the RAW event. It was SRO the past 2 weeks. Very nice for a Tuesday night run.

Also during this past week, I discovered Twitter which has been an obsession ever since. If you haven't yet been, I suggest you stop by. It seems a little gimmicky at first, but I think there is something really interesting happening via twitter. Through it, I've discovered a whole new host of potential FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek that I might not have found any other way. Alright, enough shilling for Twitter.

I also have made some nice little changes here at the blog. How do you all like the new header?

So, I missed 2 self imposed deadlines. They will be pushed into next week.

Next week at devilvet.blogspot.com

- Don Hall and Devilvet talk about the process involved in putting my short play entitled Indeterminacy on stage (Our talk about Process is currently in process).

- Part 2 of Is It Worth the Risk, Documenting Creative Process. Click here to read Part 1.

- Sunday is still a go for the Online Graphic Novel of Clay Continent.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek





Run, don't walk to Silhouette Masterpiece Theatre! Found this one through Twitter.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek



Don't just click over to see Dan Henderson's awesome images. Make sure to read his bio...fascinating story and fascinating life.



Recent FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek aka FTTW
http://thehorrorsofitall.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek



Trevor Jimenez


The image above is from his Film entitled KEY LIME PIE a wonderful little Animated Film Noir. It is part of the new Animation Show which is playing this week at the Music Box in Chicago. All the shorts were excellent, but KEY LIME PIE was my favorite.




Recent Artists featured in FTTWs
Wolverine Daily
Leo Matsuda
Kris Chau

Monday, May 26, 2008

Who is Talking Process?

I'm be remiss not to mention that this site is very interesting. I hope it's a direction many more of us will investigate as we direct, produce and write.

Kudos to Issac Butler and Dan Trujillo for opening up and sharing the art.

If you, dear reader, are talking process on your blogs...be it theatre, comics, etc... let me know.

Do You Ever Storyboard? - More Practicing What I Preach



It has been a while since I directed someone else's script. I've been directing since 1991, but aside from one instance, it has been only my scripts or adaptations since 1999. This Tuesday will be the final performance of a short scene I directed The Bone Weaver written by Merrie Greenfield. The scene is part of an evening entitled RAW. RAW consists of ten scenes/short plays written by members of WNEP's Write Club.



Requisite promo...Now some shoptalk and process questions.

Sometimes, I block a show from a ground plan, especially when working in a non traditional space with nooks and crannies. But, if the audience's orientation is proscenium...I will often storyboard. The image above is one such example.

I remember when Merrie first read her piece to the Write Club. It started as a perfectly formed simulation of Victorian narrative. The tone and quality were spot on. I was lulled into expecting a traditional sort of Dickensian monologue, but then the narrative morphs into something sinister that haunts without stepping into the realm of the paranormal. The piece stayed squarely within the material plane, where Merrie didn't need ecoplasmic apparitions to creep out her audience.

The challenge for me was now how to stage it. The images, the story were fantastic...but aside from a brief sinister appearance by an archetypal Undertaker, The Bone Weaver is a fictional memoir in monologue. I, as audience member at what is understood to be a reading, am perfectly willing to sit still close my eyes and listen to Merrie's monologue unfold over a period of fifteen minutes...that doesn't necessarily happen in the same way at a theatre with a full house. The short version...I had to figure out a way to stage this piece, to make it active visually, so that the audience wasn't watching someone sit and talk. Regardless how intriguing the monologue was... it needed to be active within the black box style space. Storyboarding helps me to do this...to plan it out and estimate if there is diversity in what we are presenting visually without being a detriment to the amazing words Merrie had crafted so well.

Does anyone else out there Storyboard? How do you approach staging monologue in a black box environment? What sorts of questions do you ask yourself and your performers?


Related Posts
Practicing What I Preach
Raw Tech Rehearsal
RAW May 27th

Friday, May 23, 2008

What's the coolest new thing on the blogosphere?

Clay Continent Returns to a computer screen near you!

On Sunday June 1st The Mammals will present the first installment of their Graphic Novelization - Clay Continent.

Constructed using photography from the Chicago production as its source, the Clay Continent graphic novelization will star the following Chicago performers in the roles they performed for the recent revival.

Don Hall


as Mr. Utterson



Dave Goss


as Mr. Edward Hyde


Jen Ellison


as Dr. Henry Jekyll


Serial installments will be posted at themammals.blogspot.com every Sunday.

This is a new approach for our company and your feedback and encouragement are greatly appreciated.

If this endeavor proves to be a success, this will be become a regular feature here at themammals.blogspot.com.

The Mammals Mission: The Mammals explore performance works embracing themes of history, mythology, and destiny through the genres of science fiction, horror, and phantasmagoria.

This entry was cross posted at themammals.blogspot.com

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Optimism is the New Black, Favorite Thing(s) This Week

Do you have optimism regarding the future of our artistic endeavors? If so, why? how?

Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness...right?

Are we holding on to notions of presentation, notions of theatre that once transcended would enable us to experience a degree of liberation unparalleled?

Soon we will all be turning off our TVs because TV is too slow. So, if TV is too slow...What about theatre?

If we think of ourselves as storytellers rather than just theater makers... what do we have to gain?

Here is your empty space,
your black sheet,



your white bull (ala Hemingway)
What will you make with it?


Art by Peter Callesen

Next Week at devilvet.blogspot.com

The continuation of Is It Worth the Risk? - Documenting Creative Process. We'll turn our attention from popular music to the quintessential avantist of our age and ask if and how the revelation of process assists this artist.

Also Don Hall and myself will attempt to discuss the process of his directing my monologue in WNEP'S RAW, an evening of short scenes and plays (closing next Tuesday 27th. Click here for info.)

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek







I can never get enough Harry Crews. He is dark, he is troubled, he has the power to repel and frighten. But, he is honest. He has power. And he shows us, in detail, a side of life that many refuse is valid, even if the dishwashers and ditch diggers (and occasional college professors) of the world are stuck waist deep there. I am always thankful for a writer like Crews because in a weird sort of way he lived out the sorts of experiences I want to fantasize about, but never actually have. There is a distance that clean living and monetary stability provide that usually steers you clear of the rough sort of charliehorse and limp that existence throws at men like Crews. And, I have mostly found that so long as they don't think you are staring at them like an ape at the zoo, they can be generous, magnanimous, and appreciative of a beer and an eager ear listening in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Is it Worth the Risk? - Documenting Creative Process - Part One

The band was quite possibly going to fall apart. The past couple albums were major disappointments for many fans. Some thought the band had lost its teeth. After years of letting fans tape live shows, animosity was the result of halting these same devotees from distributing mp3s. The lead singer has a substance abuse problem he had to get a grip on. The newest member had enough and left the band. Things had gotten so bad that a psychiatrist was brought in to help the band mates tolerate each other as they attempted to create another album. Who in their right mind would let cameras document the pain and problems of all this? Metallica did. The result was a gripping dramatic and valuable music documentary called Some Kind of Monster.

I was only a casual Metallica listener. I bought the Black Album, And Justice for All (both used). I was ambivalent about older stuff like Master of Puppets... not enough to go out and spend a single penny adding it to my library. After watching Some Kind of Monster, I became more invested in them. I suddenly cared about the fate of Metallica on an entirely new level...rooting for the band as a whole, even if I was picking sides among the players. I was re-listening to the old stuff and comparing it to the new. I was spending time thinking about their work and consuming their art, and isn't that what every artist wants from an audience? And it was all a result of getting approximately 2 hours worth of in depth "fly on the wall" perspective during some of their most trying moments. They let me watch them exorcise demons, and... to continue the metaphor...now more than ever I want the band to be saved.

Now we certainly saw some stereotypical "Behind the Music" sort of moments. But, Metallica let us in on other more personal events during the creation of St. Anger that were sincere, honest, exposed. Seeing them deal with ghosts from the past, ex-bandmates, fathers and family...Watching them navigate the balance between creative control, personal expression/fulfillment...witnessing them struggle with experimentation in how they collaborate/generate material and how the dynamics of power between bandmates was affected/ threatened/ metamorphisized. Some Kind of Monster illuminates the creative process as a paradigm synonymous with Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. It is important to note that not all we see of the band is flattering, but that didn't stop them from creating and moving forward. Not every moment has to be flattering. This gaze at the seams of their persona, their craft, their approach didn't handicap, jeopardize or destroy them. The band might have taken a very similar journey if the cameras hadn't been rolling. But by letting the cameras roll, they allowed us into their process and we learn more about them as artists and humans. We become endeared to them. We become more invested in them and the art that they create!


Regardless of what you think of the new sound of St Anger (many old school Metallica fans wanted the old sound back), there is no doubt that this journey brought the band out from a very dark place and revitalized them creatively. Their self examination led to IMO some amazingly passionate songs that are staples of my daily playlist. And, I got as close as possible to being there while it happened becuase of that movie. I can't thank them enough...oh yes I can...I can buy their music...which I did and will continue to do...as a result of that movie.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who wants/needs a 32 hour day to get things done?

Whoever said that there aren’t enough hours in the day was right! Are you all noticing the same pattern I do? The recent popularity of posts about how hard it is to set realistic goals and meet them when it comes to life, art, blogging…

Our Collective We has a great deal of dreams and visions. How are we going to get them all done before our physical matter gives way to its expiration date? I think the only thing to do is keep trying, keep persevering.

I remember while I was growing up, even though I knew I was going to eventually graduate from school, get a driver’s license, move from home…I couldn’t imagine achieving those things. It seems trivial now, but each of us has during our time here on planet earth experienced similar anxiety. I remember thinking that even getting a job or writing a resume seemed so gargantuan. But, if you're lucky enough to move through enough living without burning off your fingers and toes, some of the goals that you set for yourself (or that life set for you) ...they get taken care of. Even if there aren’t enough hours in the day to go to school, do your homework, get to rehearsal, eat dinner with the family, file your taxes, apply to college, fill out your selective service forms, practice driving…you somehow did it.

Call no man or woman happy till they are dead. OK, but what do I call them in the meantime? Call them optimistic. Even the man wearing a frown can still have optimism.

OPTIMISM IS THE NEW BLACK!


Alright - Back to not enough time in the day?!!!

So Wednesday, I'll finally drop the first of a six part series of articles meant to encourage those who want more relevant content about your art, your process. Originally it was going to be one big long article, but the essayist in me is interested in going into more detail then I had planned initially. So that means I'll compartmentalize my subjects and take a little more time with each. The primary goal of this series is to give anyone out there who is interested in documenting process...well...here's a little ammo that you can use to convince collaborators who aren't yet decided whether or not it is a valuable risk.

The individual articles will ruminate on either a popular artist or avantist who through various media let the audience spectate process. I'll attempt to identify risk but also elucidate the benefit.

So, Wednesday we'll start with a Heavy Metal Documentary that exposed more process and pain than maybe any of us might every truly wish to, but by so doing, perhaps extended the careers of its subjects a good decade.

See you Wednesday

Monday, May 19, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek



Find something that you love and do that thing everyday.



Gideon Bommer's The Wolverine Daily

FYI a couple of his sketches are possibly NSFW... You can see Wolverine's junk.

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek

Leo Matsuda - You Are Pretty Awesome!!!


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Question : Web Design - Blog Design

Question -

Does anyone know of any online resources regarding web design layouts/content? Of course, I've done the google thing, but sometimes a suggestion from another can really help aim an inquiry in a very positive way.

There is lots of places online, but I wondered if anyone had specific sites they have come across that discuss these elements...places where folks discuss how best to draw a web audience in once they happen upon your blog? Virtual Blogoverse architectural concepts and experiments...

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to "Block" your website? (Don't be too quick to dimiss it, guys)

A new angle for us to discuss is not only what sort of content we can create but also ways to direct readers to the content that already exists. Many of us, check out our favorite theatrical blogs through subscription (like google reader) or we just click in when we have an extra minute between the myriad of stuff that takes up your virtual and literal lives. Sometimes that means that content that isn’t explicitly embedded in the main post or that lets say has been residing on your site’s secondary columns/spaces can get passed up.

So, how do you dear reader/fellow blogger "block" the action on your website?

In the past few weeks, I've stopped by blogs to see what fellow theatrical enthusiasts are up to. While looking for process or visual content, I was not always finding it even though it already existed. For example, I went to philucifer's site to read about his process creating the character of Overman. I was so focused on the narrative that I totally missed the video content residing in the sidebar column (which was excellent strong stuff).

In another instance, I click on over to Matt Freeman's blog. Since I am used to searching blogs through the tags or labels functionality, I didn't readily find much of his content regarding When is a Clock. I said so to him in the comments. My interpretation of Matt's first response to me when I asked for more content (and I can hear it echoing through the blogoverse from many folks) was that I wasn't looking hard enough. Now, If I told that to potential audience member with whom I had little or no relationship with looking at my site, they might just simply go somewhere else where it is more evident to them where the content is. That is not a condemnation of Matt or his manner toward his audience, he and I are well aware of who each other are in a virtual sense at least, and if I were,lets say, someone new to him contemplating seeing the show during closing weekend, I would have probably gotten a very difference response. But most folks if they don’t find the content wont comment, they will simply look for something else somewhere else that tantalizes them. Most people won’t analyze our sites the way they would a contract (damn I have trouble even maintaining concentration while perusing a lease agreement). For them (and for us) it is a venue for a specific sort of entertainment, and we don’t want to have to parse a site too much to get the goodies.

Now I can already hear the detractors of the devilvet saying something like "Well, it is only hiding in plain view." But, It doesn’t hurt for us to question our assumptions about whether or not people are directed or directing themselves where we want their eyeballs to go on our websites. Where one person might dismiss the devilvet as a lazy reader, another might say that where dv glazed over content…others… maybe many others will too.

For instance, my eyes are quite accustomed to filtering out items in many side bar column sections. On many of my favorite blogs and sites, that area of the screen is populated with the sorts of fillers I am trained or conditioned to glaze over. My brain almost always dismisses that area as the place for (at worst) pop up advertising or (at best) archives of posts I've already read and or links to bloggers I already know/visit.

Even today at the 9-5, we heard about a co-worker who was at a hospital, and we decided to send an e-card through the hospital’s website. One of us went to the hospital's website for patient relations, starting reading down the bullet points in the main column asking out loud where is the e-card option...all the while missing the rose colored graphic in the upper right hand corner saying "Send an e-card".

In a world of not only increasing specialization as well as a massive amount of data (over indulgence or wealth...I let you decide)...many of us have put "filters" on our eyeballs. Don Hall and Nick Keenan are usually must reads for me, and they both put lots of stuff in his side bar column. I almost never "see" any of it.

Ideas? How do you decide where to put your content and how to flag it?

Next Week at devilvet.blogspot.com

I'll be posting an article with examples of artists from all different sorts of media that have let audiences into their creative process, in the hopes of continuing conversation many of us are having about amplifying our online content regarding our art in relevant ways.

Also, the Mammals will excitedly be making what we think is a very neat, cool announcement.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Expanding upon More Relevant Content about your show on the blogosphere - specifically photography of the rehearsal

So, I want to take a another look at some of the ideas put forth here regarding ways to increase the volume of relevant content about our work, in the hopes of refining them to a method that , even if it doesn't appeal or meet with approval of the entire blogging community (a goal that is of course not achievable)...well then, a method that at least the usual players who've been vocal during this discussion can agree achieves most of the objectives, respects the desires of a community of participants in any given situation, and allows for intriguing, inspiring, thought provoking content from those enthusiastic about more detailed/indepth content regarding the art on our blogosphere.


I'm sure some of us are passed thinking about this, but I want a more visual theatrical blogosphere so, indulge me while I wax on a bit more in the hopes of encouraging others.

In my directing experience it is always best to tackle the bigger issues first since they are the ones that usually require the most work. For example, if your actor is struggling with Lucky's monologue and you keep pushing it off until the final week of rehearsal, you are setting a scenario where you might not have the adequate time/resource to enable the best solution. In that sort of spirit, I'll focus first on the one element of the previous post that generated the most commentary , the most concern... Cameras in the rehearsal room or otherwise apparent during pre-production.

So, originally I supposed the following...


"...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 tomorrow's blogosphere...well I know that I as a director wouldn't be interested in that at 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."



Well, after having reread that, I think it actually does begin to acknowledge the concerns that some actors expressed on Mac Roger's blog. However, if greater visual presence is going to be achieved online, lets embrace the opportunity to examine possible actor objections to cameras (I am not going to worry about video or audio for the present moment at least). The following presupposes that compromise is achievable. If you have an actor who just cant work if a camera appears, then...(devilvet pauses...shrugs). None of this is chiseled in stone. It is just a possible paradigm to think about.


Before the Rehearsal

If you or your company is interested/dedicated to content on the net, you need to share that with actors who are auditioning. You should do what you can to direct them to your site. As we all move forward deeper into the information age, it is probably increasingly important that actors who are considering auditioning not only be comfortable/knowledgeable about the company they are auditioning for and the content of the work, but also the company's online brand/identity/promotional philosophy as well. This is increasingly important. It actors have certain sorts of taste about the kind of work they want to do, or the kind of ensemble they want to get involved with, then they need to use the internet as a tool of investigation. Gone are the days where you just showed up and read your prepared piece like a shot in the dark. Sometimes you'll find the perfect fit, but other times you are playing Russian roulette. Directors and Producers need to be very specific and careful about who they invite to participate. Actors need to be careful about on who's door they knock.

Something that might help folks auditioning who don't know your company is printing out not only sides of the script for them to read, but also hard copy of some pages from your site. Especially pages with content/images/ideas similar to the one's we are talking about here. During auditions, if there are folks that are new to the director/producer, that he/she/or they are certainly inviting to a callback, be able to give them a business card or a flyer with your blog/website data on it. And strenuously encourage them to check it out to learn more about the company and it's approach to the work, etc. You should do this anyway, even if you aren't hoping to take pictures/documentation during the rehearsal process or blogging commentary/content on you or your company's work.

So, now if both the actors and the production team have exercised diligence, both can feel confident that all have at the very least an initial understanding of how the company and its participants use the internet.

Next...You, the director/producer, are having your callback auditions, the actor has read for you and meets all the needs for the part. You are about to wrap up the callback. Hopefully you are looking at a list of potential conflicts datewise, etc. and going over them to make sure the actor is available if you do decide to offer the part. Now is a good time to ask them if they have seen the website. I suggest now versus before they read for you because

a) You should really be focused on the actor right while they are reading, not whether or not they like your blog
b) You should allow the actor to concern themselves solely with the performance they are about to create.

So, if you director/producer are going to address it, I suggest that you wait until after the actor has done whatever heavy lifting you need them to do for the callback. When you do address it, expect everyone to say yes. Ask them what they thought of it. Read their body language. See if they volunteer anything specific, but don't pressure them to. If the actor did find actual affinities or resonance between their approach and your content, they should let you know. If they actually have a response that is lets say less then positive, that is valuable too.

Again, we aren't talking about casting or not casting someone solely based on their acceptance/reception to a company/individual's blog content. But, if this is something relevant to you, then using the above approaches will certain enable you to learn as much as possible about the folks you may be working with in the very near future.

At the Rehearsal

The show is cast. You are enthusiastic about the folks who are joining the production. When you send that email or make that phone call to reaffirm the time and place of the first read-thru/rehearsal mention whether or not you hope to take pictures of the event. Do not surprise anyone with the camera. Whereas, I maintain that actors spend all lot of time, energy, money, and heart trying to get in front of cameras, it is evident from our discussions earlier that it is very important to them to also have some say about how they appear in front of those cameras. So, if they don't mind be photographed, but don't want to shot while wearing their sweatpants and flipflops...you should let them know when the camera will be there.

At some point before you get into the thick of things, you need to ask for permission to shoot the pictures. How you do this, whether in writing or over the phone, whether one on one or when talking to the general ensemble...everyone is going to want to do it their own certain way. I think the important thing is that you make sure to communicate that you are

a) asking for permission
b) That the actor can rescind permission and that they don't have to do it publicly. If they don't want to photographed let them know they can certainly email you, call you, or just pull you aside. That way people should feel less pressured to go with the flow. You don't need to create a situation where a few timid folks feel forced to go along.

As rehearsals progress, always consider letting the actors have a turn taking pictures - It seems that every shot anyone every gets of me always shows off my "best" angle i.e. it highlights my male pattern baldness (and not in a good sort of brucewillis diehard 1, diehard 2 die harder sort of way). Letting someone else have control of the camera for a while and turning it on you will help you to understand how it can feels when/if you do it during rehearsal. This of course will give you first hand experience that is invaluable about how and when to take pictures without putting others on edge. Honestly gaging your own response will help be more observant of how a camera affects others.

Don't let those who don't want to participate get negative impact or blow back. If one of the actors lets you know either privately or openly that they don't want images of themselves on the blog, do not continually bring it up during the rehearsal process. I also would suggest telling them that even if you have the camera at rehearsal they need not worry about a photo of them getting on the net. If that is not enough, just put the camera down while they are on the boards, you know... However, if you aren't going to photograph them or mention their preference in a negative light, then reciprocity is due...i.e. the actors should not be going on to the other actors about how it is wrong to let the director/producer take pictures...further i.e. attempting to convert as many others as possible to their POV in the hopes of making the director take the camera out of the rehearsal space altogether.

After the Rehearsal

Always listen to the actor's feedback about the blog and understand that just because you put a photo up, that doesn't mean it has to stay up. If an actor is worried about a photo that you put on the blog. Then take it down, or crop it so that they aren't in the shot. Again, don't put your actors preferences on display. Just do it and move on...No need to captionize that a photo was removed or state why for the blogoverse (I'm tired of typing blog-o-sphere).

Be sure to let actors who let you photograph know how appreciative you are, but don't go on about it in front of unwilling participants. A simple email or even pulling them aside during a smoke break should let them know you really are thankful for their generosity.


Postscript


(Devilvet sighs...exhausted) I'll tell ya, I feel damn glad that we have a solidly knit group of folks at least in my Chicago theater circle where, I don't have to sweat taking pictures too much. I, of course, would adhere to just about everything above, but I dont have to worry so much about proving that to anyone in my immediate local sphere. I feel like the folks I work with know that.


Ultimately, even as I attempt this exhaustive outline on how to enable photography during rehearsal without impinging upon an actor, I do agree with the voices out there like Slay in Mac's comments that think whether or not to take photos is much ado about very little so long as an ensemble are communicating with each other as well as respectful of each other.


Something that did concern me was the amount of folks that posited any sort of dramaturgical or process contribution on the blogs would be primarily born out of a director/producer's narcissism. I was also taken aback by what seemed to me to be a timidity or even fear about how directors/producers could jeopardize, victimize, or otherwise betray actors. I have never met a director of any sort of quality who would knowingly do such a thing. But perhaps in today's media world where paparazzi run around attempting to get unflattering shots of people to whom image is identity, for many the camera is almost a weapon. The idea that a zone can't be truly safe so long as a camera is present...to my mind that indicates a loss on our part. The journey we take in art is worthy of being documented and recorded. I know some folks need to worry about product, but our process is valuable, and for many of us... it's isn't as fragile as some have alluded. That isn't a judgement, it is however my observation.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Practicing what I preach



So, my theater company, the Mammals, plans on producing a play entitled The Meatlocker. I've been playing with storyboards for a comic book that will be tied to the production.

The hope is that when this graphic novella is completed it will excite folks into getting to see the production. The comic book itself will be cast as a show would and the photos will be doctored in photoshop like the images above. (That's me by the way). This rough draft of a storyboard...I made this with a digital camera and my computer while watching baseball on TV and the Daily Show last night.

So, this is more than merely promotion, although it is definitely promotion. It is sort thing I can do with actors that doesn't necessarily endanger the sanctity of the rehearsal room, and it starts to give you an idea of the play, the narrative, the tone. And, it is achievable. Personally, I am drawn to the graphic novel form, but why cant this be modified to fit the medium and interests of anyone out there who sees benefit in sharing more.

So, this is just one of the ways we can start to increase content regarding our work. Also, over at themammals.blogspot.com you can see all the photos we released one at a time to get Chicagoans to check us out when we did Clay Continent. All taken during rehearsal without impinging on the "safe zone" per say.

Anyway. I thought this might be a way to illustrate just a little bit of what I'm talking about. It doesn't have to be a comic book, but cant this sort of multidisciplinary approach opens new avenues to us? Especially those of us working in genre based - genre inspired work.

I feel this sort of promotion can actually expand the notion of what is performative when shared with the audience. The actors, the director, most of the folks involved all get involved, can decide upon the content, and really being to elevate how they share on the blogosphere.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek


Johnny Crows Party

So long as the children of the world are receptive to phantasmagoria, there is hope.

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek



Kris Chau

Friday, May 09, 2008

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek





Yuko Shimizu www.yukoart.com

Maybe NSFW? There are a couple of illustrations of nude women I thought were tasteful, but I thought I'd mention it just in case.

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 lifehack.org, 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.

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.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On Scott Walter's Closing

Well Mr. Walters has decided it is time to put his energies elsewhere for the time being. He will be focusing more on the ning rather than staging bloody naval battle reenactments with me and Don. And maybe it is for the best.

I guess that means Don is going to have to start picking fights with George Hunka. I look forward to that...(wink strumming violin in a Henny Youngmen fashion)

But seriously folks, I am attempting to ask myself now that my weekly wrestling match is no longer available to me, what I have learned from time spent talking, debating, etc with Scott.

One thing I know I've learned is that we all even when we think we have consensus, don't always agree about the very best way to discuss and debate our ideas on theatre, politics, economy, etc.

It is easy too easy (I am admonishing myself too whether you all think it is sincere) in fact for us to focus on the things that divide us.

I have to admit that I'll push aside a half dozen compliments to stand toe to toe with a perceived sleight. It seemed to suit some of us, even if it didn't suit us all in the blogosphere. But, I would have to be thick not to see that there has to a be path somewhere between the polar opposites of provocation and cheerleading.

But I don't think that discounts some of the explanation/apology that I or Don or Scott has written about our back and forth. There were some not so pretty moments that made the readers wince, but there was value as well. I know that some of you who check me out think I can be too abrasive, some of Scott's readers felt that he got beat on too much by myself. But, Scott rarely felt that way.

But, I've also learned that if I'm going to take part in this community I need to have the ability to confront but also to listen and to exercise a hint (but only a hint mind you) more discretion when engaging my fellow bloggers. I value you all. I value Scott and he will be missed by me as much if not more than most.

However, in typical summer blockbuster fashion I see a blogger look up toward a clear blue sky and say "I don't think that's last we'll be seeing of him"

p.s. irony of ironies...this very same day, my access to Blogger during the daytime is no longer. So, I still welcome your comments and criticisms but they will appear at the end of each day. I will miss the immediacy of comments during the day, but perhaps this will be a blessing. Perhaps having to wait until the end of day to read and respond will make me a better more patient blogger. Anyway I wanted to let you who read know why if you don't see your comments appear until after 5pm CST.