Thursday, July 31, 2008

FavoriteThingsThisWeek - The Golden Age of Music Video

For a while I trying to seperate my various bloggo musings with different blogs...know more about tags, labels, what not...I realized a while ago this wasn't necessary. So here is an oldie but goodie from a previous blog I used to post to in aneffort to catalog art/things that inspired me to want to be more creative.

OK, while trying to fill the time surfing I came across the VH1 top 100 songs of the eighties. It should have been obvious to me that all those videos I watched back in the eighties could have such an influence on me. I should have been able to realize that the art direction, the actual sound of the music, all of those elements would have been guided by artisans who had the same sort of contextual background as any one I had met in the NY or Chicago theatre scene decades later. Why did it take this accidental reexamination to bring all of that to the foreground of my conscious? Maybe, it's because I hold a significant distain for what the advertisers are pushing as pop today.

I look at the following videos and think to myself, what the fuck happened to MTV. I want my MTV used to mean something, now it's just a bunch of 14 year olds trying to cop a feel or tell knock knock jokes. Maybe, I've become the stereotypical aging spectator, but without a hint of humility I can say that the 80s were better than the Oughts(sp?) when it comes to the art of music video (end rant).

Eurythmics


Before I knew who salvador dali, andre breton, or rene magritte was, I got my first jolt of surrealism thanks to these two. Damn that's phantasmagoria.

The Police


Noir influence, the black and white, the shadows


Creepy, Gothic


Billy Idol


You'll notice that Billy Idol has quite a presence here. Which surprised me. I am enamored of the dark, gothic quality of these videos. Either Billy had some amazing taste or he had someone making all the right decisions for him. Before I could watch horror movies (very protective mother) I was able to watch these little horror strips.

If Samuel Beckett were a pop star and made music videos. They might mov slower, but they could very well look like this.
The Isolated body parts. Even the title of the song "Eyes with out a Face" puts me mind of NOT I or PLAY or some of the shorter works. There is a visual affinity (at least for the first two and half minutes.)


Zombies, Dystopia, Revolution. Visually this is as arresting as Brazil, Metropolis, George Romero. I'm taken the most by all the different people we get to spy upon as he goes up in the elevator.

Phil Collins


OK, I cant think of this sound without thinking about Miami Vice, but if you can divorce that association from it and it is quite a frightening prospect. Those close ups of Phil are like slow motion Exorcist.

Metallica

The first Metallica video or song I ever heard or saw.

REM


YES

Kafkaesque, David Lynchian. For me personally, this video sort of has this shelf space in my mind as the most relevant, the most jarring, and menacing video of my early MTV viewing. I remember thinking about this video. Thinking about the narrative, being compelled by the plight of the protagonist.

Talking heads

I forgot that the eighties were so cool so crisp so introspective


Peter Gabriel

Forget Sledgehammer

Pink

This guys should get there own post. But this counts as eighties music video.

The Cure


Simple Minds


Tom Petty

FavoriteThingsThisWeek




Austin
Kleon

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fandom? What if the show never closes?

Yesterday I was attempting to start a conversation about fans. My hope was to discuss the ways in which fandom or fanaticism is created...also if/how that can be utilized by live narrative events. This was brought on while thinking about the recent San Diego Comic Con and the enthusiasm of its participants.

Scott wrote - "being a fan means having access to lots of information, insider or otherwise. You can master all kinds of arcana, which makes you see the things in the comic book, for instance, that others can't. I'm a football fan, and I follow all the training camp reports with great passion, so that I know the story beneath the story when the first game is played. Is there a way to do the same with theatre?"

I think theatre could do this, but it requires some changes in the way we think about the event and the pre and post production events. In a conversation I had this weekend with Nathan Robbel, a founder of Right Brain Theatre in Chicago, he was complimentary about the Clay Continent webcomic in that I have kept up some sort of diligence continuing to get some material online even if the show was closed. I told him that as soon as the show was closed I was thinking about its next incarnation (the comic plus a new stage version possibly next year).

This made me think what if the show never closes. When it comes to Clay Continent, what if even if the "run" ends on a certain date...the author and audience know that the show goes on (cough!). How does the show go on? One way is to move the narrative between mediums...the stage show becomes a comic book which becomes a short independent film which becomes a new version of the original show which becomes a series of short stories which becomes a puppet show...etc.etc. you get the picture.

Now some might say, but that is alot of work or that is not what we do...But, if an artist like Sarah Ruhl gets hot and a certain script hits every other LORT and then gets a small independent film treatment which goes to DVD then a sprinkling of live productions at community theaters...

See the connection? The change would to have to be how the initial artist conceived of their relationship with the narrative once created.

How does this tie into fandom? Well, if Fandom can be encouraged by access to lots of information inside or otherwise...well that is the sort of thing that could start to exist if we expanded the scope of medium we use.

The show/story never closes. If the show never closes... even when the run is done, does that provide more opportunity over a longer period of time and greater developed resource of material related to the story...more opportunity for fandom?

Too much work...too much time? Maybe...but Tolkien's fandom didn't happen over night...he had to build that world story by story one hobbit at a time...

Yeah, but theatre doesn't work that way?

Why cant it though?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Theatrospherians? Where are the Fans?

Do you have any fans?

Fan - short for fanatic

My wordweb says that fanatics are people motivated by irrational enthusiasm.

Synonyms? Overzealous...rabid...

Is there anyone out there rabid to see your work?

Do you have folks whose enthusiasm for what you make in your creative endeavors reaches the level of irrational?

RLewis in response to Don's latest daily poke with a stick... claims that TV is not the enemy. That TV appeals to those who are too lazy to go out an live life.

As a television watcher, I found this highly offensive and was seriously contemplating starting a flame war with Ralph (wink). Instead, I'll just clear my digital throat and say that I disagree. I might rebut his point with the just recently completed San Diego Comic Con, and event filled to the brim with folks who spend way too much time watching TV but not because they are lazy, but because the narratives on TV provide them with something they want or need that they cant find anywhere else. Many of these people cross the country to get to the Comic Con. They invest time, energy, money, everything they have so that they can live life with people who have similar tastes.

There a million kids this year that will go out to see theatre, in the form of Hannah Montana Live(a few adults too). Why that show? Now, Don might say...because their mouth breathers (I miss that old chestnut...maybe he wouldn't though...I can't speak for him)...I think it is because they have a need/want that Hannah Montana feeds into... Not because they are lazy life denying xenophobes who leave the house only when absolutely necessary.

It is the same way for the sports fan...or more appropriately the sports fanatic. They (by which I include myself) will spend money on T shirts, coffee cups, posters, decals, bumper sticks, ring tones which remind them of their team. They will spend more in one night at the stadium, they the average American spends on theatre all year long. But, what is it that they get out of the sporting event that they can't get anywhere else? Is it a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves?

Now, lets look at a show like, WNEPs Metaluna (which BTW this blogger highly recommends)...what if anything in this show could have so much appeal that people even if they are a minority could driven to degree of Fanatic?

There has to be something? Is that something akin to previous notions of community? Perhaps, but lets not stop there. If you ask me why I love the White Sox and drop a couple hundred dollars a year on t-shirts, tickets, and brats combined...I wouldn't say Community...I wouldn't say because they are "winners"...i wouldn't say it was because I like sitting in the crowds with a bunch of drunks...There is something emotional and ritualistic and involving about the game...the stadium...the young ladies in hot pants...the fireworks after a homerun...etc...etc...these are palpable measurable physically felt things...

Doesn't Metaluna and by extension much of small storefront theatre have something like that? Something that makes one feel fanatical?

This is possible...or maybe you think it isnt? Weigh in people, please...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Confession Time

I spent 3 hours in front of the TV watching Comic Con Coverage last night. If they hadn't stopped after 3 hours...I would have kept watching!!! Tonight after I go see Metaluna, I think I'll be combing youtube/flickr for Comic Con related coverage! What am I, like 14 again?

Indeterminacy

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Meatlocker - Conceptual Art!!!

First conceptual sketch art of Rudy the Rhino from The Meatlocker!

FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek


This one is a little bit of a switch up from my usually FavoriteThing(s)ThisWeek fare. This time, I am spotlighting an online application called Wordweb.

This is perhaps my favorite free download of all time. As someone who tries desperately to be a writer, I am finding Wordweb almost indispensable.

You can Press Ctrl+Right Click on your mouse on any word of the screen, and Wordweb opens up and defines that word for you. I even use this app at my dayjob when trying to decipher medical terminology I'm unfamiliar with. And if you're reading some Scientific journals online or perhaps partaking in one of the more verbose blogs outthere...

Put plainly, it is just awesome.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Time and Fear and Deadlines

I have been feeling the burden of time lately. Parents of friends passing... A letter from my Mother about one of her younger cousins succumbing to disease. I was a quintessential hypochondriac coming out of the womb. When they cut the umbilical cord, I turned to the doctor and grasped at the collar of his scrubs pleadingly "How much time have I got?"

Perhaps I don't have in it me right this second to philosophize about the big D. Instead something a little more apprehendable.

The necessity of a deadline? How many of us out there have to have one in order to get anything beyond the conceptual or developmental phase of existence?

What are the obstacles that get in your way? What are the things that you have to do when you'd rather be creating something you find meaningful? I'm not looking for rapturous talk about how time spent with friends and family while not always is productive is still essential...I get that. I'm talking about the tedium or the obligation or the day to day rat race...What do you see as an obstacle you face on a daily or almost daily basis that stops or handicaps the production of your art?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dystopian Thoughts

According to my Wordweb

noun: dystopia
1. State in which the conditions of life are extremely bad as from deprivation or oppression or terror.

2. A work of fiction describing an maginary place where life is extremely bad because of deprivation or oppression.

Interesting via wiktionary

3. [Medical] Anatomical tissue that is not found in its usual place.
example - The patient suffers from adrenal dystopia

The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory had no entry for Dystopia instead referring the reader to the entry... Utopia. Ironic?

When talking about his new novel, Little Brother, as a dystopian vision, Cory Doctorow said "A dystopian novel, I think, is a novel characterized by hopelessness, and that's not this book at all...This is a book about having hope about changing the system. ... By default, most systems are broken--either in big ways or small ways--and the idea that they can't be fixed is a pretty depressing one."

So, here's a question... when you think about seeing or participating in such a venture, are you dissuaded at all by the notion of the narrative being "hopeless"? Do you have trouble committing energy to a tale that some might think can't even be cautionary? Can a story about an imaginary place similar to the world we live in or might progress towards have no cautionary ability if the spectator feels the protagonist has no avenue for hope or betterment?

i.e. if you knew the ending to Terry Gilliam's Brazil before watching it, would you watch it?

Does a movie like V for Vendetta count as dystopia if their is a hopeful resolution?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Return to Dystopia

Dystopia - This is one of the most prevalent genres out there right now.

It can be terrifying and yet exhilarating to turn over fortune's stones and see what sort of dilemmas and decisions lie in wait for us, for our children.

There is a catharsis, a sort of power in turning storytelling attention to the future. What sort of determental issues and ideas are we dancing along the edges of? What are the potential tragedies of tomorrow and how can we avoid or unfortuantely enable the various appendages of Apocalypse?

As a storyteller, I find these sort of tales haunt and resonate with me more than others. And, over the following weeks, I'll be attempting to find out who online within the theatrosphere not only agrees, but is open to online collaborating to find out what sort of tales of foreboding various members of the theatrosphere have to tell.

Some things I know already, the process of making this work will be extremely transparent. Along with all the navel gazing and Favorite Things This Week (Returning next week BTW), this blog will be dedicated to forging and documenting an alliance online of storytellers... creating a method, a venue, a world, where we can tell these stories in multiple mediums, but all the while attempting to bring this back to the realm of the live event...I would say theatre but that term might be loaded enough that it turns off certain sorts of creative thinking...so, it could be a theatrical event, it could be song cycles, dada screed, butoh, ballet, or a sock puppet show about the Apocalypse so long as each tale eventually gets told in multiple mediums, the ultimate one being the live event performed on the empty space in front of a live audience.

The first steps might seem self-evident but lets start talking about them anyway. What comes to mind when you think Dystopia? How would you define it? What sort of dystopian tales fascinate you? Or if dystopia doesn't appeal to you as a venue for storytelling...why? What about the genre's trappings are problematic for you?

Who's up for it? Don't make me hunt you down now...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is It Just More Skill...

Yesterday I got some playful jests about the evident truth that the more skill one has, the better equipped one is to find opportunity.

Whereas I agree that the benefit to diversity of skill should be self-evident...I was still compelled to elucidate on it because the majority of creative types I meet just dont do it. Among the plethora of options they have available to them for creative expression, too often certain things, usually the majority of things...are taken off our personal lists.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is it really that hard to imagine? A world where artists have an easier time at Issac put it making art while making a living?

Perhaps it is possible. What is required? Is there any consensus about this? It seems that some of us are hell bent on convincing others that the dilemma is primarily a moral one...that it is unconscionable to ask individuals to give so much to a project with no sort of compensation or inadequate compensation.

It has been suggested that the resource necessary to support the people involved in making theatre exists, but that it has been misappropriated...funneled into vast architectural projects or being utilized by well intented machines of administration that require vast sums in order to keep the bathrooms clean and the bills paid.

It has been opined that to call the current situation a "problem" at all, indicates a lack of reason, an inability to acknowledge the market as it is and as it leans because down that road seems to lie no hope for economic sustenance via involvement in solely the live event.

We been told that hope lies in re-discovering what the theatre is all about...liveness...immediacy of presence. We have suggested that hope lies in serving the community with enough diligence and sincerity of purpose that they find artists as indispensable as their Churches.

Tonight...I think that those of us who are theatre artists need to expand a bit in many ways and that in parts almost all of us who've been brainstorming are keying in to a potential piece of the puzzle that might be a solution.

So, I'm not saying that anyone else is wrong or that what I'm proposing is the "key"...but I do think that some of the following is relevant and hopefully constructive towards the economic betterment and self realization of the storyteller.

First, I am using the term storyteller rather than theatre artist in this post to make a small point in that I don't believe that it is in the best interest of today's playmakers to think of themselves solely as thespians for the stage. I believe that we need a multi-medium approach (I didn't say multimedia because of the predominate associations most of us have...acting in front of tv screens, etc.etc...setting aside the good work of Wooster and others)...I believe that those who start thinking of themselves more as narrative storytellers who have the live event as one tool at their narrative disposal have a better chance at finding, holding and sustaining meaning dialogue with an audience. Specialization within the arts is something that is increasing unnecessary. Whether it be writing, directing, lighting design, graphic design, sculpture, etc...Every "actor" out there should be able to generate material in the event that no one casts them (lets not joke about why being a lack of talent). Even writers should be able to act. I have long since stopped walking the boards, but if I still did...perhaps I'd be better enabled to get monologues out there via Spalding Gray or Mike Daisey. Anyway, I think this first item is the sort of thing you either agree with and do, or that you resent because you want to commit your energies solely to one specialization and believe that a polymathic approach would distract you from your destiny...

I think the next issue is "Space" but I need another day or two to cull any thoughts about that.

Other notions I'm toying with in my head are...

Networking
Vitality
Cooperation
and yes even Participation (kill me now Scott)

That's all for now...I apologize for not having all my thoughts on this thing mapped out...but I just wanted to start the ball rolling on my take...typing my thoughts out loud I guess.

Just a Reminder

Don't forget to check out the new panels Meet Dr. Jekyll at themammals.blogspot.com.

Collaborative Writing Exercise Utilizing Twitter

Twitter Theatre Exercise 2
Goal - Generating Narrative Ideas

Step 1 - Find a fellow Twitt whom you believe to have an understanding of your preferred style/goals/genre.

Step 2 - Ask he/she two generate 2 lists for you. The First list should be 10-20 nouns they believe to be indicative of your style/goals/genre. The Second List should be 10-20 verbs with the same guidelines as the the Noun list.

Step 3 - You generate similar lists for yourself and your fellow Twitt

Step 4 - Using the lists you and your fellow Twitt wrote for specifically for you, write as many sentences/loglines as possible utilizing at least one noun and one verb from the list. You should aim for at least 2 or 3 nouns per sentence as possible.

Now, perhaps this seems too random for you...however, I have found that if I sit down and just start writing a list of words (words alone mind you) often times the sort of subjects and actions that I am interested in will spring to the forefront of my mind and end up on the page.

Also, utilizing the list another Twitt writes for you, stretches the possibilities. It gets nouns and verbs that you might not have readily thought of in front of you. And, if the fellow Twitt has a firm understanding of your artistic desires and content preferences, you may find ideas that weren't in your peripheral vision, but nonetheless still appeal to you.

The idea is to keep combining the words...until you think you have exhausted the possibilities of variation.

Monday, July 14, 2008

2 Questions

In a tangible measurable way divorced of rhetoric... what can theatre do that other mediums cant?

Is there a way to get more people into the theater? Any sort of people...any sort of theater?

Collaborative Writing Exercise Utilizing Twitter

Twitter Theatre Exercise 1

Step One - Identify 1 to 3 other members of the Twitter community to participate

Step Two - Write a logline for a short scene. Supplement the logline with a location as well as list of dramatis persona

Step Three - Let the 2 to 4 individual Twitter members begin writing dialogue for the scene.

Now, it is important to use the same sort of approach one does to Improvisation on Stage. Listen and use all the information the other Twitts are supplying you with.


This is most definitely a "Yes, and..." type of exercise. the goal is not to write Pulitzer Prize Winner Short Play. Rather, you should be attempting to generate ideas, brain storm, practice dialog.


The result will be messy...yes. But, you will learn how to shape and mold and create online with more and more ease as you progress and find enthusiastic fellow participants.

Re: Live Theatre... Making a Living... And all the rest

Almost nobody cares. When that changes, then the economic possibilities will change. So long as the product has no relative market value, then the remainder of the world will remain apathetic about our "hobby".

And when we insist it is our vocation rather than avocation...they will wonder if we understand, if not the meaning of work, then at the very least the reason of work.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How HoTFA might fail

Change should probably happen locally and virally

We talked not too long ago about notions of viral heroism.

Here is are some small ways to help the current How Theatre Failed America Crowd act with more viral heroism.

OK...so putting the show online could mean hurting its box office. Rather lets put those talkbacks online ASAP.

If you raise a question and dont have the answer, stop telling me that you deserve accolades for raising the question. Just shrug your shoulders.

Theatre has the power to transcend exhibitionism and become activism but only when the audience is prompted to act.

Who is the audience for these HoTFA performances and post show debates?

If it is only the actors then we have to at the very least brainstorm and figure out what hasnt worked and how/why that hasnt worked.

If anything is going to come out of HoTFA other than a well established network of opportunities for its author...what will it be?

Ultimately we arent questioning whether or not Theatre Artist deserve this sort of lifestyle or that, ultimately we are debating theatre's value to the (gulp) community.

Prove theatre's value first
Then prove the actor's value to theatre

Anyway that how it looks to me this morning

And...it's pronounced HauT-FA like HOFFA

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Who out there has motivational tips, gurus, guides...

Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit it, but I admire and often read motivational/self help/new business paradigm books to sort of recharge my batteries. Among artists and creative types, I have noticed a tendency to poopoo on such books as self evident drivel. But, quite to the contrary...I think they are very helpful and excellent tools.

That being said...If you agree then what do you red from this genre?

Tom Peters?
John Maxwell?
Tony Robbins?

I am rereading Today Matters and Thinking for a Change by Maxwell...and looking for authors who can get me thinking about new ways to lifehack for lack of a better term

Books, Websites, anything...

Please post recommendations

Sneak Peak at Next Sunday's Clay Continent

Next week, readers of the Clay Continent graphic novelization will get to meet Dr. Henry Jekyll. You may notice a similiarity between Henry Jekyll and Chicago Theater Artist Jen Ellison...That is because they are one and the same. Jen played the role of Dr Jekyll in the Mammals production of the play Clay Continent this past April...

We've got a sneak peak click here

New episodes/panels are posted every Sunday

Monday, July 07, 2008

I was getting back to business this weekend

For those of you out there who have been enjoying the Clay Continent Graphic Novelization, there is a new episode posted at themammals.blogspot.com. Please check it out. As always your comments are most welcome and greatly appreciated.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Manic Typing and Spell Check soon to Resume

So the Internet vacation is almost over. If I'm still on vacation, then why am I typing out this post right now? Well, it is going to be one of those slow at work day before 3 day weekend sort of days. Also, I need to get all the cobwebs out of my knuckles before I dive back into more full time blogging.

Firstly, taking a vacation from blogging is a great thing. Pent up tensions do crawl away after a few days offline. And this can help put things back into perspective. If you are one of those folks who believes that blog posting (different from reading or commenting) is a daily exercise...sometimes the pressure to maintain content, schedule, and relevance can be overwhelming.

Diligence and Indulgence can become difficult to separate. There is nothing wrong with the latter, but if you mistake it for the former you risk losing your relevance to the community. Art and activism and passionate expression can convolute intent. Momentary silence sometimes is essential to re achieve balance. But after the silence comes the sound, and I'm just about ready to start sounding off again.

Looking to the future? I hope so.

One day (very soon)...

we will all have web cams
using web cams will be as commonplace as the cell phone
intuitive design and increased familiarity with the technology will enable artists in new ways

The way we learned to tell story in school only informed us of how it was done in the past. And what's past is dead. We must identify the corpses in our spaces and get rid of them.

Our theatrosphere will only be an exciting place to visit if we look to the future just as much as we rehash the past.

This requires more than...

a deconstruction of NYLACHI
a revaluation of rural artistry
a commitment to excellence in storytelling

We have to analyze our chosen identities as theatre artists (I know not everyone who reads this blog are theatre artists...but all of us have commitments to personal identity that limit our potentiality)... we have to rebuilt

We have to use all this technology, contextually, all this amassed experience and knowledge and harness its benefit for both the artist and the audience.
We have to stop thinking about the dreams and methods of the previous generation.

We have to get over the word "Theatre"...or whatever word it is that you've tattooed to your flesh or your soul. We have to move past notions of specialization and compartmentalization and enable a legion of renaissance men. Anyone content to remain within one medium or who is content to express in merely one medium... they're....(gulp) they're soon to be irrelevant. In a world where viral videos are viewed more than stage plays or classics of world literature, the artist must be multi-lingual in multiple mediums.

This is what I'm preaching
This is what I hope to practice

My previous identity was as a theater artist and so there I will begin. But, if this is going to work it will require that I also reach out to others in other disciplines.

Enough spouting for today. I have to try to enjoy the remainder of this vacation. More on Monday.