Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Off Stage Conversations

Hello Everyone, It's Andie Arthur, Executive Director of the South Florida Theatre League with Off Stage Conversations, where I share articles and blog posts of interest from the national and international theatre community.

But before I get to that, if you had your picture taken in Bed with the Arts at the Carbonell Awards After Party, you can find yourself here. If you missed it, you missed me being rolled down the block in a bed on wheels. Many of the pictures have been uploaded to facebook, so tag yourselves accordingly. A huge thanks to the Carbonell Awards Board, the Broward Center, Revolution Live, Bombshell Productions, and the Margaret Ledford for all you did to help this come together. This was only the first outing for our Get In Bed With the Arts bed -- look forward to it coming back for WLRN's Summer Theatre Fest!

And now onto our regular posting...

The Issues Surrounding Awards

Chad Bauman of Arena Stage writes on the difficulties facing awards and his time as a adjudicator for the Helen Hayes Awards. The article itself is a year old, but it came up in a twitter conversation I was following a couple of weeks ago. Since we're just fresh off the Carbonell Awards, it's a good time to look at what awards do and don't do well and why we as a community are so wrapped up into what they mean. Bauman has another post on what messages your organization is sending out when you market your awards.

Two Considerations for Criticism

Dominic Taylor asks why don't critics spend more time with the questions of what the function of a specific piece of theatre is and who is it is for in their reviews.
The dangerous thing about critics examining any work, then, is not the authority that they have over a work, but their individual and collective potential to conflate an audience. This conflation is most problematic when they assume that the primary function, and the primary audience, of all artists is the same
Submission Policies

There aren't a lot of theatre companies that have open submission policies in South Florida, but in case, you have one and wish to make it better, Donna Hoke has suggestions to make yours better.

The Abundance of the Standing 0

Gwydion Suilebahn wonders what will replace the standing ovation now that standing ovations have become common place. Similarly, Caleb McMullen bemoans that in Canada standing ovations seem compulsory and wants to institute his own audience feedback grading system.

Recently I had the awkward experience of being the only person not-standing in a standing ovation for a performance that I thought was good, but didn't take me over the extra level to standing ovation worthy. I have tried to save my standing for the performances that truly moved me to another level, that top 2-3% of theatre experiences. Sometimes I give into the rest of the audience's experience, but I do try to keep that level of respect for something really extraordinary, as opposed to merely good.

But Gwydion is right. Trying to reclaim the standing ovation for truly extraordinary work is a losing battle... so the question becomes what can replace that appreciation that comes from a truly transcendent experience? And for those that give their standing ovations easily -- is it out of a desire to show appreciation for the work we do? Because that is an argument I can get behind. But how can we show appreciation for the difficulty of the endeavor while still finding something to single out work that is extraordinary and encourage everyone to strive more?

Theatre J Does It Right

Theatre J is a professional theatre in Washington, DC with a mission to produce thought-provoking, publicly engaged, personal, passionate and entertaining plays and musicals that celebrate the distinctive urban voice and social vision that are part of the Jewish cultural legacy. The Washington Post has an article on how they planned their season for this year. Their first choice plays that were hits on Off Broadway, with Jewish themes, and they couldn't get the rights to any of them. And instead of viewing it as a setback (though I'm sure there was some complaining), they viewed it as an opportunity to do a broader search.

And that doesn't even include my favorite quote:
The result is a season in keeping with Theater J’s impressive track record of supporting female playwrights and directors. “Even people I’m close to [ask], ‘Why does it matter? Shouldn’t you just be choosing the best plays?’ But it’s so easy to pick the best plays and also have gender diversity,” Serotsky said, adding: “I think it would be harder work to program a season without any female writers.”
And Playwrights Horizons Does It... Strangely

Playwrights Horizons apologies for the three hour length of it's production of Annie Baker's The Flick.

There's been some analysis of this in terms of gender politics on social media (would someone apologize for a male playwrights' work in this way), and while that concerns me, it also concerns me how entitled subscribers are in this situation. I understand not liking the play and walking out at intermission, but to demand as a subscriber that every play fit your personal needs turns the relationship between audience and artist to a purely consumer-based relationship, which diminishes the ability to take risks.

It is the Best of Times, It is the Worst of Times

Oscar Eustis on why the the American Theatre is both healthier than it has been in terms of decentralization and diversity, and less healthy in terms of funding and employment.

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