Sunday, December 30, 2012

Things Have Changed

I've been contemplating shutting down ghost light. Nothing new in that. I've considered shutting it down almost every year (and sometimes every month) since I started it. I've thought about creating a new blog, fresh start and all that. Somehow that doesn't feel right either. I've always felt that what I posted here I should have to live with, a log of past failures and attempts to articulate or wave furiously at something. I've been working on a website for myself and maybe once it's finished I'll have a better sense of what's going on here. Or maybe it's better to have no sense of what's going on here. Maybe that's always been the point. Having a space to say, I don't know what's going on, but look at this.

Apparently others are experiencing similar impulses. Laura Axelrod is rethinking the focus of Gasp in a dog-rolling-in-new-smells post about moving forward (How's that? I didn't even mention the p-word.) and George Hunka calls flatline on the theater blogosphere. He's probably right. Blogging is about the conversation and now it's harder to follow the conversation because it crosses platforms, even more difficult to be part of it. There is always an in and an out; the theater blogosphere was no exception (even irl it's unavoidable). Twitter and Facebook make exclusion structural, the function of a privacy setting. Ouch. Don't get me wrong, Twitter and Facebook are great tools. Lots of noise obviously, but I have a good many conversations on both. Friends post things that collapse the physical distance between us in surprising ways. Thanks to one particularly active, politically vocal friend, my newsfeed operates as my research assistant gathering material for the trilogy of plays I'm writing. For all that, I'm closer to deleting my Facebook account. The sponsored ads infuriate me. I feel my love crack a little more each day.

Even the Web feels broken.

These things are related. In the early days, blogging was a phenomenon that few people understood. Marketers and advertisers were stumped by Web 2.0 and the rise of the blogosphere. How do you monetize it? How do you distribute content? How do you capture eyeballs? No one has figured it out yet. Sponsored ads are just one way to go. You can't delete them from your stupid Facebook feed. Anyone can buy a sponsored ad, democratization in its most convoluted sense (also check out Broken On Purpose: Why Getting It Wrong Pays More Than Getting It Right.) If you want the got to have the $$$. Facebook, like television, is a delivery system. The product is you. We know that. And we don't. It still surprises me to see how many people click on ads or "like" products or evil big box stores, do so willingly and watch their feed (and mine) fill up with ads.

I digress.

The theater blogosphere isn't dying. It's reconfiguring. Early theater bloggers were the edge because it was all so new. It  was a frontier with many of the frontier's gunslinging attributes. Now the late adopters and institutions have taken over that space. Fewer flame wars, more institutional poaching and controlling the flow of our thinking and our conversation. I also realize there are good folks with good intentions and they've done/are doing good things, many already mentioned by Laura and George: HowlRound, 2amt and Culturebot (my favorite). Curation has claimed the linking and contextualizing aspect of blogging. Time to move on and claim a new space. As irl, the context for performance and theater is changing, so too for writing and thinking about these things in the blogosphere.

The space to think, to publicly claim a space to think and interact, to generate community free of product placement and marketing, free of commodification is still necessary, maybe even more so than six years ago. Blogging is still a good vehicle for these kinds of interactions and the ability to think and engage critically about anything is even more essential. 

So ghost light.

One of the things I've loved doing on ghost light is publishing my source material. I've had to stop because my blog doesn't fly under the radar any more and unfortunately, it's too easy and tempting for others to lift content and use it without my permission. I've thought that what I published was fairly obscure and it's purpose oblique enough that I could share material, but it's just not wise to continue to put it out there. This has been a hard decision, but since summer I've been posting all source material on private blogs. It's now available by invitation only. I may occasionally share some little nugget on ghost light, but never again to the extent I have in the past.

My aspiration for this blog has always been to write criticism and I've defaulted to posting source material because it's just easier (the list of excuses is long and unsurprising). Lately, I've been reading the inimitable Ming-Zhu Hii's posts and they've been inspiring me in many ways - as calls to arms, sustenance and contemplations. It's time to put the light back on. What will I use this space for? More exploration of performance and process, more deeply considered writing. There will still be space for musical obsessions. No doubt. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wish List: An Artisitc Home, A Company

I keep coming back to this idea of an artistic home and a theater company. I wrestle with it. I disengage. I let it go. I try to accept my role as an individual artist. But the idea of a home and/or a company is a virus I can't shake. I think about letting it all go. Giving up theater. Giving up writing plays. Maybe giving up writing. I imagine a scenario where that works for me. It doesn't quite fit with who I am. Or maybe how I've come to think of myself.

So I'm navigating the territory. Finding an artistic home may involve moving elsewhere. Maybe as someone suggested: I'm in the wrong place. Maybe that's what I need to accept. I've got a list of potential places to move. I'm rethinking my ideas of theater company, artistic home and how to make work. Opening up the field of possibilities.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Current Music Obsession

 Oh, John Prine. This is one of my favorites. I go through stages where I play it endlessly. I'm in one of those stages right now.

Why Write for the Theater? Part 2.

It turns out the question is not why write for theater.

The question is why theater? Why am I making theater? Am I making theater?

Why is it theater?

Does it need to be theater?

You can't assume these things.

You can't just assume that because you're a playwright that you're actually writing a play or that whatever it is you're writing is theater.  Or if you're a director that what you make is theater. Or if you're a theater company that what you produce is theater. Maybe it isn't.

It has to be tested.

You test it in the studio. You test it by letting go of your assumptions and expectations. You test it by being open to the question. By interrogating it rigorously. By questioning your motives. By allowing others to question your motives and assumptions. You test it with the audience. Perhaps not the fairest test.

Where is the theater?

To find it you have to be receptive. To find it, you sometimes have to look the other way and let it come to you.

Sometimes you have to say "fuck it" and leap.

Monday, September 10, 2012

5 Things: Maker Edition

It Is Broke, We Should Probably Fix It: The Non-Profit Model and the Arts by Alexis Clements. Pretty self-explanatory. Clements offers an insightful explication of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex and discusses how the findings apply to arts organizations. 

What You See by Bill Birkson.

How Lester Bangs Taught Me To Read by Maria Bustillos. (Lester inspired my thesis, among other things.)


mapping the nightmare by M. John Harrison.

Mellencamp's cover of Born in the USA is heavily edited (for whatever reason).

What's missing:
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man said son if it was up to me
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said son, don't you understand

I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I'm ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go

Lyrics here.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Big List: It's Really Big Edition

Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenberger.  Porchlight Theatre Company. Closes September 8.
Precious Little by Madeline George. Shotgun Players. Through September 16.
San Francisco Fringe Festival 2012. Exit Theatre. Through September 16. 
Port Out, Starboard Home by Sheila Callaghan. Fool's Fury. September 10 through 23.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz. Aurora Theatre Company. Through September 30.
Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odetts. The Imaginists. Through September 22.
Dogsbody by Erik Ehn. Intersection for the Arts September 20 - 22.
Fresh From the Oven by Amara Tabor Smith. Counterpulse (off site performance). September 22.
Invasion by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. Crowded Fire. Through September 29.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Cal Shakes. September 19 through October 14.
Collapse by Allison Moore. Renegade Theatre Experiment. Through September 29.
Homo File by Seth Eisen & FML by Xandra Ibarra. Counterpulse. September 27 through 29.
Assassins by Stephen Sondheim & John Weidman. Shotgun Players. September 26 through October 28.
Einstein on the Beach by Robert Wilson & Philip Glass. Cal Performances. October 26 through 28.
Fran Leibowitz. Cal Performances. November 15.

whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir by Eve Sussman. SFMOMA. September 27 through 30.
Cindy Sherman. SFMOMA through October 8.
Field Conditions. SFMOMA. Through January 6.

TBA Festival 2012. Portland Institute of Contemporary Art. Through September 16. 
Biography of Physical Sensation adapted by Jon Becraft & Kelli Fitzgibbon (original concept by Rubber Rep)Baby Horse Theatre. September 21 - 22, 28 - 29. 
Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Wooster Group. October 24 through November 11.
Trojan Women (after Euripides). SITI Company. November 28 through December 2.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Why Write for the Theater?

That's the question.

Why continue writing plays.

The grim conclusion that is that there is no reason to continue.

At best or worst, I can't decide which, I'm writing the 21st century equivalent of closet theater.

Except I know there's an audience out there.

Maybe it's a closet theater audience.

 Or maybe it isn't.

Or maybe it's time for a change of form.

Or maybe it's time to let it all go and take up yarn bombing.

Or maybe that's the wrong question.

Why write plays.

Maybe the question is where is the theater?

Where is the theater I'm writing for?

 It doesn't exist here.

Can't exist here.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

RE/Write: Care of Trees, Etcetera

It's been a strange month.

My hard drive failed. I lost three scenes that I'd spent many hours writing and refining. I hadn't backed up my work. Now there's a backup plan. Literally. This week I'll see how much of those scenes I can recover from my own memory. I'm looking forward to getting a first draft of this new play (no title yet).

I started rewriting Care of Trees. I'm workshopping it with a playwright/mentor. My sense was it only needed a few tweaks. Turns out it's not exactly that simple. I've cut the first 25 pages down to 6. There's probably 6 more pages to salvage from the remaining script. It's pretty sobering. I have no idea what it is or where it's going. But the remaining pages are much better, more essential, a distillation of my original intention. It needs to bake some more.

Devised work is on hold. I don't want to be in the studio. There would be a lot of lying on the floor staring at the ceiling. There's something to be said for that, but not at $15 to $30 an hour. Sorting out how to move forward with this work. How to work, with whom to work, and where. It's all open.

It occurred to me yesterday that the loss of the hard drive is somehow symbolic. It feels like everything is being rewritten. There's been a lot of loss this month. A stripping down. I've finally found zero. And pretty much everything else on this list.

 To Change Art, Destroy EgoBen Vautier1965.