Thursday, June 22, 2006


Back on the blessed Lower East Side, banks of the East River.

Last week of the shows at PS 122, Americana Absurdum and The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett, so come on down if you haven't yet. Both are very good fun.

Been thinking a lot about risk this last week. I guess since almost everything I've done in the last six years has been shown in New York over the last six months and then receiving an Obie for Sustained Excellence, I feel like one time is ending and something new is on the rise.

And I want to make sure that this new time is as interesting as the last one and I know the only way to guarantee that is to keep risking.

Risk being wrong, risk failure, risk looking foolish.
Risk offending people.
Risk ending my career.
Risk making major, public mistakes.
Risk alienating powerful people.
Risk sounding really stupid.
Risk losing everyone's respect.

High risk, high yield.

Talking about this League idea is risky because let's face it, it may never happen.
Taking on Midnight Cowboy is risky because I've never done anything like it before.
So, so far so good.

I've been going back through some old notes and reading old messages and I'm struck over and over again by the general acknowledgment that we're in a state of crisis and that things must be changed. If I had a dime every time someone called for "revolution", I'd be the one lined up against the wall. But let's be honest. Are we just blowing off steam? Are we just rattling the bars of the cage we've built and locked ourselves into?

Revolution sounds cool. But revolutions don't rise up like a tide and sweep things away. They are built, action by action. They are prepared by dedicated people working in an organized manner. They are often accomplished after many years of individual failures, brave attempts and flawed or foiled plots. A revolution has to be raised like a child, not embraced like a one night stand.

The real risk is to put your wildest dreams, your most extreme ideas, into action. Because they may not work and they may be laughed at or they may turn out to be commonplace and then you have to come up with new dreams. And that's the hardest thing I can think of.

Everyone who knows me knows how much I like talking. I will talk my ass off. I feel we've talked plenty about this League idea and plenty about how much it's needed and what a glorious future awaits us all blah blah.

Let's risk putting it into action. What's the first step?


Scott Walters said...

In the middle of MASTER HAROLD...and the boys, Sam is describing the significance of the ballroom dance competition that he is going to compete in. He sees the competition as a metaphor for world politics, in which everybody is bumping into each other. But at the sold-out competition, "For as long as the music lasts, we are going to see six couples get it right, the way we want life to be." Hally, dazzled by Sam's vision, asks, "But is that the best we can do, six finalists dreaming about the way it should be?" And Sam replies, "I don't know. But it starts with that. Without the dream we won't know what we're going for."

We must rehearse the revolution before we act -- that is what all the conversations and blog posts are about. We bring diverse ideas to the table and sort through them, trying to find the most compelling to act on.

But if we never do more, than we are a bunch of dreamers, not revolutionaries. At some point, after all the considerations have been weighed, it is time to place your bet and roll the dice.

The next step? Synthesize the best ideas into a vision, and begin persuading people to agree, at least in principle, with the ideas. Begin building toward a tipping point, creating momentum.

Anonymous said...

OK. Action. These are still the ideas most concretely on the table:

1. New York 99 seat theatre plan (new contract or code)
2. Rent subsidies for 99 seat theatres
3. Affordable or subsidized rehearsal space
4. Mentor program (matching established producers with first-time producers)
5. Creation of a National Alternative Touring Circuit
6. Creation of a new weekly arts and culture newspaper
7. Getting an accurate annual audience count for 99 seat theatres in New York and establishing a system to make that count each year
8. Completing an Economic Impact study
9. Out-reach to opera, dance and visual arts producers and venues
10. Creating an avant-garde curriculum for high school students
11. Getting financial commitments from commercial producers and film companies to support 99 seat theatres in New York

Here's the question, though. Is this a revolution from the inside or a full on erasure of what we know -- of the powers that be? Do we throw the baby out with the bath water? Are there agencies already in existence that could help us out. For instance, I'm currently enjoying a (reather substantial) grant from TCG in the mentorship program and that's defnitely an area they are interested. (They are also at the beginning of doing a pretty big joint program with opera, dance, and orchestra organizations.) Perhaps that's an avenue to pursue. What about Art/NY...who are our allies in this? And what is the ultimate goal? I like John's list, but a revolution makes me thing there's a king to dethrone. Is there one? Who is he? Where is he enthroned?

Sometimes I feel like our rhetoric gets in the way of what we actually need to accomplish.

I do think some kind of meeting is in order. There must be a lot more people that read this, then actually post. Right?


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