Friday, December 19, 2008

school's out

Snow is falling on Rat City and all is right with the world.

Happy holidays, all.

See you in 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

cleaning up the desk

The Museum officially shuts down for the holidays on Saturday at 9:15 PM when the final curtain falls on The Truth About Santa.

After that, it's skedaddling time.

A hell of a year, with mothers-in-law dying and wives bursting into flame and all of the daily doubts and defeats that come with working in the theater in America in the 21st century.

A hard year.

But looking across my desk I see the headshots of some of the beautiful, brave actors I was able to work with this year; I see the fourth and fifth drafts of The Event and Captain Overlord's Folly; I see a huge stack of the by-laws of The League of Independent Theater and I see messages I have to return from friends across the country and overseas and the day seems a lot easier suddenly, the job not quite so hard.

We're getting somewhere, you and me.

Day by day, year by year, show by show and argument by argument we're building an American theater.

Even though some days it feels like we're just flailing about and trying to stay afloat, when you look back a bit, you can see something taking shape.

Thanks all, for reading, commenting, seeing the shows, writing the shows, saying the lines, running the boards and being part of it this year.

On to 2009.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

come see Santa

Five more chances, tickets are starting to get scarce.

I'm to the wall today, more tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

basic principles

I'm wading through all of these end-of-the-year reports here at the Museum.

Same basic results you always see: people aren't going to see straight plays, arts funding is declining, theaters are closing, etc.

I can get lost in the minutia and I can get paralyzed by the stats, but once I get up from my desk I'm going to trudge my ass over to the Kraine theater and get ready for another show.

I've written before that theater is not a business, it's a vice. It may be helpful in some circumstances to speak of it as a business, but it's very dangerous and short-sighted to think about it that way.

Some other basic truths I'm going to try to stay mindful of this year:

A theater is not a corporation.

Art is not a product.

An annual budget is not an accurate measurement of a theater company's health.

Money comes third, if at all, in the list of Things You Need To Get Something Done. First is the good idea, second is a group of people to help, third is money for resources or just the resources themselves.

All right.

Sometimes it's good to put it down in black and white. Helps clear away some of the clutter.

Everyone and my sister got the MMMQ, you sexy things, you. It was Hot Chocolate indeed believing in miracles back in the 70s and through the miracle of time travel, Rose's All Star Jug Band was playing along in the background.

Going to need to ratchet it up again next week. Childhood nicknames of 19th century Italian altos anyone?

Monday, December 15, 2008

rear view mirror

I'm doing a lot of looking back these days, quietly amazed and very grateful to still be doing what I do after 18 years in the Big Dirty.

We never had much of a plan, just tried to stay interested and interesting and chase whatever seemed fun at the moment.

16 years ago we started Present Company, 11 years ago was the birth of the Fringe Festival, 6 years ago we launched Clancy Productions.

I'm feeling the end of another phase and the beginning of something else these days.

Maybe spend more time this year at the writer's desk and less time in the rehearsal hall.

Don't know.

I'll just keep walking down the road, I guess, and try to keep my eyes open.

We're looking way back for this morning's MMMQ.

Found another great CD awhile back: Big Hits of the 70s. It's all there: Right Back Where We Started From, Hot Child in the City, Hooked on a Feeling. 70s AM radio gold, my friends, including my personal favorite, You Sexy Thing.

So who believes in miracles and wants to know where you're from?

You Sexy Thing was recorded by:

1. A Taste Of Honey

2. Hot Chocolate

3. Blue Swede

4. Sugarloaf


5. The Rose Howard All-Star Jug Band featuring Rose "Vorn" Howard?

Friday, December 12, 2008

come on, ben

I know I shouldn't care.

Reading a Brantley or Isherwood essay in the Times is like putting on Fox News, you know you're going to get a warped, freeze-dried, corporation-centric view that's just going to make you angry if you've got the energy or drive you to despair if you're already down.

Brantley offers some holiday gift suggestions today, something to get the dear reader's "sensitive young cousin" who wishes to be "Theater-fluent".

I'll politely decline to address the fey theater-fag slur, nasty as that is, and point to the central problem with the article:

The people who run the theater in this country believe it stopped in 1970.

Brantley recommends Moss Hart's autobiography, William Goldman's account of the 1969 Broadway season, Peter Hall's diaries from the 70s and a collection of Tynan's reviews orginally published in 1961. And a boxed set of Sondheim CDs.

I own all of the above and am glad I do.

But come on, Ben.

How about recommending Mamet's essays, David Savran's Breaking the Rules, any of the ten Plays and Playwright's collection put out by The New York Theatre Experience?

How about Hans-Thies Lehmann's Postdramatic Theatre?

How about something from the 21st century?

It shouldn't piss me off, I know, this is the cultural equivalent of Bush-bashing, I'm just winding myself up, I know.

But, goddamn.

We're not going to find the future of this artform in Peter Hall's diaries. We're not even going to find it in Judith Malina's diaries.

It's this condescending, closed-casket cant that reinforces the idea that our role is to be cultural custodians, dusting off the old masterpieces and keeping the public at a respectful distance, rather than reckless creative agents, grabbing the public any way we can and dragging them in.

Come on.

All right, I'm done.

Enjoy the weekend. And take your sensitive young cousin to a storefront theater and see a new American play.

They still make those, you know.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feingold and faith

This is Feingold, writing in the Voice about eight years ago, an essay titled "Your Future, My Past":

...the theater has a future, in our geography as well as in our souls. Technology built the big retail chains that have taken over so much real estate, and technology, via the Internet, is slowly weeding them out of it. Soon the realtors will be eager to welcome us back into their vacant, spacious storefronts. At the same time, millions of desk-locked, glazed-eyed Web workers will be flooding the streets, desperate for unplugged, un-downloaded human experience. We had better be ready for them. We had better know our history, our mission, our tradition, our means for reaching audiences, and our justification for addressing them. We must be ready to speak as the theater has always spoken, to any and all comers. What stories we tell, and how we tell them, will be the meaning of the next millennium, long after the DVD drives and MP3 players have ceased to work.

And I'm reminded again that having faith means not only believing the impossible will occur, but believing it's the only possible thing that can occur.

We're going to get this city back, one arts center at a time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

another bunker overrun

The Ohio Theater, a place I'd rank as New York's premiere 99 seat house, is in deep trouble.

The building's owners are selling and the space where I built Fatboy and Captain Overlord's Folly, the place that has hosted Clubbed Thumb, the Ice Factory, Pig Iron and the Riot Group, Les Freres Corbusier, WOW International, Inverse and hundreds of other Off-Off and international companies will be re-fitted to sell shoes or coats or some other fine retail merchandise.

We need a sane arts space policy in this city.

We need to honor the history and contributions of Off-Off or independent theater and we need to do that concretely, by preserving the theaters and providing stability and continuity to the theater owners and operators.

Off-Off is a 60 year old sector; a national treasure recognized globally as an innovative engine driving American theater forward. It's where so much of it begins, where so many get their start.

If you keep closing laboratories, where does the research get done?

If you sell the farmland, where do you get your produce?

If you dam the river's source, what happens downstream?

This is a matter of common sense, civic pride and cultural preservation.

And it's only a matter of time before another fortress falls.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

love from above

Great Times review for Truth About Santa today.

Pull quotes out the ying-yang, praise Gob.

It says I staged it with gusto, actually used brio, but what the hell, they can always run a correction.

So, besides some League of Independent Theater business, the rest of the year is just champagne, hookers and cigars for your scrappy correspondent.

And some caroling, of course.

All hail the Lampshade Queen. It was Keith Moon, clad all in ginger, holding a pint of ginger lager, according to Pete Townsend, who drove the original Who drummer from the stage and took his rightful seat with the immortals.

Sorry, Rosie. Should have gone with the Monkees tip and picked up the Sweet Rosie Exception.

Monday, December 08, 2008

get LIT

Working out of the Pocono office for the next few days. Snow on the ground, squirrels leaping from bare branch to bare branch, bright blue sky above.

Opened The Truth About Santa to enthusiastic, appreciative crowds, now waiting for the critics to send their holiday greetings.

And on Sunday morning a group of us officially launched the League of Independent Theater at Barrow Street Theater with our first Members Meeting. About fifty folks showed up bright and early and we started charting strategy and setting priorities for 2009. Very energizing and encouraging to sit with smart, committed people for a couple of hours and walk out with a sense of possibility and even faith that we can change things if we keep working.

If you haven't joined yet, you can download the application at

Here's something I handed out to the members:


I’ve spent the last 18 years working in Off-Off or independent theaters in New York City. I’ve helped build two of them and have performed, rehearsed, produced and presented in hundreds more. I’ve seen generations of actors, writers, directors, designers, technicians, administrators and small companies struggle, triumph, fail, go broke and then start up again. I’ve sat in meetings with funders and consultants whose criteria and advice bear no relationship with the working reality of our sector of independent theater. I’ve bit my tongue almost off when talking with mainstream journalists and Off-
Broadway producers all professing bewilderment at where the next generation of artists can be found.

And nothing, essentially, has changed in this cultural and economic territory since I started working here.

Rents are too high.

Audiences are too small.

Runs are too short.

Resources are scarce.

Recognition and respect are hard-fought and fleeting.

This is why I’ve worked to create the League of Independent Theater and why I’ve volunteered to be its’ first Executive Director. Not because of any unique gifts or insights I can provide to this organization, but because I’m unwilling to accept that the conditions we work in cannot be improved if we only, finally, join together and work as a unified force.

There have been efforts like this begun and abandoned over the almost 20 years I’ve been around and I’ve heard some natural cynicism about another effort to “re-invent the wheel”.

And my answer is: the wheel may be fine, but the road the wheel is rolling on leads to a brick wall.

LIT is an opportunity for us to begin to chart a new road, a road that leads to economic sustainability, civic support, institutional stability and greater recognition and respect for our members. With the same tenacity, creativity and urgency we bring to our productions, we can, by working together, create an economically and creatively viable environment for independent theater in New York City.

I look forward to working with all of you on this great endeavor.

John Clancy
Executive Director

Yep. That boat is in the water, time to start rowing.

And here's our MMMQ, for those of you still reading:

Which rock and roll drummer/demigod barged his way into the pantheon by publicly heckling the band's original drummer, driving him from the stage and then picking up the sticks to finish the gig?

Was the ginger-clad gent:

1. Keith Moon

2. Ringo Starr

3. John Bonham

4. Charlie Watts


5. Micky Dolenz

Winners go on a three-year world tour, losers watch the cricket match with Pete Best.

Friday, December 05, 2008

o yes

The show is open, the sun is shining and there is peace throughout the land.

A beautiful, messy, hilarious triumph, well done and thanks to all.

Our last weekend is already selling very well, so come early if you want to know the truth. You'll never look at the fat man in the red suit the same way again.

Now gearing up for the first League of Independent Theater members meeting, this Sunday at Barrow Street Theater. Printing up bylaws, drafting surveys, all that. It's a members only meeting, so if you haven't joined yet, just go to and you can download an application and bring it with you on Sunday.

Sunday is my last official duty of 2008, heading out to the mountains on Monday.

Happy weekend to all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

all hands on deck

If you're reading this, you're online, so it's just a quick click and a jump to and Bob's your uncle, you've got a ticket to tonight's showing of The Truth About Santa, penned by the inimitable Greg Kotis, starring his whole family and a special appearance by Bella the English bull dog.

We've got a gentleman from a certain paper that starts with a "T" and ends with an "imes" coming tonight and a nice raucous crowd never hurt a comedy.

So bring yourself, bring a co-worker, bring friends and lovers, hell, bring Uncle Bob, he could use a night out.

8:00, Kraine Theater, 85 E. 4th Street between 2nd and 3rd.

Calling all cars.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

over the falls

First audience for The Truth About Santa tonight.

It's always a strange time right before you open a show. You've been working weeks, sometimes months building a thing, worrying about this exchange or that moment, trying different takes and bits, obsessing the details, all of you sitting in a small room together, collectively dreaming up a show.

And then you invite some people in and the whole thing happens in a sudden rush and blur and there you are standing on the other side of the thing.

It's like spending a month studying a river and then one day just jumping in and swimming to the other side.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

it's official

We've been in a recession for a year, according to the Official Doomsayer Bureau down there in Washington.

I have a hard time getting personally worked up at the news, it's the old Dylan line from Like a Rolling Stone:

"When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose."

What I keep thinking about are all those empty and shuttered big box stores around the city and how we get theater companies in there.

In hard times, people cut back the money they give to the arts, but in the theater we usually take that money and use it to rent space to rehearse and perform.

So, cut out the middle step and just give us the space.

Easy like pie.

Ann guesses correctly, keeping the streak alive. It's the St. Cleve Chronicle that heralds the work of "Little Milton", the ostensible writer of Thick as a Brick. Rose also wins for bravely revealing her love of the Shropshire Strumpet.

All day in the theater again today, technical rehearsals for The Truth About Santa. Coming together nicely.

Cold, sunny day in Rat City. Good day to sit all day in a dark room shouting at musical elves.

Monday, December 01, 2008

words words words

Got to make this snappy as well as scrappy this morning. Going into an all-day technical rehearsal for The Truth About Santa and been up since dawn getting ready for the big League of Independent Theater members meeting on Sunday.

Expect to see most of you at both, don't break old Scrappy's heart.

Great long week-end, feel ready to make this last mad dash to the end of the year.

Our MMMQ goes back to the day, 1972, when concept albums ruled the airwaves and Jethro Tull put out their monumental Thick as a Brick. Really don't mind if you sit this one out, but what newspaper's front page was on the front of the album? Was it:

1. The Shropshire Trumpet

2. The Manchester Guardian

3. The St. Cleve Chronicle

4. The Liverpool Intelligencer


5. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch?