Friday, February 27, 2009

springtime in rat city

Get outside.

It's almost sixty, kids are playing, winter is a memory today.

Going to see The Wendigo tonight.

Good weekend to all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

thinking outside the box

Best headline from the Times yesterday:

Puerto Rico Decides to Ship Wild Monkeys to Iraq

Now why didn't we think of that?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

tv boy

Had to get up at the crack of hell and run out of the house this morning, so it's a rare afternoon post from all of us at the Museum.

Spent most of yesterday with a mic running up my shirt.

Did a long segment for the Tokyo Broadcasting System's New York bureau on the plight of small theater in New York.

Sing it with me, "I'm big in Japan."

Then a thing for a new thing that Martin and Rochelle and the good folks at the New York Theater Experience, Inc. are cooking up. Sat with Elena and we did the old creation myth of FringeNYC dog and pony show we used to have to do at the drop of a hat years ago.

We still got it.

Then home to catch the President's address.

Holy moley, I wanted to run out and vote for him all over again. Just seeing Biden sitting and grinning in the Dark Lord's old seat was magic.

We may all be going to hell in a handbasket, but we're going to be inspired as all hell when we get there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

four hundred

According to the internal blog calculatron and backed up by top-secret Museum records, this is our 400th post.

Don't I get a watch or something?

The banks, the auto-makers and A.I.G. are asking for more money today. I'm no economist (and I don't know how that rumor got started), but isn't there some rule about when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging?

And didn't some wiseguy once write "If something is falling, push it."?

Talking to Japanese TV today about the plight of small theater in New York.

I'm not sure what that last sentence is about either, but it's true.

Answer to yesterday's MMMQ is actually Signed, Sealed, Delivered, but it should have been Chocolate City, so Rose gets a pass.

Monday, February 23, 2009

get behind the mule

Some mornings you just have to suck it up and get to work.

Living the free-lance life is scary and fun and all like that, but sometimes it's just digging a ditch like any other wage slave.

I'm just staring at this list of phone calls to return and emails to respond to.

Put on a barrel of coffee and let's get to it.

Missed last week's MMMQ because of President's Day, so this week's quiz will have a presidential twist.

What did then candidate Obama play after losing in New Hampshire? Was it:

1. Signed, Sealed, Delivered

2. Chocolate City

3. I Believe in Miracles

4. Everyday People


5. Loser

Winners get stimulated, losers get nationalized.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

good ideas

Check out Matt Freeman's post today,

It's a great start to many conversations.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

about last night

So we had the joint Community Board Theater Task Force Public Forum on Saving Small Theaters last night at the Players Club.

The place was packed. Capacity was 250 and if we didn't reach that, we were close.

Borough President Scott Stringer spoke. Besides the ususal rah rah, he said a very interesting thing:

Liberal Democratic elected officials often get a "pass" when it comes to the arts and we should demand more from them.

Then Ben Cameron whipped up the crowd, something he's very good at doing. I've heard Ben speak a lot and he's always got the passion and the great quotes from Lincoln and Gertrude Stein and Che Guevera on tap.

And Judith Malina got up and spoke, which is always like some Magical Visitation from an alternate reality where theater actually changes and challenges the world.

The place was humming at this point. We all leaned forward into our microphones, elbows on the table, ready to figure out how we were going to Save Small Theaters, goddamnit, and save them tonight.

I talked a little bit about the primacy of space, space being more important than money at this point, and about the dream of sustainability, the dream of rehearsing and performing in the same space, the dream of an artistic home.

And others talked about other things.

And the whole thing started to drift away.

We went from talking about "historic moments" and "crisis creating opportunities" to discussing the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure and suggesting that if a company can't afford a space, they should perform outside.

Which is a little like saying if you're homeless, why don't you go camping?

It was no one's fault, or everyone's fault, we just slipped into the paralysis of panelitis.

Here's what I wish I had said:

Theaters need space. Space exists. Space doesn't disappear like money or have to be wooed like an audience. Space is just sitting there. Let's focus simply on getting artists space. Any and all ways we can. There are three initial approaches I see:

1. Existing cultural institutions can share their space. Give us your lobbies. Adopt a homeless theater company. Make a commitment that your stage will never have a dark night and appoint an auxiliary programmer, someone you trust who will bring new artists and work into your theater.

2. Identify empty city-owned property. Turn that property over to artists.

3. Work the Chashama model all over the city. The empty big box stores, the vacant commercial real estate, we can use that to rehearse in and maybe for performance.

Now, that's simple and wildly over-simplified, I know. But if we focus on the concrete, physical task of putting artists in affordable, sustainable spaces, then we have a focused and objectively verifiable goal.

In other words, a year from now we'll know if we got anything done.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009



*Developing Strategies in this time of Crisis and Opportunity*

*Hosted by NYC Community Boards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5*



*16 Gramercy Park South*

*Panelists and Scheduled Speakers include*: *

* Scott Stringer, Borough President of Manhattan *

* Ben Cameron - Program Director for The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

* Virginia Louloudes – Executive Director ART/NY

* Tamara Greenfield – FAB Arts District

* Paul Nagle – Arts Representative for Council Member Alan Gerson

* Judith Malina – The Living Theater

* Anthony Borelli, Director of Land Use, Manhattan Borough President's

John Clancy, Executive Director, League of Independent Theater

*Manhattan Community Boards One, Two, Three, Four and Five are coming together for an unprecedented joint Public Forum on Small to Mid-Sized Theaters, which are an important part of the sustainability and resilience of NYC small businesses and local economies. *

* *

*Unfortunately, many of the smaller theaters that bring so much life to our neighborhoods have closed their doors or are in imminent danger of closing. The problem is acute. *

* *

*The economic climate, along with the rising cost of real estate are making it difficult for smaller theaters to retain their spaces for performances, rehearsals and offices. With the recent closing of the Zipper Theater in CB4, almost 30% of Midtown performance venues have been demolished in the past three years, along with 25% of West Village theaters. At the end of
the Nineties* *many of the Lower East Side's theaters were repurposed for bars (e.g. Pianos, Todo Con Nada) or displaced and laid vacant and demolished by speculation (e.g. Present Company, and Collective Unconscious). The Community Boards realize that when the theaters leave, the cultural richness and attractiveness of their neighborhoods will diminish, and opportunities for local artists go away. *

* *

*But with crisis, comes opportunity. *

* *

*The goals of this Public Forum are (1) to clearly explain the depth and urgency of the issues facing smaller theaters; (2) to discuss potential solutions based on expert opinion from communities outside of New York where there have been successes, and from political, real estate and artistic
experts in New York; and (3) to gather community support to advocate for changes that will help the theaters and ensure their survival.***

*Space is Limited, For further information and RSVP:** *

Friday, February 13, 2009

scrappy jack wants you

We're kicking off a membership drive for the League of Independent Theater, the advocacy group for 99 seat theaters and the artists who love them.

LIT is a grassroots organization of professional independent theaters and artists. Through advocacy and collective action, we work to strengthen our role in the cultural landscape of New York theater.

We have both artist/professional and company/venue members, as well as students and supporters.

It's a good group made up of a lot of good people, so come on and join the party.

You can go to and download an application.

Good weekend to all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I signed up a while back on our business partner's advice. He got me blogging way back when and hooked us up on Facebook, both of which turned out to be fun and useful.

But Twitter?

Can't figure this one out.

TimeOut New York has a new blog, worth checking out:

All for now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

mid-week hustle

Just doing the Wednesday shuffle at the Museum today, lot of paperwork and maintenance and whatnot.

Saw my old buddy Aaron Posner got nominated for a Helen Hayes Award down in D.C. for his work on Macbeth at the Folger.

Mazel tov.

Freakishly warm in Rat City today. Going to walk to the post office slowly, face raised to the heavens, soaking in that sunlight.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

two years

It was two years ago today that Barack Obama announced his presidential run. Watching him at the podium last night you could see the thought flickering in his eyes and almost hear the words he had to keep biting back:

"This is not the job I applied for."

It's like Bush and the New Crazies drove the car until it was out of gas, oil and water and then at the last moment slammed it head-on into a brick wall. Then they climbed out, handed the kid the keys and said, smiling,

"Good luck, son."

Maybe two years from now we'll begin to get out of this Great Downward Slide to Hell or whatever we end up calling it.

Ann and Rose take their familiar victory laps. Ann because she got it right, Rose because she correctly sussed the subliminal question: who duets with Laurie Anderson on Excellent Birds?

Good sussing, Rose.

Monday, February 09, 2009

sick bed

Spitfire's down with a nasty cold, so we're staying in, drinking juice, all of that.

Had a long-awaited League of Independent Theater Board of Directors meeting on Friday, got some things figured out so that we can move forward. I'm always impressed by that group of people.

Our MMMQ comes from the obits, sadly, or what my uncle calls the Irish sports page.

Dewey Martin, drummer for Buffalo Springfield died last week. His bandmates included Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Bruce Palmer and

1. David Crosby

2. Neil Young

3. Graham Nash

4. Robbie Robertson

Winners get some chicken wings, losers move to Springfield.

Friday, February 06, 2009

plays and playwrights 2009

Got my copy on Wednesday.

It's the tenth edition of the collection Martin Denton puts together each year.

Nice to see some friends in there like Lenora Champagne, Tim Collins and Chris Harcum along with eight other writers. Krapp, 39 is in the book, now playing Off-Broadway, and the amazing Conversation Storm by Rick Burkhardt.

Worth your time and money.

Saw today that Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps, died out in Glendale, CA.

Man. Nobody did it better than Lux.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

more for the pod people

Just back from an early morning podcast with Martin and Rochelle Denton at It was "Ask a Director" time with me and Jim Simpson, Barry Edelstein and Cat Parker.

Martin kept referring to us as a "distinguished" group. That word always makes me itch a little bit because, let's face it, "distinguished" is a nice way of saying "old".

The old MFA question came up, of course. Those who've been reading this blog know my take on this: don't waste your time and tens of thousands of dollars, get out there and fail in public. It's harsh, but those experiences are lessons you will never forget, not classes you will sleep through.

And on a deeper level, studying directing or acting or playwriting in an academic environment seems to reinforce some dangerous assumptions.

In a class, you are working for the approval of one person, your teacher, right? You want to get that A. So then you go out into the world and you start working for someone else's approval, a lead critic, say.

In a classroom environment, there's always the unspoken understanding that there is a right answer, a right way and a wrong way. So you get loaded up with all of this received wisdom and unthinking tradition and are subtly or not so subtly discouraged from working from an initial, original impulse.

Where else is anything interesting, innovative or worthwhile going to come from except an initial, original impulse?

I'm all for technique and knowing the history and I know there are smart, dedicated, honest people working in academia, but my experience has been that most of them are working consciously or otherwise against their situation, swimming upstream against a very strong current.


Been over this, I suppose.

Good weekend to all, stay warm out there.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

the more things change

Just read that 71 years ago today, Our Town opened on Broadway.

Guess what's opening Off-Broadway this spring?

In the year 2079, look for the definitive Off-Off Broadway production.

I love a classic as much as the next gent, but...

In the words of St. Antonin:

"We steadfastly refuse to regard theatre as a museum for masterpieces, however fine and human they may be... We will always maintain that any work is worthless if it does not belong to a certain localized state of mind, chosen not because of its virtues or defects but purely because of its relativity. We do not want art or beauty. What we are looking for are ENGAGED emotions. "

And he was writing back in 1929.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

snowed in

Woke up to a fresh foot of snow out here in the mountains. Have to dig our way out and get back to Rat City for a LIT meeting tonight. Meetings all week, god help me.

Just said no to a little directing gig with some friends. Would have been fun, but I'm trying to spend this year writing, get some stuff out of my head and on to the page.

That's the plan, anyway.

Everyone won the MMMQ yesterday. Ann wins because that's the way I heard the story too, Rosie wins because of the Rose Exception and the mysterious Kirt wins because he sounds very sure of himself and that counts for an awful lot around here.

Now where's that shovel?

Monday, February 02, 2009

an old pro

Friday morning Nancy got an email from Mark Mitton, world-renowned magician, saying that he was playing in the Winter Lights Festival that night in a little church in Milford, PA.

Milford is about twenty miles from the cabin in the woods, so we wrapped ourselves up against the cold, piled into car 220 and drove into town.

And there was Mark, up on the altar, facing down about a hundred screaming kids and their grinning parents.

Mark does huge corporate gigs, teaches magic at international conferences and here he is pulling cards out of thin air and astounding the good people of Milford.

It's a strange life, a life on the road. We did it for a few years, we've settled down lately, but sometimes it's the only way to keep working.

Wouldn't be Monday without a quiz, so let's turn to Apocryphal Beginnings.

The story goes that the Violent Femmes were playing on the street in Minneapolis in front of the stadium downtown. The lead singer of which huge band allegedly heard them and on the spot booked them to open for said huge band that night?

Was it

1. The Pretenders

2. R.E.M.

3. Prince and the Revolution

4. MC5

5. Porter Wagoner and the Wagoneers?

Winners get to add it up, losers can just kiss off into the air.