Next For Flux, Next For Blog

Monday, November 30, 2009 1 comments

So, while there are a few more posts regarding The Lesser Seductions of History still to come (most importantly a detailed response to the audience responses), I want to talk quickly about what Flux has coming up, and what role this blog will play, and how you can engage with us here:

1. Flux Sunday will be starting up again this Sunday! I'll be reporting on the return of our weekly workshop process here.
2. Food:Soul and Have Another: The next installments will hopefully be announced soon - these public showings of plays and scenes in development at Flux Sunday are our way of sharing our process with you, and we're looking for more ways to open up that conversation here (for an example, read the comments responding to our last Food:Soul, Volleygirls.)
3. We hope to bring back Foreplay, the reading series that surrounds our full productions, for our upcoming production of J.B. Heather Cohn has some cool ideas for just how to frame this particular ForePlay, so stay tuned.
4. And yeah, we're producing Archibald MacLeish's 1959 Pulitzer Prize winning play J.B. as the culmination of our Season of Give and Take! We're still figuring out the whos and whats and wheres and whens, but director Kelly O'Donnell has some really exciting ideas about this play, and as always, you'll get the inside scoop here.
5. Unfinished business from our annual retreat: We need to further articulate our core and aesthetic Values, strategic planning, timeline, Membership rights and responsibilities and more. Maintaining the retreat momentum has always been difficult for us in production, which makes December a pivotal month for moving those conversations forward. We'll continue posting that progress when appropriate.

In addition to reporting on the projects above, the Flux blog will continue to reach out to the wider community, including previous projects like:
1. Out and About: Our listing of shows and events we're excited about, especially when they feature Fluxers and friends of Flux.
2. Exploding Moments: Our examination of what makes great shows work through interviews with the artists involved, focusing on the mechanics of specific moments.
3. Responding to plays we see, when we feel our response can add something of value.
4. Indie Theatre Rep: I'm hoping to push this idea forward into something more tangible

I'm also hoping to continue blogging about science and theatre, social media, new models, audience engagement, aesthetics and politics, and dramatic structure; and move to host conversations about all of the above here, like online town halls. I'd like to reach out to other Ensemble theatres across the country to report out on the challenges and opportunities they face, and find opportunities for collaboration; I'd like to reach out to other artistic disciplines and do the same.

But...there is only so much time in the night and early morning. In the end, this blog is here to serve the artists and audience closest to Flux, and when it can, expand in circles outwards to take in whoever wants to join the conversation. Which is a long way of asking: what do you want to see here?
Read the full story

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Remembering, Forgetting, Theatre

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 0 comments

I want to write a little about how the scale of the way we remember and forget is changing in our culture, and what that might mean for theatre.

A few things recently caught my eye: the discovery and subsequently rapid spread of Vivian Maier's photography. Unknown as a photographer in her lifetime, John Maloof acquired her negatives at an antique auction. He discovered 30-40,000 stunning pictures, many of which had not even been developed. He has been putting her work online, and admiration for it has been rightfully spreading.

I happened upon Vivian's work via Twitter, around the same time that GeoCities and its 38 million user built pages disappeared (though efforts exist to preserve that information).

These two examples are a way of saying that because our culture can remember more deeply it can also forget more completely. We need to examine what this shift in cultural memory might mean to theatre and its role as carrier of cultural meaning. What is unique about the meaning theatre creates?

Saying a play isn't theatrical is like saying a Cabernet doesn't taste like grapes. But certain wines take advantage of the unique strengths of their terroir, and so it is worth considering what is unique in theatre's terroir. This is especially true now when our cultural meaning exists in a relentlessly evolving and expanding conversation online; when story is as common as air, and nearly as free; what essential meaning is left for theatre to carry?

Here are five aspects of theatre's terroir I've been thinking about lately:

1. Narrative Experience: This one is old as the hills, but worth remembering: theatre provides meaning that is irreducible from the experience of its story. In our current ocean of stories, this does not make it unique, however; and its cost in time and effort make this reason increasingly less persuasive.
2. Presence: Almost as old as Narrative Experience, the power of theatre "actually happening" has been held up like a talisman against film for years. Usually, it's simply stated that theatre is better because the actors can hear you, but why is that better? If a bad house decreases the quality of the playing (which happens), isn't it better to quarantine the art from outside influence?
Or, if the ability for the audience to affect the performance is important, shouldn't that make video games a more essential medium, where the audience's will is the performance? And for those who laugh at that, read this New York Times article about the next generation of video game designers who are dedicated to using what is unique about their medium to create meaningful art.
Yet any reckoning of what is unique about theatre must absolutely decide why presence is so important.
3. Four dimensions: Live performance exists in four dimensions, and while it's that third dimension that (unless you're wearing 3-D glasses) is the most noticeable difference between theatre and film, it's that fourth dimension that is most important. Film, breaking our experience of time's arrow, is the same played backwards and forwards (though perhaps harder to follow played backwards). You cannot reverse a play; the egg doesn't unbreak; the water doesn't pour itself back into the pitcher; this particular Hamlet will never speak of Ophelia's orisons in quite the same way again.
This is perhaps where Presence becomes important; the way we change the actor's performance as we both journey down the one-way street of time makes a theatrical performance significantly more like life than the two dimensional experience of film.
4. Multiple perception: In our recent interview with Rachel Cole at InDigest Magazine (not yet out), Lesser Seductions director Heather Cohn reminded me of something essential about all theatre that was especially true of our play. Theatre allows of a multiplicity of perception that is not possible (sorry, split screen) in quite the same way in film.
This is for two reasons: simultaneous action and symbolic potential. Because there is no camera to force an audience's eye, their particular journey through each moment of the play will be unique. In a play like The Lesser Seductions of History, where the characters' journeys mostly unfold at the same time, this is especially true.
Secondly, because theatre is not a literal medium (meaning that with film and video games, you are seeing the actual event, whereas with theatre, dance and the written word you are seeing a representation of an event), meaning can be created through the use of symbols. A light bulb dangling from a ceiling represents a year of the 1960's, and when lowered to the stage, becomes the circle of the moon. The light bulb has a literal meaning, and over time, accrues symbolic meaning as it is used to represent different things in The Lesser Seductions of History. And because everyone's imaginative response to these symbols will be so different, symbolic potential greatly increases multiple perception.
5. Adaptability: Theatre is a cockroach. Where film and video games need fancy equipment to exist, theatre exists anywhere there is a stage, someone walking across it, and someone watching (thank you, Mr. Brook).
Additionally, theatre adapts to the place and time where it is played, changing meaning like a chameleon blending in to fit its surroundings. The greatest plays are also the most adaptable; there is something in them that allows for so much multiplicity of meaning that they are not bound to their cultural time and place. Each group of audience and artists that plays a play shift the meaning to fit their our own unique needs of the moment, while at the same time engaging with the legacy of past productions.

SO! If you're still with me, the question remains: in a time where each evolving moment of cultural meaning exists online; and both factual and experiential knowledge are only a click away; and conversation happens across thousands of miles in real time; what does theatre have to offer?

Using the five aspects above, I think the four-dimensional narrative experience of a play, influenced by the mutual presence of artists and audience, creates a multiplicity of perception and adaptability of purpose that makes it an ideal vehicle for a particular kind of cultural meaning: the practice of human compassion.

Lofty? Not at all; poodle and chimpanzees do it. Like all social animals, they play to learn how to live together, and though we fancy ourselves infinitely more complex, the root need is the same. And because theatre remains the form of play closest to our experience of life, it remains essential.

So while I am thankful for the extraordinary powers of the internet (he says while blogging after all) to share information and foster conversation; I still believe that theatre is needed to pass on the compex cultural meaning of the practice of human compassion. Read the full story

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Vote for Lesser Seductions for the NYITA

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 0 comments

Until Sunday the 29th, the New York Innovative Theatre Awards will be accepting your votes for The Lesser Seductions of History. The audience votes count for 25% of the total, so your vote really does count. Flux was previously nominated for 7 NYIT Awards, winning one for Asa Wember's Sound Design of Angel Eaters, and we'd love to see the work of the amazing artists in Lesser Seductions recognized.

So, vote, before the tryptophan kicks in!

A note on the process - there are a limited number of Lead and Featured actor slots available per show, which put us in a difficult position in a show where every actor is equally a Lead and/or Featured. We thought a lot about the best way to navigate this, including only allowing votes for Best Ensemble; but that would mean no actors would have a chance to be individually recognized. The only fair way to do it seemed to undertake the arduous task of counting every line, and base the Lead vs Featured designation solely on the math. So we did! This is what you'll see when go to vote; not our feeling of which character is the most important, simply which character speaks the most.

Also, Jodi Witherell, our intrepid stage manager, handled a cast of eleven, a script of many rewrites, and a show of literally hundreds and hundreds of light and sounds cues spaced seconds apart. Consider this post our unofficial nomination of Jodi for the Outstanding Stage Manager Award. (And how does one nominate her officially, goodly NYITA staff reader out there?)

Do you need to remember who exactly played what? Put faces to names on our website.

So please vote for The Lesser Seductions of History, and warm-as-twice-baked-potatoes-thank-you from all of us. Read the full story

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Visible Soul's Zack Calhoon on Lesser Seductions

Monday, November 23, 2009 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: The Cast)
Playwright/actor/blogger Zack Calhoon has some good thoughts on Lesser Seductions on his blog, Visible Soul. There has been a great mix in critical response divided between: those who know us, those who know our work well, those who know our work a little, and those who don't know us or our work at all. (More on all that anon).

Zack falls into the first category - we had a great time at Flux Sundays working on his play Paint. Here, Zack's knowledge of the company's past work is really helpful in tracking our growth. In that light, I especially liked this quote:
It was fascinating to see how like a costume designer, he tailored each character to fit the emotional flow of history and particular talents of the Flux core ensemble.
So, please read the whole post, and if you saw the show, vote for us in the NYIT Awards and leave your own thoughts on our audience comments post. Read the full story


Audience Response To Lesser Seductions

This is an open thread for our community of artists and audience to respond to The Lesser Seductions of History. This is an experiment for Flux, and its success depends on you. When you see the show, please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in the comments field below.

A few rules of the game: this is a safe space, so while criticism is welcome, snark and hostility are not. A good rule of thumb is simply to keep to things you'd feel comfortable saying face to face. While you can choose to post as anonymous, we encourage you to take ownership of your thoughts.

A couple of questions to prompt you:

-What were the moments of heat (aka, the moments you won't forget)?
-Where did you feel the play the cool off?
-To what character arcs did you feel the greatest connection?
-What balance are you striking in your own life between comfort and purpose?
-How would you compare the sense of purpose from the 1960's to now?
-What did you think of the simultaneous action?
-Were you more drawn in by the larger struggle presented by ONE, or to the individual relationships?
-Is there unfinished business from the 1960's our generation needs to carry forward?

Answer all, some, or just write what you want. Our sincere thanks, and see you at the theatre! Read the full story

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Michael Roderick on Flux and Lesser Seductions

Saturday, November 21, 2009 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Christina Shipp, Jason Paradine)
If you haven't met producer/artist extraordinaire Michael Roderick yet, don't worry - you will. There is no producer I know so selflessly dedicated to every aspect of theatre in New York City - from commercial runs to Indie theatre - he's either seen it or more likely, had a hand in it. He's helped out Flux before, most recently (I think) in helping us with our Poetic Larceny, and he understands just how important a vibrant, connected community is to the field, hosting events to introduce artists/producers to each other. Oh, and did I mention he also blogs about his adventures?

But you probably know all that. What you might not know is he now has a column at Broadway World, looking at the movers and shakers of Indie Theatre. Past columns have looked at Jeremy Bloom and Manhattan Theatre Source. His most recent column featured Flux, and is a great look at the ethos of the company and how it manifests in The Lesser Seductions of History. He compares our model to Steppenwolf's, and that is as much a charge to responsibility as it is an honor. I do believe that Ensembles can create a certain kind of work no other model can; but it is a difficult model to keep running, and we're just at the beginning.

My favorite quote on this one is easy, and one I hope you'll take to heart:
The show has a few more performances at the Cherry Pit before it takes its rightful place amongst the classics of Indie Theatre History. The book's still open so you can catch it before it closes.
Only 3 more shows and then we're done. So, read the whole column, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

The Question Of New Models

Thursday, November 19, 2009 7 comments

The idea for new models of theatre is as old as Thespis stepping out of the Chorus. Lately, there has been some interesting ideas in adapting existing social models from other fields: examples theatre as church, and theatre as community supported agriculture.

This got me thinking about what other potential models are out there, and how they might be adapted to the field. Here's what I can think of off the top of my early morning head:

1. Sports (minor and amateur leagues probably being especially useful)
2. Politics (again, local practices probably being the most useful)
3. School (especially colleges)
4. Social clubs (whether book clubs or masons)
5. Non-arts charities
6. Social media
7. Science
8. Corporations (though I think theatres have already been pushed too far in the direction of this model)
9. Other arts (galleries, bands, orchestras, etc.)

What else? Please comment below: after Lesser Seductions closes, if time presents itself I may try to host on the blog interviews with representatives from these different fields to see what practices may be applicable to theatre. Perhaps there's already research in this area - if so, please post it in the comments below. Read the full story

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The Genes for Empathy and Memory

Two recent breakthroughs in neuroscience seemed worth reporting in the context of our work in theatre:

1. The over expression of a single gene, NR2B, caused a rat to remember things three times longer than her kin.
2. Individuals with a greater expression of a gene that regulates oxytocin score 22.7 higher on tasks that measure empathy.

Empathy and Memory: two qualities of personality central to the work we do in theatre, both linked in part to the expression of single genes, both now capable of being altered in our quest for self-improvement.

Of all the significant challenges facing theatre over the next 50 years, this is the one of the most interesting: if our capacity for empathy and memory are genetically enhanced past a certain line, will we need theatre as a cultural carrier of meaning and agent of empathy? If yes, will a new kind of enhanced theatre replace what we currently believe are masterworks of enduring beauty, reducing Shakespeare's work to drawings on cave walls?

And even if that kind of cognitive evolution doesn't happen, the moral questions regarding neuroscience need to be played out in the arena of theatre, or we will be like the playwrights of Universal Robots, handed a discovery with moral implications past our readiness.

On another note, are there plays that you've seen lately that are breakthroughs in our understanding of empathy and memory? They don't need to necessarily be directly about them, but find new ground for how we think about them. I'd like to believe that Rattlers and Pretty Theft both explored new territories of empathy: for Rattlers, how grief distorts our capacity for empathy; for Pretty Theft, how beauty does the same. And I think that The Lesser Seductions of History explores how we remember, both as individuals endlessly revising our lives, and as a culture, rewriting the meaning of the past to suit our present (in this regard, it is directly connected to Our Town and Universal Robots, two plays mentioned as kin that do the same).

One case that might be too metaphoric to make is that theatre is as much a laboratory of human behavior as the sciences, and as such, deserves funding for research that may lead to both dead ends and breakthroughs. But for that to be true, we would need to have some actual breakthroughs in how our theatre explores human consciousness - what have you seen that's breaking this kind of new ground? Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Megin Jimenez,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: The Cast)
Our first negative review! And it's a doozy, courtesy of Megin Jimenez at I suppose it's a sign of how well this run is going that the hostility of the review amused more than wounded; and made me almost feel badly for her, hating away there in the dark as the rest of us played joyfully on. But that sounds patronizing, and she is certainly an interesting writer - for proof, read her rave of the Fringe show Shelf Life; and she is also a poet - read her Poem.

(*Update*) The misquotes in the original review are being corrected, and so have been removed from this post.

And though you didn't like this one, Megin, I very much hope you will join us for the next. So, read her whole review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Judith Mahoney Pasternak, The Indypendent

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Jake Alexander, Candice Holdorf, Matthew Archambault)
Our 10th review comes from Judith Mahoney Pasternak at The Indypendent, and it is fascinating in its unique take on the politics of the play. I especially like how she noticed the subtle sexism present in the play, using this pointed example:
Schulenburg does get a lot of the Sixties right, especially the casual brutality with which so many male idealists treated women before Second Wave Feminism raised our collective consciousness. (“Far away stars die/Because they don’t have Marie/To clean up their mess,” declares one of Isaac’s haikus.)
I wanted the various isms of the decade to be present in a way that was casual (and therefore more dangerous) rather than heavy handed, but the risk of doing so is to underplay how powerful those forces were. To give these devils their due I tried to find them in the details, and it's good to hear they were at least partially received.

So, read the whole review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Interview with Patrick Lee at Just Shows To Go You

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 0 comments

My interview with Patrick Lee at Just Shows To Go You is up! This was an exciting interview for me - each question seemed to open up more questions, and because it wasn't a written interview, I didn't have time to craft my thoughts (though Patrick's done a great job of editing here). As a result, there's much less of a polished filter in this interview, which I suppose is a good thing, though Lord I was born a ramblin' man. Give it a read, and be sure to check out other installments of his interview series (including interviews with amazing actors like Adam Driver, Amy Lynn Stewart and Rebecca Comtois.) Read the full story

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A Thank You or Two

Monday, November 16, 2009 0 comments

A brief post of gratitude to:

Tim Errickson of Boomerang Theatre Company for mentioning Flux's ForePlay series in his interview with Leonard Jacobs as part of an article for Backstage regarding multi-disciplinary and dark night programming. On that subject, allow me to again voice my admiration for Electric Pear's multi-multi-disciplinary Synesthesia project, and welcome Thesia Arts, a new company dedicated to multi-disciplinary work.

Our beloved playwright Johnna Adams giving The Lesser Seductions of History a shout-out in her interview with Zack Calhoon at Visible Soul. It's a great read with insight into her process and good news about her amazing play Sans Merci (aka the play that destroys me in the good way).

Our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas for their continued support, and a big congratulations for exceeding 10,000 Members! Their Membership growth over seven years has been impressive, and from my perspective, that growth has come from providing genuinely necessary benefits, practicing generosity, and decision making based in the metric analysis Adam describes.

Of course, thank you to everyone who has made our first two weeks of The Lesser Seductions of History go so well (only one week left!)

And on a more personal note, my mother (in town to see The Lesser Seductions of History) brought me a signed copy of Mary Oliver's latest book of poetry, Evidence. And what better way to end a brief post of gratitude than with a section from "At The River Clarion", a haunting poem from that book:

There was someone I loved who grew old and ill.
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do

except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.
Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Toby Thelin, OffOffOnline

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Michael Davis, Tiffany Clementi)
Toby Thelin's review for OffOffOnline is up, and it is lovely, taking into context Flux's trajectory as an Ensemble in a really thoughtful way. I especially like the attention he pays to the influence of Shakespeare. One (Candice's character) speaks most of the play in iambic pentameter, a tool I used to give her language a slightly heightened quality I hoped the audience would feel without noticing, and he finds other important parallels.

So, please read the whole review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here.
Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Karen Tortora-Lee, The Happiest Medium

Sunday, November 15, 2009 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Raushanah Simmons, Michael Davis)
Karen Tortora-Lee's review for The Happiest Medium is up, and I absolutely love her description of the actors as acrobats:
Watching the Flux Theatre Ensemble bring August Schulenburg’s “The Lesser Seductions of History” to life is like watching seasoned acrobats performing an intricate, balletic routine; one which -in order to succeed- relies on trust, timing, and blind leaps of faith … knowing that your fellow performers are exactly where they should be and will deftly handle the assist, even as they fully commit to the leap they are taking themselves. One miscalculation and the whole thing comes tumbling down, and then forget about the net. But no one here falls; in fact, they soar.
This is the kind of play where every actor depends absolutely on the other - with all 11 actors on stage almost all of the time, and the scenes so tightly interwoven, you can almost never let your guard down.

She also has a beautiful take on the character of Martha, but to read that, you'll need to read the review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Doug Strassler, Show Business Weekly

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Jason Paradine, Candice Holdorf, Matthew Archambault)
Doug Strassler's review from Show Business Weekly is out, and I was especially happy that he noticed the sibling chemistry between Jason Paradine and Matthew Archambault as Barry and Bobby Tanner:
Meanwhile, both Bobby and his brother, Barry, find themselves haunted by their experiences in Vietnam. (It should be noted that these two fine actors demonstrate great rapport as siblings).
The play begins with 4 sibling relationships: Bobby and Barry, Anisa and Lizzie, George and Martha, and Isaac and Lee (they are cousins, but close enough to feel like brothers). All four of the sibling relationships will be damaged significantly over the course of the play, and only two of them will move towards repair by the end. And though the play is not about sibling relationships, so much of the action is driven by the complexity of these four sets of brothers, sisters, and cousins.

So, read the whole review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Aaron Riccio, That Sounds Cool

Friday, November 13, 2009 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Ingrid Nordstrom, Kelly O'Donnell, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Jake Alexander, Jason Paradine, Christina Shipp, Michael Davis)
I read Aaron Riccio's review late last night after coming home from a second rough night at the theatre. This review saved me a little, especially because of this quote:
There are moments where Schulenburg struggles with his big ideas--and that's as it should be; that's how you know the ideas are big enough.
If that were a few words shorter, I might just get that tattooed somewhere so I never forget it. Anyway, it's a great review, so please, give it a read, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Conversation vs Information

Thursday, November 12, 2009 4 comments

Adina Levin has a fascinating post building on a theory of Dave Weinberger's called The End of Information, The Return of Conversation. In it, Adina persuasively argues that Information - who has it, who doesn't, and how it is distributed - is no longer the primary mover of our culture.

Now it is Conversation, through the form of social media, that is in the driver's seat. Rather than engaging the world through Information obtained from a single reliable source; the world is increasingly understood through the context of Conversation. Comments on blogs and Facebook, tweets and retweets, Google Wave and Wikipedia are more than just crowd sourcing information; they represent a fundamental values shift in perception. Asking the question, and hosting the conversation, have primacy over providing a single answer.

In her excellent recent post The Future Of Politics Is Mutual, Hannah Nicklin issues a call to arms for the creation of an open sourced WikiPolitics, something my friend Matt Cooperider has been advocating for at Open Government NYC. As Hannah argues, the structures of social media are ideally suited to creating a more open, participatory democracy.

What does this mean for theatre? Primarily, it means that if you claim to want Conversation, it can't simply be your old Information dressed up in social media's clothing. Flux is taking steps towards this by directly soliciting feedback for The Lesser Seductions of History, but this is only a start. As WikiPolitics and Open Government movements increase the access and leverage of engaged citizens, we must encourage a similar level of direct and meaningful conversation with our stakeholders. What theatre companies are doing this well? Please post any good examples in the comments field; especially those that move beyond using new media as a platform for old content, and instead let their audience sit in some meaningful way at the table where decisions are made. Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Sean Williams, Sean Rants

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Ingrid Nordstrom, Kelly O'Donnell)
I am so moved by Sean Williams' response to The Lesser Seductions of History. One of the artist/producers behind Gideon Productions (Viral, Universal Robots, Hail Satan), his opinion means a great deal to me.

My favorite quote from his post brings the action of the play into the present:
I don't want to kill you with spoilers because I really want you to see the play, but there is a moment when one character, speaking of the moon-landing, says "wasn't all of it worth it?" and the answer, from the playwright and the production, is an unequivocal "YES". And, referring to a different moment in the play, an hour later I said to my wife, "The man's hands were broken beyond repair, but we elected a great man to be President. Wasn't it worth it? Wasn't the struggle worth it?"
That question is at the heart of the play, and I very much hope you will read Sean's entire post, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Website is working again

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 0 comments

Hi all. The website is up and running again, thanks to some excellent and diligent work by Larry at AllenHost. Thanks for your patience and I'll see you at the Cherry Pit! Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Patrick Lee, Just Shows To Go You

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. pictured: Tiffany Clementi, Michael Davis, Jake Alexander, Isaiah Tanenbaum)
It was because of Patrick Lee (and fellow Fluxer Kelly O'Donnell) that I decided to see David Cromer's Our Town. His review and recommendation in passing convinced me to make time for a play I thought I wouldn't like. At a particularly uncertain time in the play's life, Cromer's production reaffirmed its basic impulses and challenged its excesses.

So I'm especially thrilled by this review. Readers of this blog already know my esteem for Just Shows To Go You, so we'll cut right to my favorite quote:
The ambitious, intellectually provocative and beautifully realized play does what theatre too rarely does – it leaves you thinking about your life, your times, your choices.
So, read the whole review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Ethan Stanislawski, Tynan's Anger

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks Wright. Pictured: Cast, Candice Holdorf)
Ethan Stanislawski's review at Tynan's Anger is out, and it gives a great analysis of the over all arc of the play and decade that inspired it. I also appreciate his citing of Our Town and Universal Robots as plays that influenced Lesser Seductions - Cromer's production came as I was struggling with a second draft of the play, and was immensely helpful.

Also fascinating is his idea for staging the play outside - I'd never thought of it as an option but it would be very cool to try, especially if you could catch '68 and '69 just as night was falling.

Favorite quote is easy on this one:
If Lesser Seductions had been produced in 1969; it would have been better than Woodstock; the play provides a clearer perspective of young American life than any acid trip ever could.
Read the full story

Link for Lesser Seductions tickets

As Isaiah wrote, the Flux website is down, but you can use this direct link:
to buy tickets to The Lesser Seductions of History Read the full story

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Flux Website issues

Hi everyone. A quick note from Isaiah. First of all, thanks to everyone who came to opening weekend. It was wonderful to feel the energy from the audience and I'm looking forward to two more weeks with you guys out there.

Second, you may have noticed that our website is down at the moment. We're not sure what's going on. Too many excited audience members trying to buy batches of tickets for their friends at once? Too many fabulous pictures of past productions? Magical, theatrophobic elves?

Actually, most likely it's a WordPress issue. In any case, we're on it and hope to resolve it soon. If you just can't wait to buy tickets, you can do so by calling 866-811-4111.

EDIT: The website is working again. Thanks for your patience! Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Wendy Caster, Show Showdown

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Jake Alexander, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Christina Shipp, Tiffany Clementi, Jason Paradine)
Wendy Caster is a reviewer new to me, so I was thrilled to read her review yesterday, and then bump into her at Liz Duffy Adam's Or,! I look forward to hearing her take on that romp of a play. Scrolling through her reviews at Show Showdown, I was also glad to read her enthusiastic takes on Viral and Universal Robots (which need no introduction on this blog), and her fascinating review of Superior Donuts.
My favorite quote regarding OUR play, however, is an easy one, and one I very much second with all my heart:
If the theatre gods deserve their divinity, The Lesser Seductions of History will end up with a long run and multiple awards off or on Broadway. (Oh, and did I mention that it's funny and sexy too?)
Three weeks is barely enough time for us to get started unpacking all the possibilities of this production, and a long run would allow nuance and detail to flower in a way that will keep me up at night, dreaming...

So, read the whole review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions review: Jon Sobel, Blogcritics

Monday, November 9, 2009 0 comments

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Ingrid Nordstrom, Christina Shipp)
The first review is out, and it's a good one, drawing on Our Town (a clear ancestor for the play), the history of the 1960's and our past production of Pretty Theft.

An example:
The Flux Theatre Ensemble is known for ambitious productions. Their superb Pretty Theft, for example, was big and sprawling too, though not to this extent. As in Pretty Theft, multiple storylines play out simultaneously on one stage. Eleven precisely drawn characters dance through the decade, illustrating through a quick succession of mostly short scenes their own messy dreams and devastations, while shouldering the zeitgeist they are also asked to embody. They become real to us while representing movements and ideas as well. It's a heavy load but Schulenburg's writing is pointed enough, and the players deft enough, to carry it with seeming ease, and they rivet our attention for two-plus hours.
-Jon Sobel, Blogcritics

Read the whole review, and then get your tickets, and after you've seen the show, please share your thoughts here. And thanks again to everyone who made it to opening weekend! Read the full story


Darlings That Had To Die - Lesser Seductions edition

Sunday, November 8, 2009 3 comments

You might remember that for Pretty Theft, Adam Szymkowicz shared some pages of scenes that were cut from the final version, or as he memorably dubbed them, Darlings That Had To Die. I now share one such Darling of my own, an end of act 1 monologue that needed to die, though I loved it so.

The monologue is for ONE, and though context is helpful, this particular monologue to the audience stands on its own (which was partly why it needed to be cut). It was also too much like my own philosophy, and in some ways contradicted ONE's central message. In the moment before, MARIE reminds herself that she is doing God's work, and ONE (having now revealed herself as a God of Progress, among other things) says this to the audience as the actors drifted one by one from the stage.

God’s work, that’s got to be a good feeling.
That is, if you know which God’s work you’re doing.

Here’s how you can do mine. When you wake up

Think of the universe, how wide it is,

How unknowably strange, how unbearably

Lovely; platypus and pulsars, our sun.

Then remember that in our best guess,

All of this unceasing wonder ceases

By falling away from itself until

There is no heat to feel, no light to see.

Then pour yourself some coffee, some corn flakes,

And remember that to our best knowledge,

We are all the life there is in creation.

And then think about how far we’ve come,

With our soft bodies and mushy grey minds,

How we’ve split the atom, plumbed the oceans,

Gone beyond the skies, and let that feel good,

It should feel good, it didn’t have to happen.

And then, (and this is asking a lot, so

Pour yourself a second cup, by all means),

Ask yourself, what if we one day found out

How to stop the universe from ending?

How to save the universe from itself?

Chuckle at that crazy thought, sip, sip, munch.

Then wonder who else is going to do it.

And if, as you’re washing your cup, dish, spoon,

You find that saving it is impossible,

You may ask the point of washing your dishes

At all, knowing that even the idea

Of water will fade to nothing; and then,

(Because now you’re late to work), shake that off,

Realize we can try and save the universe;

Or failing that, try and save each other;

And what do I mean by saving each other?

I mean, living in such a way, with light

And compassion, that we all can bear it,

That we can bear the universe ending.
Also, I should tell you, it’s intermission.

Truly, a darling, but for the good of the whole it had to go... Read the full story

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Congratulations to Epic Theatre Ensemble

A special congratulations to Epic for winning the 2009 COMING UP TALLER AWARD presented by the PRESIDENT'S COMMITTEE on the ARTS and the HUMANITIES for our SHAKESPEARE REMIX program. This prestigious award recognizes and supports outstanding after-school arts and humanities programs for children, especially those with great potential, but limited outlets for creative expression.

Our own Heather Cohn is the Director of Development at Epic, so we're especially thrilled by this well-deserved award. Here is a link to their celebratory video:

And here's info on the program itself:

SHAKESPEARE REMIX is an after-school youth development program at four NYC Public High Schools in Lower Manhattan, Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn, that culminates with students performing alongside professional theatre artists in fully produced Shakespeare productions at Off-Broadway theatres. Remix students accomplish a great feat. They fully debate the critical social and political questions of the play, they decode the meaning of Shakespeare's text and weave their own writing into the fabric of the script. The students work with Epic Artists as mentors and cast mates to rehearse and perform this production, speaking Shakespeare's language with truth and courage while creating a bridge from these plays to their time through their own words and actions.

Congratulations, Epic!

Read the full story

Pictures from Lesser Seductions

The pics are in! Here is a little sample of Tyler G. Hicks-Wright's beautiful work for us - make sure you go to his website and check out more (he has very reasonable rates for headshots, actor types). We'll be posting more as the days go by. In the meantime, why not buy your tickets for the real thing?

(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Candice Holdorf, cast)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Tiffany Clementi, Jake Alexander, Michael Davis, Raushanah Simmons)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Isaiah Tanenbaum, Ingrid Nordstrom, Raushanah Simmons, Michael Davis, Christina Shipp, Jake Alexander, Candice Holdorf)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Ingrid Nordstrom, Michael Davis Candice Holdorf, Christina Shipp, Jason Paradine, Raushanah Simmons, Tiffany Clementi, Jake Alexander, Isaiah Tanenbaum)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Michael Davis, Jake Alexander, Matthew Archambault)
(Photo by Tyler Griffin Hicks-Wright. Pictured foreground Candice Holdorf, Ingrid Nordstrom)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Candice Holdorf, Matthew Archambault, Ingrid Nordstrom, Tiffany Clementi, Raushanah Simmons)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Jake Alexander, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Christina Shipp, Jason Paradine)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Ingrid Nordstrom, Kelly O'Donnell, Michael Davis)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Cast)
(Photo by Tyler G. Hicks-Wright. Pictured: Tiffany Clementi, Matthew Archambault, Jake Alexander, Christina Shipp, Ingrid Nordstrom, Jason Paradine, Michael Davis, Raushanah Simmons)
Thank you Tyler for your beautiful work!
Read the full story

Sonnet For A Short Run

Friday, November 6, 2009 0 comments

In order to persuade you to see our show (and see it early - preview tonight!), I offer you this sonnet penned in earnest from the weary workings of a tech-strained brain:

So you say you're going to see our show-
Thanks! We know the demands on your attention
Are great - TV, films, books, not to mention
Social media - still, you've said you'll go.

But when? Now the matter grows uncertain;
Not this week but for sure the next, until
Next pours itself into your cup and spills
Over, and you rush to miss that last curtain.

Then, ah! the sorrows and regrets! The vows
Of next time; though we know missed plays, like failed leaps,
Like lost love and other games played for keeps
Get no nexts; but get gone by the last bows.

Tomorrow starts before we're ready for today;
But make time for us and we'll stop time with our play.

If these humble iams and boastful hexams have convinced you, tickets are available here and I'll see you at the theatre!

If not...I may resort to limericks. Read the full story

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RR - The Golden Thread

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 0 comments

We're in tech and two weeks have past since my last rehearsal report. Here's what I've learned and been thinking about:

-The Golden Thread: I've always liked this phrase from Steppenwolf, though I'm repurposing it considerably here. The continuity of the audience's attention, that golden thread, is never unbroken even in the best play; but every detail of production must strive towards keeping it whole.

-The Game Of Inches: And I do mean every detail. Every nuance counts to maintaining that golden thread. Reblocking an actor into better profile - a matter of inches - can maintain it. Cutting or adding one line can make a difference.

-Long Distance Runner: But this is hard, because sometimes the number of little fixes can be so overwhelming that it seems that an entire scene or act isn't working. Sometimes that's true; but more often than not, it's that string of little moments failing that create the illusion of a larger disaster; and like a long distance runner, the company must travel the distance from dead to living theatre one step at a time. Always, always, we must fight off that exhaustion and solve each break in the thread.

-The Exchange Rate of Time: Not all time in a play is created equally. A minute of stage time at the start of the play weighs less than a minute at the end of act 1, so that an action that might hold an audience's attention 15 minutes in will fail utterly to do so 1 hour in. A cut or addition of 5 minutes to the beginning of an act is equal (more or less) to a cut/addition of 30 seconds at the end.

-Snowballing: The only thing that allows a play to survive the increasing weight of time and sustain an audience's attention is the momentum of the unbroken golden thread. Like money earning interest, an action that starts small can roll down the hill of a play and gather such momentum that it can easily hold a fatigued audience's attention. This is one of the great challenges inherent in subplot (and the chief difficulty of Lesser Seductions); actions introduced halfway through a play have less time to gather momentum; and can actually halt the forward momentum of a central action.

-The Church of Want: This is an old thought worth rethinking in this context. Almost always, when the thread breaks and momentum stalls but the staging is right and the pages are necessary; the fault returns (as it so often does) to the actor not knowing what they want. Then, like a list of biblical plagues come all the old actor evils: the sawing of the air with the hands, the pause to work up tears, the pacing like a seasick sailor, the sentimentality, the breaking up of the rhythm of the line so it sounds "natural", the playing of mood, the barely audible sincerity or the scenery rending screaming; indication station, all aboard.

We're getting closer and closer to maintaining that golden thread with The Lesser Seductions of History, and last night, Jake, Michael and Candice especially took huge steps forward in driving their parts forward with that church of want. But the structure of the play makes momentum difficult to achieve, and the margin of error in this play may be smaller than most.

Have you bought your tickets yet? I hope so, and once you've seen the play, I'll be posting an open thread for audience reactions to the play. Can you tell I'm excited to share it with you? Read the full story