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Ourchambault on Good Morning America

Sunday, October 25, 2009 1 comments

Wondering what our cast does when not staging fiendishly tricky plays about the 60's? Well, our Barry, played by Matthew Archambault, invents sports! Here is his guest spot on Good Morning America, where he introduces the world to Office Chair Polo. Matt appears about halfway through that link.
AND, as it turns out, the theatre blogger behind CultureFuture is one of the creators of the other invented sport featured, Circle Football.
Which begs the obvious question: is theatre the future of sports?
Next question: can our other game inventor Zack Robidas top Archampolo?
The future of theatre may very well hang in the balance. Read the full story

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H and K and the FA

Fractured Atlas' Emily Bowles interviewed our Kelly O'Donnell about Flux - check out the interview here. I'm especially psyched with how clearly Kelly outlined our development/ audience engagement programs.

And then our Heather Cohn, along with Fratcured Atlas' visionary founder Adam Forest Huttler, participated in the 4th day of Grant Makers In The Arts Conference, on a panel called New Models, New Artists, New Leaders. Ian David Moss at Createquity reports on the highlights of that panel here.

Just a little Sunday reading for your enjoyment... Read the full story


Decoherence and Entanglement

Saturday, October 24, 2009 2 comments

I will try to talk about decoherence, a quantum process, without falling into incoherence, because I think that this process is connected to how our play The Lesser Seductions of History works.

(Two caveats: posts like this are hindsight peaks under the hood of a process that is mysterious to me as it instinctually happens; and none of these theoretical posts count a whit if the characters don't have some dirt under their fingernails).

Here is a lovely quote about decoherence and entanglement from my recent issue of Scientific American, talking about the bizarre things that happen in the world of quantum physics:

In the most distinctive such effect, called entanglement, two electrons
establish a kind telepathic link that transcends space and time. And not just
electrons: you, too, retain a quantum bond with your loved ones that endures no
matter how far apart you may be. If that sounds hopeflessly romantic, the flip
side is that particles are incurably promiscuous, hooking up with every particle
they meet. So you also retain a quantum bond with every loser who ever bumped
into you on the street and every air molecule that ever brushed your skin. The
bonds you want are overwhelmed by those you don't. Entanglement thus foils
entanglement, a process known as decoherence.

If it wasn't for decoherence, we'd be able to notice all the mad quantum connections; how a change in our existence would instantly affect those we are entangled with, however far apart we are. If we were like electrons, we'd put on a blue shirt, and suddenly our brother miles away would also be wearing blue.

Maybe you see where this is going - a play strips away the entanglements we don't want so we can see more clearly the entanglements we do. By keeping the decoherence at bay, we're able to examine the connections that do matter to us more closely. This happens in every play structurally, but in our staging of Lesser Seductions, it happens literally.

Because most of the play involves overlapping scenes with all of the characters on stage most of the time; opportunities for entanglement abound. Our first priority is clarity: tracking more than one story unfolding in time is difficult, and much of our work is making sure the simultaneous action strengthens the play's energy, rather than diffusing it. This may be our singular challenge in the show.

BUT! It is also our singular opportunity, and many exciting moments exist for us to have one moment on stage echo across the literal divide and subtly touch the life of another character - moments of quantum entangelment like:

-Martha driving up from Alabama makes a joke about sad songs "my baby left me and my Daddy died"; and then Lizzie in Texas stands to deliver her father's eulogy.
-George at a dive bar storms away from his sister and crosses by Isaac who is on his roof; and in that moment, Isaac remembers he needs to meet George, and breaks away from his wife.

These are just two moments of many in the play - I nearly wrote more before realizing they gave too much away - but one of the gifts of the stage is characters can share literal space but be many play miles away; be acting in the same moment, but play years apart. And so the actions of the characters can mirror quantum entanglement and transcend space and time.

And that's exciting to me, because I do believe these scientific ideas that seem so far beyond our every day experience are actually deeply wound into the fabric of our existence; so much so that we don't always see how these quantum uncertainties and elegant relativites touch the way we experience time, space, and all the fascinating lovely scary things of this world.

Thoughts? Anyone experience this in other plays, or in life? Read the full story

Looking For Chairs

Taking a break from the theory for a more partcial consideration - Flux needs chairs.

No, not Stolen Chairs but the following model from Ikea that we need for The Lesser Seductions of History - here's the (edited) scoop from Jason Paradine, our Bobby and Production Manager:

"We have the unique challenge of needing 9 matching chairs for the show. The chair we are looking for is an Ikea model called the the STEFAN chair.
Any number of them will help. We would need to get them by Saturday, October 31st. We will need to paint them for the show - but can return them to black and return them after November 23rd."

If you have this chair and are willing to loan it to us, please post below, and thank you!
Read the full story

Out and About, Late October

Friday, October 23, 2009 0 comments

Blogging from rehearsal so I'm rushed and sure to miss many worthy shout-outs, but we must start with a reading featuring Flux Member Jake Alexander and a bunch of Flux friends:

by Cynthia Kraman Genser
Directed by Heidi Handelsman
Produced by Ali Skye Bennet and Mark Sportiello
Featuring Jake Alexander, Ali Skye Bennet, David Carson*, Zonya Love Johnson*, Warren Katz, Toya Lillard, Megan McGowan, Celia Mei Rubin*, Jane Lincoln Taylor*, and Rob Yang*
Sunday, Oct. 25th and Monday Oct. 26th @ 7pm
The Algonquin Theater
123 E. 24th St between Park & Lex
Running time: 1 hour
Seating is extremely limited!!! RSVPs are required. Email Promised.Land.Reading@gmail.com to reserve seats.

And make SURE you have your tickets for The Blood Brothers Present...The New Guignol, featuring Flux Member Cotton Wright and loads of people Flux loves.

The dynamic duo of Amanda Feldman and Jennifer Conley Darling have united to produce Blackouts, and tomorrow night is the last to see it (sorry for the tardy SO).

Whose house? bauhaus the bauhaus. I'm really looking forward to catching Nerve Tank's new play that features Modernism! Utopia! Architecture! Sit-upons! You had me at Utopia.

Don't forget about Electric Pear's new joint, Balaton. I'd love to see the Pearl strut their stuff in their new space in The Playboy of the Western World.

Coming up in the near future, CollaborationTown made the savvy choice of asking Scott Ebersold to direct Children at Play, featuring Susan Louise O'Connor. Scott has done amazing work on everything I've seen him do, so I really hoping I'll be able to see this. And Flux friend Frederique Nahmani is doing my second favorite Tom Stoppard play, The Real Thing. (Can you guess my favorite? A Scrintle plush doll to the winning guess!)

BUT...my greatest personal stokitude is for the Women's Project production of Liz Duffy Adam's Or,. Liz's play Dog Act is one of my all time favorites, and her new play looks at the life of playwright Aphra Behn. And, to quote their website, "While war rages and Aphra and her friends celebrate free love, cross-dressing and pastoral lyricism, the 1660s start to look a lot like the 1960s." So it even fits with our The Lesser Seductions of History (and what's 300 years between friends?)

What did I miss? What would you recommend? Read the full story

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Prioritizing Values

Thursday, October 22, 2009 1 comments

One of the most useful exercises we did at our annual retreat was creating individual lists of core values in order of importance, and then comparing and quantitatively analyzing those lists. Why the italics for in order of importance?

Because the results were truly eye-opening. Previously, when we had talked about our values, we had done so in a way that assumed they were of equal importance. I didn't ask if developing multi-faceted theatre artists was a more important value than long term collaboration, because I didn't think prioritzing values mattered.

It is, of course, essential, because different values can come into direct conflict with each other. An example is the current uproar over the casting of a hearing actor in a deaf and mute role in New York Theatre Workshop and The Acting Company's The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. For an excellent analysis of this debate, check out Leonard Jacob's take at the Clyde Fitch Report.

Be sure to read the comments section for a perfect example of core values in conflict. If you value aesthetic excellence more than inclusiveness, you are likely to side with those who support NYTW's casting choice. Is it more important to take advantage of opportunities to cast deaf actors and have their experience represented directly on stage; or is it more important to cast the best actor?

The debate is more complex than that, and without knowing the casting process or the core values of the companies involved, I'm hesitant to take sides. But this is exactly the situation where a clear priority of values could help explain difficult decisions to your stake holders.

That is, of course, if you value transparency. And now it's my turn to own up to the fact that this particular post is housed in glass, as Flux is not quite ready to share the fruits of our core value labors. We're hoping to have something to share by January 1st.

When that happens, it will be our responsibility to explain those values in clear language, prioritizing them as best we can, while being realistic with ourselves about the complexity that plagues every decision in a field where resources are scarce, time limited, and outcomes, uncertain.

That said, one of the lessons of our retreat was that it isn't enough to know your core values; you also have to clearly prioritize them to be ready for when the difficult decisions come.

Does anyone know any companies who could serve as models in this regard? Read the full story

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Phantom Limbs, Mirror Box

Readers of this blog will know I am an avid amateur of science, and unfortunately prone to drawing metaphorical conclusions from theoretical progress. This post will be no exception.

Listening to VS Ramachandran's 2007 TED lecture on what 3 unique kinds of brain damage reveal about the mind, I was especially struck by his work with Phantom Limbs and Mirror Visual Feedback (MFV) therapy.

I was familiar with the phantom limb, the sensation some amputees have of feeling the presence of their amputated limb or organ. I was unfamiliar with the experience some amputees have of a paralyzed phantom limb; a painful, cramped sensation that causes its sufferers years of significant discomfort. Ramachandran believed this is because the mind sends commands to the limb, but notices no results, and so through Hebbian Learning the sensation of paralysis is created, and can not be turned off.

Ramachandran's solution was to jolt the phantom limb out of paralysis with the ingenious visual stimuli of a mirror box. He had an amputee move their remaining arm within the mirror box, which created the illusion that the amputee's missing (now mirrored) limb was moving, and the phantom paralysis disappeared. The pain was gone. Even though the patient knew this was just an illusion, the visual stimuli, called Mirror Visual Feedback, was so powerful it released a phantom clench that had caused them pain for years. Ramachandran's solution is a balm to sufferers of this phantom limb paralysis.

Perhaps you see where this is going. There are some traumas that burn a pattern into the brain more emotionally complex than the loss of a limb, that are narrative experiential in nature, and so would require Mirror Visual Feedback of that narrative experience to release their phantom pain.

Theatre is the mirror box of experience (we know because Hamlet tells us so). And knowing that mirror neurons allow us to experience the actions of others as if we were acting ourselves, I wonder if one of the functions of theatre is to heal our minds from patterns of loss; that through empathy, we see our phantom actions mirrored, and feel our pain released.

This is like catharsis but not quite the same; I remember feeling this experience most keenly myself watching A Moon For The Misbegotten at PSF. Deep regrets and patterns of loathing I felt were somehow released from their clench watching Jamie Tyrone find unexpected forgiveness.

What do you think? Has the mirror box of theatre ever released you from a phantom pain? I think our upcoming play The Lesser Seductions of History may mirror the narrative experience of abandoning, or suffering the consequences of committing to, a particular kind of hope... Read the full story

Tiff's Acting Diary- Lesser Seductions Update with Rehearsals

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 0 comments

Sorry to all my fans who have been wondering where I have been (LOL!). Well, I have been busy rehearsing. I laid off from writing because we lost one of our actresses, and it was very sad, since we have been works-shopping the play with her for awhile and she is such a wonderful person and actress. I look forward to working with her in the future.
We quickly replaced (ooh, I don't think I like that word here, sounds harsh), her with an equally as nice and talented actress. We had our first stumble through this past Saturday. After getting up at 7:00am to go to Staten Island to participate in NYCares, I thought oh goodness I am never going to get through this! Stumble throughs are always a little stressful, especially the first one. It actually was a great run. Of course we had a few issues, like where to move things during a transition, but it was really nice to finally feel the flow of the show. Although because I was concentrating so hard on our transition I totally forgot to keep up with what is happening to my character during the transitions, since so much "time" passes between them. I had the next day off so I went through my script to clarify what is going on for me (Marie). The transitions is definitely a good place to to put our warm-ups into play because during the warm-ups before each year we all picked our own gestures, privately, to signify what happened to the character between the years that we do not see in the script.
Thanks for reading, write to you soon.
Tiffany Read the full story

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Actors I Want To Write For

Sunday, October 18, 2009 8 comments

In the spirit of this post regarding plays that need doing in NYC, I thought it might be fun to give a shout-out to actors I want to write for.

Playwrights, I'm sure you've had this experience - you see an actor perform and start test driving them in your mind - writing little scenes for them or trying them out in parts already written. In The Lesser Seductions of History, I've had the opportunity to write for most of the actors in the Ensemble, and I confess that I'm addicted now. (Have actors? I want to write for them).

And lately I've been seeing some amazing actors that (Athena-like) are knocking on my brain. So while writing for the Ensemble is my happy priority, here are some of the artists (some I know, some I don't) I'd love to moonlight with. I've left off Ensemble Members and those amazing artists who are regulars at Flux Sundays (Jane Taylor, Ken Glickfeld, etc.) because you've heard about me rave about them before.

Jessica Angleskhan: She played a fierce and vulnerable Marisol in our Food:Soul of Volleygirls , and I've wanted to work with her again since. She has a natural ease with heightened language; and is one of those actors that you can drop just one word in and she'll take it and build a house with it.

Amir Arison: His virtuoso portrayal of an extremely confident Iraqi dermatologist in Aftermath was somehow both completely ridiculous and utterly sincere.

Kira Blaskovich: I still vividly remember the Shepard monologue she did in her first audition; all whiskey and smoke and nails. One Flux Sunday (the only one she's even been to, sigh) I cast her as the dangerously charismatic dude Donny because I knew she had more dangerously charismatic dude in her than all the men present.

Havilah Brewster: After her work in our Poetic Larceny, everyone in Flux was struck by her hilarious precision and that slight edge of danger that all interesting actors have. Watching her act is a little like watching a knife thrower.

Adam Driver: Adam's work in Slipping had an easy menace that was absolutely riveting. That old adage (that I may have made up) is never put a cat on stage, because its focus in the moment will always exceed the presence of the helplessly acting actors; with Adam, I would fear for the cat.

Aidan Kane: We worked with Aidan on Poetic Larceny and have very nearly cast him in three wildly different roles, a testament to his wide range. His natural charisma and good looks hide a willingness to push himself to ugly and foolish extremes.

Kelli Holsopple: Kelli's acting has a transparency like a pool of clear water; you can see clear to the bottom, and the slightest movement sets off ripples that reach to the back of the house. We've cast her in the Imagination Compact and Poetic Larceny, and both times were stunned by how much she was able to achieve with so little.

Rebecca Lingafelter: Rebecca's energy as an actor could power a small town, and she filters it through a ferocious precision that is exhilarating to watch - her performance in Artifacts of Consequence was one of my favorites this year.

Keith Powell: You might know Keith from his role as Toofer on 30 Rock. What you might not know is he is also an astonishingly talented theatre actor, director and playwright. One of my principal collaborators on my plays Kidding Jane and Good Hope, Keith is one of the most restlessly intelligent artists I know, and makes any script he works on better.

Patrick Shearer: You've heard me rave about him A Colorful World - he was able to achieve power through a simplicity that made you worry the whole stage might be crushed inward by his gravity.

Raushana Simmons: Raushanah recently took over the role of Martha in The Lesser Seductions of History, and I have been amazed by her curiosity as an artist; the way she peels back layer after layer of character until she gets to the core of it; and then how that core powers her performance with strength and simplicity.

Nitya Vidyasagar: Our Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Nitya is one of those special actors who can make the most outlandishly heightened and magical text completely human and present. She also has that lighthouse affect on stage - where she looks is illuminated, and where she doesn't is darkness.

DeWanda Wise: Our original Martha, DeWanda is just plain radiant. She can be pure sweetness and terrifying rage but underneath it all is a generosity of spirit that makes it hard to stop watching. I like the way my words sound when she speaks them, and I'm hoping she can be a part of my next play Stepping.

This is a very short list, and if of course I opened it up to the Ensemble and Flux Sunday regulars, would be a mile long. I just love actors, and I adore writing for them.

Playwrights, who is on your list?
How about you, directors? Actors, who do long for as a scene partner? Critics, what pairings do your dream of?
Post away friends. And then go write for some actors.

Read the full story

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Invisible Productions

Rob Weinert-Kendt has a great post about the most produced playwrights at TCG's Member Theatres* (with a few Broadway productions thrown in to boot). Maria MacCarthy has a follow-up looking at the gender ratio of the list; 99Seats and Parabasis widen that lens further; all good reads.

These posts got me wondering about productions at the rest of the theatres in the country. Do Samuel French or Dramatists Play Service ever release the number of productions they license? I'm not sure of any other way to survey the other 2,000+ theatres in the country, and it seems as important as measuring what our leading institutions are producing.

For example, my most widely produced plays are written for Equalogy, a theatre for social change. Twice a year for the past ten years, two 1-act plays I wrote on dating violence and acquaintance rape have toured colleges of the Northeast, performing for thousands of students. I have no doubt that nothing I've written has had as positive an impact as those plays. And yet, in that world of theatre we call "the field", those plays are essentialy invisible.

I'm sure this is true for many, many other productions, performed in the streets and prisons, cafeterias and gymnasiums of this country. I wouldn't be surprised if the impact on their communities is just as profound as the work of the larger institutions, and yet when theatre's measure is taken, they are often invisible.

A fully inclusive metrics of real value...what would that look like? Is it even possible?
*TCG is my goodly employer Read the full story

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Rolling the Rockefellers

The recipients of the 2009 Rockefeller Foundation New York City Cultural Innovation Fund Awards have been announced! (h/t NYC Spaces) Grants of $50,000 to $250,000 were given to 18 NYC cultural insitutions for a total investment of $2.7 million.

Looking over the list of recipients and considering the very brief summaries of how they'll use the money, some interesting trends emerge; and given our recent conversations on Community Supported Theatre, Indie Theatre Repertory, and improving quality, some potential opportunities appear.

In thinking about Stolen Chair's CST, the following recipients seem like possible allies:

Creative Capital, to harvest successful business and NGO capital-generation models for the benefit of artists
The New School, for a design and public policy partnership to research, promote, and amplify community-based solutions for sustainability
Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, to develop sustainable business models that enable Off and Off Off Broadway theaters to survive and thrive

The idea of theatres moving towards a more sustainable, engaged relationship with audiences (or participants, if you prefer) by adopting strategies that mirror Community Supported Agriculture seems a great fit with the above recipients. I look forward to learning more about how the above 3 institutions are using these grants, and if there is the overlap potential for shared action.

There is something in the air right now with this idea - the conversation between Parabasis, Stolen Chair and this blog occured around the same time as a parallel discussion between Scott Walters and Chris Ashworth. While I'm certain that Creative Capital, ART/NY and New School have their own excellent plans to explore alternative models of sustainability and community engagement; surely there are opportunities for collaboration when it seems all these boats are rowing in a similar direction.

The ART/NY proposal also seems like a possible ally with the Indie Theatre Repertory idea, along with:

Alliance for Downtown New York, Inc., for a creative arts district prototype that supports permanent artists’ workspaces and commercial growth

What better anchor for a creative arts district than a thriving repertory of the best in Indie theatre? And what better model for sustainability for Off and Off-Off theatre artists than creating a legitimate lifeline from Showcase Codes to open ended paying jobs? Well, there may be better anchors and models, but I look forward to learning the details and seeing if there is room for the ITR idea.

Finally, in thinking of improving quality, I have some hopes for this grant recipient:

The Alliance for the Arts, to pioneer open-source Web applications for the New York City cultural community

Given the (hopefully developing) existance of AEP, I'd love to see this open source application be focused towards practitioners. A wiki collaborative website could be extremely useful to the field. Right now, the blogosphere is constantly generating exciting ideas, but because there is no shared central resource aggregating those ideas and tracking their follow through, frequently those ideas don't move into practice. Time passes and we have the same conversations again.

But with an NYC theatre wiki, we could track the 50/50 in 2020 project in real time; have a warehouse of best practices; and have a one stop shop to share resources and build on ideas. A practicioner wiki would help us build our castles a little further from the tide.

I should also add that this idea is crazy exciting:

Teatro Círculo, to grow Latino audiences by training micro-entrepreneurs, from empanada vendors to beauty shop owners, to become sales agents for cultural events

This connects not only with CST, but also with any organization empowering their existing audience to take ownership of and become an ambassador for the work. I can't wait to follow the progress of this project.

Congratulations to all of the grant recipients, and I hope you didn't mind my dreaming with other people's money. Read the full story

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Lesser Seductions Rehearsal Report, Part Two

Friday, October 16, 2009 0 comments

Well, a lot has happened since our last rehearsal report. The biggest news is that we needed to replace our extradordinary Martha, DeWanda Wise. Though DeWanda had to drop the show, we all still adore her and look forward to working with her at every opportunity. Those of you who saw her in Volleygirls or at our annual retreat know what a force of light she is on stage and in life, and we miss her in rehearsal every day.
BUT! The good news is we found a wonderful actor to step into the role. Raushanah Simmons walked into our hastily assembled audition and immediately clicked, both with the role of Martha and Michael Davis, the Fluxer playing her brother in the show, George.
Raushanah stepped into a rehearsal process already under way, with actors who'd been living with the role for over a year, and with humor and focus, fit right in. We are so lucky to have found her on short notice - thank you to all of the wonderful actors who auditioned (crazy how many talented actors there are out there) and to everyone in the community who passed on our call.
Tonight we finish staging the play with 1969, which ends here with the walk on the moon. Watching this video tonight, we were all reminded of how strange and impossible this event was in our history. We talked about the character in the play who doesn't get to see it; about what it means to give your life to a cause you don't get to see completed.
Last night working on 1968, we were thinking about Martin's assassination and these words:
What a rare vision, to know that the impossible thing you're fighting for will come true; what a rarer thing to know - to be at peace with the fact - that you won't be there when it happens.
All day today (I don't know why) I was having that feeling I think all artists have (from time to time), that grey dread that our work doesn't really matter, that whatever we have to give isn't enough. Sometimes it feels like our world of theatre isn't even a mountain, but a slippery hill, barely tall enough to be worth the effort, and yet here we are, spending all our lives falling down.
But I think if our play can capture a little of the difficult hope of that moon and mountain, and pass that into the audience; then, that would be all right. And man, I love watching Lizzie and Bobby, and Marie and Barry, and Lee and Isaac, dancing; and Marth and George playing; and that's something to stand against Anisa and Tegan and everything that happens.
And tomorrow, our first stumble-through!
Read the full story

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Community Supported Theatre vs Don't Support Theatre

Thursday, October 15, 2009 9 comments

I am thrilled to congratulate Stolen Chair Theatre Company on their winning The Field's ERPA Award, which includes a $20,000 grant! Beyond the simple joy of seeing an Indie company snare such a prestigious (an economically useful) award, I'm excited because I love this idea and have been advocating for a Fluxy version of this within the Ensemble.

The central idea: framing the artist/audience relationship in the context of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Go to Stolen Chair's blog to read the details, but the essence is:

Like the CSA model, Stolen Chair hopes to build a membership community, a "CST", which would provide ‘seed’ money for the company’s development process and then reap a year’s worth of theatrical harvests.
I talked a little about this model, and how it might work for Flux, in the post The Metabolism of Theatre. On the surface, this idea could feel like a reframed subscriber relationship for an age that hates subscribing. For the change to be more substantive, several conceptual and practical things need to happen:

1. The theatre company must provide a robust and regular harvest of work: it's not enough to ask an audience to seed 1 production a year - that's like the subscriber system without shows to subscribe to! The key is to open up the development process to the audience. Stolen Chair outlines a monthly crop, and as mentioned here, Flux could do so as well with our Have Anothers and Food:Souls.

2. The theatre company must engage in open dialogue with the audience: if a farmer keeps bringing arugula and you hate arugula, you're not going to particularly enjoy supporting a CSA. The same obviously applies with theatre. Without moving into a test screening model, the opened development process must be a two-way conversation, and the company must be willing to seriously consider the feedback received. Even when if you don't take the suggestions, you need to explain aesthetic choices and take responsibility if they don't quite work.
Flux is experimenting with that online, though thus far our open threads have been largely positive (which is appreciated). Hopefully we will gradually develop a critical culture where our audience feels empowered to speak candidly about what's not working, and we'll have the courage to consider changing.

3. The theatre company must empower their audience as artists: Part of the joy of CSA is relearning our appreciation of cooking the best locally grown sustainable foods. Someone who picks up a bunch of locally grown goodies and doesn't know how to cook them is not going to benefit as much as someone empowered to artistically engage with the fruits of CSA. This metaphor extends absolutely to Community Supported Theatre (CST). The theatre company must find ways to empower their community to engage creatively with the work on stage. Flux is doing this with our ForePlays, but we can do a much better job of creatively empowering our audiences (a good model was Electric Pear's solicitation of artifact videos for Artifacts of Consequence).

4. The audience must think of themselves as partners in the enterprise: The relationship needs to go beyond simply writing the checks and showing up at the theatre, though it must be said loudly and clearly that properly watching a play is not a passive experience. For all the exciting conceptual stuff above, the simple act of an audience showing up should never be dismissed. However, in the CST model, the audience needs to take those next step and communicate their feelings about the work, engage creatively with it, and take ownership of the sustainability of the company. This doesn't mean just writing checks: it can mean actively bringing new members to the CST, advocating for grant support, volunteering, and more.

Stolen Chair is reaching out for charter members of their CST - if you've seen their work and believe it worthy of this innovative kind of support, please, go to their website and learn how to become a member. In the meantime, I look forward to learning from their example, and seeing if and how this model can be adapted to Flux.

BUT WAIT!!! Don't get all warm and cuddly yet from this audience-empowering, cross-organizational love fest post just yet. Because our friend Isaac Butler at Parabasis has a post saying Don't Support Theatre!

To quote:
There are plenty of ways that people can be asked to show their support-- Donating, telling friends about the show, volunteering, providing you with honest feedback. But what have we come to that we discuss seeing the show itself as a form of support? Isn't the show for the audience, and not the other way around? I see this "support us" language all the time. It drives me up a wall.

These different ideas posted only a day apart from each other represent, in miniature, one of the existential crises facing theatre today. If you believe that the Marketing and Development departments of a theatre have essentially separate functions, than you might agree with Isaac that Marketing language should be a "sell", not an "ask". If you see M and D as more intimately intertwined (as I do) you might agree that supporting a theatre actually empowers an audience to a greater sense of ownership, and requires from the theatre a higher level of responsibility to that audience. When practiced properly, that ideals behind that language of support are actually the reverse of the entitlement Isaac describes. (Please note: Isaac's post was not in response to the CST idea, and I juxtapose the two posts with no intention of making them adversaries; rather, I'm hoping some sparks of illumination come from banging them together.)

As Adam at Mission Paradox wrote, there are a lot of similarities between churches and theatres, and I don't think most of us want churches to "sell" us anything. Instead, churches ask us to participate in a communal process of practicing faith.

So I think that you should support theatre, but for that support, you should expect a lot more in return. You should expect to be a partner in a communal process of practicing story.

What do you think? Post away! Read the full story

Updating Blogroll

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 1 comments

The latest adds:

Matthew Archambault: Our intrepid Barry in The Lesser Seductions of History has a web page with updates, now easily accessible through our blog roll.

The Wicked Stage: I actually thought this was already on our blog roll...glaring omission amended.

CultureFuture: Guy Yedwab is a director/writer/actor/producer who also writes this great arts development blog. Definitely worth the clicks.

Cambiare Productions: Travis Bedard leads this Austin* company's blog, and there recently he led a candid and fascinating post-mortem of their production of Orestes.

The Guardian
: As 99 Seats has it, this London theatre blog gives as much valuable coverage to the trends of American theatre as it does to worthy theatres in North Yorkshire.

Beth's Blog: Beth Kantor posts regularly on how non-profits can use social media, going deeper than the usual Twitter-or-die generalities.

Tar Hearted: Playwright Josh Conkel's blog - maybe you missed his MilkMilkLemonade and want to atone? Reading this witty and sincere blog may be the path to redemption.

A Rehearsal Room Of One's Own: How can I resist adding a Woolf-appropriating self-described "uppity, moderate-liberal, occasionally androgynous, pansexual, vaguely Christian, feminist, humanist, sensualist, gender activist/ playwright/ lover of human beings"? (And read her Szymkoview here.)

Arlene Goldbard: Her thoughts on imaginative empathy at the NET Summit were a galvanizing force for me, and so her addition to the blog roll is long overdue.

What did I miss? Please post in the comments any worth blogs worth the rolling.

I missed the very important-
Direct Address: - where SF Playwright Tim Bauer writes about the SF theatre scene, his playwriting (currently his play Zombietown: A documentary play about the Harwood, Texas zombie attacks is running at Sleepwalkers Theatre - perhaps an enterprising zombie-loving Indie theatre company could bring it here?)

(Also, we may move the non-blogs into a different section, rather than combining Friends of Flux and Blogroll as we do now, but for the moment, they live together in dissonant harmony.)

*Not Chicago, post misreading me
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The Dramatic Structure of Google and Twitter

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 5 comments

Take a second to recover from that pretentious post title, and then take a few more seconds to consider that search engines and social media both represent shifts in how we acquire knowledge, and as such, create new models for how we experience story.

Still there? The reason I've been thinking about this is because of the unusual structure of The Lesser Seductions of History (our rehearsals being the reason why posts have been sparse of late). It occurred to me after considering this project we're doing that the link between the structure of social media and the play is more than cosmetic.

But first, let's talk about Jason Grote's 1001. After reading Jason's beautiful, dazzling play, I began thinking of it as the first play written in the structure of a search engine. (For those unfamiliar with the play, a visit to Jeffery Jones structural analysis is a good place to start.) This statement in no way diminishes the plays wit, intelligence and heart; rather, it looks at how the play moves. And 1001 moves a lot like a restless mind with Google's home page open.

1001 begins with a single world, and then, as if the play had opened a new tab, searches for a world thematically connected to (or inspired by a detail of) the first; which inspires a new tab and a new search, until the play has moved through a series of worlds, each linked by the search engine's gift to expand every thought into a detailed new frame. With all these worlds open, the play can then move from tab to tab with the knowledge and context gained by them all. This is not the stately turning of pages in a gilded volume. This is an engine of searching.

Does anyone know other plays that work this way? I'd love to see more of them; that such a basic shift in how we experience the world is missing from the dramaturgy of contemporary plays cannot entirely be blamed on the immutable demands of playwriting structure.

The other major shift in how we experience story is through social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter. The idea of many narratives being present at once, each evolving in real time, each tweet or status update a trapdoor that opens up into a far more detailed profile and history; the viral spread of thought; the surprising synchronicities and dissonances; the mix of banal and revelation; the private/public performance; the intimacy and distance; the aggregation of like things into a sum greater than the parts; this is a new structure of experiencing story, and all of these ideas are present in the structure The Lesser Seductions of History. Though set in a time before social media, I'm not sure the play could have been written in quite this way without it.

Of course, I hope you won't think about that when you're watching the play; I hope you'll just follow the journey of the characters.

But I'm curious to think more about how these two revolutionary ways of experiencing the world - social media and search engines - can move into our dramaturgy in ways more subtle than simply tweeting during performance; I'm curious to see how plays can learn from the structure of how these forces bring us the world.
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Tweeting Lesser Seductions

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 0 comments

The observant of you readers may have already noticed, but Flux has begun tweeting about The Lesser Seductions of History. Along with the blog, this is our way of opening up our rehearsal process to you.

The tweets take two forms: @LesserSedux I'm posting moments of clarity and hilarity in the rehearsal process as they happen. Other artists working on the project are also tweeting their experience.

But here's what we're really excited about: the characters themselves are tweeting. Before you begin singing "You Gotta Get a Gimmick", consider the following reasons why this is as useful to our process as it is (hopefully) fun:

1. Thematic resonance with the play: Lesser Seductions explores how events both great and small shift the direction of our lives in subtle ways; as such, a daily look at imagined moments in the characters' lives through Twitter fits.

2. Research: The play is set in the 1960's, and while the broad strokes of the decade are still lit up like neon in our collective consciousness, the details are essential. Each character has been given 1 year to tweet from - Marie is tweeting from 1960, Tegan from 1964, Bobby from 1969, and so on. We've already learned a lot about the decade from the research the actors have done to make their year specific tweets feel authentic.

3. Character development: Actors and their director often need to create a credible back story for their characters. This project allows our actors to imagine the daily lives of their characters, moment by little moment. Already, this has yielded tangible benefits: Lee (Isaiah Tanenbaum) has done amazing work detailing his troubled relationship with his cousin and wife, as well as explored the nature of his art work.

4. Conventions: The nature of time and the arc of our characters' journey through it also resonates with the way we're tweeting: characters are talking across their specific years in a way that mirrors that madness of 1968. As in the play, they are both in time and outside of it.

5. And yes, it's fun: Matthew Archambault has already drafted a story of his character Barry's actions in Vietnam that will involve four main characters and play out over the next few weeks. It is, essentially, a play within a play that he's writing. Those who read it will have an enhanced relationship to that part of Barry's journey.

How to follow us:
The tweets are aggregated by the hashtag #LesserSeductions, but if you're not a Twitterhead, just scroll down the right nav and you can see the tweets from that hashtag streamed to the blog; right below our Fan Box and over the Archive. Clicking on each tweet will let you see which character wrote it, but only by joining twitter can you see the full stream of characters in all its glory.
If you are on Twitter, be sure to follow the project @LesserSedux, and each of the individual characters (not all of the actors are Tweeting yet, but they will, oh yes, they will)
The_1960s (This last account belongs to a very special character in the play - on this it's best not reveal more).

Our hope is this project will enhance our work in the rehearsal room, make you feel more connected to the process, and (of course) generate a little buzz for the project that will translate into new audience.

So, follows us, and let us know what you think; and if you have any kind of experience with new media brought into a process like this, please post your experience below (I believe Waterwell and New Paradise Laboratories involved Twitter directly into performance, and I remember vaguely a Shakespeare play attempting this).
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Tiff's Acting Diary- Lesser Seductions Rehearsals 10/5 & 10/6

Monday 10.5.09 Another good rehearsal. I really appreciate that we start the reheasals with a discussion of what may have happened to the characters between the years that are not written in the script. It really helps me to connect not only with my character, Marie, but the other characters as well. Also Heather goes through a list of happenings that happened that year in history, which is another great way to get us into the world of the year, what is going on politically, artistically and in everyday life, like how much a cup of coffee was. Then we always take a few minutes to breath and stretch in our own space, which for me is really important because I have a day job and then I go straight to rehearsals, so I really treasure those few moment of breath to get me into rehearsal mode.

Tuesday 10.6.2009 Last night's rehearsal was a little tough for me. I had a very busy day before hand with no breathing room! Which is why being alone and breathing at the start of the rehearsals is vital. I think in NYC, well in life, we forget how much we need to just stop and be quiet for a moment. We also had to skip a year which I think threw us off a little but Heather (our director) did a really great job in facilitating a discussion about what happened to the characters in the year that we skipped and really delving into what happened to them in the year that we worked on, 1964. 1964 is sort of like a dance to me, I think if we figure out the "choreography" of 1964 it will be a really powerful, beautiful year.
Thanks for reading! Read the full story

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The Cott Bump

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 0 comments

Is Thomas Cott the Steven Colbert of arts administrators?

I ask, only half in jest, based on the similarities between the much lauded Colbert Bump and our own recently experienced Cott Bump. The Colbert Bump is the hypothesis that politicians experience a 'bump' in their popularity immediately after appearing on the Stephen Colbert show.

Thomas Cott curates "You've Cott Mail", an invaluable aggregate of the weekday's most important arts related news. Yesterday, he featured a post of ours, and we experienced the second highest ever number of hits on our website and blog, aka, The Cott Bump.

I jestingly bring up this Cott Bump to make a slightly more serious point: this Bump is second only to the previous record of hits established when the New York Times published their positive review of Pretty Theft. I think this is fascinating - that an email listserv administered by one dedicated advocate could drive nearly as many people (502 vs 616) to our work as the Paper of Record.

Of course, the Times review was significant in that it translated directly into tickets sales, something the Cott Bump has not (yet!) done. But in the ongoing discussion of how we reach new audiences, I thought this was worth sharing.

And to return the bump...why not sign up for "You've Cott Mail"? And what has been your experience in the difference between traditional and new media driving new audience to your sites? Read the full story

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Tiff's Acting Diary- Lesser Seductions First Two Rehearsals

Monday, October 5, 2009 2 comments

Tiffany here,
Flux has started rehearsals for Lesser Seductions. Friday night I was really anxious and excited for the rehearsal process to finally begin. A rehearsal process for me is a chance for me to grow as an actor and sometimes as a person. It is really exciting to me that all Flux members are involved with this project, either as a dramaturg, playwright, actor or director. The designers gave their presentations first. As an actor in the show, hearing these presentations really helped me to connect my character, Marie, to the world of the play. Sometimes as actors (I guess I should just speak for myself, but I won't) we forget how important the design aspects of a production are. If you are imagining one thing and the designers come up with something totally different it can change how you move in the space. When I say "move" I don't just mean physically as an actor but as your character. Does anyone else feel this way? There were some great discoveries during the first two rehearsals. I especially liked the discovery of how to deal with the "seductions" with in each year and how they make me as Marie feel. What a special opportunity this is to be working with such a talented group of people and to be part of something that is bigger than myself. Read the full story


3 Ways To Help Flux

So we've moved into rehearsal time, which, (as you probably know), is also the time where we most need your help. We'll be swimming in all of the necessary work to make The Lesser Seductions of History as beautiful and vital as possible; just at the time when we also need to market the show and raise the money to sustain the production.

There are 3 ways to help, and you probably have already guessed 2 of them:

Buy a ticket: there are still $10 tix for opening weekend available with the code "1960" Help us sell the pivotal opening weekend out!

Make a donation: We're approaching the halfway mark of of our $10,000 goal of landing on the moon. Thank you to everyone who has already given; click here to help us make it all the way there. It may be an old saw that every bit counts, but it really is true.

Rent space: Here's something you can do that helps us and you - rent rehearsal space at NYR Studios, where Flux is a resident company. Drop our name when you do it, and you'll get the extended introductory rate, and Flux will get a small percentage of your rental.

Flux has come a long way in our 3 years, and that's truly because of this extraordinary community we're all a part of - please help us stay a part of it and make The Lesser Seductions of History and our Season of Give and Take live. Thank you. Read the full story


First weekend of rehearsals for Lesser Seductions

Sunday, October 4, 2009 0 comments

Rehearsals began this weekend for The Lesser Seductions of History. Usually, I have a moderate to high level of panic as rehearsals begin, but this weekend (I say with great caution out of fear of jinxing things) went really well. There is a focus, positive energy and playfulness in the room. People oohed and aahed over the designs (Asa's montage gave us chills). Heather has created a clear shape to the scenes, and several of the actors are already off book. We actually had time today after working 1961 to go back and run 1960 into 1961.

Which is not to say there aren't major challenges. One of the biggest is navigating the rules of the 4 worlds. In production meetings, we realized there are four relatively distinct worlds in the play:

1. The real world, where we are doing a play at the Cherry Pit
2. The transition world, where we set the scene to move from world 1 into world 3
3. The play world of the 1960's
4. The seduction world, where time stops and the characters have an epiphany that changes the course of their lives

The play is divided into ten scenes for each year of the 1960's, and each scene moves through the four worlds. The exception is 1968, where everything crashes and comes apart at the seams (more on that later). We need the audience to feel these worlds without thinking about it; and we need the actors to find each world moving their personal arc forward.

There have been a lot of interesting discussions on how this might play out: some found the action in World 1 helping their character, others wanted to tune it out.

Highlights so far:
- Jake's deer-in-headlights expression as his Isaac (trying to hang a picture) walked right into the catch scene between Bobby and Barry - such are the joys of doing plays with overlapping scenes!
- The staging of Barry's (Matt Archambault) seduction - up high in the stands, everyone below watching him, as he sees Maris' 61st home run and it changes his path - beautiful stage picture.
- Our ASM Doug reading in for Ingrid as Anisa - he played her with a great deal of sensitivity in a tough scene.
- Enjoying the spacious confines of NYR Studios - what a difference a real space makes to a rehearsal process.
- The one-two punch of Becky Kelly and Jason Tseng who deftly sketched three costumes each for ten characters with a logic to the overall arc and an eye to detail - I'm especially exited about Martha's costume journey and One as Twiggy/Hepburn.
- Bobby and Barry's scene before Maris' home run - really specific work from both actors already
- Tegan's "It feels necessary".
- DeWanda's wig - wow! Oh, and yes also the drive up from Alabama with George "I'm sorry about your dead poet."

AND...we've started a kind of exciting Twitter project that will be announced after it has a few days of legs, but if you can't wait, there's a hashtag called #LesserSeductions just waiting for you.

Tomorrow night, 1962 - our first big year with several big challenges, not least of which is our move to a smaller space. I'll be posting when I can, and tweeting when I can't, to bring the action to you.

If you were there...what were your thoughts?

And now, for your candid picture pleasure, our intrepid actors enjoying some left over party food on a break:
(Photo: Candice Holdorf. Pictured: Isaiah Tanenbaum, Michael Davis, Christina Shipp)
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Further Thoughts On An Indie Theatre Rep

First, thank you to everyone for the great comments and shout-outs about this idea. A lot of helpful questions and suggestions were raised, and it seems like there's a genuine hunger for some version of the Indie Theatre Repertory idea. Here are my initial responses, a little further down the brainstorm:

Remount vs New Production: I think it is essential that the intention of the ITR is to remount successful productions, ideally moving them as quickly as possible from their initial productions into the extended run. Partially, this is practical (taking advantage of momentum), but it is also a statement of values: the artists who were originally responsible for the success of the production should recieve the fruits of their labor.

Equity Issues: This is, in addition to space, the primary challenge. My hope would be that if a coherent model could be presented to Equity, they would be willing to consider a transitional contract for these productions with the intention to move them to a more traditional Off-Broadway contract. And, if the field were to present a working model to Equity that moved Showcase code productions successfully into full contracts, I think it would be easier to gain greater purchase on Showcase reform. However, the ITR would need to build a model that did not rely on change at the Equity level, or the ITR might never be built.

Space: Ideally, the ITR would function under the umbrella of a larger organization like the Public. The Public, both conceptually and practically, is an ideal partner in this enterprise. They gain an infusion of new work and new audiences, we gain the legitimacy, funding streams and structural support of the institution. They have the space available, and have already opened their doors to project like this with Under The Radar. On the Clyde Fitch Report, Jesse Alick, the assistant to Oskar Eustis (and AD of Subjective), mentioned that the Public would be receptive to helping the Indie theatre community if Indie theatre could speak in a unified voice to make their request. Maybe this is that request? (It's a great interview, make sure to read it if you haven't already, to read the quote in its original context).
However, ITR cannot wait for a knight in shining armor to open the gates of the palace. There are other alternatives. For example, at the Crain's "Future of New York" conference last Wednesday, an initiative was announced to support new exhibition and performance space in New York City. Depending on the details (not yet released), this could be an ideal platform for the ITR.
The ITR could also partner with Chashama, which has a long history of finding unconventional space for theatres. These tend to be temporary homes, however, and for the ITR to succeed, it would need a more stable location.
My sense is that the Brick, Source and Horse Trade are already doing the essential work of bringing first productions to light; furthermore, the Brick currently only has one space, and so taking on the ITR would be at the cost of their current mission.
Flux is currently a resident at the NYR studios, which already have a theatre with the possibility of growing additional performance space. While this possibility has many obstacles, if other leads grow cold, Flux could advocate within the other resident companies to house the ITR there - but this really can't happen in the short term, if at all.
However, I think the planning for the ITR could begin immediately, so that when an ideal space opened up, a clear and persuasive case could immediately be made.

Leadership: Ideally, the ITR would be hosted by major theatre like the Public and administered by an Indie theatre organization like the League of Independent Theaters and/or the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. However, while the ITR is related to the missions of both organizations, producing or even helping administer the production of ITR does not fall squarely into their current activities.
The ITR could be led by a consortium of theatre leaders like Isaiah describes in the comments; but most theatre leaders I know are too busy leading their own companies to take something like this on.
What I do know is that bringing in an impresario like Mark Russell to lead an ITR feels wrong. Indie theatre has a diversity of aesthetic that does not always find a home at PS122, HERE and the curated festivals. This is not meant as a slight towards those organizations - there is a great need for singular curatorial vision. I'm interested in exploring an alternative with ITR.

Selection Process: If space and unions are the primary practical challenge, how to choose plays for ITR is our primary conceptual challenge. As stated above, a singular curatorial vision is unattractive to me, mostly from fear that a narrow aesthetic will play against the diversity of the field. But as Playgoer rightly points out, a poorly administered audience vote could be rigged. But NYITA offers an example of a successfuly administered audience voting process, and balances the audience votes against 3 peer judges, a great way of preventing the most organized companies from winning through sheer ballot stuffing.
I'd be interested in exploring a version of this audience vote/peer judge balance with ITR - maybe members of the League of Independent Theatre, or Leonard Jacob's consortium of theatre bloggers, acting as a counterweight to an NYITA led audience vote.
The most important thing, however that selection process happens, is that the artists and audiences of the Indie Theatre field feel like this process belongs them; a sense of ownership is essential.

Thoughts? Flux is in rehearsal now, so I won't have as much time as I'd like to pursue this idea into specifics, but I don't want to wait on it, either. To quote Kennedy in 1960 (we worked that scene today) "I think we're ready to move". Read the full story

Out and About, Early October

Thursday, October 1, 2009 3 comments

Flux is about to be slammed by rehearsals beginning for The Lesser Seductions of History, so now is the time for us to get in our shout-outs for all the other great shows happening in (holy smokes it's) October.

The Dark Heart Of Meteorology features the sound design of our own IT-Award winning Asa Wember, Martin Denton gave it a glowing review, and the plot sounds intriguing.

Mahida's Extra Key To Heaven continues it's run at Heather's Epic Theatre Ensemble after landing strong reviews from Leonard Jacobs and David Cote. Heather's got a sweet deal for friends of Flux - read about it here.

Our TLSOH lighting designer Lauren Parrish built the set and did lights (yipes) for the New York Neo-Futurists new joint at the Ontological, Laika Dog In Space. Fun to say, no doubt fun to see.

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble is doing a Tennessee Williams staged reading series, and the amazing Kelli Holsopple (remember how good she was in our Poetic Larceny?) is in Suddenly Last Summer, but only for 3 nights! Check it.

Electric Pear's production of Ashlin Halfnight's Artifacts of Consequence was great - now they're back with his latest play, Balaton. The only downside? No PL115 co-production, so no amazing Rebecca Lingafelter...

Rapidly replacing Law and Order as the thing all NYC theatre artists must inevitably do, Sticky is returning to the Bowery and Matthew Murumba is in it! 'Nuff said.

Hopefully we'll do one of these mid-October, but let me just also say congratulations to Nosedive and The Blood Brothers for being featured in the October issue of American Theatre magazine - one more reason to circle those dates on your calendar in advance (Cotton Wright! Ryan Andes! James Comtois! Mac Rogers! Pete Boisvert! All stars, people, all stars).

What did I miss? What else is going on worth seeing? Read the full story