December 8, 2010

what doesn't work

One of the things that I often get asked when it comes to anti-oppression in radical, collective, and other non-hierarchical spaces is something along the lines of, "What should we be doing? Tell us what to do! Help us be less racist/sexist/homophobic/classist! We feel really bad about not having enough women/minorities/gays/poor folks in our organization. Tell us how to fix it!"

I'm not going to get into how incredibly fucked up and entitled it is for anyone with a particular privilege to demand that of anyone who does not share that privilege. If you still can't wrap your head around it, read this and get back to me.

I can't fix people's problems with race, gender, sexuality, or class on someone else's whim, and I certainly can't shit out viable solutions just because someone asked me to. It's not on me to do the heavy lifting of solving these problems just because I point out how they affect me and those who share certain things with me. What I can do is speak from my own experiences about what does and doesn't work. I'm going to limit myself to institutions and organizations that are - at least in principle - progressive.

Honestly, there is no One True Way To Undo Racism/Sexism/Homophobia/Classism. How that plays out is different for every group and their analysis of the problem. However, to save you a bit of time and heartache, I'm going to tell you what doesn't work.

1. Using one person or group as a buffer between your organization and underprivileged individuals.

I've seen this a lot. Instead of examining and transforming the ways that the systems and procedures you have is place are stacked against women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and working class/poor people, there's a separate little group or task force where people who don't fit the dominant group are sort of guided in that direction so that the organization as a whole does not have to deal with them.

This is fucked up for a few reasons. First of all, it forces that person or group into the role of gatekeeper even if that is against their intent and best interests. Secondly, different people have different needs and different reasons for being involved. Sloughing them off onto a person or group just because they share a specific trait may set them up for failure and/or disappointment because that person or group is not equipped to really give these individuals what they need.

2. Creating programs and initiatives based on symptoms instead of systemic problems.

"Oops," some folks say. "We put diversity in or mission statement but we don't do a lot of work by people of color. I know! Let's serve fried chicken and malt liquor at our shows so more Black people will come!"

"Oh no!" some would say, "It's a total sausage fest in our group! Hey, let's make pink flyers so women (and flaming homos) will come!"

You get the idea.

You have a group, organization or institution finally noticing that something is rotten in the state of Denmark but instead of addressing how they set things up to exclude people and transforming how they do things, they tack on some sort of diversity initiative.

What's wrong with it? Well . . .

Instead of basing your actions on what we have to say for and about ourselves, you're going by what you think we want. Instead of asking us what would make your organization more attractive to us, you keep focusing on what you want out of us and setting yourself up as the one we have to prove our worth to. You're still putting us in the position of having to beg to sit at your table instead of you creating a space where we feel invited to do so. This is the same shit we have to deal with everywhere else.

Those are the top two that come to mind. I'm sure you can think of others.

6 rules for allies

In this video, Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones gives 6 rules for allies in social justice.

Transcript here.

You can also take a look at this article for some more concrete ideas.

December 4, 2010

thought experiment: racial power analysis of indie theatre scene

I want you to participate in a little thought experiment. But first, I need to give you some background information.

I came across an article by Zora Neale Hurston called "What White Publishers Won't Print," and I'm sighing and shaking my head at how relevant it still is.

I've recently been involved with The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond's women of color anti-racist organizing group. What I really enjoy about this group is that it's not about tools and skills. It's not about rhetoric. It's about transforming institutions through anti-racist principles. In other words, The People's Institute forces us to look at what we take for granted and see how it contributes to racial marginalization and oppression. This is the most crucial aspect of anti-racist organizing*. Without a grounding in these core principles, we risk perpetuating racial marginalization and oppression despite our best intentions.

* What I love about The People's Institute is how they demystify organizing as something that only "experts" can do. The process of anti-racist organizing is extremely accessible to anyone who cares enough to put a little time and energy into it.

While racism is the focus of The People's Institute, the principles they use can apply to other forms of oppression as well. This does not mean that you should rip off their work and apply it to other forms of oppression without first wrestling with race. No, no, hell no. What I do mean is that once you understand how racism works, you have a leg up in understanding and counteracting other marginalizations and oppressions.

* Seriously, the last thing people of color need is yet another White person coming in, stealing our shit, and profiting off of it.

If you ever get a chance to attend one of their workshops, I highly recommend that you go. But for now I'd like to focus on a few ideas that really stood out to me as highly relevant to the indie theatre scene. All of the principles connect with each other. However, let's examine two or three: analyzing power and gatekeeping.

This is where we come to the thought experiment. It's very simple. I'm going to ask a few questions, and you answer as fully as you can. But first, a few ground rules.

  1. Focus on race. Too often, when it comes to discussing race, the temptation is to ignore or erase that and make it all about something else. Without question, all systems of oppression are linked, but let's not pretend that we already know everything there is to know about race and how it functions in our lives.
  2. This is engagement, not debate. This is a place for thinking and reflection, not judgment. Practice active listening. Nobody is on trial. Racism is not a charge you have to defend against. It's merely the situation we're dealing with because it was built into the fabric of our society.
  3. Speak from your own experience. Talk from your own life. It's OK not to know this right away because we're trained not to think or talk about it like this. Parroting what somebody else said or regurgitating something you read or heard somewhere else turns this from a human interaction into an academic one.
Power analysis

  1. Where is power concentrated? 
  2. Who exercises power?
  3. Who controls and/or has access to resources?
  4. What barriers prevent full participation?
  5. What are the effects of the power structures?
In your experience, how does the indie theatre scene do the following?
  1. Exclude
  2. Exploit
  3. Oppress
  4. Underserve

  1. Which institutions and/or organizations do you work with?
  2. What community does it serve?
  3. Who is in that community? Where do people of color fit into that community?
  4. Where does your organization or institution interact with that community?
  5. Who describes that community?
  6. Who represents that community?
  7. Who speaks for that community?
  8. Who mediates with or for that community?
  9. Who evaluates the people within that community?
  10. Who speaks for that community?
  11. Who helps people navigate the system?
  12. Who has access to your organization or institution?
  13. Who are the leaders in your organization or institution? Who is represented in that leadership?
  14. Who gets people to join your organization or institution?

Of course, there's no pressure to answer all of these questions right away. Just some things to think about. Feel free to leave answers here or to link to this post on your own blog with your answers.

December 1, 2010

synchronicity and doubt

I read a post linked to from the Community Dish Yahoo group where fledgling playwright Natalie Wilson talks about the period shortly following a successful reading. She describes it as a kind of post-partum depression.
I’m ashamed -- I feel like if I haven’t landed anything then it must not be that good. Or at least that is what people must think, because the only way to know in the arts that something you have done has merit is if other people give it a stamp of approval. Without the mark of commercial success on something, what you have created (or what talent you may possess) is all so much drivel. At least that is how I feel. I can say my play is good until I’m blue in the face, but without an external stamp of approval no one else has any reason to believe that.
You know what? I know exactly how she feels because that's where I am right now. Brian M. Rosen gives a fantastic response about the difference between success and merit:
I think the trick for the emerging creative is to keep a rock solid wall between the concepts of merit and success. You need to be able to look at your output and see its merit without the coloration of success (or lack thereof). It’s the internal voice that defines your creative output, not the external. That’s the voice that will make decisions, this note or that note? Transition to a new section or keep repeating this idea? Who speaks next? What do they say?

That’s the voice that needs to look at your work and say, “Yeah. This is good. I need to make more of this.”
That's a sentiment I can definitely get behind. Nevertheless, I can't shake the feeling that it's not quite getting to the core of the playwright's dilemma. Natalie presses the idea when she says (bold mine):
We've all known those artists/performers/writers who think they have this amazing talent, but they just... don't.  I can think my play is great, but if no one wants to hear it, or if when they do hear it, no one responds to it, then I don't think I can really call it great.  I do rely on what other people think - not to the exclusion of own instincts, but along with - because my goal is to create art that speaks to people, that touches people, that causes them to look at something in life a bit differently than they did before.  To me, my instinctual feeling that my work has merit can only be validated by achieving that goal.  Which I can't know unless I put it up in front of an audience and observe their response.
To which I say: exactly.

Am I the only one in the theatre blogosphere who has anything to say about my play? This is not hyperbole. I mean this is all seriousness. Is my time better spent talking via e-mail with the handful of people who will respond to me as opposed to putting everything out here and making myself look like the homeless person talking to herself?

November 30, 2010

questions and answers

Mariah has a bunch of questions for us playwrights and admin types, which means I should probably answer since I follow 2AMt on Twitter and spam them with my stuff.

1. Playwrights: have you ever had a play produced as a result of submitting it to a theater with an “open submission” policy? (And if you submitted it to Theater A, and Theater A did a reading of it, to which a rep from Theater B came, and Theater B produced the play, that doesn’t count.)

Nope. Every play I wanted to do I had to put it up myself. I explain why in more detail below.

5. Playwrights: how vital do you consider readings and workshops to your process? Do you feel it actually improves your play? When it works, why does it work? When it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?

I consider readings an important part of my revision and rewriting process. There's something about hearing the words out loud and seeing the action in real time. I wouldn't say it improves the play so much as reveal it. Until some actors get their hands on it, I don't have a firm idea of what I'm really working with.

7. Playwrights: do you agree with Itamar Moses that it’s more productive to get artistic directors, rather than literary managers, to see your work? Or have literary managers/departments actually been responsible for your work getting produced? Or have both been the case at different times?

As far as I'm concerned, gatekeepers are gatekeepers. I believe it's more important for those gatekeepers to be aware of what they're bringing to their understanding (or misunderstanding) of particular works and how that impacts what they consider stageworthy. My solution has been to ignore them altogether and pursue self-production because, based on what the people who'd be able to open those doors have not been telling me, it'd be a waste of my time to bother with them.

10. Playwrights: do you find that doing rewrites in rehearsal/preparation for a reading or workshop is preferable/more productive to doing rewrites in rehearsal for a production?

Generally I prefer doing rewrites between performances (of whatever type). Each of the 3 readings of Tulpa had a VERY different script. For me, that works very well because it's easier for me (and people who follow my stuff) to follow the evolution of a particular play.

November 29, 2010

November 24, 2010

tropes done to death

Isaac at Parabasis is done with a trope that feminists and feminist allies know and hate the shit out of:
I am not sure I can put into words how fed up I am by the whole "the guy's an asshole, but the woman sees something in him and through fucking him a lot, redeems him" thing. And furthermore, I'm a bit fed up by male critics not realizing that this is blatant wish-fulfillment for male audiences .
Typepad won't let me post a comment, so I'm responding here.

Rather than talk about male fantasy wish fulfillment blah blah blah, I'm going to lay out a scenario that would have me leave the theatre feeling like I saw something truly worthwhile. James would see where this is going.

For about the first half, the movie will be this trope. But just at the moment when the female lead would fall for the male lead's roguish charm, things will take a different turn and start going wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. Like this . . .

Or this . . .

Or this . . .

ETA: See what I mean?

November 18, 2010

reflections on "Tulpa, or Anne&Me" after 3 staged readings

Honestly, this could very easily be set up as its own blog, but in the interest of not overloading you with me talking about my own work (even more), I'll try to keep things relatively brief.

I know that, as theatre artists, we tend to focus on the logistics of making plays. While that does get things done, sometimes that means we skip over crucial principles and ideas, things that would give our work more direction and purpose. So these reflections won't be particularly "stagey." I'll try to keep them somewhat coherent, but don't hold me to it.

One of the main insights I've had into Tulpa is its depth, nuance and complexity. There is a lot going on in the play, so much that a single performance cannot convey the most important things about it. I'm not just talking about the Big Ideas the play wrestles with. Even just focusing on the setting, Tulpa has some six different worlds presented in the play, some of which are worlds within worlds within worlds (such as a memory of a dream by a fictional character created by [Name]). The reality (realities?) presented in Tulpa is very fluid, often changing on a dime without warning.

Now if we're going to talk about aesthetics, the complexity of Tulpa is even more evident. Tulpa does not fit into a particular genre or style familiar to most theatre practitioners. Tulpa does not owe its form or content to a particular work or artist, so there is no default or standard way to approach staging it. On the one hand, this gives theatre artists a lot of freedom to put their own creativity into it, unlike, say, a realistic period piece. On the other hand, the freedom can paralyze people due to the problem of having too many options.

Alright, I said that Tulpa does not fit a particular style, but that's not exactly true. I owe a lot to my very limited exposure to Japanese theatre, not to mention my love of shoujo-ai anime like Revolutionary Girl Utena (ditto Shadow Play Girls) and Strawberry Panic. I've talked before about what that meant for a play I've abandoned for the time being, but a bit of reflection on my part reveals that this Japanese (influence? sensibility? style?) is something I consistently incorporate into my work. With Tulpa, that Noh-ish (links to video) quality manifested as the main character, who is strongly based on myself. The things I enjoy about Noh, what appeals to me most about it, is the contrast between powerful feeling and minimalist expression. Here's a quote that really sums up what it's about:

Although the costumes are gorgeous, Noh is minimalist in style. It employs and empty stage, formalized gestures, and the use of masks, in order to create a distanced sense of tragic atmosphere (rather than dramatic action). In Noh, there is very little expressed emotion, or direct conflict, and few spectacular effects.
-- Yoshi Oida & Lorna Marshall, The Invisible Actor (check it out here too)

Not surprisingly, that combination of depth and subtlety has been the most challenging thing to bring out in a performance, particularly with a main character like [Name]. What's most important about her is what happens beneath the words and the things she doesn't let herself say so that when she finally gets to express what she keeps bottled up it really means something. It requires silence and stillness, a gift for understatement, that goes against the training many Western actors have. This is not good or bad, just different. It can definitely be done, but it ain't easy.

[Name] is a tough role to play. It's very unforgiving of any sloppiness or superfluousness. [Name] is one of those roles that is virtually impossible to underplay (it's something David Mamet would love to see more actors do). But overplaying it creates an imbalance that undermines her complexity. If the actor overplays the vulnerability, she comes off as timid (which she is not). Overdo the force behind some of her boldest statements, she comes off as harsh and/or aggressive (which she is not). Go too far with the reserve, and it becomes impossible to understand why she allows Anne to keep coming back. Make her too strident, and her alienation rings false. She's in a constant state of tension between the craving for intimacy and the fear of being hurt - a fear she has every reason to have.

In a way, she's similar to Hamlet in this regard. It's easy to play up Hamlet as madman, but that leaves the poetry and humor (amongst other things) unfulfilled. Likewise, a performance that can make you believe "To be or not to be" has to be the same one that convinces you that Hamlet would run Polonius through without thinking twice about it.

Speaking of Shakespeare, another thing I discovered about Tulpa is how important precision is to a successful performance. Skipping over words or ignoring punctuation or omitting stage directions actually impacts the pacing of a scene and/or meaning of a line.

I speak a great deal about performance, which means actors, because of something I realized about Tulpa after the most recent reading: that it does not need a full production in the sense of lights, sets, and costumes - what Aristotle would call spectacle. When the performers hit it right, it didn't matter that the TV set was a cardboard box with an antenna taped to it or that the sofa was two cushions on top of a wooden box. It didn't matter that the Guardian Angels of Blackness didn't have wings or halos. If the actors are true to every moment, the audience will go with them, even if they do not quite understand the rules of the play-world.

Talkbacks work best when they are not thinly veiled critique. I get more out of a real discussion with audiences speaking to each other as much as if not more than they are to me or the other artists. I get a better feel for what they're really bringing to it and getting out of it by keeping my mouth shut and listening to them talk, argue, and reflect about my work than I do with any feedback they give directly to me. First of all, I'm my own worst critic, and I don't need anybody's help in that regard. It takes a lot of writer-crack to work up the nerve to say anything unequivocally positive about my work. Second of all, I've learned that, due to a perfectionist streak the size of the grand canyon, I should not think or talk about my work in terms of quality in the sense of its worthiness. I put a lot of heart into my writing, and too many critical voices in my head sometimes leads me to destroy the very thing I put into it. I owe it to myself not to do that to myself.

What Tulpa also makes very clear is how the theatre world can be particularly limiting for Black women playwrights. This is probably my own internalized racial inferiority operating here, but I can't quite shake the feeling that, because nobody White gave me any substantial positive feedback (except for Gus and one audience member who stayed back for the post-show discussion), that my work is worse than bad - it's mediocre. Seriously, I often feel like a Salieri surrounded by Mozarts. And because Tulpa is such a deeply personal piece, it's hard not to internalize that, not to feel like what I sense as a lack of response says anything about my worth as an artist or as a human being.

I know that has a lot to do with the current dynamics of the theatre world, a world that is, unfortunately, still dominated by White men and is, despite liberal politics, governed by a conservative mindset. One of these days, I'm going to do a power analysis of New York's indie theatre scene, but that's probably for a time when other theatre people decide that what I say is worth listening to (hinthinthint- that's part of the analysis).

I don't mean to be such a downer, but I find it very telling that this keeps happening. Every few months the theatre blogosphere has some discussion about diversity (I think we're due for one in February; bet you can guess why). They ask the same questions about the theatrical landscape: Where are the women playwrights? Where are the playwrights of color? Where are the poor and working-class playwrights? Where are the playwrights who don't have MFAs or didn't major in theatre in undergrad? Why aren't Black people seeing our shows? What are we doing wrong? Yadda yadda yadda. And I say the same shit I said then, "Hello! I'm right here. I have a show/script." And then . . .


All of this actually points to the fact that I need to reconsider not only how my work gets put on but also how I define success. Prizes and festivals and commissions used to be something I thought I wanted to strive for, but I've changed my mind. My goal now is to bring Tulpa to as many people who want and/or need to see it as possible. I don't care if they're in school. I don't care if they're in prison. I don't care if they're in a fetish club. Wherever people are who need to see Tulpa, that's what I'm willing to go with it. In the city. In the country. I don't care. That's how I define success. I don't give a shit about Obie, MacArthur, Julliard, or whatever. It's about getting the work to the people who most need to see it.

Somehow, I think the way we normally go about doing things gets in the way of that.

November 3, 2010

Fuckin' A George Takei!

George Takei says Clint McCance is "a douchebag - that's right, a douchebag."

You gotta see that shit to believe it! It's awesome.

See, I'm not as nice as Mr. Takei. I do wish bad shit on someone who'd say something so cruel to people when they're so vulnerable. So I'd like to say to Mr. McCance . . .


And I hope you get anally invaded by space aliens.


October 19, 2010

a brief encounter - a true story

SCENE: Lobby of the Public Theater. Night.

ME: I came just to see you.
HER: Oh that's so sweet.
ME: Please don't be mad. I wrote a play about you.
HER: You wrote a play about me!?!?!?!
ME: Pleasedon'tbemad. There' some stuffinitthat'suhsensitivebecauseit'spersonalandum. About race and you say some things but I don't think you're a racist bigot or anything.
HER: I'm a racist bigot?
ME: Nonono. I'm not saying that at all! (Showing her the program).
HER: Waitaminute! I think a friend of mine was in this.
ME: Huh what who? Did she do set design or -
HER: No, no. She was an actor. Her name was Meredith or Elizabeth or -
ME: That doesn't sound - You already knew? Um. Sorry. Really nervous. Uh. Here. (giving her sheet)
HER: Oh, sure. Is this to RVCBard [not the name I used]? (Writing carefully)
ME: Yeah it's me. Uh here I almost forgot. For you. (giving her my letter and an invitation) Uh. Thanks. Bye. (skipping away with hearts and stars and unicorns floating around my head)

I swear, I am not a racist bigot - and I have no idea what "I" say in this play but RVCBard [not the name I used]seems sweet and lovely.<3
Anne Hathaway

October 13, 2010

mark your calendar for FRIDAY, NOV 12!

Do pass this along. It won't work if nobody shows up. :P

WHO: (aka me)
WHAT: Staged reading for Tulpa, or Anne&Me combined with birthday party for Anne Hathaway (aka The Great Pumpkin). There will be cake. There will be balloons. There may be party hats.
WHEN: Friday, November 12 at 8pm
WHERE: WOW Cafe Theatre, 59 E. 4th Street, New York, NY
WHY: Fundraising for Crossroads Theatre Project and WOW Cafe Theatre.
HOW: RSVP by clicking on the Fractured Atlas button below to send a donation to Crossroads Theatre Project. Suggested donation $10 per person.

Donate now!

When Anne Hathaway crawls out of your television, what do you do?

Tulpa, or Anne&Me tells the story of a Black lesbian with an overactive imagination who forges an unlikely bond with Anne Hathaway. Guided by two guardian angels of Blackness (or are they voices in her head?), she struggles to connect with Anne across the thorny barrier between Black and White women. Through a series of visitations merging memory, reality and fantasy, Tulpa, or Anne&Me wrestles with the racial tensions that haunt even our most intimate relationships.

Raw, intimate, and unapologetic,
Tulpa, or Anne&Me blends pop culture, Tibetan mysticism and womanism to begin the conversation about race that Black women and White women have never been allowed to have. Until now.

Read what some people are saying about
Tulpa, or Anne&Me at:
Crossroads Theatre Project is a collaboration of new Black playwrights whose works explore how race intersects with other identities and challenge mainstream ideas about Black theatre.

The crossroads are rooted in African folklore, Vodou, and Delta blues as a place where strange and unexpected things happen. Anything can happen on the crossroads. You can speak with the dead, meet the spirits of your ancestors, or even sell your soul to the Devil.

Crossroads Theatre Project is the anti-Chitlin Circuit created to break barriers and undermine stereotypes by presenting thoughtful new stories by and about African Americans today. In the simplest terms, this means: no maids; no crackheads; no Tyler Perry.

The vision of Crossroads Theatre Project is nearly identical to 13P. The idea is to use our shared passion for theater and our status as Othered to empower us when it comes to gathering resources and reaching out to potential audiences and creative partners. We're committed to giving people theatre by and about us that challenges what people assume we stand for and/or are interested in. The goal of Crossroads Theatre Project is to incubate the works of new Black playwrights from first draft through full production.

Read more about Crossroads Theatre Project here.

October 8, 2010

Julie Taymor does "The Tempest"

Magic. Helen Mirren. Fairies. Chris Cooper. Magic. Wizards. Spells.


I think I'm going to have Julie Taymor's baby. Like, right now.

Labor pains never felt so good.

October 6, 2010

on ticket pricing (now with ninjas)

With the back and forth between 2amt and Parabasis going on, I suppose the discussion about ticket pricing is now officially an Important Topic, so I did some reading and now feel comfortable enough to jump in.

People had a lot of thoughtful commentary about pricing models and artistic vision and blah blah blah. But none of them mentioned the most essential element of ticket pricing.


I know what you're thinking. What the fuck kind of non-sequitur is this, RVCBard? C'mon, we're discussing Something Really Serious And Important, and all you can say is fucking ninjas?

Let me ask you something. When was the last time you saw a ninja at your show? Exactly! You're not supposed to see them because they're doing what ninjas do best - remain invisible.

Guys, you're missing out on a tremendous opportunity here. Do you know how many ninjas can fit inside a 30-seat black box theatre? Lots. Especially under the seats and on the ceiling. I know because they sent me secret messages telling me so. You know what else they tell me? That they've been watching you very closely. And when you do something they don't like, they use the deadly art of ninjutsu to kill audience members to prevent them from seeing your show. So that's where the shuriken and dead bodies are coming from.

So, theatre blogosphere: WHERE ARE YOUR NINJAS?

October 2, 2010

"sorry about the irreparable damage"

See if this sounds familiar.

  1. US scientists do medical experiments on brown people without their consent.
  2. Said medical experiments deny treatment to said brown people.
  3. Brown people get worse. Or fucking die.
  4. Decades after irreparable damage has been done, US government apologizes.

The question I have for you is: Would you accept that shit?

Consider the recent (well, recent to straight people) anti-gay bullying leading to death (btw, you have to check out The We Got Your Back Project). Would the families, friends and communities affected by the shitstorm leading to the deaths of several young people these past few weeks be obligated to accept a post-mortem "my bad" 50 or 60 years later?

Get this through your head, America: Sometimes "sorry" ain't good enough. Once you fuck up people's lives and livelihoods, "I'm sorry" isn't gonna cut it.

September 30, 2010

I wanna see your shining faces

Over at Ars Marginal.

Seriously, all that discussion about diversity and all, and none of you are at the blog devoted to it?

Am I gonna have to use my African Hoodoo Mumbo Jumbo* on you?

* Just in case some people Googled "African Hoodoo Mumbo Jumbo" hoping to find spells or something. Yeah, might wanna check that.

September 28, 2010

The Art of Calling Out *-ist Bullshit

A lot of people struggle with what to say when someone in their company says some fucked up *-ist bullshit. They want to say something in a way that makes it clear that what that person said was wrong and why.

You want to be respectful. You want to sound erudite and educated. You don't want to hurt their feelings. (Despite the fact that they already hurt you by saying fucked up bullshit). But really, sometimes that just doesn't work. So, to give you a model to work from, I offer you this:

September 23, 2010

Thinking about talkbacks

I don't usually enjoy talkbacks. There, I said it. It's not about hating my audience or anything like that, but I generally don't get much out of them. I don't get much out of it artistically because I don't rewrite according to what people like or don't like, particularly with regards to content or subject matter. I don't get much out of it personally because being the center of attention for that long, and for a work that is still in progress, it's unrealistic for anyone (including me) to expect me to be "sufficiently detached" from my work to expect me to be receptive to criticism without being discouraged by it. So I'm in this weird position of having to decide between accepting everything or ignoring everything - and if I ignore everything, what's the point of wasting anybody's time with a talkback?

Frankly, most talkbacks feel like something that artists do because they want to say that they care what the audience thinks. A connection between people or a deeper engagement with the work is pretty rare. For the most part, they just come, leave their $0.02, and leave. It's the rare audience member who uses talkbacks as an opportunity to get better acquainted with a particular piece or a company (like I did for The Cell Theatre through Blackboard Plays).

I do believe that most artists genuinely want to hear from the audience about what their work does for them. It's just that they see talkback as part of the play development process when it seems much better suited as a tool for audience development.

Think about it. In what other part of a play's process is the audience so intimately involved? In what other part of a play's process can the audience make so direct a connection not only with us artists, but with each other? Even during opening night, the most you'll get from an audience is that they come in, watch the show, then leave without talking to anyone for longer than about 5 minutes. And after that they might write an article or a blog post reviewing the performance.

What a waste!

There's so much more you can do than the typical talkback format. How about instead of taking 20 minutes or half an hour to tell the artists how to make their art, transform the generic talkback into a roundtable - complete with snacks and refreshments? How would that change the dynamic of audience members giving their reactions to a work?

That's sort of what I'm planning for the birthday party after the staged reading of Tulpa, or Anne&Me. I'd much rather watch a discussion amongst audience members about the things the play brings up and what that means for the audience as opposed to them asking me a bunch of questions. As much as I love writer crack, talking about myself does get boring. I'm far more interested in watching the audience wrestle with the work and bring that struggle out to each other - not in a combative or aggressive way, but with a frankness that the work hopes to encourage. What good is it for a piece to say, "We need to have these conversations" and follow up by not having them?

We need more dads like this

And kudos for James Jones teaching his daughter that Black women are worth protecting. Could you imagine what James Jones would've done if Nita Hanson ("Jade") was his child? Let's just say that call to Dr. Laura would not be necessary.

September 19, 2010

Somebody wrote about Tulpa!!!

Check out what Jasmin, Llena de Gracia has to say about Tulpa, or Anne&Me:

It is really good. And this is from a literature major who's not all that into plays, mostly because of the flowery language, which RVCBard deliberately avoids. My favorite scene--the last one in the first act--is particularly powerful, and part of it is so eerily similar to the recent Dr. Laura debacle that it gave me goosebumps to read it. As far as the overall content, what kept me interested was that it wasn't constructed as a contrived sit-in-a-circle-kumbayah moment. The conversations are fragmented and disjointed, just as they would be in real life, and they leave the reader vaguely dissatisfied, not at the writer for structuring them that way, but at the fact that these conversations are reflections of real life. I'm excited that it's the first in a 3-part series, because I wanted more at the end...but I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted more of.


While I'm busy smoking this writer-crack, check out the open discussion happening at Ars Marginal and join in. I've got some questions for you, and if you have them for me, that's cool too.

September 16, 2010

no words . . .

You ever seen something so fucked up that you can't even get mad? You ever seen something so beyond the fucking pale that you can't even muster up an emotional response?

This is one of those things.

As Josh would say, "I love the South."

The fucked up thing about this is that if I decided to use this as a fundraiser for Tulpa, or Anne&Me, I'd probably make thousands of dollars.

In the meantime, save the date for November 12! Oh, and check out the open discussion going on at Ars Marginal.

September 13, 2010

Black theatre lives (feat. Black Fest)

Do you know about Black Fest? No? You should.

Black Fest is sort of what Crossroads Theatre Project is all about. While the focus and scope are different, the idea is the same: expanding and elevating what people imagine as "minority" theatre.

And Black Fest is not alone. There are: Liberation Theatre Company, The Hansberry Project, and 651 Arts. Not to mention Freedom Train Productions and Blackboard Plays.

So what are you waiting for? Check us out and tell your friends!

September 12, 2010

September 11, 2010

Playwright vs. crack whore

Lewis Black on writers and "writers" and blahhhgs! Oh, and why you should kill your child if they say they want to be a playwright (Answer: Because being a crack whore pays better).

September 9, 2010

How to do it wrong

I normally enjoy Racialicious, I really do, but this time they dropped the ball. Rather than spell out exactly what's fucked up about it (because it's been said enough times by me and other people), I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to use your native intelligence to discern what is amiss.

Read this (including the comments) and this (including the comments).

And go here if you're still can't put your finger on it.

September 2, 2010

Save the date: November 12

I'm going to do something on Friday, November 12.

I can't tell you where it will be or exactly what will happen, but it will hopefully involve cake, ice cream, fun and games, and a staged reading of Tulpa, or Anne&Me. So I'm giving you a heads up 2 months in advance so you can make sure your ass is there.

August 29, 2010

tulpa, or anne&me rewrites and accomplishments (attention matt freeman!!!)

I just want to take this moment to say that I'm fucking awesome. As I'm completing the rewrites for Tulpa, or Anne&Me (seriously, if the current version is Windows 7, the last version - the one most of you are familiar with - is Windows XP), I've managed to get Yoda, Palpatine and a Godzilla reference into one scene!


And before anyone whines about copyright infringement . . .

Fuck George Lucas. He deserves it for that fucking Clone Wars cartoon - not the cool one on Cartoon Network, the one that sucked. The one with a baby Hutt.

August 27, 2010

Flux Theatre Ensemble: The Wider Frame

Flux Theatre Ensemble: The Wider Frame: "Increasingly, I am seeing the problems that face the theatre as woven into a larger context; and I am coming to believe that we can't talk about the problems facing the field without also talking about that wider frame.

I think we can't talk about gender equity in season selection without talking about the 80 cents that women make to a man's dollar, or the woeful 3% of Fortune 500 companies led by women.

If we want to talk about the divide between artistic and administrative compensation, we need to also talk about CEO salaries that are 344 times that of the average worker.

If we talk about diversity on our stages, we need to remember that by 2050, America's minority population will exceed 50%.

When we talk about the financial growth of theatres, we need to factor in the externalized costs of theatre production, the same as every other business striving to move from GDP to GPI.

If we're concerned about theatre's declining relevance, we need to see it as connected to declining rates of empathy and creativity; and wrestle with the rapid changes to human consciousness."

August 26, 2010

Witchsistah is right (h/t Sister Toldja)

Sista Toldja lays out something Witchsistah and I have been saying for years:

Blatant racism forgiven with the simple words “I’m sorry” brings to mind the phenomenon commonly referred to as Battered Woman’s Syndrome. The victims are unable to walk away from their abuser and continue to return time and time again, without instituting any true demands for an improvement in how they are treated or rehabilitation for their abuser. I have said it once and I will say it again: Black folks will gladly take the moral high road all the way to Hell. Saying “It’s okay” doesn’t always make you the bigger person. ("The Power of No Forgiveness")
This really does make me wonder, though: Why are Black people burdened with this particular expectation? Not just Black people - Black Americans, especially African American women. For real, no other group of people is held to such a standard. Know why? Because it's fucking ridiculous.

If Dr. Laura screamed, "Seig Heil!" eleven times on the air, do you really think people would expect Jews and other groups persecuted during the Holocaust to "just get over it"? Nope! Know why? Because it's fucking ridiculous.

If Mel Gibson yelled, "You're gonna burn in hell with the fags! You're gonna get raped by a bunch of dykes!" do you think people would dare to tell LGBTQ people to "let it go"? Nope. Know why? Because it's fucking ridiculous.

Now women - especially battered women - are at times held to this standard, especially by people who don't know battered women. Trust me, decent human beings who have known women in abusive relationships are a lot less forgiving of abuse. But the thing is - people know how fucking sick it is to ask (demand!) forgiveness for that. People know how sick it is to expect a woman who's been abused to not be fearful or distrustful of men in general because of her experience and the fact that we live in a society that requires men to prove their manhood through their domination of women and turns a blind eye to the inevitable violence that results. Nevertheless, when abuse does come to light, a position of forgiveness and reconciliation is rightly seen as unhealthy, particularly when the abuse is extremely violent.

So why are Black people supposed to tolerate bullshit 'til the cows come home without so much as criticizing - let alone retaliating - the most horrendous shit humanity has to offer? What is it about us that inspires the requirement of saintlike virtue on our part?

Truly, I want to know.

When is a Blog? (h/t SisterToulja and Matthew Freeman)

I stole the fuck outta this title.

In any case, I follow Sister Toldja (The Beautiful Struggler) on Twitter, but I should've been reading the blog all along. She brings up a really interesting phenomenon when it comes to integrating social media:
Say I tweet the name of an article or post along with a link to it (I.E. “New Post: OMG! The Black Male Marriage Crisis:  I do this, of course, in hopes that people will read said post. Seems clear enough. There’s a link. It says “New Post”. Sounds like an invitation to click said link and read, right? Well, folks will sometimes bypass that step and attempt to engage a discussion about what they are assuming the piece is about (“@ There is no Black male marriage crisis. Where did you get that from?”)

Even if they have figured out my thesis in 140-characters, why would I spend an hour writing something, only to then spend a bunch of time on Twitter debating it with people who haven’t read it? [. . .]

Another little kink in an otherwise great online existence: folks who DO take the time to read what I write (also known as the best people on the planet) will then take to Twitter and send me questions or comments regarding something I’ve taken on. And I don’t mean “@: I really enjoyed today’s post! Gave me something to thing about”.  I mean probing questions about the post or 4-tweet-long responses.  This is bothersome for a number of reasons (Sister Toldja, "The Twitter/Blogging Comment Problem")

I can understand where Sister Toldja's coming from. I've had this blog for - what? - 2 years now, and I don't think I'm popular enough to even be a micro blog. I just started using Twitter this year, and I'm still kicking myself for not doing it earlier (especially with my 70ish followers). I'm finally starting to "get" how to integrate my blog and Twitter in a way that benefits both.

While this would seem to only be a concern for the blogging Big Leagues, it does bring to mind something I might have to contend with on Ars Marginal. I'm not particularly worried about it, but it's worth sparing a thought or two. At the very least, it would be advantageous to outline the type of discourse you want to have on your social media.

For me, personally, the emphasis is on the social. I don't blog or Twitter for the fuck of it. Social media allow me to be social in a way that is comfortable for me. I am extremely introverted (not the same as shy). Being around people - especially if that means spending a lot of time around new people - is always stressful for me. I can hide this very well for a limited time, but it eventually catches up with me. Wanna see me get really uncomfortable really fast? Surround me with people I don't know, expect me to socialize, then abandon me. It takes more than a name and a pitch to warm me up socially. That "mean" or "angry" look on my face is more than likely extreme discomfort.

Social media allow me to control the pace and intensity of social interaction. They don't supplant my need for face-to-face conversation and meatspace relationships. They're simply a way for me to be social in a way that's not as taxing for me.

Which brings me to this blog and EclectiCopy. What would I like to see more of? How can I encourage that?

Honestly, I would like to see more proof that people are listening. I get comments every so often from my hardcore followers, but if they were the only people I wanted to hear from, I would e-mail them and be done with it. I post here because I want to connect with other people through mutual engagement. As you may (or may not) know, I despise debate when it comes to things that really matter insofar as it's about interpersonal relationships (as opposed to changes in policy - which is definitely worth a thorough hashing-out). But I'm always open to engagement. Fuck, the whole of Tulpa, or Anne&Me is engagement.

How do you prove you're listening? Obviously, leaving thoughtful comments is always welcome, as is writing thoughtful blog posts in response to something I said. Don't forget Twitter! As someone who lurks a lot, that's something I do pretty regularly when I don't have anything to add but still want people to know about it. If you come across a conversation where something I wrote seems relevant, post a link.

But if you want to interview me after I've been shanked by an Anne Hathaway fan, I am available via e-mail and Google chat.

(When you link to one of my blog posts, use the Create A Link function because Blogger doesn't like to leave me trackbacks for some reason)

In which I get some press

Check me out!


August 25, 2010

FringeNYC vs. the world (teehee - get it?)

There's a lot of good discussion going on in these here internets about the New York International Fringe Festival and what good it's doing for Off-Off Broadway Theatre.

Jason Zinoman made like the Black-Eyed Peas and got it started when he wrote:
Does it matter that New York has a drearily mediocre Fringe Festival?

I have long thought not, since the annual August assembly line of toothless political parodies, dumb musicals, navel-gazing solo shows and occasional gems always seemed harmless. It gave hundreds of young artists a chance to shine and filled a niche for the press during the dead quiet of summer. As I have visited much more audience-friendly Fringes in Edinburgh and Philadelphia, however, the New York International Fringe Festival now appears needlessly bland and poorly organized. It also does no favors for the reputation of downtown theater. We deserve better.
. . . . . . . . . .
Waiting in lines, I would often overhear conversations between audience members who were excited to finally see a show away from the bright lights of Broadway. Reaching those people is important. What I worry is that while Off-Off Broadway throbs with energy, ambition and the finest low-budget experimental theater scene in the world, you would likely never know that from attending the New York International Fringe Festival. ("A Fringe Festival Too Tame? Too Bad")

Following this, quite a few folks on the theatrosphere are asking whether FringeNYC does any good for OOB theatre anymore. Isaac Butler flat-out wonders if the Fringe is bad for Off-Off Broadway theatre.
What the Fringe offers are low cost space (which is still hard to come by, I know) and a lot of press/audience attention for many of the shows on offer, particularly if they have exciting titles like Ratfucker Rapeface or whatever. But here's the thing... there's more off-off Broadway coverage than ever before. Not only are their tons of websites that do a lot of Off-Off coverage, but the Times covers a lot of off-off offerings now, and of course there's Time Out New York. 

So this raises the question... Is it a good thing that shows that wouldn't normally be getting Times and TONY and Voice (etc.) coverage get it?  And my answer is, probably not. Many of the shows at the Fringe that couldn't get that coverage normally probably don't deserve it, and they're put on by artists who haven't earned it and may not be ready for it.

The Playgoer asks:
Let's think not just whether the Fringe is worth it from the audience's perspective, but how about the performers'? The thinking used to be that doing a show at the Fringe was always tough conditions, but at least you got built-in marketing and space. But do you think that still makes it worth it, or are you better off doing a regular Off-Off B'way showcase on your own? ("Is the Fringe a Fraud?")

And Matthew Freeman says:
I'm wondering if the web has had a one step forward two steps back approach for the Fringe. Now, more shows are reviewed than ever. But does that reduce the incentive to just wander around trying shows and meeting people?
Before I get into what I see going on here, I should be upfront about my particular biases.

To a degree, I'll always be sentimental about FringeNYC. I uprooted myself from Richmond and moved here to New York while the Fringe was in full swing, and I celebrated by volunteering to see some pieces on the cheap. Since then, I'd promised myself that if time and finances permit, I would do the Fringe every year to celebrate the anniversary of my move. The idea, at least for me, was that FringeNYC would give me a good sampling of what the OOB scene had to offer - which was probably naive on my part, especially since seeing some interesting work such as Alice in Slasherland, Jacob's House, The Little One, and Black Girl Ugly.

Nevertheless, if the opportunity presented itself, I'd probably go to at least a few of the shows going on at FringeNYC. Although a lot of it is hit or miss, I still think there's a lot worth seeing.

But that's not what's going on right now.

There are at least two prongs to the FringeNYC discussion going on right now. First, is FringeNYC good for Off-Off Broadway audiences? Second, is FringeNYC good for Off-Off Broadway artists?

Of course, being me, I don't think things are that simple. For me, the questions beneath these questions are:
  • Who is best served by FringeNYC?
  • How should artists and audiences approach FringeNYC?
  • What can FringeNYC do better for artists and audiences?
One of the most consistent complaints is that FringeNYC is pretty audience-unfriendly when it comes to how they curate the shows, and I am inclined to agree. I tend to take more risks than most people when it comes to seeing theatre, but this has as much to do with comp tickets as it does with any particular adventurousness on my part. If I have to pay for tickets, I'm looking for something more substantial. Besides an interesting premise and competent execution, I'm looking for artists who have something to say. I get enough of bubblegum entertainment in film and TV. I come to theatre to witness something more meaningful. Otherwise, what's the point? A lot of times, the shows at FringeNYC are more interesting to read about in the little blurb than to see in performance. And that's just . . . hrm :-/

Does this mean that some of the shows at FringeNYC aren't ready for the exposure it brings? It depends. I believe there should always be a place for people who are just starting out, and FringeNYC can be (not saying should) be that place. But I do think a little forewarning would be nice so I don't go to a show thinking it's other than what it is. There are few theatre experiences more disappointing than misguided expectations. If I walk into a show knowing that it's a new artist working on a shoestring budget, I'm going to be more forgiving than I would be if I didn't know that. But if I see that same new artist on a shoestring budget promoted right alongside something like Alice in Slasherland, I'm not going to be a happy camper.

As a new artist on the scene, if I participate in a festival, I want that to be an opportunity to find my audience. Although plenty of people are giving me support for Tulpa, or Anne&Me, that's not the same as building an audience for Crossroads Theatre Project. Is FringeNYC the best vehicle for that? Honestly, probably not. My energies are much better served by a situation where I can distinguish myself as a brand new artist creating work that doesn't happen very often on the OOB scene.

Should FringeNYC be that best vehicle? I'm not certain. What do you think?

August 20, 2010

You have been brainwashed

Unlearning Racism presents a working framework of liberation theory. While the original context is racism, it can also be applied to sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other -isms.

As this is a work in progress (as all social justice efforts are), what would you add or change?

Go read: Theatre for social change (h/t: Mariah MacCarthy)

Check it out over here.

Ars Marginal: arts and entertainment for the rest of us

I've started up a new blog, Ars Marginal. I'll still be posting here, but I'll be active there too.

Right now I'm looking for other people who'd want to contribute. Don't worry. It doesn't have to hurt.

August 19, 2010

Can your art be your living? Should it?

Don Hall says you can't make a living off your art. Guy asks whether we should. What do you think?

Frankly, I'm veering toward Don's POV. And it's not because of little things like reality, probability and so on. It's because not making a living off theater makes my work better - because real people live in the real world and as a theater artist, that's where my focus needs to be. Even if I do something completely surreal and fantastical, the core will be about life as it is lived today. I can't get that if I'm a sort of secular monk who can't be bothered with the lives and concerns of laypeople.

Dear Tim (and other White anti-racist activists) . . .

Hey, Tim.

This has been building up for a while, so forgive me if I get emphatic with my statements.

I usually think you're on point about a lot of things, and I've often pointed people in your direction about a breakdown of how racism works in a way that White people can understand (or, shall I say, are willing to listen to). I got a lot of love for you, Tim.

But right now you're fucking up.

What I think a few comments were getting at is the irony of POCs being forced to do for free what White people get paid to do - even though POCs, by virtue of being POCs in a White supremacist society - are more qualified to talk about it. Not to mention, the risks for us are greater than they are for any White person. I've been a queer Black woman in America for 30 years. I attended an HBCU. I'm writing a play right now that dramatizes what this is like for a real live human being. I've been told that I'm extremely intelligent, that I say a lot of things that need to be said in a few words, yet no one is paying me despite what it costs me to do this.

No one is arguing that the work White anti-racist activists are doing is worthless. But what I see is that the work of White anti-racist activists is treated as more valuable than anti-racist activists of color from the get-go. The problem is not that White anti-racist activists like you get paid to do your work. It's that POCs are expected to do the same shit for free. And I can't pretend that it doesn't piss me off. Even guests on Jerry Springer and Maury Povich get better treatment - at least they are financially compensated for destroying their own dignity.

Here I am - with all my intelligence, all my passion, all my creativity, all the people who "value my input" and "learned so much" from me about the same shit White anti-racists are talking about, all this that is so remarkable about me, all this that is worth so much - flat broke, unemployed and genuinely apprehensive about my immediate future. And I'm not the only one like me.

Believe me, that's bad enough. Yet your knee-jerk defensive responses to such critique are so predictable in their irony that I almost want to cry. Seriously, it's almost like you really want to say, "Aren't I doing enough for you people? What more do you people want from me?" You're so busy trotting out your anti-racism cred (really, you're not that far from "I read a book/took a class/asked my Black friends") that you don't see the irony of you making a career out of something POCs are expected to provide as a community service.

Why do I feel like I'm repeating myself? Oh yeah, because I am! What was that brilliant shit I said all them months ago?

What I was thinking is that there's nothing wrong with White anti-racist activists doing their thing. Nothing wrong at all because, as POCs already know, White people listen to other White people (at least when they're in the Completely Clueless phase).

But as I was saying to another blogger, it would be nice if these White luminaries would use their White privilege for good by providing opportunities for other POCs to rise to their level of prosperity.

It's not enough for a White activist to say that they got all their ideas from POCs. That's just being honest about stealing our shit and profiting from it. "I got some of my best stuff from these particular people of color. They are alive right now, and you can talk to them today." Or, better yet, "Everything you hear today has already been said by a person of color. As a matter of fact, they probably already told you what I'm going to tell you today, but you ignored them."

Put the money where the mouth is. Literally. What good is all the talk about anti-racist activism if the people getting most of the book deals, speaking engagements, and accolades are White? What good is all the talk about dismantling White supremacy when the anti-racism industry is dominated by White faces and White voices?

Anti-racism credentials are for shit if most people benefiting materially from it are White.

Does it make more sense now?

August 16, 2010

For my straight White male friends re: Ramona Flowers (may contain spoilers for "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World")

(H/t: neo_prodigy, re: "What If Scott Pilgrim Wasn't A Straight White Male?")

Dear Straight White Guy Friend:

Are we friends? I mean friend-friends? Like we can be honest with each other about things?

That Ramona Flowers girl you keep ogling as soon as her scent is in the air? Can't stand her ass. I hate her guts. I hate her fashionably pale, barely legal-looking, wig-wearing, roller-blading, spiritual-but-not-religious ass. Seriously, whenever I get a whiff of her, I'm like this:

It's enough to make me forget I like women! And considering my taste in women, that's just wrong.

I hate Ramona Flowers for what she says to the rest of womankind. She says to us, "Don't take responsibility for your life. Cultivate worldly innocence and play muse to some random lowlife instead." She says to us, "Don't fight your own battles or use your own strength. Pretend to be helpless and get some pathetic slacker to do it for you." She says to us, "If you're cute and skinny and White enough, you won't have to do anything for yourself." She says to us, "Don't make choices and accept consequences! Wait around for the right people to pick you and feel like the victim for not getting the life you wanted." She says to us, "If you want to be loved, you must first and foremost be a fantasy. You are not allowed to be a complete and complex human being."

Simply put, she's a fake, a phony, a passing fancy. There's nothing real about her but the damage she does. I could almost respect her game if there was anything new in it, anything of substance that would make her appealing besides not being like your parents. I won't even say weird. Wednesday Addams is weird. The Ramonas of the world are merely quirky.

Speaking of damage, what kind of person has seven evil exes? I'm not going on that "What did she do to turn them evil?" nonsense. For real, what kind of person would choose to have a relationship with somebody evil who has superpowers? Not just once - seven fucking times!

Let's take the superpowers out of it. As a matter of fact, let's flip the script and make it your mom or your sister or some other woman you care about but don't want to sleep with. If she were seeing someone who had seven evil exes, wouldn't you be just a little bit concerned about her? Let's take this to the real world where instead of seven evil exes with superpowers, it could be seven evil exes with hardcore underworld connections. Would your assessment of the situation be different? I'm not saying you should judge people by who they used to date, but you should wonder about the company they keep, especially if said company will fucking kill you!


File this under Dumb Shit Guys Do They Wouldn't Let Their Mom or Sister Get Away With.

The next time you see Ramona Flowers, wipe the pixie dust out your eyes and take a good hard look at who you're with. You might not feel so enchanted when you realize the hell you'd be putting yourself through for something that's really not worth it.

Yours truly,


P.S. For my feminist and womanist sisters, the next time you see Ramona Flowers, kick her in the cunt and beat her over the head with bell hooks until the words sink into her brain.

Oldie but goodie (7 Reasons Why Indie Theatre Rocks)

Just in time for the New York International Fringe Festival, I'm linking to this gem I came up with a while back. I can't believe I wrote this 2 years ago. I was testing out some stuff I learned about SEO and keywords, which I applied to this article I wrote just for the hell of it. Even to this day, when you Google "indie theatre," this shows up on the first page. So check out 7 Reasons Why Indie Theatre Rocks.

August 13, 2010

the n-word train is never late

After saying fucked up homophobic and misogynistic shit, it was only a matter of time before Dr. Laura started saying fucked up shit about Black folks.

What gets me is how people are actually defending this bullshit. Seriously, how is saying "nigger" 11 times in 5 minutes (without being in a Quentin Tarantino movie) not racist? As a matter of fact, since even screaming "nigger" on air or in public doesn't count, when do we get to say something is racist? Does it have to be something like, "I hate Black people because they're Black"? Would it count then?

What a mind fuck.

August 12, 2010

manifestos and new models for theatrical communities

Over at 2AMt * Travis Bedard linked to Mariah MacCarthy's Theatermaker's Theatergoing Manifesto. Let me make it short and simple: Read. That. Shit. Right. Now.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Welcome back.

You know what I like most about this list (besides the fact that I agree with almost every one of the items on it)? Because it puts a name and a face to the anonymous blob known as "the audience" and sets up a process for being accountable to the people we make theatre with and for. Several of the points the manifesto brings up touches on one of the most persistently frustrating aspects of making theatre: the insularity of the theatrical community.

Insular is perhaps the wrong word. But I often sense a very strong unspoken opposition to the idea of mutual cooperation and uplift. It's particularly puzzling for me because in a medium such as theatre, which depends so heavily on cooperation, there is a sort of - unwillingness? - to expand that cooperation beyond our own productions.

Part of what attracted me to WOW Cafe Theatre was this idea of a more collective model of making theatre. It simply makes more sense to me than constantly competing over scraps. Don't get me wrong, collectives come with their own idiosyncrasies. Nevertheless, I find it confusing and sad that we don't see more efforts similar to WOW happening here. I could understand if there was a shortage of talent or ability, but that's not the case. We can take four walls and create another world but we can't take an hour or two of our time to improve our own community. What does that say about us?

If you agree that our theatrical landscape is too White, too male, too upper middle class, what are you doing to fix that? This discussion happens all the time. It's like clockwork. Every couple of months, someone will go, "OMG! Where are the women? Where are the people of color? Why is everything by and about White guys?"

I'm not talking about Broadway. Fuck Broadway. I'm talking about us little guys, us rinky-dink no-name folks in our tiny little corners of Theatre World.

I don't have a full production at the moment (lack of funds and shit), but I've done readings, and sent out copies of my script (*clears throat at James Comtois*). People have given money - more than I expected - for which I'm grateful (and waiting to be made available so I can do a fundraising thingamabob in the near future).

What would help me right now? If people (besides me) would engage with my work. It'd be nice to start a conversation going about the work that goes beyond your typical film or theatre review. And I do try to put my money where my mouth is. I do go to see shows that have nothing to do with my own, which is my way of supporting other theatermakers.

What about you? What kind of support could you use right now? What kind of support can you offer?

* "Rainy Days and Glass Ceilings Always Get Me Down"

August 2, 2010

Nice Guys and Heartless Bitches (that's sarcasm, btw)

A Rehearsal Room of One's Own spells out the plot of the Story That Needs to Die Like Yesterday:
I'm not the only one tired of the "manlier than thou"/"women have hurt me" plays. And within this niche, there's one storyline in particular that bugs me, and it goes like this: Nice Guy meets Hot/Quirky Girl. Nice Guy falls for Hot/Quirky Girl. Hot/Quirky Girl cheats on/leaves Nice Guy for Nice Guy's Incredibly Douchey Best Friend.
Since that blog post sums up my feelings about it quite succinctly, I'd rather point some of you in another direction. This direction can be summed up as - Stop Fucking Making This Shit!!!

July 24, 2010

what is it about some villains . . . ?

When I think of truly great villains, it's not the Emperor Palpatine, the Joker, or the Hannibal Lecter who gives me the chills. It's Dolores Umbridge, HAL 9000, Grand Moff Tarkin, Nurse Ratched, Annie Wilkes and Noah Cross who make me feel like the world is a scary fucking place.

Why is that? Why is it that I can enjoy the Joker's theatricality but still go to sleep at night but hope to God that I never come across a Dolores Umbridge? Why does Hannibal Lecter delight me while HAL terrifies me? Why does a rich old man like Noah Cross scare me more than the Dark Lord of the Sith?

Even though iconic villains kill more people and spread more mayhem, why does it feel like these more unassuming characters do more damage? Is it because what they do seems more real somehow? Is it because these examples of ordinary evil are closer and more widespread than we often like to admit? I don't mean these questions rhetorically, either. I'm genuinely interested in figuring this out.

What do you think?

July 23, 2010

"luke . . . i am your father" (h/t postbourgie)

Over at PostBourgie, a comment left by Paula says:

I guess my problem is that it’s very easy to see why Breitbart gets away w/ this shit. He’s playing on the always-persistent, niggling idea that minorities are there to hustle a system that gives them an unearned advantage over whites. Because we’re a nation of either cowards, intellectually immature, or sadly undereducated, we never confront these underlying issues of bias. What I see people in the lefty blogosphere doing now is not so very different from what the NAACP, Vilsack, and Obama have done — which is to separate themselves from the “poison” as fast as possible with as much bluster and self-righteousness as possible. It’s Breitbart’s/NAACP/Obama’s fault!!
It’s never OUR fault, of course. It’s never our responsibility to accept failings that come a result of social conditioning that may take centuries to erase. Just as Vilsack et al must have initially assumed that Sherrod was a “bad” person who had no connection to anything they were doing in the name of equality, we’re now assuming that Breitbart is some toad who is not really a part of us, that his power exists independent of our society’s willingness to support him.
In other words - life imitates Star Wars.

July 21, 2010

Fandom really sucks sometimes

I gotta get something off my chest right quick:I participate in fandom. Can't help it. I'm a nerd.

And if you thought corporate America was a cesspool of head-up-the-ass privilege and soul-crushing oppression, you haven't seen the depths to which fandom can go. At least corporate America has the decency to lie about not being sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and full of class elitism. At least you could say that in corporate America, it's all about the Almighty Dollar and the Bottom Line, so you can kind of sweep all the shit they do under that particular Umbrella of Evil.

But fandom - oh, man! Not only are people not making any money off fandom (so have less excuse to put people through that shit), but oftentimes the whole point of the way they indulge in fucked up oppressive dynamics is part of the fun. It's not like gangs where the different oppressions keep to their turf for the most part: racism over here, sexism over there, homophobia and transphobia a few blocks down, ableism by corner. Oh, no! It's not that fucking nice! Those fuckers hang out in clusters. When you see racism, you can bet your ass that sexism (fuck it - let's just say misogyny) is on its way. If you get a glimpse of trans fail, you may as well don your anti-homophobia suit because the anti-queer shit is right around the corner. And despite its "handicap," the ableist train is never late.

And the most fucked-up Jedi mind trick in all this is that no matter how clearly you can see it and point it out and explain it . . .

  • They didn't mean to, so it doesn't count
  • You weren't polite about it, so it doesn't count
  • There are More Important Things To Talk About, so it doesn't count
  • You're obviously paranoid (aka "sensitive"), so it doesn't count
  • They never heard it before, so it doesn't count
  • You didn't cite your sources, so it doesn't count
And even when it does count, you bring it on yourself by . . .
  • Dressing like that
  • Talking about that
  • Thinking about that so much
Don't you know? It's far more important that you don't harsh the squee than it is for you to feel included like other human beings.

July 15, 2010

aesthetics, canon, and social justice at SWPD

There are a couple of great posts at Stuff White People Do about To Kill A Mockingbird that get into aesthetics, culture, canon, and social justice. Be sure to read the comments because that's where the real action is.

First check out swpd: warmly embrace a racist novel (to kill a mockingbird). Then head over to swpd: force non-white students to read "great literature" that demeans them.

It's one of those rare discussions about an incendiary topic (especially down South where I'm from) where there is disagreement without denial, dismissal, and delusion.

Ethical stances, social justice, and 99Seats moment of unintended clarity

Over at Parabasis, 99Seats has a moment of "Unintended Clarity" regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell. But more important than his realization about the harm of DADT is when he says:
I honestly never thought I would have fit in that category...but apparently I do. It's pretty sobering to realize, especially as I go after people for other kinds of bigotry and discrimination.
It's shocking that this is the law of the land and massively unjust. And equally shocking that it took a comic book to make that clear to me.
How is it that 99Seats can do this without needing to be convinced that queer people are people and thus are the authorities on their own lives and experiences? How can he simply accept - without needing to debate or interrogate or play Devil's Advocate - that DADT hurts people who are queer? I asked as much in the comments to that post, to which Isaac gives a very thoughtful response. For whatever reason, I can't post my comment at Parabasis, so I'm doing it here.
I think both the person broadcasting the message and the person receiving the message have some shared responsibility for it is perceived, ultimately.
I know that Isaac is more clued in than most, but I think that people can take the wrong idea from this and use it in a way that ultimately upholds the status quo (in other words, keeps things fucked up). I can get behind the spirit of this statement, but my experience tells me that, in practice, it's used as a kind of tone argument that silences the very voices well-intentioned progressive (yet privileged) folks say they want to hear from. Not to mention, it puts the onus on the oppressed to accommodate, if not cater to, the sensibilities of the privileged if they want their agency recognized instead of constantly questioned (unless it's to assign blame - for example, "She had it coming for dressing like that").

To ride the philosophy train going on in another post for a moment, when it comes to social justice, I lean toward consequentialism when it comes to discrete acts (see here). At the risk of ostracizing myself (not like I've got much doing on except in my head), I am growing increasingly convinced that when discussing social justice issues, those who have the privilege and power need to shut the fuck up and listen until they are invited to speak*. And even then, only to address a specific point or answer a particular question. It is the most concrete and immediate way to shift the imbalance of authority (especially social and moral authority) that disproportionately privileges certain groups of people in certain situations that I've encountered or imagined thus far. That and killing people. Lots of people. Some of whom might actually deserving of it. Since few would want that, except for maybe the Joker, let's focus on discourse, shall we?

So, aside from taking up arms and killing people (which has its appeal on certain days), what has to happen to get people from "I don't know and I don't care" (or rather, "I do care, sorta, but I don't know what I don't know") to something more along the lines of what 99Seats did for DADT?

* I definitely include myself in this, particularly when it comes to trans and disability issues.