Friday, May 27, 2005

More on the CTG

Steven Leigh Morris' take on the program cuts at CTG in the LA Weekly is here. I'm pasting the bulk of the article below, because there's a lot of stuff of interest.

Anthony Byrnes, project coordinator for the Kirk Douglas Theater and associate producer of New Play Development at the Taper, lost his job, along with lab directors Alfaro, Chay Yew and Brian Freeman. Byrnes says the underlying causes of the shuffle are hard to fathom, but it’s not about money. At an institution like CTG, new works generate grants. Byrnes suspects that a corporate strategy of branding at CTG — so that plays are produced the same way in all three theaters — may underlie the changes. Had Ritchie been brought in to run just the Ahmanson, Byrnes says, “We might not be having this conversation.”

Ritchie’s decision places two issues on the table that blurred into each other under Davidson’s leadership: One is how to best develop a play; the other is affirmative action in the arts. Though rarely premiered on the Taper main stage, the plays developed by Davidson were often propelled through national streams, and two returned to L.A. with Pulitzer Prizes (Angels in America and The Kentucky Cycle). Still, complaints abounded that at the Taper and around the country, new-play development was shifting from a Broadway model (a play has a Boston tryout, then floats into New York, or sinks en route) to a Hollywood studio model in which a play is developed “to death” by committee, demoting playwrights from artists to employees. Ritchie has, in effect, returned the Taper to a system that brought renown to the likes of Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Neil Simon. But that was a long time ago, in a very different economy, and in a land where Broadway was as white as Christmas.

Davidson’s policies brought artists of color to the Taper — August Wilson, L. Kenneth Richardson, Charlayne Woodard, Lynn Nottage, Suzan-Lori Parks, Alfaro, Culture Clash and Yew — and with them, new audiences. Says the outgoing director of the Blacksmyth Lab, Brian Freeman, “Black audiences were starting to come to the Taper. Not in big numbers. But it was growing. People definitely came, and then came back.”

Ritchie must face the embarrassing reality that in a city with a newly elected Latino mayor and in which whites are now a statistical minority, 15 of 16 CTG plays chosen for production by Ritchie were written by white men. Ritchie says he hopes to see that change.

Meanwhile, the city’s smaller companies, struggling to keep doors open as their neighborhoods gentrify, face a crucial turning point. New-play development must now come from their ranks, as must a coherent strategy for survival and sustainability.

It seems like such a mixed bag of things to consider -- cultivating minority writers, artists, and audiences, "development hell" vs. "focusing on production," smaller companies picking up the slack. The latter is actually the element I find the most promising. Ideally, it seems like this could help bring added clout to smaller theaters in town and make development, reading, and even production more accessible for little guys like me with no grants, fellowships, badass resumes, or names like Charles L. Mee. Although, not to brag, but I did just redo my resume, and it does look pretty badass. I guess that's all formatting though....

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Amoeba Records

gave me 50 bucks worth of store credit for a couple of stacks of CDs yesterday...I was shocked. And of course I spent it all and then some. I've kinda cleaned up on the trading-my-used-CDs-for-store-credit lately. On Saturday I took some to Aron's Records and ended up with Beck, Hot Hot Heat, and Futureheads, and yesterday I grabbed Malkmus' new one, Bloc Party, Antony and the Johnsons, and replaced my PJ Stories from the City... and Pixies Trompe Le Monde (used, but still). I much prefer Aron's for basic shopping, but I learned yesterday that Amoeba's definitely the place to go for selling the crap you don't want. I've got so much new stuff now I've yet to let it all sink in, but I'll give a report if there's anything worth reporting. Right now I'm thinking Antony and the Johnsons might be the real find, but I was doing a little dance to that Bloc Party album in my apt last night (you know you wish you'd seen it), and HHH's whole album is worth buying for "You Owe Me an IOU." And there are other good songs on it, too. Plus Beck name-drops one of the main streets in my neighborhood in that Spanglish song. Great fun.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Change at the Taper

Get a load of this:

The ax has fallen on Center Theatre Group programs designed to develop new plays and playwrights — including a cluster of labs that has been one of the most distinctive features of CTG's Mark Taper Forum for more than a decade.

Artistic director Michael Ritchie, who took the helm of Los Angeles' flagship theater company in January, is eliminating the Other Voices program for disabled artists — a Taper fixture since 1982 — plus the Latino, Asian American and African American labs established from 1993 to 1995....

Ritchie, who said he hasn't attended a play reading in seven years, is also dropping a system of readings and workshops conducted under the direction of playwright Luis Alfaro — whose job is being eliminated, along with those of the lab directors.

"I've never liked having a play read to me," Ritchie said. He prefers to read it himself because "it gives me the ability to go back over it."

The whole article is here.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Fixing Frank

Has anyone ever heard of Ken Hanes? He wrote this play, and I saw a film adaptation of it last night at the Laemmle on Sunset. I don't think it's gotten any kind of distribution; it's just showing for a month at the Homo 5 so they can meet their gay movie quota. After seeing the film I'd love to see a production of the stage version, because the movie kinda looked like crap. The script, however, showed all the ingredients for a good, smart, three-character play.

The movie's about a guy -- Frank, naturally -- who poses as a patient for a psychologist who practices gay-conversion therapy so he can write a piece of investigative journalism that will expose him. He's pressured into it by his therapist boyfriend who wants to take the guy down, and along the way Frank begins to question both his relationship and sexuality. It has some rough patches of dialogue and whatnot, mainly in some of the boyfriend affections and arguments (I don't know why I so often find presentations of stable gay relationships onstage and onscreen so treacly and domestic and boring...I figure it's either because writers try too hard to make it all palatable or I'm just full of self-loathing), but for the most part I really liked the story...lots of good surprises and it has some interesting questions about identity. Even though I did enjoy a lot about The Paris Letter from last winter, I actually thought it explored the gay-conversion issue better than that play. Fixing Frank is a little more challenging, interested in the questions gay people might be a little afraid to ask themselves, whereas The Paris Letter is a big character thing that doesn't get much past preachiness about the social/sexual issues it raises.

I just wish they'd gotten a better movie out of Fixing Frank. It was really underlit, and the director made so many self-conscious, pretentious choices, and I hated watching them come up with new locations that didn't mean anything just to break it up visually. Why the hell does this scene have to be in a supermarket, a racquetball court, etc? Still, it's an interesting, thoughtful ride, and all this from the guy who wrote The Gay Guy's Guide to Love.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Exclamation point update

Here are some stats:

Week of Monday, May 2: 7
Week of Monday, May 9: 3
Week of Monday, May 16: 1

Thanks for playing, kids....

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Brecht in the LA WEEKLY

Not to keep stirring the political pot (man, I've never gotten such impassioned comments!), but there's a great article by Steven Leigh Morris about the proliferation of Brecht productions in L.A. Here's a sample:

One is tempted to attribute the local Brecht revival to the German’s sardonic complaints, often set to Kurt Weill’s dissonant music, about social injustice and the folly of war. These are themes that, not to overstate the obvious, strike a certain resonance during, say, one particular week in May 2005, when a federal judge allows United Airlines to strip away promised-for-decades pensions from thousands of company employees, while legislation is in the works to reinstate debtors prisons (not seen since the days of Charles Dickens), possibly for those very UA pensioners who can no longer pay their bills. Meanwhile, another $80 billion of our taxes goes to the Mission Accomplished Iraq Project to promote democracy in the Middle East, if you believe that, which means much of the money goes to Halliburton (which just received $72 million in bonuses from the Army for its fine work), which means a good billion or two will disappear without a trace, or an explanation, or an investigation. The image of fat cats gorging while everyone else gets chased out of the kitchen is an anchoring theme in Bertolt Brecht’s work. The growing disillusion with our society’s reneging on its promise of a fair playing field might account for the resurgence of Brecht, but for that theory to hold, Brecht’s plays would be showing up in cities across America, and that’s just not so. The San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and Seattle have no Brecht playing this week. The Chicago Reader reports a mere single production of a Brecht play in the Windy City: The Caucasian Chalk Circle. This is obviously a local phenomenon.

Here’s an explanation: In 2005, Los Angeles is more fine-tuned to themes of social justice and injustice than in most quarters of America. The evidence of this lies in the strongest and most organized labor movement in the country. Southern Californians are certainly no kinder or gentler than anyone else, but at the grass roots, they do seem to be angrier when hard-working people get left in the dirt. Even if they don’t win, local supermarket employees and janitors and student workers protest with unusual tenacity, and receive considerable support for it. Last year at the ballot box, the voters of modest, middle-class Inglewood — no haven for radicals — turned down Wal-Mart’s attempt to bulldoze its way past city regulations and protections. That’s rare, and the consciousness behind it might explain why Brecht is now such a welcome guest in these parts.

He goes on to say nice things about that Happy End I liked so much, and mentions two other productions of note. He is right, though; I think I've seen more Brecht this year than I've seen in my whole life, and I'm ready for more. Who wants to go see Mother Courage at Antaeus with me? And yes, that's fellow Carnegie Mellon alum Becky Metz in that cute picture from Open Fist's Threepenny Opera up at the top of the Weekly article. I want to see, but I'm definitely seeing Long Beach Opera's production next month, so I'm torn. Don't want to OD on that Brecht/Weil cabaret decadence. I love it too much to risk getting tired of it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Thanks to everybody

who posted playwright websites in the comments section for me. I think I'm going to create a links section of my site and list them all (if I can remember how). Keep em coming.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Huckabee Update

Upon reading my blog post about the Huckster, my friend Kevin suggested via instant messenger that I remind my readers of the following....

You need to do a follow up reminding your readers about time after a devastating tornado ripped through the state that he refused to declare it a disaster until a special session was called to change the wording of the State constitution so that disasters are not termed "acts of god" because to his mind, God does not do bad things to innocent people.

He also directed me to a great interview from 2002 with great Arkansas journalist Gene Lyons, which has a lot of interesting stuff about Huckabee, including the following:

Money sticks to him. He takes a lot of gifts from people. There's one supporter in particular who gave him $20,000 worth of suits and he got caught charging pizza delivery, dog food and his wife's panty hose to the Governor's mansion account.

AR Governor Mike Huckabee on Indie 103.1?

Can you believe it? It's true. I take a break from NPR to check out commercial radio and I get subjected to the Huckster promoting his new weight-loss book. Last I'd had the station on I was listening to Buzzcocks and New York Dolls; now this? I was so steamed on my ride to work I shot off an email to the station. I'm pasting it below.

To Whom It May Concern:

I'm a new listener to the Mighty Morning Show on Indie 103.1, and I must say I was shocked to hear the voice of my former governor, Mike Huckabee, shilling for a weight-loss book on my drive to work this morning.

I was a resident of Arkansas when Huckabee began his surreal ascent into office, and have followed his bizarre behaviors with great dismay ever since. This is a man who raided public funds to purchase $70,000 worth of furniture for the governor's mansion, accepted inappropriate gifts from big corporations like Coca-Cola, and had the bad taste to refer to his own state in the press as a "banana republic.” Speaking of bad taste, let’s not forget his planting a triple-wide trailer in the front yard of the governor's mansion while his residence was being remodeled. This February he presided over an absurd "Covenant Marriage Rally" in Little Rock -- a rally that, although formed to support the state's "covenant marriage" law, indirectly affirms anti-gay sentiment and legislation. Such legislation, I should add, was passed in the form of a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions last fall, and was supported by Governor Huckabee. The one highlight of the media coverage of that pro-marriage rally was the reporting of protests by gay activists who refuse to turn a blind eye to a governor who thinks he can fool his opponents by merely accentuating the positive.

And yet, the folks on Indie 103.1 this morning seemed determined to lap up all the good cheer and affirmation of "differences" that Huckabee claims to support. Frankly, the man has done a great deal to deserve the nickname many Arkansans have given him. He is a "Huckster" of the first degree, and I am constantly stunned at how easily his tricks work on people.

This book tour of his is clearly a sign of his preparation to run in the 2008 election. Again, how he can be taken seriously about much of anything is beyond me, but for all my bafflement, I can't help but assume he is a viable candidate, especially now that even a radio station with a former Sex Pistol on the payroll seems to think he's a decent guy. Your station's light, cordial questioning of the man, your allowing him to promote a book signing at a Sam's Club in Alhambra (very indie, by the way), and frankly, his very inclusion in your morning schedule only add to my bafflement at this Huckster's surreal, bizarre ascent.


Sincerely,

Kyle T. Wilson

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bob Forrest and Ramblin' Jack Elliott

played at Tangier in Loz Feliz on Friday. Bob was loads of fun, as usual. Ramblin' Jack was beyond description. I still don't think it's soaked in what a legend I saw in such a tiny space. First thing this morning I moved The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack to the tippity-top of my Netflix queue. He sang one of my favorite Dylan songs (because I'm such a Dylan aficionado), "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," which made the evening all the sweeter/sadder.

Friday, May 13, 2005

I was reading

over some old posts of the blog, and I've discovered that I might overuse exclamation points just a tad. Something to work on, I suppose.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

FREEZE!

My friend Janet and I have been sharing favorite moments from Silence of the Lambs today. She does a riotous impersonation of Buffalo Bill right as Clarice pulls her gun on him. It's impossible to re-enact on the blog, but remember that moment when she says "FREEZE! Put yer hands behind yer head!" and he drops a handful of business cards and ducks out of the doorway? Super funny. I do the Clarice line, naturally....

Monday, May 09, 2005

I want to read more

blogs written by struggling playwrights! Help me find some and list them in the comments page. Just as long as they're not written by Neil LaBute or Christopher Shinn. Oh right...I included the word struggling in the requirements. Sorry Christopher, you have productions of your new play at SCR and Playwright's Horizons within a month of each other. If you can't find any, start one (Ben, Clark, Rob, Debra, Ernessa, etc.), and list that in the comments page.

By the way, go see my friend Ernessa's (and Libby Flores') new evening of 1-act plays called Real Romance at ArtShare in downtown L.A. Here's the listing of it in the LAT:

Real Romance
Art Share
801 E. 4th Place, L.A.
Yapima Digg and the Unspoken Theatre Group present a night of short plays by Ernessa T. Carter and Libby Flores. Directed by Tracey Rooney. Through May. 21 Fridays: 8 p.m. Saturdays: 8 p.m. Price: $10 Box office: 818-720-6663

Friday, May 06, 2005

Frank's Wild Lunch on Blogshares

I'm so tickled by this! It looks like a Hollywood Stock Exchange for the blogworld. It kinda makes no sense to me at the moment, but I just stumbled onto it a few minutes ago. We all need to sign up and raise my fake stock value!!

I never did write about

seeing David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell at UCLA Live last week. Frankly, I was more interested in Vowell than Sedaris because I don't really know her writing, and everything she read, including passages from her new book, Assassination Vacation, was funny in the way I used to think David Sedaris was. Don't get me wrong, I still like Sedaris, but the newness has sort of worn off and the seams are starting to show for me. In two of three pieces he read he used this device of telling a story as a passive observer of other bizarre, vulgar behavior, then awkwardly making a segue into a story about himself. Does he do this all the time? I can't remember, but it would've been nice if he'd called back the original story in his conclusion, although that might've made it feel even more artificial. I don't know. Instead he basically went for sentimentality, which is nice enough, I suppose, but it always feels weird when he does it. I want more stories about the Rooster and Amy being silly/crazy!

Anyway, back to Vowell. Aside from her book passages, she also read a piece about the history of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," occasionally accompanied by Grant Lee Phillips, who seemed kind of adorable from the balcony, and as much as I liked Vowell, I kinda wanted her to stop reading so he could sing more. Still, a fun evening. And thankfully they were okay with keeping the air conditioning on in Royce Hall. Much appreciated!

Speaking of Amy, I was reminded of all of this because I was surfing and found a cute Amy Sedaris fan site. Check it here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Smooth Sailing at Coachella

I don't have too much to report here, except that the afternoon/evening was a smashing success...not so much in a seeing-lots-of-great-bands" way, although I kinda want to run out and find a Bauhaus best-of CD. It was in the people-watching, not-getting-heat-exhaustion-and-getting-out-of-the-parking-lot before-dawn, did-I-just-shake-Pat-O'Brien's-hand?* category that the adventure got an A+!

*Just to eliminate confusion, that's not me in that pic with PO'B. My outfit was less "goth silkscreen" and more "soccer dad." Back off, people, I was dressing for comfort!