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August 04, 2008


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I don't know about applicable, but I don't think his big ideas were quite big enough. All this talk about improving image doesn't include social or literary changes, which I think would have a much bigger impact on whether SciFi is taken seriously. Case in point: diversity. Race, gender, and class privilege are pervasive throughout every theatrical infrastructure. This reflects society at large, but this pattern is actually starting to hurt theater in a way it isn't starting to hurt mainstream society. Yet.

Who decides which shows to put on? Who chooses the actors? Who does the publicity? Where does advertising happen? Who gets the funding? Who do we see in key leadership roles? By whose standards to we judge artistic efforts? Whose worldview is reflected in shows? Who is our audience? How do we recruit talent? Where do we look for it?

And so on and so forth.

Aaron Leichter

Abstract these enough & they definitely apply. I'm taken by "1. Fund big ideas." Grand thinking should define the arts. B'way seems to be riding a peak of artistic risk, with shows like "August" and "Spring Awakening" edging out the dreck of "Young Frankenstein." But I'll bet this is a cyclical upturn rather than a profound shift in artistic/financial collaboration. Off-B'way, meanwhile, seems stuck in the doldrums.

But what are "big ideas" anyhow? I love Stoddard's statements in #5 about getting ahead of movies, technology & even contemporary ideas. But I rarely see American theater inventing the future of performance. At best, we're concerned with the present; too often, we're working with outmoded ideas and forms. Even the avant-garde seems to reiterate the lessons taught to us in the 1980s by the Wooster Group & Richard Foreman.

I want theater to take a page from sci-fi: pitch the viewer into the future, posit the world of tomorrow, imagine what life will be like in 20 years. The leaps in our understanding of the brain, for example, have implications for the Self (so does cloning, for that matter). Where are the plays that deal with this on dramatic, narrative & structural levels? Caryl Churchill may be the only playwright of the 21st century so far!

Jennifer Gordon Thomas

i may be a bit biased, August, but i would add Mac Rogers' 'Universal Robots'. and, knowing Mac and his wonderful brain, i imagine there's more where that came from....


Yeah, I've got to agree with JGT -- if you're looking for innovation at the level of Caryl Churchill, you're going to be hard-pressed to find it. If you're looking for it at the level of Mac Rogers, Qui Nguyen, Dan Trujillo, just to name a few -- that's to say, the level of indie theatre -- then you're going to be pleasantly suprised. And these days, I'm suspecting that's true all over the country, not just in NY.

Aaron Leichter

Fair enough -- I don't know Mac Rogers' work, but it's true that there are others out there. My favorite NYC plays of 2007 were "1001" and "God's Ear": formally innovative &, in the former's case, politically & socially forward-looking as well. Shooting my mouth off, I hit my own foot.

Who, then, are the companies with revolutionary organizational frameworks? Not top-down hierarchies or collectives (both are *so* 20th-c!) but radical new organizations? I've spent the last year in a relative hole after institutional burn-out. So I've been fascinated reading back-posts of Parabasis. Isaac, anybody, shoot me an e-mail & fill me in!

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