Can be found at Tablet, a new website about modern Jewish identity.
Netanyahu offers to freeze settlements! Uh, except for the fact that:
It's only for 3-6 months
It's conditional on a bunch of shit that's going to happen
It's not actually a settlement freeze, as it doesn't include anything currently being constructed or the entirety of East Jerusalem
In other news, I'm offering you all a free sandwich. The following conditions apply:
You must walk to my office in midtown to get the free sandwich
I will only be giving out free sandwiches until 2Pm
You must give me five dollars for the free sandwich.
August Schulenberg's On Quality, Value and Criticism, which can be found here. It's long, and difficult to exerpt, so let's just say it's an attempt to begin a conversation about artistic quality amidst all the talk in the theatrosphere about models, getting the younguns in etc. The basic premise, and I agree with it, ist hat we don't spend a lot of time talking about artistic quality because it's... well... tough to talk about something so subjective. So Gus tries to get the ball rolling.
There's a lot in there, and I hope he writes more on each point, I just want to quickly address for myself something he says when talking about critiqueing each other's work:
But how do we imagine ourselves within another company when it is so difficult to critique work within our own? Flux has annual and post-play post-mortems, but they focus entirely on the process of producing, not on the quality of artistic decisions. And this is, of course, because feelings get hurt. And yet we must improve the quality of work, and we can do that best by talking about it.
So how do you talk about it within your company? Do you use the Liz Lerman Critical Reponse Process? Do you just say the ugly truth and wound each other terribly and then recover over beers to do the whole thing over again, like Valhalla? How do you do it?
I can't speak from the perspective of being within a company, because I'm not, but I'll just say that in discussions with theatre artists of my generation I hear-- and share-- a great deal of discomfort if not outright disillusionment with the Liz Lerman Critical Response Process. If anything, many I talk to think it's basically used these days as a way to avoid having authentic conversations about work. And many playwrights I know are made incredibly uneasy by it, because they basically feel like people responding to their work are, essentially, hiding what they really feel about it in an effort to make the process work.
When I receive notes from people as a director, I expect them to be both direct and considerate. Both of those are important. We have this weird association in our society between honesty and assholitry. A good example of this would be Ethan Hawke's character in Reality Bites. We all know the type-- "hey, man, I'm just being honest" when in fact the value of honesty is used to basically be inconsiderate and cruel. Fuck that, I have no patience for that shit, you can tell the truth and not be a dick about it.
You have to ask yourself when offering an opinion on something-- why am I saying this? What goal do I have with this note? If your goal is to actually affect the thing you're talking about for the better, than you must on some level also be concerned with being heard. If you aren't heard, by which I do not mean the sound waves pass out of your mouth, vibrate the air and are received into the ear where they're translated into signals in the brain but rather someone actually takes what you say and considers it honestly and discusses it with you, than what you said doesn't matter. A lot of people say shit to just say shit. It's a pervasive problem.
If you want to be heard, you have to give feedback in a way that allows it to be heard. And that way is going to change in a way that's contextually dependent on who you're talking to, where, around who else etc. Which is why I think the Liz Lerman Process feels a bit off to me... my conversations with Dan Trujillo, a writer I've worked with many times, co-produced work with, acted with, directed his material, acted in his material etc. are going to be very different with my conversations with Gus about his work, given that he and I have (sort-of) worked together once, and both like each other but aren't close friends.
And there's another problem, which might be subject to another post, which has to do with the lack of honesty in our responses to each other, the common problems of thinned-skinnedness and taking things personally etc. This is why, as I think I said in an earlier post a year or so ago, i don't tend to offer my opinion on people's work (to them anyway) unless they ask me, and then I try to respond honestly. If they dont' indicate they want my opinion, that's okay, there's usually others who do and I can talk about it with them.
Stunning might not be the best play I've seen this year, but it's certainly the most exciting. Even the parts of it that are problematic are problematic in fascinating and exciting ways. And the first act is just fucking flawless. Stunning, even. And Cristin Miloti is amazing. Go see it. It just extended until the 11th.
Tom Laughlin, in the comments to an earlier post, writes:
Amidst all this talk about discrimination and sexism in American theatre on so many levels, I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts about the relative lack of female theatre critics and bloggers. I went through your blogroll this morning, and my unscientific poll revealed that 29 of the bloggers listed are male, 12 female (one blog is a male/female partnership, but even though the male seems to write more I gave it to the female). And apparently all the blogger/critics who write or have written for the NYC press are male (Cote, Jacobs, RWK, Teachout, Isherwood, etc.). Since the internet is open to all, why is this particular phenomenon happening? I'd be interested in your take on this matter. TIA. -twl
(First off, forgive my acronym ignorance, but does TIA mean thanks in advance? thai initiative accumulate? torridness is awesome?.. it took me the better part of amonth to figure out what RTWT means, it's just something I'm bad at)
Anyway, it's a good question. I should just say my own blog roll is a really bad determinant here, as I would gladly and freely admit I have a terrible blogroll. I hate updating it. I basically only add new blogs to it when people e-mail me to ask if I'd add them to the blogroll. Every four months or so I think Today is the day I redo my blogroll! And then I never do it. So if you're a blogger wondering why you're not on my blogroll, I apologize in advance. E-mail me if you want to be on it at parabasisnyc[at]gmail[dot]com if it really irks ya and i'll put you on it.
i don't know, in other words, if there's a dearth of female theatre blog writers. most of the ones i read are, now that i come to think about it, by men. i don't know if that means that most of the ones being written are by men, but it's also worth differentiating between blogging and being a paid critic. For the part, anyone can start a blog without anyone else's permission or hiring them to do it. If there are fewer female (or Black or Asian or anything else) bloggers on a particular subject, it reflects something different than if there are fewer female critics at daily newspapers.
As to the other point... there are very few female first string critics in this country, and the point's been raised a few places (most recently on a dramaturgy listserv discussion of the gender bias study). In New York, there's Elisabeth Vincentelli and Linda Winer (for the Post and Newsday respectively) that I can think of off the top of my head. Some places-- like Backstage-- I'm really unclear who the first stringer is.
Many places have female second (or even third) stringers or regular freelances. Clearly, this is an issue. And, like the race of critics issue, it probably has some impact on the shape of the theatre scene. But I think, just like how beauty magazines both promote unreasonable beauty expectations of women and take advantage of those already existing expectations to make money, it's a pretty circular issue.
I agree, fwiw (what does that mean? five wookies inside Waziristan??) that this is a problematic state of affairs. i don't know what to do about it necessarily.
If you're someone who is interested in workplace discrimination, equal employment opportunity, bias and affirmative action issues (as I happen to be right now) theatre makes for an interesting counter-factual case study. Why? Because there aren't class-action lawsuits against theaters fort discrimination.
I'm not suggesting there should be, but it's interesting to think about it in this context. In many other industries, there have been big ole class action lawsuits, it's one of the main ways that employment discrimination laws get enforced. But not theatre. To more Conservative thinkers, claims employment discrimination is overblown and we are an overly litigious society. The idea put forth is that what discrimination does exist is the cause of a few bad actors and the more mundane stuff can be solved by giving "everyone a fair shot" (by which they mean eliminating affirmative action), punishing the few people who are truly bad and have negative intent and working the other stuff out on a more peer-to-peer level.
Well, here we have the American Theatre (not the magazine, obviously, the theatre system) which is not only staffed by well-meaning liberals (the exact kind of people who should be trusted to voluntarily enforce equal opportunity rules) but doesn't have to deal with those pernitious, poisonous lawsuits, why not study it to see how that whole diversity and equality thing is working out?
I would guess that the end result would be a rather good example of how intentions don't really matter when it comes to discrimination. Or, to put it another way, that even though our theaters are largely staffed with well meaning liberals, there's still entrenched, institutionalized discrimination, discrimination of effect rather than cause. I might be wrong about that, that's just my guess of what such a study would show, but I have a feeling ultimately the evidence would point to the fact that we need more than good intentions to create equality and diversity.
In the midst of the American Theatre's Institutionalized Sexism discussion, here comes the Times with a piece about how it's been a (relatively) good year for female directors. Check it here.
As a follow up on everything we've talking about here...
I just saw Stunning at LCT3 last night and I really really dug it. Not that it's perfect or anything, but you really should go see it if you get the chance. It just extended for two weeks, so there should be tickets on sale.
Can be found here, in which he talks amongst other things about the positive value of institutions. I hope I've been clear here over the past couple of weeks that even when discussing what so frustrates me about institutions, I recognize the positive value that they can have. I just think it's worth understanding them and their (perhaps inherent) drawbacks as well.
The point, in my view, is missed and as a result, an opportunity lost. The issue is not locked boxes for actor endowments or blowing up the buildings or turning more artists into administrators or whatever zero-sum proposal-du-jour causes a mini-stink in the blog and theater presses, (again, in my view). It is about a collective failure of the field to marshall all our abundant resources around rational models of working together to advance the form.
It is a new day for so many communities and industries in this country. Perhaps we can make it ours as well. Can we stop grinding the same old tunes, working the same list of complaints, move beyond the competitive frame, and start moving purposefully toward effectiveness as a field? Can we celebrate and engage successes, even if they aren't our own? Can we look up from our own desktops and beyond our own immediate horizon to find the things that need to be done and set about doing them? And share what we discover in the doing?
The studies i'm reading up on for my job tend to have titles like:
It's really awesome for Democrats that this person is an elected Republican and a rising public voice of the party. I mean, it's amazing. She starts with some maybe-reasonable privacy concerns (how do we make sure that census data stays private) and ends up with... well, just watch it. If I was ACORN, I'd want this person as my enemy. I like how they use the term "ACORN" like it means "UNITED SATANIST ORGANIZATION":
I find myself in a very strange place, emotionally speaking, about the death of Michael Jackson. I loved Michael growing up, Bad when it came out rocked my world. My older brother had the coat and the glove and I thought that made him the coolest cat on Earth (the image is less funny when you remember that my older brother is black).
One of the (unwitting and female) participants in the study is raising some methodological issues on a theatre-related listserv. Anonymized money quote:
... First, the samples were incredibly short. I remember being asked whether or not I thought the characters were likable, and thinking, "How the hell do I know? They each have, like, three lines." The samples were not proofed for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors-- not the deliberate kind, btw; after all these years, I can surely tell the difference-- and that made me, as it always does, grumpy. That, in combination with the shortness of the samples, made me conclude that these were in all likelihood very amateur scripts. The shortness is relevant because the samples weren't even close to long enough to get a feel for the arc of the play, the characters, or even to adequately assess the quality of the writing, errors aside. I had very little to go on. I know and like the writing of the women whose samples, as it turns out, I was reading, and, in retrospect, the samples, in my opinion, did not reflect the quality I'm used to seeing from them.
Additionally, we were asked to rate how likely we were to slot such a play and how much we thought our company and marketing people would be behind it, but we were never asked why we thought those things. I would have appreciated being able to-- at the very least-- choose from a list of things detailing why we were interested or uninterested. "Wouldn't fit in our theatre space" and/or "No roles for our resident actors" are honest, practical answers that complicate the idea of gender bias in assessing interest. This is different than "It sucked," which, of course, is very prone to biases of all sorts.
I remember also being asked how well we thought this or that script fit our company's mission, but never asked what that mission was or why we thought it would or wouldn't fit. Some companies, my own included, have very specific missions that eliminate certain scripts regardless of quality. This score must have been included in the aggregate, and I think the honest answers would complicate the notion of gender bias. Many of us surely rated some scripts very low in this category for reasons other than quality, just as some would surely rate them higher
for reasons other than quality.
The writer also mentions that she recommended a female playwright, namely Sheila Callaghan, to the people doing the study. She also mentions that she's generally supportive of the efforts behind the study and is not dismissive of the idea of gender bias in theatre, but simply would like to see the study redone with better methodology.
I personally wish, having looked over some of the study, that they had had more theatre people involved in devising it. A professional theatre person would've told you that doollee at its best is roughly as reliable as the low-end of wikipedia, and someone with some experience in the institutional dramaturgy world could probably have filled them in on how to design the gendered submissions in a more real-to-life way.
That being said, I certainly don't think one e-mail to a listserv invalidates the study, and I think that at least in general terms the bias study still seems sound and it does back up the facts on the ground in terms of the fate of female playwrights today.
There appears to be no worse job in American Politics than Religious Right-annointed up-and-coming star in the Republican Party. First they went gaga over Palin and then.. she turned out to be a disaster. Then they went gaga over Jindal, an dhe turned out to be the love child of Mr. Rogers and Mr. Burns. Now Sanford and... he flames out really dramatically. What's next?
i don't get the press' obsession with right wing failures. Newt Gingrich never represented a coalition broader than a small area of Georgia, and he left office in disgrace, yet they constantly go to him for his opinion. Joe Scarborough is a failed congressman from Florida, but he hosts a show on MSNBC. DIck Cheney is asked for his opinion all the time, and the american people neither trust nor like him.
And here we have newsweek asking Robert Bork his opinion on Sotomayor. Why?
I did happen to mention right before the Emily Sands gender bias study dropped that I was doing a big freelance writing project about implicit bias, right? Specifically w/r/t race + its impact on electoral politics and criminal justice?
In case I didn't, the big freelance job I've been working on has been around those issues. And lemme tell ya, it's fascinating. A lot of my job revolves around reading these academic studies and then writing them up in layman's terms, and then interrelating them, finding the ways they're in conversation with each other etc.
I can't wait 'til the web component goes live (probably in a couple of months) so I can write more about this stuff. Anyway, I just wanted to point your wayto this quick note from 99 about bias, where he explores what some of the roots of the female-to-female implicit gender bias might be. It's interesting and perceptiv and I think it's worth noting that the value of the "why" question when it comes to bias is, in social science, public policy and law circles, controversial. Legally, in the United States, the reasons why discriminiation occurs don't reallyy matter. The Civil Rights Act, for example, compels employers to hire minority applicants even when it is more expensive to do so and the Americans with Disabilities Act forbids employers from hiring discrimination based on worries about affording the accomodations necessary for disabled people, to take two examples of so-called "rational discrimination".
As we try to reform the cultures of theaters, of course, speculating and investigating the "why" matters, I'm not dismissing 99's point or anything. It's just interesting to suddenly be coming at this bias issue from all sides of my life.