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Marginalized Workforce Monument

By Nick Fracaro at 8:51 pm on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Walking from my house to BAM the other night I happened upon this astounding sculpture. I was amazed mostly because the work appeared so official in its construction, so sponsored, yet there was no bronze plaque attached to the base identifying and claiming authorship.

It turns out to be what I had hoped it would be.

“portraits and monuments celebrating our cities marginalized workforce”

A subtle, brilliant piece of culture jamming by Specter, aka Gabriel Reese.

Since 1995 I have used the urban situation as primary destination for my creative concepts through installations that merge with abandoned buildings and forgotten environments. This obsession with art in public places is a result of being introduced to the fine arts through graffiti, viewing all public space as a potential inspiration and location for my creativity… (read entire statement)

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How Tweet It Is

By Nick Fracaro at 11:08 am on Saturday, November 14, 2009

Recently there was a long thread of conversation on the dramaturg listserv on how literary departments should respond to rejected playwright submissions. I decided to explore Twitter as a new art form within this topic. I use the 140-character restriction after the fashion of restrictions that iambic pentameter or haiku pose. I posted the following Tweets (and revisions) to the list.

Daily Twitter Submission (First Draft)
Word Count N/A
Characters (no spaces) 120
Characters (with spaces) 149

I hate reading plays. I love doing plays. I wish more playwrights would stop writing plays and start doing plays. I’d meet them there in a second.

Daily Twitter Submission (Second Draft)
Word Count N/A
Characters (no spaces) 115
Characters (with spaces) 141

I hate reading plays. I love doing plays. I wish playwrights would stop writing, start doing… be both Words, the Speaker & Deeds, the Doer.

Daily Twitter Submission (Final Draft)
Word Count N/A
Characters (no spaces) 115
Characters (with spaces) 140

I hate play scripts. Submissions read like so many cattle at the slaughterhouse. Brave words don’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk.

Theatre Manifesto

Flesh hunters. Queequeg is our playwright. Our script, his indecipherable tattoos. Prescient, he transcribes his tattoos onto our coffin.

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How Theatre Failed/Saved America

By Nick Fracaro at 9:52 am on Monday, June 30, 2008

UPDATE: Teresa Eyring’s From the Executive Director column is now online at the American Theatre site. Mike Daisey has responded with a rebuttal at his blog site. As one of his points, he scrutinizes Ms. Eyring’s unfortunate title, the same item that had struck me as the most egregious in her piece.

Ms. Eyring’s title takes one’s breath away. If it were called HOW THEATRE WILL SAVE AMERICA it would still be defensible, if a bit sweeping—it could fantasize about a nearly unimaginable future when theater will reach out from the stage and save all of America from corporate greed, the military-industrial complex, racism, sexism, and human nature itself by reshaping America.

That’s bold. But Ms. Eyring takes it a step further and uses the past tense—HOW THEATRE SAVED AMERICA—informing us that the work is done, the wars have been fought and that we actually live in a glorious utopia right now, one that has been created by the American theater. If one didn’t know better, one might think it is an attempt at wit—a shallow attempt to play off of my title for comic effect, ignoring the actual meaning implicit in the words I’d chosen.

It is a shockingly poor idea to make such an assertion in the title, unless the essay that follows brings some serious arguments to bear, and this is the third problem with the piece. HOW THEATRE SAVED AMERICA, PART ONE chooses to accomplish this goal not by grappling with any of the arguments in my monologue, but instead displaying examples of theaters that are working within their communities as a kind of proof positive that theater has saved America. It specifically cites one example at length, describing the work of Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble.

I find it reaching to claim that one company from a town of 12,000 in Pennsylvania, however wonderful they might be, contraindicates the larger story of the arts infrastructure in a country of 300 million….

Ms. Eyring ends her piece saying, “And this is just the beginning of how theatre saved America.” The implication is that we will see a great deal more of her argument in Part Two. I do hope that this response will make her think more judiciously about the title for the second half of this article, and I hope some of the criticisms I’ve raised may be addressed in its contents.

*****************              *****************

In the July/August issue of American Theatre, executive director of TCG, Teresa Eyring, has written a counter argument to Mike Daisey’s monologue How Theater Failed America. Her Pollyannaism about the state of regional theatre is probably a major part of her job description but the title of her piece, How Theatre Saved America, Part 1, rings almost as parody answer to the serious failures of regional theatre that Daisey’s monologue brings into discussion. And she probably wishes she had heard the news of Theatre de la Jeune Lune’s closing before the magazine went to print. On that point, I’ll be interested if she edits this opening paragraph to her argument in the online version of the “From The Executive Director” page when it’s posted tomorrow.

“While permanent acting ensembles are indeed a rare commodity at major U. S. theatres, typically ignored—even by the popular monologist Mike Daisey in How Theatre Failed America, which ran Off Broadway through June 22—is the array of ensemble companies working across the country. What about, for instance, the long standing acting collaborations of Minneapolis’s Theatre de la Jeune Lune…”

For more discussion about Teresa Eyring’s column see Scott’s and Dennis’ Letters to the Editor.

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New Website

By Nick Fracaro at 3:43 pm on Friday, January 25, 2008

I have not posted recently because I have been busy helping artistic directors Gabriele Schafer and Melanie Dreyer prepare our theatre’s new website. Thieves Theatre exists now only as historical archive and as practicing aesthetic under its new identity as International Culture Lab. Nothing sad in the retirement of the name; we had long ago evolved out its confines. Also the cultural and political climate in this country is no longer conducive to our earlier explorations disrupting the status quo. The post 9/11 world would need to classify our actions, regardless of its artistic pedigree, as dangerous and threatening. Distinctions between poetic terrorism and actual terrorism are no longer possible.

Although I haven’t been posting, I have been following some the recent theatrosphere topics and commenting at other blogs. In particular, I have been interested in the talk around Showcase Code reform. Isaac and Mark and Leonard and John and Isaac again, all have posts with comments on this subject. I will try to tie this issue in with the topic of decentralization of arts funding that Scott has been hosting at Theatre Ideas. (How does LA and NYC being allowed waiver contracts with Equity actors effect the production of theater in the nation as a whole?) The other topic that I have been following is the one that Chicago bloggers have recently been discussing in some detail is the ” preview review” and the related  “critic v. blogger” that has getting some traction in Chicago even as the New York theatrosphere has shied away from the volatility inherent in such an exploration as witnessed in the Leonard Jacobs/George Hunka brouhaha.

I have also been writing about the blogosphere itself for the spring issue of New York Theater Review. Much of that writing is relevant to some of these current discussions, so I will rewrite and post edited-out sections from there, linking to what I have been reading in other blogs.

I will also be posting and cross-posting in my role as dramaturg at the International Culture Lab blog.

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Mantra for the New Year

By Nick Fracaro at 8:27 pm on Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Filed under: Personal,Uncategorized Leave A Comment »

Actor’s Dramaturgy

By Nick Fracaro at 11:02 am on Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The developed actor’s dramaturgy is different in nature from that of the script. Words are meant to be spoke, spat, sung, and danced in theatre, not written and read. Yet the written/read text, the play, has evolved into the author(ity), the alpha and omega, of most theatre produced in this country.

Whenever I dwell for any length of time exclusively in the physical study of performance, a strange third eye opens. The body returns to its ritual self, the core of theatre, dance, and song.

From this place of physical intuition it’s easy to see how wholly divorced the typical play is from the rich uniqueness of the actor’s dramaturgy. Playwrights most often write for the generic actor. Yet the actor’s dramaturgy is specific to the ensemble right down to the physical identity and capabilities of the individual performer.

The standard Norteamericano script today is a theory for theatre production essentially unchanged from the one Chekhov/Stanislavsky explored over a century ago. Stanislavsky’s system, and its inheritor, the Method, has narrowly defined and set parameters around actor’s training in the United States. The Method is uniquely suited to the psychological realism and behaviorisms perfected and exploited in film acting. The subtleties of the Method find far better expression on film than on stage. Yet playwrights most often are still creating work geared toward this very limited school of actor’s training and dramaturgy.

If actors were trained differently… If playwrights challenged actors with strange new worlds…

This is in most ways the chicken or the egg conundrum. Scott at Theatre Ideas highlights a quote by professor Sonja Kuftinec referencing a study revealing what might be lacking in theatre training at the university:

collaboration, ensemble-building, idea development, interdisciplinary approaches to creating art, listening, conflict resolution, community engagement, and application of artistic skills in a wide range of settings.

There is little or no emphasis in the classroom placed on collaboration, ensemble-building, or alternative careers in the field of theatre. Conventional production training tends to recycle a system that emphasizes the passivity of the individual actor rather than graduating students who can think critically and creatively about the value of theatre in society and who act upon those thoughts.

If the occassion for writing, acting, and directing a play was attached to some of the values and skills cited here, both the theatre artist’s role and American theatre itself would begin transforming dramatically.

The current cause celebre initiated by Richard Nelson against the “developmental culture in theatre” will not last much longer than his tenure as playwriting head at Yale. (Yale School of Drama is soliciting resumes to replace him now.) With Yale no longer providing the bully pulpit for change, this process will continue intact and unabated.

Nelson’s rant and cause was always a red herring; the institutionalization of this process begins at a level much deeper than the culture surrounding American regional theatre. The whole of the education and training for theatre “professionals” is involved in what in business would be called a pyramid scheme.

“Professional” playwrights most often earn their bread-and-butter working as teachers in drama departments around the country. So they have as much invested in the status quo of this institutionalized process of play development as anyone else. I put the word “professional” in quotes because there is only a handful of writers actually making a living in theatre but there are thousands of playwrights in schools and elsewhere teaching others how to write a “good play.” These teacher playwrights, including Richard Nelson, are serving effectively as salaried dramaturgs for their student playwrights. So if there is truly a need to scapegoat the “institutional dramaturg” for the ills of theatre culture, here would be the place to begin.

The artform needs less “good plays” and more great theatre for its revitalization. Of course there are many worthy theatre teachers (playwrights, directors, actors, dramaturgs) struggling within the various institutions in the pursuit of this goal but it is realistic not cynical to realize that change will be slow within this domain, if it occurs at all.

Theatre needs to be dramaturgically driven; that is, we need to question the why and wherefore every occassion we practice it. This will not happen in the institution or the “profession” where the roles we play are clearly defined, where turf and property rights are defended tooth and nail in a scarcity model where everyone is constantly auditioning at the lotto of celebrity and career. Why I find theatre so exciting as a producer, writer, director, performer, dramaturg is that the frontier of the artform is always easily accessible to me and my ad hoc wild tribe. And we don’t need no stinking badges to practice our game.

We recognize no borders. Rehearsing our life as the nomads we are; we ride the wind as a seed that will plant itself in the crack of the sidewalk. Theatre is the weed, the flower of this temporary root.

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Theatre Without Borders

By Nick Fracaro at 1:34 pm on Monday, August 6, 2007

I’m off to butoh study for the next couple weeks in the boondocks of Germany northeast of Berlin. Gaby will be guest blogging at Rat Sass. Gaby is producer of the New York Butoh Festival. She is also in the process of forming a NYC based international theatre company stemming from her current project with an ensemble of German and American theatre artists.

Interesting to note that 36% of the city’s population is foreign-born. Couple this with the city’s other significant demographic, population density, and it’s easy to understand how daily life in NYC is its own kind of culture lab. To me and others, this is where to look for the “New York aesthetic.”

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The New York Aesthetic?

By Nick Fracaro at 10:23 am on Monday, August 6, 2007

Scott, with assistance from Mac, has successfully beaten the dead horse to death again. Six weeks ago in a post I characterized the meme that animates the hoary horse’s life-like twitching at its ritualistic floggings.

“In historical retrospect we know that many of the urban v. rural and North v. South tensions of the American Civil War were still erupting during the Tombstone era in 1880. Interesting how this is only slightly different in species from the New York v. Hinterland and Red v. Blue state arguments currently being hosted in the Theatrosphere. Memes don’t die as readily as they mutate.”

Isaac and Parabasis’ comments box duplicate previous forensics on the corpse and Don Hall tries to step over it this morning to get back to making theatre. Of course once the current examination has been completed, this Rather Dead Horse will not be buried, but will be stuffed and mounted in the theatrosphere’s long established Department of Redundancy Department.

Once we were fighting words. We rose as flesh in dawn’s light to duel at fields of honour. But now the decrepit, senile debate merely mutters incoherently through its drool. Like the effete theatre engendered by grant-speak mission statements, proposals for action from the towers of privilege, the chat-fest of leisure, full of sound and fury.

In the comments section of my last post, Mac has asked me to arbitrate in the squabble.

I agree with you that bloggers shouldn’t be afraid to argue, and that it doesn’t mean that the theatrosphere is degenerating when we do.

Although, Nick, you are uncharacteristically reserved here. Do you endorse the ideas contained in the “That There Is Some Bullshit” post? As a longstanding participant in theater in New York and in many other communities, woud you regard the post as an accurate critique?

Let me also ask you a question about building community. In my post in response to Scott, I suggested that he might be interested to learn about the work being created by the New York bloggers with whom he is in contact, to know whether or not that work contains the prejudices and insular thinking he decries. If it doesn’t, he might come to see the New York community as just one of many communities around the country where his ideas are playing out in an interesting way. Would you agree with this?

Scott is an academic. Academics are not artists per se, but I consider them important peers in my theatre work. Theory, criticism, and documentation give relevance and context to theatre within the History of Great Ideas. Mac is an artist. As such, I could consider him either as a collaborator or a competitor; or, if I entertain the notion that theatre can be practiced in the ideal as athletes do during the Olympics, he could be both competitor and collaborator simultaneously. At the Innovative Theatre Awards gathering recently, Mac sat with his clan at one table. I sat with my clan at another. The hype of this ceremony is that we are all of the same tribe, and although it’s hype it’s not pretense. The off-off, downtown, independent theatre community does actually exist in New York, and most, if not all, New York bloggers Mac references identify with this off-off theatre community.

Scott bristles and doesn’t “take kindly to those who feel it is OK to insult academics.” Yet he would differentiate his Theatre Ideas from the “jargon and obscurity in academic journals.” Similarly Mac gets “cranky” about insults thrown at that old whore “New York theatre” even as he insists he can differentiate his clan and the other NY theatre bloggers from some “single NYC aesthetic.”

Broadway is unique in that it produces and/or validates a “theatre product” that is exported to other cities around the country and the world. So Mac is wrong if he thinks that the New York theatre community is “just one of many theatre communities around the country.” In most ways of measuring, New York is the recognized theatre capital of the world and the home and exporter of commercial theatre in this country. For many theatre ensembles and individuals from around the country, New York represents either figuratively or literally, the supra-community and audience for their work.

New York functions as a mindset more than it does as reality. “Can I have a career? Can I make a living from my art? “ New York serves as an aspect of the “sour grapes” psychology in all of us, including those of us living in the city, with the conflicting goals of a career in art versus a life in art.

These meetings happening around the Showcase Code are very telling. The producers pushing for reform give many reasons, but the main one is that 16 performances with the short four-week run stymies any attempt at finding the box office necessary to pay actors mini-contract wages. So these producers claiming to represent “independent theatre” are not really different from any other producer in the New York theatre. I mean other than they are allowed to work with Equity actors without the benefit of a contract as they attempt to become commercial.

The stated ambitions of these producers are contrary to many other off-off artist producers working in the city. Many artist producers in the city are not under this mandate of box office growth. Many know that regardless of the fact they are living in a city of 8 million, their audience is kindred, and thus finite in number. They will never make a career or a living from the box office of this audience, but the theatre they are exploring with them finds its value in other ways.

All of us are divided between these poles of career in art vs. a life in art. Scott is no different than Mac in this. The pot is as black as the kettle. Scott in his Ivory Tower talks about community. Mac attempts to practice community in the most commercial of cities.

The NY bloggers are as diverse as their city is. The review of Mac’s recent play by a fellow NYC theatre blogger Aaron Riccio says:

“…with a few tweaks, this play can certainly conquer a larger house.”

So I will finally answer Mac’s question to me, but in the Socratic manner, by asking another question. Yes, regardless of the qualifications I outlined, I agree that Scott should see the New York community as just one of many communities around the country where his ideas are playing out in an interesting way. My question to you concerns the arguments surrounding the “New York aesthetic.”

So does “independent” theatre, in New York or anywhere, tweak plays to find a bigger box office? And would any dramaturg even classify such an aspiration as an aesthetic?

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The New Testaments Toward Theatre

By Nick Fracaro at 12:46 pm on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A recent post by Mac Rogers started me thinking about the reason and nature of blogging itself.

As Isaac would say, read some Hunka, then read some Walters. Both, I fear, showcase two of the leading lights of the theatrosphere with their powers a bit under a cloud, but it’s interesting to think about why.

If there is a literary form that certain blog posts in the theatrosphere have come to resemble, it is the epistle. In a similar way that students of literary history are able to distinquish between the letter and the epistle, perhaps one day they may be asked to make distinctions between species of literary and critical blog entries.

Both the letter and the epistle are substitutes for a spoken conversation. However, where the letter (now also the email) is essentially spontaneous, ephemeral, intimate, personal and private, with no pretense toward the literary, the epistle is written in lieu of a public speech with a specific audience or community in mind. And as literary form, the epistle also displays an artistic or critical effort aspiring to some degree of permanence.

In history, the most prominent use of the epistle was by the early Christians in the establishment of their community. Often didactic in nature, giving advice or instruction on belief and behavior, the epistles of the New Testament became the main tenets of Christianity.

The writers of Superfluities and Theatre Ideas each argue their aesthetics and ethics of theatre almost as fevently as any religious sect. There is also no denying the didactic nature of the “epistles” emanating from these blogs. So not surprisingly, writers George Hunka and Scott Walters often find themselves debating in the comments section of the theatrosphere from opposing poles of some polemic. These comments append the publication of the epistles in many unique ways, and Scott and George, as do many bloggers, write at least as much in these other “domains” as in their own.

Scott Walters informed his readers six weeks ago that he was establishing a New Code of Ethics within his domain :

I will no longer be addressing the NYC theatre scene, nor will I be responding to defenses of the NYC scene, nor attacks emanating from the NYC scene. If such posts appear in my comments box, I will ignore them or delete them. I will no longer define my ideas in terms of the dominant mode of production. I plan to be more utopian.

At that time I wrote a couple blog posts examining Scott’s and others’ criticisms of New York theatre. I used the poster image from Clint Eastwood’s 1992 revisionist Western masterpiece Unforgiven in the second post as a visual to underline the meme I saw at play in Scott’s call for Law and Order in the Wild Wild West of the theatrosphere. I used that image also because I suspected that after turning over a new leaf and swearing off verbal fisticuffs, Scott would have relapses. Like all those old gunfighters in Westerns from Shane on, I figured that even though Scott would take off his six-guns and bury them deep in some storage truck along with his tin star, circumstances would never allow him to retire. Some affront or injustice would arise demanding the reluctant gunfighter’s return to action.

Shane represents the Goody-Two-Shoes pole of the Christ-like hero, but a much stranger beast slouches toward Bethlehem in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven character Bill Munny. Like all the other forsaken gunfighters in Westerns before him, he also is trying to escape his reputation or past, the old self that he no longer believes he is, but in this revisionist take, the Old West Hero is haunted and hunted by his own repressed psychology as much as his violent past.

Clint Eastwood (Bill Munny): I ain’t like that no more. I ain’t the same, Ned. Claudia, she straightened me up, cleared me of drinkin’ whiskey and all. Just ’cause we’re goin’ on this killing, that don’t mean I’m gonna go back to bein’ the way I was. I just need the money, get a new start for them youngsters. Ned, you remember that drover I shot through the mouth and his teeth came out the back of his head? I think about him now and again. He didn’t do anything to deserve to get shot, at least nothin’ I could remember when I sobered up.
Morgan Freeman (Ned Logan): You were crazy, Will.
Clint Eastwood (Munny): Yeah, no one liked me. Mountain boys all thought I was gonna shoot ’em out of pure meanness.
Morgan Freeman (Logan): Well, like I said, you ain’t like that no more.
Clint Eastwood (Munny): That’s right. I’m just a fella now. I ain’t no different than anyone else no more.

Like Bill Munny, Scott hoped that by dramatically and publicly stating he had a New Code of Ethics, his blogging would become more “utopian.” In the film, the audience knows where Bill Munny’s continual recitation of “I ain’t like that no more” will lead. So when Munny hears that his friend Ned Logan has not only been beaten to death by the town sheriff, but is also in an open casket display of frontier justice to the citizens of Big Whisky, there is no surprise that he breaks his vow of sobriety. As Munny dramatically brings the bottle of whisky to his lips and gulps deeply, the audience knows the avenging Angel of Death is saddling up for his ride into town.

So, too, in Scott’s current post “That There Is Some Bullshit”, the old gunfighter is back, riding into Big Whisky via the Big Apple with his guns drawn and firing.

This is the kind of bullshit I am talking about when I insist that the NYC aesthetic is not universal, and in fact is openly scornful and dismissive of experiences and lifestyles that take place west of the Hudson and in places with less than 7 million people. There is an arrogance just beneath the surface — hell, lying right on top of the surface — that needs to be called out by every non-New Yorker who is tired of seeing good people insulted, and every New Yorker who has even a small conscience left.

Will Munny: Who’s the fella owns this shithole?
Will Munny: (To Fatty) You, fat man, speak up.
Skinny Dubois: Uh, I own this establishment. I bought the place from Greeley for a…thousand dollars.
Will Munny: (To the men behind Skinny) You better clear out of there.
Man: Yes sir
Little Bill Daggett: (As Munny takes aim) Just hold it right there…HOLD IT!
[Munny shoots him]
Little Bill Daggett: You, sir, are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man.
Will Munny: Well he should have armed himself if he’s gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.
Little Bill Daggett: You’d be William Munny out of Missouri; killer of women and children.
Will Munny: That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawls at one time or another; and I’m here to kill you Little Bill for what you did to Ned.
Little Bill Daggett: [walking toward Will] All right boys, he’s only got one barrel left. When he fires, take out your pistols and shoot him down like the mangy scoundrel he is!

The angel of death is indiscriminative when it enters town. Men, women, and children…the good, the bad, and the ugly will all fall beneath the cleansing scythe.

Many in the theatrosphere are New Yorkers, so of course this scattergun attack on the community, along with its prescription on how those with “conscience” should behave, has its predicable reaction. Scott, the mangy scoundrel that he is, knows this, but like the little kid standing over the anthill with his stick, he just can’t help himself.

Yet perhaps this particular anthill stick has become predictable as well, less disruptive; most NYC bloggers have kept their responses in the comment sections on this occasion.

Scott’s scattergun attack wounds not just the innocent, but allies as well, as he does here.

When are we going to stop endorsing the idea that the majority of this country is “flyover,” as the ArtsJournal site insultingly calls its blog devoted to “art in the American outback”? AMERICAN OUTBACK??? ArtsJournal ought to be shot.

If Scott had read the Flyover blog before he criticized it, he would have realized that, in their short exisitence, the journalists writing there had already instigated many thoughtful discussions aimed precisely at concerns surrounding the NYCentric perspective. Scott’s epistles would readily find an audience there.

Let’s cut to the heart of what inspired this blog in the first place. In his keynote address to the NEA Institute mentioned in the first post, New Yorker senior theater critic John Lahr stated, with what at least appeared to be a straight face, “If it’s not in the New Yorker, it doesn’t exist in the culture.” He went on to explain his belief that the New Yorker serves as the de facto publication of record for theater in America.

While it’s true that the New Yorker consistently has some of the finest and most thought-provoking theater criticism in America, this assertion seems the exact kind of New York-centric thinking that is common in the arts world. If you’re serious about theater, you go to New York. If you’re serious about film, you go to Los Angeles. Yada Yada.

So the blog was initiated as counter to the above Yada Yada, and in the hope of serving a broader American artistic community.

It’s a way for arts journalists and artists outside the major American urban areas to celebrate, discuss, critique and share what they do. While it was established to continue a conversation begun at USC Annenberg’s 2007 NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater, we hope it will ultimately grow to serve a larger community of journalists, artists and institutions involved in the arts in America.

Scott has escaped for the weekend from the current Shootout at the O.K. Corral to be among “people who are thoughtful, generous, intelligent, and gracious”, something he suggests cannot be found in the theatrosphere.

I consider Scott an ally in theatre. I suspect his temptation will be to follow suit with Laura and quit writing his theatrosphere epistles. Laura was the inspiration for the New Code of Ethics he established at his domain, then broke six weeks later. So, as he has advised me, along with “every New Yorker who has even a small conscience left,” I will advise him. To assuage the guilt of having transgressed against his new code, he should link his Theatre Ideas to the conversation at Flyover where his theatre epistles would do much to serve in building community.

No surprise that with a blog named Rat Sass I find Laura much too precious in her attitude toward what is civil discourse. (Laura is giving no reason, allows no comment, forcing other theatre bloggers to speculate and assess their own guilt and others’ in offending her sensibilities, and reconsider their reason for blogging at all.)

Even though I disagree with most of the split-court legal opinions of this Supreme Court Justice, I found an advocate of my viewpoints regarding discourse in a speech by Clarence Thomas.

    Today, there is much talk about moderation. It reminds me of a former colleague at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who often joked that he was a “gun-toting moderate”-a curiously oxymoronic perspective. Just think of that, dying over half a loaf. I do not believe that one should fight over things that don’t really matter. But what about those things that do matter? It is not comforting to think that the natural tendency inside us is to settle for the bottom, or even the middle of the stream.This tendency, in large part, results from an overemphasis on civility. None of us should be uncivil in our manner as we debate issues of consequence. No matter how difficult it is, good manners should be routine. However, in the effort to be civil in conduct, many who know better actually dilute firmly held views to avoid appearing “judgmental.” They curb their tongues not only in form but also in substance. The insistence on civility in the form of our debates has the perverse effect of cannibalizing our principles, the very essence of a civil society. . . .Again, by yielding to a false form of “civility,” we sometimes allow our critics to intimidate us. As I have said, active citizens are often subjected to truly vile attacks; they are branded as mean-spirited, racist, Uncle Tom, homophobic, sexist, etc. To this we often respond (if not succumb), so as not to be constantly fighting, by trying to be tolerant and nonjudgmental-i.e., we censor ourselves. This is not civility. It is cowardice, or well-intentioned self-deception at best.

Those who care about the artform need to continue to post their passionate, uncensored epistles and testaments under whatever ethic they establish as their own. Whatever audacity or perseverance it takes to continue blogging, they owe it to themselves and their community.

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Theatre Tribe

By Nick Fracaro at 2:39 pm on Saturday, July 14, 2007

homeless actorScott Walters opened an interesting discussion awhile back about new tribalism and theatre centering his reading of a section from Daniel Quinn’s book Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure. The discussion became the subject of numerous posts in the theatrosphere. Don Hall picked up on it as did Slay. Isaac asking about the sense of community amongst artists in a particular area is a parallel question. In Scott’s follow-up post he seems to have come to a conclusion on the nature of the theatre tribe in addressing Ian Hill‘s description of his theatre practice.

…tribe is not only centered around an idea, but a place. It is comprised of a group of people who want to do a specific thing in a specific place. It isn’t a launching pad for “stardom,” but rather an end in itself, a way of life. If someone dreams of “moving up” to some more “prestigious” venue, then you don’t want him or her in your tribe. Tribes require a commitment. And they require a place, because it is the place, and the variety of people in that place, that provide constant stimulation and broadening. Ian writes, “When the tribe becomes a single theatre company, it tends to turn in on itself and not work as well — inbreeding produces defects.”

entourageWhile agreeing in part with the analysis, I would describe my own experience and observations of theatre as tribe in exactly the opposite manner as Scott (and Ian) do here. Hollywood and Broadway are actual places, but they are “places in the mind” first and foremost. In that way they are ideas that are in sync or counter to the central ethic of the theatre tribe.

American theatre, more than theatre in other countries, swims in the shared water of the big pool of dominant culture. So the theatre tribe may resemble an Entourage or Posse as much as they do a religious parish or political sect. I doubt Don, Ian, or Slay would turn down fame if Celebrity Culture offered it to them. Few American theatre groups I know are shunning “stardom” or “moving up” to a more “prestigious” venue. Even the ensembles that Scott has often cited on his blog as exemplars of theatre working with and toward community are all adept at representing and propagandizing their ideas. Box office is obviously dependent on the celebrity and fame of their “product,” but so is their funding and support from the NEA and other sources outside the local community.

For my own, the theatre tribe is nomadic by nature, always entering new hunting grounds in the pursuit of their idea. The tribe may have a preferred seasonal camp or hub, but its quest recognizes no borders. New members of the tribe open up new alliances and hunting grounds. New cultures are new cuisines of fresh ideas.

The tribe that centers around the idea of ABC No Rio‘s ‘culture of opposition’ goes back over twenty-five years to their founding. Its “squat” on Rivington Street became an emblem of the artistic community’s struggle with the real estate problem in New York City. Thieves Theatre was the first to do theatre there when No Rio commissioned us in an art exchange with Chicago’s Randolph Street Gallery in 1982. Five years later we would produce the world premiere of the controversial Fassbinder play Trash, The City and Death with them. In 1987 No Rio was the perfect performance space for presenting a play about how real estate speculation exploits and destroys the lives of the disenfrachised in a city.

Although the ownership of the brick and mortar building at 156 Rivington was always a rallying point of the contention between artists and the city, the battle was symbolic at best. When No Rio finally bought the building from the city last year for one dollar, it was a small victory for an artistic fringe community that had been displaced decades before through gentrification.

By the time NADA and other theatres Ian references began renting the buildings of Lower East Side near No Rio in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, the area had already been gentrified out of the rent range of the original bohemian artists who had lived and worked there. Many of this artistic fringe moved to Williamsburg, DUMBO, and other parts of Brooklyn and beyond, where the gentrifying process began anew in a few of these areas. Any pioneering art scenes that may develop are all eventually co-opted. The DIE YUPPIE SCUM grafitti is always a short-lived resistance awaiting its whitewash. The recent announced move of the venue Galapagos from Williamsburg to DUMBO signifies a new trend exemplifying an “enlightened” real estate in partnership with a packaged and marketed “fringe art.” Meanwhile the idea, the philosophy and way of life that once was encapusalated under the notion of the fringe or bohemia, has long been in exile from “place” in New York City.

When Cindy Carr wrote about us in the early ’90’s in The Bohemian Diaspora, the epilogue article in her book On Edge: Performance at the End of the Century, we were living in a tepee in a Manhattan shantytown as art project. The tepee is the American icon of “the tribe,” but you can imagine how alien our “tent city” tribe was to its place. The various artists and homeless living there for three years never really belonged to the neighborhood and community encompassing it except as symbol; the shantytown represents the neglect and decay that are allowed to exist within the richest cities of the world.

Entrance for shantytown “The Hill” at Canal and Chrystie, 1991

After that project ended, although we continued to live in the rent controlled Brooklyn buiding we would eventually buy into, we began discovering our Temporary Autonomous Zones and tribe outside of New York, nationally within the ratconference we began in 1994. Rat became our community and audience for ten years. But as did most of what was once defined as the “fringe” everywhere, rat increasingly became peopled with more mainstream and/or institutional ambitions. However, even as rat was ending for us, we had rediscovered another vital fringe exploration in the physical theatre and butoh performance work of numerous international ensembles.

Community and tribe for us now are these mostly international friends and peers with an aesthetic that also projects an ethic, philosophy, and way of life that is counter to the dominant culture. And in most ways this is the same “culture of opposition” we had discovered with other NYC artists at No Rio in 1982.

Meanwhile over the twenty some years, our one-time fringe neighborhood in a landmarked section of brownstown Brooklyn has become ultra-chic. Olga and her extended Puerto Rican family have lived at “our place” for over fifty years and by now they are as much family as rent controlled tenant to us. We enjoy the company and friendship of most of our neighbors, old and new alike. Yuppie and bohemian no longer seem valid classifications. The neighbors are all invited to and participate in our art salon potlatches. Gawker Stalkers know celebs Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger live a block down the street, but our landlocked landmarked boat was just as famous a “love fetus” in neighborhood news as their daughter Matilda ever was.

Our landlocked landmarked neighborhood community is similar to how I feel connected to what is now being termed NYC Independent Theatre community. It is and isn’t my community. It’s a friendly enough place to hang, but I wouldn’t want to live there, all the time.

Landlocked landmarked. Most difficult is the escape from the museum of one’s own representation. Fellow travelers, I join my clan on the road just outside the walls.

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My Pretentious Bio

By Nick Fracaro at 11:07 am on Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nick has been choreographing Gabriele Schafer in her role as artistic director of Thieves Theatre for 26 years. In preparation for the Pretentious Festival, for the past six years he has been traveling and researching the most important physical theatre methods on earth, especially butoh. Through his study with such masters as Atsushi Takenouchi, Yukio Waguri, Akira Kasai, Diego Pinon, SU-EN, and Minako Seki, he has now realized his masterwork. Gabriele Schafer performs Gertred/Ghost in The Ghost of Hamlet’s Flesh.

The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet
Prince of Denmarke

The First Quarto
by William Shakespeare

directed by Cynthia Dillon



bad hamlet

At The Pretentious Festival
“The Most Important Theatre Festival on Earth”

pretentious festival

June 20 & 21 (8:30pm), June 23 (7:30pm), June 27 (9pm)

The Brick Theater
575 Metropolitan Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211
½ a block from the Lorimer stop of the L train

All tickets $10
Tickets available at the door
or through /

Featuring:Anthony Bagnetto, Robert Josef*, Jason Liebman*, Kevin Lind*, Alyssa Mann, Thomas Poarch*, Gabriele Schafer*

*Member AEA

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Zines Once Carried Our Memes

By Nick Fracaro at 9:16 pm on Saturday, June 16, 2007

unforgiven Scott has established a new “code of ethics” for posting and commenting within his domain. His call for Law and Order reminds of certain memes traceable back to the Old West that are embedded deep within our American character. Reminiscent of how the infamous Earp brothers once banned all six-guns and other firearms from entering the city limits of Tombstone, Scott stipulates that bloggers check their “virtual fisticuffs” at the door to Theatre Ideas. The townsfolk, especially womenfolk bloggers like Laura, will find safe haven from the lawlessness and verbal violence of the Theatrosphere.

In historical retrospect we know that many of the urban v. rural and North v. South tensions of the American Civil War were still erupting during the Tombstone era in 1880. Interesting how this is only slightly different in species from the New York v. Hinterland and Red v. Blue state arguments currently being hosted in the Theatrosphere. Memes don’t die as readily as they mutate.

I am in alliance with most of Scott Walters’ ideas on theatre. If he sensed this about me, my harsh critique of him as part of my previous post was probably felt as a betrayal. I have been trying to write some second thoughts about my characterization and his reaction, but I am too slow at posting and commenting, Scott keeps preempting everything I write. So I post the following now to catch-up with our conversation, although he has been writing it all quite well without my help (irritant). I’ll insert his preemptions where I think they belong.

The discussion as I see it is about blogging for theatre, the nature and function of the new theatre talk in the theatrosphere and its relationship to the practice of the art form.

SCOTT SAYS: I am curious if you could give an example of a post “tinged with that patronizing posture of “the teacher.” Not that I don’t believe you — I suspect all of our writing styles reflect our professions — but it would help me understand better if I had an example. I’d also be curious how my writing is more lecture than dialogue than, say, David Cote or Clyde Fitch or George Hunka. I suspect you are reading a tone into my posts.

NICK SAYS: As artistic director of Thieves Theatre and solo artist, I have a long history of polemic work. Consequently my battle with the press bunkers has been what seems like forever. So I don’t much like the newsboys. I read them only with extreme prejudice. I am warming up to David Cote and Leonard Jacobs because of their blog writing and comments in the theatrosphere, their attempts toward this new dialogue of theatre talk. As for George Hunka, he just got busted by Malachy Walsh for his “the-ah-t-ah” writings, with the hat tip going to the chuckler, Don Hall. The unaffected personal blogging styles of Malachy and Don, with equal parts life and art, are one of those unique rich segments of the theatrosphere that print publication could never even imagine.

The blogosphere is a radical departure for publication. Print publication has been much like the teacher’s lecture to the students, so you’re right, it was unfair of me to single you out as “the teacher.“ In most ways you are essentially no different than the three bloggers you name. You are all writing from the print model in which you have been trained. Old habits die hard.

My diehard habit is slightly different. I cut my teeth writing under pseudonyms in the zine scene of the ‘80’s, early ‘90’s. The zines I wrote and distributed through the early network of the rat conference I later reformatted into RAPT, rat’s first e-zine and web pages. This was in 1996 at the very beginning of the World Wide Web. Most believe that the widespread adoption of web browsers beginning in 1996 marked the transition from the print zine to the virtual zine era. And nth generations later we have the blogosphere.

For an interesing tidbit of history at this transition point, a blast from the past giving additional context to the current subject, read “zinester” David Cote more than ten years ago in his self-published OFF:Journal of Alternative Theatre as he argues his New York centric stance with the pseudonymous BenTrovato of Thieves Theatre. The occasion is the simultaneously approaching NYC rat confererence and first New York Fringe Festival where David presents an edited version of the Great Rat v. Fest Debate excerpted from the early rat web pages. Here is Brooklyn-based Ben Trovato in a letter to the editor of OFF calling David to task on his New Yorky bias.

I love the chutzpa of six xerox pieces of paper and a staple calling itself “The Journal of Alternative Theater”. Why not? A vital journal, like vital theater, is not a function of production cost or institutional affiliation. The non-organization of theaters from around the country known as RAT (Raggedy-Ass Theater), was created in a similar spirit of rough need and fullfillment.

Perhaps he (Cote), too, has an agenda. There’s surely a hint of one when he says “For some of us, it’s self-evident that the best art will happen in the best cities. And, though the consensus is ebbs and flows on this, the best city is New York.” It is this kind of (stereotypically NY) chauvinism that RAT is trying to dispel in its linking of like-minded alternative theater workers in cities around the country and the world.

david cote off zine

NICK SAYS: Scott, you don’t seem quite the academic, but I imagine it’s where at least some of your reading is. So your model of writing would be drawn from there also. In a certain way, academics do dialogue with one another in journals. But much of this juried jargon has always been ineffective outside its clique, and today it’s becoming even more isolated and irrelevant as the new internet models of publication/dialogue continue to proliferate.

SCOTT SAYS: To my mind, academia ought to be the R & D for the theatre. We should be trying things out, coming up with ideas, documenting performances, and spreading the word about what is new and exciting. And we should be putting this into readable, accessible forms so that the exhausted artist can grasp the ideas easily (as opposed to the jargon and obscurity in academic journals, for instance). To me, blogging is a great way to do that.

I want to be upfront about any ideas I post in the future: I am a teacher, not an artist. I am a teacher who does theatre, not a theatre artist who teaches. I am a teacher by choice, not by accident. I am not a “frustrated artist” who “fell back on” education….As someone noted, I often give what he called “advice to the players,” by which I mean that I come up with suggestions for different ways to do things. I’m not going to go out and do them myself, which I suppose might seem a bit duplicitous. So let me explain how I justify giving advice to artists trying to actually make a living in the theatre…

(Follow Scott as he practices his new code and advisory role at Theatre Ideas.)

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I Heart NY

By Nick Fracaro at 7:35 am on Wednesday, June 13, 2007

i heart nyFirst and foremost Scott Walters is a teacher, but in that capacity, he is also a director of student productions at University of North Carolina at Asheville. Last semester he directed and blogged with his students Philadelphia Story.

Scott’s blog posts at Theatre Ideas are filled with Advice to the Players concerning the “fixes” necessary to cure our national theatre. These blog entries are always well researched and knowledgeable but also tinged with that patronizing posture of “the teacher.” He is always more lecturing to students than dialoguing with peers. Scott is a big promoter of ensembles producing theatre across the country but his common method of doing this is to attack or offend some supposed or real aspect of New York theatre. For instance in his current post he finds an alliance with Zack Mannheimer who is attempting to relocate his once Brooklyn-based Subjective Theatre. Zack is on the road now hitching a ride to ANYWHERE BUT NYC. Predictably, such expatriates’ caustic dismissals of the city causes high drama in the theatrosphere from the many theatre bloggers who still live and work within the community.

Scott’s recent response to Praxis Theatre’s 10 Questions interview (with extended elaborations at his Theatre Ideas blog), coupled with his 15 Seconds of Fame at The Impending Theatrical Blogging Event which was a “production” within the Brick Theatre’s Pretentious Festival by NYC Theatre Bloggers, spawned a wide-ranging discussion in the theatrosphere on the nature of our national theatre. This debate segued seamlessly into the fracas that developed around Peter Birkenhead’s controversial Salon article in which he pooh-poohed the Tony Awards celebration and theatre in general.

Of the many theatre bloggers that live in New York and have taken exception to the implicit and explicit slurs directed at their theatre community and city, none have been as ardent in its defense as native New Yorker critic Leonard Jacob de Groot. Catch up on a current episode of the debate at the Clyde Fitch Report. Begin with Leonard’s rant to incite a lynch mob but do not leave without visiting its counter. In an affecting eulogy of actress Anne Pitoniak, Leonard reminds that theatre in New York, including Broadway, can be experienced with all the same riches of community that smaller cities possess.

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By Nick Fracaro at 6:50 am on Sunday, May 20, 2007

dog god god dog

Words become their own being. Once they have left the body of their creator, they begin an existence of their own. They exercise their free will.

Some will become fighting words. Soldiers in a war that is as old as mankind.

Our fate, as well as the fate of others, is often a function of the words we distribute in the world.

The butoh masters explore our bodies elementally as flesh in the manner of alchemists, schooling us in the belief that our DNA is as subject to manipulation and transformation as our fate is.

You have to pull your stomach up high in order to turn your solar plexus into a terrorist. –Hijikata

So today I will go to war, again. With my DNA, my fate, my words.

The choreography I am working on now I have titled The Ghost of Hamlet’s Flesh.

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My Name Is Not Rachel Corrie

By Nick Fracaro at 12:19 pm on Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I wish I could pour a bottle of water on the New York Magazine blog that misrepresents my writing about Mike Daisey.

“And debate still rages over the Mike Daisey affair! Nick from Rat Sass thinks Mike staged a walkout from his own play for the publicity.

Actually I wish I could drink a bottle of water, bodily process the liquid, and go piss on the author’s shoes. Of course I could probably be charged with assault, but I already have my defense planned.

Your Honor, the plaintiff left me no choice. He does not have a comments section on his Vulture blog where I could rebuff his false statement. His slander caused me extreme emotional distress, triggering my relapse into my sanctuary of Rat Sass beer. So I had drunk myself into a stupor on my walk to his office and there are no public toilets en route to New York Magazine on Madison Avenue.

Your Honor, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I realize that the plaintiff claims that his shoes were one-of-kind handmade fetishes and that my Rat Sass piss ruined them. I am confused by both the nature and validity of this claim but I will not dispute it. I am willing to take responsibility for all property damages incurred. I also realize there may be some emotional distress. But, as outlined in my countersuit, I feel that all damages are tit-for-tat. The irreparable damage to the Rat Sass brand name as a direct result of New York Magazine’s slander is significant and I have already explained my relapse into drunken stupors. As a result of the emotional impact of this incident, I may never be able to write or perform again.

My Name Is Not Rachel Corrie. How does one escape the prison of one’s own representation?

I haven’t really fallen into a stupor and I figure the author of the new Vulture blog is probably just a slow learner. I won’t piss on his shoes this time but he needs to learn to differentiate between gossip and slander.

What bothered me most about the Mike Daisey incident was the instant polarization with accompanying Fascist Christian chants that arose throughout the theater blogosphere. Mike claims he didn’t invent the appellation “Christian” but he definitely exploited the term in his rendition of the incident. His later apology to the high school students tainted by his broad brush is insincere at best. In fact, he labels them more THEM by finding an article that supposedly proves Norco High is something red and rotten in the blue state of California.

Mike by no means staged the incident. But he has been spinning the PR on it. I find nothing particularly abnormal in this. Many if not most artists nowadays are directly involved in the PR of their work. And the phenomenon of the blogosphere has kicked this self-promotion into high gear. From my observation, one of the negatives of this immersion into their own hype is that many artists no longer attempt to differentiate between a box office and an audience.

I have examined the spectacle of the Mike Daisey incident as it unfolded, not Mike per se, although he is obviously the main character. I actually find the concomitant flaunting of bigotry by the two theatre editors of the mainstream press more interesting and pertinent than Mike’s comments. The virulent anti-Christian prejudices as represented by David Cote and Leonard Jacobs are the tip of an iceberg that needs to be examined concerning theatre and its relationship to its audience in a country where 80% of its citizens identify themselves with that faith.

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I Wanna Be Like …

By Nick Fracaro at 8:54 am on Saturday, May 5, 2007

i wanna be like mikePublication is instantaneous. So blogging means that there is no Editor between you and your readers unless you place one there.

Boal’s term, Cop-in-the Head.

I know I am on to something if I begin to experience that distinct trepidation that occurs when my writing begins leading me, instead of me leading it.

The Cop-in-the Head is also known as the Peer Panel. I never really completely recognize the authority I have allowed the Peer Panel to assert over my writing. It’s not that I desire to be ostracized, it’s just that I hate that the small pretences necessary for civil relationships in life also creeps into my writing. You want a place where truth will not be compromised. There is no such place. But that’s the struggle.

Oh yeah, and that other struggle, the one against self-righteousness. So that even when you have found the truth, it’s not the only truth, and you have been acting the bully or the asshole with your version.

Mike Daisey’s version of the truth in the scandal he initiated has not just gone stale but has decomposed into a state of rottenness. Whatever truth he may have originally attempted to uncover with his publication of the incident has long ago disappeared. What he is doing now stinks. Rather, what he is not doing stinks. Mike seems unable to swallow the small dose of humility necessary to correct the record on this incident.

Perhaps there is more to it than just an accidental misrepresentation. Mike is now in contact with the Norco kids and promises a report. But the longer he waits to correct his original assumptions and representation of “the group,” the more he invites speculation on his original motive for publishing the incident. One observer and critic of the scandal, Jim in the comment section here at Rat Sass, suggests that Mike was not at all confused about the identity of “the group” he labeled as Christian at the time he published the YouTube video. He places the events in a chronology in an attempt to support his view. I do find it both interesting and telling that Mike has blocked this critic’s comments at the YouTube site.

Although Mike Daisey has had his Dilettante web site and blog for years, it is only over the last two weeks that he has become Theatre Blogger Supreme. Mike’s blog doesn’t allow comments and prior to the current scandal involving his performance, he never appeared in any of the comment sections of other theatre blogs. But during this fracas, Mike became a full citizen in the theatre blogosphere , a virtual social gadfly, joining in the comment section of any theatre blog here, there, and everywhere that critically portrayed and/or discussed the incident and the ensuing scandal.

Mike, the Celebutante from Dilettante, has since retreated from the comment sections of the theatre blogosphere. From his bunker today he posts a link to a new story on Paris Hilton, one of many in the Dilettante archives. Mike’s obsession is likely not so much with the socialite as it is with the nature of celebrity itself. Celebutantes like Paris Hilton are always suspected of leaking the scandal tidbits that keep them “famous for being famous.” Similarly Mike’s debut into the comment and “critical” realm of the blogosphere is likely a calculated study of his own celebrity, not some search for truth or understanding about the incident. Probably more self-deceiving than disingenuous, he bizarrely claims that the YouTube broadcast of the incident is not self-promotion, but is actually detrimental to his serious work as an artist. As if some entity other than Mike himself controls it.

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Us v. Them

By Nick Fracaro at 10:09 pm on Monday, April 30, 2007

Matthew and Mac do to some measured analysis of the blog fracas stemming from the Mike Daisey incident. Mike receives a perceptive take on the incident itself from old friend and the discussion at Scott’s blog examines the event in a similar vein. Gut reactions are natural, but this is where the conversation belonged from the beginning.

Meanwhile, there’s now also a copycat stalker, Floyd, for Mike Daisey to track down and give a talking to.

What Mike Daisey tapped into when labeling those who walked-out a “Christian group” and the watering of his outline an “anti-baptism” was a willing prejudice active in many of us working in theatre and art. Onslaughts of censorship and campaigns of decency against art have so often been orchestrated from within the Christian Right that artists are quick-to-the-draw when they sense another one. And once our gun is pulled from the holster, we feel almost obliged to shoot at something.

Mike responded to a real attack. So the fact that he initially gave an inaccurate description of the perpetrator is understandable. He experienced the attack as if it were from a gang, not an individual. Yet this initial perception branded the bus tour of teenagers as virtually the Hitler Youth of the Christian Right. The ensuing scandal would have never developed if not for this inaccurate representation.

Even though the Christian Right is nowhere in sight, the scandal is allowed to percolate under the pretense of some Great Debate. Mike Daisey and American Repertory Theatre each have links from their web sites to the video of the incident on YouTube. Little doubt that they are using this at least partially now as self-promotion. Meanwhile the falsely branded Norco High students are left to fend for themselves on each of two YouTube comments pages. Viewing totals today are 7,000 and 118,000.

Collateral damage in the war with the Boogieman gang that attacked Mike that night goes beyond just the branding of the Norco kids as the Christian Crazies. We are also instructing other teenagers, including the 22 kids who remained in the audience that night (referred by ART as the other high school group), that theatre is a battle between Us and Them. “Us” signified as elite high school kids from a private school “studying” theatre as part of their senior seminar. “Them” are public school kids on a bus tour from Anytown, USA looking for a night of suitable entertainment.

From backstage at Back Stage Leonard Jacobs seems to be preparing for a further assault on the Boogeyman in this incident. I asked the journalist about his upcoming editorial. Will he differentiate between the two groups of high school kids in audience that night?

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The Actor Prepares: some SAGacious advice

By Nick Fracaro at 7:18 am on Saturday, March 3, 2007

A dramaturg in Nashville informs me that that there are seven strong university theater programs in his city: Belmont, Fisk, Vanderbilt, Trevecca, Tennessee State University, Lipscomb and MTSU. Together these programs are training around 250-300 young actors. He wants to cure Nashvillians of the brainwashing which has resulted from focusing inordinate attention on atheletes at the university level. As theater editor of the Tennessee Style Magazine, he believes that if he can garner public recognition and support for student actors, they in turn, would have a great deal to offer his community.dolly

Of course his mission is hopelessly quixotic. Collegiate athletes are not just figures groomed in service to the sports culture, but are also minor league players serving our broader indoctrination into the all-embracing celebrity culture. Any supposed notion of community or local audience in Nashville will ultimately be eclipsed by the realm of fandom.

Dolly and other local legends never really “abandon their roots” as much as discover their fan base. In most ways, American Idols are just playing catch-up with their hometown audience as it transmutes toward its own Dollywood representative version of itself.

In this way, theatre is famous to NYC, so the culture here almost supports actors. Singer-songwriters are famous to Nashville, so the culture there almost supports guitar pickers. By support, I don’t mean financially, but simply the mutual endorsement and validation that a critical mass of one’s peers provides. The actors and songwriters all need day jobs until “they make it.” And even if and when they make it, no guarantee the fickleness of celebrity will not look past them later in their career, life.stay hungry

Arnold was a successful body builder, actor and politician. He had to train in a very precise and dedicated manner to become Mr. Olympia, as do all professional athletes. As for him being at one time the highest paid actor in America, or the governor of the state with the most citizens… go figure. No university training needed for either of those positions.

A life in art is different than a career in art. Universities training actors are schizophrenic precisely on this point. How in good conscience can they train actors for a career in theater? Probably all of the students in Nashville will graduate without as much as an Equity card. Even if they had an Equity card, 80% of Actors Equity will have no income whatsoever in any given year.

Any university that claims it is training students to become “working actors” is the equivalent to a snake oil salesman. They often implicitly claim this in their advertisements soliciting students in American Theatre magazine and elsewhere by listing their “successful” alumni actors. The scam being they don’t list the 95% unsuccessful.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average income that SAG members earn from acting is less than $5,000 a year.

The Annual Study on Earnings, Employment and Membership for the 2005-2006 Season released by Actors’ Equity Association (Equity) showed the annual median earnings to be $7,040.

And at the Frequently Asked Questions page of Screen Actors Guild web site one of the questions is:

How do I become a performer?

SAG’s refreshingly candid and wise answer? “Develop another career to supplement your income.”

Faculty at university theatre training programs honestly interested in preparing their students, as well as advancing theatre, need to present obtainable goals and models where “making it” can be defined outside the fickleness of fame. The vital theatre in this country is being created and supported by those who have managed to sustain their life in theatre within a culture that most often doesn’t afford you a career.

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Dialogue with a Vagina Monologue (Chapter IV)

By Nick Fracaro at 8:32 am on Friday, February 16, 2007
amazon poll jpg

I have exhausted my exploration and research. I have grown weary of my vagina studies. This is my final chapter on the subject.vday vote

Like my study, the above Amazon poll on Valentine’s Day has also just ended. Turns out that these poll results were not even as close as the last two Presidental elections. The clear majority has voted Love Stinks.

But it’s nice to know that which ever way you voted, there was a shopping link available to you.

The celebrity of V-Day and The Vagina Monologues insures its survival. Scandals can help feed celebrity. From the start, the act of V-Day stealing Valentine’s Day was likely considered as much for its publicity garnering ability as for whatever philosophical mooring it had. Like stealing candy from a baby, cupid and his chocolate were an easy mark. Never a real scandal, only a “scandal,” all opposition to the theft of the sentimental holiday ends up looking silly and serves the celebrity of V-Day’s cause.

vcapWith that in mind, I’ll end my dialogue on this chapter with a few links of tabloid fare quality.

The Vagina Warrior pictured has been dressed for success at the V-Day store, but I think he looks like a bit of a dickhead in the outfit. The V sign means vote, vulva, victory, peace ???? I’m all mixed up, but I got two fingers and a nice smile. And the cap says I practice Safe Sex.

These gynecologists also have nice smiles and want your vote on this elective surgery day. Cooper Anderson reports on the perfect Valentine Day’s gift some women are planning to give their sweeties.

Drag Kings

And of course Eve Ensler is always in the process of “altering” the Vagina Monologues. One of the ‘turgs from the listserv reports:

In 2004, a male-to-female transgender monologue was written. This year it will receive its Tucson premiere. Two transwomen I know are acting in this year’s “Vagina Monologues”. Another did act in them a few years ago, but was not identified as trans for the show, though she is out. Apparently, Eve Ensler wants a transmale (i.e. femle-to-male) companion piece. But, knowing the struggles transmen have had (having been a significant other to two of them) with the parts they were given, I’m not sure how likely it is that there will be one.

The well-read Tboy seems fairly astute on the gender bender front, so I was totally disappointed that in his comment he missed my Elvis third sex turn in my earlier dialogue with a monologue. I first noticed the king’s resemblence to the queen years ago when the drag queens had their own night at the Pyramid Club once a week. At the time I was was performing poetry in the Elvis suit above the club in an alternative space that had once been Nico’s old apartment. Afterward, in mingling with all the female celebrity impersonators from the Pyramid, Elvis felt right at home. We all seemed to be in a similar state of transformation. The king is also the queen, and vice versa. Just like the Marines, Eve’s vagina monologues could use a few good men.

HooHaa Hooplamarquee

Now that it has made the paper of record, the Florida marquee will probably rate as scandal du jour for this season of the V-Day monologues. I heard of it first from theatre bloggers Adam, then Jason, but I was surprised when haha on the hoohaa reached the Times. Other theatre blogs weighed in on it. No haha about the bruhaha from The Playgoer, “every time Ensler’s work encounters resistance, it’s a fight for all of us.” The angry Chicago guy thinks there’s stupid juice in the Florida water.

But by now a local television spot on the story has been nationally broadcast via CNN and late night host Jimmy Kimmel has sent staffer Beatrice out into the street for The HooHaa Interviews.

The Apartment Monologues

Eve Ensler’s Valentine sweetheart for many years was Ariel Orr Jordan, a psychotherapist and a director of television movies and commercials. The Apartment Monologues are outlined in a pair of his and hers lawsuits over property. The therapist’s lawsuit goes well beyond the real estate property that is at the center of the dispute. The jilted lover claims that he developed a therapy workshop tititled, “If your vagina could talk, what would it say?”. He claims this workshop was “foundation and inspiration” for the play, giving him co-author status and half the revenue from the production company that holds the rights to The Vagina Monologues.

F-hole Bypass Surgery

Love Is in the Air and then Love Stinks. That’s why B.B. King sings the blues and that’s why he took the f-holes out of Lucille. In controlling the feedback from the sound hole, he’d be better able to create a dialogue with Lucielle’s monologues, but as he explains, he’d be at a loss for words without her. He tells the backgound story of his beloved and one story on how Lucille saved his life.

severed V

So this ends my vagina studies for now. But should I ever begin again, I’ll employ once more the steadily growing universal library of Google’s snippets and Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” feature. Both are digitally searchable using key words and give access to full-text excerpts from hundreds of thousands of titles for research and reference.

search inside
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Dialogue with a Vagina Monologue (Chapter III)

By Nick Fracaro at 8:17 pm on Thursday, February 1, 2007

Harry Potter’s pubic goes public and a white guy in Chicago is angry about it, although we are not sure why. But the media frenzy suggests he is not alone. Elsewhere Tboy is asking for the girl’s name for the boy’s name of that which is unnamable on a 17-year-old.


Daniel Radcliffe will shed his child actor image with his clothes for his West End stage debut. Sixty people from the audience will actually be seated on stage when the Harry Potter star, in his role as the troubled groomsman Alan Strang in Peter Shaffer’s celebrated play Equus, simulates a sex act while naked and astride a horse. The play is about a boy who blinded six horses with a groomsman’s spike, so even though it opens for previews in mid-February, it’s probably not the best night out with your Valentine. The story centers on a psychiatrist discovering the forces that drove the boy to harm the horses, and follows an intriguing discourse on myth, religion, and sexual awakening. The main argument becomes whether psychological healing will do the teenage boy more harm than good.“Passion, you see,can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.”

I have been reading Germaine Greer’s beautiful book, The Beautiful Boy. I say reading, but it’s more like studying; the book is laden with full color reproductions of art and evocative photos as it documents “the boy” evolving through Western history.

Alessandro Allori (1535-1607) The Disarming of Cupid

Through this study I am beginning to understand the necessity of V-Day to exclude “the boys” from its Worldwide Celebration, except in supporting roles. I am also understanding better V-Day’s direct competition with Valentine’s Day. Cupid, that cute little sexless cherub we have as mascot, has a much more storied history in mayhem.


“Cupid, with his bow and fiery arrows, is always male and always immature. He is male because he is the aggressor: in no myth does Cupid play a passive role. He is a boy because a boy is more sexually active than a man, has more erections, produces more sperm and ejaculates more often. If society provides no legitimate outlet for boys’ sexuality it will be expressed in ways that are chaotic and destructive. Therefore Cupid is both blindfolded and in charge of a lethal weapon. His arrows infect individuals with with infatuation and sexual obsession, bringing havoc and anguish, disrupting friendships, households and the state.”

Cupid, as this beastie boy, would always fight for his right to party. This party animal would be exactly the wrong element to inject into the more serious V-Day celebrations. I think V-Day’s vision is that matriarchy would serve the world at large better than patriarchy. Boys being being boys, they would fuck that vision up big time.

Germaine Greer acted in a 2002 V-Day production of the Vagina Monologues, but she is no fan of the script or the event. “This V-word is no victory for women.” She seemed most annoyed that Eve Ensler did not chose one of the more inclusive words like “pussy” or “snatch” in naming the monologues, and points out that vagina is from Latin root meaning “sword-sheath.”

There is more to the female sex than accommodation of a male weapon, and much more to female sexual apparatus than a hole. Having decided to focus on the hole rather than the doughnut, as it were, Ensler happily disappears up it. These days, she is apt to talk of herself as living in her vagina, as if she had transformed herself into the sword, turning herself inside out in an orgy of inverted penis-envy.

In Greer’s short essay, Eternal war: Strindberg’s view of sex, she eulogizes theatre’s most famous misogynist. She sees him as a true male feminist contrasting him with contemporary pseudo male feminists who having

successfully trivialized the question of male-female hostility in their own cases, they are quick to denounce the more perspicacious men who have glimpsed the archetypal conflict in all its terrible grandeur.

Greer positions Strindberg as a feminist because he examines the sexual conflict not as trivial or peripheral question but as something radical, tragic, and overwhelming. The implacable eternal war.

Strindberg understood that that expression of radical enmity between men and women in social and political action would have appalling consequences…. he embodied his vision of internecine sexual war in archetypes so simple that they could appear preposterous or simply perverse.

CapedCrusaderV-Day’s mission proclaims Valentine’s Day as V-Day until the violence stops. In appropriating “the couple’s” holy-day, and excluding the boys, they have created a meta-theatrical version of Aristophanes’ anti-war comedy Lysistrata.

Ephemeral as all theatre is, the Lysistrata Project came and went in 2003. And as “cock-eyed” as Germaine Greer sees the Vagina Monologues and V-Day, the Lysistrata Project was even more so. Their call-to-arms in soliciting readings and productions was “Become a Lysitrata Spearhead!”

…to be continued.

Chapter IV: Lupercalia and Women Who Run with the Wolves

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