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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?

Filed under: Uncategorized7 Comments »

Giant Rat! I’d buy that for a dollar!

By Nick Fracaro at 8:26 am on Wednesday, April 25, 2007
giant rat
Photo by Joe Nickell author of Sideshow!

Bobby Reynolds’s spiel outside the Giant Rat tent set up at Coney Island was pure hype.

“Gigantic rat! Humongous rat! One hundred pound rat! Straight from the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia! More feared than a sniper’s bullet!”

After paying the dollar admission and entering the tent, instead of confronting the fearful beast described in Bobby’s shtick, the audience was presented with a very non-rat-like creature, peacefully munching on a bale of hay. So although by no stretch of the imagination could the mammal on display be considered a rat, it was indeed the world’s largest living rodent. The capybara is native of South America and when full-grown weigh up to 140 pounds and are over four feet long. This amphibious rodent with partly webbed feet resembles more than anything else a giant guinea pig.

Boston is not Coney Island and Mike Daisey is not Bobby Reynolds but the recent fracas much opined about in the blogosphere set me to thinking about certain similarities. (Garrett and David and Nikki and Don and YS and Jason and Isaac and James and Matt and Malachy and Laura all weigh in on the incident, many in reaction to Garrett’s post. But James U plays Hardball the best of all.)

Although not in the same league as the legendary carnie talker and showman Bobby Reynolds, Mike Daisey definitely has some savvy as a marketer and self-promoter.

First with the help of his agent American Repertory Theatre, he was able to sell tickets to 100 high school students and their chaperones on a bus tour from California. The chaperones were leery of the appropriateness of the material, so this was no mean feat in itself. But it was in documenting the walkout of this same group from the theatre, then spinning it into an incident of censorship and religious fanaticism that Mike displayed his real skills as hype-master.

With 80% of Americans choosing Christian as their “self-described religious identification”, most busloads of tourists in this country are Christians. How Mike Daisey was able to turn this particular bus of public high school students into a Nazi-like emblem of the Christian Right rivals anything Bobby Reynolds achieved with his Giant Rat grind show. As Gideon Lester, the artistic director of the American Repertory Theatre boasts about the PR blitz:

“It’s captured the attention of the world at this point. As of this morning, the YouTube video had been viewed 70,000 times.”

The Coney Island day-trippers and tourists entering the tent never got to see the advertised giant rat, but they did see an intriguingly unique rodent. So the show was more than worth the dollar price of admission. (No, you’re not getting your dollar back.)

mike daisey

YouTube viewings this morning have climbed to nearly 90,000. Soon Mike Daisey might be famous enough to actually have sex with Paris Hilton, not just imagine the act on stage with an audience.

I’d buy that for a dollar!

paris hilton eating
Filed under: Audience1 Comment »

Keep Your SASE

By Nick Fracaro at 8:03 am on Monday, April 16, 2007
words, tattoo
Christine Chun displaying word No. 1262 in Shelley Jackson’s Skin

The grrlz all now have a tattoo at the base of their spine. The vogue is a midriff-exposing top and low-riding jeans. The thong rises out of the back of the jeans almost as pedestal to display the art.

Fashion is fascist
the tattoo says as much about the dead eye of desire
reading the display
as it does about the playwright marketing his work.

I’ve been spoiled I guess. I came upon my first playwright the way Ishmael came upon Queequeg. His story and words, his script tattooed into his flesh and life in “mysteries not even himself could read.”

Queequeg was a strange bedfellow that first night, but still stranger was the obsessive journey of theatre that beckoned us all.

Keep your Self-Addressed Stamped-Envelope. I am not one who would traffic in the dead. My fellow traveler is the living word.

What is the process by which Queequeg’s coffin becomes Ishmael’s life buoy? This is the only dramaturgy I now explore.

Filed under: Dramaturgy2 Comments »