Saturday, September 13, 2008

Finding plays to read is hard.

I've been approached by my friend Brandon to direct a play for Sandhill, his new theatre company that was recently featured on Chris Jones's blog.  This is exciting for me because as much as I love my home I know that I need to start taking more steps outside that comfort zone if I want to keep growing as an artist.

What I like about Sandhill is its focus on the Midwest.  Brandon and I had a great meeting this morning where we talked about the company and his focus and came to the conclusion that the Midwest has all sorts of stories that are fascinating and just aren't being told.  There seems to be this misconception that the Midwest is made up of various shades of beige and that the things worth talking (or writing a play) about are only happening on the coasts.  That's just silly.  And I'm glad that Brandon's doing something about it and that he's asked me to help him do something about it this season.  

So, here's the problem.  I need a play to direct.  It needs to speak to the Midwestern experience in some way, and needs to fit into the theme that's emerged in the season - questioning death.  Fascinating parameters - but I'm not really sure where to start.  There isn't a resource of plays dealing with the Midwest really.  In fact we seem to, as theatre artists, feel the need to apologize in a way for setting anything regionally in a way that New York plays would never dream of doing.  

So, if anyone has any suggestions, I'm open to 'em.  Because there're a lot of plays out there and I'll take all the help I can get.

PS - on a totally unrelated note - have you seen this new Genius Bar thing in iTunes?  You pick a song and it makes a playlist of songs that you have that are like it in some way.  It's kind of frightening.  And I think I'm in love with it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tower of Babel

I love getting to work with new actors. I'm also terrified of getting to work with new actors, especially any number of them at the same time.

I feel like the biggest part of my job as a director is casting. After that, the biggest part of my job is learning how to speak each actor's language. If I could, I would take myself to my local library and check out books-on-tape to learn each actor's language before rehearsals begin. Then I would be able to arrive on the first day fully fluent and able to anticipate my actors' needs from the first moment.

Or, I could cultivate my telepathy. That way I would be able to read minds and anticipate needs that way.

Sadly, neither of these resources are at my easy disposal. So instead I have to opt for full immersion.  I have to dive right in and hope that I'll be able to move from vague hand gestures to "please" and "thank you" to asking directions to the art museum to full-on conversational in each actor's respective language.  

I'm reminded of the Steve Martin bit where he thought he was ordering a cheese omelette and he's brought a boot covered in Gouda.  Or something.  I think that even if you get the cheesy boot a couple times you have to keep asking for the omelette.  And you have to ask for omelette in a few different languages.  Sometimes all you get is boot.  Or a cactus.  Or a Buick. But sometimes you get the most delicious omelette you ever did see.  And sometimes you get the pizza you didn't even know you were hungry for but, my goodness, it's delicious.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September? Already?

Today is the 2nd of September. I'm not sure how that happened. What happened to August? And while we're on the subject, where's the summer gone? Speaking of which, has anyone seen my January - April? I seem to have misplaced them.

So, here I sit in my stylishly appointed office, on my third active day of life as a freelance administrative professional. It's kinda nice, actually. There's a vending machine that gave me a free Diet Dr. Pepper for lunch. And nice people. (And a fair amount of rather attractive young men to smile at as they pass). But it brings to mind a question that keeps following me about - when it comes to Life and Art, do I have to choose between the two?

I started what promises to be an awesome class with formidable Chicago talent Jon Berry on Sunday, and he asked the group what is the most challenging thing about life as an artist in Chicago. (He also asked us what was the best - most of us said the same thing, that the community, support, openness, opportunity all combine to form the best thing). Our answer to the biggest challenge we face was surprisingly homogeneous, too: balancing my art and my "life." Meaning, my art and what keeps me from getting evicted.

I'm a little troubled that this is such a pervasive problem. And I know I'm not breaking any new ground here when I lament the state of arts funding and more directly of artist funding. But I'm experiencing it anew as I try to find gainful employment that lasts longer than a day and try to get a show up on its feet and try to look strategically at the future of my company, and, and, and...

I wish that now I could propose some "quick fix" that would get all of us the support we need - financial, spiritual, social. But I don't know the answer. I think we need a new model for arts management and arts funding. I don't know what it looks like. I think there are some folks taking steps in new and exciting directions that will ripple down and shake things at the core. But they're just starting. I guess we'll see.