Theater For The Future

The Art in the Business of Theater – Collaboration Tools and Technology and the Storefront Theater Movement
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Archive for November, 2008

Let’s Get together and Talk, Alright?

November 13, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Community Building, In a Perfect World, On the Theatrosphere

Why no bloggy bloggy? Because everyone in the THEATER-LOVIN’ WORLD has been over at Tony’s Joint, sittin’ on the sofa, talking about good work, bad work, content vs. form, and To MFA, Not To MFA, that is the Quandry.

It’s some very interesting food for thought, and if you’re a habitual theatrosphere lurker, it might be a nice and reasonably safe place to test out that $0.02 you’ve been dying to spend. The whole conversation is illuminating some new approaches to a theater-and-blogsophere disconnection problem – perhaps what our world needs now is more face-to-face and in-depth discussions of theater and why we love it and why we need it and how to make it better.

Along the same lines, thanks Tom and Dennis for your insightful and useful comments on my “Here’s a To Do List for Us” post. For those of you reading outside of Chicago, I don’t think anything truly bad (maybe just periodically disappointing) can happen from a locally-driven organization that connects the idealism of the TCG Mission (or any national-scale vision) with an on-the-ground grassroots infrastructure. It gets people talking and doing, and reconnected to other people that can help. The League of Chicago Theaters is a fairly established version of idea here in Chicago, but it’s so both ubiquitous and awkwardly-funded here that its grassroots aren’t always showing anymore. When it does connect theaters to programs that help them, it has proven incredibly successful, and you bet I’m thankful they’re working on our side.

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“All we can do is run out in front of it and guide people along.”

November 10, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Arts Education, On the Theatrosphere

Here’s a follow up on the impetus behind the conversation about new sound technology and how it is implicitly affecting the audience over at the Reader – and why discussions like that matter right now to theaters, to schools, to everyone with access to the internet.

Will Richardson at Web-logged busts it all open for you with advice about integrating digital technology with education from George Lucas, of all people.

“We need to get kids asking ‘why does that happen?’ as opposed to ‘why am I learning this?’”…

“The system falls apart around innovation. This is going to happen because there is a disease out there called digital technology. It is going to change education. All we can do is run out in front of it and guide people along.”

When George Lucas calls digital technology a disease, well now, that makes me sit up and ask “Why does that happen?”

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Tag, I’m Strange

November 08, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Teachable Moments

Tagged like a theater-lovin’ virus by Laura, I now give you: 7 Strange things about me.

1.) After learning a whole bunch of French in Junior High, then living in northern Japan for three months when I was fifteen, then majoring in Japanese in college, then visiting nearby Montreal and Nova Scotia periodically, every time I try to speak French I end up using French nouns and Japanese verb conjugation and noun-first verb-last sentence structure. “Ma francais wa totemo hen neeeeee…..”

2.) As a child and young teen I would explore the ditches and basement holes of my father’s construction business, talking to myself. During those afternoons, I created a complex sci-fi narrative of a world called Lycinthia, a desolate desert world run by a corrupt military-industrial complex, in which elite pilots harbored fugitives in robot ships called “walkers” dozens of stories tall – kind of like walking skyscrapers. This would later turn into a couple short stories, and has led to my inability to keep a pair of jeans clean for longer than a few weeks.

3.) I lived next door – literally, next door – to the only private Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian-style residence in New England – and worked as an intern in the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater in the country – and worked on a prominent play about Frank Lloyd Wright in the past few years. This is what I have to say: As a person of above average height, I have nearly killed myself on that guy’s stairs more times than I can count. I hate that diminutive bastard.

4.) My pets have historically been named after Wizards: Merlin, Gandalph, Archimedes (you know, the “Eureka!” dude and also the owl from Sword in the Stone), and Nimbus (which was actually accidental. He looks like a puffy, fat, grey cloud. I read the Harry Potter books later.)

5.) I get profound episodes of deja vu, which freak me out. I enjoy a little mystery in my day.

6.) I am a geography nut. After getting obsessed with the Galapogos Islands as a kid, I got a big old atlas and proceeded to memorize every capital of every country that existed at the time. My favorite places on earth are the exposed granite peak of the Perpendicular Trail in Acadia National Park, the onsens of Hanamaki, Japan, and Armadale, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

7.) I once got so annoyed when I was 12 or so that I couldn’t find spices in my mother’s kitchen that I alphebetized the entire kitchen. As in: Spatula, then Spoons, then Sugar. In order. She was concerned.

Tag you’re it (it’s hard to find untagged folks now that Rob K. has tagged everybody): Dan, Marsha, The Chainsaw, and Mr. B.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I think I need to get around to calling that therapist already.

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Plugging It.

November 07, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Shows

Let there be no mistake: If you are in or near the city of Chicago, you should see Six Years at New Leaf Theatre before it closes on November 22nd.

I’ll make it easy for you later in this post. But first let me make the case to you.

It’s not because the acting is superb. Though it is.

It’s not because Sharr White’s script is deeply resonant in ways we couldn’t have imagined when we started the rehearsal process. Though it is.

It’s not because we at New Leaf deeply care about fostering a dialogue with the entire theater community and theater-going public with our work. Though we do.

It’s not because New Leaf’s work is crafted and priced to be a high-value evening. Though it is, and this week Time Out Chicago has said as much with a big red star labeled “Cheap” next to our Critic’s Pick – a coveted prize that I can’t remember seeing on another show.

It’s not because bloggers are always Pay-What-You-Will at New Leaf. Though you are.

It’s not because this is your last chance. Though it is.

It is because Six Years begins a triptych season – an important season for a relatively small company – that asks the question “How do we build a future from a present that we didn’t expect?” It is a question that needs to be answered. Now. And we believe that our work offers an opportunity for our audiences to break open big questions like that in a new way – an entertaining way that engages and fosters conversations and thought for days after the show.

We ask that question three times this year, on three scales, in three shows: Once as a nation of families. Then as an individual, alone and without support. Then as a community, together. We ask it three times because when you ask a question like that, you need to feel the question out on several levels: The big picture, the local picture, and your own picture.

I hope you can make it. I want you to make it, and I’m eager to know what you think and what resonates with you. Because you are smart, and your opinion will inform my work.

This post was inspired by a great post that just popped up from my new second-favorite theater town in the world: Here’s looking at you, Vancouver.

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A Tip for Maintaining your Energy in the face of Adversity

November 07, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Teachable Moments

Never underestimate the capacity of human beings to be absolute shits to each other. And don’t let their behavior change yours.

I don’t invoke God very often in my life.

But MAY GOD BLESS Madelyn Dunham.

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Tags: ,

One Year, One Day & One Hundred Posts

November 06, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: On the Theatrosphere

Wow. Thank goodness WordPress counts all this for me.

This is the 100th post from Theater for the Future, just a scant few hours over one year since I started this blog in earnest, and in celebration, I’m throwing a best-of party.

I wish we had a league of awesomeness – On the joys of giving away performances for free.

An International Renaissance – Theater artist exchanges and festivals breed a delightful cross-pollination that makes everyone’s work better.

I wanted to live but I couldn’t – A tribute to injured director Bev Longo (who is now well on the long and complicated road to recovery), and a questioning of theater’s ability to really engage and generate growth in our daily lives.

Laughing Back – Tribes, Ancillary Skills, and why Theater and Web Design make a great combo. Mmmm… combos.

Great Expectations – The woes of storefront theater infrastructure. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We Have Ignition – A single crazed week marks the beginning of two long-term initiatives for the Chicago Theater community

The Business of Changing People’s Lives – The theatrical narrative is valuable to the artist and the audience, and that value is often hidden behind a lukewarm review.

Where to Find the Good Stuff – Teaching tech to middle schoolers is a fast way to answer the question – what makes an audience connect with our work?

Chicken of the VNC – A funny name for sound design by remote control

How (and why) to write a Company Bible – A creative use of forums and wikis can help capture all that stuff you always seem to forget in tech

A strategy for educational initiatives – More hands-on, less talk-back.

More information than you can shake a stick at – The fruits of labor of 180 theater companies becomes a living report that leads to a few eye-opening conclusions. If you build the data, the knowledge will come.

Here’s a To Do List For Us – Where do we go from after the election? Thoughts on strategies for social change, reducing burnout, and using the arts to achieve both.

Thanks for reading, and your comments!

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Sonic Boom

November 05, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Sound

Man this has been a good day for blogging. I feel so delightfully inconsistent.

I just got my first email from a reader of the Chicago Reader – which just published this article from Deanna Isaacs on our recent discussion about wireless mics and sound volume trends in theater over the past decade or so.

And here I am, up in my booth again, unable to cross the street to pull my own copy to skip home with. Ah well.

So, welcome, Reader readers! Your questions are welcome about sound, art, what you prefer and why you prefer it, and how sound generally affects your experience in entertainment.

A quick note, though, if the article scares you or reminds you of how deaf you have become. If you’ve been into that shake-me-up rock ‘n roll experience, and you’re also into keeping your hearing, check out these babies:

Attenuating Ear Plugs.

They’re not for everyone, but they can be affordable and have a “flat frequency response,” meaning they don’t color or distort the sound coming into your ears – like regular ear plugs would. They just make that sound that you’re hearing about 15 – 25 decibels quieter, and protect your hearing in the process.

I personally use something like this when listening to my iPod on the train – Isolating ear buds (Not to be confused with noise-canceling headphones that actually add to the ambient noise attacking your eardrums). Reduce the noise coming in, and I can enjoy my podcasts at a nice, safe, low volume.

Delicious.

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1st Lesson of Driving and Socio-Political Action: Don’t put your foot on the gas and the brake at the same time

November 05, 2008 By: Nick Keenan Category: Arts Education, Community Building, On the Theatrosphere

Scott Walters (I know you’re listening) has reminded me with his comment from the last few posts that we’re already in danger of forgetting or distracting ourselves on the theatrosphere from a real and immediate touchstone document of change – Obama’s Arts Plan.

I’ve also heard from several writers today wondering what’s next, and how to engage.

We have energy now. Seriously: read it. Remember my to do list from yesterday? Same stuff. It is our list now. How best to make it happen?

Call a theater educator. You already know one. Find out what programs they’re working on right now to unite professional theater and educational programs, and find a way to both participate and improve or enrich the experience for the students.

Follow up: A lively discussion is going on about this last bit over in the comments on an earlier post.

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