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, 2009

New Digs

November 29, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Uncategorized

It was time to bite the bullet.

Today is the final day of my last two shows of the season, High Holidays at the Goodman and End Days at Next Theatre. To celebrate, I’m officially (and finally) migrating this blog to its permanent home at theaterforthefuture.com. Welcome.

You *could* update your blogrolls / links / feeds / etc. But I’m hoping that I’ve got these 301 redirects and feedburner settings set up that it should be nice and seamless. I’ll be keeping those redirects up in perpetuity. You were nice enough to link to this site and my articles. The least I could do is reduce your workload.

Let me know in the comments if you notice anything weird.

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Chicago Storefront Theatre Summit II

November 16, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Chicago Theater, Collaboration, Community Building

Chicago Storefront Theatre SummitYup, it’s here. Or, more accurately, it’s on facebook.

After going through notes for the first storefront theatre summit, we’ve just launched a couple tools to try this whole “let’s all coordinate and meet” thing on for size. If you missed the first summit, December 6th at 7:00 pm at the Dank Haus in Lincoln Square is the next one (feel free to invite other theatre companies – one or two representatives from each theatre company would be ideal), and we hope you’ll share your thoughts.

Why facebook? Because we all use it. Why build something new when we can just build off what we already have?

A couple resources on there that are worth a look:

1) Regular Meetings as coordinated by Facebook Events. One of the biggest pieces of feedback generated by the first summit was that there is a desire for regular meetings among the storefront community – if nothing else, just to see what each other is working on. They’ll likely be set on a monthly or bi-monthly basis at this second meeting, and then will be reminded by a Facebook Event.

2) Notes. Whit Nelson has compiled notes and thoughts from the first summit, and a discussion board has been set up to take a community crack at some challenging questions. This is the online arm of the discussion – the face to face will also help us more quickly work through and build trust and alliance, but the discussion boards is where vast amounts of research and experience can be compiled – and read by folks new to town. Do those resources exist elsewhere? Absolutely. But this is where they can be digested for a young storefront theatre to more quickly align themselves with existing support infrastructures, such as the DCA, the League of Chicago Theatres, Chicago Artists Resource, and other storefronts.

There’s still a lot of ‘getting to know you’ work to be done here – while the blogging community pretty much understands where each other are coming from, there’s a dozen or so disconnected companies that we could hear more from. These questions (‘what are your best resources?’, ‘what are your biggest challenges’) are designed to help pry open the procedures and identities of all these theatres so that conversation can be fruitful for all.

3) Friends and Fans. These are the folks, folks. We need to know who each other are for this conversation to be really productive. Oh look, someone built that for us. Theatres who participate will be ‘fanned’ by the storefront summit page, and individuals will be on there as well. People to meet, Theatre to see.

See you December 6th!

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The Man Who Was Thursday: Web Edition

November 10, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Collaboration, projects, Shows

On Nov. 7, Bilal Dardai and I had some fun live-tweeting THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY at New Leaf. Bilal provided the commentary, and I backed him up with a live stream of media – video, audio, and static images.

This is our first crack at packaging the byproducts of theatre – the DVD extras, so to speak – to maximize our creative exposure to an online audience. I’m interested to know what you think of the results. Obviously we didn’t publicize this event very much… it was more a proof of concept. The question is: are there pieces here that hook you to see the show, or that hook you to delve further into what we do at New Leaf, and what are they?

You can check out the full broadcast (with some additional commentary!) on Bilal’s blog.

Here’s some highlights:

New Leaf, 8:03pm: Brian Rooney prepares for his role as the Marquis RT @bilaldWill be updating from dressing room.

Bilal, 8:04pm: Sean Fawcett (Sunday) threatened to spend the first 30 minutes of this show staring at me blankly.

New Leaf: Sean Fawcett will eat your soul.

Bilal, 8:30pm: Tidbit: the secret knock Gregory uses to access the anarchists’ chamber is that 10-note royalty phrase you always hear to signify “England.” First time I heard it, I thought it was the opening beat to the Rose Royce disco classic “Car Wash.”

New Leaf: http://blip.fm/~g12p8

Bilal, 8:37pm: @jesshutchinson‘s short-hand for this underground anarchists’ meeting is “JV (Junior Varsity) Council.”

Bilal, 8:41pm: The line “Order! Order, anarchists, order!” is one of the funniest lines in the play. And I wish I’d been the one who’d written it.

Bilal, 9:11pm: Just walked into side hallway and saw Ted Evans (Saturday) rocking from side to side, reciting his lines next to the ghost light. Creepy.

New Leaf: This album just rocks for Spy intrigue.

Bilal, 9:24pm: Meanwhile, Nick Mikula is setting up a lot of very large dominoes in front of the dressing room door.

New Leaf: We were going to ask what Nick Mikula was up to right about now.

Bilal, 10:00pm: I recently described @nhburger’s “Monday” voice as being that of the curator of the snootiest art gallery in hell.

New Leaf: Right about now, it is necessary for Monday and Tuesday to form an alliance. This is how they do it.

New Leaf, 10:14pm: Lyrics get progressively more tongue in cheek as show goes on: THURSDAY is @nickkeenan’s tribute to Baz Luhrman. ♫ http://blip.fm/~g17ws

Bilal, 10:15pm: Tidbit: One of the lines in the picnic monologues about Sunday is scavenged from a college poem I wrote about a girl who broke my heart.

Bilal, 10:32 pm: Two of the lines in this rewritten final scene are deliberate and snarky jabs at Chesterton’s actual ending. I’m a baaaaad boy. End of Play, Great Job, All!

New Leaf:

The Man Who Was Thursday is now running through November 21st, Thursday – Saturday at 8pm. I mention that because: We are very close to selling out the rest of the run. I’m looking forward to discussing why we think that happened. If you’re a regular reader of this blog and you haven’t seen it and you still want to, reserve your tickets now, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Speaking of theatrical byproducts that are worth another look, have you heard our Treehouse podcasts at New Leaf? We’re finding and commissioning new plays, and recording podcasts of them. You can download them. On iTunes. For Free. Or join us at New Leaf every month for another live reading. For Free. Let me know what you think.

This post brought to you by Ana Lucia Novak, who bought me some coffee. Actually, do you know where that coffee money really goes? Paypal. Which means I use it to buy speakers. Like the two beautiful JF60s I bought for New Leaf that are used in Thursday. So thanks: Your donations make my own sticker shock greatly diminished.

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Theatrical Play-doh Fun Factory

November 09, 2009 By: Nick Keenan Category: Uncategorized

This past week, I had five shows open at the same time. So that was fun.

As they start to close down, I’m delightfully surprised how other thoughts are popping into my head other than “OH GOD WORK OH GOD EAT OH GOD WORK OH GOD sleee… NO! GOD!”

For instance, something that is probably broken inside me told me to jump in on the (continuing) discussion on Playgoer about micing actors – now in straight plays – and what it means for the future of theater. It’s something I think about a lot as I mix microphones and other sounds at work, but that doesn’t entirely explain why I’m arguing a) to limit my employment opportunities for the good of all and b) why storefront theatre is financially destined to supersede big box theatre. If I was to be honest with myself, we’re oh so very not ready to make that conclusion yet.

But here’s the argument for it anyway.

On the one side is CLJ’s “good” or transparent sound – sound that is properly delayed and sourced to the actor using the principle known as the Haas effect – (look it up). It is truly convincing, so much so that we as engineers often get asked why we’re not amplifying the actors – when we are. On the other hand is over-amplified sound that makes actors sound like they’re breathing like walruses hanging from the giant center cluster in the grid. That’s not helping anyone push the art forward. And there are gradients in between, and times when over-amplification is the aesthetic goal.

The biggest question for me is sustainability. Both transparent and non-transparent sound have a problem – it’s horrendously expensive to body mic people, and I’m worried that the format of the 1,000 seat theatre is getting less popular. I’ve seen shows easily spend around a half-million to a million dollars to get that sound right – and they need to hire one of the probably a couple dozen sound designers who can effectively design on that scale in a transparent way. I’m talking in the united states. How is that ever going to work?

I wonder if the solution here isn’t an embracing of theatricality. The audience often thinks they want loudness when they actually want clarity. I’m coming from an environment (Chicago) where our best selling theatre is in an increasing number of smaller and smaller houses. The intimacy helps clarity of both sound and performance, and not at a great expense. The quality of the experience improves.

It’s very true – the old methods of vocal projection were born out of necessity, required skill and craft, and we miss those things, and we shouldn’t forget them. Nor should we mistake them for better days. Large houses and big voices engendered a style of acting that clearly communicated to the audience – but became outmoded as technology changed. Look at the difference in acting styles between the silent movie era and the talkies – huge differences brought on by a slight shift in technology. We’re seeing that shift again as the technology has lept forward in the last ten years, but I think our response isn’t as creative – we’re somehow still pursuing the naturalistic realism of what – Miller? nah, that’d be fooling ourselves- when we could be using sound in the theater to further illuminate the human condition. And again, louder does not necessarily equal more illuminating.

The question isn’t how to hang on to old methodologies – it’s how to embrace new capabilities in pursuit of a human truth.

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