Willow- Sweater



Fracking: everybody wants a word

Though our focus for The Fracking Play is on PA and ND, it’s also a hot topic in NY, the state where Patrick and I both live now. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation has received tens of thousands of comments from organizations and individuals related to the issue of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale (that’s the same shale deposit that extends into PA). It sounds like they’re maybe a bit overwhelmed by all the responses.

It makes me really curious about how this compares to public comment on similar issues in the past. Is the involvement of the public particularly high here? If so, is it because it’s just easier to submit comments, thanks to the Internet? Or is it because the issue of fracking is more widely publicized (also possibly thanks to the Internet)? Is it because of past disasters associated with practices like drilling for oil? Is it because of the way fracking is being portrayed to the public?

I wonder what the comments are like.

I’d like to put together a massive file of them and run some kind of analytic: tally the most commonly used words, investigate the language itself. Compare that to the vocabulary used in published and popularized accounts of fracking.

What could one do with a puppet and a table?

Blind Summit‘s THE TABLE.

It is one puppet. One table. Three guys puppetting him. A lady joins the mix and rocks his world.

Hilarious. A master class in puppets. A master class in comedy, especially comedic timing. This show is a must see for any person who like intimate, inventive, subtle, intricate, delicate, brash, delicious theatre.

Here are more photos.

Oh, the cherry on top is the second half. A story told on paper. Think if a comic book was turned into a puppet. Simple and beautiful storytelling with drama, suspense and a lot of comedy.

You should also check out Blind Summit’s picassa – great photos of how they build their puppets.

When nudity does not feel naked…

Yesterday I saw Julianna F. May/MAYDANCE’s Gutter Gate. Part of New York Live Arts – Live Artery series.

The piece had a lot. A lot.

But, of course, I got caught up in my own intellectualizing… about nudity. Which, was not totally a bad thing (I like to try and let go of my headiness when I watch dance, but sometimes it does not work).

Gutter Gate‘s use of nudity was unlike anything I have experienced.

In theatre, nudity is often a metaphor for revealing. I think about the end of In The Next Room… or the vibrator play when the doctor gets naked in the snow to reveal himself to his wife. Or it is used to let the audience know that the character is about to reveal something big about his/herself. I think about Alan in Equus who gets naked to have some sex, but instead reveals his love for his horse god. For some reason, sometimes, we have to get naked to tell a secret.

In dance, nudity is often used in a number of ways: shock, focus, power, primal energy, etc. I think about Anna Halprin’s parades and changes, replay with them dressing and undressing while watching the audience – a little bit uncomfortable. Or maybe it is the fierce power of the naked ladies in Roseanne Spradlin’s “beginning of something” that I’m thinking about… but, the point is, I have never had the beauty of skin revealed to me.

Julianna F. May showed me that skin is gorgeous. It shines. It glows. It refracts light. It changes colors. It is living, therefore it is more.

I have always thought about nudity in the theatrical sense – a reveal. But, I realized that nudity reveals nothing but a body. It tells us nothing of an individual, it shows us some skin.

Seeing someone naked (who you do not know) is just a body. However, getting to know a person and then seeing them naked… a very different experience.

Skin is beautiful.

But, skin is not revealing. Skin is a great blanket that covers us and protects us.

Hmm. How can I get creative with nudity? With skin?

The theatrical in fracking

From a June 14, 2011 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Raucous crowd meets on shale debate

It was an auditorium divided: In the span of 10 minutes, the panel members were called drug cartels by one speaker and patriotic heroes by another.


A soldier’s mother choked up when she talked of her son working toward energy independence in Iraq, while another called shale gas “the new asbestos.” A West Virginia woman showed the respirator she makes her children wear because of bad air, while another speaker praised an industry that’s supported college scholarships. Recent college graduates extolled a business that gave them jobs in the middle of a recession, while one protestor behind the microphone mockingly waved a wad of cash above his head.

If that’s not theatrical – I’d sure like to know what is.

Save yourselves

Value your own work. Set the value on your own work.

Stop waiting. Stop scraping. Stop thinking in terms of scarcity.

Know what the work costs to make. If you make the work for free, know the value of that donation (of time, talent, resources).

I love this idea, from the Creative Capital PDP Workshop I had the privilege of attending over the weekend: Making a budget won’t put money at the center of your life. It will free you from money.

Artists are creative about their work but all too often it’s only the content of our work we’re creative about. Why aren’t we creative about our own lives and how we live them?

Why are so many artists so hungry for a rigid career structure?

A couple of things people are saying that I love:

  • Polly Carl: we need to make our own creative rooms
  • Monica Byrne: she left science, not just to make art, but to make her life in the shape she wanted it
  • Everybody at the PDP Workshop over the weekend: “Nobody is coming,” they insisted. “Nobody is coming to save you.” We gotta save ourselves.


In the age of surplus, the role of the curator is rather significant. They are responsible for contextualizing various works of art within the framework of a greater whole. They find and create relationships between objects; tell stories. In some ways, the role of curator has become greater than the role of artist. After all, it is the curator who selects the art, who deems it appropriate for such and such an exhibit. In contemporary society however, curation is no longer just about fine art. Technology is curated, the news is curated, Facebook curates life, and… performance is curated. Although, perhaps not as often or as visibly as in other areas.

So, I’ve started to wonder, what if someone curated Broadway? What if a single person (or team of people) was invited to select the shows that would fill Broadway houses, united by a common idea? I don’t know what this would look like exactly, but I think it would be pretty interesting. In a way, this happens on a small scale- collective thought and memory somehow leading to a season of shows with similar themes. But imagine if it happened intentionally? What would the first season look like?

Proposals, proposals everywhere

Sometimes I feel like I do nothing but work on proposals and submissions.

If you don’t put your work out there – somehow – it’ll all just sit on your desk.

But if you spend all of your time working on getting it out there, you have no time left to create.

In Istanbul, I kept talking to my friend Jeylan about cycles of creation/absorption. (On my mind because I wrote about it in – go figure – a recent grant proposal.) Over the last few years, I’ve definitely done some creation; but I feel like things have been skewed towards absorption. Absorption of theater as an audience member in Berlin, in Chicago. Absorption of other theater artists’ techniques as an intern, as an assistant director. I’ve absorbed a lot and I think I’ve changed a lot and I am ready to shift over to a rhythm that’s heavier on the creation side for a while. But I’m finding the transition tough. And now I just hang out and write applications and proposals.

Maybe self-producing is the answer. (Then again, that’s what a lot of these proposals are for.)

Maybe the answer is just more discipline.

Maybe the answer is a variety of projects with different rhythms. Maybe I’m working on one major project collaboratively (the fracking play?), one major individual project with no set deadline (Pittsburgh Harry or any of a million other plays swimming around in my head), and something smaller, faster, dirtier, with more immediate results (like the apartment plays I want to do).

2012 is coming. 2012 will be a year of making things.

Helping make theater in Istanbul

Our good friend and mentor Melanie Dreyer opened a show last night at garajistanbul in Istanbul, S/he, a bilingual combination of two original plays (one by a Turkish playwright, one by an American) about the female experience in both countries.

I haven’t seen the show yet – Christina and I will see it tonight – but I got to help out yesterday at the theater, during their hectic one-day combination load-in/tech/opening night. I’d been in Istanbul for three days, happily overwhelmed by saturation in a language I don’t speak, rivers of tea, regular calls to prayer emanating from mosque speakers, armies of stray cats swarming over cobblestones, traffic that makes Manhattan look like a sleepy Sunday in Pittsburgh. It felt like an accomplishment to navigate alone from my friend’s apartment in Maçka to Taksim (the city center) by way of dolmus, a shared taxi, and then find the theater hidden in a twisting side street.

After all that, stepping through garajistanbul’s front door was like entering a safe space, a sanctuary. At moments like this, I understand why theater is a religion for some people. Theater buildings are the same the world over. Tech may be conducted differently, but it’s the same ritual, the same nail-biting. I was grateful for the chance to participate in that world in the midst of this other world.