Friday, July 30, 2010

Enter Stage Left: Social Media

I read a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald online about how our Aussie friends are leading the arts world in use of social media. (Yes, they are even further ahead that we in the United States.) The article is very informative, and had me thinking of all sorts of possibilities just within the small cirlce of community theatres of which I am familiar.

As an actor, I can't say I approve of the idea of letting audience members tweet during the actual performance. (Though I applaud the patron for seeking official permission to do so.) The idea behind the practice is however, a solid one; if arts organizations such as theatre companies and galleries begin to embrace the proper use of social media, they increase the chance of drawing in those people on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler) who are not otherwise engaged in the arts.

I think those of us that participate in the arts have to resist the temptation to build fortresses around what we do. As an actor I know and respect the 4th wall during a show, and we can't have people running in and out of the National Gallery of Art without rules and regulations to protect the treasures therein. But I think we sometimes take the notion too far, and the arts end up being something placed upon a pedestal, to be patronized by the intellectual elite and the financially well-off.

In the end, the arts experience should be the exact opposite. It should be the property of and resource to the entire community in which it resides, if not all people, everywhere. One work of art or one symphony may not speak to an individual, but the accumulative works that constitute the arts as a whole should be a human reflection and reaction to the world and society. A cornucopia of interpretations on the collective spirit and history of same through time. If that is to be true, we must make all aspects of the arts more accessible to everyone.

And the arts must recognize at times the changing nature of the world in which it finds itself. If the arts community wants to reverse the disturbing trend of younger people, (and those of lesser means) flocking away from theatre, symphony orchestras and galleries, then it must begin to open up to such people as they open up to one another. With frank but surprisingly (sometimes) probing use of various social media. They need to make what they make more personal, and less institutional.

Instead of simply tweeting, "Picasso Exhibit Open 9AM to 9PM M-F Until August 15", how about posting about how the exhibit was put together? Tweet about how hard it is to get the works for the show. Post some pictures on your Facebook page of the arrival of the works. And (shock of all shocks) maybe even ask those out their on social media what they might suggest for your exhibit.

Apply the same idea to theatre. Or any of the arts categories that have allowed themselves in the last decades to be (incorrectly) dismissed by many as "luxuries" or "perks". (Do you really think football is any less of a luxury? But their PR is doing just fine.)

Not that this isn't happening in the Art communities in the United States, (as the article mentions.) But for some reason we seem less quick to embrace these methods within our arts organizations. But if we are to change the thinking of many Americans about the arts, the arts need to change their thinking about social media.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Losing Control, Gaining a Masterpiece?

I would never have thought that in my perusal of the business and success oriented blogs that I frequent, I would find a piece that would tie in so nicely with my theatre writings. I guess I should not have been surprised, though, given that the rules (or shall I say, the "anti-rules") of creativity apply to any creative endeavor, theatre included.

In this piece, Mark McGuinness discusses the importance of letting go or pre-conceived notions one may have about what one is creating. He tells the story of a lost horse who, when permitted, found his own way home.

If only more directors would approach the creation of a production from this perspective. So many of them seem intent of creating a precise, detailed vision, and making sure that all of the actors in it are in some way serving that vision. This isn't the way to produce great theatre. It's a way to produce either theatrical robots, or a bunch of pissed off actors.

McGuinness doesn't suggest we abandon discipline or structure, and neither do I, especially in the theatre. But I wish more directors understood, (or just allowed themselves to understand) that the best productions are those that they guide as opposed to control.

This is how I try to do it when I direct, and some of my best theatre experiences were with directors who tired to do the same.

How do you direct a show? Have you ever been in a show that was allowed to find its own way home, like the horse in this story?

Monday, July 12, 2010


I haven't had a potpourri post in a while. But being between shows seemed like a good time to post one.

-To begin with, the recently suspended Bard's Men now have a new website. (Which presumably will have more on it leading into next summer.) There is a little bit of history of the company on there. It's still a work in progress, but given how involved I have been with the company, I felt I should offer a link here on the blog. That link is here.

-I was walking the other day and came up with an idea for a one man show. It's too broad and unformed to get into too much right here. And I won't be outlining it or putting it down on paper for at least several months if not more. (I have other projects to finish ahead of it.) But I think the idea is solid, and I do look forward to bringing it into reality. I will keep everyone posted on that one here at the blog.

-Summer being about half over now, it's time for me to start looking at shows for the fall of which I'd like to be a part. I have the line ups for most of the community theatres in the area. I have to admit that as it stands now nothing jumps right out at me as something I need to be in. That doesn't mean I won't, but there is much considering to do first.

But I can't take too long. Any fall shows will most likely be holding auditions in the next 3 weeks or so.

-Then there is the Christmas season to consider. I know. Being July, the idea of reminding everyone of the hustle and bustle of the holidays seems silly, and possibly cruel depending on your point of view. But again, when you live on theatre time...where you general commit about 2 months to something, you have to think ahead. And the time period of two months before the Christmas season is only about 3 months away from now. So it's not knocking on the door yet, but I will be looking around. I really enjoy being in shows at Christmas time.

-I told a friend of mine who wrote, and will be directing, her own show this summer that I was available for set construction. I don't know if she will need or want me help in same, but I volunteered for two reasons. The first being a friend deserves a chance to have a show go well. And second, getting a little more technical/building experience under my belt will never hurt me.

So there is your July Mish-mash from the world of Ty's theatre endeavors, or potential endeavors. Hopefully activity will pick up again soon.