Thursday, April 30, 2009

Think Globally/Create Locally

Brendan Kiley writes in The Stranger about smaller US cities and the American Theater. You can dispense at once with his idea that New York is played; it's stretching it more than a little to suggest that New York is no longer the epicenter of American Theater. Seems a bit like saying, Gee, we have so much government here, maybe Washington, DC isn't the epicenter of American politics either? 

But no matter how you slice it, I like his moxie. I'm very interested in seeing our best local artists stay local while maintaining connections to the bigger national and international scenes. Since I moved back to Seattle from New York four years ago I've been delighted to discover so many new companies doing great work, some excellent actors choosing to stay in Seattle, a brave new world where writers leave their houses to talk to other writers. Seattle's always been a good writer's town-- nothing helps a writer more than being around so many people who read so much-- and when I was in high school the theater scene here was in an upswing. Feels like we're at the start of another one. 

Seattle should do two things: 1) Become the anchor city for a West Coast corridor, rock 'n' roll style, that trades work up and down I-5, and makes it profitable for companies from elsewhere to tour: Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-San Francisco-Los Angeles. 2) Get itself a festival like Fuse Box, with ambitions to grow to TBA size (There's no reason we couldn't—we have the resources and the audience, all we need is the will).

Jen Graves goes into greater detail about our local visual art scene, but strikes the same chord: Stay local, think about our own art history and our own stories, but find pathways to the larger art world so that our art doesn't become insular and too local

Seattle art has a Vancouver problem. The two cities are close: Vancouver is only 136 miles away, just across the Canadian border. They're comparable in size. But Vancouver art is better. "Better" in this case means (a) Vancouver art is connected to the larger world, and therefore to universes of issues, peculiarities, styles, and ideas that serve the artists as well as the audiences, and (b) Vancouver art is connected to its own art history.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Don't Be Boring

Here's an article from The Guardian in which Anthony Neilson asks playwrights to please refrain from boring audiences. Excellent advice, if you ask me. From Mike Daisey's site.

The most depressing response I encounter when I'm chatting someone up and I ask them if they ever go to the theatre is this: "I should go but I don't." That emphatic "should" tells you all you need to know. Imagine it in other contexts: "I should play Grand Theft Auto"; "I should watch Strictly Come Dancing." That "should" tells you that people see theatre-going not as entertainment but as self-improvement, and the critical/academic establishment have to take some blame for that.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Iris Virginia Schuster

Lot's Wife

And the just man trailed God's shining agent
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your happy marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem 
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

--Anna Akhmatova (trans. Stanley Kunitz)