FlyOver: June 2007 Archives
Last week was the week for theater awards in Lansing. Both the traditional daily, The Lansing State Journal, and the alternative weekly, the City Pulse, came out with its theater awards.
The City Pulse awarded Pulsars to any of 10 organizations that their judges felt represented the "best" in a 9-month period. They assigned three judges to attend each show and then tallied point totals from their judging forms. It's judges included their critics and readers from the community who responded to a call for participation. The awards were given out in a dinner ceremony which was open to the entire theater community for the low price of $5 if bought in advance, $10 at the door--a bargain even for starving actors. It was their second time giving out full season Pulsars (they'd given out two summer awards and been bullied into not handing them out last year).
The Lansing State Journal awarded Thespies for the 39th straight year. These awards are open to anyone doing theater in the Greater Lansing area and include "special" awards to recognize theatrical achievements in any area. These awards are decided by a committee that includes all of the staff's critics, arts writers, and a few recruited individuals--one who directs and the other whose background is only that of theater attendee. Committee members nominate, discuss, arm wrestle, and vote on each category individually.
Every year, the awards end up being controversial.
Sicko starts small
All right, so movies aren't the usual fare for Flyover, but this news item was so fitting our theme of the American Outback that it just had to be mentioned. Michael Moore's latest film is having its North American premiere not in New York or L.A., but in a small northern Michigan town of Bellaire. Tickets are $40 a piece and being sold in this town of fewer than 1,000 people.
(Thanks to Kevin Wright of the Traverse City Record-Eagle)
Promoting Wisconsin works
Three groups have joined forces to help encourage Wisconsin playwrights. They're hosting a Wisconsin Wrights New Play Project that will perform three premieres. " After weeks of intensive workshops, Normal Human Beings by Bruce Murphy, The Queen of Janesville by Greg Lawless and Recovering the Real Me by Kurt McGinnis Brown will receive staged readings in UW Vilas Hall's Hemsley Theatre from June 7 to 9, with 7:30 p.m. performances each night. Selected from a pool of more than 40 entries, these three finalists were scored by a team of expert readers, evaluated by a panel of judges, and finally ranked by lead judge and Madison native Bradley Whitford, the Emmy-winning actor of West Wing fame.
"Besides a public reading, Wisconsin Wrights finalists are awarded a week's stay at Madison's Edenfred Mansion and provided with professional dramaturges and directors to assist in their works' development. Once scripts are finalized, one of the three plays will be selected for inclusion in the Madison Repertory Theatre's 2007 New Play Festival."
(Thanks to Jacqueline West of Isthmus)
The troubled legacy of Rufus Thomas at Stax
"It's late February, and things are buzzing inside the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
On the floor of Studio A, two dozen or so familiar figures are greeting each other with hugs and handshakes. Among them are Stax artists Isaac Hayes, Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, songwriters Mack Rice and Bettye Crutcher, and label executive Al Bell. They've assembled for a press conference for European journalists who've flown in on a junket to cover the 50th anniversary of Stax."
(Thanks to Bob Mehr of the Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Atlanta's breakdancing scene attracts attention, but at what cost?
"Breakdancing surged into the mainstream the first time in 1983 when Jennifer Beals' artful exotic dancer (and welder) in Flashdance gave her Julliard audition some street cred. Her moves were ripped from the Rock Steady Crew, whose members appeared in the movie, breakdancing in alleyways and on sidewalks. ... But by 1985, breakdancing had all but become a joke. Witness Don Ameche backspinning at a nightclub in the 'Seniors Gone Wild' antics of 1985's 'Cocoon.' By then, the pop music audience had decided that headbanging was more dignified, and I started stealing David Lee Roth moves from 'Just a Gigolo.'"
(Thanks to Thomas Bell of Atlanta Creative Loafing)
Mysteries of patronage: The gift that keeps on taking
"If corroboration were necessary for F. Scott Fitzgerald's assured cliché that 'the very rich are different from you and me,' it is conspicuously available in the current exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art. The philanthropist and notable Yale benefactor Paul Mellon financed the Center's Louis Kahn building, and then he filled it. 'A Passion for British Art' constitutes a recreation of the opening of the museum thirty years ago, with almost everything on view acquired by him, or guided by the standards he applied."
(Thanks to Stephen Vincent Kobasa of the New Haven Advocate, New Haven, Conn.)
Talkin' Tags: An (Ex) Graffitti Artist Goes Public
"Compared with other small American cities, Burlington has a reputation for being hip and artsy. But when it comes to public perceptions of graffiti, that hip-hop-inflected, spray-paint-intensive artistic subculture -- fuhgeddaboudit. At least, that's the word from a former 'tagger.' He reports that average Burlingtonians don't have a clue about all the graffiti in their midst -- where it's done and who's doing it, let alone what those bubble letters mean. Then again, he doesn't really want them to find out."
(Thanks to Mike Ives of Seven Days, Burlington, Vermont)
Attending the 2007 NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Theater and Musical Theater was a defining event for me.
Before that fortnight, "arts journalist" was not really a tag I used. If I had to describe myself, I would call myself a writer, leaving out adjectives because I was pretty eclectic in the writing that I did. By day, I'm a textbook writer, writing curriculum content and training materials for the hospitality industry. I also do a great deal of freelance writing ranging from business writing to ghost writing to theater reviewing to performing arts articles to book reviewing.
While arts writing--whether it was about books, theater, or other performing arts--was my passion and my love, it was (and is) the least lucrative of the writing that I do. I write about the arts to feed my soul and I write about everything else to feed my family.
The Arts Institute, however, transformed much of the way I approached what I do as well as expanded my view of what is happening in the rest of the country. For years, I had been awed by what I saw theater doing in my community. Every year there is a new organization, many of them doing stunning work. While some people complained that resources were being spread too thin, most groups have thrived and audiences have grown. People have begun to speak with pride about the arts community in our town--even though few outsiders would ever think of arts and Lansing, Michigan in the same sentence.
I learned that throughout the country, arts communities were experiencing similar growth. More and more people are creating art with less and less money. In fact, if the people who spoke at the Institute were representative, it seemed that the arts communities in smaller cities were much healthier than those in large metropolitan areas that depended on big budgets to be successful. Perhaps that is because it becomes more about the business than about the art. More likely, though, the answer is far more complicated.
I returned home with a renewed enthusiasm and a determination that I would be an arts advocate both in my hometown and wherever else I wrote. Too many exciting things are happening to have them be ignored or go unchronicled.
There are exciting stories taking place in small cities and towns across the country. It is a testament to people's need for art and their need to create. I'm looking forward to helping to tell these stories.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program