Basic Instincts

The artistic directors of theatre companies have a very difficult job. Trying to program work that is not only artistically stimulating (I use this term in the broadest sense) but also delivers the goods within ever tightening budgetary constraints while pleasing or at least galvanizing the company's very many stakeholders from audiences to board members to critics is far from easy. ADs are constantly coming under fire for everything from pandering to the crowds to failing to program shows that represent the local community and its concerns.As … [Read more...]

Looks Like Heaven, Sounds Like Hell

On Christmas day 2007, I wrote a blog entry about Oakland's then-unfinished Catholic Cathedral, The Cathedral of Christ the Light. At the end of the post, I mentioned that I was particularly interested to find out about the church's acoustic, hoping that it might serve as an excellent venue for concerts following its official opening in September 2008.Sadly the acoustic seems to be the one thing that the people responsible for developing this otherwise glorious new building seem to have messed up. I cannot fault Craig Hartman of Skidmore Owings … [Read more...]

Making It Pay

As more and more conventional media outlets oust their staff arts writers and reduce the fees paid to / number of articles commissioned of freelance contributors, I've been starting to wonder how one might turn an arts blog into an income-generating opportunity.So far, I haven't thought of my blogging activities as a way to make money: I mainly blog to get the juices flowing in the morning and share thoughts and ideas about culture that I think might be of interest to other arts-savvy readers. As such, I've been cheerfully contributing posts on … [Read more...]

Green With Envy

Lately, I've been on a campaign to educate myself on many of the big musical theatre and opera works that I haven't yet experienced live on stage. A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post about walking out of the Phantom of the Opera at half-time. I was not proud of this decision. But under the circumstances, I felt I would have done myself and possibly the audience sitting around me a greater disservice by staying put for Act Two.Contrastingly, over the weekend, I was so riveted by Wicked (seen on tour at San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre) … [Read more...]

What An Eyeful!

Last night at the theatre I was almost knocked out by a bread roll.In the middle of the Mexican theatre company Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes' Monsters and Prodigies: A History of the Castrati, the actors started a food fight on stage, pelting the audience with projectile baked goods. I took a mighty hit, square in my left eye. It's still throbbing, some 12 hours after the fact. I'm quite surprised that I don't have a bruise to illustrate the sensation.Despite making me feeling slightly worse for wear this morning, the offending bread roll … [Read more...]

Down, Boy

The arrival of opera production simulcasts (and re-runs of simulcasts) on cinema screens across the country and abroad is one of the most exciting advances for the operatic art form.Last night, as I settled into my cushy, armchair-like seat at a movie theater in Emeryville, California to watch a re-run of the Metropolitan Opera's Orfeo ed Euridice simulcast starring Stephanie Blythe as Orfeo and Danielle de Niese as Euridice in a production by Mark Morris, a feeling of comfortable solitude came over me. I rarely experience this feeling in the … [Read more...]

Weird Art News

One of my favorite ways to procrastinate these days is to flip through the deliciously arcane items posted on the Weird News section of the visual arts-oriented Art News blog.The blog is the place to go to find out about everything from artists making paintings out of toothpicks and post-it notes, to the sale of an Andy Warhol wig for $10,800 at a Christie's auction. … [Read more...]

The Pitfalls Of Institutional Blogging

Many arts institutions are launching blogs these days. In some ways, the advent of institutional blogging makes perfect sense: Blogs provide an easy, interactive and cheap way to reach out to audiences and provide them with more detailed insights into such areas as the artistic process, the latest ticket deals and how an organization runs on a day-to-day basis.But in the process of figuring out what content to put on their blogs, the tone and style of entries, whom should be responsible for authoring them and with what regularity posts should … [Read more...]

The Theatre Of War Journalism

What is it with all these modern war plays written by journalists? Why do some journalists feel compelled to make dramas out of their articles? And what is it that makes them think that they can write well for the stage?I've been thinking about these questions over the last couple of days quite a bit since seeing journalist George Packer's play, Betrayed. The drama, which is currently receiving its west coast premiere at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre, can pretty much be summarized by a couple of lines from the March 26, 2007 essay that Packer wrote … [Read more...]