lies like truth: March 2008 Archives
Greco takes over from Chris Smith, who is leaving the venerable 41-year-old San Francisco company this season after just five years as artistic director.
I am personally very sad to see Smith go. He has worked with indefatigable energy, generosity of spirit, and good humor to prop up the Magic's slightly saggy reputation as a national landmark for new plays. It's been tough going, to say the least.
On one hand, Smith has been instrumental in nurturing the careers of such up-and-coming playwrights as Betty Shamieh and Mat Smart, created a welcoming home for new work by established names like Rebecca Gilman and Josh Kornbluth, and pushed through the installation of the Magic Cafe -- a great space to hear live music, check out production-inspired fine art, and discuss plays over a pre- or post-show drink. On the other hand, high-profile world premieres such as David Mamet's Faust (which the author directed himself in 2003) and last fall's staging of Bill Pullman's Expedition 6 were artistic misfires, despite breaking box-office records. Commendable efforts to lure younger audiences to balance the theater's maturing core clientele, such as offering discounts to under-30s, have so far done little to lower the audience's median age. Meanwhile, recent season programs featuring a baffling assortment of mostly pedestrian new plays and turns by decaying celebrities like Joan Rivers and Marlo Thomas have undermined the company's mission as a producer of "hot cool new plays."
Still, the new appointment looks promising. I've admired several of Greco's recent Bay Area productions. Her no-nonsense takes on David Harrower's Blackbird and Mamet's Speed-the-Plow at the American Conservatory Theatre have been slick and spunky. She also managed to make relatively compelling theatre out of Courtney Baron's flaccid domestic drama Morbidity & Mortality at The Magic a couple of seasons ago. Greco comes to her new job with producing experience as the Producing Artistic Director of Women's Project in NYC and as Associate Director and Staff Producer of McCarter Theatre, so it looks like she has some clue about the programming and management side of things.
The next few months should be interesting ones for Bay Area theatre. I'm also keen to see what Smith goes on to do next as a freelance gun for hire.
Did you hear the one about the dyslexic agnostic with insomnia? He lays awake at night wondering if there really is a dog.
According to Yoga Journal, 54 percent of adults in the United States suffer from insomnia at one time or another. Artists and writers seem particularly prone to this problem. People who spend their days creating art or spinning ideas into prose often have a great deal of trouble switching off at night. The other day, I came across an unusual approach to the issue while doing some research on what I thought was a completely unrelated bodily process - indigestion.
I don't think there's much of a future for me as a self-help columnist, but I can't help sharing my thoughts on this topic. While I have known for quite some time that eating too much of the wrong foods late at night, such as caffeine or sugar, can keep a person up for hours as the body attempts to process these substances, I always thought of indigestion as a purely physical problem. Some foods keep the stomach churning and the esophagus burning well into the night.
But what I didn't realize is how digestive afflictions can also be mental and emotional.
Even if a person maintains a healthy diet and his physical digestion is in good order, he can keep himself up all night with his brain chewing endlessly over the previous day's activities, cogitating about what lies ahead or attempting to make sense of how the world works. This is mental indigestion. The cogs whirr and it's impossible to push the off button and sleep.
Emotional indigestion works in a similar way. Feeling upset about a painful memory or excited about a professional opportunity or personal relationship can throw us into maelstrom at night. Our pulses race and adrenalin courses through our bodies when we should be winding down for seven or eight hours of rest.
Unfortunately, the article I read online linking insomnia with indigestion (which I stupidly didn't save and can't seem to find again) didn't go into how people suffering from sleepless nights might use this theory to help them get some rest. But I wonder if it might make sense to treat all three forms of indigestion - the physical, intellectual and emotional - in the same way?
Treating physical indigestion is relatively simple. I'm not talking about taking antacids to relieve the symptoms, but finding ways to prevent indigestion in the first place. These might include avoiding certain foods like wheat or dairy, eating more slowly, eating less and not eating for several hours before bed.
Perhaps the same thinking applies to emotional and intellectual indigestion. To avoid "chewing" thoughts and feelings over in the middle of the night, a person might try being less busy ("eating less,") taking more time over their activities throughout the day ("eating more slowly") and/or avoiding going to bed in an over-stimulated state by chilling out with a glass of wine and a trashy novel, having a bath or playing with the cat ("not eating for several hours before bed.")
Depending on the seriousness of the insomnia, he or she might even consider more radical lifestyle changes, which would translate in physical terms as "changing one's diet." This could include anything from getting a different day job to deciding to talk through a problem with someone rather than keeping it to oneself.
Of course, there are many artists and writers out there who actually manage to put their sleeplessness to good use. They get up in the middle of the night and get on with their work rather than lying there in the dark picking their noses and wandering, like the dyslexic agnostic insomniac of the aforementioned joke, if there really is a dog. Yet tiredness is debilitating. No one, least of all those among us who have to balance making art with keeping a roof over their heads and caring for a family, can survive on little sleep.
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Joe Horowitz on music
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog