Results tagged “facebook” from Drama Queen

Life on Facebook can get pretty weird. Suddenly guys you dumped 20 years ago are commenting on your family vacation photos, while people you can't recall ever talking to when you saw them every day now give you the thumbs up several times a week. This summer, New Paradise Laboratories is making Facebook even weirder.

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NPL will present Fatebook here in Philly at September's Live Arts Festival. But in keeping with the show's theme--the blurring of online and real life--characters who will populate the performance are now on Facebook and Twitter and available for friending or following. Actually, the process began about a year ago when NPL posted the cast's audition videos on YouTube. Me? I friended them all, the Mormon missionary, the Canadian Zamboni driver, the beauty queen. I also went from resenting the effort, to maintaining mild suspicion, to looking for their status updates, and yes, interacting just the slightest bit. Sure it's strange trading quips with a fictional character, but considering that some of my mellowest friends are deeply engaged in a Facebook game called Mafia Wars, which causes them to post sentences saying, "I need illegal transaction records and an untraceable cellphone," maybe a whole lot of us are fictional characters online. The fictional June Summer McCarthy's current update reads, "If you can pretend some aspect of yourself isn't real, then it's not real... Right?"" To which the equally fictional Julia Zelda Taylor responds, "What's real?" Indeed.

The real question though, isn't just whether or not social media has become a means of fictionalizing ourselves (though that's a good one), but whether NPL artistic director Whit McLaughlin is, with Fatebook, expanding the very definition of live performance. Most theater companies use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their performances or show backstage videos. NPL uses these sites as the performance itself, and for some reason it seems more immediate, closer to the meaning of live performance than, for example, an opera simulcast live from the Met to your local cinema. Somehow--perhaps due to its interactive nature--with a Facebook-based performance, there are several less degrees of separation. 

If these are fictional characters posting in real time, is it live theater whether or not the whole thing culminates in an actual humans-congregating-in-one-place experience? Aren't humans already congregating in one place when all of the characters' "friends" read their status updates, watch their videos and respond to their messages?  

Thus far the cast averages around 100 friends each (the women are slightly more popular; read into that what you will) and I'm curious to see how many of their friends and followers will attend the festival performance and how many are along solely for the virtual ride. Are you following? Will you be at the show?... That is, in person... That is, physically in the same room and within touching distance of the performers? Weigh in.

Below: Darren Bobich, Zamboni jockey. Or not.
July 22, 2009 11:58 AM | | Comments (3)

Yesterday, I had a conversation with my editor about the practice of reading scripts ahead of a performance--a performance I'm supposed to review. Lately, I've been trying to make that a regular practice, but also lately I've discovered I'm having trouble bottling a sense of spontaneity in my reviews. Coincidence?

My editor mentioned that another of our critics reads scripts only after seeing the staged production, so as to preserve an audience-eye element of surprise and discovery. Other critics say they always read a script beforehand because, they assert, as critics we're paid to know more about a production than the general public, and part of our research includes some analysis of the playwright's themes and intentions as they appear on the page, as well as tipping us off to any relevant ahead-of-time research.

Hysteria.jpgToday's review, of the Wilma Theater's production of Terry Johnson's Hysteria, begins with a direct comparison between the script and its staged counterpart. In this case, I felt the comparison was absolutely fair. After all, if a play jumps off the page, it ought to similarly jump off the stage. I discussed the issue some more with my editor, who concluded that reading the script beforehand might have caused me to cut the production some extra slack. So what to do?

Obviously, take it to Facebook and Twitter.

I got plenty of responses, some from critics, others from artists and all running the gamut from angry to measured to undecided. The split fell on both sides, with good reasons for both approaches.

On Facebook, Philadelphia artist/director/playwright Robert Smythe begged for an end to text-based reviewing and said, "You are reviewing a production: the sum of its parts. Theater is not a sporting event, where the rules are set before the start and the players are judged as to how well they can play within those rules. It is not the reviewer's job to mine the text for more than the artist found themselves."

On Twitter, Ottowa-based playwright/actor/director @SterlingLynch said reading a script beforehand is "often a good idea, so long as one doesn't 'decide' how the show should work in advance." @subfab who describes himself on the site as a "poet, savior, village idiot," says, "What is the first and most important impression a show should have? Experience or a script? IMHO theatre's should be experience." [BTW, for the uninitiated, IMHO stands for "in my humble opinion." And BTW, for "by the way."]

But what of Romeo and Juliet? Clearly, if you're a critic going to see that for the fourth or seventh or hundredth time, you've not only lost the element of surprise, but ought to be fired if you haven't read it. Same goes for Ibsen, or Chekov, or Beckett and whomever else would fill the pages of your personal anthology of great dramatists. And what of the lesser plays and musicals that happen to have hit town more than once? Why do they get the benefit of extended pre-curtain analysis? Sure, in some cases, say movement-based or improv-based shows, or work that inherently allows some flexibility, a script-based reading is innapropriate. But other than that? 

I'd be inclined to say why not get comfy with a script--not the night before, but maybe a week or so ahead of time so it has a chance to sink in--if only it weren't for that spontaneity issue. Thorny. 

I'm still undecided. How about you?

May 21, 2009 12:15 PM | | Comments (6)
Can I have a do-over?

Last time I was on here, I was complaining about social media. Well now I have seen the light, and it's fueled by an alternative energy called democracy.

All night, during the election mayhem, I was glued to Twitter and Facebook, as news and opinions poured in from around the world. And not from pundits (or "pundints," as Sarah Palin--Godspeed--used to say when she wasn't saying "nucular") but from citizens taking part in the democratic process in real time. This time, while official commentators buzzed in the background or provided fodder for snark, the leveling power of Web 2.0 communication was so overwhelming I almost wept from the sheer enormity of its implications--and this was before Obama's acceptance speech.

br_s01-19.jpgOn Twitter, the Election 2008 feed whipped by so fast you could hardly make it to anyone's 140th character, let alone the 100th. I was tipped off to businesses giving away everything from coffee and doughnuts to vibrators (that giveaway continues until 11/11), and got my schadenfreude on by reporting to my 125 followers that the Fox Newsroom needed a Prozac IV drip, stat. I learned when Tina Fey was readying her shot glass, but I also learned how complete strangers and non-celebrities were reacting to the excitement moment by moment; meanwhile, detached from our earthly cares, the Mars Phoenix sent out a poignant goodbye from its frozen planet. Back on Facebook, a friend messaged me from France to say Paris was burning with hope. It was crazy and beautiful, in an election that lit a clean-burning coalfire under the rump of the body politic.

And the arts? Where do they fit in? Well, I'll tell you this much, before the Phillies and politics took over the feeds, I was tweeting links to my reviews, features and blog posts, and every time I did, I'd see a big and immediate jump in traffic to those sites. Mind you, some of these visitors were from Philly, where they could easily find links to the Inquirer's website and current reviews on their own, but didn't... Until I mentioned it to them. And the out-of-towners, who wouldn't otherwise read Philly reviews? Well, they did.

While personal pr is a part of why I'm constantly working the updates, it only comprises about a third of my motivation.( I don't have a clue how to make money off this thing, though I'm sure there's a way--I'm taking recommendations, BTW--but the site is young enough that programmers are falling all over themselves to create accessories to enhance tweeters' experience.) No, the other two-thirds belong to the thrill of being a part of something nascent but already integral, a new, wired American presidency and populace, ready to receive data from the masses, and willing--no, hungry--to listen. Don't let the sneezing pandas and angry cats win, no matter how cute they are. Who better but artists and lovers of the arts to ensure that arts coverage remains a critical component of 21st century media?


November 4, 2008 2:00 PM | | Comments (1)
twitterbird.jpgJust joined Twitter and though I'm fashionably late to the party, that doesn't make it any less fun. Who wants polite introductions and a table full of appetizers when you can show up to a boozy, smoke-filled room packed to the walls with bodies and crazy talk

My principal interest in the tweet was for Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival purposes. Initially, I wanted to live blog the fest, but why do that when Twittering is so much more immediate and accessible? It's like the journalistic equivalent of the SmartCar, both timely and frill-free, the shrinking newsroom taken to its logical extreme. So I've voluntarily added one more unpaid activity to my arts coverage. Why? I guess because it seemed like the thing to do. I figure I can use it as a teaser for my actual reviews and blog posts, or to supplement them. But the truth is that if the tech zeitgeist whizzes past your head and you don't grab hold, well, probably nothing will happen, but isn't that that also the problem? 

Anyway, after you've been stuck in Facebook's quicksands for a while, Twitter, which is essentially a glorified status update, seems downright revolutionary in its sheer simplicity. Not only is it embarrassingly easy to join and use, it's pure communication, a haiku-length transmission that forces you to use your word count wisely. Of course there are those Twitterfiction cheaters who've expanded the service's 140-character limit into whole micronovels released two or three sentences at a time. But I think they've got it all wrong. 

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Getting it right are contributors to Twittories, literary versions of the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse. I mean, it's not like they're "getting it right" in the sense that they're creating great literature, but that they saw the thing whizzing past, grabbed it and forced it to veer off course. The beauty of Twitter, particularly for lovers of the arts, is its strict rules and the creative innovations that emerge from within those strictures. 

Then there are the larger sociological implications in the medium, giant-sized extrapolations artists, journalists and ethnologists can all pull from something so very, very small. People complain about Twitter's glorification of the banal, but to them, I once again invoke Death of a Salesman, perhaps the modern theater's greatest glorification of the banal, and say, "Attention must be paid."

Think of Hemingway's shortest novel ever written, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Or Fredric Brown's sci-fi microtale, "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door." It's the tweet in its most sublime form.  

Actual tweets can be equally affecting. Check out the Twitter orphans that pop up when you conduct a search (pick a name, any name). Abandoned blogs just don't fill you with the same sense of wonder. In fact, it's sort of a relief when you find one; so much dreck, so little time. But abandoned Twitter streams are like the caves at Lascaux, cryptic relics of lives briefly revealed, then submerged again in mystery. One entry from a year ago belonged to someone making dinner for their flight test instructor. How ominous, and how compelling. I sure hope they ultimately passed that test, but fear their absence tells a different story. 

So yes, I'll be tweeting my reports from the fringe fest here in Philly in what I expect will be a most traditional manner (at least traditional for Twitter, not so much for journalism). However, I'm really looking forward to the day when I'll have the micro-ironic privilege of tweeting about a Twittered performance. Any takers before the thing whizzes away again?




August 5, 2008 2:52 PM | | Comments (3)
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