Results tagged “playpenn” from Drama Queen

This week I'm macking on: The output of feature articles on new play producing organizations in Philadelphia. A couple of weeks back, I wrote this piece on PlayPenn for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now, the Philadelphia Weekly's J. Cooper Robb is covering 1812 Productions' embrace of new work by local playwrights, and the Philadelphia City Paper's Mark Kofta is covering the Philadelphia Theatre Workshop's PlayShop Festival, also a showcase for Philly dramatists. And that's not even the whole picture. I've said before, this is a pretty exciting time to be working in and around Philadelphia theaters; it's even more exciting that now a whole lot of other folks are saying it too.

BatshevaDanceCompany.jpg
This week I'm hating on: All the the calls for a boycott of the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company's performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which opened March 4 (review here). The protest is called "Dancing on the Graves of Gaza," with a tagline that reads, 

"1,300 dead, 5,000 wounded, and 50,000 left homeless, this is no time for dancing."

Of course, if you've arrived here through ArtsJournal's portal, you're probably already convinced that there's probably no better time for dancing in Israel and the Palestinian territories than now. You have to be either a complete fundamentalist or a complete fool not to recognize the importance of the arts during a time of national strife--whether they are used for healing, protesting, exploring, or simply uplifting the spirits of the dispirited. Even more frustrating than the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel's (PACBI) enthusiasm for this wrongheaded action is news that Batsheva Artistic Director Ohad Naharin has said publicly that he "opposes the violence in Israel." In recent performances, along with examining Middle East politics through movement, the company used music by Israeli Arab composer Habib Allah Jamil. Talk about a missed opportunity.

Meanwhile, Michelle J. Kinnucan, in a widely circulated article on the topic, calls Batsheva "an Israeli apartheid dance troupe," condemns Naharin for having served in the Israeli army (military service is compulsory for all citizens in Israel), and proceeds to make the inflammatory assertion that punishment for resisting service is far more lenient in Israel than, "in Germany in the 1930s, say." Yeah, I guess it would be.

Reaction to Batsheva's performance isn't an exact parallel to reaction over Caryl Churchill's Seven Jewish Children, since that play takes an obvious anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian stance. But they do have this much in common: both suffer from attacks by the ignorant and implacable, and foes on both sides would do well to ruminate over Naharin's idealistic, yet inspiring statement:

"We do what we do out of love, out of passion, because we are crazy, not because we have a role or because we are supposed to lead anyone, but through dance and art, we can show people that new solutions and new ideas can be better than old ideas and old solutions."

March 5, 2009 9:19 PM | | Comments (0)
let-my-people-come-lp-ad.jpgThis week I'm macking on: Philadelphia as a center for new play production. I wrote this article, which appeared in Thursday's Inquirer, about PlayPenn, a new play development workshop that's had an incredible track record with its accepted works. All six plays from the 2007 workshop have been chosen to grace professional stages around the country in 2008-09, and three of those stages are right here in my backyard. Seth Rozin, artistic director of InterAct Theatre, a member of the National New Play Network, and always a champion of new and provocative work, is also revving the engines for a new play initiative (tentatively called, ahem, the Philadelphia New Play Initiative) that will attempt to connect playwrights with producers. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say the scene right now is as full and well-rounded as I've ever seen it, and this concerted effort to seal the leaks by cementing playwriting into our foundation is both well-placed and well-timed. People seem to be sticking around, new, small, quality companies are cropping up all the time, and just as exciting, the companies who have been here all along are still producing, and producing some compelling stuff. It's been a long road, and one that led PlayPenn's Paul Meshijian and me to chuckle about the days when the only thing playing in town was an extended engagement of  the Oh! Calcutta! knockoff Let My People Come. Good times.

This week I'm hating on: Uncertainty. So you know how I just mentioned Seth Rozin and new plays? Well okay, I saw one of those new plays this week, Andrew Case's The Rant, and reviewed it here. But the thing is, my companion, a man whose opinion and analysis I trust deeply (And not just because he's my husband. Actually, in spite of that fact.) had a completely different reaction to the production than I did. This is also the first time, after many, many years of playgoing, we've diverged so sharply in our opinions of a show. 

The thing is, my analysis gets the public platform, while his sits there burning a hole in my inbox. So here's what he e-mailed back after reading the rough draft of my review:

I don't agree but I think you're fair.  The point I took away from the play is that everyone has a rant (a "beef") that's fueled by their perspective, motives and personal history, and this makes it impossible to judge the truth based solely on what people say.  So, I think Seth is successful in encouraging discussion.  By the way, it's a crime you're given so little space.

He's pretty good, isn't he? And we agree on that last point, anyway. 

Needless to say, the whole encounter really threw my sense of critical judgment into a tailspin. Did I somehow miss the point? Could it be possible that our opposing views are equally valid in a situation like this, political theater being polarizing by definition? Ultimately, I decided we're probably in agreement about the production's content, just disagreeing about its execution. 

However, if something larger can come of all this navel gazing, it's this: with reviewers being laid off en masse, having a forum in which to turn what was once a static, printed review into a living, breathing, mutating organism might just be the path to our salvation. If print media would commit to making an effort at integrating the cultural conversation into their online content, people like me wouldn't be stuck out here on our own, blogging gratis, and driving traffic away from what rightfully belongs to them. Or at least it once did. Before they gave it away.

January 29, 2009 8:30 PM | | Comments (4)
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.