Archive for November, 2008

Turn Off, Tune Up, Drop In

Monday, November 24th, 2008

One Less TV

Photo by Kevin Steele — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Did Timothy Leary watch a lot of television? Probably not. If he did, he might have suggested the path to total happiness would be to turn off, tune up, and drop in.

As posted in Culture News, an “extensive research study” has proven that watching television makes you unhappy. Really. You knew it to be true. Now, so do sociologists.

In a University of Maryland study that took place from 1975 - 2006 (wasn’t this before The Wire?), with 45,000 adults, co-author Dr. John P. Robinson has the numbers to show that television both comforts and leads to a miserable life.

Robinson, who is “a pioneer in time use studies”, comes to absolute conclusions: not only is television used more by people who are not happy in their lives, but using more television makes you more unhappy in your life.

“Not happy” slugs watch thirty percent more television than those of us who are “very happy.” Danger, Will Robinson: “unhappiness leads to television viewing.”

As published in the December issue of Social Indicators Research, Robinson also proves the corollary: “TV does cause people to be less happy.”

What do happy people do? According to Robinson, we read more, we socialize more, and we have more sex.

There’s more: unhappy married couples watch thirty percent more television; happily married couples have thirty percent more sex.

Pity the one whose life spirals down and out from addiction. TV as low-life addiction? “These points have parallels with addiction; since addictive activities produce momentary pleasure but long-term misery and regret. People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged, with TV becoming an opiate.”

If you watch a lot of television: you are unhappy; you don’t have a lot of sex; and, you are socially and personally disadvantaged. Got it?

So, turn off the television; tune up and play some music with others; grab a date and drop in to a live performance. You know what will happen — and, your life will be better.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Todd Mack

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Todd MackTodd Mack is the creator and producer of FODfest — Friends of Danny. This annual festival celebrates the life and ideas of the late Wall St. Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, who believed in the power of music to bring people together, regardless of their religious or ethnic background. Todd is also the owner of Off The Beat-n-Track, a recording studio based in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

In this interview we talk with Todd about the origins of the festival, how a life can inspire countless artists, and planning for FODfest 2009.

 
 Interview: Todd Mack [7:44m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Lincoln 2.0: The Art of e-Lobby

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Impressionism

Photo by Antonio Rodríguez — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Artists, artistic and managing directors, board members, and audiences take note: In November of 2007, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist Mark Penn said, with the kind of disdain only available to those of a mythic-sized hubris, Obama’s supporters “look like Facebook.”

Ooops.

The US presidential campaign losers included a Clinton who was anti-social networking (i.e. what’s the point when we know better than you), and a McCain who was anti-hope (i.e. don’t trust someone who isn’t like you and me, wink-wink).

The losing approach is, unfortunately, replicated across a number of arts institutions and organizations. Amongst so many points of inspiration, Obama’s campaign can have a direct impact on how to make the presentation of the arts more accessible, and better.

Are you looking for how to best use technology to deepen your audience’s connection and to extend your audience reach?

One of the major goals of the Obama campaign, led by campaign manager David Plouffe, was to use technology to create a direct and immediate relationship between the campaign and individual voters.

As noted in Newsweek magazine’s analysis (written by embedded reporters who hold off on reporting the campaigns’ inner workings until after the election), the Obama campaign’s official blogger, Sam Graham-Felsen, said “We never do something just because it’s cool.” Every tool had to have a practical purpose.

Early in the election process, the Obama team hired Chris Hughes, who had been Mark Zuckerberg’s roommate and original partner at Facebook, to be the head of the campaign’s new media and social networking. (Hughes brought us the Facebook “poke” amongst other innovations.) Hughes’ mantra was “I don’t care about online energy and enthusiasm just for the sake of online energy and enthusiasm… It’s about making money, making phone calls, embedding video or having video forwarded to friends.” The key? “When computer applications really take off, they take something people have always done and just make it easier for them to do it.”

The Obama campaign had an iPhone application, which looked really cool, but was actually an incredible data-mining resource. If you hit “call friends” the software would re-arrange your address book in the order of states that campaign was targeting at that specific time. The same application was later used for instantaneous reports back from the canvassing of voters at their homes.

The Vice-Presidential pick was announced via text message, which was an incredible way to match a significant announcement with the ability to collect voters’ cell phone numbers for use later on in the get-out-the-vote work. How many new cell phone numbers did the campaign collect? One million! (One of the new numbers? Beau Biden, Joe’s son. Txt Msg: Congrats Dad!)

How to create a connection at one of those huge rallies? Before Obama would appear, a campaign worker came onstage and encouraged the audience to use their cell phones to call or text their friends and spread the word.

Each step of Obama’s technology strategy was to create stakeholders in the campaign. The campaign was doing what successful arts leaders have always known as the key to audience development: Be in the Lobby.

Today’s (and tomorrow’s) technology allows us to take the post-show lobby presence further. The Obama campaign has shown the way:

  • In the campaign and in the arts, you build an audience one by one. Use the technology to parallel and enhance this grass-roots approach.
  • Don’t tap out donors all at once. Bring supporters along in small donations. Cash keeps coming, and so does the connection.
  • Don’t fear feedback. Crazy as it seems some artistic directors and managers are afraid of unfettered negative response available on blogs and websites. Remember two things: One, most people follow the time honored tradition of if you don’t have something nice to say do’t say it; and, two, you want a response as a way to convert a conversation into a stakeholder.
  • Use your audience to spread the word about an event. Friends believe friends.
  • Follow your audience: Did your subscribers come to the event? Did they bring any friends? Did they give their tickets away? Who was new to the theatre?
  • Use the technology to communicate directly to your audience. They won’t follow if you don’t take time to lead.

If post-election Barack Hussein Obama can be in the White House, then post-performance you can be in the e-lobby.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Adriana Sevan

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Adriana SevanAward-winning actress and playwright Adriana Sevan has thrilled audiences with her one-woman show Taking Flight. She is the 2008 recipient of the Middle East America Distinguished Playwright award. Adriana has also appeared in guest-starring roles on Law & Order, Sex & the City and Deadline.

In this podcast we talk with her about her newly commissioned work exploring the devastation and redemptive stories in the Armenian genocide. We also talk about her mentoring workshops with at-risk adolescent girls in the Los Angeles area.

Photo by Robin Emtage

 
 Interview: Adriana Sevan [20:22m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Obama: Say the Word, and You’ll Be Free

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Barack Obama

Photo by Jack Thielepape — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

President-elect Obama has created something new and resurrected something old.

Courtesy of Obama, we now have the O-generation - those eighteen to twenty-five year olds who have been turned on to politics and are determined to participate in the process.

All praise the O-generation!

The O-generation has come together because of Obama’s resurrection of a lost art form: rhetoric.

Rhetoric is that old-fashioned artistic discipline that uses language to persuade and influence others. The foundation of theatre and literature is in the application and skillful use of rhetorical techniques.

Wouldn’t it seem obvious that a politician would want to excel and be known for his or her rhetoric — their use of language, articulation of thought, and communication of compelling ideas?

Not in the United States. Only a few months ago, Hillary Clinton in a startlingly condescending approach referred to Obama as a man with nothing more than a speech. This reference to his first major public moment as a speaker at the 2004 Democratic convention was meant to diminish his skill, mind, and gravitas.

A politician shouldn’t be able to speak well?

John McCain, never one to miss an opportunity to offer a cutting remark, followed up Clinton’s slap with his own, referring time and again to Obama’s empty campaign trail eloquence.

A politician shouldn’t be able to inspire a nation?

Throughout the campaign, Clinton and McCain tried to tag Obama as nothing more than a young man who could give a good speech, but did not deserve to be in their league of political players. Clinton and McCain, who were wrong about so many things, can add one more to the list.

Obama’s rhetoric revealed the issues of our time, and convinced us of the path to a better future.

Not too long ago, it was not only drama schools that taught rhetoric, but it was also the basis of a liberal arts education.

As the Greeks and Romans knew, the better the rhetoric the better the idea, and the better the arts.

All praise the study and practice of rhetoric!

After all, do words matter? As Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha’!”

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Anne Galjour

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Anne GaljourNationally recognized playwright and actress Anne Galjour draws on her Cajun roots in her gripping one-woman plays. She creates vivid characters and bracing narratives in her solo performances, which include Hurricane and Alligator Tales. Her talents have been recognized with multiple awards, including the American Theatre Critics Association Osborn Award, and the Will Glickman Playwriting Award.

In this podcast we talk with Anne about her most recent piece You can’t get there from Here, which deals with the still-taboo issue of class in America.

 
 Interview: Anne Galjour [17:42m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Critical USA

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Photo by caniswolfie — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

In the week of one of the most significant turning point elections in the United States, what are American theatre critics talking about?

Are they analyzing the differences between McCain’s and Obama’s approaches and policies for governmental arts funding and support? Are they providing a critique of what the United States’ creative vision will be? Are they lobbying the next administration for a new approach to American culture? Or, are they whining about their jobs and their own lack of an audience?

You guessed right. You must know a theatre critic.

Writing in the New York Post, Michael Riedel covers cutbacks in two daily newspaper’s theatre critics in New Jersey (oh, yea of bridge and tunnel), and the implications for other Broadway mouths.

Riedel notes, “they’re newspaper drama critics, those once all-powerful arbiters who, with a vicious turn of phrase, could close a show, humiliate an actor, bankrupt an investor.”

Oh, wow. Has there ever been a better description of critics and their arrogance of self-importance? Isn’t that a perfect way to link Aristotle, Diderot, Lessing, Kierkegaard, Shaw and Esslin to today’s American low achievers?

How does one cutback-critic describe his predicament? “The diadem is certainly sitting uneasily on the heads of first-nighters.” Gee — they really know how articulate an issue and to communicate directly!

Another laments, “There’s no glamour anymore. During the stagehands strike, my editors had me standing on the sidewalk at 2 a.m. getting quotes.” OMG, he had to be a working journalist!

Of course, the blame for their lack of audience falls not with their own easily predictable take on a show, refusal to provide a historical context, or lack of enlightened perceptions. No, critics are blaming bloggers for fulfilling their roles with skill, determination, and imagination.

As in all turning points, maybe theatre critics are waking up to the fact that being oh, so clever (New York Times on Broadway?) is no longer as valuable as being informed, perceptive, and hard working (All that Chat?).

Maybe they will take a moment to marvel at their own lack of theatrical foundations and initiative in comparison to their audiences, and to the very artists they ostensibly help to make better works of art.

Maybe it is time for them to analyze the significance of their own election results.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Amadeo Pasa (English Translation)

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Amadeo PasaArgentine musician Amadeo Pasa has been a pioneer in the organization of interdisciplinary cultural events. He defied 1990’s neoliberalism and “shopping mall” culture in Buenos Aires by organizing a festival of independent contemporary art and culture. Amadeo is the founder of Festival Buen Día, which has been taking place in the city of Buenos Aires since 1997, and integrates free concerts with books, clothes, design and food fairs, all of them gathered at open air spaces in the traditional neighborhood of Palermo.

In this interview he talks about the beginnings of the festival, the importance of fostering national independent culture, and allowing for the coexistence of both multinational companies and national independent producers.

 
 Interview: Amadeo Pasa (English Translation) [13:40m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Interview: Amadeo Pasa (In Spanish)

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Amadeo PasaMúsico argentino, Amadeo Pasa ha sido pionero en la organización de eventos culturales interdisciplinarios. Desafió a la cultura “shopping” y neoliberal de la década de 1990 en Buenos Aires, organizando un festival de arte independiente contemporáneo. Amadeo es el fundador del Festival Buen Día, que se lleva a cabo en la ciudad de Buenos Aires desde 1997, e integra conciertos gratuitos con ferias de libros, indumentaria, diseño y comida en espacios al aire libre en el tradicional barrio de Palermo.

En esta entrevista Amadeo habla sobre los comienzos del festival, la importancia de fomentar la cultura nacional independiente, y permitir la convivencia de productores multinacionales y nacionales.

 
 Interview: Amadeo Pasa (In Spanish) [12:54m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download