Archive for September, 2008

Saved from Censorship

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Street Performer Protest

Photo by Pete Carr — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

What a happy anniversary: a death of theatre censorship.

As posted this week in KArts Culture News, forty years ago, on September 28, 1968, the Theatres Act passed in the UK and ended the monarchy’s total control of theatrical expression.

Previously, every producer had to submit their script to the Lord Chamberlain for the right, or license, to present the work to the public. Two to three readers would review each of the scripts handed over, with the threat of jail if their ruling was violated. The Lord Chamberlain’s office was not composed of elected officials, or civil servants, but appointed directly by the royal household.

Obviously, the monarchy was less concerned about the public’s exposure to “bad” language, “offensive” ideas, or oh-it-can’t-exist homosexuality — all the stated purposes of the law — than the fear of mocking the monarchy.

That’s the truth of censorship the world over: it’s not about protecting the public, it’s about protecting those in power.

Isn’t it ironic that at a time when nations such as the UK are rather adamantly arguing for the sanctity of democracy and free speech, it wasn’t that long ago that they must have their mirrors covered?

Coming years after the Theatre of the Absurd, this absurdity was saved with the help of Edward Bond’s Saved and his producer, William Gaskill. Gaskill skirted the rules, and consequently began the breakdown of the Lord Chamberlain’s reach, by presenting the play in a private club.

This tactic is alive and well, as today’s Belarus Free Theatre knows so well.

In the west, today’s threat comes more from economic censorship. However, theatre will find a way to keep its contract with audiences for direct, unfiltered, and immediate communication. (Take a look at David Rabe’s column, from last week, on how theatre is doing a better job at revealing the stories of our time than our journalists.)

Want to know more? Check out the British Library exhibit of The Golden Generation: British Theatre 1945 - 1968, running through the end of November.

Oh, the day after the Theatre Act passed, Hair opened in London. Let the Sunshine In, indeed.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Antony Rizzi

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Antony RizziAntony Rizzi is a contemporary dancer, choreographer and artist. He received classical training in 1980-1985 at the Boston Ballet before heading for Europe. For the next twenty years he was a soloist, assistant choreographer, and ballet teacher at William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet. Antony has been teaching improvisation workshops for many years, which are based both on William Forsythe’s and his own technique.

In this interview, recorded during his rehearsal for a performance at the “tanz hoch zwei” festival, organized by Tanzfabrik in Berlin, Antony talks about his most recent piece, Every Body Tells a Story. He shares his thoughts on storytelling and dance, breaking rules as a necessary component in the development of dance, the main difference between the dance world in the US and in Europe, and what it is like to work with William Forsythe and Sylvie Guillem.

 Interview: Antony Rizzi [19:08m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Winning Politics, Losing Culture

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

The Goldwaters

Photo by Max Sparber — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

If hearing the word ‘culture’ makes you think of Rossini, the latest translation of Anna Karenina, the Guggenheim Museum or “The Wire,” then you’re probably a liberal… But if the word ‘culture’ means for you forms of courtship, or sexual preferences, or the relationship between parents and children, or the set of rituals that revolve around the ownership and use of a gun, or, most passionately of all, ways of living, believing, and rejoicing, and suffering, and dying that are hallowed by the religion you practice and embodied in the church that you belong to — if for you, culture does not primarily signify opera or HBO, then you are… either a heartland or a Bloomian conservative.

So argues Lee Siegel in a Wall Street Journal analysis of the cultural background to the McCain and Obama campaign for the White House, posted this week in KArts Culture News.

Lee Siegel, who is as controversial for his views as he is for his online behavior, is without a doubt one of the more literate, passionate, and keenly intelligent cultural critics in America. He perceives two kinds of Americans: those who think the “problem” is in our politics, and those who think the “problem” is in our culture.

Siegel argues that the conservative analysis — and election tactics — of American culture became most prominent during the Reagan years, and in the cornerstone books of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and with William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues (and, don’t forget William Henry’s In Defense of Elitism).

For Siegel, liberals separate culture from daily life — they do a museum, then do the rest of their daily life. Culture is a leisure time activity, not the defining part of their daily life activities as it is for conservatives. Culture as entertainment outside of daily life is “fabricated” culture; culture as the very core of one’s daily life structure and choices is “organic.”

Conservative v. Liberal. Organic v. fabricated. Get it?

Conservatives want to take back cultural understanding from all those left-wing professors — those sixties’ radicals who have become sedentary college professors jealous of the economic success of others, who are so angry at the smallness of their own lives they teach from an even smaller palette of experience and artistic work. Take that, politically correct syllabi!

However, notice that in Siegel’s definition of the different approaches to culture, he gives so many more positive possibilities to the conservative definition. Culture is not about opera, museum going, and reading, it’s the really important stuff! Culture is your life and death, and the sex in between!

Siegel has culture “as the necessity of living a meaningful life.” Fair enough, and no doubt true enough.

However, this argument of left-right cultural distinction makes it sound as though the conservative goal is to separate us from thinking about — questioning — our daily existence, our way of loving, our way of behaving, our way of interacting with others, especially those outside our own geographic fence.

As defined here, the conservative cultural approach has the possibility to be solely about one’s own kind, closed to those outside the community of like-minded. The liberal cultural approach has the possibility to experience, interact, confront, and understand the lives of others.

Are the conservatives afraid of the lives of others? This might make winning politics, but not great culture.

- Bill Reichblum

Arts Presenters: Terri Trotter

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Terri TrotterTerri Trotter is the interim President and CEO of the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. During her time at the Walton Arts Center she has led rebranding efforts and the public launch of a new visual identity.

In this interview we talk with her about connecting with the community, how the performing arts have changed in Northwest Arkansas, and why it’s important to think long-term.

This interview is part of an ongoing series with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

 Arts Presenters: Terri Trotter [10:37m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

New Goal: Otium Life

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Dolce Far Niente

Photo by kodachrome65 — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Do you want a life in balance? You need otium.

As posted this week in KArts Culture News, an exhibition in Ravenna highlights a significant turning point in ancient home design — and a fulfilled life.

“Otium: The Art of Living in the Roman House of the Imperial Age” documents the movement to incorporating walls with painted landscapes, floors with mosaic floors, as well as heated baths and swimming pools for a new kind of home. A home of otium.

Otium implies living a life with ease, peace, quiet, repose, free time, or in one wonderful translation, holy leisure.

The word negotiate, from the Latin ‘negotium’ incorporates the opposite of otium — literally ‘non-otium’. Negotiosity is a constant occupation in business affairs. Is that your life?

Roman life was attempting to incorporate an honorable way to have some freedom from daily business, from involvement in the grinding tasks of administration. Horace argued for otium to be a more respectable value than money or power.

A nice use of otium is as the title of the online prose magazine out of the writing program at the University of Chicago: to connect play with work, pleasure with critical thinking.

So, let us all praise otium: ‘otium cum dignitate’ or leisure with dignity.

If otium worked for Cicero, Horace, and Plautus, surely otium can work for us.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Ibrahim Quraishi

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Ibrahim QuraishiIbrahim Quraishi is a conceptual artist, writer, director and choreographer. A graduate from Columbia University, and a former student of Edward W. Said, he has been collaborating with artists as diverse as DJ Spooky, Vijay Iyer, Komar & Melamid, and Valery Gergiev. He has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, as well as multiple Rockefeller Fellowships and Arts International Grants.

In this interview we talk with Quraishi about his installation Islamic Violins, his contribution to DJ Spooky’s recent book Sound Unbound, and his interest in exploring film work.

 Interview: Ibrahim Quraishi [13:28m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

G.O.P. R.I.P.-off

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Photo by Mick Orlosky — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

What is it about Republicans ripping off rock music?

As posed this week in KArts Culture News, the Republicans are at it again, or as their paramount leader used to say, “There you go, again.”

To celebrate the end of their nominating convention, they played Heart’s “Barracuda,” in honor of Sarah Palin’s high school nickname. (What is it about Republicans and nicknames of aggressive death inducing figures?)

The USA’s Republican party is determined to be cool, to be with it, to be hip, so they keep playing rock ‘n roll music for their big events. However, they keep forgetting that many cool rockers can’t stand Republican politics.

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart didn’t like the connection between their art and Republican philosophy. Earlier this campaign, neither did John Mellencamp, who protested McCain’s use of the hit, “Our Country,” nor did Boston’s Tom Scholz like Huckabee’s use of “More than a Feeling,” nor Jackson Brown that of “Running on Empty” in a McCain commercial.

McCain’s misguided use of the Jackson Brown was not only an example of a bad vetting process (Brown is a very public Obama supporter), but also a clear copyright violation. (What is it about Republicans and the rule of law?)

At the convention, public venues generally have a blanket public performance license with ASCAP/BMI to play recorded music, such as music during breaks in play at sports stadiums. There is also an ephemeral use of exception that covers live televised events, so that the networks are not obligated to pay for the rights to songs as they would in a regular recorded or self-produced television show.

However, the financial and moral coins turn when the songs become theme songs for their campaign. At the very least, you would think they would want to check if that the rockers support their candidate, let alone ask permission? Wouldn’t that be the nice — un-barracuda, non-Darth Vader — thing to do?

For all the Clintons’ moral dilemmas, at least they asked for permission to use “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”

New campaign slogan? Crime doesn’t pay, but criminals do; Politics does pay, but politicians don’t.

The infringement isn’t on the musician’s rights, but it is on their politics.

Maybe every politico should use the one song guaranteed to get them elected: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Wonder what the campaign theme songs should be for Putin, Kim Jong II, Robert Mugabe, Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, or Hugo Chávez? The ultimate party mix!

- Bill Reichblum

Arts Presenters: Susan Feldman

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Susan FeldmanSusan Feldman is the Artistic Director of St. Ann’s Warehouse, based in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Throughout its history, St. Ann’s has commissioned, produced and presented an eclectic and innovative body of work that has garnered multiple awards, including an OBIE for the development of new work.

In this podcast we talk with Susan about the role St. Ann’s Warehouse plays in cultivating and nurturing talent, and why partnership and collaboration is essential to creating great art — sometimes against all odds.

This interview is part of an ongoing series with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

Photo by Nicole Bengiveno

 Arts Presenters: Susan Feldman [17:22m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Our World’s Enforced Disappearances

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Photo by Anna Visini — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Our friends from the Belarus Free Theatre have sent out a special notice: August 30, 2008 marked the 25th anniversary of the International Day of the Disappeared.

On this day the relatives of the disappeared and human rights defenders commemorate the disappeared and call on all governments to ratify the new convention against disappearances. In the Netherlands the organization Aim for Human Rights has supported the cause of the relatives of the disappeared since 1993, and is coordinating the International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances. This global coalition of more than 30 organizations was established last year to campaign for this new convention.

On September 17, Aim for Human Rights, Belarus Free Theatre, and De Internationale Keuze van de Rotterdamse Schouwburg contribute to the global campaign with a special programme. At 8:30 pm Irina Krazovskaya will present a photo publication to a high government official calling on the Netherlands to support the campaign for the convention, followed by a unique performance of Discover Love, written by Nikolai Khalezin and Natalia Koliada, co-founders of Belarus Free Theatre.

Discover Love is based on the real-life story of Irina Krasovskaya and her husband Anatoly Krasovski. Irina’s story is interwoven with similar stories from Asia and South America, where loved ones have been kidnapped and murdered or made political prisoners. Ingrid Betancourt, whose story is referenced in this piece, was one such person. The news of her release reached Belarus after the underground opening night of Discover Love, much to the joy of the Free Theatre members.

Anatoly Krasovksi ‘disappeared’ along with his friend Victor Gonchar, a high-profile political opponent of Alexander Lukashenko on 16 September 1999. Their bodies have never been found, nor have the bodies of Yuriy Zakharenko, Ex-Minister of Internal Affairs and Dmitriy Zavadskiy, a cameraman who recorded the participation of the Belarusian soldiers in Chechnya. The Council of Europe, the US State Department and Amnesty International are among the international bodies to have called on the Belarusian authorities to investigate these disappearances.

They might capture you at any time. When you’re at work, sleeping, walking down the street, doing your grocery shopping. Day or night. They might wear military or civilian clothes while taking you away, not giving you a reason or a warrant. They do not hesitate to use violence as they force you to come along. The officials deny knowing anything. It is as if you ceased to exist.

An enforced disappearance of a person is a grave human rights violation that has hurt tens of thousands of persons and their families. It creates victims all over the globe still today.

On August 30th the ICAED members appealed to heads of states across the globe to sign, ratify and implement the Convention against Enforced Disappearances.

Will the courage of our leaders appear?

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Howard Fishman

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Howard FishmanHoward Fishman is a composer, guitarist and bandleader who has headlined at many venues including The Blue Note, NJPAC and Joe’s Pub. His performances combine the exuberance and spontaneity of jazz with a storyteller’s sense of drama, emotional depth and play.

In this interview we talk with him about the beauty of live performance, the connection with his audience and his all-encompassing use of different genres of music.

Photo by Jack Vartoogian

 Interview: Howard Fishman [6:20m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download