Short plays, micro theaters and big ideas

by Joshua Humphrey • Mar. 4

News and notes |

Happy sequester, everyone! I know with that and the snowfall flurrying around as I type this that moods are sour, but if I remember my old grandmother's saying about March ("In with a sequester, out with an appropriations bill") we have nothing to worry about.

My grandmother is never wrong. I'm positive that Congress won't make her a liar.

So, your worries shorn with my grandmother's words, let us traipse on to news and notes.

The State of the Arts blog blogs on this report commissioned by the city of Minneapolis to study the local creative economy. We rank sixth in creative economies, which didn’t surprise me, but what did was the $430 million in revenue it generated – 70% of our sports sector revenues. That made me proud, but also sparked up my competitive side. How can we grow the arts community in Minneapolis/St. Paul and make it even stronger?

I'm holding onto that feeling because I think it's an important approach to take into Arts Advocacy Day on March 7th. This is a time set aside each year to convince our legislators that the arts should be supported, not only because they enrich people's lives, but also because they are an economic force unto themselves.

If you can't attend Arts Advocacy Day (I can't), I hope you'll set aside time this week for the arts, whether it's attending theater, deciding your bare living room walls could be improved with some local art, or even finally deciding to do that photography project you've been setting aside. I'm certain you can find something that can get you out and about and being an arts advocate.

And with the Walker Art Center laying off eight staffers, contract talks for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra still in process, and seemingly little movement in talks with the Minnesota Orchestra, there are still plenty of arts issues that need our attention.

Was the board of the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre right in firing its founder and artistic director, Andrew Paul? The board cites Paul's absence for part of the year as he commutes to and from Las Vegas as the major reason for the firing, but the relationship also seemed to be working as well as it had in previous years, and Paul was on the docket to direct four plays for the theater's season.

There are a couple pieces to this story that don't add up to me. I wonder why Paul was commuting from Las Vegas instead of finding work there or starting a new company, though starting from scratch with a theater company in Las Vegas doesn't seem like a fun job. And I don't know why the PICT board didn't give him more notice and let him work on the plays he was scheduled to direct.

The Devised Theatre
If you're interested in ensemble, or "devised" theatre, Steven Leigh Morris, writing for the Theatre Communications Group, attempts to pin down its ascent across the United States. No matter what you call it ("ensemble", "interdisciplinary", or "devised"), it's been gaining ground in the last decade and doesn't seem to be slowing down.

From the Twittersphere
John Lahr writes at length on the difference between reviewer and critic. This came to me via HowlRound editor Polly Carl; as she mentions in her tweets, Lahr has "a good point or two but the tone is what isolates theater from a wider audience." This in particular struck me:

"The job of the critic is to join that conversation, to explore the play and link it to the world. The job of the reviewer is to link the play to the box office."

What I took away is mainly questions on how we can think of criticism differently, beyond the function of a review. Questions that have been bonking around in my skull for a long time: What tools do artists have for improvement? When is an outside eye required? How do we fix something that is wrong if we can't recognize it? How do we leave something well-enough alone that is working but someone thinks is a failure?

These are important to me, but finding satisfying answers to them (if answers can indeed be found) has so far been an elusive undertaking.

Spain - Microtheatre for Money
Small theaters are springing up in Spain as performers deal with limited public funds. I don’t know if all this work is of high quality, but I think it is fascinating that Spaniards are finding ways around 1) fund shortages and 2) government regulations surrounding theatres, allowing them to produce work to sold-out audiences (even if those audiences are composed of only a couple dozen people at a time).

Sympathy for the Understudy
I remember this past summer when I went to the Public Dreams Theatre's outdoor production in Matthews Park of The Tempest, where Andrew Troth was playing Gonzalo. A cast member was ill and he was filling in, script in hand. And largely, the audience was fine with it – they understood there was an extenuating circumstance. I was cheering for Andrew too as he gave a great performance on short notice. These feelings toward replacements or understudies seems to be the general trend, but some productions never quite recover when an actor fully leaves the production, is replaced, or dies.

Remember, Remember, This Skit From...July 2012?
I hope you were paying attention to last week's Upright Citizen's Brigade talk in the blog, because you'll likely find this skit by UCB "assigned teammates and best friends" Neighbor Boy much funnier if you did.

Recovering RENThead
Yeah, I’m a bit of one. Here are 35 signs you might be one too. I believe I did a piece based on #29 in college, which is slightly less embarrassing than the college dance piece I choreographed to the opening theme of Chrono Cross.


That's it from me this week folks, but one final item: no less than 5 people mentioned to me in the last week Mixed Blood's participation in the One Minute Play Festival. They are getting the word out as hard as possible, and tonight is the last night to catch it. A smörgåsbord of local talent, all in one place.

More about the OMPF can be found here, and hopefully we'll be seeing more events from them in the future.

See you next week!