Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Why waste years of your life when you can learn everything you need to know about acting through the magic of the internet? From James Franco.  And his little brother.  These are mostly film-specific, but really hilarious.  Enjoy.

The Clichés Keep Coming

The newest is up at The New Colony.  It has come to my attention that my abbreviation 'CW' has already been taken by a remarkably different cultural forum, so I'll go back to calling it by its big-boy name.

Audience Participation, Cont'd

Anne Nicholson Weber responded to my post at The New Colony about audience participation by suggesting I listen to another of her excellent interviews, this one with two members of 500 Clown. Money quote: “Oh, what I’m doing in the room matters.” This realization is, as it should be, the goal of the honest brand of audience participation employed by 500 Clown.

It really sounds great, and I’m sad I’ll have to wait until June to see them, though I’ve seen similar performances to what they describe. What I like about their conception of “audience participation” in their own performances is that it is utterly organic. A person sneezes and the show can stop and acknowledge that. People walk in late and that is a concrete fact to confront — this matters, and this is a kind of performative realism (separate from that theatrical realism) that is the part of the experience of live theater that we too often struggle to sweep under the rug in service of some silly trap we’ve built for ourselves. The fourth wall is a lie. I’m sorry.

Bonus Points: Also brought up in the interview is what an excellent example of “the clown” Stephen Colbert offered at his now infamous speech for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The best part of this is near the beginning when he looks right at the president and says “We both go from the gut. Right, Sir? That’s where the truth lies.” If only we could all remember the danger and the thrill and the guts of this confrontation in every production of King Lear for the next twenty years.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Audience Participation

The new CW is up at The New Colony.  It's on "Audience Participation," let me know what you think.


One interesting point raised by the promenade production interview here, is the possibility of changing points of view for an audience. To that end, Miranda had great idea the other night. One thing we don't do in theater that much is play with Points of View. A lot of plays, for a lot of reasons (some good, some indifferent), maintain a unity of location from start to finish. In cinema, for a lot of reasons (some good, some bad), this almost never flies. Certainly, only a particular kind of art film would ever keep the same camera angle throughout the whole project. I bet there's a way to incorporate this for the good in theater.

The first act is the living room as we expect it. Couch faces front, ottomans in place, a coffee table, whatever. The kitchen is off stage left, the porch is off stage left. In the second act the room is at an angle. The Kitchen is now sharply down stage left, even through the audience. The door to the porch is now Up Right, anticipating an entrance and the couch faces mainly down right. It is as though the audience in now looking through the kitchen door at the living room.

Why don’t we do this, and what could we gain from it? I think it’s worth trying.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Listen to this right now

An interview with Anne Nicholson Weber, Sean Graney and members of the cast of Edward II from last fall's production at Chicago Shakes.  The show was promenade style, and these are some interesting reflections on the ins and outs of making that production work, from director, actor and audience points of view.  Very interesting.  More on this soon.  Hear more interviews in the mean time here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Poem for Valentine's Day

Jenny Kissed Me

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

--Leigh Hunt

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The new cliché watch is up at the New Colony blog. 

Or is it? 


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Big Theaters

A loyal reader pointed out to me the other day how often I’ve been picking on the Goodman recently. Let me just say, I love the Goodman Theatre. When I went to see Ruined and A Christmas Carol was playing on the big stage next door, I was confronted with the amazing opportunity of Big Theaters – to reach a big audience and provide entertainment and art of the highest quality. I think we who aggressively support small theaters, the riskier work they do, and the intimacy they provide, too often forget that the true aim of all of this is just excellence. Nothing bigger or smaller than that. When we advocate for small theaters it is because we believe that they are excellent, but we can never be blind to the excellence available at bigger houses.

But when the theater is bad at big houses, boy, do we get to make fun. It reassures us that money is not a guarantee of excellence. It frees artists with less means from thinking of money as the missing piece. In fact, the danger of having too much money – and I really think this is the principal affliction of Hollywood movies – is that too much money permits lazy thinking. It’s what my dad would call playing tennis without a net. Restrictions are resources.

That said, money means a lot. Radio ads that make me feel like I’m being molested, or posters that are so airbrushed they look like a Snoop Dogg album cover are dumb. No way around it, and there’s no excuse. And when the resources of a big house are diddled into laziness and grandiosity, this is sad. I don’t believe that money necessarily makes a show bad, and also, obviously, money doesn’t make a show good. But money in the right hands, should help. At its best, the Goodman, like the other big houses in Chicago, shines as an example of this. At its worst, it should at least be mocked. And it will be.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Another Week, Another Cliché

Be sure to check out The New Colony Blog for the latest Cliché Watch.  Promised: polemic, Shakespeare, Peter Gabriel.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Manifestos, cont'd.

Here's one from Theater Oobleck.  I really love these guys, and not only because they have a manifesto--I even like what the manifesto says.  I made a passing reference to them in the last Cliché Watch and I just wanted to provide some more context for anyone who hasn't seen their work.  Amazingly, though my jab at the Odd Couple was totally random, their next play Strauss at Midnight promises to be a sort of fantasia on that play.  I look forward to seeing it.