The Digest: April 13, 2011

The cast and crew of "L'Effet de Serge" with their "zombie visas," photo courtesy of On the Boards.

Money Money Money: As I’ve mentioned before, I’m sick and tired of Big Ideas demonstrating what a Serious Person you are in terms of lobbing arts sector bombs talking about this or that on the financial side, proposing ineffective, unenforceable plans about how to make things better or save the arts (as though saving isn’t really just a resistance to change, anyway). So it was nice over the last week to encounter a series of more philosophical responses. Seattle-based playwright Paul Mullin (a must-read in the theater world, up there with Parabasis) has a great essay up called “Money Isn’t Everything…or Anything,” in which, rather than bombastically attacking anything, he subtly goes for jugular nonetheless, exploring the relationship of art to money, and offers a rather beautiful defense of theater as an amateur endeavor if that’s what’s required.

“All art is a conversation—theatre doubly so.  If my former friend is telling me I can only hold a conversation with the upper middle class of the Western World circa early 21st century I am obliged to either politely ignore him, or firmly insist he go fuck himself,” he writes, adding: “Yours is the territory you refuse to surrender.” Well worth keeping in mind more often.

Then, over at HowlRound, Polly Carl has a great piece on the idea of “gifts,” and the power of art within the social framework of gift moments. There’s some cross-over with Andy’s essay here on art as a gift economy, and both are also well worth reading.

Update on France’s Vivarium Studio: Two weeks ago we broke the story that, due to visa issues, L’Effet de Serge, a well-loved piece of theater from France’s Vivarium Studios, would potentially have to cancel their upcoming performance at Seattle’s On the Boards. Privately, I was told that the decision to cancel had already been made and the theater was just waiting to announce after the weekend. It was a surprising piece of news given that the show has already played the US on more than one occasion, including the 2010 Under the Radar Festival, and Vivarium Studios has toured other shows previously. The good news is, due to outcry and the intervention of one of Washington’s US Senators and Representatives, the visa rejection was overturned at the last minute, and the show will go up on schedule. I certainly wouldn’t presume to take any credit, as, you know, that probably goes to the state’s elected representatives, but I know that some readers took the time to write in to the addresses I provided. And indeed, it appears that ultimately Mr. Alejandro Mayorkas stepped in to help deal with situation, so to all the readers who wrote in, as well as the bloggers who helped pick up the story (Parabasis, Infinite Body, Contemporary Performance), give all yourselves a pat on the back.

Waking Up: The Brits are all a-twitter over The Independent‘s theater critic Paul Taylor falling asleep and snoring loudly during a performance. The Guardian‘s theater blog has the story, and it’s an amusing read. But I only mention it in passing, because what I really want to point readers to is Claudia La Rocco’s fascinating essay-lecture in the current issue of the Brooklyn Rail, “Some Thoughts, Possibly Related, on Time, Criticism, and the Nature of Consciousness.” I mention the sleeping issue in tandem because sleeping at the theater also comes up in La Rocco’s piece, but it’s so much more–a lovely, free associative, fragmentary exploration of ideas that says less than it asks. I have nothing to add, but be sure to check it out.

Odds & Ends: Keith Hennesy talking about Joseph Beuys and Crotch in Berlin – Kansas loses their only modern dance company – one of London’s most praised pub-theaters is shut down over stairway concerns – Belarus Free Theater is back in the news (UK) and onstage (NYC) – Bellyflop tallies up the Place Prize winners in London – a Beijing modern dance company tries to teach the Chinese it’s not all just pretty ladies – Ben Brantley defends feel-bad theater – dancer/choreographer Catherine Cabeen on drag performance and Richard Move’s Martha@

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