Monday, December 14, 2009

PianoFight part of Bay One Acts Festival

For the Ninth year in a row Three Wise Monkeys is putting together its Bay One Acts (BOA) Festival running at Boxcar in February, and they just announced the line-up of playwrights, directors, and producing partners.

PianoFight's part of it, producing Sam Leichter's deliciously evil play "The Philadelphian," with Rob Ready directing. Essentially, BOA picks scripts and signs up companies to handle the production of each piece.

Interestingly enough, of the eleven playwrights selected for BOA, PianoFight has already produced four of them, and two of those at length. Megan Cohen, Lauren Yee, Bill Bivins and Daniel Heath, the former who each had pieces in the first ShortLived, and the latter who have each won ShortLived and subsequently had world premiere full lengths at PianoFight. Bloggotubing playwright buddy Tim Bauer's got a script in also, and our homies Sleepwalkers have a piece in the mix too.

Jessica Holt has taken over as AD of Three Wise Monkeys, and at pre-festival meetings (which have inexplicably been scheduled for the unholy hours of before noon on weekends), she has stressed the importance of community throughout the festival. While I'm not exactly certain how that plays out in terms of the fest (probably just means she wants us all to get loaded together), it helps that a bunch of us have already worked together (we've hosted two of the other producing companies, Playwrights Center and No Nude Men, for rehearsals at Off-Market).

Point is, BOA has gotten some pretty dope writers, directors, actors and companies on board for this and the 2010 line-up should be nothing short of killer with this level of talent collaborating. We're looking forward to it, especially that whole community part (read: drinking).

Friday, December 11, 2009

TBA Hops on the Change Bandwagon

The monthly issue of Theatre Bay Area magazine is a pretty great read. They do an extremely diligent job of covering the goings on in the local theater community -- giving career advice, recommending shows, chronicling personnel changes, and always keeping a piece or two about the actual creation of art.

In the December issue, TBA's marketing director Clayton Lord, who's been cool with having some pretty intense theater discussions on this blog and at TBA's Chatterbox blog, penned a piece titled "It's Time To Change the Sacred Cow," in his monthly Arts Marketing Trends column (I would link to it here, but TBA magazine does not have an online version).

He starts out by recounting his experience at the Project Audience marketing conference in Chicago at which he learned this:
"A full 30% share of the population ... are people who have negative associations with established arts, believe the arts aren't for them, don't see themselves being represented on stage, don't hold presentational art as a valuable part of their cultural makeup."
He goes on to say that even the best marketing on the planet is probably not going to get these people out to the theater:
"You can't simply cloak the current product in new clothing. You have to change the fundamental product ... Put another way, arts institutions exist to deliver art that matters to the people. If the people change, if the work we choose to produce is no longer reflecting their thoughts, feelings, needs accurately, if they don't have the desire to take part because they can't see why what we're doing matters to them, then in a way we are failing as organizations dedicated to the cultural growth of humanity."
Bingo.

While I'm glad that Clay and presumably TBA have signed on to this way of thinking, there are number of things that are just really frustrating about it.

1) We've been saying this for the past three years, and lots of other folks have been saying this for a lot longer (Brendan Kiley, Mike Daisy, Matthew Quinn etc)

2) This was one of the big arguments against Free Night of Theater -- giving the product away does not solve the problem of nobody wanting the product in the first place

3) It took flying to Chicago and attending this giant conference which pointed to some extremely expensive study which drew an incredibly obvious conclusion (people don't connect with shit that is not relevant to their lives) to prompt this realization

4) The final paragraph of Clay's article:
"At Theatre Bay Area, we believe that the performing arts are an essential public good, invaluable as a source of personal enrichment and growth. As a service organization, we have the relative luxury to think about the long-term in a way that is often difficult for individual organizations concerned with filling seats for a show this Saturday. We can show these trends, reference these studies and say something has to change. But we cannot make the change ourselves; that power sits with you."
And here, oddly enough, I agree with Clay. The power to change theater does rest on the backs of practitioners, and many of us have already been doing this. But as a service organization, how is this realization, that theater needs to change fundamentally, going to effect the policies and programs TBA provides?

Will TBA decide to stop spending huge wads of cash on these studies and conferences which essentially tell us what we all already know when the money could be better spent going to the actual creation of art?

If marketing is not the answer, will TBA continue to run the two week marketing program which costs a colossal $500,000 called Free Night of Theater?

Will TBA take an official stand on alcohol in theater, and help smaller companies get liquor licenses so they can increase revenue?

Again, I'm thrilled that one of the largest theater service organizations in the country is now on board with the fact that there are some massive, difficult to handle issues facing the industry. The question is, what are they going to do about it?

Thanks for Reading,

-CB

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Send Jesse Fernandez to Aspen

Our friend Jesse Fernandez of Things We Made is a featured filmmaker in the National College Comedy Competition, and if he gets enough votes on this video below, the competition will, for some totally absurd reason, actually fly Jesse out to Aspen for the finals.

You can vote for Jesse's video here. Apparently he lost last year's competition by like 10 votes, so if you've got a second, vote for this sucker and send Jesse to Aspen (we're pretty sick of him in SF).

Check it:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Promo Video for PF's December Line-Up

"One Shot" - Starring Logan Andrews, Eric Reid and Nicole Hammersla.

Written by Rob Ready. Directed by Rand Courtney. MC'd by Eminem. HD'd by Science.

One Shot from rand courtney on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Artists Playing/Learning

The following are some test shots from director Rand Courtney featuring Logan Andrews playing with his new HD camera -- always cool to watch artists messing around and playing with new toys. This HD shit looks ridiculous:





Snoopy and the Red Barron

A status update from playwright Allison Davis twigged some camp song memories. Here's the vid, enjoy:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Heart Chinatown

I live in Chinatown right across the street from Woh Hei Yuen Park.




I also smoke cigarettes which means I spend an inordinate amount of time on my fire escape, which, incidentally, has a fantastic view of the park.

Usually, there is a group of older people practicing Tai Chi with frickin swords:



It is awesome. And this morning, even better, there was a group of ladies doing what appeared to be the Macarena to traditional Chinese music.

Like I said, I totally heart Chinatown.

"50 Years Hungry" by D. Heath

I caught Daniel Heath's Fifty Years Hungry as a staged reading part of The Best of Playground festival earlier this year.

The Aurora Theater in Berkeley also staged a reading of the play just last week I think and by all accounts it went off great.

Fifty Years Hungry is Heath's first full length drama, commissioned by Playground in 2009, and he wrote it just after completing his first full length comedic show, FORKING! which PianoFight premiered in SF for a month and moved to Theater Asylum in Hollywood with the help of Combined Artform.

The two plays could not be more different. It's staggering. FORKING! is a hooping and hollering audience driven riot while Fifty Years Hungry is a razor sharp deconstruction of family and funerals full of dark wit. What's truly amazing is how good both of these shows are, and Heath's apparent ability to write high caliber work for whatever audience will be seeing it.

I hope the Aurora picks it up, cause Hungry is perfect for that community (feel free to email the Aurora at general@auroratheatre.org and lustily voice your need to see Fifty Years Hungry fully produced on their stage). And if they foolishly pass on the script, there are always a few stages at Off-Market.

Speaking of, if you'd like to catch another of Daniel's fully scripted plays in which the audience decides the ending, A Merry FORKING Christmas, premieres at Off-Market on December 15th, and runs like crazy through the holidays (more info coming soon).

And The Most Produced Local Playwright Is ...

UPDATE - 11/12:
Bivins just landed another world premiere for this season. See below for the complete list, but this February, PianoFight will premiere "The Position," the show we commissioned Bill to write after winning our playwriting competition "ShortLived 2.0."

Also in February, SF Playhouse will premiere Bivins' "The Apotheosis of Pig Husbandry" as the inaugural show in their "Sand Box Series" of new plays.

That brings my count to four world premiere full-lengths and another world premiere one-act.

Two excellent aspects of this: 1) Couldn't happen to a nicer, more talented or professional guy than Bill, and 2) It's evidence of new work making a bit of comeback in the SF Scene.

- CB

# # #

And the Most Produced Local Playwright Is ...


Bill Bivins.

I'm not actually sure if this is factually accurate, but allow me to present my case:

"The Afterlife of the Mind" - premieres at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley tonight and moves to Stage Werx in November.

"The Apotheosis of Pig Husbandry" - Part of the SF Playhouse reading series this year.

"Pulp Scripture" - Premiered at Fringe and is moving to Off-Market in November (it also won more awards than any other show at the Fringe)

"The Position" - No links up on this yet but this full-length (slated to premiere at Off-Market in February) was commissioned by PianoFight after Bill won our playwriting contest ShortLived 2.0

Also, insider info has it that he's probably getting into the Bay Area One Acts Festival in February.

So I guess this is the question I'm posing to the SF Theater Community: Is there another local playwright who has this number of productions in the current season?

If not, Bill Bivins is hands down the most produced local playwright of the 2009-2010 season.

Congrats Bill!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Night ForePlays - How It Came To Be

The following is a non-fictional video, a documentary if you will, directed by Rand Courtney, on how PianoFight decided to produce Monday Night ForePlays:



Monday Night ForePlays opens tonight at 8:00pm at Off-Market, and runs each Monday through Nov 23.

More Info

Tickets

Become a fan of PianoFight on Facebook for $5 off your ticket

Friday, October 30, 2009

SF Filmmaker Jenn Dorn Rocks Videotron

A friend of PianoFight's from WAY back in the day, local kick-ass filmmaker Jenn Dorn has been coming up aces lately with project after project of extremely solid work. Below, check out her video for Sleepy Sun:



And in honor of Halloween, here's some more kick-ass J-Do video ... of Zombies:




Word on the street is that Jenn also managed to land the next Dodos video (which is dope because those cats are hella awesome).

We'll post the Dodos vid as soon as it's done, and in the mean time, check out some mo J-Do!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Things We Made's Jesse Fernandez's Kick Ass Cartoon

Jesse Fernandez of local sketch/stand-up comedy group Things We Made has got a pretty sweet video in Roof Top Comedy's National College Funny Film Competition -- check it out (below) and vote for Jesse here.



ADDING: Things We Made also runs a weekly live show called Thursdays We Made every Thursday night at 10pm at the Dark Room and one big Saturday show each month, the next one happening Saturday, Nov 21 at 10pm at the Dark Room.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Arts Journal Covers Throw Rotten Veggies Nights

A respectable Arts blog covering PianoFight? It's true, and that blog is Arts Journal. Check it out for the story of how Throw Rotten Veggies Nights came to be, and thanks to head critic at SF Weekly Chloe Veltman for picking this up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Throw Rotten Veggies Nights Video

For anyone who missed it or couldn't get into the sold out shows, here's a video shot and edited by Rand Courtney of PianoFight's inaugural Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Nights, part of the world premiere run of SHIT Show Deluxe.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Short Scene on an Agent Audition

[The following is an email I got from good buddy (and pompous D-Bag) Rob Ready, AD at PianoFight, and I thought you bloggotubey folks would enjoy]

CONTEXT: I had been taking a Commercial Audition class which also set students up on auditions with commercial agents. It was a great class, I learned tons about auditioning, specifically that I HATED reading those commercials. I felt awkward whenever I read some quirky monologue about peanut butter or Dorritos, so my buddy Ahmed and I wrote our own commercial and I auditioned with that.

SCENE: Agents Office. AGENT is behind desk. ROB enters.

ROB (extending his hand)
Hi, I'm Rob Ready!

AGENT (not looking up or extending hand)
Hi.

ROB (pulling his hand back slowly)
It's nice to meet you.

AGENT
You ready?

ROB
I was born Ready.

AGENT (finally looks up, is not amused)
Go ahead.



ROB
Are you tired of waiting around all week for Communion? Then, when the time finally comes, having some old guy just stuff it in your mouth? Well not to worry because new, from the makers of Holy Water and communion wine, in conjunction with the producers of America’s most beloved cracker, Cheesits, comes the new communion wafer, Jeesits. Pre-blessed by Pope John Paul Eisengoldbergstein III, these crunchy communion crackers will cleanse both your palate and your soul; Jeesits, delicious as sin, with an after taste of absolution.

AGENT
I'm Catholic



(BLACKOUT)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Pal Ahmed Killing at Stand-Up

Our buddy Ahmed kicking butt on the stage ...



Way to go buddy!

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Brief Note On Calendar Editors

Running publicity for anything means constantly pestering calendar editors, feature writers and event websites to get your show listed, recommended or written about.

I often wonder if Calendar Editors ever feel like the only adult at a kids' birthday party constantly being pestered by every child in attendance to "Look at meeeeee!" "Watch thiiiiisssss!" etc.

So I guess the question for publicists or artists promoting their own work is, if you were a child at that birthday party, how would you get the grown-up's attention?

Possible Answers:

1) Feign Injury -- in the theater world this could be as simple as the tried and tested fund raising drive titled "IF WE DON"T RAISE A BILLION DOLLARS BY TUESDAY WE'RE TOTALLY F-ED IN THE A!! FML!!!!"

2) Fight the Bully -- Bully's suck, and if you're feeling an overwhelming desire to sock said bully in the mouth, turns out, this is a great way to get attention. The rough theater equivalent is: "Gay theater 'secedes' from California"

3) Do Something Totally Awesome -- At a birthday party, blindfoldedly stepping up to the pinata and smacking the shit out of it on the first try would seriuosly wow any dad who moonlights as a Tee-Ball coach. In theater, it would go something like this: "PianoFight's SHIT Show Deluxe in Cross Hairs of Rotten Veggie Hurling Audiences"

The nice thing here is that we should be able to judge this theory rather easily based on the number of listings, write-ups and reviews SHIT Show Deluxe receives. My bet is that we've got some Little League coaches moonlighting as Calendar Editors who will be thoroughly impressed by Actor 1 perfectly fielding a high fly tomato to deep center stage.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tix Booth in Union Square Needs a Sign

I walked through Union Square this morning and couldn't stop myself from glancing over at our city's venerable half price tickets bastion, Tix Booth. First and foremost, this is a solid operation that usually swings PianoFight somewhere between 5 and 12 tickets each night we perform. The staff is competent and courteous, and doesn't mind if you stand around in front with flyers hawking your show to the tourists.



Looks nice right? However, I couldn't help but notice that if you didn't already know it was there, you wouldn't have a clue that this establishment even existed. It might be the most poorly marked/signed business in the city.



In case you can't see it, it's smack dab in the center of that photo, just below the St. Francis Hotel.

This is a far cry from its East Coast cousin, TKTS in Times Square.



The signage there is no comparison. I remember the first time I saw Times Square, and those giant red letters really do jump out. The only thing is, the City of New York did theater one better, by turning the collection of trailers and tents that used to house TKTS, into this:



Here's another view of it:



Freakin awesome right? Now listen, I'm not saying that the City of San Francisco needs to rush out and build a giant light-up staircase in the middle of the most heavily trafficked block in the city, but don't you think a big, brightly colored sign with the words "THEATER" and "TICKETS" written in large, friendly letters would be a serious boon to the local theater scene?

Raelle Myrick-Hodges of Brava! For Women in the Arts, lamented in a recent interview that there was no centralized theater community in the Bay Area. While I do agree with the comment, I have a nagging feeling that it's a utopian pipe-dream. However, a nice, big sign in the heart of downtown, showing how proud this city is of its art scene, might be a good start to centralizing that community.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Daily Californian Sums Up State of Bay Area Theater

Finally, an article on the state of theater that is actually positive:

In a time when businesses in many industries are closing their doors, theater companies in the Bay Area continue to operate in full force.


Many thanks to Arielle Little for taking the time to interview a load of companies (including PianoFight) and make an objective judgment on the community as it stands. It's a far cry from other Bay Area media outlets, who appear to believe theater is headed straight down the toilet.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Explaining the "Model"

A few weeks ago we put out a press release detailing how Combined Artform and PianoFight are expanding their theater management duties in both LA and SF, which prompted local playwright and all around theater blogger Tim Bauer to ask this:

"I'd like to know more about the "for-profit, non-government aided" model. I suspect that's the wave of the future, and would free you up from writing grants and producing the kind of work that you may not want to do but that will sound good to a funder. How's it work and can you share the model with other artists who might want to follow your path? Thanks!"


I can't really speak for Combined Artform here, and to be honest, we're still figuring out what PianoFight's business model is going to be. And I don't really think that our "model" is too different from what most artists do on their own, we've just applied it to a company, but here goes:

1) Produce your own work out of pocket

2) Keep producing until your work is making enough money to pay for itself (ie, you're no longer funding it out of pocket)

3) Keep on producing your own work until it's paying you a living wage

Right now, we're somewhere between steps two and three.

Our basic thinking was that if we get behind something, in this case PianoFight, and work collectively to promote the company as opposed to an individual promoting him or herself, the whole thing would gain traction much quicker with multiple people avidly working towards its success.

PianoFight, thanks to Matthew Quinn, picked up management duties of Studio 250 at Off-Market in 2007, and over the course of the first year a community started to form around the company and venue. We then registered PianoFight as an LLC (which is cheap and easy to do), and had to pay an $800 tax for our first registered year in business in 2008 (which was neither cheap nor easy to do). 2009 marked the first time that anyone in PianoFight received a paycheck (the SF run of FORKING!).

The checks were small considering the amount of work that went into FORKING!, but everyone was paid equally (from the producer to the light/sound tech to the actors), with the idea that over time, as our audience grows and sales increase and the company's other revenue streams begin to grow (theater rentals, merch etc), that those paychecks will get bigger each time we issue them, and eventually it will be a living wage supporting everyone involved.

As I said above, we're somewhere between steps two and three, and we're still figuring this model out. What's liberating about the for-profit model is the freedom it provides to do whatever the hell you want, and change a plan of attack on the fly.

Example: in March of 2008, we expected to have a renter in Studio 250 from April through June, however, a week into March, the renter decided to go to another space. PianoFight was left with a three month hole to fill, and after a few bull session sitting around the theater, we came up with ShortLived, our annual audience judged playwriting competition, which went on to be PianoFight's highest grossing and attention getting production. ShortLived 3 (in 2010), will run concurrently in LA and SF. Because the company has not been beholden to funders or a board, we've had the opportunity to move quickly and without reproach, and learn along the way what works and what doesn't.

I hope that answers your question, Tim, and as I said before, I imagine our "model" is not far from what artists do on their own produce their work til it pays while making career moves which continually provide opportunities to have your work paid for.

If anyone wants to read more about Tim, he's got a great blog, Direct Address, in which he discusses all thing Theater-y and manges to not come across as a cantankerous old-fart like I do.

Tim's also got a show coming up in October, "Zombie Town," which is being produced by Sleepwalkers in October.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Producing "I Heart Hamas"




It's not easy picking shows. What should be produced and why are difficult questions to answer. Those two questions usually translate out into these two:

1) Will it be a good show?

and

2) Will it sell tickets?

About a month ago, as Combined Artform and PianoFight were getting ready to announce the latest venue addition to the SF Solo Scene, Stage 205 at Off-Market, we were approached by Jennifer Jajeh about a potential run of her solo show, "I Heart Hamas."

Matthew Quinn, Dan Williams and I asked the two questions above and signed on as producers of the show before reading or seeing it, based largely on two factors:

1) The people involved (Jennifer Jajeh, writer and star; and Kamau Bell, director and collaborator)

and

2) The title, "I Heart Hamas"

We've known and worked with Jennifer for a couple years now, and have enjoyed and admired Kamau's work for some time as well (both are consummate pros and all around cool people), so it seemed a no-brainer that the two together would cook up a pretty kickin' product.

The question of ticket sales remains, but clearly, we're betting sales will be great, and here's why:

1) The, to say the least, intriguing title, will catch the eye of press and public alike

2) Running the show alongside Brian Copeland's venerable "Not a Genuine Black Man" (premiering on Stage 205 on Fri and Sat evenings Starting Sept. 18) will fuel sales for both shows

and most importantly,

3) Having had the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal run of the show, I can say confidently that the product will be nothing short of what we anticipated - excellent

Whatever you think the title reveals about the show itself, "I Heart Hamas" does not come down hard on any one side or specific issue, rather, through Jennifer's recounting of her life experience, it explores how someone fairly removed from the situation can easily get caught up in the frenzy while poking fun at the process along the way.

So, will the show sell crazy tickets? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. But I know that the people who do buy tickets will be in for a relatable, entertaining and thought provoking night. And hopefully, those people will tell their friends.

And they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends ...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Will TBA Help Change Alcohol License Requirements in SF?

Following up on a couple of recent comments (below):

"There's a reason Chicago has a storefront theatre on every other block: the city gives them liquor licenses." - Dan Wilson

"Small theaters need any income that they can get, and this under table/BYOB shit is getting tiresome. I agree with Matthew that any help that TBA can provide in reforming SF's horribly anti-art cabaret laws would be huge step in the right direction. If we want to attract young audiences, allowing beer/wine into at the theater is an absolute requirement." - Sam Shaw

"If we can present as a collective the needs of the shows, venues and address the city and alcohol board we can find a plan to allow beer and wine to be sold legally, making money for all and making the audience happy ... I would love to talk to TBA and whomever else as well about making this possible in San Francisco." - Matthew Quinn

Now, you may be asking, why are these licenses so complicated to get? In fact, the licenses themselves are not all that difficult to procure, the problem lies in the restrictions and requirements the licenses place on the venue.

The most commonly issued liquor licenses are the following:

Type 47, On-Sale General - Eating Place (Restaurant) -- Authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits for consumption on the licenses premises. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine for consumption off the licenses premises. Must operate and maintain the licensed premises as a bona fide eating place. Must maintain suitable kitchen facilities, and must make actual and substantial sales of meals for consumption on the premises. Minors are allowed on the premises.

Type 48, On-Sale General - Public Premises (Bar, Night Club) -- Authorizes the sale of beer, wine and distilled spirits for consumption on the premises where sold. Authorizes the sale of beer and wine for consumption off the premises where sold. Minors are not allowed to enter and remain (see Section 25663.5 for exception, musicians). Food service is not required.


The basic problem is this: Because most small theaters don't serve food (cooked on the premises), the only way to legally serve alcohol at the venue is to ban minors from the premises. (You can download a PDF of all California alcohol license types here) The other annoying thing is that each of these cost $476.00.

Now, if you want to get super specific, what actually needs to be changed, modified, or needs some kind of local exemption added to it, is Section 23038.1 of the ABC Act.

Basically we need to redefine what the government considers a "theater" and remove the clause which stipulates theaters must have a "bona fide eating place" which serves food at least %25 of the year.

The big question is, and one that was posed by Matthew Quinn in his comments above, would TBA be willing to help modify the law for the betterment of small theaters? And if not, do we, collectively (meaning the small theater operators), have the drive and follow through to do it ourselves?

To be totally honest, and this is where an organization like TBA would be a big help, I am really not sure what to do next or who to talk to about this. Do we go straight to ABC and start asking questions? Do we need a lawyer? Do we have to convince a member of the SF Board of Supervisors to support us and put the issue to vote at a Board meeting? Again, I don't know, but a group with the clout, connections and resources of TBA leading the charge would go a long way to solving this problem.

Monday, August 10, 2009

TBA's Sabrina Lazarus Wants To Ban Alcohol In Theaters - I Don't

First of all, and I want to make this absolutely clear, I believe there is plenty of room in the market for all types of theater, audiences, plays, shows, acts, sets, production value, talent etc. Theater is whatever you want it to be. There are no rules. There is no status quo. It is what you make it.

Last week, Sabrina Lazarus, a marketing person at TBA, put out a post titled, "Why I'm Glad We Don't Live in Shakespearean England (Or Modern-Day England, For That Matter)," in which, she quoted me ... the following is my response:

(WARNING: this will be an in-depth response, quoting Ms. Lazarus, offering plenty of good natured teasing and some honest rebuttals)

I'll start where everyone starts, the title of your piece, "Why I'm Glad We Don't Live in Shakespearean England (Or Modern-Day England, For That Matter)". Sabrina, why do you hate the British? I mean, I know that whole taxation without representation thing was bad and all, but now those Limeys have given the world things like "The Office" and the ever endearing David Milliband. Really, they're not that bad, and I'm sure you'd love the English countryside in the spring.

Your prompt for writing was the piece in the Times Online about positively rowdy and, occasionally, randy behavior at theaters in London. The Times article can be found here, while Ms. Lazarus' response can be found here. The rest of this post will consist of quotes from Ms. Lazarus and my rebuttal to those quotes.

On to the quoting:

"Personally, I don't think it makes any sense to allow alcohol into a theatre."


Or anywhere else for that matter, especially bars, restaurants, private homes, concerts, family dinners, football games, office Christmas parties or fishing trips.

"I don't see people chugging beers at the movies."


Go to a movie theater in Europe or Canada, there are lots of theaters that sell beer and wine. There's a movie theater in Athens, Georgia, whose claim to fame is that they sell alcohol, and allow you to brown bag it and smoke in the theater. Go to any movie theater at 9pm on a Friday and closely watch the underage patrons ... you'll find beer chugging is not all that rare.

"Once upon a time it was the norm for all food and drink to be banned during performance."


Really, when? Prohibition? The Reformation? The first performance of Cirque du Soleil? To put it into perspective, alcohol isn't even banned from Church - Jesus loved the stuff he turned water into wine to the delight of the masses.

"You can eat at the movies, but only because the sound is cranked up to a level where chewing isn't going to bother anyone too much. In live theatre, ear-splitting sound would be distracting and take away from the show."


I have eaten meals with many, many people, but never have my ears been deafened from the sound of one's chewing ... I'm just sayin'.

"I'm sure it's not just the poor folk being disrespectful."


But, to be clear, some of the "poor folk" are clearly being disrespectful?

"And I'm sure there are many who can't afford high ticket prices who are sitting completely respectfully, enjoying performances in a more mature way."


This is where you lose me, Sabrina, because, to me, it sounds like if I don't enjoy a performance in a fashion that you deem "respectful," I am somehow immature. Different strokes, for different folks, Ms. Lazarus.

"Back in Shakespeare's time ... being an actor was no better than being a prostitute ... so rude behavior in the theatre made just a bit more sense."


What about back in Thespis' time, when actors were priests conducting religious rituals honoring Dionysus, the god of wine, the "inspirer of ritual madness and ecstasy." Was wine banned back then? Or was there only a ban on overtly loud cheering? Or did they ban fornicating? Your above point would hold up far better if the questions I just posed were rhetorical, unfortunately, those questions have very real answers. Drinking, cheering and fornicating were all encouraged and the "actors" were some of the most respected members of the community.

You then go on to quote me and posit your solution to the "problem" in the West End - ban alcohol, and closely monitor the sobriety of patrons.

In all honestly, Ms. Lazarus, I am astounded by your "solution." As I said at the top of this post, there is plenty of room in the market to satisfy every potential ticket buyer's interest. If that interest just so happens to be a "respectful" and "mature" audience experience, great, there are many venues which are happy to oblige. If, however, that ticket buyer's interest lies in a rowdy and raucous evening, there need to be venues which can supply that as well. If those interests are somewhere in between, guess what, there are even more venues which will be suitable.

Banning alcohol from all theaters is not only bad business, but reveals an amazingly myopic view of what Theater should be. While the experience you want to take away from a night at the theater may well line up with the wishes of a majority of current theatergoers, who's to say that the majority of the public (which, mind you, does not attend any type of theater on any regular basis, but does consume alcohol on a regular basis) is also interested in that same experience? Furthermore, banning alcohol punishes anyone who enjoys a glass of wine during a show but does not feel compelled to relieve themselves on the stage, ie, responsible drinkers (the majority of drinkers). Who's to say that if venues began banning alcohol, this subset of patrons wouldn't decide to instead head to a bar for some music, and, of course, drinks? Not to mention, for small theaters, alcohol sales in one evening can easily pay someone to run box office and concessions while still kicking money back to the venue or production.

I will also point out here, that while there are extreme examples of rowdy behavior cited in the Times article, London theater in the past six months is having a record year, despite the worldwide economic downturn. "Figures released by the Society of London Theaters (SOLT) for the first six months of 2009 (Jan. 1-July 18) show attendance up 2.5% and box office receipts up 3.5% over the same period last year."

Banning alcohol is not the answer. It's reactionary, bad for business, and limits what one can experience at a theater. As a representative of Theatre Bay Area, and by proxy the San Francisco theater community as a whole, I'd advise you use more discretion before labeling what is and is not "respectful" or "mature," and especially before doling out advice which could very well be detrimental to the community at large.

I look forward to your response.

Respectfully,

-Carl Benson

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Casting Connection Interviews PianoFIght's SHIT Show


Ray Hobbs, Devin McNulty and Duncan Wold, producers of PianoFight's touring sketch comedy act, "The SHIT Show," shot the bull around with Casting Connection's Molly Craft in her radio show The Production Office for about an hour today, in advance of the premiere of "SHIT Show V: A Laugh 'N A Half" which runs Fri & Sat nights at 8:00pm, July 31 - August 15 (Get SHIT tickets here).

Highlights:

- Devin gets totally shot down by Molly after an awkward story about sleeping ass-to-ass with Ray

- A fan of the SHIT Show phones in to ask about upcoming performances and SHIT Producers are baffled by the fact that an actual human actually follows their work

- Duncan announces PianoFight's plan to run "Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Night" in October during SHIT Show Deluxe as a response to TBA's "Free Night of Theater" (more to come on this in August)

The interview in full:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

S.H.I.T. Show V - Promo Video

Kick ass promo video for "The Stop Hating Imagination Time Show V: A Laugh 'N A Half" - limited world premiere run Fri and Sat nights at 8:00pm, July 31 - August 15.



TICKETS - TICKETS - TICKETS - TICKETS

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Combined Artform and PianoFight Buck Recession - Getting Stronger


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – July 21, 2009 – As the recession looms and hundreds of theater companies receive government stimulus money (the NEA’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants), Combined Artform and PianoFight, two for profit, non-government aided companies, are expanding in both Los Angeles and San Francisco while building a theatrical pipeline between both cities.

In San Francisco, Combined Artform and PianoFight will be managing all of Off-Market Theaters, including two theaters (54 and 65 seat black boxes) and a large rehearsal room as of September 1, 2009. And in Los Angeles, Combined Artform will add the 45 seat Theater Lab to its management duties in September along with the 80 seat Theater Asylum it has been running since July of 2007.

Starting in 2006, Combined Artform began bringing shows up from LA (PAPA and Eavesdropper.) Joined by PianoFight in 2007, both companies have actively worked to send shows between the two cities with wildly successful bi-city runs of FORKING!, ShortLived, The Stop Hating Imagination Time Show and Tilted Frame (currently running in both cities). Plans are being made for future development of this pipeline, including solo performance.

It is the goal of Combined Artform and PianoFight to leverage the multiple spaces in both cities to bring these two great theater communities closer together. As theaters across the country shutter their doors, and companies cut back on budgets and season lengths, Combined Artform and PianoFight are thriving while using an unusual business model in theater – the for-profit company.



About Combined Artform (Formerly-C.A.F.E.- Combined Art Form Entertainment)

Founded in 1998, is on a mission to develop and combine all art forms to pioneer the “arts of the future,” as well as be an active and supporting member of the San Francisco and now Los Angeles performance production scene. Created by Producing Artistic Director Matthew Quinn, and joined by Steve Kahn in 1999, Combined Artform has collaborated with actors, singers, filmmakers, sketch comedy groups, musicians, improvisers, and fine artists in more than 100 shows, including Santaland Diaries, Eavesdropper (SF), Improv Jam, PAPA (at the Eureka w/Open Fist), Tilted Frame – SF & LA and the SF Solo Festival, Shortlived and FORKING. www.combinedartform.com

PianoFight Productions began in July of 2007 when Dan Williams and Rob Ready formed the company with the simple goal of producing new work by new artists. In its short existence, PianoFight has created such critically acclaimed hits as ShortLived, FORKING!, and The S.H.I.T. Show (all of which have had runs in LA) as well as taken over management of a theater (Studio 250 @ Off-Market), developed a website and blog with hours and pages of original content, and produced a recurring webseries (iN PRODUCTiON) and short film. For more info, please visit www.pianofight.com

Press Contacts:

Matthew Quinn – Combined Artform – Tel: (415 )336-0513 – mquinn@cafearts.com

Rob Ready – PianoFight – Tel: (917) 363-9646 – rob@pianofight.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

PianoFight on Blog Talk Radio Today - Call In!


PianoFight's Rob Ready, Eric Reid and Dan Williams were interviewed on Casting Connection's Blog Talk Radio with Molly Craft (7/7/09) about The Theatertron. Friends and fans called in to chat (make fun of us) and have a high minded debate on theatrical theory (continue to make fun of us).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Matthew Quinn's Cost Break Down of "Free Night"

After a lively debate on the blogotubes over the last few weeks, hopping around multiple blogs, lots of individual posts, and even more comments, we offered Combined Artform's Matthew Quinn some space to give his unvarnished thoughts on Theatre Bay Area's "Free Night," in order to condense a thread from four different sites and sum up the numbers - he graciously accepted. Below is a quick summary of the conversation to date followed by Quinn's post.

SUMMARY:

May 17: Radiostar interviews PianoFight on current state of theater, discuss Theatre Bay Area's "Free Night of Theater" program

June 9: Theatre Bay Area (TBA) releases a study titled "Assessing the Intrinsic Impact of the Bay Area Free Night of Theater Program"

June 16: Arts Journal posts results from an NEA funded survey which cites double digit declines in theatrical audiences since 1982

June 18: Head theater critic for SF Weekly Chloe Veltman invites TBA's marketing director Clay Lord to post his thoughts on the study in a post titled "Great Study. But What's It For?" - Dan Wilson (of Radiostar), Sam Shaw (of Crisis Hopkins), Matthew Quinn (of Combined Artform) and Carl Benson (of PianoFight) respond with questions about specific numbers

June 23: TBA posts second study of "Free Night" with hard data on ticket requests, actual attendees, and follow up purchases prompting PF's Benson to make case against "Free Night" in post "The Real Problem with TBA's 'Free Night of Theater'"

June 26: TBA's Clay Lord responds on TBA blog Chatterbox in post titled "Theatre, Relevance and Hush Puppies" and Matthew Quinn presses for more numbers

July 2: Matthew Quinn breaks down cost of "Free Night" versus return in sum-up of conversation on the PianoFight blog (below)

COMBINED ARTFORM'S MATTHEW QUINN BREAKS DOWN NUMBERS ON "FREE NIGHT"

Clay,

Thank you so much for this information it helps to give me a better picture of the value of "Free Night of Theatre." And thanks to PianoFight for letting this go up as a post and not just a comment, and outlining the thread of conversation.

So summing up the numbers, the actual value of this project is much higher.

$182,000 - Printed value of tickets

$200,000 - Original PR Services

$50,000 - Additional PR services

$20,000 - TBA Services

$40,000 -Survey

$492,000 - Total Resources used for FNOT

-So almost a half a million dollars worth of resources are used for FNOT and for that you get 3,581 people to attend a show, at a resource cost of $137 per person.

-Of those people, 74% were first timers seeing the company putting on a show or 2,650 people, to get this market it cost $186 per person of the resources.

-And for the ever so hard to get, new people to the theater, 18% or 645 people for $765 per person.

So looking at this I think one needs to ask, is FNOT really working?

Is this an appropriate use of these resources?

Could something more effective be done instead?

I'm sure there are many positive elements of this project, but is it providing you with the right type of awareness, people, and information at a cost that makes sense?

Are theaters in the community (large, small, members of TSC) fully aware of the cost and reward of this project? Half a million seems like a lot for a one day event.

And to the second point, of course it would be great to have a survey to confirm those hunches we have on audience decisions, to get more insight into an audiences actions and how to get new people to our shows.

My question: "Are these even the right people to be surveyed?"

And are the above questions even the ones we should be asking? It's a bit disconcerting that money is being spent for data that isn't considered useful, yet, just wait and see.

And while I understand grant money takes a while to come down the pipe, and you're reacting to plans from years ago, is it prudent to go ahead with a 4-5 city expansion using additional resources for a program that isn't utilizing those resources and providing information that is not yet useful?

I'm sure some people are happy with the results of the program. Any new people are great people to have, especially if, as you point out, there are not many (if any) out of pocket expenses. My concern is that no one appears to be questioning if there is a better use of these amazing resources, on a model that can bring in more people without saying theater has to be free in order for them to see it.

Does the community really see this as a benefit and effective use of resources?

Just because you can do this, should you?

We could still get 6 million marketing impressions with the same publicity, just a different program.

And what do companies feel about $40,000 being spent on a possibly useless survey when perhaps it could be used for other more relevant purposes?

I would really like to hear other companies' thoughts on this.

In closing, I did get a chance to read the posting on the Mark-Up and perhaps I'll get some time read that book, it sounds very interesting. I also added a comment about some thoughts I had on Free and Theater and while it's not an answer, I do try to come up with some different uses of "Free." And I'm sure the community could come up with a better program then FNOT to get audiences to the theatre, your thoughts?

Thanks again for your time and commitment to this conversation, it is appreciated.


Matthew Quinn

Combined Artform

UPDATE - JULY 4 (by PianoFight): As the conversation in comments has veered slightly away from TBA's "Free Night" and into the realm of the art itself, we thought it prudent to post a few more links which deal with this specifically, and which helped spur a lot of this type of conversation.

October 7, 2008: Brendan Kiley of Seattle's The Stranger newspaper posts article titled "Ten Things Theaters Need to Do Right Now to Save Themselves"

April 13, 2009: Kiley posts on The Stranger's blog a lengthy email from PianoFight's Rob Ready, interspersed with Kiley's commentary, disccussing Kiley's ideas and how successful PianoFight's application of those ideas has been in a post titled "Small, Successful Theater Companies in Other Cities: PianoFight from San Francisco"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Real Problem with TBA's "Free Night of Theater"

(this post is in response to comments from TBA's Marketing Director Clay Lord regarding "Free Night of Theater")

The big problem with TBA's "Free Night of Theater" is that it in no way addresses the actual problem - it misses the forest for the tree.

The problem is this:

- Between 1982 and 2008, attendance at performing arts such as classical music, jazz, opera, ballet, musical theater, and dramatic plays has seen double-digit rates of decline.

- Fewer adults are creating and performing art. Only the share of adults doing photography has increased.


Yes, there are a myriad of reasons why this is the case - film, TV, and The Intertubes have all made entertainment cheap and easily accessible. Arts education in schools has declined as well, leaving many children without a chance to experience the arts growing up. As media continues its descent into the toilet, so does arts coverage, leaving the public less informed about what's going on.

However, the problem with all this and with the thinking behind "Free Night of Theater," is that it refuses to place any of the blame for the rapid decline in audience on the Theater Community itself.

And yes, the Theater Community holds at least some, if not a large part, of the blame.

The problem with TBA's "Free Night of Theater" is that instead of asking the Theater Community to take a look at itself with an honest and critical eye, it assumes that everything is right with Theater, it's just these other factors that are getting in the way, and that once we can show people how jaw droppingly awesome theater can be, the general public will have no choice but to succumb to their newfound lust for live performance and spend $70 on a ticket to MacBeth.

Wrong.

"#1 barrier to attendance as the price of admission, with the #2 being "I don't want to spend money on something I might not like." What this means, to me at least, is that there are a lot of people who don't know they like theatre because they don't feel like they can spend the money to try it out." - Clay Lord, TBA's Marketing Director, responding to some questions I posted in comments on one of Chloe Veltman's blogs.


If the No. 1 barrier to attendance is the price of admission, should the Theater Community not take a long, hard look at its ticket prices? And ultimately, lower them?

If the No. 2 barrier to attendance is that people are nervous they might not like a show, then shouldn't we be offering them better shows? At least shows that are more likely to appeal to new audience members?

Instead of trying to answer these tough questions and actually solve the problem, the solution TBA has come up with is to give the product away in the asinine hope that people just don't know that they want to spend $100 on two hours of entertainment written 400 years ago.

Baloney.

Recently, TBA hosted a teleconference (subsequently turned into a podcast and posted here), which was called "Innovating Through a Crisis," and invited a number of Exec Directors of theater companies big and small to discuss how the recession is affecting them and how they're getting through it.

Again, this is an example of TBA missing the point. The problem is not the recession - the recession only compounds the real problem, which is the double digit decline in audiences over the last 20 years.

However, the one thing that was interesting about the podcast was that what appeared to be working for theater companies were mainly two things: talking to their audiences (can't believe this is a novel idea to some companies) and reaching out into their communities either by staging new work from those communities or simple involving those communities in other substantial ways.

Frankly, every theater company should be doing this all the time. But too often companies are only engaged with those who give them grants or big donations. The rise of not for profits has effectively ended the Theater Community's responsibility to audiences and instead made it culpable to the arts foundations which supply the money.

This is a huge problem and it doesn't appear that anyone really wants to acknowledge it. Theater faces big challenges these days from all sorts of entertainment and new technology and dwindling media coverage, leading to one simple solution: evolve or die.

Giving away the product is no evolution, it's just life support.

Again, Mr. Lord, my sincere apologies if this comes across in an ass hole tone (I am sure it does), but just like you, I love Theater. And I get viscerally angry when I see something that I think is hurting not only my ability to participate in and enjoy theater, but also everyone else's.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Note on Gay Marriage and the Law

The California Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, prompted another round of uproar from the LGBT community and progressives in general.

But really, it shouldn't have. I mean what did you expect? That the Court would rewrite the legal definition of marriage? That is far too large a political risk for any judge with higher aspirations who doesn't want to labeled as "legislating from the bench."

What the Supreme Court's decision should have caused is change of tactic in how the LGBT community is going about getting the rights they deserve - and who knows, maybe this has already begun.

For the record, "marriage," of any sort should, not be a legally recognized right, it's a sacrament, a religious term and tradition that for some reason is now wholly licensed by the state. And, in my opinion, this is where the pro gay marriage crowd can get some traction.

As opposed to some semantical debate about the definition of the religious term marriage, the movement should focus on ending the government sanctioning of all marriages, and call them what they should be called under the law - civil unions.

Everyone, gay couples and straight couples, would be forced to get a civil union license issued by the government, and would have their choice about whether or not to follow that up with a wedding in whichever church/synagogue/mosque they choose.

Not to mention, in getting the law changed, I'm betting a judge would be much more willing to enforce an existing law (separation of church and state) as opposed to creating new law (altering the traditional definition of marriage).

Winning the debate is all about framing it correctly, and currently, the Religious Right is winning that battle. If you frame the debate as being about whether the government should regulate religious traditions, as opposed to the religious definition of those traditions, that debate becomes much more winnable. Example:

ME: Do you beliece the government should regulate religious traditions?

CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST: No!

ME: Do you believe marriage is a religious institution?

CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST: Yes!

ME: Then why should the government regulate marriage?

CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST: ... er ...?


Thanks for reading,

-CB

Sleepwalkers v. PianoFight in Round 6 of "ShortLived"

SF Weekly's Best Theater Companies in the City, both the Editors' Pick and the Readers' Poll choice, Sleepwalkers and PianoFight respectively, will be battling it out in Round 6 of PianoFight's audience judged playwriting competition "ShortLived" - June 12, 13, 19 and 20.

Check out the promo below:




TICKETS - TICKETS - TICKETS - TICKETS - TICKETS

Radiostar Interviews PF on State of Theater

Radiostar has once again given PianoFight a forum to espouse our bullshit in an hour long interview on the radiotubes. This time, oddly serious, we talk about the current state of theater, the dominance of not-for-profit companies in the industry, the sheer awfulness of "Free Night of Theater" and, of course, co-eds. Enjoy ...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thank You, SF Weekly Readers

PianoFight is humbled, nervous, and ever appreciative for being awarded the Best Theater Company in San Francisco chosen by SF Weekly readers in its 2009 Readers' Poll.

We can't thank you enough, SF Weekly Readers, and we will try like hell to live up to the good name you are giving us.

Thank you.

-PF

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Congrats to Sleepwalkers (and SF Weekly)

Many heartfelt congratulations are in order for Sleepwalkers Theater for being named the Best Theater Company in San Francisco in SF Weekly's annual Best Of issue.

Sleepwalkers is one of the VERY few companies in the Bay dedicated solely to producing new work, and is the only one that comes to mind which has a "Submit a Script" link on its website.

These guys are the real deal, edgy and talented, smart and funny and always entertaining, and it's phenomenal to see them getting the recognition they so rightly deserve.

And speaking of recognition, I'd also like to send out a personal congrats to SF Weekly for naming Sleepwalkers the best. In terms of critical coverage of theater, a pervading theme is coverage and subsequent rewarding of previously produced work (for an explanation of what the hell I'm talking about, see my post on the Critics Circle here). Way to get out in front of the pack, SF Weekly, and honor a company that truly deserves it.

You can catch Sleepwalkers performing as the guest group in Round 6 of PianoFight's "ShortLived 2.0" June 12, 13, 19 and 20 at the Off-Market Theater.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Crowded Fire Gets 'Free Night' Right

Perusing Chad Jones' Theater Dogs blog this morning and saw this:

"Crowded Fire has announced that for its next production, Wreckage by Caridad Svich, running May 9 through June 6, there will be free tickets for the unemployed."


Bingo. Well friggin done. This has been an unofficial, never-made-public (til now) policy at PianoFight since we started. Usually it plays out something like this:

CastMember: Hey, my friend really wants to see the show, but he's broke.
PianoFight: How broke?
CastMember: Dead broke.
PianoFight: Dead broke?
CastMember: AIG broke.
PianoFight: All right we'll put him on the comp list.


If somebody really can't afford to see the show, but is dying to do so, then we'll comp 'em. Crowded Fire is doing it more officially by asking for a pink slip or unemployment check to verify the ticket buyer's brokeness.

This is great, and the company should be commended for doing so. This is the type of community building idea that benefits everyone - the ticket receiver gets to see a show for free and Crowded Fire has now made a fan for life who, if he likes the show, will definitely come back and pay once he's back on his feet.

Furthermore, it's a far better and more effective idea than the much ballyhooed "Free Night of Theater," which encourages companies to give away their product in the hopes that it will attract a new audience.

How are the two different you ask? It's a psychological difference. By offering free tickets to the unemployed, Crowded Fire is helping out a specific subset of people. The tickets aren't free for everyone, just those without jobs, who should get a little help in these tough times. And because Crowded Fire is helping them, they're far more likely to return the favor by paying for a show down the road. If you give away the product to everyone, it's no longer a special favor, rather, it's a marketing gimmick, and the recipients of that marketing gimmick are less likely to return the favor as it wasn't really a favor to begin with.

All in all, Crowded Fire is doing a great thing with this promotion, and I'd be curious to know the numbers on it. Always a pleasure to see local companies getting it right.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Theater Awards FAIL.

About a month ago, the Bay Area Critics Circle announced their nominations for their yearly awards. Now, I know this is going to be a touchy subject, but I want to say up front that I am sure all of the nominated people and productions do great work, and are excessively talented at working a stage. What kills me, and in my opinion what is killing the industry, is the consistent staging and subsequent rewarding of work that has already been done, frequently ad nauseum.

I'll stick to the under 100-seat house section of the awards (cause that's what I know and do), specifically the Best Entire Production nominees.

The Ladies of the Camellias - Lillian Groag, written 1993
Dead Mother or Shirley Not All in Vain - David Greenspan, written 1990
Endgame - Samuel Beckett, written 1957
Victims of Duty - Eugene Ionesco, written 1953
Macbeth - Williams Shakespeare, written 1604
Taming of the Shrew - William Shakespeare, written 1590

This is not only shameful, it's stupid. Have the Grammys ever filled the Best Song category full of covers? Or have the Oscars ever nominated five remakes of films to the Best Film category? Are Pulitzers given out to rewrites every year?

Obviously, the answer is a resounding no - because an utter lack of new work would kill the industry. Again, I want to stress that I'm sure the people and productions were all very good, but this is just ridiculous.

None of the nominated plays were written this decade. One third of the nominees were written 400 years ago. The two Shakespeare's and one Beckett have no doubt been performed countless times, in countless cities, by countless performers, and have put countless people to sleep (me included).

I'm not arguing that the Classics should never be performed. They're called classics because they are great plays and should continue to be produced. But exactly how does Theater expect to attract new audiences and stay relevant by consistently staging and rewarding work that has already been done?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Writers Poll: Would You Submit to This?

Putzing around on Theatre Bay Area's website today, I noticed this:

"The Playwrights Showcase seeks to expand opportunities for Bay Area playwrights by introducing local theatre companies to writers and work that represent both the high quality and unique diversity of playwriting in the area."


Sounds great right? I mean, this is what the community needs is it not? A way for young writers to get in front of the big shots who make the decisions about what audiences will be seeing.

Unfortunately, there are some problems, big ones:

"Two showcases will take place this year ..."


Two. Really? Two? That's it? Ok, well, these showcases will probably be a pretty big deal where lots of new plays (or excerpts of new plays) are performed right? Nope:

"Each playwright will be part of a seven-minute presentation: a two-minute discussion lead by an M.C. with each writer about his or her work, followed by the playwright reading a five-minute excerpt from a play he or she wishes to introduce to invited artistic directors and literary managers"


So if I understand this correctly, playwrights will describe their work to an MC, then have to read an excerpt from it? Note to all participating playwrights: I would recommend reading a 5 minute monologue from your play - if you read an argument, you'll just look like you're talking to yourself. Also, if stage fright is why you write as opposed to act, tough shit.

"(The event will be open to the General Public)."


How sweet of them.

"Applications for the Showcase will be screened by a panel of five theatre professionals, who will select a slate of participants that represent the work and diversity of playwriting in the Bay Area."


The decision about which plays will even be discussed in this oh so important gathering of grand theater poobahs is left five unnamed people at TBA. Also, if you don't get chosen, they're not going to give you feedback as to why.

However, it appears that TBA's "Playwrights Showcase" at least gets one thing correct, it's free right?

Nope. To be eligible to apply, you mast have a personal membership to TBA, which, if I remember correctly, costs about $70.

Way to reach out to the community TBA.

So, back to the ultimate question, writers, would you submit to this?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Actors Poll: Would You Take This Class?

An email PianoFight received from the Actors Theater of San Francisco regarding an acting class taught by their artistic director Christian Phillips:

"After a winter respite and with students awaiting his return, Christian Phillips has started his Acting classes once again!"


The email we got says $300 for 8, three-hour classes but their website says $400 - a difference of $37.50 or $50 per class.

So, would you take this class?

Monday, April 6, 2009

The LA Strip



I work hard to defend my city. I am an LA native born and raised, as was my father and his father. I am proud to call it my home. However, as an actor working my way through the Hollywood stereotypes and bullshit, sometimes I too can see what the San Franciscans and New Yorkers mean. Of course when they generalize about all the things they hate about LA, they are most likely talking about Hollywood, CA, which only makes up about 2% of all of Los Angeles. So let me gripe on this 2%:

I’ve been noticing lately that the casting posts I search (“roles that fit me”—female 18-30, any ethnicity), which I read religiously every morning, are developing an obvious pattern- they all end in stripper. Whether it’s a seemingly innocent undergrad student film or a 5 second commercial spot, somehow some way the female lead also happens to take off her clothes as part of her “character”. They always throw a sentence or two in there for some redeeming quality that justifies the stripper part. As if these are all real meaty roles about real interesting women.

Just a few, real, examples taken straight from the Breakdowns to show you what I mean:

ERICA, a bright, funny, uninhibited veterinary technician who moonlights as a stripper to earn enough money to go to veterinary school.

RAQUEL, a Latina dancer from East L.A. Mexican preferred but other Latina types OK. This is a series regular. Great and fun role. Pole dancing experience preferred but pole training provided for right actress.

BONNIE, a very free spirited, open-minded, and will try anything once type of girl. She is an exotic dancer, but does not let her profession become her. She has a 3 year old daughter, but was not ready to be a mother

Hey, I’m not one to judge. I mean desperate times calls for desperate measures and as MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer so eloquently put it, “A girl’s gotta eat”. Last week, in fact, she reported a very timely news piece, “Former Wall Street Professionals Trade Laptops for Lap Dances” about former Morgan Stanley analyst, Randi Newton who went “Jobless to Topless”. I understand there are such stories to tell, I guess.

But, really, almost every female role has to require sexily taking her clothes off? Where’s the creativity people?!

In fact, I could probably have an entire blog post highlighting the best of the worst casting postings ever. Hmm... stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Bobby Jindal Please

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal delivered the official GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union style address to Congress, and all I can say about him is, "More please."

Here's the first part of the speech:



Even Fox News hates him. It's terrific. And the best part is that the GOP seems to think the Bobby Jindal is the Republican equivalent of Barack Obama. That's roughly the equal to comparing the acting talents of Paris Hilton and Marryl Streep.

Jeff Crouere, the former executive director of the Louisiana GOP, said:

"From the insiders I’m talking to, Jindal’s in the top three, right next to Palin and Romney. He’s the rock star of the Republican Party right now.”


More please.

(Side note: if Jindal, Palin and Romney are the three heavy hitters for 2012, the Republican Party is terrificly fucked)

But there's more to Jindal than just his Kenneth the Page vocal stylings. He's also experienced at exorcisms.

Here's Max Blumenthal's recap of an article Jindal wrote in an obscure Catholic magazine, the New Oxford Review, titled “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare”:

"During his years at Brown University, Jindal pursued his Catholic faith with unbridled zeal. Jindal became emotionally involved with a classmate named Susan who had overcome skin cancer and struggled to cope with the suicide of a close friend. Jindal reflected that “sulfuric” scents hovered over Susan everywhere she went. In the middle of a prayer meeting, Jindal claimed that Susan collapsed and began convulsing on the floor. His prayer partners gathered together on the floor, holding hands and shouting, “Satan, I command you to leave this woman!”


So you remember that movie, The Exorcist, which was totally scary the first time you saw it back in 1865? Then when you saw it again recently it wasn't so much scary as it was hilariously funny and ridiculous? The governor of Louisiana thinks he did something similar to what that priest did ... only he thinks it was for real.

The man who governs a massive US state believes he helped get Satan out of a woman's body.

But wait - that's not all. And really, this is the big one here as all that other stuff - his ridiculous speaking style and his saving of souls from Satan - is really small potatoes compared with his actual actions.

Bobby Jindal turned away $98 million in federal money which was supposed to provide for the increased number of people claiming unemployment insurance during these tough economic times.

He went on Meet the Press and about a hundred other shows and made a big friggin stink about how he's got "Fundamental philisophical differences" with the President and the recovery bill, and that he didn't think it was right to accept the money because it went against his principles - well, $3.7 billion of the $3.8 billion Louisiana was offered did NOT go against his principles. That money, the $3.7 billion he accepted, is ok.

But for anyone in Louisiana looking for some help after losing their jobs during the recession, Jindal's only answer is "Fuck you."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Louisiana lost 430 jobs per day between November and December of 2008. And because of Bobby Jindal's principals, those people are fucked.

Bobby Jindal is doing nothing more than playing politics by not accepting the recovery money, and in doing so, he is costing 430 new unemployed Louisianians the help they need as they struggle to get by.

From what I can tell, Bobby Jindal, the rising star of the Republican party, would rather get on the television and yap his trap and stand on "principle" and become the fresh face of the profoundly irrelevant GOP than help people.

Which is why in 2012, when President Obama is sizing up his competition, all I can say is "More Bobby Jindal please."

Monday, February 16, 2009

I do

Do you ever feel the need to express yourself but can’t, for the life in you, find a way? It’s like you have a gallon of whatever you want to call it to expel, and it can only be poured out through stirring straw. And to make matters worse, when you finally throw caution to the wind and place yourself in front of a keyboard, your fingers just keep knocking into each other like a bunch of clumsy adolescents. Then finally, once you feel you have a grip on yourself and you can form a complete sentence in your head, effectively transfer it down your spine, through you shoulders, down your arms, into your hands, out to your fingers and on to every appropriate key of your keyboard-- you forget why you sat down in the first place?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Las Vegas Needs a New Mayor

At a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana on Monday, President Obama made this point about those greedy fucking ass clowns in lower Manhattan:

OBAMA: "You can't get corporate jets, you can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer's dime."


Does that sound objectionable to you? Cause it sure as hell does to the mayor of Las Vegas Oscar Goodman:

DOUCHEY VEGAS MAYOR: "What's a better place, as I say, than for them to come here? And to change their mind and to go someplace else and to cancel - and at the suggestion of the president of the United States - that's outrageous. That's outrageous and he owes us an apology. He owes us a retraction."


What's a better place than Vegas for these brokers to go Mr. Mayor? How bout the fucking offices these money grubbing irresponsible ass holes already work in? How bout that? Considering that their overblown salaries are now being heavily subsidized by you, me and the rest of the American public, how bout these thieving banking scumbags don't take any trips at all? And do you know why they shouldn't? Because they aided and abetted a world wide economic meltdown. Therefor, no whore buying trips to Vegas.

The really great part of this is that the mayor of Las Vegas is asking the President of the United States to apologize for telling financial institutions that they can't go to one of the only cities in the country where smoking, gambling and whoring are all legal while asking the tax payer to foot the bill.

Un-fuckiong-real.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

WaPo's Michael Fletcher Embarasses Paper, Self, Journalists Everywhere

Last night, at President Obama's first prime time press conference, meant to address theeconomic recovery bill currently being hacked to death Congress, Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post asked this:



Yes, you heard his question correctly, "What is your reaction to Alex Rodriguez's admission that he used steroids as a member of the Texas Rangers?"

All I can say is ... ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS MICHAEL FLETCHER?!?

Fucking baseball? The economy is on the brink of collapse, two wars are being waged with hundreds of thousands of American lives at stake, some lawmakers are calling for an investigation into whether the last president committed war crimes and you, Michael Fletcher, a very serious member of the very serious Washington press corp, are asking about fucking BASEBALL?

Mr. Fletcher, could you PLEASE tell me what jack ass actually sits down twice a month and signs your paycheck? Seriously, how in God's name are you employed. Notice it was a Cheetos eating, pajama wearing BLOGGER who asked arguably the toughest question of the night:

SAM STEIN, Huffington Post: "Today Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he wants to set up a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. He said that before you turn the page, you have to read the page first. Do you agree with such a proposal, and are you willing to rule out right here and now any prosecution of Bush administration officials?"


Now, I am sure Michael Fletcher is a nice guy. I'm sure he's a great writer and a generally smart dude. That said, when the president gets on television, invites about 150 reporters and calls on 13 of them to ask him questions about the biggest economic crisis in 7 decades, blowing your extremely exclusive opportunity to pose a question to the leader of the free world on A-Rod injecting juice into his ass to smack a baseball to ungodly heights is not only stupid, it's useless and an utter waste of a chance to get information that actually matters.

ADDING: The 150 or so people invited to the White House to question the president on his economic recovery package represents roughly 0.0000005% of the US population. In such an exclusive club, with such an exclusive opportunity to question the president, it is staggering to think a professional purveyor of information would ask a question about fucking baseball. God save the Fourth Estate.