Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blogging slowdown

Typing has slowed way down as I'm wearing a splint and am supposed to be resting my arm muscles as much as possible.

So, with little commentary, I'll cut and paste some quotes I had to cut from today's column.

That’s what I try to bring out with the people I work with. Help them to discover who they really are, which is deeper than the surface personality. The ways we abide by certain guidelines, rules, laws, conforming forces, which is important to in terms of existing in society with other people.

We have moved from an authentic, natural way of living to a technological, mechanical way of living. I think that a writer like Erich Fromme, really made that clear 75 years ago with what was happening with our society and people and the arts are a counter balance to all of the wonderful, technological, mechanistic stuff that we learn about and explore as well

--Mark Ruhala

When we create art, we get in touch with the divinity within ourselves. It meshes with our humanity. It’s like us making love with God and having a baby. That child goes out into the world and blesses people. It’s work to be human. It’s OK to love the color red; the person who looked at the painting and says, “I love red’, they go out and create something and have a baby with God and that baby goes out and loves the interval of a fifth and they write music that has a lot of fifths. It goes on and on and on. It’s the pebble in the pond. It gets us the hell out of our heads.” –Linda Abar

I think theater matters because it is the only discipline or only form of art where you can sit in a theater with other people and you all experience the story that’s being told on stage.

Jonathan Courtmanche

If you can say one thing about the non-profit world, it is this: we’re big on ideas, short on cash. But it shouldn’t be that way. The not-for-profit world was created to fill a dire need in our communities. It doesn’t reflect commerce or regulations as do our businesses and our governments. Both business and government can do precious little in terms of affecting social awareness and change. Non-profits exist to exalt the human soul, to rescue it when needed, to make life better, healthier, worth living. Hospitals, schools, churches, the Salvation Army, the Girl Scouts - that’s the work they do - they exist to change human experience for the better And by the way, the non-profits in this country are this country’s largest employer. The not-for-profits are crucial to a functioning society.

We move forward together just a little bit to become a more decent and compassionate people. Theater does that whether we’re presenting serious drama or farce or light comedy. That’s why preserving the health of this organization is paramount. Lansing is a unique community - and this theater will reflect the life of this particular community.

--Kristine Thatcher

Art matters because it is an expression of what separates us humans from the beasts: creativity, self-awareness, and a drive to find meaning in life and share that meaning with others (or argue with them about what that meaning is.) Personally, I'm most concerned with "art" expressed as theatre -- and, even in a silly, meaningless(?) comedy, the creativity, goodwill, and shared experience of the cast and the audience elevate the human experience. My prejudiced opinion is that this experience is enhanced by the "live-ness" of a stage show, as opposed to TV or movies — not to say those aren't "art," too, but still... Attend more live theatre, people! Be a part of "living" art!

As an afterthought, I'm reminded of the wonderful closing scene from "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," the Lily Tomlin show by Jane Wagner. When the space aliens have to go home, they leave Trudy the Bag Lady a note which says, in part:

> “…what we take with us into space that we cherish the most is
> the 'goose bump’ experience.”

> Did I tell you what happened at the play? We were at the back
> of the theater, standing there in the dark,
> all of a sudden I feel one of 'em tug my sleeve,
> whispers, "Trudy, look." I said, "Yeah, goose bumps, you
> definitely
> got goose bumps.
> You really like the play that much? They said
> it wasn't the play
> gave 'em goose bumps,
> it was the audience.

> I forgot to tell 'em to watch the play; they were watching
> the audience.

> Yeah, to see a group of strangers sitting together in the dark,
> laughing and crying about the same things… that just knocked 'em out.
> They said, "Trudy,
> the play was soup…
> the audience…
> art.

(That "soup" reference is to the Andy Warhol soup-can "art." When is it "art" and when is it just "soup"? That's mentioned in the first scene of the script as Trudy is trying to define "art" for her space alien friends.)
--Jane Zussman

“I think art matters because it is the story of the human condition: whether it is painting or theater or music. These are disciplines that have existed throughout ever. It’s how people connect. It’s how they express their emotions.” Jonathan Courtmanche, Associate Director and Director of Communications

“Art is a form of joy. Art is a way that enjoyment can come through to the world. Art is something people create for the enjoyment and happiness of others.” my 4th grade son

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dearly Beloved

I am behind on my blogging, aren't I?

I went to see Dearly Beloved on Feb. 15. One rather exciting thing about the show was how many people were there. It was a packed house, the third performance in a row that they had sold out. After the dinner, a group of about five people arrived at the table who was there for the show only. It marked the first time that they'd been to a live theater show. That was exciting. When I talked to them after the performance, they said they'd definitely be back to future shows.

Dearly Beloved was a great show for people new to theater. It has a great deal of humor in it and the performances were highly entertaining.

Despite being a comedy filled with hilarious lines, some of the most satisfying moments were the bittersweet ones, the ones where the drama and pathos shone through the humor. In this, the three sisters, played by Linda Granger, Emily English, and Jane Goebel, owned the show. The chemistry between them was fantastic and they knew exactly how to play off each other.

The show's men also did a stellar job with their roles. Dearly Beloved is all about the women, but in that, it's also about their relationships with their men. Chris Goeckel did an excellent job as the father of the bride, confused and hurt by his wife's distance but too inept at the emotional conversations which might end the alienation. Gordon Hicks was also hilarious as the drugged boyfriend. He was fully committed to each of the pratfalls and had some of the funniest physical comedy bits.

I did have several quibbles with the show. Compared to the strong voices of everyone else on stage, it was often difficult to hear Cathy Hansel-Edgerton. She did an excellent job with the character's physicality--she was clearly a snob and set herself apart by the way she walked and moved. However, I had to strain to hear her and the ends of her phrases were often lost as if she had run out of air. Linda Granger's dress was far too attractive for how it was described. I would have expected a dress that was trashy, not merely glittery with a plunging neckline.

Strangely enough, I also thought the chemistry between the young couple was off. I didn't believe in their attraction to each other. I say "strangely," because the actors are married too each other in real life, so I would have expected it to be fairly easy to recreate the attraction.

The script managed to poke fun at its characters without crossing the border into cruelty. It's become painfully stereotypical to portray Southerners as unintelligent or hicks. While few characters in this show are going to be applying for Harvard, they were not merely yokels on parade. Nearly all of the characters had a genuineness about them as well as diverse talents and strengths. They were real people behaving in ways that were humorous.

It was also a script that seemed to greatly appeal to the crowd in attendance. Certainly there were smiles all around.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Miss Evers' Boys

Outrage is easy.

Such things as the Tuskegee Study on the Symptoms of Untreated Syphilis in Negro Males are one of those things that appear to be cut-and-dried wrong. In fact, it's disingenuous to say "appear to be." It was wrong, pure and simple. It was a breach of medical ethics, a breach of humanity, and a breach of civil rights. It's the sort of travesty that makes us hang our heads in shame.

Where Miss Evers' Boys, performed last weekend and this weekend at Riverwalk Theatre, succeeds is that it provides the outrage while making the perpetrators sympathetic. While the play is fascinating on many levels, I was especially drawn to the idea that the successful portrayal of the subjectivity of the situation underlined the ethical absolutes.

The central character, Nurse Eunice Evers (based on the real life character Nurse Eunice Rivers), played with passion and subtlety by Monica Sanders, explains why she did what she did. It's a compelling story and we come to understand that things were not as simple as they appear from our modern eyes. There were reasons she did what she did--there were shades of gray.

However, playwright David Feldshuh doesn't let her off the hook. For all that we come to a greater understanding and empathy of Evers, what she did was still wrong.

It's been popular for many years now to claim that there are no absolutes, that there is no black and white; that everything is gray. Miss Evers' Boys makes a compelling argument that while there are plenty of shadows and shading that lead us to make the choices that we do, there are still things which are right and things which are wrong. If we were in Miss Evers's shoes, we might make the same choices that she did--but our complicity doesn't justify those choices or make them somehow right. Rather, it identifies that we share human failings and weaknesses and need each other to overcome them. And we need good theater that keeps us from getting too complacent or self-justifying.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Building a performing arts center

Anyone who is involved in the conversation about building a new performing arts center in Lansing might want to read this post by my colleague Joe Nickell in Missoula, Montana. The issues that Missoula is grappling are the same ones that will need to be examined here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The rest of my column

I have the utmost sympathies for editors who have to cut copy. It's not an easy job and the space is usually pretty unforgiving. Nor does it help when you have writers who write too long.

This past week's column was especially difficult for me. I started out with 1380 words before I added the Encore items. I'm supposed to be closer to 750 to 800 words. So I cut and slashed. The piece on Jenna Erbele suffered the most--there were a couple of other stories and backstage discussions that had to go.

Once it reached my editor, more had to be cut. Once upon a time, anything that went to the cutting room floor would disappear forever. With blogs, though, there's a chance of it having a little bit more of a life. Granted, this blog doesn't reach nearly as many people as the column.

However, for those of you who have read about the DanceFest today, go ahead and tag this on to the ending.

On the Thursday before the show opened, her dancers took to the Fairchild floor for the first time, adjusting the dance’s spacing to fill out the stage. She encouraged them to reach for the emotional moments and to concentrate on the intent of the piece.

They then filled the front row to watch a video of their performance, their geometric moves being reduced to two dimensions.

One dancer commented afterward how much she enjoyed watching it. “You get kind of mesmerized by it. You get lost in its lushness—there is so much going on, but it all makes sense and all works together.”

Barr says the entire concert offers such experiences to the audience. “The concert really highlights how dance is a form of expression. It doesn’t tell a story, but it has expression and intent.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's not Monday...

...but I'm having a Monday sort of day where nothing is going right. So, it's not a good day for blogging.

However, I did make a post over at Flyover (something I'd written over the weekend but hadn't posted).

Here's hoping that the fires will be put out today and I'll be back to blogging tomorrow. There's certainly no shortage of topics to write about--just time and energy to do so.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy President's Day

I forgot to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day, so I'll do that belatedly and pass along wishes for a Happy President's Day.

My son is begging for the computer to play Chaotic, so I'll just do a quick run by with a promise to be back later for more.

This past weekend I was able to see "Dearly Beloved" with a packed house and appreciative audience on Friday night. On Saturday, I took my son and a friend's daughter to see "Aesop's Fables" put on by the Mid-Michigan Family Theater (formerly the MSU Family Theater and the LCP Family Theatre). It was a cute, funny show. Then on Sunday, I was able to catch the final production of Art at Williamston Theatre.

I'd like to write about each of those three over the next couple days, so stay tuned.

On Thursday night, I was able to watch the dress rehearsal for one of the dance numbers at DanceFest. That's really going to be a wonderful concert worth going to this coming weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

TCG Survey

If you're reading this and you're one of those folks who has access to your theater organization's financial information, please consider participating in the Theatre Communication Group's annual fiscal survey.

The deadline is Feb. 22 and it is these types of surveys that collect information that is useful to the entire community.

One incredible weekend

The weekend of Feb. 21 has an amazing array of options for arts lovers. There is so much going on, I wish I could write two columns for that week.

Here's a sampling:

  • Riverwalk is opening "Miss Evers Boys" directed by Ken Beachler. It looks like an incredible production that I can't wait to see. It's a show that would have fit very well into the Stages of the Law ethics series. It's a dramatization of the Tuskegee Experiment--that horrible decision by our government to study what happened to black men who went untreated with syphilis. The men in the study thought they were being treated, but the doctors gave them placebos instead. Riverwalk describes this as a "warm, moving, surprisingly humorous play (that) explores social and ethical issues."
  • The MSU jazz faculty--a collection of incredibly talented, well-known musicians--are putting on a 40th birthday concert.
  • The Lansing Symphony Orchestra is performing their "Night at the Movies" concert. It's one of their pop series, designed to bring people into the orchestra hall who might otherwise find orchestra music intimidating. They'll play music from Harry Potter, Schindler's List, Magnificient Seven, Raiders of the Lost Ark, James Bond, and Star Wars.
  • Icarus Falling is opening its world premiere, "Tempting Fate." Local playwrights and IF company members Allan Ross and Robin Harris have each written one acts. Allan will be directing Robin's show and Robin will be directing Allan's show. They're in a new space where the Greenhouse Bistro in downtown Lansing used to be. It's right around the corner from BoarsHead on Washington Avenue.
  • It's also the final weekend for BoarsHead's "Murderers."
  • If you're into the blues, Harmonica Rocker Jason Ricci & New Blood will be performing at the Cadillac Club on Friday night as part of the Capital Area Blues Society series.
  • The MSU Theater Department is holding a DanceFest--and you will be able to read more about that one in my column next week.

And I'm betting there are several items I've left off that list.

Edward Albee

Playwright Edward Albee turns 80 this year (in less than a month, actually). I was updating his profile over at Book Help Web (and I apologize for the near-duplicate posting to those of you who read all three of my blogs--or at least read the Books Blog) and came across these delightful quotes by him:

What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn't lived it?

A usefully lived life is probably going to be, ultimately, more satisfying.

Writing should be useful. If it can't instruct people a little bit more about the responsibilities of consciousness, there's no point in doing it.

If you're willing to fail interestingly, you tend to succeed interestingly.

That's what happens in plays, yes? The shit hits the fan.

Creativity is magic. Don't examine it too closely.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hit and run

I have very little time to blog today, so I'll just toss this out: I'd love to see this blog become more of a conversation. Ever since returning last year from the NEA Theater Journalism Institute, I've been interested in the role of the critic in fostering conversations about art.

I'd love to hear more from the people that read this blog--and what you think I could do differently that might inspire more conversation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

News from BoarsHead

I don't typically reproduce press releases, but this is one is about an event tomorrow and it's too late for me to get it into my column, so I'll share:

On Wednesday, February 13, a press conference will be held at 10:00 am in the Lansing City Hall Lobby at which Mayor Virg Bernero will declare February 13 as “BoarsHead Theater Day.” Music by John Dale Smith will accompany the press conference. BoarsHead Theater has served the Lansing area with professional theatrical productions for over 40 years, and has been designated as an Anchor Arts Organization by the State of Michigan.

“I am proud and honored that Lansing can boast such a superb theater and is one of the few professional, live theaters in the state. Organizations like the BoarsHead are important to the cultural landscape of the city and enrich our community as a place to live, work, play, visit and learn.” said Mayor Bernero

“The BoarsHead Theater is a non-profit regional organization dedicated to enriching the community through the production of classic and contemporary works along with those of emerging artists,” says Artistic Director Kristine Thatcher. “We aim to foster social awareness by providing a forum for culturally diverse artists and their works. We also provide educational opportunities through our youth outreach programs and workshops. We enhance the economic and cultural climate of our community by ensuring the availability of theater to underserved individuals and work with businesses and other arts organizations to attract audiences to the downtown district. It is estimated that we have a spillover affect on downtown businesses to the tune of $2,000,000 annually.”

"The BoarsHead Theater is a local gem, a magnet for the arts and a big factor in what sets Lansing apart from other towns and cities in Michigan. We've enjoyed our afternoons and evenings at the BoarsHead when we've had time to listen to the words, hear the music and see performances that have been as entertaining as they have been thought-provoking. Bravo to the BoarsHead Theater and Bravo to the city of Lansing for recognizing this great community resource," says Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and First Gentleman Daniel G. Mulhern. Mulhern will appear at the press conference to issue a proclamation from the State of Michigan.

BoarsHead will present free public entertainment throughout four downtown locations from 12:00 Noon to 1:00 p.m. Registration for free tickets will be offered at these location.

  • Musical Entertainment by John Dale Smith and Janine Novenske Smith at Lansing City Hall Lobby
  • Musical Entertainment by Jennifer Joan Joy and Jeff Kressler at Capitol National Bank
  • Excerpts from Shakespeare by BoarsHead’s Second Company at Cooley Law School
  • A Comedic Reading of “I’m Herbert” by Carmen Decker and Ken Beachler at the State Capitol Rotunda

OK, one major thing that just jumped out at me:

I am proud and honored that Lansing can boast such a superb theater and is one of the few professional, live theaters in the state.

This is just not true. Our state has quite a few professional, live theaters . Yes, Boarshead is a treasure and should be valued highly, but not because it is an endangered species.

seen/not seen

My appreciation for dance has been growing in the past couple years as I've been increasingly exposed to the wonderfully diverse, skilled, and artistic groups that make up the Lansing dance scene. I'll confess that I was previously oblivious to how very rich the dance world was here in Lansing. I can usually rattle off the number of theater organizations in town, but I'd struggle to do the same for local dance troupes. What I can say is we have many talented groups from ballet to jazz to modern to cultural/ethnic.

I've also appreciated how very moving many of the dance concerts are. S'moves at LCC a few weeks ago was a fascinating concert, one that provoked much thought even while it entertained. It also made dance highly accessible.

Two weekends ago, my son and I went to see the final concert of seen/not seen at Ruhala Performing Arts Center (every time we drive by there, he says, "Everything they do there is really good." That's quite the endorsement coming from a child who at eight years old turned to me at the end of a musical's intermission and said, "Is there going to be any acting during the second half? Because I would like to see some acting.").

The concert was performed by the Center's dance ensemble with several guest dancers. The dances explored the emotional life of women, ranging from tender to violent, from love to fury. While last year's concert "The Dispossessed" was one long number based on T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wastelands," this concert was in a slightly more traditional style with individual numbers alternating between ensemble pieces, solos, and duets. Through a collection of songs, a story with many chapters was told.

The week before the concert, I had the chance to sit down and talk with the Center's Artistic Director, Mark Ruhala. While the Center has three focuses: performance, education, and guest artist showcase; we were meeting to talk about the educational part and what they're currently focusing on. Much of that conversation you can read about here, though as always, there was much that couldn't fit into the column. Two of the interesting things we talked about that just didn't fit the column was the importance of training for adults and his style of relating to his students young and old.

Training for Adults

Perhaps that's a slight misnomer, for what we ended up chatting about was the role that arts can play in the lives of adults and how that role is enhanced by training. Mark described arts training for adults as something that is "a counter-balance to all of the pressures of business life, of the responsibilities that an adult has. (Business) does not facilitate spontaneous living, or imaginative, creative living." He acknowledged that while some businesses do try to develop creativity, that being involved in the arts is "a wonderful way to counteract those forces and to fre eour bodies to gain relaxation, to gain mental health, to gain physical health, and it's a wonderful way to connect with people in a non-competitive way."

It is, he explained, a way of balancing those other other good things in life such as work or competitive sports. It doesn't make one more important than the other, rather it tries to establish a healthy, holistic life.

Relating to Students

Mark also talked a great deal about how he builds trust with his students. He's a firm believer that young people should be treated with the same respect and courtesy with which you treat adults. "I relate to them as people, not as kids," he said. "I hear a lot of adults in accord with that idea, and yet when I see their actual actions and the way they work with and relate to young people, it does keep them in a submissive, less-than full-charge position."

He says that by treating his students as people, he builds trust and creates safety with them. "When you treat them as people they feel grownup, and when they feel grownup, they act grownup. That brings out a certain safety. I let all of my performers know that when they have feelings of frustration, embarrassment, shame, inadequacy--I encourage those feelings to come up. I always encourage the tears. Crying is a strength, rather than a weakness. Then we go through and talk about their feelings as their feelings inevitably erupt. Performing is a very vulnerable piece of work. (Accepting those feelings) creates certain emotional and psychological trust because they feel accepted for who they are."

While he works at treating young people as people, he does adopt slightly different styles in terms of what type of information he tries to teach based on age. For example, he said if he's teaching a five to eight year old privately in voice, he'll focus on musicality, lyrics, memorization, and rhythm. He'll focus on keeping it fun. If his student is 10 to 12 years old, he'll work a little more technically.

In fact, I was reminded a bit of the Montessori philosophy of "following the child," as he said that with the younger students his goal is to keep them interested, so he'll follow more where they want to go while with the older ones, he gives them a little more of what he knows they need to succeed in college and a career. He also said the individual's goals are paramount in the style he takes. He'll teach differently a person who is doing it purely for the enjoyment than the person who has a lot of ambition and wants to make a career of it.

It was a fascinating conversation and perhaps once I get caught up on other things, I'll return to it and share some of the things he talked about regarding art and its relation to life. We even got into quantum physics and Einstein.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Encore Michigan

If you haven't checked it out yet, you should. Encore Michigan is a new Website covering theater in Michigan. It's new and has all the makings of a fantastic Website--something this state sorely needs.

'Murderers' failed to intrigue

It's easy to doubt oneself as a critic--especially when your opinion flies far from what everyone else is written or is saying. It takes a fair amount of ego to be able to stand one's ground and say, "No, this really is what I think about the show."

BoarsHead's Murderers is one of those shows. I agree with my fellow critics (Kate O'Neill, Mary Cusak, and Don Calamia) that the show was very well performed. All three actors did fine jobs on their performances. However, my overall feeling leaving the theater was that the show was wasting the talents of three excellent actors, all of whom deserved better material than what they were given.

About ten minutes into the first scene, I caught myself wondering when the exposition was going to end and when the story was going to begin. I eventually caught on that all I was going to get that night were three storytellers telling us a story to which they already knew the ending. There could be no suspense on the part of the characters--not even when the story lent itself to suspense.

Nor did the three stories have anything in common other than the setting and a few intriguing twists that would have been more appealing in a short story or a mystery magazine than played upon a stage. There were always chuckles of appreciation when the name of the doctor was mentioned. I would hazard that was because he was the only unifying character that appeared in all three stories. It gave people something to tie the scenes together.

Each story was bloated with extraneous detail and descriptions of conversations that were irrelevant to the plot and served only to stretch out what became a very long night at the theater. Yes, the actors did deliver their lines well and Carmen Decker was as deliciously funny as she always is. However, why doom such actors as Decker, Tobin Hissong, and Laurel Merlington to delivering a series of one-liners, grabbing for laughs in stories that were ultimately darkly morbid?

As interesting as the stories might have been to read (especially if they had been pared down) and as skilled as the actors were in performing them, it was not an experience that I would care to repeat nor that I would recommend to others. It simply lacked the focused cohesion that can make a story compelling and entertaining.

My still-to-blog list:
  • seen/not seen at Ruhala Performing Arts Center
  • One-year anniversary of NEA Institute
  • Richard Dreyfuss World View lecture
  • Making this blog more of a conversation

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Read the lead on Lawrence Cosentino's Diane Reeves story. Now there is some great writing! It sends chills down my spine.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Talking with LCC's Melissa Kaplan

Without sounding ungrateful for the space that I do have, there are times when I wish that I had more room to share some of the great information that I get from people in interviews. (Whether my readers share in that wish is yet another story--they may be rather grateful that there is a limit to my ramblings--unlike in this space).

We're very fortunate in that most people in the local arts community are pretty eloquent when it comes to talking about what they do. They may not always believe that they are--in fact, it is not uncommon or infrequent for people to apologize, claiming that they lack the ability to put what they do into words. This they'll say after they've just spoken passionately about their latest project.

Perhaps that is because what comes out of our mouth rarely has the depth or complexity of what is going on in our heads and as speakers we are intimately aware of the gap between the two. Thankfully, those we speak to are unaware of the gap unless we enlighten them.

But I'm getting off topic, aren't I? This is what happens when you take away the discipline of word limits. :)

Two weeks ago, I met with Melissa Kaplan, the performing arts coordinator for Lansing Community College. I had the good fortune to work with her nearly ten years ago when she was a video producer for the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. As a writer/editor in the special projects department, I would sometimes work with her to create print material to go with the training videos.

Five years ago, she started working as the performing arts coordinator at Lansing Community College and I quickly began seeing her everywhere around town. She is one of those people who is truly a patron of the arts. She doesn't limit herself to those things that she is involved in, but who immerses herself into the art in the community, filling that crucial role of "audience."

In the weekend before I met with her, she had attended a Lansing Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Concert on Friday, Peppermint Creek's A New Brain on Saturday, the La Batterie drum concert at LCC on Sunday, and then went to the movies to see the film-adapted musical Sweeny Todd on Monday. She is someone for whom taking int he arts is a habit, a way of life. It is people like that who are the life blood of arts in any community.

One of the things that we talked about was audience development. How do you get people to take the risk on attending a live performance? Movies are fairly low risk despite the high price tag on tickets. You can read numerous reviews and blogs on every movie and have probably seen previews of a show either online or at another movie. Most arts organizations don't do "previews" before their current show--though perhaps they could if rehearsals for the next show have already begun. It's likely to be pretty cost prohibitive, though.

Even for those of us who do recognize the value of arts and try to partake in them as much as possible, there are days when it is simply far easier to stay at home. There are dishes that need doing, books calling to be read, people to chat with online, or even naps to be taken in our increasingly sleep-deprived world. Those of us in the habit of going to live performances can usually motivate ourselves with the knowledge that once we get there, we'll be glad that we did. Even bad performances can be rewarding and worth the time spent. However, that's knowledge gained from experience. How do you get people to gain the experience?

One of the things that I've noticed is that even people heavily involved in the arts don't necessarily go to see anything other than what they or someone they've worked with are involved in. It's why people like the Milsteins, the Zussmans, Melissa Kaplan, and many others are such treasures. (And yes, I'm leaving out the media folk who go as part of their work--though that in itself takes a certain level of devotion and commitment that goes beyond the paycheck.)

There's a woman whose name I don't know that I can always count on seeing at any MSU production. LCP has a patron who has attended every single show since they started more than 70 years ago. The Lansing Symphony Orchestra has devoted patrons who will send out e-mails with in-depth analyses of upcoming concerts.

What can be done to multiply the numbers of people like these? How can audience members be turned from patrons to loyal advocates?

For that matter, how do we get people to live performances in the first place? I'm a firm believer that if you can get people there, the art will do the work. They'll come to understand why art is important and why it can make a difference in people's lives. It's important the way that sports is important. It is a recreation that gives us a common language by which to talk with each other.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Coming soon...

I figured I should share my "to write" list because if I make it public, I'm far more likely to catch up and actually write about it rather than let it go:

  • More on Melissa Kaplan and the delightful interview I had with her
  • BoarsHead's Murderers
  • seen/not seen at Ruhala Performing Arts Center
  • One-year anniversary of NEA Institute
  • Richard Dreyfuss World View lecture

Friday, February 1, 2008

Forgive the dust

I'm playing with the colors and the format of the blog today and just can't get Blogger to give me the look that I want. So what you see here may change over the next several days.