Thursday, August 26, 2010

A qualification or two

Generally speaking, I'm not overly fond of talking about my credentials. It isn't that I don't have them, it's that I do not wish to be arrogant or boastful (For more about that, you can read this note from Facebook). I also continue to believe that as a reviewer, I have to reprove my credibility internally with each review that I write.

Also, being a woman of "a certain age" (42 to be exact), I really don't feel like I have much to prove. I have enjoyed a wonderful career so far and I look forward to new opportunities and challenges in the years to come. A career is a fluid thing and the most important thing is to be engaged in lifelong learning and to be open to new experiences and new ways of doing things.

Sometimes it is also better to be quiet about one's credentials because there are times actors need to be able to call your credibility into account so that they can discount what you say. That's OK. If a performer needs to believe that I don't know what I'm talking about so that he or she can get back up on stage the next day, then go for it.

Knowing what I do about my qualifications, I'll confess that I was amused to hear them portrayed in a rather unfavorable light in "An Artist's Nightmare" last week. My experience was reduced to liking theater, having seen a "few" plays, and being willing to learn. While all of those things are true--I do like theater, I have seen a few plays (though a few every weekend would be more accurate) and I am willing to learn--they are major understatements. Now, I recognize that it really wasn't personal. I was being used as a device to present a particular point. I'm not offended and I continue to find it sadly amusing. I also recognize that I had the opportunity to boast to the playwright when we first met and chose not to because I was there to interview him and learn about his school, not to put myself forward.

For any curious, I'll post a more detailed version of my professional background. Everyone else can just skip to the next entry which I hope to make in the next week or so.

ewing experience

  • 27 years of professional writing experience
  • B.A. in Journalism from Michigan State University (I graduated either magna cum laude or summa cum laude, but I can't remember which--it didn't really strike me as important.)
  • Winner of Serwach Leadership Award in Journalism ("This award recognizes undergraduate journalism majors who have demonstrated superior leadership and reporting and writing ability for campus or professional media.")
  • Second place winner for the Focus:Hope Journalism Olympics award
  • Alternate for Dow Jones International Journalism internship in Brussels, Belgium
  • Executive Editor of my college newspaper at Olivet Nazarene University
  • Editor of the opinions section of my high school newspaper and editor for two years of my junior high newspaper
  • Temporary entertainment editor and reporter for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers
  • Intern at the Grand Rapids Press--which included writing book reviews
  • Copy editor for the Lansing State Journal--which included editing theater reviews when they came in and writing restaurant reviews
  • Editor of hospitality textbooks and training materials for the past 17 years
  • Writer of training materials and textbook chapters for the hospitality industry for the past 17 years
  • Author of numerous books for the hospitality, private club, and spa industries
  • Ghost writer for marriage self-help book, football biography, several ph.d. papers, natural hormone replacement therapy book, textbook chapters on everything from turfgrass to training.
  • Category Lead for the Book, Newspaper, and Magazine category of, a consumer review site. I wrote for them for 10 years, primarily reviewing books but also writing travel and theater reviews. I was a top reviewer for many years.
  • Publisher and primary contributor of Book Help Web, a consumer book site that included exclusive author interviews, book reviews, author bios, and related book news. I created content for more than 1,500 pages.
  • Freelance writer for a variety of organizations including General Motors, Michigan State University, EduGuide, Lansing CityLimits magazine, Dramatics Magazine, National Parks and Recreation Association, Club Managers Association of America, International SPA Association, Pulse Magazine, and others.
  • 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Arts Journalism in Theater and Musical Theater at the University of Southern California Annenburg.
  • Was a founding contributing blogger to Flyover, a national arts blog focusing on theater outside the country's major theater centers. It is hosted by Arts Journal.
  • Theater reviewer for the Lansing State Journal and Encore Michigan
  • Performing arts columnist for the Lansing State Journal
  • Weekly theater correspondent for Michigan Entertainment Internet radio and occasional co-host at live theater broadcasts

Theater Experience
  • Performed in theater in junior high and high school
  • Performed in pit orchestra
  • President of the forensics team my senior year and competed on the team for three years
  • Was part of a religious acting troupe
  • Took several courses in dramatic literature
  • Performed in several community theater roles from minor parts to a lead.
  • Directed a show.
  • Assistant directed several shows.
  • Produced many shows.
  • Costumed shows.
  • Worked lights and sound for shows.
  • Served on two community theater boards.
  • Volunteered extensively for several years for a professional theater.
  • Taught drama to K-3 grades for four years.
  • Wrote, produced, and directed children's shows.
  • I also see an average of 100 live performances a year (mostly theater and musicals but also opera, dance concerts, symphonic concerts, and vocal concerts)--and have seen them all around the country.

(And I'm not sure if this counts or not, but I am married to an Equity actor and have learned a lot from him and his colleagues. Also, my father is a journalist and I hung out in newsrooms from the time I could walk.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Real-world" experience

Does geography matter when it comes to experience?

Is art only art if it takes place in certain agreed-upon locations? Do we only count experience if the person gained it in these locations?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rejecting Mamet's Glasses

I've never liked the plays of David Mamet.

I used to think it was because of the foul language and how I felt verbally assaulted after I'd been to one of his shows. However, strong language in other shows didn't bother me. I'll even use vulgarity myself when the situation seems appropriate (though never profanity and I do draw a very distinct line between the two--if I say "God," it's because I'm talking to or about him).

So why is it that I don't like David Mamet plays? It's because of the characters themselves. So often they are people who exhibit the worst human qualities. They are cruel, heartless, selfish, and amoral. Many of his characters could easily be diagnosed as mentally ill--sociopaths and psychopaths.

While drama is an excellent way to explore social diseases, Mamet's outlook is far too pessimistic and ultimately lacks authenticity. The societal problem that it skirts isn't that there are people like the ones he portrays in the world. The problem is that we look at others and see monsters like the ones Mamet creates. How many times do you hear someone come out of a Mamet show and say, "I know people like that."?

I've met a lot of people in my life. While there may be people who resemble Mamet's characters and who engage in some of the behaviors, none are as lacking in empathy or soul as he portrays. When you take the time to listen, you discover that the person does have redeeming qualities. For some people, it might take a lot of listening and a lot of empathy.

Hatred is easy. It's a pretty destructive habit to have. It's far easier to scream obscenities at the person who cuts you off when you're driving than to say to yourself that perhaps that person is having a bad day or didn't see you or any of a number of reasons that would make their actions understandable. It's far easier to classify someone as an idiot, jerk, or any of a number of stronger terms that to simply acknowledge that we don't like some of their behaviors--anymore than they likely are fond of some of our own behaviors.

We get to choose how we see people. We get to choose what sort of interpretation we put on their actions. While it is not wise to be naive, it can take great courage and effort to choose to see the best in people. We could see the world through cynical eyes that believe others to be criminals, wastrels, and users. Or we could see the world through compassionate eyes that believe others to share in our own struggles and to be searching for ways to be healthy and happy.

The latter may be more difficult, but it is also far more rewarding.