Can Culture Be Good (Or Effective) Diplomacy?

A conference mounted by the National Arts Journal Program at Columbia University considers the role of American culture in diplomacy. “Would we, for example, be breeding goodwill toward the American way of life by spawning a generation of Iraqi rappers? Or how about appointing as cultural ambassador the documentary director Michael Moore, who used his Oscar moment to pillory the president, thereby making himself a poster boy for freedom of speech? Do we stick to commercial fare and disseminate movies in which American action heroes gun down large numbers of anonymous villains? Or should we funnel funds to an independent American cultural center in Baghdad, whose director might misjudge the local sensitivity to sexually suggestive images and curate a show of, say, the pornographic sculptures of Jeff Koons?”

Investigators Probe $1 Million Salt Lake Arts Funding Irregularities

Salt Lake County investigators are looking into charges of “$1 million of allegedly misspent taxpayer funds in the county’s Center for the Arts Division. Officials admit the investigation has uncovered more than $1 million in discrepancies, blaming most of it on shabby accounting practices. Whistle-blowers have also alleged, however, the unauthorized taking of equipment from county facilities and liberties taken on expense reports for entertaining and other questionable spending practices.”

Talk Amongst Yourselves (Not The Audience)

What’s going on with playwrights who feel they have to have a character talk directly to an audience to explain some plot point? It’s just plain lazy. “Many playwrights have forgotten the art of exposition, of revealing the story through dialogue, of letting us find our own way. It feels like spoon-feeding to me when an actor enters, steps into a follow-spot and tells me, ‘Hi. I’m Mary. This is my house. I’m a flight attendant. I just found out my boyfriend’s cheating on me.’ I always think, Is this a play or an AA meeting?”

Florida’s New Dark Age?

“Florida’s age of enlightenment comes to an end this week. The Legislature is still working out the final figures of a $53 billion state budget, but for arts groups the message is all too clear: This is the beginning of a new dark age. The Legislature seems to think that a fair level of sacrifice for the state’s cultural groups is something near 100 percent. The Florida House of Representatives has proposed an arts budget of $6 million, or 78 percent below last year’s level. The Senate’s budget eliminates arts funding altogether.”

Mobile TKTS Coming To NY

Plans are underway in New York to build a mobile ticket booth – a kind of TKTS-on-wheels to “help shows below 14th Street to fill the house and spread the word. Dubbed the ‘ArtsVan,’ this distribution depot for downtown ducats is a project of DowntownNYC!, a not-for-profit coalition of theater companies, performing artists, galleries, museums, restaurants, businesses, and organizations and associations, formed after Sept. 11 to boost business and rally the spirits of those living and working below 14th Street.”

Subtitle This

The hidden world of movie subtitling is a “challenging, arcane milieu that’s a mandatory stop when launching a new film – or, sometimes, a reissued classic – into the global marketplace. The haiku of the screenwriting world, subtitles are a spare distillation of foreign-language dialogue that are more ‘adaptation’ than ‘translation,’ practitioners say. Artistic license and judgment calls come with the turf, affecting how the movie plays with the audience and the critics.”

Power Board – Who Directs Culture

Artistic directors and managers come and go. But the power behind them is in boards that oversee arts organizations. “Their numbers include hard-charging entrepreneurs, top executives, retired moguls, heiresses and the occasional full-blown celebrity, and they operate in a chandelier-lighted, by-invitation-only realm full of fiduciary responsibility and social opportunity. In this largely white and mostly over-50 world, lunches with Frank Gehry and cocktails with David Hockney are entirely possible and getting tickets is never a problem. But it’s likely to cost a five-figure donation, maybe six, every year, just to get a foot in the door. And the price of admission is rising fast.”

Star Turns – Hollywooders Up For The BWay Song And Dance

“What gives suddenly with Hollywood stars and musicals? Inside every movie and TV actor is there an inner Merman screaming to get out? Has every screen star who played in ‘Peter Pan’ in grade school remembered that long ago in drama school there were three audition songs and a pair of tap shoes in the closet? And while we’re asking, how many of the moonlighting movie stars would be on Broadway now if they had to sing without a mike – or if they had to dance in a movie without a virtuosic editor?”