The Little Avant-Garde That Could

The problem with running an avant garde theatre, of course, is defining success. Are you successful if your product is so cutting edge that audiences stay away in droves? Or if you are so convincing that you bring in the crowds despite the difficult content? And once you’ve been discovered by the public, how do you keep your edge in the face of the encroachment of the mainstream theatre world? If you’re L.A.’s scrappy City Garage, you just keep right on plugging away like you always have, worrying about the art more than the bottom line, and raising the theatrical standard to a level far higher than the average experimental troupe. “Indeed, City Garage’s auteurist single-mindedness, particularly as applied to its original works and adaptations, is unique in Los Angeles theater, perhaps in the country.”

The Arts, The Politicians, & The Big Shiny Race Cars

The city of Charlotte is considering a package of arts proposals totalling over $150 million, which backers say would revitalize the city’s cultural scene. But as with any expensive project involving taxpayer funding, there is controversy brewing. “At a recent City Council meeting, member Nancy Carter contrasted the council’s hesitation on the arts plan with its ‘stampede’ to promise money to a NASCAR Hall of Fame — if NASCAR lets it go up here… The proposed Hall of Fame would cost $137.5 million — not far from the price of the five arts projects combined. The city voted unanimously to give the hall nearly $104 million.”

American TV Nets Walk A Careful Line

American TV networks are scrambling to scrub their content of material that might get them in trouble with the FCC. “Congress is threatening to increase sharply fines for airing indecent material, and some politicians want to regulate cable and satellite TV for indecency for the first time. Over 80% of American homes subscribe either to cable or satellite TV, but only broadcast television, which is technically free, is subject to indecency regulation. The media industry fears that new rules could damage its business model.”

China Prefers Suggestive To Dissenting

Chinese media is getting racier. “The explosion of suggestive images is partly a reflection of changes in Chinese society — many sociologists say China is in the midst of a sweeping sexual revolution — and partly due to market reforms. In 2003, the Chinese government introduced far-reaching regulations that require many newspapers and magazines to try to turn a profit. Television is undergoing a similar, though more gradual, transformation. Xinhua remains state-owned, but it competes for hits with NASDAQ-traded Internet portals Sina and Sohu, which publish their share of racy content. They have less of a profit motive, but they must be looking at their visitor stats.”

Our Lives As A Media Event

“Almost everything comes to us through some media prism, which, in turn, colours not just our view of this life, but our own self-definition. We are products of immense, often inchoate, media indoctrination. Moreover, the very pattern of life we take for granted, our normality, is hectic, digital and new, quite different in kind from that of even recent generations. You know where you were when Kennedy or Di died or the Twin Towers came toppling down. But does anybody, except those few who were there, on the spot, remember Pearl Harbor? Our lives, as recently as the first half of the 20th century, were different in kind: isolated, unchanging, experiencing great events at a sluggardly distance.”

Negative Reconstruction (Should We Resist?)

“Exotic ballets may have been massively popular in their day – “The Pharaoh’s Daughter” was performed more than 100 times during Petipa’s lifetime. But when they die, shouldn’t we take that as a sign? “The Pharaoh’s Daughter” was buried in 1928. The Soviets must have been embarrassed by its celebration of grandeur built on the backs of slaves. Shouldn’t we be, too? Or, as with Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” does a vein of gold pulse beneath the dumb surface? This is a huge question for our major classical ballet companies, which have the resources to consider reconstructions, “imaginative” or otherwise.”

The Censorship Debacle – Why A California Protest Fails

Attempts at censorship almost always backfire, as protests against an anti-Bush painting in the California Department of Justice will show. “Throughout human history, great art has been political, or inspired by an artist’s political experience. Unless you want museums and public buildings to be sanitized, boring and free of any real art, you have to tolerate works that are sometimes offensive. The other alternative is to create a government committee to approve all public art. Orwell had a name for this. He called it the Ministry of Truth.”

Salzburg Festival Opens With Comments On Terrorism

“Austrian President Heinz Fischer warned against the dangers of European values being ‘bombed away’ on Sunday at the opening ceremonies of the Salzburg Festival, the world-famous musical and drama event dedicated to art as a universal value. Touching on the terror attacks over the last few weeks in London and Egypt, Fischer said that a Europe recovering from an earlier horror — the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler — was ill prepared for the new threat that targets innocents everywhere.”

Exploiting Our Own Creative Capital: Yes, We Can!

“Let’s talk intellectual capital. I keep hearing that phrase from Carl Kurlander, the native son screen writer returned from the Wrong Coast to teach at Pitt and evangelize on the depth and potential of Pittsburgh’s entertainment talent. Our generally downbeat view of local abilities to the contrary, Pittsburghers have a huge role in the national entertainment industry. Rather than continuing to export that creative and entrepreneurial talent, why not put it to work right here? … (W)hat’s mainly needed is a heightened sense of our own capabilities, a more developed culture of can-do.”

In Alsop Controversy, All Orchestras May Lose

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra broke a gender barrier when it appointed Marin Alsop to be its next music director. “But management made another bit of history, this one unfortunate, because it hired Alsop over the unusually public objections of its own musicians. By brushing aside the opinion of its artists on the most important artistic decision an orchestra can make, management runs the risk of setting her up for failure. The move has likely stunted the growth of Alsop’s nascent rapport with the musicians, and has alerted listeners to a possibly troubled relationship – two things no orchestra ever wants to do, unless it is acting out of desperation.”