Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More coverage of the techno-DIY phenom in the arts

So I've talked a couple of times about the trend of artists bucking the middle-person - e.g. "curators" - in favor of producing and distributing art themselves. This trend is gaining currency and coverage, and a good way of interpreting it is presented in Andrew Taylor's arts participation breakdown. I would argue that artists have (tried to) conform to a "curatorial" space for a very long time, vying for air-time and credibility as determined by institutions. And that's changing because of technology and economics - there's actual money to be made using technology to circumvent the Big Guys (NYT non-theatre link just to reflect the techno-DIY trend....)

(In reference to the Newsweek article, how ecommerce would work for a performing arts group is still a little unclear to me. Fine artists and musicians typically have "products"; performing arts organizations' "products" hinge on the fact that you are attending a live experience.....)

Note that all the while, I still believe there are benefits to partnering with (or perhaps being lucky and/ or talented enough to be chosen by) an institution that will support your work.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Project management in the performing arts

As I head into the rehearsal stretch of a show I'm involved in, I cannot help but think that producing a show is a lot like project management in any other realm. I have a ton of lists: to do's, contact names, calendars, etc. I try to keep most of it together on my (Mac) laptop using NoteTaker, but that only gives me access to what's going on, and isn't really designed for that.

Joe over at BiS (caveat about reading archived BiS entries in Mozilla) came across geek darling-product BaseCamp, and immediately got it's usefulness for the production process. As I point out in my comments there, I think BaseCamp's list of suggested uses for theatres face a tough hurdle of replacing the human-connection so key in producing performing arts work. But there is a golden nugget here for performing arts organization - not necessarily only with BaseCamp, but with any "distributed project management" applications. Read Marnie's thoughts, and then think about the project managment needs of small-to-no budget groups that perhaps don't have an office. (Not necessarily endorsing BaseCamp per se - see some of the feedback to Marnie's post).

Others are far ahead of us on this thinking - Circle X, 10-year-old, Los Angeles-based theatre group I met at the NETFest, was actually using Intranets.com as their communications and work development portal.

(And if my saying "project management needs" in the context of producing a performing arts show sounds a little too corporate, replace that with "production needs"'....)

Post- Katrina resources, including arts support

TechSoup.org Katrina is a resource page for nonprofits impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The two main resource docs will be revised in the future, but we wanted to get the information out as soon as possible.

Also, I mentioned the Craft Emergency Relief Fund in a previous post, and I wanted to remind people of its existence - since the after-effects of Katrina is exactly what they seem to deal with (although they might be a little overwhelmed right now...).

Post- Katrina resources, including arts support

TechSoup.org Katrina is a resource page for nonprofits impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The two main resource docs will be revised in the future, but we wanted to get the information out as soon as possible.

Also, I mentioned the Craft Emergency Relief Fund in a previous post, and I wanted to remind people of its existence - since the after-effects of Katrina is exactly what they seem to deal with (although they might be a little overwhelmed right now...).

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Theatre Podcasts - Cool as Hell

Dramaturgs are a smarter, different breed of people who have been sent here to help us out.

That precious bit of wisdom (which I happen to agree with) comes from Sean Daniels (see previous links). No, not from his blog, but from an online interview with Michael Rice, a performer and techie who has been posting theatre podcast interviews for the last two months. It's an impressive endeavour, given he's already made 20 podcasts, and he's interviewed several performers from the current SF Fringe Festival, Liebe Wietzel, and Naomi Wallace!

I'd have to agree, this is Cool as Hell.

(The "recent podcasts" on his front page is not up to date - click on "Listen to the Podcasts" to get the most recent.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sean Daniels on blogging at CalShakes

A while back I mentioned that CalShakes was doing backstage blogs (blagstages?). I sent Sean Daniels, the Associate Artistic Director, some questions about his efforts, and he got back to me once he was able to surface for air after putting up the second part of the Nicholas Nickelby epic.

What prompted you to start a blog for Othello?

I wanted to find a way that we could open up lines of communication between our artists and our audience. In the sports world they fine players if they don't do interviews after the game, in theater we purposely hide everyone after the show. Oddly enough the sports world seems to be doing a bit better than the arts world these days, and I think one of those reasons is that people feel like they have personal connections with the athletes they watch. They don't often feel the same way about the artists they watch. I wanted to find a way in which our audience members could get closer to the artists they love and also find out just what it takes to put on a production.

Where did you promote your blogs?

We mainly put it on our website and included it in our e-materials.

So what happened?

I don't know if it was just because of the blogs, but last season combined we sold about 200 "Under 30" tickets, and for Othello we sold a bit over 900. Now, clearly that's not just because of the blogs, but I think it's because of the many things we're doing to make connecting with us easier. As you've probably noticed, our website (www.calshakes.org) is also a world easier to navigate and now we do same-day-on-line tickets...this is all part of what led to people under 30 attending our show. Or just making it easier for people of all ages to attend our shows.

And since then you've asking actors to blog during Nicholas Nickelby.

The actors seem to have really enjoyed it, in fact, they've given hope to the next round of actors that we asked to blog for THE TEMPEST. Of course, when they are rehearsing and performing it's tough for them to keep up with it, but I think that also shows the time commitment that they are making to the show. If you don't have to time to blog, you must barely have time to nap.

Any feedback on this latest round of blogs?

People want honesty, and I think as people get more comfortable doing this, they'll feel more comfortable being honest about what's working and what's not. If a blog ends up being someone writing a valentine to themselves, that's no good. I think we did a great job of telling the story of rehearsal for these two shows.

Will you be doing it again?

Oh yes, on top of everything else I already said, I think it's a great way to crack open the artistic process and let people see what we do. In theater, we're always SOOOO secretive about everything that it often comes across as being exclusionary and that's about the opposite of what theatre should be. I hope that people discover that they rehearsal process is as much a journey (if not more) than the show itself. That and everyone loves a good war story from rehearsal.

KatrinaList redux - what we do right

[Again, off-topic but current....]

I am blown away by the techie response to Katrina - predominantly in the form of KatrinaList. And this is a distributed, non-top-down model of cooperative development.

(Politically, it could be asked why didn't US techies respond this way to the tsunami - which I don't have a pat answer for, though this kind of response seems to me a more obvious step in tech-saturated, consistent-language/ spelling U.S.)

A great (informal) timeline of what has happened here (somewhat techie) - check out the rest of his blog if you are intersted in issues in Africa.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrinalist - doing it right

Not performing arts related, but I'm giving myself permission to digress here (since I was away for a lot of the crisis):

This is a great blog chronicalling the creation and development of a computer technology center at the Houston Astrodome, and some of the great things that can happen when technology can work for the right reasons.

Connecting to family and loved ones after a disaster is challenging and emotionally trying, and it is nice to see - amidst the litany of systemic failures weve seen - things working right, namely, communities of people using their technology interst and skills to create opportunities for people to re-unite.

Unfortunately, as my friend and colleague in the Red Cross volunteer station at Baton Rouge pointed out, there are a lot of different people out there trying to help, and sometimes that makes the work harder..... So the people behind CivicSpace, SalesForce, Social Source Foundation and Craigslist put together a "single-source" location to search for hurricane survivors, that pulls together over 25 different online resources on the Web - KatrinaList.

If you are looking for someone, you should first check the list of people evacuated before the hurricane struck (KatrinaSafe) - then go to Katrinalist.

Vacation OFF, Work ON (hmmm, brain still OFF)

So I returned to work last week with no emergencies in my mailbox (although my very first meeting made up for that). What was in my mailbox, though, was a number of great emails about, or related to, this blog - which I'll try to keep up with in the next couple of days.

First of all - it's happening RIGHT NOW - is the nonprofit blog exchange. In case you didn't know, talking about - and linking to - other people's blogs is a key way of publicising yourself and you blog. Lots of bloggers track who links to them and talks about them - and if you have the obvious good taste to like their blog, then they'll come check out what else you have to say, and they'll talk about you, and all of a sudden both of you have expanded your audiences.

Well, I admittedly do a poor job of that, because I tend to link mainly to websites, not blogs, and folks tend not to scan who links to their websites as judiciously as who links to their blogs.

(So one thing I promise, as I dig through my email heap, is more links to good blogs.)