Monday, July 31, 2006

Submission or Distribution? - the long tail tale

I wrote this as a reply to playsandplaywrights, in response to a post about finding actors through Craigslist that talked about on line resources for playwriting generally:

This is a topic I'm VERY much interested in!
I've reconciled myself to the idea that my plays just do not appeal to most audiences or to the gatekeepers at most theatres. But there 300 million people in this country, 6-7 billion on the planet. There are a few people do love my work-- I get a fan email at least once a week from some one who has read some play(s) of mine on my webpage and wants to thank me for my writing. For the last decade I've been trying to figure out how to skip the gatekeepers of the (very expense indeed, in time as well as money) submission process and bring my work to the attention of people who might read and perform it. I have a huge website, well ranked by Google. This week my husband and I made podcasts of a couple of my monologues and posted them to Google and PodOmatic. The Internet and other recent telecommunication technology has made it possible to do such things: the problem is to figure what to do and out how to do it effectively. Yesterday Jeff Jarvis laid out a model for "long tail" publication of niche marketable books on his blog Buzzmachine which I'm going to quote below. Read it, please, and consider:
Can playwrights come up with a similar model for the distribution of scripts?
Books require storage, and it quickly becomes impractical for publishers to keep low numbers of thousands of titles in their warehouses. “The costs associated with printing small quantities of many different titles and of warehousing those many different titles and of fulfilling single-copy orders . . . are so onerous that it’s not a model that I feel works for publishing today,” said Terry Adams, the director of trade paperbacks at Little, Brown. Susan Moldow, the executive vice president and publisher of Scribner, agreed. “It only works if you’re employing some kind of print-on-demand,” she said, referring to a technology that allows publishers to print a few books at a time, as they are ordered.
Well, let me suggest a model, learning from both Amazon and eBay, where instant gratification costs more but patience pays off (which is also proven by So:

* Charge the most for immediate delivery, which is enabled because you either stock some number of books in inventory or use more expensive print-on-demand. This is the equivalent of eBay’s ‘buy it now!’ and of Amazon’s overnight shipping. Let’s say that costs the reader $25.

* Charge less if the reader is willing to wait ...... Charge less again if the reader is willing to take the book as a PDF and read it in that mangled, inconvenient form or go to the expense of printing it themselves. Let’s say that costs the reader $15.

* Charge less again if the reader just wants access to read the book online — a subscription, in essence. Let’s say that costs the reader $10. There is also a growing market in book rentals. My father uses a Netflix for books called BooksFree. What if the publishers starting running such a service themselves, creating a subscription market for books in print or online. So rebuild the old book club business by selling subscriptions to authors, topics, bestsellers, and so on: Pay a flat monthly rate to read as much as you want! Or pay $100 for a lifetime subscription to Anne Tyler. You now have an annuity and pay-in-advance customers.

* And if you want to get fancy... books on the bookstore shelves become retail samples and you don’t have to take the inventory risk and cost to fully stock those shelves. And the bookstores can stock more sample books, selling more titles. The tail grows.

* Get yet fancier and involve your long-tail partners — search engines and blogs — in your sales with affiliate deals that — shhhhh, don’t tell anyone — cut out the current retailing middlemen and give you higher margins.

* Now let’s get crazy and follow the model: Pay for a book that you wish someone would write. If enough people anty up and pledge to pay, say, $10 each, I’ll write my Dell Hell book (or perhaps some would pay me not to write it) or the Dummies guys would commission Dell Returns for Dummies only if they saw sufficient demand.

Why am I giving away this advice for free? Well, I was thinking about writing a book about this and the necessary upheaval in the book business as a poster child for the explosion of media. But my agent warned me, quite rightly that someone else is pitching a book about books. Well, with very roughly 100,000 new books a year in the U.S. and 200,000 in English, that should be no surprise. This is the long tail, damnit. There can and should be four different books with different viewpoints. But this is the way the book business works. This is how they do, indeed, think. And that is one of a hundred reasons why it seems to take a hundred years to publish one of the little suckers, only to live on a shelf in relative obscurity for four weeks before hitting the remainder tables and then the used-book store and then complete obscurity forever. So maybe I’ll just write it as an online manifesto and screed (or maybe you’ll pay me not to).

It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. The internet is not the enemy of books, authors, publishers, and ideas. The internet is your friend, damnit. As with other media, these guys think shrinkage when they see these new challenges because it affects their old business. They should be thinking expansion: what opportunities are created for new business. END QUOTE

How can we "think expansion"? I don't need to be on Broadway to be a happy playwright. A production on an aircraft carrier at sea or in the Bangladeshi School of the Arts will be just fine, thank you.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Martha (not mine) is in the Globe today!

The Arts section of the Boston Globe today has a big article about Annette Miller opening at Shakespeare & C. in Lenox as Martha in Jodi Rothe's play, Martha Mitchell Calling. I wish it were about me starring in Martha Mitchell Musical, but let's see what Globe writer Mark Feeny and Annette have to say about our mutual Martha the Mouth, and how Rothe's version differs from the solo one act by Rosanna Alfaro that I'm performing.....
From the Globe:
Outrageous and courageous, she's a natural for the stage (on that we agree)
The theatrical Martha Mitchell gets her due in a new play
By Mark Feeney, Globe Staff | July 30, 2006
Long before there was Desperate Housewives, the nation thrilled to an even more outrageous series. Call it Desperate Cabinet Wife.
The star was Martha Mitchell . She was the wife of Richard Nixon's first attorney general, the famously tight lipped John Mitchell , a key figure in the Watergate scandal. Martha was famously loose-lipped, and her flamboyant outspokenness -- on everything from the Vietnam War to Supreme Court nominations to Nixon's criminality -- made her a quasi-folk hero in the early '70s. (ditto)
On Tuesday , the world-premiere production of Jodi Rothe's play, ``Martha Mitchell Calling," begins previews at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox..... It's paired on a double bill with Normi Annette Miller plays the title character, and John Windsor-Cunningham plays her husband...

(Ah ha! A two-hander, not a solo show. Well, I have my pianist Joan Faber, and 12 songs...)

....."I always liked her," Miller said of Mitchell, recalling how she'd followed news accounts of Mitchell during her loose-cannon heyday. "She was fun. She liked an audience. She was a little bit of an actress."
(Oh, yes. But I never liked Martha -- reading about her during Watergate she was the kind of colorful charmer who never wasted her time charming bookworms like me in high school. It's only after Rosanna wrote a play and told me I was the right actress to play it that I began to see Martha the Storyteller from a different perspective.)

....Rothe said she got the idea to put Mitchell onstage a few years ago, when she came across a 1975 book called Dateline: White House, by political correspondent Helen Thomas . ...
(Rosanna began collecting Martha material during Watergate-- she rather thought she'd write a book, but decided in the 1980s to turn it int0 a solo play... with music)

"I had thought she was this wacky woman," Rothe said of Mitchell. .."This was a completely different person. I started doing research and found this amazing story of how in love she was with her husband -- that she was very smart, and funny, and, yes, outrageous." (ok, outrageous)
Mitchell's innate theatricality -- right down to having a trademark prop, a pink Princess telephone -- makes her a natural for the stage. ... (that's why there have been at least 3 other plays about her, besides these 2 long one acts by Alfaro and Rothe)

...In the play, Mitchell compares herself to two other famous stage characters: the prophetess Cassandra and Caesar's wife, Calpurnia . Like them, she did not flinch from speaking the truth to power.... (In Rosanna's, she compares herself to Joan of Arc)

...."Telling the truth is an ideal we're all drawn to," director Varon says, "but it's easy to forget the cost of it. She paid, and paid deeply. She lost everything: her status, the man she loved, her daughter wouldn't speak to her, her son... On the one hand I admire that, on the other it's a cautionary tale.".....
... "I couldn't help but read this play and think, `My God, if someone could tell the truth now,' " Miller said, referring to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. (Martha was Swift-Boated into ineffectuality when the technique was simply called smearing, but she was an easy target because she told different versions of events to different people. What all the versions had in common was that she was the heroine of the story.)

"... She was a player, she loved being a player. She loved the spotlight.... She couldn't lie. She was one of those people who spoke what she felt -- words went straight from her heart to her mouth...."
( Martha would invent when the facts were at odds with her feelings about how things ought to be. As she admits in Rosanna's play-- "When people ask about my father, I say, Oh, he died of a heart attack when I was about five. But the truth is I was 25 when he -- you won't believe this!-- he put a bullet through his head." )

I can't wait to see Annette's Martha-- but I hope a lot of people will be curious to see mine, too. It's the role of a lifetime!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

On a theatre list, a writer advised:
".. find something you want to say (an idea about life and living), and drive it home with your characters."
I reply:
This is perhaps good advice for many kinds of writing, but not, I think, for the multiple-perspective kind that is recognized as "dramatic" even when it appears in novels or poems. Every character, event, or idea that that is part of a dramatic work will have its own truth, and the working-out of these truths in conflict or reconciliation is the "action" -- disturbing (though bracing: we feel proud to have had the courage to engage such painful matters) in tragedy or satire, pleasurable and satisfying in comedy. No one, no matter how intelligent and good, can know the whole truth-- about anything. What we enjoy in the theatre-- and in some other literary forms-- is watching people struggling (agon) and learning. But even the most ambitious drama acknowledges that the truth it conveys is limited by the finite experience of the characters, and by implication, of the author. If we don't sense that the author has wrestled with the angel while writing and felt the pain portrayed, we tend to feel manipulated rather than enlightened. We will accept what the play tells us about life only if we feel that its knowledge has been earned, within the action of the play itself:
"The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much nor live so long." (Lear)
The hero of Moliere's The Misanthrope has an attitude much like the one you suggest. The play he is in does not endorse it.

Same thread, reply to a writer who is depressed because he is working a low paying day job and can't afford to rent space for a reading or offer actors at least some refreshments if they do a reading for him, saying "I don't have X resources that I am somehow expected to have. It's all very well and good to have ideas, but they're not very practical..."
I say:
This is a very serious issue, at the intersection of art and politics. It is not just that the writer must create and circulate the work for nothing, on "spec" as it were. It is that writers are expected to support with cash and unpaid labor the artists and institutions with which they will collaborate if they are fortunate enough to be chosen to do so: through submission fees, classes, donations, membership fees, unpaid internships, and the hiring of experts for access to advice and connections. As John points out, this "system" acts as a censoring filter. But why complain to us? Should we go on strike? Withhold our labor, for which there is a limited demand and a vast oversupply? Some of us boycott contests with fees-- and the contests don't care, because part of their reason for having fees is to cut down the number of entries so that their offices aren't utterly swamped with manuscripts.
I sincerely believe that a major change in attitudes toward the arts in general and drama in particular would make this a better country and-- because this country is so big and powerful-- the world somewhat less cruel and stupid.
But your two college degrees indicate that, like most of us who post to Theatre email lists, you are among the group whose experience is already over-represented on our country's stages.

Friday, July 28, 2006

To Hovey for the opening of the Festival

Will Stackman and I and Larry Stark made up a jolly party once we were in out of the rain. Larry introduced me to the young couple who are raising money and doing pre-production for a film about him, Bernice and Andrew Sim.
The Hovey program began with two short comic pieces written and directed by young film maker Julia Radochia. I preferred the script of the first film, but the second one showed a big leap forward in technique. I wonder if they're on YouTube? Not that I'm much of a movie person....
I liked Kelly's play, What We Save, although when I talked to her afterwards I ventured to speculate that it might eventually come to fruition as an hour-long TV feature. The plot has to do with adults coming to terms with their past, and it is generally realistic. I yearned to see the present day characters in extended flashback, with nostalgic costumes and scenic California backgounds, rather than just the single monologue-in-a-spotlight where the young heroine reads from her diary. Leigh Berri was really good in this role, plenty of nuance-- but the entire cast served the play well. Ms. Dumar should be pleased. Michelle Aguillon is a fine director. I wish she'd do a play of mine! At the party afterwards I asked Michelle to pretty please perform one of my Mouth-Off monologues for an mp3 on Stagepage.
The second and last one act play on the schedule was Philana Gnatowski's The Halfway House Club. The young Emerson grad also performed the leading role, and probably directed, too. Gnatowski was outstanding as the homeless heroine of her own play-- it doesn't hurt that in looks and manner she reminds me of a young Jill Hennessy. The play had interesting characters-- Penny Benson, who was in my Christmas at Grandma's at the Platform, played a depressed and separated housewife; and James Tallach, who has directed for me, was a dumped photographer. Good cast. Lots of promising writing, but in need of some rewrites to wrestle it into a better-balanced shape.
I didn't notice till all was over that I had the rare experience of seeing an all-woman-written evening! How encouraging, maybe it will will become a ordinary occurance!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Kelly Du Mar gets great PR!

My fellow Playwright's Platform member is featured in the Boston Globe today! What a coup for a local writer, and good publicity for the opening of the Hovey Players' summer -whatever they are calling it this year--.
The Kelly chronicles
By Denise Taylor | Boston Globe July 27, 2006
When Kelly DuMar closed her psychotherapy practice in 1995, the move triggered a recurring dream. "There was this muse figure that kept appearing and telling me, `Well, you've already written all you will ever write in your whole life,' " she recalled. ``And I'd wake up thinking, `Well, what the heck does that mean?' " The answer was quickly clear. DuMar, 47, of Sherborn, had decided on the career change to make time for her children and for writing plays. The muse was simply pointing her toward ... the nearly 200 diaries she's filled over the past 34 years...
"It's a lot of raw material," she said...... "In a way, the diaries almost exist as this map of where I'm going as a writer," she said. "So, a lot of things spring from them." ... in 2001, she published "Before You Forget: The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children" (Red Pail Press). .. In the five years since, she has created two one-hour dramas, 10 short pieces and one full-length play. Her works have been featured in national festivals, and recognized with awards, and a few published. DuMar will be one of six playwrights and filmmakers featured in the Hovey Summer Arts Festival in Waltham over the next two weekends. And, again, a diary plays a role in her piece. Only this time it's at the center of the plot...In ``What We Save"... "It's about expectation versus surprise . . . and it's about emotional consequences and how they play out over time," DuMar said. "It has its comic moments, but there are some emotional conflicts at the center of this piece that really drive it."...
"The diaries take you through every age and stage of life lived," she said. "You're writing always in the voice and the age and perspective that you are at."...

Will and I will see Kelly's play at the Hovey Summer Arts Festival tomorrow night.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wednesday --Frayn's Copenhagen

Wednesday evening was Press Opening for the Publick Theatre's production of Michael Frayn's Copenhagen. A number of actors were attending the opening on comps, and I met with old friends for a quick picnic on the bank of the Charles River between the time we had to pick up our tickets and the start of the show.
The 2000 London production of Copenhagen-- directed by the brilliant Michael Blakemore -- lives in my memory as one of the best things I've seen in the last decade. Briefly, Frayn examines what happened when German physicist Werner Heisenberg-- who had been almost an adopted son to Niels Bohr his wife Margrethe when he was a graduate student-- went to visit them at their home in Copenhagen in 1941, while Denmark was under Nazi occupation. What did Heisenberg want? How did Bohr respond? More generally, what are the moral obligations that apply to people who are on opposite sides in wartime? How shall we, and history, judge these men?-- the younger of whom ran the Nazi version of the Manhattan Project but never succeeded in killing anyone, while his saintly mentor escaped to help the Americans build an atomic bomb that killed hundreds of thousands? There are statements on record by both physicists of what happened on that day in 1941, and they do not agree. Each had reasons to lie or conceal, and colleagues and historians are still arguing passionately about what they did or did not do or say. But in the play all three characters are dead, and the reasons for lies are behind them. They, and we, are in search of pure truth-- and in our observations we are constrained by Heisenberg's famous Uncertainty Principle.
I was interested to see whether a play that I thought of as peculiarly intense and intimate would "carry" in the open-to-the-trees-and-air "Elizabethan" space at the Publick, and whether a three actor piece in which the only thing that happens is thought could hold the attention of a Boston audience under picnic-in-the-park conditions.
I'm going to time-travel now, and quote here the Boston Globe review that appeared on Friday:
"A complex lesson in physics and history
In 'Copenhagen,' the truth -- and everything else -- is uncertain
By Devra First, Globe Staff | July 29, 2006
Michael Frayn's Copenhagen grapples with the ethics of nuclear weapons, the race to obtain them, who should have them, and who should make that call. Hmm, wonder why the Publick Theatre thought now would be a good time to put it on? ..... the Publick sets off the complexity with welcome simplicity. The outdoor stage is mostly bare. Two walkways, a few grassy slopes for the actors to traverse, and some trees are all that's really needed to convey a home with grounds private enough for two friends on opposite sides of a war to converse.... (Susanne) Nitter lends Margrethe a brittle charm, and (Barry )Press's Bohr is passionate, if not always quite as charismatic as he ought to be. (Gabriel) Kuttner turns in the strongest performance: He brings nuance to a morally questionable Heisenberg.... Copenhagen is a smart play. In the wrong hands, it could seem awfully satisfied with itself for being so smart. This production treats it with the right amount of restraint...."

Personally, I thought it a surprisingly good production. Director Diego Arciniegas has fitted the actors with microphones, and the semi-disembodied voices are loud and clear enough to assure that every word of a complex thought can be heard, while adding a sense of scientific detachment to the Elysian procedings. Electronic enhancement frees the men to be conversational in those woods that surround the amplitheatre and to stroll across a footbridge and onto the riverbank as they converse or relate to each other as nucleus and orbiting electron. One consequence of these wide open spaces is that the pace is slower than it was in London, which allows us time to catch up to the physicists' thinking rather than straining to understand while they are dashing ahead of us at the speed of genius. Yes, the intensity is dialed down, but the effect is as if this is not a once-and-forever moment with the weight of a single Judgment Day, but rather a recurring conundrum with which we too must grapple as long as there is human kind or human consciousness. All three actors are 10 to 15 years too young for their roles, and the Boston Bohrs do suffer somewhat from the comparison with their older and weightier London conterparts. Gabriel Kuttner, though, is simply amazing. Not only is his Heisenberg utterly unlike his repertory role as Shakespeare in the Beard of Avon, both are completely different from the set of roles he played in "Talking To Terrorists". It wouldn't surprise me if some day I find myself boasting to my grandchildren that I once shared a stage with him.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Identity Crisis

After sending in my Dramatists Guild member profile update I got a DG query: do I want to be listed as G.L., or as Geralyn "G.L."?
It's not surprising that they're confused. I provoke confusion. I think I originally joined the Guild as "Geralyn Williams", using my then-husband's last name, because I was acting under that name at the time. However, I had written as "G.L" since college: way back then there was overt science-backed prejudice against "scribbling women" and female intellectuals. People don't believe me when I say that I had NO female professors when I was a college English major, and that there were NO female novelists or essayists in the Honors curriculum-- but that was the case, and jokes and insults aimed at "co-eds" were part of the classroom culture. By 1980 I was divorced and had legally reassumed my Horton birthname, but when I did "serious" writing or reviewing I sent it out as "G.L". On line and in print my critic-persona seemed to register as male-- and I considered that a Good thing; not only because women generally have a hard time being taken seriously as critics even today, but also because the occasional nasty letter accusing me of error or bias is always addressed to "Mr. Horton" and any sexual insults therein refer to parts I don't have: and so are easily forgiven and forgotten. The playwright-persona confusion arose because most of the people who perform or see my plays locally know me as Geralyn, the actor (actress, in OldSpeak) who writes plays. I send the plays out as "G.L.", but even distant productions are often listed as authored by "Geralyn"-- probably because I sign cover letters to people I've met face-to-face as "Geralyn". Nobody who knows me has ever called me "G.L.". But then, people who know A.R. Gurney call him "Pete"......
It just occurred to me that my early Guild years involved a lot of face-to-face with other members. I expected to meet them and hoped to be recognized. I worked as a Starter for the transit system in the late 1970's-early 80's, and my union card was a free pass on the Boston/NYC train. I'd ride down for the day, attend a Guild event-- especially the Woman's Committee, before it was closed down-- and take the Night Owl back home to Boston. And Back Then the Guild had events in Boston from time to time, with Playwrights Platform's Guild members acting as hosts. I wanted the Guild members I met to be able to connect face and name.
I think I should probably prefer to be listed as "G.L.", and be able to tell from how I'm addressed whether someone knows me personally or by my authorial pen name. But if this screws up the system within which I've held a long-term Guild membership as "Geralyn", then I guess a Geralyn "G.L." listing that gives the game away isn't fatal.
However, I did spend some time trying to write a gender-neutral text to accompany a rehearsal photo of one of my plays rather than post my giveaway headshot. Anyone who automatically assumes that the default sex for a playwright is male might be fooled-- for alas, there are still people who assume that. But anyone actively interested in who I am will blow my cover in an instant by clicking the links to my acting resume or my blog, where my mug appears first thing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dangerously Popular?

David is worried that our new mp3 toy on Stagepage may be Dangerously Popular and incur run-away chages for Bandwidth use.... he says:
SCARED fellow, now.
Bandwidth use, from July 6 through yesterday was a bit over 0.6 GB - that included three days where readings were available and where someone clicked one 'triangle' or the other 220 times.
Before the game it hit 0.7 GB
After the game it was at 0.71 GB
This morning it was 0.72 GB
That's over forty (40) more clicks While America Slept!
On unadvertised links!
WTF ? ! ? ! ? ! ?
The first 20+ happened while I'd expect most of Geralyn's audience might be at the theater. The second 20+ while they should have been sleeping. Don't have the official numbers for yesterday, yet, but this could be a hint of danger to come and a warning to scale back any plans any of us had.
I'll be looking into the Yahoo! bandwidth option today. The technology we are using doesn't care where the file it plays lives and I think the bandwidth used is only charged to the site hosting the file rather than to the one providing the link.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday - Memorial Service for John Ross

Three o'clock this Sunday was the Memorial Service for John Andrew Ross at Brookline's First Parish Unitarian-Universalist church, where John was choir director for many years, Minister of Music for his last ones. I sang with the Brookline choir intermittantly for 2 years in the late 1990's, in between the time I left the Arlington Street Church choir and the time I settled into the choir at FUSN -- the UU church in West Newton. I was no longer closely enough connected to anyone presently at First Parish to hear beforehand about the Expanded Choir that rehearsed and sang John's anthem arrangements at the service: I would have loved to have been part of it. (I knew about John's death because I read his obituary in the Boston Globe. Here's his obituary from the National Center for African American Artists web site, and a Tribute from the Bay State Banner.) The church was packed with hundreds of people, black white and varigated, who knew John and loved him. Besides his musical gifts, what a gift for friendship he had! "Black Nativity", which he continued to direct even after he had to rise from a hospital bed to take the baton, is a magnificent legacy. In addition to the choirs, there were soloists and ensembles from the wide-ranging musical styles in which John was an inspirational participant, and moving eulogies from family, dignitaries, colleagues, students, and friends-- three and a half uplifting hours of them. I was touched by much of what was sung and said -- not least by Joel Cohen, of the Early Music ensemble Boston Camerata , for whom John sang countertenor in its first seasons. Cohen paid tribute to John's -- no Jack's, as he was called then-- musicianship and told charming anecdotes, but his strongest words were in tribute to John's devotion to music as a spiritual path, a ministry that gave him the ability to change lives and the world for the better. Cohen broke into tears as he abandoned his text and the pulpit, charging us in a broken voice to take John's example to work with love and art to change the direction of our ailing country.
Oceans of music at the service, but only one song for the congregation assembled:"This Little Light Of Mine". We sang the roof off with it.
There was a reception at the National Center for African American Artists, but I met with two old friends from the choir who had been at the church since the rehearsal for the morning worship Service-- also about John, where congregation members shared their personal feelings-- and they were utterly exhausted. We adjourned together to Jeanne's house in Brookline, where we had Chinese take-out and talked about Old Times. We are all just about John's age: ready or not, the Memorial puts all our Little Lights together, and in perspective.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Staying Connected

Spent today-- and some days before, and more to come-- on cyber-networking. Both my Dramatists Guild Member Profile and my Profile on StageSource were suffering from serious neglect. I pay for the public profile as part of my dues, and as an artist who has decided to network on line rather than try to be charming in person it behooves me to get my basic information expanded and updated and add a link to my Stagepage site to these boards, both of which have upcoming revision deadlines.

David and I are also making mp3 files of ourselves reading my Mouth-Off monologues to add to Stagepage. If we figure out where to site them so that downloads won't cost a fortune, we'll ask actor friends to make mp3's too. Maybe put samples on this blog?
Dave, speaking kinda-sorta for Geralyn:
We have a new group of Mouth-Offs she's written, with more coming this weekend, too. And two new 'readings', in addition to the one I sent earlier. We will be doing our own update next week - after training exercises - but asked Our Great Web Wizard Wyn Snow of Dragonscale to do the initial beta.
Information of note: we've been SEEN!
"mouth-offs" has been hit 270 times this week ... and the 'readings' have not been up the entire week ... and we've had 220 hits on the 'readings'! I'm not sure if that means most of them heard both, if half of them heard both, if most heard one ... that's a lot of people listening! Used half a GB of her 20 GB monthly limit ... we may run over our limit next month. That would be SUCH a mixed 'problem'.

Friday, July 21, 2006

More Writers than readers????!!!!

Stats on books from Dan Poynter via Booklad blog link...
58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
42% of college graduates never read another book.
80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
57% of new books are not read to completion.
Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.Customers 55 and older account for more than one-third of all books bought.
Women buy 68% of all books.
On the average, a book store browser spends eight seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds looking at the back cover.

Jerold Jenkins’ stats on writers:
81% of the population feels they have a book inside them.
27% would write fiction.
6 million have written a manuscript.
6 million manuscripts are making the rounds.

Maybe blogs will drain off the banked-up wouldbe's yearning for publication? But if 81% of the population writes, who'll have time to read?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Gloria Steinem argues for women-friendly radio

women-friendly radio rare, Deborah Caulfield Rybak says in her Star Tribune article:

..... women AWOL from the airwaves, Gloria Steinem told an industry group Friday (during) the Minneapolis conference's....keynote speech at the 31st annual Conclave. Women want "less heat and more light -- more fairness," she added.
Steinem..... a board member (along with Jane Fonda) of GreenStone Media, a new FM talk network for women -- came armed with statistics to back up her assertions. Female listeners are down in almost every music and talk format, a seven-year decline that spans all ages and ethnic groups, she said. "Only public radio has shown a 25 percent increase in women" during the past six years, she added.... Too few of radio's decisionmakers are female. Radio remains a peculiarly male-dominated medium, she said. "Ninety-one percent of radio programmers are men, 85 percent of the general managers and almost all programming consultants." (Radio is not) producing radio that women wanted to listen to and that "we are not the airheads or bimbos that programmers assume."
"Women told me they don't want to hear the same top news stories that report only problems, not solutions. They want less politics and sports." And women are turned off by "verbal prizefights," she added, "even if they agree with the winner."
Steinem said that women want a radio community that "treats everyone with respect" along with more humor and more stories about home, health, books, movies and "how women live in other countries."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Saturday-- Off to Lenox, Shakes & Co.

Up at 8:30 am, not enough sleep. Apologized to Alice the cat for being about to go away all day and fed her some baked chicken breast to placate her in advance. Got together a picnic lunch and did some yoga. Will called at 9:15am to say that he was on his way over. We three left for Lenox at a little after 10:00, more or less on schedule, arrived in town time to pick up tickets for Servant of Two Masters Part I at 1:15pm. The junior Banksyde company, which performs under a tent on the Footprint of the future replica of London's Rose Theatre, is engaging; and their intention to enlist the audience in a world that bridges today and Shakespeare's time and relates the Comedia conventions to both eras is an admirable idea-- but one that doesn't really work. Pretending to be a traveling troupe-- but of what period? -- that has lesser status and must defer to the elite senior S&Co troupe in the Founders' Theatre is a graceful idea. But these ideas put together add up to far too much exposition and explanation for the payoff in punch lines. The in jokes and local references are great, just the right spirit for Comedia players. But as justifications? I'd say, no apologies: lame jokes are best launched lightly and even side-splitters improve twhen they come across cleaner and leaner. The Servant staging itself is as good as any I've seen: nimble and sly and generous-- a most entertaining way to spend a summer afternoon. The first act --or first half-- ends with a wild flurry of multi character juggling that whips up a storm of applause.
Next we'll eat our little picnic on the grass outside the theatre, have a brief visit with David's mother-- who lives only a few blocks from the S&Co. complex-- and return in time for the Second Part of "Servant", followed immediately by the 8pm Hamlet. I don't know when I will get to writing these up: by the time we drive back to Newton and unpack ourselves it will be Sunday am. Sunday afternoon David and I have volunteered to work on the rehab of the FUSN Sanctuary, Sunday night is the FUSN choir picnic. I expect that Monday and perhaps even Tues I'll be a Zombie.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Busy Week End

David's birthday cookout, family and friends invited for a last-minute party to precede the game session he has with his regular group on Friday nights. Celebrating a day and a half without rain. We wiped the mud off the lawn furniture and test-fired the grill. The garden is weedy but flourishing with the unprecedented rainfall this spring and summer. I felt a bit awkward leaving with Will at 7:40 to see Lucky Stiff at Turtle Lane-- less than 10 minutes way-- but this was planned before the party was.

I took me quite a while to warm up to Lucky Stiff. It seems influenced by A Funny Thing Happened-- which is fine-- but it is difficult to relax and enjoy so many brash and brassy characters screeching at each other. It is interesting that the Antagonist, the young woman determined to foil our hapless hero in his quest for his dead uncle's fortune, has the only sweet and sympathetic song in the first half.

Tried to get to bed early to get a good nights sleep before the trip to Lenox tomorrow-- but David's kids and a couple of close friends were still partying when Will and I got back to the house. I tried to pick up party debris from the garden, but it was difficult to do in the dark. Chatted pleasantly with guests-- mostly about food and cats. We all like to eat and most of us have one or more cats presently and cats fondly remembered in our pasts.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Offering to help Worship...

I included a run-down of topics I'd presented to congregations in the past. Via email Im told that there's a plan for a late December service on the Feminine concept of the divine.
I reply:
Do the Committees really mean "feminine", as in handmaids and helpmeets? Mother Teresa, and St. Teresa? I got my MA in 1976: Goddard was/is Liberty Hall; and this was in the Hey-Day of the Triple Goddess when Fighting Feminists formed Revolutionary Covens. Besides Mary Daly and Elaine Pagels, I studied Wicca, Tarot, Soul Craft, Lucid Dreaming, Healing and Spells-- practice as well as theory. It was rather like Hogwarts! My thesis was a biographical play about the Spiritualist/Communist/Stockbroker who was (in 1872) the first woman to run for president-- running on a platform of Equal Rights and Free Love, and funding her campaign through blackmail.
I do know a lovely Celtic New Year ritual.
The reply asks about the ritual, and for more on my Goddard studies that included Lucid Dreaming:
The ritual is to "Levy Dew", an Irish song which in the version I know has lyrics attributed to Yeats. It involves a Fair Maid, and the Old Year being escorted out the West door and the New Year coming in the East, and water and wine poured into a bowl. I looked it up and printed it out for D T before last year's Winter Solstice service, but there wasn't really time to recreate it.....
I did a Goddess service at Arlington Street Church on Mother's Day in 1975-- and possibly repeated it some years later?---. I still have the script. You can read it if you like. (warning: it is very messy-- this was in the Dark Ages, before computers and spell checkers and is typed in my worst fumbling one finger mode) In addition to putting together myths and poetry, music, dance and a slide show, I interviewed dozens of members of the congregation about their feelings around motherhood and their ideas about the Female aspect of Divinity-- using suggestions from a Celebrations workshop at the 1974 UU General Assembly . I have the filled-out survey sheets along with the order of service and a minute-by-minute breakdown of the service itself. Because of the 1975 date, I suspect that this project was part of the work I submitted for my Goddard MA. During the course work I practiced the various "spiritual" or "psychic" exercises, beginning with simply turning off the critical conscious mind: a major job for me! But many years of training as an actor were very helpful-- I could envision almost any circumstance, and approach using the actor's "as if"-- the suspension of disbelief, rather than accepting mystical or occult propositions as literally or scientifically true. I seem to have some small gift for healing-- probably everyone does, and mine is quite minor, I make no claims for it: but if someone has an ache and requests a healing, I'm willing to try. It seems to work a bit better than the expected placebo effect-- maybe above half the time. But I have no calling towards this sort of thing, and am very wary of people who do. The women in my Goddard "project" who were "into" psychic power seemed to me to spiral off into megalomania and-- worse-- paranoia once they began reinforcing each other's belief systems.
Dreaming was fascinating, but... I suppose it helped that I had a wild schedule between work and grad studies, so that my normal sleep pattern was interrupted; and I was also meditating regularly. The key is waking at intervals to "notice" and record dreams, aiming at some point to become able to continue the same or a similar dream into another sleep cycle, and then to "command" changes of elements in the repeating dream. I could do it then: and the most recent time I tried, I still could. Knowing that this is possible is wonderful! But "mastering" it? I have never been unhappy with my dreams. Insofar as I ever remember them, most are pleasant or interesting. Some are boring anxiety dreams in which I clean or repair something that corresponds to some current failure. My rare nightmare is usually very specific and reveals to me that there is something I fear or feel guilty about that I must deal with in the real world. I suppose I could "fix" it in the dream, but it seems simpler just to accept the dream as an attention-pointer. I've never had the sort of obsessive repeating nightmare that signals a serious blockage. Most of my dreams are pleasant but not "important". Often I'm not even "in" them, but watching strangers explore or interact. This is very near to my waking experience when writing plays--- and I find writing plays more satisfying than dreaming them. When stuck in a play, I may resort to asking my dreams to suggest a new direction. This sometimes works-- but it is of less practical use than having someone I trust read the mess I've got my characters into and say "But why wouldn't X just do Y?" Whereupon light dawns, and I rejoice.
James said something in a sermon last month about UFOs and Astral Projection and talking to plants - yes, I've done that, too-- and the like all being very interesting, but that at some point the Seeker has to set priorities. I decided after the intense Godddard period that while I would remain open to Wonders I would not make exploring them what my life is about.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Politically Incorrect Songs

Theatre query: looking for
"songs that are often cut from revivals today because they simply can't be sung anymore: they're too offensive. Songs like "I'm an Indian Too" from Annie Get Your Gun, for example."

Two seasons ago I saw Annie Get Your Gun complete with "I'm an Indian Too". Must say I enjoyed it. Also enjoyed the spectacular "braves ballet" with gorgeous dancers in itty bitty loincloths-- which I remembered in great detail from the time I saw the road show of the original in Toledo, when I was very young. Wow!

Someone instances The Rape Song (It Depends on What You Pay) from THE FANTASTICKS-- "it's hard to remember the innocence that could have made the word "rape" signify a harmless attack of stage bandits. There is a new song to replace it in new productions of the show."

I say, Pooh! The original one satirizes age-old Maiden In Distress Bodice Ripper rape fantasies in a witty and effective way, and is musically buoyant enough to lift the first act to a pre-finale peak. I was a fiery young non-innocent feminist when it was written, I'm a cranky old feminist now: and I say the original song, in context, is splendid-- and the replacement's a dud.

To the growing list, mostly misogynous, another person adds.... "In the current climate , almost all of Sondheim's Assassins is unperformable...."
I grump that... The term "unperformable" seems to be getting more and more metaphoric. I've seen almost all the "unperformable" songs listed so far performed in their native shows somewhere during the last decade. There have been at least 4-- count 'em--4! professional productions of "Assassins" in greater Boston recently, several additional college/conservatory ones, and even the high school in the suburb where I live featured it this season.
I don't know whether the show will remain "performable"-- one production I attended played to a nearly-full house, at another the cast plus orchestra outnumbered the patrons. But a postponement of the NYC revival scheduled to open shortly after 9/11 doesn't mean it has left the boards!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Borrowing wisdom unheeded......

Still drooping around the edges, trying to cope and set up a writing schedule....

on today's Huffington Post Blog:
William James's bitter "Address on the Philippine Question" in 1903 could have been filed on an inspection of Baghdad in 2006:

"... all the anti-imperialistic prophecies were right. One by one we have seen them punctually fulfilled: -- The material ruin of the [nation]; the transformation of native friendliness to execration; the demoralization of our army... torture whitewashed, massacre condoned; the creation of a chronic anarchy... ; the deliberate reinflaming on our part of ancient tribal animosities...; these things, I say, or things like them, were things which everyone foretold; while the incapacity of our public for taking the slightest interest in anything so far away was from the outset a foregone conclusion."
Still more uncannily modern, or post-modern, and timely, is James's reflection in the same speech on what we call "American exceptionalism:"

"We used to believe... that we were of a different clay from other nations, that there was something deep in the American heart that answered to our happy birth, free from that hereditary burden which the nations of Europe bear, and which obliges them to grow by preying on their neighbors. Idle dream! pure Fourth of July fancy, scattered in five minutes by the first temptation. In every national soul there lie potentialities of the most barefaced piracy, and our own American soul is no exception to the rule. Angelic impulses and predatory lusts divide our heart exactly as they divide the hearts of other countries. It is good to rid ourselves of cant and humbug, and to know the truth about ourselves. Political virtue does not follow geographical divisions. It follows the eternal division inside of each country between the tory and the liberal tendencies, the jingoism and animal instinct that would run things by main force and brute possession, and the critical conscience that believes in educational methods and in rational rules of right."
-William James, "Address on the Philippine Question" in William James: Writings 1902 - 1910, Library of America.--Christopher Lydon

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Morning After--The Globe Does Not Agree

Although we saw the same performance, the Globe's reviewer didn't have as good I time as I did.

'The Beard' tries too hard with the Bard
By Louise Kennedy, Globe Staff | July 7, 2006
Shakespeare blends high and low comedy so seamlessly that he makes the trick look easy. When lesser minds attempt it, though, it too often becomes obvious just how hard it is.
Take ``The Beard of Avon," in which Amy Freed throws high-flying lyricism and bottom-dwelling puns at the Shakespeare authorship question. Freed wants to engage large questions about creativity and love; she also wants to get quick laughs with faux-Elizabethan anachronisms (``You do deprive me of my necessary space") and bawdy sight gags involving sausage. Maybe the Bard could pull it off. ``The Beard," no matter how hard the Publick Theatre tries to make it fly, just can't.

At least she praised Kuttner's Will-- and the cast generally. It is such a relief to have local critics acknowledge that our local actors can cope with Shakespeare. The Boston Shakespeare Co. of thirty years ago was good, but nothing they did impressed the papers. Some of those same people now have national reputations-- and our Actors Shakespeare Project just took King Lear to NYC and came away with praise.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wednesday -- to The Beard of Avon

Hot, stressful day, followed by a trip to the Publick Theatre on the bannks of the Charles to see Amy Freed's The Beard of Avon. June, Monica, Will, Robert W and I had a thrown-together-at-the-last-minute picnic stageside before the show. The Publick offered freebies to the theatre community, and there were familiar faces in the audience. Beautiful night. Mosquitos not too bad. I really enjoyed the show-- I was in the mood to go either way: I'm rather prickly about riffs on The Bard. (I do think the oft-repeated Sausage Joke could be improved upon: surely there is an equally ancient and awful bit of comic business to use which is at least remotely funny?) But this one, like Shakespeare in Love, is deft and witty. Both these comedies gain by confining themselves to Young Will, when all we need concede is that the figure we are invited to laugh at might possibly grow into the author who still awes us. I particularly enjoyed seeing Gabriel Kuttner, fellow-player in "Talking To Terrorists", as Will. His stage-struck poetic bumpkin grows as we watch.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Quiet 4th of July

Mainly puttered in the garden and around the house, read the Blogs and mourned the State of Our United States. There was a House cook-out at around six. David and I threw some stuff on the grill and chatted with Robin's dance friends. The kids were around, but not really interacting much with grown-ups. The folk singing part of the party didn't seem to be getting started, and I drifted back to my own side of the duplex with one ear cocked to join in if it did. Glued to my computer, I didn't hear the people on the other side set out for the near-by park to watch Newton's fireworks. When I saw the Newton fireworks in the distance and realized that the others had gone and that David was not going to emerge from his basement office to join me in walking to where we could see, I turned on the TV to watch the Boston Pops 4th-- a show guaranteed to annoy me to some degree because I Don't Like Rock or Most Pop. Go away, Arrowsmith guys! Robin was back from the Newton fireworks by this time, and willing to watch Arrowsmith because she went to school with the Boston member's brother. I found I couldn't sing along with the Pops patriotic sing-along. It is pretty silly to sing along with thousands of people who are about six miles away. Silly or not, I know all the words by heart and usually I do sing, and enjoy it. But the interminable indefensible war has o'crowed my spirit. Shortly after this the TV fireworks came on and now David appeared to watch along with me. There are new colors and shapes since the last time we watched fireworks. Too much of it reminds me of cities besieged.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Someone else Rants on a favorite topic

The evil of corporation-sponsored copyright laws and how they are destroying our cultural heritage. Art is created by and for humanity at large, not for art-mongers, patrons, or business interests. Creators have always drawn on the work of other creators, through imitation, borrowing, or theft adding to the cultural capital that makes us all spiritually rich whatever our material circumstance. But there are those who want to deprive everyone of thse things that do not profit themselves...

quite from jedmunds July 3rd, 2006 in Legal Issues, Boggles the Mind
Via LGM, Brad Plumer

"The vast majority of films produced after 1923 have no continuing commercial value. They’re just sitting in vaults gathering dust. There’s obviously no need to extend their copyrights; if no one’s currently making any money off these films, they might as well enter the public domain. But thanks to the CTEA, they can’t. (A more sensible copyright law would have extended copyrights only for those owners who actually wanted to extend them; but that’s not the law Congress passed—all copyrights are affected.)

Now, these days, it’s cheap and easy to restore old films with digital technology—it can cost as little as $100 to digitize an hour of 8 mm film. Many of these films could, in theory, be easily restored, and released, or put in an archive, for people to watch. But thanks to the CTEA, it’s not cheap and easy. Anyone who wanted to restore one of these films would have to track down the owners of the copyright—no small task—and then hire a lawyer, lest they commit a felony. That’s way too much effort and expense just to restore some arcane old movie that only a few people might enjoy. So no one does it.

And the worst part is that by the time the copyright for a lot of these obscure films expires, in 2019 and beyond, the film for these movies—which were produced on nitrate-based stock—will have completely dissolved. They’ll just be canisters filled with dust. An entire generation of movies really will have vanished, never to be watched again. I guess it’s hardly the most important problem on the face of the earth, but culturally, it’s a tragedy, and a rather striking example of the insanity of copyright law."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Off to a celebration

Saturday-- Lenox area for a 90th Birthday

My mother-in-law's 4 children gathered with spouses and a couple of grandkids to celebrate her 90th B-Day with lunch at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. After I gave the dogs breakfast and a morning walk, David and I rode to Western Mass with his son Mike. I brought the laptop to do a little blogging in the car, but on the ride up it refused to log onto my desktop, and I read the current Nation instead-- or at least I did when the car was proceding steadily enough for me to look at a page of print without getting seasick. The men talked about cars and driving the whole way-- except when they were listening to Click and Clack talk about cars and driving on NPR. Cars and driving as a topic drives me bonkers. I can't bear to listen. That and the heat in the back seat of the car made me very grumpy-- poor company, I fear. Before we met for lunch we had time to walk around the tourist shops and I took an asprin before we settled wit the family into our 2 tables in the Inn's courtyard. From there we went to David's sister's condo in Lenox to talk. After catching up with family news we mostly talked about the different ways and landscapes the siblings have experienced since leaving New England. I feel twinges of envy, wishing that David and I had the time and money to travel. But do I really? I'm often glad for an excuse to just stay home--- and though he enjoyed it once he arrived, David had to be dragged kicking and screaming to London the first time we went abroad. He still won't consider a trip to anywhere that English is not the native tongue. He did sound interested in what his brother had to say about Australia, though. Now we're on the road home. David made a magician's pass over my laptop, and it is working now. But soon it will be too dark to see the keys.