Month: March 2013

Happy World Theater Day!

Today, March 27, is World Theater Day. I have a huge announcement at the end of this blog so stick around for that, but first a little history. WTD was created in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI), World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27 by ITI Centres and the international theatre community. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion, such as the creation and circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message through which, at the invitation of ITI, a figure of world stature shares his or her reflections on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. The International Message is translated into more than 20 languages, read for tens of thousands of spectators before performances in theatres throughout the world. This year’s message comes from Dario Fo, a playwright, author and Nobel Prize winner!

His message says:

A long time ago, Power resolved the intolerance against Commedia dell’Arte actors by chasing them out of the country.

Today, actors and theatre companies have difficulties finding public stages, theatres and spectators, all because of the crisis.
Rulers are, therefore, no longer concerned with problems of control over those who express themselves with irony and sarcasm, since there is no place for actors, nor is there a public to address.
On the contrary, during the Renaissance, in Italy those in power had to make a significant effort in order to hold the Commedianti at bay, since these enjoyed a large audience.

It is known that the great exodus of Commedia dell’Arte players happened in the century of the counter-Reformation, which decreed the dismantling of all theatre spaces, especially in Rome, where they were accused of offending the holy city. In 1697, Pope Innocent XII, under the pressure of insistent requests from the more conservative side of the bourgeoisie and of the major exponents of the clergy, ordered the demolition of Tordinona Theatre which, according to the moralists, had staged the greatest number of obscene displays.

At the time of the counter-Reformation, cardinal Carlo Borromeo, who was active in the North of Italy, had committed himself to the redemption of the “children of Milan”, establishing a clear distinction between art, as the highest form of spiritual education, and theatre, the manifestation of profanity and of vanity. In a letter addressed to his collaborators, which I quote off the cuff, he expresses himself more or less as follows: “Concerned with eradicating the evil weed, we have done our utmost to burn texts containing infamous speeches, to eradicate them from the memory of men, and at the same time to prosecute also those who divulged such texts in print. Evidently, however, while we were asleep, the devil labored with renewed cunning. How far more penetrating to the soul is what the eyes can see, than what can be read off such books! How far more devastating to the minds of adolescents and young girls is the spoken word and the appropriate gesture, than a dead word printed in books.  It is therefore urgent to rid our cities of theatre makers, as we do with unwanted souls”.

Thus the only solution to the crisis lies in the hope that a great expulsion is organized against us and especially against young people who wish to learn the art of theatre: a new diaspora of Commedianti, of theatre makers, who would, from such an imposition, doubtlessly draw unimaginable benefits for the sake of a new representation.

Translation by Victor Jacono, ITI Italy and Fabiana Piccioli

A powerful message as we celebrate WTD.

I urge everyone to find a way to celebrate World Theater Day today. See a stage play, live or live on video. Watch a movie musical, read a play, take an actor out for coffee (or a director, writer, producer, etc). Do something to celebrate theater!

For more information on World Theater Day, check out World Theater Day NYC or the International Theater Institute.

Now for my huge announcement. About a month ago (March 5 to be exact) I posted a blog titled “140 Words” about Mind The Gap Theater‘s World Theater Day contest. This is part of what I wrote:

Can I do this in 140 words? Can I tell a complete story  while making sure each word has an impact? I guess we’ll find out, won’t we.

Well I found out…and I’m beyond thrilled and excited to announce that my short play Sunday Dinner has been selected as one of the plays that will receive a staged reading today! The submissions will be read while partaking in tea and biscuits at Paul Michael’s The Network, 242 W 26th St., 3rd Floor (between 7th & 8th) at 3:30pm.

This event is FREE and open to the public. However, seating is extremely limited so reservations are essential. To secure a seat call 212.252.3137 or email Mind The Gap Theater at allaboard@mindthegaptheatre.com with your name and contact number. Your reservation is automatically confirmed unless you hear back from us.

So if you are in the New York City area today at 3:30 and have nothing to do, I encourage you to see Sunday Dinner and the rest of the fantastic pieces from writers from both sides of the pond.

Happy World Theater Day!

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World Theater Day

Tomorrow, March 27, is World Theater Day. I am of the opinion that everyone should SOMEHOW participate. That might mean watching a live show in NYC, there are even some free options if you’re available like this event that Mind The Gap is putting on. Watch a live on stage show on DVD (Wal-Mart has several good ones including Phantom of the Opera, the Les Miz concert, Cats, Pirates of Penzance and Jesus Christ Superstar for a good price. Netflix has some in the watch instantly feature). Watch a movie musical. Read a play. Tweet about it. Tumble about theater. Take an actor out for coffee. Do something to celebrate World Theater Day!

What the Leprechaun Said

I’ve mentioned before that I am somewhat active on the forums at AbsoluteWrite under the name “Bloo”. It’s a great place for writers to interact with other writers, discuss the craft, politics (if you desire), current events, television, movies, books, an area where you can share your work, and threads about blogging and social media, and most importantly (that I’ve found) learning how publishing really works.

This month, I signed up for a “Blog chain”, basically a group of bloggers take one theme and every couple of days a new blogger adds to the theme. Now it’s my turn to add my link to that chain.

This month’s theme is “What the Leprechaun Said” in celebration of March and St. Patrick’s Day. So with great fanfare and applause we open the curtain on a  “flash play” (similar to flash fiction but in script form).

WHAT THE LEPRECHAUN SAID

At rise, the set is dressed as the Irish seashore, up stage left (USL) should have a large boulder large enough for two men to lay against. Down stage right (DSR) should have a small boulder. A large man, FERGUS MAC LETI, enters. He is dressed in traditional Gaelic attire: a long-sleeved, thigh length tunic, a long black cloak, a belt around his waist, a brooch on his shoulder, and boots. A large sword is strapped to his back. Fergus looks around the setting and yawns, stretching. Fergus is joined by MUENA, his servant, who is dressed similar to Fergus.

Fergus: Ack, it’s been a long day and sleep is calling my name.

Muena: Your highness, are you sure it is wise to sleep here in the open?

Fergus: Bah, you worry too much Muena, Ireland is finally at peace, what harm could come to us here?

Muena: King Fergus, you still have enemies scattered throughout the land. If one should stumble upon us…

Fergus: You worry too much lad, (slapping Muena on the back) besides, if we don’t sleep and we do stumble across an enemy, we’ll be as worthless as the day is long!

Muena: But my Lord, what about the fair folk? The sprites, and dwarves, and such?

Fergus: I spit on the fair folk and all their like. They would have let us tear the land apart with war and reclaimed it for themselves. If they dare raise a hand against me, I’ll bash their heads in too! Now come lad (slapping Muena on the back again) it’s time for a rest.

Fergus finds a spot USL and settles down against the boulder, closes his eyes and immediately falls asleep, snoring quite loudly. Muena looks around nervously. He even walks to the down center stage and peers into the great depth of the ocean. Satisfied that no one is out to get them, he moves upstage and settles down next to Fergus and goes to sleep as well. 

As they sleep, the first Leprechaun, ARGYLE, enters. He is wearing a RED coat (not green) with gold trim and seven rows of buttons with seven buttons to each row, green leggings, and shoes with buckles. He enters with a flourish, flips or walking on his hands, something similar. He moves to DSR and begins to poke around the boulder, finally pulling out a small crock of gold. He settles against this boulder and begins to count his gold. That’s when he spies Fergus and Muena.

Agryle: Ack, what’s this? Thieves and brigands out to seal my gold!

He moves up stage and pokes Fergus, who snores louder and turns, almost spooning with Muena in the process and mumbling something in his sleep.

Argyle: No, not a thief, a thief wouldn’t dare snore so loud. A traveler perhaps, wandered here and decided to take a rest. FOOL (Argyle smacks the back of Fergus’ head), don’t you know the kings of men war and fight? This is no place to nap!

Argyle moves to stage right, and calls off stage

Argyle: Seamus! Chanuncey! Get out here, I need yer help

Two other leprechauns enter SR, SEAMUS and CHANUNCEY. They are dressed identical to Argyle.

Seamus: What have ye found Argyle?

Chanuncey: (pointing at Fergus and Muena) MEN! Come to steal from us!

Seamus: Or bring their war to our shores!

Argyle: I thought so too Chanuncey, but they are the most foolish humans I’ve ever seen. Look how they sleep. I can poke the fat one and he never wakes up.

Seamus: I don’t believe you.

Argyle: Try for yourself.

Seamus and Chanuncey each take turns poking and kicking at Fergus, who never stops snoring, only responds with grunts and half-hearted, sleepy swats.

Seamus: What should we do with them?

Chanuncey: Kill them.

Seamus: Chanuncey!

Argyle: For once I agree with Chanuncey, the best thing we can do is rid ourselves of these fools. If they stay here, more men may come and find our horde of gold. Or they could bring their war to us and force us to fight their battles for them. The best thing to do is kill them.

Seamus: Which one do we start with then?

Argyle: The right one, look he carries a sword, that makes him the greater threat.

Seamus: Fine, but how?

Chanuncy: We drag him to the sea and let the loch take him away.

Seamus and Argyle nod and the three of them grab Fergus’ legs and start to drag him to the water’s edge. When he’s almost to the edge, Fergus’ wakes up and starts to struggle.

Fergus: (roaring) WHAT IS THIS! LET ME GO YOU DAMNABLE CLURICHAUN!

Seamus: We’re not Clurichaun, we’re leprechaun!

Fergus: Then let me go you damnable leprechaun!

Fergus continues to struggle and manages to grab all three of his intended murders  and holds them close to him in his arms. 

Argyle: Let us go!

Fergus: Never! I’ll kill you, like you tried to kill me!

Fergus starts to drag them to the water.

Chanuncy: STOP! Don’t kill us and we’ll..

Seamus: We’ll…

Fergus: You’ll what?

Argyle: We’ll grant you a wish.

Fergus: (stopping) A wish you say?

Seamus: Yes, anything you want.

Fergus: (Looking at the sea thoughtfully and then pulling off his cloak) I want you to enchant this so that it allows me to breath underwater.

Chanuncy: You want to breath underwater? Why?

Fergus: So that no sprite, pixie, dwarf, Clurichaun, or leprechaun can ever do this to me again.

The three leprechauns huddle together and whisper, nodding, shaking heads, arguing silently. Finally they break the huddle and nod.

Argyle: Fine. (He spreads the cloak on the ground and begins to waves his hands over it) Tuatha Dé Danann

Seamus: Falias.

Chanuncy: Finias.

Argyle: Gorias

Seamus: Murias

Chanuncy: Enchant this cloak and let its wearer breath in the waters of every Loch.

Fergus, satisfied  reaches for his cloak and slips it back on his shoulders. Argyle quickly grabs the hem.

Argyle: Except for Loch Rudraige.

Fergus: (roaring) What have you done!

Seamus: What we said we’d do.

Chanuncy: You can breath in every loch and under every body of water except this one.

Argyle: Loch Rudraige.

Fergus: Why?

Seamus: (confused) Because that’s who we are and that’s what we do. You didn’t expect us to grant you a wish without condition did you?

Argyle: (a beat, waiting for an answer from Fergus, which doesn’t come) He DID!

Chanuncy: Foolish man, don’t you know that the leprechaun are tricksters and pranksters?

Seamus: We don’t mind you bothering our kin and cousins, but we don’t want to see you HERE again.

Fergus: (grumbling, walks over to Muena) Wake up Muena, it’s time to go.

Muena: (waking up to see the three leprechaun’s laughing and rolling) What…are those leprechaun?

Fergus: Yes. But ignore them, we need to go.

Muena: But why my liege?

Fergus: I don’t want to talk about it. (dragging Muena toward SL)

Muena: Fergus? You didn’t make a deal with them or allow them to grant you a wish did you?

Fergus: I don’t want to talk about it.

Muena: Because if you did, they’ll trick you every time.

Fergus: (as they exit) I SAID I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!

Close

The story of Fergus mac Leti contains one of the earliest references to leprechauns and displays their more trickster nature and is a story I wasn’t real familiar with until I started brainstorming ideas for this blog and thought it was wonderfully theatrical. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this.

I also suggest you check out the rest of the Absolute Write March Blog chain by following the links below.

orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to post) 
robeiae – http://thepondsofhappenstance.blogspot.com/ (link to post) 
writingismypassion – http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to post) 
Sudo_One – http://sudoone.wordpress.com/ (link to post) 
randi.lee – http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com/ (link to post)
pyrosama – http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to post) 
katci13 – http://www.krystalsquared.net/ (link to post) 
MsLaylaCakes – http://taraquan.com/ (link to post) 
Angyl78 – http://jelyzabeth.wordpress.com/ (link to post) 
KitCat – http://twilightasylum.wordpress.com/ (link to post) 
Bloo – http://www.emergencyroomproductions.net/ (link to post)
dclary – http://davidwclary.com (link to post) 
ConnieBDowell – http://bookechoes.com/ (link to post)
Lady Cat – http://carolsrandomness.blogspot.com/ (link to post)
Araenvo – http://www.simonpclark.com/ (link to post)
MichaelP – http://portablemagicblog.com/ (link to post)
Ralph Pines – http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ (link to post)
mdgreene50 – http://www.gettotheinside.blogspot.com/ (link to post)
scatterjoy! – http://www.sleepinginanunmadebed.com/ (link to post)
SRHowen – http://srhowen1.blogspot.com/ (link to post)
dolores haze – http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/ (link to post)

Twitter: The new groundlings?

twittergroundlings copyThis morning I read an article on Artsfwd.org about how the University Musical Society (UMS) is incorporating Twitter and “Twitter boxes” to promote social media interaction with their show. Using special crafted boxes, a pre-selected area in the back of the theater, a specific hashtag, asking for a certain number of tweets during the show, and asking the “twitter seat” participants to lower the brightness on their phones or devices, UMS has allowed specific audience members to engage their immediate thoughts regarding a show unto an theater community and audience that knows what twitter stream to follow.

Some have embraced this idea, praising the immediate feedback it gives actors, writers, and directors. Others reject this idea, saying that it takes away from the connection that an actor is trying to build with his audience by giving audience members a “distraction.”

Me? I’m intrigued by this idea.  And for the simple reason that it struck me that Twitter (and Facebook) have become our default method of sharing immediate thoughts, actions, ideas, etc. Just this morning, I tweeted this:

I then did some retweeting of articles I found interesting, including the article that inspired this post. Have you noticed those hashtags bugs on television? Like this:

thevoice_hashtag

daniel-bryan-kane-WWE-hashtag

Shows like The Voice and entertainment companies like World Wrestling Entertainment have learned the power of Twitter and encourage their viewers to engage online. So why hasn’t live theater engaged in this more?

I think that we, as actors, writers, or directors, want to have the audience “connect” with us, to be focused on us and our work. Theater can be a very selfish pursuit. But this has not always been the case. You’ve heard of the term “groundling” I’m sure. It dates back to the 17th century and was a person who frequented the Globe Theatre but was too poor to pay to be able to sit on one of the three levels of the theater. They were known to misbehave and are commonly believed to have thrown food such as fruit and nuts at characters they did not like (although there is no evidence of this.) Remember the old cartoons of tomatoes being thrown on stage? It comes from this. The tradition of audience interaction continued with the emergence of vaudeville. According to the site Musicals101.com

Vaudeville audiences were not passive observers. They were vocal and sometimes physical participants in performances. Their cheers, jeers or painful silences would make or break an act. At New York’s Palace, the reaction of the show biz pros attending a Monday matinee affected an act’s bookings and pay for months to come. But a bad reaction in any vaudeville theatre could ruin an act’s reputation. If a local manager decided to fire an act due to audience displeasure or disinterest, a damning report was sent back to the United Booking Office. So it is no exaggeration to say that from Broadway to Boise, audiences had tremendous influence in shaping vaudeville.

Theater has the tradition of immediate audience interaction, it really isn’t until the 1930s and the rise of the “Broadway style” musical that audiences became more passive and sedate, something that we, as modern audiences, have come to expect. When I watched the live broadcast of Legally Blonde: The Musical on MTV, it bothered me that whenever a new character or a fan favorite would appear, the audience burst out into screams, but I can’t fault them for REACTING! Isn’t that what we want as the creators of theater, to provoke a reaction?

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, social media sites like these, can combine these two traditions. Audiences can still sit quietly and not intrude on the actors and their performances, but can still engage and show their pleasure or displeasure with a show immediately. This is why I support a movement like “tweet seats.”

You can find me Tweeting @eerobert, Like my Facebook page, or follow me on Tumblr.