green days

June 16, 2009

have you all been following the situation in Iran? I find it fascinating.

I don’t really know how to talk about it or write about it.  Without being there, without having an Iranian friend by my side to guide me through the intricacies, it is overwhelming to just follow twitter feeds and blog postings.

Just so, I suggest taking a look through out the day at Andrew Sullivan’s blog on the Atlantic. He has done an amazing job of keeping up to date and filtering with the bits and pieces of news.

And also I just wanted to make note of Twitter responding to how it’s being used in Iran by changing their maintenance time so as not to stop the flow of information during daytime in Iran.

I hope the situation ends peaceably and I send out hope to Iran that they can create a society that reflects all the people not just the religious extremists.


more on seven jewish children

March 17, 2009

my two theaters Forum and Theater J are collaborating on Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children later this month.  The controversial play enabled Forum to get their first mention in the New York Times (I know it shouldn’t matter but we all know it does). There’s also an article in today’s Washington Post. Theater J’s blog has also been receiving some heavy lashings, all from one very outspoken gentleman it seems.

When the J will be presenting the play they are planning on filling up the evening not only with discussions but with other response plays.  I haven’t read the plays so I can’t comment on what they say, either in response to Churchill’s play or to the situation in the Middle East. However, there is something that automatically makes me feel upset about these responses.  Or rather, not about these responses but about the responses that don’t exist.

It seems to me that what Caryl Churchill did was write a play because that is the only way she knew how to express her anger at what she saw happening in Gaza.  Theses responders wrote their plays because of anger at Caryl Churchill and her play. Do you see the difference?  I wish that more Israeli and American Jewish artists would make pieces that were pro-active not reactionary.  It just goes back to these discussions that are so difficult to have. People don’t want to say anything potentially offensive because that may mean that they hate Israel and the Jewish people. It’s so frustrating. You can love a people, you can love a land and you can still look at injustice and call it by name.

Like I said, I haven’t read these people’s scripts. But I wish they had written them before Churchill penned hers. I wish at the first injustice Jewish artists could speak up creatively and express their side, what they think, what pains them, what moves them instead of waiting for someone else to speak up and then getting angered that the full story isn’t told.

worth a look #2

February 11, 2009

there are three stories this week that have attracted most of my non-school attention: the passing of the Coburn amendment and the complete disrespect of artists that surrounded it, the announcing of the Helen Hayes Nominations and the Israeli election.

I find that I’m not the only one pissed of and saddened by the idea that people don’t think about artists or those who work alongside them as being real people with real jobs who have a real effect of the economy. (BTW. Today is the day to tell your senator or congressman what you think if you haven’t yet, do so here).  Here are some other voices:

So why has funding for the arts become a punching bag for those who oppose economic stimulus? One can only conclude that it speaks not only to their philistine values, but to the desperate nature of their attempts to discredit the new president’s first legislative initiative, and to the complete lack of substantive analysis that they bring to their arguments against the initiative. Center for American Progress

The arts play a keen role in stimulating the economy no matter how you look it, or whether you like the arts or not. Groups like Americans for the Arts, the National Governor’s Association, US Conference of Mayors, have done their economic homework. There is empirical and significant evidence that the arts bolster the economy. In singling out the arts, Coburn is not making a logical or economic statement. Instead, he and his colleagues are promoting a notion that the arts are frivolous. Nothing could be further from the truth in terms of economic impact as well as the importance of the arts to our cultural identity and history. The arts are a field discriminated against and an easy target when times get tough. Of course, the arts are also what individuals and communities rely on in these exact same tough times. ARTSBLOG

Beyond the finances, though, investing in the arts during these tough times can ensure that America doesn’t lose a generation of creative talent to our temporary economic woes. Somewhere in America today, there are individuals with the potential of Orson Welles and the artistic gifts of Mark Rothko. It is foolhardy to attempt to save our economy by ignoring our talent. Huffington Post

Dana Gioia, a poet who was NEA chairman until last month, recalled that when top Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins was asked why the government wanted to hire so many artists and writers, he replied, “Hell, they’ve got to eat just like other people.”
Gioia, reflecting on that comment, said, “As far as I’ve heard, nothing has changed about the dietary needs of artists.” The Boston Globe

Economic stimulus is dependent on the human spirit. The arts create confidence and self-worth, and those qualities in turn foster fiscal activity. The arts build neighborhoods and can help stem the decline in property values. The current recession is most devastating in inner cities, precisely where the arts are at their best.
Artists deserve to be held accountable by anybody paying their bills. And in a job-stimulus package, money given to the arts should go directly to the creation of artistic jobs. But those jobs, and those workers, are just as important as those who pour concrete.
The arts are not, ipso facto, cheap pork. They are education. Health care. And they make up an American infrastructure of a different, more important, kind. The Chicago Tribune

At Parabisis Isaac Butler has a plan: Don’t Mourn, Organize

At Culturebot there are some numbers from Americans for the Arts.

Next, on to the Israeli election. I usually get frustrated and confused while trying to understand exactly how the Israeli political system works. It seems clear to me though that this election is an important one and Israel is standing on the brink of something which will probably not be at all positive. Here are few articles I found helpful provocative and interesting.

And then on a semi-brighter note, the Helen Hayes Nominations were announced. The good news is the cast of Forum’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot were nominated for best ensemble and Theater J got 3 nominations two for The Price and best new play for Honey Brown Eyes.  The bad new is the list is just boring. The judges were really into Shakespeare this year with his plays taking up over half of the best play category alongside Shaw, really Major Barbara was okay it was not best play of the year good, they just had pertty sets and costumes and decent acting. It was BBC on stage it was not theatrical. sigh. There is one newer play in the best play category though I’m guessing the award will go to our make mr. shakes.  There were also a number of actors who were really deprived of individual awards. In today’s Backstage column Jane does her annual roundup of what has been looked over, reminding me of Kimberly Gilberts awesome job with K of D, yes, she should totally have been nominated. And though I’m super happy about Forum’s ensemble nomination, the ensemble category is unwieldy and encompasses almost every actor in DC, which in some cases is exciting (I’m also super happy the cast of Rep Stage’s In the Heart of America didn’t get overlooked) but on a whole seems rather ridiculous. It’s like the judges thought, well, I can’t give them any bigger nods because you know they aren’t Shakespeare (though a couple of them are and did get bigger nods), and none of them have won HH awards before so they don’t deserve it by legacy, hmm, I’ll just lump them altogether into best ensemble that will be nice.   And to end with more good news, the award for Outstanding Emerging Theater Company is going to Constellation Theatre Company. Let by Allison Stockman they have been doing amazing work and are well deserving. That alone is worth a celebration.

worth a look #1

February 4, 2009

a selection of the things that over the past week have grabbed my attention.

Broadway Officials Warn That Ticket Tax Would Cripple Theater Industry
NY Times 2/4/09
It’s somewhat an odd article but certainly an interesting topic. Basically it boils down to the state wanting to heighten the taxes on Broadway theater tickets.  The odd thing about the article is that after talking about pros and cons and debates it goes on to say that producers are realizing they should be exploring a way to lower prices.  So, this strikes me as odd because the state wants to make it more expensive so their response is to make it cheaper. I mean, that’s good, it should be cheaper, but still there just seems to be something about this article that feels off.

Parabasis: Interview With… Dan LeFranc!
An interview with Dan LeFranc whose play 60 Miles to Silver Lake I saw this past weekend. I found the play rather stunning and I’ve met Dan and think he’s a swell guy, so I am really excited for his success and was interested to read the the interview. Oh, and dc peeps go and see his Bruise Easy when it’s at Catalyst later this spring – the director formerly known as citymouse and the actress always known as the awesome Gwen Grastorf are involved.

The Accident, Focusing on a Crime in Israel, Makes English-Language Debut Feb. 4
It’s time for the next show at Theater J! It’s the English Language premier of the Israeli play The Accident. I directed the reading last year when the play was under consideration. I find the play fascinating and can’t wait to see it.  Below is a press release quote from Ari and don’t forget you can still read the Theater J blog, even though I no longer write for it. (and speaking of the J, their blog pointed me towards this hilarious craigslist ad that was posted following what seems to have been their wild inauguration party)

Theater J artistic director Ari Roth stated, “What’s so amazing about the play, is that it’s at once an incredible metaphor illustrating how an entire class of society lives in a state of denial and, at the same, it’s a thrilling sexual drama….It’s both sexy and disturbing. And it’s about Zionism without ever explicitly mentioning Zionism. It’s also about Israel as it relates to the Far East, not just the West, or its Middle East neighbors. There’s something incredibly up-to-date about this portrait.”

Kennedy Center to Help Arts Programs in Economic Trouble
This is an exciting development out of the Kennedy Center. To quote the article, “Essentially, the program is a high-tech support service through which arts administrators can talk to the center’s personnel about shrinking income, budget-conscious audiences and other difficulties in keeping the doors open.” It always feels good when you see the big guy reach out to the little guys.

Adam Szymkowicz: Advice for playwrights starting out
Some really great advice for playwrights that can also be expanded to anyone who wants to work professionally in theater. My favorite is number fourteen: Do what is best for your work but be nice to people. Pick your fights. Don’t be a dick. Theatre is a really small world and word gets around. So does karma. (possibly)

I can’t translate the title of this page but do take a look
I don’t understand any of it, and I didn’t save the boing boing link i found it on. But there are amazing photoshoped pictures of St Petersburg (i believe) superimposing war images over the modern images. I found it mesmorizing to look at.

And speaking of war Jewschool wrote about a really disgusting misuse of power and religion in the Israeli army: Military Staff Rabbi incites Israeli soldiers to revenge

For something completely different, a distraction from that world:

Old Jews Telling Jokes is a fairly self explanatory website. They have videos (which I can’t figure out how to embed, darnit) with older Jews telling jokes.  They update twice a week and there is something very comforting about watching the videos I must say. I suggest bookmarking it yourself because it’ll make you happy twice a week.

I also wanted to post a music video from the band Nous Non Plus, a NYC based francophone band who used to be part of Les San Cullottes. Buut I can’t figure out how to embed videos that aren’t youtube or google so here’s the link, if you are a fan of peppy quirky french pop and clever fun film work and food porn (and i mean food porn) it may be worth your time.

some other voices

January 9, 2009

The news keeps pouring in and no reports sound good. I feel the bitterness around the world and I myself am bitter. But still at a loss for how to understand the situation and how to approach peace.  I have been reading many opinions and here are some sources and stories that I have found that may interest others.

Earlier this year I heard Amos Oz speak on the Columbia campus about the situation in the Middle East.  He said that there were two types of tragedies – the Chekhovian and the Shakespearean. In the Shakespearean everyone ends up dead. In the Chekhovian everyone ends up depressed. He said the situation in Israel and Palestine is going to be a tragedy, that there is no escaping it, but hopefully it would be a Chekhovian rather than Shakespearean tragedy. Unfortunately at the moment it’s looking more like Shakes. Here’s a clip from NPR of Amos Oz speaking about the current situation.

Another Israeli novelist Etgar Keret writes about the impossibility of measuring proportionality in the current situation. Which ties into the blame that occurs between the sides and how communication is so difficult since everyone’s views of the situation are so one sided and exist in their own measurements:

The motives of vengeance, which drive us to kill those who have killed people we love, are completely irrational, even if we try to wrap them in rational packaging. We exact vengeance because we hate and are hurting, not because we excel in mathematics and logic.

Two blogs that I’ve been following Orthodox Anarchist and Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic both have been providing me with multiple daily updates and looks at the situation from perspectives that feel close to my own.  I am thankful for the plenitude of links and opinions that they have provided.  If you are interested in the situation I suggest adding these two to your reading lists.  Is there something out there that you’ve been reading that I should take a look at?

let’s strive not only for peace but peace of mind

January 5, 2009

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the situation in Gaza since it began. I’ve been asked by friends for my opinions, I’ve read numerous news articles and op-ed pieces from a multitude of perspectives and I have to say I’m at a loss. When Israel invaded Lebanon a few summers ago I felt heartbroken and betrayed. Maybe that feeling isn’t in place again because I never forgave Israel enough. I never got back to a place were I was in a position to have my heart broken again. I was no longer surprised by their actions. Or maybe it’s because the situation in Gaza just seems so beyond fixing. It’s a tangle is too tight to be unraveled. Or at least, by me, I keep hoping there are still smart idealistic people out there who think they may have an answer. Who still think peace is possible.

It’s not just about peace though. That is not the thrust of the issue. Yes, obviously there should be peace. Yes, cease fire sounds great, ceasing fire, no more fire. But the issues here go so much deeper. On the Palestinian side you have a people who have been so beaten down by generations of poverty, oppression and lack of opportunities that they cannot trust that peace could even exist. And on the Israeli side you have a people also bruised and embittered by constant wars. The pain of the aggressor seems like an oxymoron but it is actually there. It is that pain that allows people to say that it’s okay that innocent people are being killed. It’s that pain that shuts people off to the inhumanity of their actions.

I’m not saying that Israel is wrong to try to defend themselves from the rocket attacks. Israel has to watch out for its citizens. But I cannot condone the finger pointing that is going on. I just cannot watch one more talking head say that it is all Hamas’s fault that innocent civilians die because they are being used as human shields. As correct and horrible as that may be there is still no excuse. Morality, from a religious source or secular,  should teach the stronger party to use their strength to lift up the weaker, not use the excuse of the others weakness to push them even further down.

I saw the Israeli film Waltz with Bashir this weekend. It’s getting a wide distribution in the next few weeks and I suspect that many people will be seeing it and getting the perspective into the Israeli psychology that it gives.  The film is an animated documentary that follows the film maker’s attempts to remember his own participation in the ’82 Lebanon War and more specifically the role that he played in the massacres at Saaba and Shatila.  The massacres were not led by the Israeli army. Yet, they were made possible by the Israeli army. The film cuts very deeply into that wound and lets it bleed.  It explores the concept of responsibility of action and mind.  We may not be the ones pulling the trigger but we cannot escape the implications of our own actions or inaction’s.

Watching the film and reading the news it is hard not to feel similarly.  As a diaspora jew, as an american, I can watch but not watch. I can change the channel, I can ignore. I am not the one being hurt. My country is not involved. Except that we sit off at the sidelines and do nothing. We allow, not just in Gaza but all over the world, mass killings.  Even now we are fighting wars and still there is no sign of it as we walk down the streets. There is a moment in Waltz where the narrator is remembering how during the wars he experienced as a child everything shut down, but in ’82, with the fighting up north life continued on.  Our 21st century world allows us to live life comfortably unaware or only mildly aware of atrocities.  Once you start looking at them though, looking deeply, it is hard to look away.  I don’t know the answer to peace. But I do know that as much as I want to look away and live comfortably in my privileged world, I shouldn’t. I do know that I should look closely and ask those around me to do the same. I may not be smart enough or learned enough to solve this, I may never live to see it solved, but I can’t ignore that there is a problem and I can’t blindly support just because I believe in an ideology.

things to be excited about

May 8, 2008

Today: It’s Israel’s 60th birthday, and what a crazy 60 years it’s been. Jewschool has posted the 1948 Declaration  of Independence. How close and how so far from the original ideals of the state:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. read the full thing

The Forward has put together a comprehensive look at the past 60 years. I have yet to read the full thing but it all looks very interesting.

In other news today, Glory Days closes on broadway directly after opening. That’s gotta hurt. I had little interest in seeing it here and didn’t expect huge things from the broadway run but it’s a little embarrassing and sad that the ‘hit’ from DC was so weak.

Tonight: I really want to go see British Sea Power at the cat. But I’m thinking I really don’t have money to be going to concerts right now and I just have to be happy watching music videos on youtube for the moment. We’ll see if I feel the same way after work today

Tomorrow: It’s Simone’s last day at the J! She’ll be around (and I’ll be leaving) but it’s sad none the less. After the goodbye happy hour we have planned I will be returning to the J to watch the dress rehearsal for DAVID.  If I didn’t have the dress rehearsal, and if I had the money to go to concerts, I would be at the Cat again for the Polvo show. I’m not that familiar with Polvo but have like what I’ve heard and have been told it will be a great show. Maybe if they haven’t gone on by the time I get out of the run I’ll come by. We shall see.

Saturday: Rorschach is having a black and white masquerade ball. I’ll be there supporting local theater. Find out more here.

Sunday: Lunch with Mamma for Mamma’s Day. And then Sunday night I WILL be going to see a concert. Radiohead! The last time I saw them perform was, if memory serves, ten years ago at the Tibetan Freedom Fest. I tried to see them maybe 5 years ago but it got rained out. praying for no rain Sunday night.

Monday: Going to see The School for Scandal at the Folger. I’ve missed the other Folger shows this season and have been pretty bummed out about it. They continually produce quality work.