Tuesday, June 19, 2007

When Bohemia left New York, it probably moved to Austin. Who knew?

For reasons I can't go into right now, I've found myself in Austin, Texas tonight where I had dinner at Stubb's (just a block down from the Club de Ville shown here) and was given a tour of the place.

A shack outside. Wood tables inside. Very cool.

Meanwhile, Les Claypool from Primus (he's the pink blob in the blue light between the women - he wore a "pig" mask for one of the numbers) was playing in the backyard. Literally. Apparently he just happened to be in town.

In the process, I checked out the area. Probably one of the most bohemian cities I've come across - and I've lived in a few places (NY, Wasshington DC, Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and LA).

Anyway, very interesting place Austin - about as different from my idea of a place in Texas as it could be. Cheap to live in, I understand it's got a big art community and a fantastic small-house theatre scene.

This, by the way, is the "pit" at Stubb's. It holds a thousand pounds of meat. They go through something like 2 and a half tons of meat a week.

I'm not sure this "meat fact" is all that appetizing, but it is astounding.

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In a side note, I've seen George Hunka has replied in appropriate bemused way to my post below about his assertion that marketing theatre is useless. While he's right that the work should come first, I stand by my opinion that he's mistaken on the marketing matter. And I disagree that audiences are getting smaller because of what's being put on stage. That kind of purism is great, but the reasons are much more complex. And they can be countered.

Ultimately, I believe there's lots of good theatre out there. I believe we could all use a fresh look at how we talk about it to people who have crossed theatre off the list of things that might be enriching for their lives.

There is an opportunity today to make a space in our society for the kind of direct intellectual, physical and emotional engagement that only theatre offers - and that I love. "Marketing" correctly helps.

That marketing, whether we like it or not, begins the moment a playwright drafts a letter to an artistic director as part of a submission.

Finally, as noted, while I find George's thinking often provocative and interesting - and I'm sure he does take joy in them working them out, I'm not gonna pretend his expression of those ideas doesn't occasionally cross into pretension for me. Which is why I definitely take exception to Alison Croggon's comment on George's blog that pointing out pretension is equivalent to anti-intellectualism.

You just have to read George on a regular basis to see what I'm talking about. And while I know George has threatened not to change, and while I'll always take a look at what he's saying even if he makes good on that threat, I think you can call for a "radical rethinking" in theatre without sounding like a 12th grade teacher, can't you?

And didn't Hemingway get everyone to rethink American literature with simple, bold sentences?

Anyway, here's a really great and thoughtful summation of the heart of the matter from Store Front Rebellion.

9 comments:

tim said...

Austin is awesome. I lived there for many, many years. It's a blue oasis in a sea of red, with tons of theater, world premieres, music, art, and a friendly, mellow vibe. And rents are still fairly reasonable, especially compared to SF and NY. If it wasn't so damn hot, I'd probably still be there. Check out Salvage Vanguard Theater and Austin Script Works to get a flavor of some of the great theater stuff happening there....

Laura said...

As you know, I just moved from Austin last August after living there a year and a half. There are definitely some good parts to it. Cheap rent, good theater scene. I'm still a member of Austin Scriptworks. But for me, the Texas part of Austin ruined it. The police were stereotypically Texas, getting a job proved difficult with NYC on my resume, and the conformity bothered me.

Downtown was a happening place to be. South Austin is terrific. But for some reason, I couldn't escape the artist versus society dichotomy.

I don't begrudge Austin, even if I do begrudge Texas. Heh. :)

(And even if you aren't in Austin, Scriptworks is an awesome organization to join.)

Freeman said...

Hey there:

I was called anti-intellectual when I disagreed with Alison and George back in the day, if I remember right. Don't take it too hard. It's a tactic as old as the sea: the best defense is a good offense. You criticize his ideas, he doesn't defend them; he claims that he shouldn't have to.

All's fair I guess. Don't sweat it. I think you're spot on with your marketing stuff.

Jeff Shattuck said...

Glad to hear Austin is cool, since I might be moving there someday (long story). Malachy, I agree with your view on marketing. Throughout all of history, annyone with something to say has, for the most part wanted it to be heard and has thought a bit about how to make that happen. Sure, one could toil away in obscurity, but what's the point, save for maybe self indulgence?

RLewis said...

"That marketing, whether we like it or not, begins the moment a playwright drafts a letter to an artistic director as part of a submission."

I really like everything in this post, but I would offer that the "marketing" begins even before the above pulled-quote. I might guess that it begins when you go to a Salvage Vangard show and say "Hi" to Jason afterward. It begins when you attend the benefit of a company that you want to produce your next play. And it begins everytime you go see the work of a director that you want to direct your play.

Maybe I'm weird, but for me marketing is all about community. The work I produce comes from whose work I see and who sees my work - how else do you know if it's a good fit? And then I work to share that good fit with the next ring in the neighborhood, and the next, and... well, you get it.

Alison Croggon said...

Maybe if people had taken issue with some of the other things George had said (he's said many things, and I have myself taken issue with quite a few), the wholesale attack on him for one flip throw away sentence wouldn't have come across as anti-intellectualism. But it did.

No dissing Austin. But I suspect that Bohemia actually moved to Melbourne.

Ciao!

Malachy Walsh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Malachy Walsh said...

Allison - duly noted. The comment is certainly only one in a big body of work - most of which, whether right or wrong - is pretty interesting. And when it comes to talking about the tragic, well, thank god George is there since no-one else is talking about it.

Anyway, enough about all that.

Melbourne, huh?

I hope I can check it out some day. Though with a kid on the way, I'm not too sure it'll be soon....

Alison Croggon said...

Melbourne's cool. But babies are cooler than anything. Congrats!