Closing Down

It’s been a while since I posted here. Well over a year in fact.

The brief update… I graduated from Brown in May 2014 and found myself immediately working for the Department of Theatre Arts & Performance Studies, also at Brown. The perfect job for where I found myself, coming out of the Masters program.

As is perhaps inevitable, a great new job left me with less time to think and write so freely. The classic moment of leaving student-hood behind (again) and re-entering the professional world. This time with a steady 9-5 for the first time in a few years.

So, a year passes and I realise the blog is still open and seeking some attention. I sporadically intend to pick up posting again, but to no avail. This post, then, is by way of a closing note – for now. I’ll leave the blog online, but do not plan to update it for the foreseeable future. At least, until the next wave of inspiration hits…

Paul.

Learning to Read Dance

 

“If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”

– Isadora Duncan

adliMF2014-70

 

I like to think of myself as culturally literate. I work in the arts, I can drop the odd Shakespeare quote in conversation, and I can tell abstract expressionism from Dadaism. But when I began working with American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI) I realized how illiterate I was when it came to dance. After 18 months working with this unique dance heritage and access organization, I understand that a lack of dance literacy is not uncommon. Indeed, it is the reason for ADLI’s existence.

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Friends of Bedlam

When I was 20 years old, I was a maths student at The University of Edinburgh. I was enjoying learning about set theory well enough, but for some reason I couldn’t stay out of this crumbling, neo-gothic, 92-seater, converted-church, black box theatre at the end of George IV Bridge right in the middle of the city. I acted a bit, produced a bit, stage managed a bit, and hung out a lot.

By the time I was 21, I had succumb to the inevitable. The maths degree was gone, I was studying philosophy and directing my first full-length play at Bedlam Theatre with the Edinburgh University Theatre Company. By the time I hit 22, I was the President of the company and working hard to keep the building in the hands of the students. A hotel developer had caught sight of the building and was making plans to convert our precious theatre space into a shiny new hotel. We won the battle (though I suspect the war rages on even now) and even converted our victory into a substantial alumni network, Friends of Bedlam.

I was checking out the Friends of Bedlam site recently and found this video, made as part of a presentation to stakeholders on May 1st 2002, to convince them all of the need to keep the Bedlam alive. I think I managed to avoid the camera successfully. Still. This is how my life looked in 2002.

Thanks to the current Friends of Bedlam committee for making this video accessible!

New England Graduate Media Symposium

Me:  “I’ve been invited to speak at a graduate symposium in Boston about my work with WaterFire.”

Him:  “That’s great! Congratulations!”

Me:  “Thanks – I’m thrilled! I’m speaking in the afternoon, then there’s a few more speakers, and then drinks post-event.”

Him: “Sounds pretty cool. When is it?”

Me: “Valentine’s Day. I may be back late.”

Him: ” ……hmmm.”

 

With this less than auspicious start, I begin planning for my presentation and panel appearance at the New England Graduate Media Symposium last month. I applied to speak on The Call of Lovecraft (www.calloflovecraft.com), the digital mobile walking tour that I developed through a class project with fellow students and subsequently converted into a real project in partnership with WaterFire Providence. I’ll be giving a further talk on this subject at an archaeology conference at the Sorbonne in Paris in April. Yes – I did just drop that name rather clumsily. But, my idea was that this symposium would help me rehearse my ideas and presentation format for April.

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Augusto

I’m still a Theatre of the Oppressed junkie.  It’s a habit from which I’ve tried to break myself… if not with any real conviction. Show me a copy of Games for Actors and Non-Actors and my heart rate jumps. So… when the very talented Danny Braverman (@DannyBraverman) posted this 2005 recording of an interview with founder, Augusto Boal, I knew I’d lost the next half hour:

http://www.democracynow.org/2005/6/3/famed_brazilian_artist_augusto_boal_on

Studying at Brown has given me the opportunity to read some of Boal’s works more closely that I have before and, despite the criticisms of his work, I’m still a fan. How can you dislike  a man who wants to, “democratise the means of production [of theatre]” and thinks about how performance, “gives you the right to have your own identity”?

My favourite lines from this interview: his repeated conviction that, “everything is possible” and the inspiring line… ” I think everyone can do theatre… even actors!”

American Dance Legacy Initiative

While studying at Brown, I’ve kept my project management skills polished by working with the American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI).  Every year, ADLI produces a dance mini-festival featuring workshops, masterclasses, arts installations, and a 2-hour rep dance company over 2 evenings.  This year’s event is nearly upon us and ADLI has just put out this 2-min video to encourage participation from the Brown & Providence dance communities.

ADLI PROMO from Brown Media Production Group on Vimeo.

Last year, I fell in love with dance and started to learn the vocabulary of a new art form. This year I’m getting stuck right in with my new knowledge of, and love for, dance. I’m preparing an installation in five parts at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, as well production managing the weekend of events. Production week is nearly upon us and as usual there’s more to be achieved than I can start to imagine. But – insha’Allah – all will be well. The work will get done – it always does.

On the dirty “p” word

Artists. Arts Managers. When do we get to talk about the dirty “p” word: payment?

Furthering the conversation on decent pay for artists and arts professionals, Harry Giles considers the role of the artist-producer. Can artists take back the power and be their own producer? Sure, but what’s lost, what’s gained, and where are the pitfalls?

I enjoy how Giles explodes some of those dirty words we all use when what we mean is “not paid”… words like “opportunity”, “profit-share” and “scratch.”  Not that these things aren’t important or that they don’t have a role in the arts ecology, but I second Giles’ call for more transparency and honesty.

…and I’m a sucker for a good manifesto.

Read Harry Giles manifesto in full: “More Good Now: A Working Manifesto for Artist-Producers.”