Archive for October, 2009

My Turn! My Turn! Part 1

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I am really excited about the conversations happening at Parabasis and Jamespeak all about the responsibilities and relationships that a reviewer has to and with a piece of theater. Oh the joy of having my own blog! I don’t even *have* to comment on theirs!

Of course I did. I can’t stop myself.

Okay, first of all, I love reviewers and I love reviews. I love reviews that tear something up, I love reviews that celebrate something. The only reviews I don’t like are badly written reviews of shows I haven’t seen… I really love making fun of stupidly written reviews, even when I agree with them. I like talking shit, and reviews of shows, even mine, give me and my friends a chance to make fun of someone – either the reviewer or the show. I’m perfectly happy mocking anyone, just so long as we get to the mocking.

Ultimately, the reviews aren’t gonna do much for me or my brethren. I didn’t get in to the sold out run of MilkMilkLemonade, but that was as much great word of mouth, great collaborators who got the word out and great reputations associated with the artists involved as it was great reviews. Had the reviews been *terrible*, then it might not have sold out, but it still would have sold just fine if these three things had been in place.

It’s nearly impossible to test that theory, though, because there’s no difference now between “reviews” and “word of mouth”. I hold the opinions of my fellow playwrights, producers and bloggers in higher esteem than I do reviewers. I love reading reviews, but honestly, they don’t mean anything to me at all.

Do you know why I admire Gus Schulenberg so much? Because my friends saw Riding The Bull and wrote me privately to say, “Gus is the real fucking deal, man.” Flux has won some awards and they’ve gotten good reviews, but that’s not why I have tickets to The Lesser Seductions of History. I have them because the rest of our community knows that whatever they’re doing, it’s worth seeing.

In fact, I’m saying they’ve been reviewed, but I don’t think I’ve read a single review of their stuff. I wrote a blog entry on their last play, but I’m just this guy, y’know? It wasn’t a review, it was an exploration.

So, I don’t actually care if a review was written by the brother of the lead actress, the reviews occur in a total vacuum anyway, the prose he’s laying down will either be fun to read or it won’t, but it won’t change my mind about whether or not I go. I mean, I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I’m not a big fan of stage nudity or of stage violence, so when I say I didn’t like something for these reasons, a reader of mine may very well buy a ticket *because* of that.

In the end, we’re starting to lose the need for disinterested reviewers. What we really need is a community of bloggers who are willing to discuss the merits of one another’s work openly and honestly. In my last post, I tried to explain my point of view, and, although my explanation almost guarantees that my posts will be taken with a grain of salt… we should *ALL* be taken with a grain of salt.

We should publish our thought about ALL of the shows we see, and let people figure out if they like it or not. And we gotta get over ourselves. Our show Viral and our show The First Annual St. Ignatius Chanukah Pageant are not gonna appeal to the same people necessarily. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO TELL ME WHICH ONE YOU LIKED AND WHICH ONE YOU HATED. It’s fine, we liked them both.

I’m gonna cut this off while still a “rant” and not a “ramble”. But in the next post, I’m gonna compare/contrast two of our shows, and the effect that reviews had on each.


Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I am a blogger who is deeply in love with live theater.

Let’s just consider that perspective for a minute. If you were to write a play about a dog show, I would be very interested in watching the play, even though I care nothing about dogs or dog shows. When I go see plays about subjects near and dear to me, I do get the double joy of getting to see a play, and also getting to be immersed in a world that I find fascinating, but you can write a play about almost anything, and just being in the room is exciting for me.

(Can I just be honest and say… I care nothing for animals. I don’t understand why people have them in their houses. I think if medieval man could jump forward 800 years, the first thing they’d say would be “wait… you have heat, you don’t eat them and you spend vast sums of money keeping them fed… WHAT? YOU PICK UP THEIR SHIT AND THROW IT AWAY?… the future is madness, and I want to go home…”)

This love of theater isn’tt true for a lot of people. I would say, this isn’t true for most people. There are an awful lot of people who go to the theater out of a sense of obligation, out of a feeling that there is something here that needs to be “supported”. I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I’m reminded of people saying “I need to get out and see more plays, and watch less TV,” as if “PLAYS” are good for you and “TV” is junk food. The former is something difficult to swallow but ultimately enriching, like salad, the latter goes down easy but will make you fat and lazy.

It is what it is. We’re not gonna start producing plays that are half an hour long, during which you can eat and talk to your friends, and which you can watch sitting on a comfortable couch. A play is gonna take a while, you really should be mostly quiet during them and, real estate being what it is, you’re not gonna have a lot of leg room. I have no solutions for these problems, the media aren’t comparable, despite the fact that playwrights are being hired to write for TV.

But there is something inherently worthwhile about being in a room with a couple hundred other people, experiencing the same thing. The fact is, we don’t watch TV in a vacuum, we’re desperate to share the experience with our friends, we actually want to be in the same room with them for it. One doesn’t walk away from the end of a TV show and believe they have had the entire experience, they need to talk some shit, to re-hash the stuff that worked and didn’t work.

When it comes to live theater, my perspective is shit. When I walk into a theater, my head shakes up like a snowglobe, and most of the time I spend there, I’m just elated. The truth is, all that needs to happen for me to enjoy myself is that the people doing each job respect their own work and the work of the others there, and I’m already happy. If there’s obvious talent and skill, then I’m transported.

When any one of the people involved shows disrespect – and I’m not talking about a lack of talent or a lack of skill, but an actual disrespect for the job they’ve been asked to do – then the flakes in my snowglobe settle pretty quickly and I start getting annoyed. If the actors don’t know their lines, if the director hasn’t created an actual play… if the playwright is lazily falling back on tropes or cliches, then I don’t just get disappointed, I start feeling insulted.

It’s difficult for me to get my ass to a play, and I know it’s far more difficult for most other people. It’s not just kids or night jobs or needing to wake up early, the fact is that plays start at 8, and people get done with their jobs between 5 and 6. It’s not possible to get home and get *back*, and if someone does it, then you have to honor that. Most people are used to eating dinner either five minutes before curtain up or a half hour before curtain down, or something in between. So, when people shit on their audience by not working hard enough in creating the play, I’m not just mad for myself, I’m angry because of what it’s doing to our reputation as an artform.

BUT… even if people have very little talent, if I can see the work they’ve put in, then I’m transported. I don’t think for a moment about the missed meals or the babysitter or the painful amount of leg room.

So, you’re not gonna get an unbiased view here. This is my blog where I just basically barf our how I’m feeling, and I love even average theater. Sure, you can dismiss my opinion, I’m not a reviewer, I’m a *FAN*, I’m not supposed to tear things apart, I wouldn’t know how to even if I were asked.

If I tell you, on this blog, that something is bad, then you better believe it’s awful. But if I say that something is good, then just keep in mind, what that means is that it’s *articulate*, that everyone has done their job, that their passion for a well made piece of theater is evident. But it doesn’t mean you will like it. I happen to love a well-made salad, and I probably prefer it to a giant chocolate bar, but most people are gonna be happier with chocolate, and that does, in fact, make my opinion essentially useless.

Non-Targeted Marketing Failure

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

It has been said so many times that it has almost ceased to mean anything, but we are in fact in show business, and not necessarily in that order. We have rooms full of chairs, and those chairs each need a butt, and it is up to us to put butts in those seats.

The attempts to get a butt in each seat can run a continuum from obvious, through brilliantly original, all the way down to head-scratching. One the obvious side is something like “selling a ticket to the performer’s mom”, where the butt going in that seat belongs to someone who would rather be in that seat than anywhere else in the world. On the other end, you get something like the Montblanc Campaign for the 24 HR. Plays on Broadway.

Yeah, it’s that Montblanc. No strangers to bizarre marketing ideas, these guys created a pen – a writing utensil – that costs $24,000… and then named it after Mahatma Ghandi. So perhaps it’s not so strange that Montblanc should be interested in tapping that giant revenue stream that is off-off-Broadway and their loyal legion of a couple thousand fans, all of whom desperately try to figure out how they can use the Discount Code so they don’t have to pay the full $18 ticket value.

I should say, before I get too deep into this, that I think there is a myth about the differences between Broadway and the off, or off-off worlds. It isn’t simply a matter of celebrity or access, these are very, very different audiences. When one begins working in the world of independent theater, one is speaking to a very different audience than Broadway attracts. I love the site “Talkin Broadway” and their chat room “All That Chat”, but those people are simply un-interested in black box theaters. In a similar vein, I brought one of my dear off-off Broadway friends to see “The Music Man” with me, and at the end of the show, when the cast was inexplicably on stage playing trombones and a 60 foot American flag dropped out of the ceiling, he turned to me and said, “I feel like I’m insane…”

So, while there is a difference in production values between the independent theater world and Broadway, there is also an aesthetic difference between the *writers* of each. Independent theater embraces the non-well-made-play much more so than Broadway would, in fact Broadway simply doesn’t tolerate story-telling that requires a great leap of faith.

And so The 24 HR. Plays are the perfect slice of independent theater. A group of artists gets together at 10 PM on a Sunday night and everyone introduces themselves. The writers pick a cast out of the actors and spend until 4 or 5 writing a script. The producers have an hour to make copies and to start printing the program. At 6 in the morning, the directors come, read the scripts, get their assignments and go over the technical requirements with the staff. At 8, the actors show up, and the cast rehearses all day. At 5 they start tech runs of the show, at 7:30 the audience shows up, at 8 the curtain rises and by 10 the show is over. All in 24 Hours.

I think it’s great that they are raising money by doing a Broadway show, especially since it’s going to charity, and I think it’s great that their profile is being raised by doing it. It’s also hilarious to see celebrities, who normally live in a very protected environment, step outside their bubbles for one day and see if they can’t survive.

This year, for the Broadway Celebrity 24 Hr. Plays, they have filled the playwrighting slots with celebrity playwrights – all except for one. And with that last spot, they’ve decided to invite in a playwright from the world of independent New York theater. But they aren’t gonna decide which one to invite, they’ve decided instead to have a contest.

And here’s where the makers of extraordinarily badly named expensive pens come in. Montblanc has decided to host the competition on their website. I know this because I’ve seen the website. I mean, after it crashed Firefox and Internet Explorer on this computer, I was able to access the site on my wife’s computer, but yes, I did in fact manage to get on the site.

And there we have six playwrights, all of them from our community, duking it out for your votes. These are all people who’ve knocked you out at one time or another, all the kind of men and women that have been interviewed by Adam Szymkowicz on his blog. And we’d love for any one of these people to be invited to be a part of the plays, it would be a great opportunity for them and, more than likely, will give the audience a sense of what a real independent voice sounds like.

But… WHY? The person who wins this contest will win with about 500 or 600 votes, and there will be about 2,000 votes cast for the other playwrights. And every single one of those votes will have given Montblanc a new email address, a new marketing opportunity. And each and every one of those votes will have raised the profile of the 24 Hr. Plays in the minds of the people voting.

On the surface, this seems like a win-win. You get, say, another five thousand people who are all talking about the 24 Hr. Plays and Montblanc, how can this be bad?

Well, several things.

One, when you can win a contest with 500 votes, then it becomes really easy for you to get every single one of your cousins and your parents friends to vote. All those folks in Colorado and Louisiana that want to see Cousin Carl up in New York get a crack at having Wolverine’s Brother deliver their dialogue, they’re all gonna jump in. Not a single one of those people is gonna see the 24 Hr. Plays. Maybe they *will* buy a pen for 20k, but that seems a long route to go to make that happen.

Two, there’s a dirty little secret. The website is such a piece of crap that most people who go won’t go through the incredible pain in the ass to register and vote, but those who do will figure out pretty instantly… you can login with as many made up names as you want, nobody is actually keeping track. So, the 24 Hr. Plays and Montblanc are gonna have a giant stack of emails, and a LOT of them are gonna be fake.

Three, these playwrights are members of a community that has a lot of passion and a lot of drive, but very little capital. I know this because if they had a lot of capital, they’d have their weird plays produced off-Broadway, not off-off. We’re a community that comps our blogger friends because one $18 ticket isn’t gonna save us as producers, and one $18 ticket could break us as audience members. And if the blogs don’t cover our shows, nobody will because we can’t afford to hire publicists.

The tickets to the 24 Hr. Plays are between $200 and $300. THIS IS THE WRONG COMMUNITY FOR THIS SHOW. Besides, if we had $300 laying around, you know us, we’d probably just be making a down payment on a THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLAR PEN.

Four, this isn’t creating good will. It just isn’t. I’m in this community, and we all spend the entire year supporting each other. We were nominated for FOUR New York Innovative Theater Awards, and while we were disappointed to not win any of them, we were honestly ELATED for the people who won, and we’re still huge fans of the NYIT Awards themselves.

So… for whom do we vote? Which of my playwright friends do I think should go? After all, I could spend an hour making up fake emails and voting 75 times for one of them, and since it’s such a small community here, that block could make all the difference. One of my best friends is in the running, AND HE’S FACEBOOK FRIENDS WITH PRACTICALLY ALL THE OTHER PLAYWRIGHTS. What does he do? Does he start posting reminders to vote for him?

This is ridiculous. If you were picking a baseball team and you had 30 guys, would you pick the best 8 and say, “the ninth spot goes to whomever can get the most signatures, BUT you have to collect them at this shoe store!” How do you even know the people in the shoe store care about baseball? Every customer in the shoe store is gonna get pummeled with guys begging for signatures.

I want nothing mo
re than the continued success of The 24 Hr. Plays. It’s a little bit more than that these are a company of people I admire and think are fun and good, they are actually dear friends of mine. One of the producers is one of my oldest friends in the world right now, I’ve known him since 1992. But I think they’re making a mistake with this contest.

Oh and also, nobody cares. This experiment costs nothing to Montblanc or the 24 Hr. Plays. It’s gonna suck for our little community to have this to fight over, and there will be nothing but mild disappointment for the plurality of people who voted for the loser, and for the five losers, but we produce theater in a vacuum, our entire lives have a tinge of disappointment to them.

But I do think this is an example of marketing that hasn’t been thought all the way through. As a lesson, this is just a strange idea with very little upside. If they want a voice from the world of independent theater, then they ought to simply invite someone, getting more votes than the other five finalists won’t prove the playwright’s ability to negotiate the landmines of producing under this model.

The information they are collecting won’t be useful or even truthful, in many cases, and the target for this marketing campaign won’t, in the end, be a part of the group that will enjoy the products being produced. There will be no butts in seats or pens in pockets from this, but our little community will definitely be left with a bad taste in our mouths.

Prep School

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Oh my goodness…

So, someone who reads a lot of my brother’s blog responded to my “rich kids who don’t care about anything” comment by saying they didn’t *have* rich kids at their school, that it must have been my prep school upbringing.

I once dated a girl who told me “everything you know, you read in a book…”

And then, I came across a string of posts from my theater colleagues, joking about going ahead and lying in order to pretend they had MFAs so they could be taken seriously. Josh Conkel started it, but Isaac Butler and 99 Seats re-posted, and I feel like someone needs to at least clear the smoke a little bit. Or, maybe just wave a hand in the air as if that would clear smoke.

Can we all just admit when we’ve had a leg up? Why is it, when someone loses weight but they did so by taking pills, it’s somehow worse than when someone does it by dragging a tire up a mountain like Rocky in Russia? I get that there’s an *assumption* that the difficulties have built character, but they are just as likely to build alienation and bitterness.

When a young person is given a support structure and a safe environment in which to try stuff, it makes it *easier* for them to be successful, but artistically and politically (for lack of a better word). I know a lot of theater artists who are amazing, but have such a shell of hostility toward the “rich kids” that it’s hard for them to get through.

If you went to college, you got a leg up. If you worked your way through college and took out student loans… YOU GOT A LEG UP. If you have to now pay off your student loans, you STILL got a leg up.

In order to be accepted to college, you have to have the grades and the support structure in place from when you’re a young kid. You have to live in an area where the public schools are worth a damn, you have to have a life at home that has the distractions at a somewhat manageable level, you have to have parents who are educated enough to know that college is a smart thing to aim for.

I know, these are givens for most of us. But they aren’t given to most people. According to the most recent numbers, 27.7% of our generation has earned a bachelor’s degree. The average income per capita for the US is $47k annually.

So, look at those numbers. How incredibly lucky are you? I understand, you worked hard, and you totally slaved over your last play, but if you’re an average person, not even a struggling person, but an average person, then you graduated from high school, didn’t go to college and make less than 50 grand a year.

I am in love with what I do, and if I’m honest then I have to tell you, I’m basically in love with almost every person I run into who does what I do as well. Most of my friends in the theater went to really, really nice schools, many of them are on the boards of theater companies with their friends from these schools, and many of them have teachers from these schools who come and see their shows. Because a lot of them are here in New York.

I have no personal enmity whatsoever to the fortunate. I’ll be honest, I’ve been living my entire life by sitting next to the rich kids and letting them buy the drinks. I’m funny, I’m full of affection for many of the same things they are, and I’m fun to have a drink with, if somebody has access to their dad’s bank account and they’re passing around the bottle, I see no reason why I shouldn’t be there.

But I just want to remind everyone that we are very lucky to be where we are. One of my best friends came from very humble beginnings, worked his butt off to get a full ride to college, spent a year establishing residency for grad school, passed the bar and is now a fancy-pants lawyer. I know how humble his beginnings were, but he would never, not for a second, argue that he had it hard. His parents are still married, he and his sister had a well organized and disciplined family life with two extremely smart and educated loving parents. He knows he had a leg up, even while he was working his ass off.

If you’ve got an Masters, you are among less than 9% of the US population. That’s a Master’s Degree in *anything*. If you’ve got an MFA in one of the theater arts, please know that you are among a very small, very select group.

So don’t tell me that your years at NYU were a trial by fire. Mac, Jordana and I wrote and produced a musical that went up at a 350 seat house and on opening night, we were painfully aware that we HATED the show – THAT’S a trial by fire. It was our money, our writing, our professional reputation on the line. What you got, when you were getting your MFA, was a really safe environment to practice, and it probably had a lot to do with why you write so well now.

I’m not saying you were coddled. I’m saying you were supported. There is nothing wrong with that, and the sooner we give up on the bootstrap-bullshit, and work to support the generation below us, the sooner our theater will re-awaken into it’s rightful relevance. We need to get better, and that means we have to GIVE UP talking about how hard it is to achieve what we’ve achieved and start working on making it easier for everyone to do even better than us.

A confession – My parents got divorced in 1985. Before that, I had changed schools almost every year, except for a two year stint at Norfolk Academy, for 7th and 8th grade. That was the only private school I ever went to. When my parents split up, my dad disappeared and my mom had a mini-nervous breakdown, and within a year we were living in a one bedroom apartment behind a motel in Morristown New Jersey, where I began failing out of school.

I eventually ended up in Los Angeles, dropping out of high school and going to community college, where they will accept you if you are over 18. My SAT scores were high enough that after three years I was accepted to the University of Iowa. I transferred to the University of North Carolina, where I failed out almost instantly.

When I talk about the “rich kids”, I’m talking about the kids who’s parents own their homes instead of renting. I’m talking about the kids who each have their own bedroom, instead of sharing the fold out couch in their living room. And when I talk about the kids who had a leg up, I include myself, because even the desperation of our situation couldn’t take away the fact that both of my parents had advanced degrees from college, and my extended family always had money, and I was white and male. The very reason I had such high SAT scores was because I was born with a leg up, my family *spoke the language* of the SATs at home, and our culture won’t let someone like me fail.

For the three years that I went to community college, my friends there liked me a lot, except for the fact that they assumed I was a pathological liar. Because it’s impossible for someone who’s dad was a symphony conductor, who’d lived in Europe, who spent his spare time reading books instead of getting a second job, it was impossible for that person to end up at a community college.

So, let’s stop pretending that we’re all soldiers with muddy boots here, and let’s stop pretending that the MFA isn’t a fast-track to success. Yes, you still have to be good, but your MFA has given you far more than just training. It has given you support and an opportunity for exposure. Those of us without them will catch up, and, if our shows are better, then that will eventually be recognized, but its absurd to claim that your success is purely based on your labor.

It has been said that George Bush was born on third and thought he hit a triple. It’s an apt metaphor because it’s still his responsibility to score the run and he never did. Those of us born on first or second, we still have t
o score the run as well. But none of us, especially those born on third, should be claiming to be a great hitter. We need to let all of that go, and start running.

Where My Mouth Is

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

So let me tell you why.

(This is stream of conscious while the kid is asleep. Apologies for grammar and spelling.)

I have seldom had as strong a reaction to a television show as I’ve had to “Glee”. Positive or Negative. There are stretches of the first few seasons of “House M.D.” where I was just tickled, and there are whole seasons of “Mad Men” that are flat out breath-taking, but even these over-the-top positive reactions pale in comparison to the bile-raising that happens when I watch “Glee”.

My thought on it are actually totally disorganized. I feel reduced to something pre-verbal… When other people start talking about why they hate the show, I find myself interrupting and yelling at them, like they don’t hate it enough or for enough reasons.

Please don’t tell me that I have a remote and other channels. I know I do, obviously there is a reason that I have submitted myself to this horror. If you placed third in a the Wyoming State Spelling Bee, and you heard that everyone watched Spellbound and loved it, then it would be completely ABSURD for you to say, “I saw some of it, didn’t like it, so I’m gonna choose not to spend any more time on it.” They keep making more episodes, and my FaceBook friends from the early 90s are all watching it, I Simply CanNot Turn Away. I have to be a witness.

It has been said that the rules of the show are not being followed by the writers, which is, of course, sin number one. That’s… That’s a horrible problem, but it isn’t my biggest problem. They’ve set up a world where the cheerleaders and football players are… JESUS.

OKAY… Okay, look, I don’t know if I can do this, but seriously, when you were in high school, was the football team really full of popular kids? Honestly. TELL THE TRUTH. No, they weren’t. They might have thought they were, but you know who the popular kids were? The rich kids who got good grades and didn’t fucking care about *ANYTHING*, let alone football.

When John Hughes wrote this stuff, he was relying on a sort of Modern Jungian Symbology, and he blew holes in all of that shit. The JOCK in Breakfast Club is as obsessed with his own little shit as the GEEK is. It is mindlessly idiotic shorthand to decide that the cheerleaders and football players are cool and the glee club is a bunch of nerds, it’s infuriating.

BUT WAIT, I’m SORRY. I’m sorry. GLEE CLUB? Do you assholes even know what a glee club is? A glee club is usually men, but fine, there are glee clubs that have men and women. A glee club performs short songs, or “Glee”s that are usually about school spirit, at pep rallies and stuff. The people in this show are in a SHOW CHOIR. It’s not a glee club.

Why don’t they just make the Lacrosse team the popular kids? BUT THEN LET THEM PLAY FOOTBALL?

Oh and the gay kid. Oh for the love of GOD. Yeah, apparently, the writer of the show is gay, and, apparently, I’m NOT, so what the hell do I know, but HONESTLY. In an episode last week, the teacher separates them into boys and girls and… I almost can’t write it… the gay boy goes and stands with the women. BECAUSE GAY GUYS ARE ACTUALLY GENDER CONFUSED. It’s isn’t that they’re gay, they just KEEP FORGETTING THEY’RE WOMEN.

He’s also the one who described one of the songs as “gay” in an earlier episode. The same episode where they edit out the word “nigger”.

Right! RIGHT, YEAH! IN that episode, the teacher brings out the gold-digger song and suddenly, the room fills with a perfect accompaniment, the kids all sight-read the music perfectly, and THE TEACHER PERFORMS THE SONG.


I’m… I’m just gonna have to come back to that. Because it’s the greatest sin of all. I mean, I’m here, I’m ready, I could just do this, but let me throw out a quick list of utter shit in this show before I get back to the greatest sin of all.

1) The sexual politics. It’s puerile. In “The Office”, Michael Scott, of all people, just sits down an old lady and says, “look in your day, things were different, but people have sex now…” but the constant cringe-worthy assinine sexual conversations could only have been conjured by someone who has no idea what people actually do with their lives, or how they actually speak.

2) The wheelchair kid. What is his talent? From what I can tell, they’ve got the gay kid and the jock, and then every other male talent that they need to assign to someone, they give it to the wheelchair kid. He sings bass back up? He also sings perfect tenor? And lead guitar? As soon as they cover “Spoonman” by Soundgarden, you can bet who’s gonna have the spoon solo.

3) The music. I wonder if I can pinpoint *exactly* how old the writer of this show is. I gotta guess, with the constant references to mid and late 80s music as if it’s the music of *kids*, this guy has to be about five years older than I am. Anyone who thinks Journey and Billy Joel are actually on the radar, or that “Push It” is hypersexualized rap music, has to be a half generation behind me. AND I’M ALMOST FORTY.

4) Jane Lynch. She’s fantastic. But she’s in a totally different show. When she says to the principal, “My recommendation is that these children be *hobbled*.” It’s hilarious. It’s Cruella DeVille. So… why should I give a shit about the other characters? Nobody on the show can act except for Ms. Lynch, and she’s playing a Disney Villain.

5) The Performance Teacher. When a teacher wanted to perform with the show choir, it was an obvious sign of an egomaniac who cares nothing for his own choir, and who is about 2.5 semesters away from forgetting himself entirely and sleeping with one of his sopranos. This has to be one of the most unattractive characters on television. EVER.

6) The recordings. There is nothing vibrant about any musical number. It’s all recorded, overdubbed, background vocalled, auto-tuned, focus-grouped and machine-polished. This is bleeding into my final point, but high school arts can be the subject of intense and incredible emotional journeys because of the very low rate of success and high rate of humiliation. But nobody on this show can sing a wrong note. Not a teacher, not a cheerleader, not a football player, nobody.

And this does lead me to my final point.

There were people that I spent my time with who had bumper stickers that said “I can’t. I have rehearsal.” It was funny because… they had rehearsal.

In Citrus Singers we had hours and hours of rehearsal every day. When it got to be Christmas, we also had to play handbells, and our handbell rehearsals were held *overnight*. We had no choice. Every other hour of the day was spoken for, and we would sit, 14 or 15 kids in someone’s living room, running the handbell rehearsals from midnight to five in the morning. When I was running the Bass Clef bells, the Treble bells would just lie back where they were and sleep for fifteen minutes.

It’s coal-mining. It’s not blue collar work, it’s BLACK collar work. It’s *NO* collar work, while you’re running your next six hour choreography rehearsal in a tank top. It is a trudge, it’s incredibly difficult, and you can work your ass off and still be merely *good*. Or even *AWFUL*.

When I was a kid, I was at a function with my dad, a post-concert meet-n-greet with the donors. The whole place was full of guys dressed to the nines and I said to my dad “it’s so amazing to see everyone in suits and dresses”. My dad said, “Look around. The only people in tuxedos are the musicians and the waiters. And we’re the ones who use the service entrance…” He wanted me to know, this isn’t a party for the artists. We’re at work.

So, when this show makes the execrable claim that music can simply be handed out and sight-read, performance ready, that somehow the biggest hurdles to artistic success are the stock personality conflicts between show choir and *CHEERLEADERS*, that all you have to do is *want* it, and it will happen for you (regardless of
putting in absolutely no work), this is an utter insult to all of us who sweat blood trying to make a show actually happen.

You should be furious. This isn’t a celebration of what we do, because they never show what we do. In Show Choir, as in all forms of performance including Ballets, Plays, Symphonies, one of the most difficult things to do is to re-create the exact same set list or script, time after time, performance after performance, and making it fresh every time.

I’m not saying I want to watch a TV show about that. But I can say that I find it deeply offensive, and actually damaging, to us as performers. Of course people think the NEA should be cut, they have no idea how hard it is for people to create the art that they share with the world. When you watch the infantile, craven characters on Glee suddenly erupt in perfect performance, once they get over their utterly worthless dramas, it completely undercuts the people who eschew all of this bullshittery and focus instead on making a life for themselves as artists.

I hate this show a lot.