Tag Archives: theatre

De Facto De-Funding at Creative Scotland?

From Joyce McMillan’s blog:

“Creative Scotland have instead decided to withdraw their entire middle range of funding, known as flexible funding, which offered basic income security on a two or three year cycle to small- and medium- scale arts organisations with a strong creative record. The result is to throw some 49 Scottish arts organisations from a condition of modest security, into a condition of complete insecurity, in which they have to bargain from project to project for their continuing right to exist.”

It was when I read the names of some of the 49 companies now in jeopardy that I felt my mental jaw drop: Vanishing Point Theatre Company, Grid-Iron, and the CCA in Glasgow (their equivilent of New York City’s MoMA) were included on the list. For the record, Vanishing Point’s Lost Ones, which I reviewed seven years ago during the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has stuck with me like few other productions over the years.

Why I’m Opening My Big Mouth

I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, for four years, from 2003-2007. During that time, I attended Queen Margaret University College’s MFA program in Dramatic Writing; at the time, the theater department was run by Maggie Kinloch – who has since moved to RSAMD.

I dove headfirst into the arts scene. Edinburgh was where I started reviewing for The British Theatre Guide. It’s where my plays PLAYING IT COOL, STUCK UP A TREE, and MOUSEWINGS had their world premiers. I made numerous short films there, applied for and received funding for arts projects from my university, organized script development workshops and was an active member in the Traverse Theater’s Young Writer’s Group (I was lucky enough to have two plays workshopped as part of the program), plus traveled to INTERPLAY – EUROPE as one of their delegates. I’ve stayed in touch with many of you since leaving Edinburgh, and this this fall, my one-act play MILLENNIAL EX will be featured in a collection of short plays from around the world on the subject of marriage equality at a festival in Glasgow.

So I have something of an interest in what goes on within the Scottish theater scene, but rarely have the time to indulge that interest, and so was not aware of the current funding debate taking place until this morning. @MarkFisher was kind enough to point me towards information on the current debate, and that’s why I missed this morning’s sunshine and will now be spending the remainder of the afternoon inside as rain thunders down in Manhattan.

Theater Funding in Scotland vs. America – Where the Money Comes From

There are some things about arts funding in the UK, and in Scotland, which may be unfamiliar to some of my American readers. The main one, I think is:

In the UK, public funding bodies exist, geared toward distributing funding for (and thereby encouraging the development of) artistic forms of expression within a specific mission statement. They have the mission and responsibility to enrich citizens’ cultural lives and develop resources that showcase and develop both the country’s heritage and its future.

(My feeling is that in America, there is not a similar or analogous organization that answers to and is responsible for the funding of such a wide range of theaters and types of theatrical projects as is Creative Scotland. But that’s another discussion, and one I’m happy to have in the comments.)

These funding bodies and their missions, and the ways in which these obligations to fund are interpreted and fulfilled, are a point of contention between organization and practitioner. (Pardon the stealth edit as I try to make my point clearer.)

What the What?

Okay. Let’s say you have a theatre company in Scotland and want to apply for funding for this really fantastic idea you have. You go to Creative Scotland and fill out an application form. You pick the kind of funding that fits your project.

In the past, Creative Scotland had a category which funded on a project-only basis. Technically, these were grants that a theater company would receive, once per cycle (clarification stealth edit). They weren’t meant as funding that would keep the company running year round, but practically…

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice & Men…

…that doesn’t seem to be what happened. A number of companies, including, I would assume, those McMillan names in the above excerpt, have received grants from Creative Scotland to a degree where their project-to-project funding is sustaining their organization and where the loss of that funding puts those companies in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, it seems from the reading I’ve done this morning that Creative Scotland’s response is: we’re not defunding you, we’re just cancelling this form of funding. You shouldn’t have been depending on these funds in the first place.

Pardon the analogy, but to me that reads a bit like a drug dealer saying, “Well, it’s not withdrawal, because you weren’t supposed to get addicted to heroin in the first place.”

I’ll be interested to see how this situation develops.

For those who are interested, some additional reading
http://stramasharts.wordpress.com 
http://annebonnar.wordpress.com 
http://joycemcmillan.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/three-deadly-sins-of-creative-scotlands-bad-funding-review-column-25-5-12/

 

THEATER REVIEW: “To Kill A Kelpie” by Matthew McVarish

First, to declare a bias – Matthew McVarish and I were at drama school together in Scotland, and I’ve previously reviewed his sold-out debut show, One man went to busk (it’s the second review on the page). In addition, he and I will be working on a project about marriage equality together later this year for Glasgay 2012.

That said, I’m pleased and lucky to be able to say that this new work, To Kill a Kelpie, offers an hour of drama both light and dark, and is a strong piece of theatrical art with a message. Co-produced by Poorboy Theater company Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse (where McVarish is also involved), and executive produced by Pamela Pine, the show is directed by Sandy Thomson.

The evening unfolds in two parts: first, McVarish’s hourlong drama about two brothers who finally break their own silence as regards something that was done to them both many years ago, then a guided discussion including representatives from various organizations that try to deal with ending sexual abuse.

As one might expect, there is heaviness to this drama. How could their not be, given the topic at hand? And yet McVarish’s script makes a conscious decision to take place in its own moment, as two brothers try to find a way of communicating through the silence that has plagued their adult relationship. As they try to understand what was done to them, the different coping mechanisms they ask themselves and the ways in which they parse the events that took place while they were children reveal two men who have each, in their own way, carried the scars of their abuse for years. Additionally, the quickness with which the two brothers reconnect lends itself well to lighter moments: this is not a play where the audience should be afraid to laugh from time to time.

The play asks uncomfortable questions: one brother reveals that he’s struggled to even recognize his own sexuality over the years, because he had tangled up the acts perpetrated upon him and his own desire to love other men. The other denies any feeling of having been affected, although it slowly becomes more obvious that, in fact, he has. Both brothers have found their relationships to others, particularly children, impossibly strained as they constantly try to sort through their own baggage.

Performers McVarish (as Fionnghall, the brother who seems, on the surface, to b e more of a loose canon) and Allan Lindsay (Dubhghal, who has returned from doing aid work among tsunami-afflicted natives somewhere quite far away) navigate the questions their characters ask themselves with honesty and frankness. Some parts of their conversation are uncomfortable: one admits he is afraid his sister doesn’t want him around her children, the other terrified he may have the potential to cause the same damage enacted upon him onto another. Forgiveness, revenge, therapy and repression are all tried as the characters range for coping mechanisms; in the end, it is conversation – speaking about their trauma, and about how each has begun the journey of unpacking that trauma – that offers the best hope for healing.

As the play draws to an ambiguous ending, the audience is invited to take a few moments to stretch before heading into a follow-up discussion. Led by Pamela Pine, the discussion first invites comments and questions from audience members before asking audience members if there’s anything they think they might do differently in their lives going forward. Aside from stressing the importance of parental and community involvement to determine when children might be at risk, the discussion also creates a space where audience members are invited to share their own stories of surviving abuse.

What was remarkable about this portion of the evening, to me, was the clarity with which one could see how To Kill a Kelpie had created a space where audience members, whose ages covered a large range, felt they could speak openly about experiences taking place around them. On opening night in New York City, audience members spoke – some at length – about how positive they found the play, and about how well it communicated emotions that echoed reactions they’d had to their own experiences.

For more information about Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, you can visit their website at www.stopcsa.org. To Kill a Kelpie will run in NYC through April 15th, first in the East Village before heading uptown. More details are available on the production’s website.

THEATER REVIEW: “The Beautiful Laugh” at La Mama

Clowning is a respected art with a long history, distinct from other forms of theater. My understanding of clowning comes out of familiarity with more classical European traditions, such as Marcel Marceau and the Commedia Del Arte style captured so excellently in The Corn Exchange’s production of Dublin by Lamplight, or the Harlequin story as viewed through the memory of a production I saw at Tivoli, in Cophenhagen, when I was about seven years old. In these forms, it’s often the precision of physical movement that distinguishes the skilled from the unskilled performer.

The style of clowning used in That Beautiful Laugh is different. It is a physical kind of comedy, related – particularly in the case of performer Carlton Ward – to circus acts and Coney Island contortionists, but it is also a comedy of noises and expression.

At the top of the show, a narrator (Alan Tudyk of Firefly, Dollhouse, Suburgatory and more) explains that there are multiple kinds of laughs, and lists some – as we wind through the cyclical routines presented by Flan (Tudyk), Ian (Ward) and Darla Waffles Something (Julia Ogilvie), the audience is no doubt meant to experience some of these different kinds of laughs. Whether or not the ultimate laugh – that beautiful laugh – is attained is, I suspect, largely in the hands of the audience on any given night.

THEATER REVIEW: The Deepest Play Ever @ the New Ohio Theatre


Boo Killebrew, Chinasa Ogbuagu, TJ Witham & Jordan Barbour. Photo by Colin D. Young.

“I’m going to The Deepest Play Ever,” I told my friends on Wednesday, “and yes, that’s the actual title.” Which wasn’t exactly accurate. The full title of the production is “The Deepest Play Ever: The Catharsis of Pathos, The Post-Post-Apocalyptical Allegory of Mother LaMadre And Her Son Golden Calf OR: Zombies Will EAT Your Brain! AN EPIC TRAGIDRAMEDY.”

But I make a practice of shortening anything longer than a Fiona Apple album title, so.

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Theater Review: “Eternal Equinox” by Joyce Sachs, 59E59

Playing through March 31st, Eternal Equinox compares politics in relationships both creative and sexual. Vanessa Bell (Hollis McCarthy) and Duncan Grant (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), two painters from the Bloomsbury groupr, spend the bulk of this full-length play trying to understand and negotiate their relationships with one another – particularly when others become involved.
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THEATER REVIEW: Outside People at the Vineyard Theatre

Down-and-out Brooklynite Malcolm (Matt Dellapina) heads to Beijing on the invitation of his college buddy Da Wei (also known as David, and played by Nelson Lee). There, he meets English tutor Xiao Mei (Li Jun Li), falls in love with her, and ultimately falls prey to the cynicism that comes hand in hand with believing everybody else wants a piece of your country. Ultimately, Malcolm leaves a burdgeoning romance thanks to a lack of faith in his lover’s motives.

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Halloween Theater with an Ugly Rhino: Warehouse of Horrors at the Brooklyn Lyceum

Sleep No More set off a reverberation through the NYC theater scene, becoming both a litmus test – did you see it? What did you think? Wasn’t it amazing? – among those able to attend and a measuring stick by which other companies judge themselves.
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