• Top Clicks

    • None

Drama Queen is Live

Please visit my new blog, Drama Queen, at ArtsJournal.com. You (hopefully) won’t regret it.

Advertisements

Are You More Creative than an Eighth Grader?

I received an e-mail today from Morgan Saxby, an account executive at a pr company that, I’m guessing, represents the NAEP. He corrected a comment I made in my “Put Art Back on the Charts” post that asserted, 

Arts education ought to be appreciated in its own right, and not just for its potential to raise a school’s NAEP results.

Actually, the NAEP, in Mr. Saxby’s words,

does not find results for individual schools.  NAEP finds national results, state results (for math, reading, writing, and science), and on a trial basis, district-level results for a handful of urban areas. 

So, sorry for the misstatement, but that’s not really the interesting part, anyway. He goes on to say that the NAEP is preparing a report on the arts that will be released next year. The last time this was done was in 1997, and only eighth graders were assessed. It’s a pretty fascinating bit of reading, and raises any number of questions about what exactly is or isn’t quantifiable. It’s also kind of horrifying to read that 74% of these students received no theater instruction. (What are those middle school drama types supposed to do during their free time if they can’t rehearse for a class play? Just keep getting beat up?) I still remember my eighth grade musical experience:  Perfectly Frank, a tribute to the music of Frank Loesser, which introduced me to Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, and most important, Lots and Lots of Applause. A belated thank you, Mr. Goltz.

I’m wondering if the 2008 test will be performed across the board, in only certain schools, if raising its scores will become a mandatory part of No Child Left Behind (of course, if there’s a Dem in the White House come November, hopefully NCLB won’t really be an issue) or if the results are just for our own edification.

Of course, I’d love to have answers for you today, but I’m on a tight deadline this week with a big feature due to my editor (look for it in Sunday’s Image section of the Philadelphia Inquirer). So I’ll speak with Mr. Saxby and get back to you with some more details ASAP. In the meantime, poke around the report, and hey, while you’re at it, try out some of the sample questions. I’d love to know how creative professionals or arts afficionados perform when put to the test. Literally.

 

Facebooking for the Future

So I’ve joined Facebook, and have been marveling at the array of theater-related quizzes. To those non-Facebooking readers, the quizzes are designed to spread among Facebook members by having you ask your friends to take them. Your results are displayed on your Facebook page and everyone learns you are more like Galinda from Wicked than Roxie from Chicago, which was not at all what you intended. 

Anyway, in case you’re wondering, I’m like Sunday in the Park with George on the “Which Sondheim Musical Are You?” quiz, I’m an “all-Around Theater Kid” on the “What Type of Theater Kid Are You?” quiz, and in the “Which High School Musical Character Are You? quiz, I’m Ryan, which, if I’m being honest with myself, I probably already knew. 

Ryan pic

I interviewed Whit MacLaughlin of New Paradise Labs the other day and he was emphatic about the effect Facebooking has had on publicizing their new production, Prom, and it seems like pretty much every theater company in town is trying to collect fans and have member pages list their event. I love to see theater hitting the 21st century in this way, as it shows the vibrancy of our aged discipline and defies the greying stereotype.

Perhaps I’ll develop a “Which Inquirer Critic Are You?” app. where you can find out if you’re a Toby, a Howie, or a Wendy (I’d love to post a link here, but sadly, the Inquirer still hasn’t managed to put up a page for me). 

Sample Question: You’re at the Fringe Festival reviewing a new interactive performance piece and one of the actors calls you onstage to participate.

Do you

 

  1. Tell them to go to hell. After all, you’re not there for their entertainment, it’s the other way around.
  2. Smile and politely decline. After all, it’s their show.
  3. Go on up and attempt to upstage the performers. After all, you’re not gonna let a little thing like professionalism get in the way of your need for attention. 

I’ll let you figure out the results.

 

Feel free to chime in with your own quiz questions. Who knows, maybe they’ll turn up on Facebook.

Mopping Up

So it’s all over for us. As the eyes of the nation turn west- and south-ward, Philly can ditch the political drama and go back to plain old murder and mayhem, right? Not quite. The Theater Alliance of Greater Philadelphia‘s listserv was burning up in the weeks leading up to the primary, and now, in some sort of exquisite water torture for liberals, the vicious debate will be laid out onstage for all to see Saturday, May 3, 8 p.m. at Second Stage at the Adrienne.

A few things astonished me about this heated back-and-forth.

  • First: there are conservatives among drama professionals, like, real red ones. Though I can’t quite figure out what could possibly be in it for them other than an inherited bias, they are vehement and as convinced of McCain’s relevance to their lives as any hedge fund trader or military engineer. 
  • Second: People actually “went there” on Clinton, making pantsuit jokes and the like. Theater people. And I don’t think these posters were even the gay ones, who could get away with it. 
  • Third: No one really wanted to go there on Obama, which, I guess, is at least one positive sign. Maybe we can credit Rev. Wright for serving as the receptacle for this contest’s racial enmity and diverting it from the candidate himself. This effect even seems to have spilled over into the real world. Remember in New Hampshire when those dudes yelled, “Iron my shirts!” at Hillary? We never saw a corollary pair of douchebags running around in blackface at an Obama rally (I’m sure they were somewhere, of course, just not out in public). So thanks, Rev. Wright, at least for that.
  • Fourth: The listserv’s, er, discussion had remarkably little to do with the candidates’ relationship to the arts, which was, to me, distressing. There was even a brief flare-up about abortion, but nothing, NOTHING about the issue that most directly affects everyone on TAGP’s e-mail list. Business-owning republicans won’t shut up about taxes; shouldn’t arts professionals be slightly concerned about their candidates’ approaches to arts and education? Hello? Anyone?
  • Fifth: Show folk will find an excuse to argue about almost anything. 

I’d love to see the Second Stage event used as a means to discuss the issues surrounding our careers and the candidates’ potential effect on them, or perhaps to galvanize the theater community into advocating that the arts and arts education take, if not center stage, then at least a supporting role during this political season–something I’m hoping every listserv member can agree upon. Though rehashing the old political divides will no doubt provide the same entertainment value once offered by the Romans to their people in the form of bears and slaves, moving forward with a November game plan has far more to do with creating an actual theater alliance.

Gladiator v. tiger

Passion Play

After my radio appearance, where I feared that I sounded completely incoherent, it turns out may be I wasn’t such a disaster after all. Ellis Henican used a bit of our conversation in his Sunday Newsday column, and it reads about right. I apologize in advance of your reading it that I sound a bit crass–after all, hasn’t there been enough political bloodletting already?–but frankly, I happily anticipated walking into a voting booth for once with my head held high, and now, it appears, I’ll be entering as usual, holding my nose.

It’s a bit distressing to be playing Candyland with this primary when we ought to be deep into Stratego. Ultimately, we will either witness the creation of a whole new government-subsidized industry that brings about some good to our economy and the world in the form of a “green collar” job corps (sorry, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin) or we will dig ourselves so deeply into debt and international disdain that I fear we may never recover–and as someone who has an awful lot invested in housing prices returning to their former effervescence, I quake to imagine 100 more years of investment in the Iraqi infrastructure.

Candyland riots

And then, of course, we have the issue of humanism vs. militarism. Please visit my Pennsylvania Primary Arts Voters Guide alongside my analysis of John McCain’s position on the arts just so you’ll know what you’re up against come November. I still can’t tell you who will get my vote tomorrow: Clinton, for her specificity or Obama, for his idealism, but I can sure tell you that once the Democratic party’s decision is made, if you care about the arts and education in this country, you’d better pull that lever for whomever gets the nomination. 

However, if you happen to be in the first congressional district, one candidate I wholeheartedly endorse is Rue Landau, who is running to be an Obama delegate. I’ve known her since we were children, and she has devoted her entire life to righting political wrongs. As an attorney for Community Legal Services, she’s well aware of Philly’s economic and social needs. She’s a supporter of the arts and a tireless worker for social justice. Nice to know that once in a while, election season offers up a candidate who is actually worthy of a democracy.

 

Clinton-Obama Drama

I know I said I wasn’t going to post, but just in case you’re looking for something to do this evening at around 6 p.m., tune into the Talk Radio Network. I’ll be interviewed by Newsday writer and frequent Hannity and Colmes visitor Ellis Henican about the dramatic elements of the Obama-Clinton debate here in Philly.

And for the record, I thought George Stephanopolous and Charlie Gibson made a smashing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

 

 

The Sadistic Seder

Since I’m gearing up to host a Passover seder for 13 at my house this weekend. (13 Jews at a seder? We know what happened at the last one… Someone better watch their back!) So in the interest of saving my sanity, I will suspend blogging until next week, but in the meantime, here are some suggestions for bringing drama to your seder table:

1: Bust out the  Bag of Plagues This has been a successful part of our seders for several years now, and my favorite element is the “blood” plague. Send one of the kids around to the guest wearing the fanciest outfit and have them squirt “blood” all over their silk dress or tie. It disappears, but they won’t know that! Watch them freak out and then make them feel guilty for not trusting you. 

2: When I was growing up, Maxwell House provided our spiritual guidance every Passover via their free haggadot piled up at the end of the supermarket’s Passover aisle. (The same went for everyone else I knew. Free + Jews = Tradition) But now hagaddot have gotten both more sophisticated and expensive. Want to alienate at least half of your guests? Try the Women’s Hagaddah. Want to alienate the other half? Go for the Men’s. Want to upset everyone? Explore a Messianic hagaddah. Want to start a riot? Use an Orthodox Haggadah written in Hebrew and don’t start reading until 6 p.m.

3: Get all fancy with organic kosher wine, but don’t buy any Manischewitz. I guarantee you someone at the table will be angry–no, ANGRY–about it. 

4: Start an argument about kitniot. Here’s your ammunition: Some Ashkenazi Jews follow the “no kitniot” rule, but none of it is considered chametz. And are you saying Sephardim are less Jewish than you? Do you think you’re a better Jew than me because you eat less during Passover? Once you get going, I’m sure the discussion will take off on its own. After all, you’re in a room full of Jews.

5: Add “and from the tyranny of occupation,” whenever the hagaddah mentions freedom from slavery or bondage.

I know these methods work because at one time or another (mostly during the years between mohawk hair and mom jeans) I’ve tried them all. Have a happy Passover and I hope you find the afikoman! 

Charlton Heston as Moses