Results tagged “arts journalism” from ARTicles

A crazy thing happened as I read Peter's post entitled One Across The Bow from July 23. First I found myself nodding my head, which is unlikely enough given my general crankiness. Then I found my thinking going down darker and ever more dystopian avenues. Generally dour thoughts I've been avoiding, or ignoring. Peter, this missive pulled together a bunch of ideas and questions that have been rattling around in my fevered head for weeks. Not just about the broke-down state of this particular jalopy, but also the enterprise of arts journalism itself. That string of zeroes you mentioned has plenty to tell us. About how, leaving the problems of NAJP aside for a moment, there's likely not much of a market for these wares. Maybe, just maybe, it's Game Over and we're simply slow to face reality?

August 22, 2010 7:58 AM |
ComeFlyAway1.jpgOnce more there is a conversation in the ArtsBeat blog between critics of different disciplines, in this case Charles Isherwood and Alastair Macaulay, on the subject of the Broadway dance musical "Come Fly Away," choreographed by Twyla Tharp to music of Frank Sinatra. I have been lapping it up.

Isherwood has called "Come Fly Away" a "major new work" of theater, and Macaulay has decried its dance as "intimacy perverted into exhibitionism." I am interested in the discussion that is developing over the nature of Tharp's work, for what it is and what it isn't, breakthrough or compromise, as judged from the perspective of these critics who write about related but different genres. Here's the link to the conversation, best read from the bottom up.

For the record, I saw "Come Fly Away" in one of its last previews. I found it exhilarating, and I would have been happy to tell you why over a bottle of wine after the show. But because I was a 

March 30, 2010 10:52 AM |

Already there's worry here that the assembled writers and critics are going to do too much griping, out loud, about the state of arts journalism. It's a legitimate concern. Thankfully, others out there in the big world are thinking about some of the "issues." This very week, coincidentally (or maybe not!?, let's ask George Bernard Shaw's ghost), the comic known as Get Fuzzy has been mulling what "expertise" means as it relates to reviewing.

Click here for Monday's strip.

March 5, 2010 7:17 AM |

This morning we learned that Christopher Page, theater critic and editor at the East Valley Tribune in Phoenix, Arizona, died. His was a suicide.

Three weeks earlier he had been laid off from his job, which in January of this year had come with a promotion, placing him in charge of online features. Chris was one of the brightest, sharpest, kindest and most outrageous critics to participate as a Fellow in the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater its first year, 2005.

Then he was 23. We called him "our NEA baby." It helped that his overall impression was round. His eyelashes were long. You wanted to hug him on sight. Chris had this effect on all of us. By "us" I mean the 24 other Fellows (who had bonded instantaneously, sustained by wicked senses of humor that live to this day on an active Listserv where sardonic musicals, often inspired by Chris, are jointly created on a fairly regular basis) his writing instructor, Barbara Isenberg, our program coordinator, Rachel Uslan, and myself, director.

Chris is the first and, to date, the last Fellow on any program I have ever run in seven years who missed the bus. He missed the bus. And just like "Home Alone," we didn't realize it until we had arrived at A Noise Within theater in beautiful, downtown Glendale -- and had sat down. I think the uncustomary silence, or the sheer lack of Chris's ebullient presence, alerted us immediately: We had left him behind. Chris was missing!

I jumped into my minivan and performed a rescue. Chris was mortified, and so funny about it. From there on in, and for the rest of eternity, we had a Buddy System for the bus. Chris Page and Chris Blank, his fellow Fellow, called themselves "Blank Page." Apt for critics, and a testament to Page's wit and willingness to accept full blame, when he needn't have. "Our NEA baby" was our responsibility.

Who knows why people kill themselves. There is a readiness here to connect his fatal action with having been laid off. But we can't invent a reality like that. Yet, Chris's death is an additional heavy burden on our arts journalism souls. The worry mounts, and it's tempting to make him emblematic.

Here I am about to launch a new Master's program in arts journalism at USC Annenberg School for Communication. This same day that I learned Chris died, I heard from another teacher at the NEA Institute. She's one of the lucky ones. A full-time theater critic in the Pacific Northwest. But, she's sitting in an arts newsroom that has 12 desks, eight of which are completely empty, unused, and with no expectation of ever being used again. Her colleagues were laid off or took the buyout. Ghost town -- maybe she is not so lucky.

Alan Rich, 83 years old, who has given his life to writing about music was let go by the L.A. Weekly and a week or so ago was told that "No, he would not receive severance pay," as he had been promised. Without a contract, he hasn't a leg to stand on.

But this is a human being. A life. A life dedicated fully and solidly to writing with surest integrity for us.

Today, I heard from a journalist questioning the intelligence of starting an MA program for arts journalists, when there are "no jobs."  Her tone was hurt, pained, frantic, and it gave me pause -- as if I haven't paused enough to question the future myself.

What right does optimism have to exist? My eye is on the artists and the arts. Will they stop? Is art going to stop being made? Will we be able to stop being interested in the arts? Stop loving and obsessing over them not just for artistic reasons, but for moral ones? Can we help writing about them?

I take my cue from the artists. Writing chooses you, you do not choose it. Dancers move. We must move. Actors act. We must take action. Artists paint. We paint with words. Architects build. Let's build arts journalism programs together where there were none.

I see in this time the opportunity to redefine and shape journalism for the better for the arts and culture. Can I guarantee a salary and health benefits and a job as we know jobs to have been? No. But I honestly believe that we can do better than we have done.

One by one by one. And a place to begin is to call for humane action when writers who have given their lives, literally or figuratively, must be let go. Supply a net, counseling, severance, comfort, whatever it takes, but we must not accept the lack of respect.

Speak out. Ask publishers and editors-in-chief to lower the blade, if they must, with awareness that for some critics their work is their lives.

May 28, 2008 3:44 PM |

Sometimes you don't know what's wrong with something until you see what's right.

I feel so depleted trying to defend dance, when really the nature of the beast is that it is dance, which means it has to be felt in order to be done. Even if you subscribe to Balanchine's credo, "Don't feel just do," I would still maintain that the people dancing must have an interior life that illuminates the movement if only for the satisfaction of themselves. Merce Cunningham's dancers report the same -- that as disconnected as movement might seem from narrative or explicit purpose, in fact, there is connection, intellectual and physical, aesthetic and organic. A connection that each dancer creates. That's what sustains the choreography's beauty: the individual.

"A Chorus Line" is precisely about this connection: individual life and its important relationship to the group, the chorus line, the choreographer's idea of "One." 

Last night Broadway's touring production of "A Chorus Line" came to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Nikki Snelson (Cassie) -- what she does on that stage had me thinking, because she is so good. Why is she good? She pushes and interprets just a little beyond what is given to her to do, BUT it's her own world she is in. She not once - not once, I tell you -- made me look at the outside of her body and say, "Oh, what technique. I bet she put in hours on that bod, that line, that mirror reflection." I don't want to be trite here. This is serious business, because dance is, in so many respects, going down the tubes. But, honestly, I did not expect to find such authentic personality through movement at "A Chorus Line."

 Of course, that is what this show is about. Therefore, kudos to director Bob Avian on this production and to the casting agents whom practically every single cast member thanks profusely: Jay Binder and Nicole Vallins. This is a musical about casting and they were letter perfect.

poster.jpgMichael Bennett got it about dancers and musical theater dancers, in particular. The story of Paul -- even if it is not told by the original cast member in this production -- is timeless and painful. He's the boy whose only recourse is to perform as a woman and whose father says, "Just take care of my son," when he leaves for a touring show and that's the first time that Paul has ever heard his father call him "son" -- oh, the pain and the pain and the pain again. Was there a dry eye in the house? Think not. Kevin Santos, who played Paul, was as credible as the original has to have been in my imagination.

Speaking of originals...In the audience last night was the original Maggie (Kay Cole). She lives and works in L.A. and last winter taught my NEA Insititute in Theater and Musical Theatre fellows and blew their collective minds by having them dance and having them recognize what is individual about each of their bodies and selves as expressed in dance (try doing that in a class. It's a tall order and she did it without any prompting. Call it Michael Bennett training in the flesh). But Kay was in the audience last night and seeing "A Chorus Line" with her in the row behind me added something. An extra set of eyes and heart. Her replacement Maggie ( Hollie Howard) was to my mind sensational. She sustained the final notes of "At the Ballet." She had a gorgeous voice and she was willing to be innocent and surprising and non-egotistical. Hard to do in a show like this. 

 But I would argue that "A Chrous Line" puts the ego where the ego is supposed to be. It is about service to the art.

When asked at the end by Zach (Michael Gruber, who also was in the original company and whose line as a dancer sets the bar, by which I mean the line if you traced "a line" around his body at all given times), "What would you do if you couldn't do dance?," the answers and temperature of the them is so exactly like journalists are feeling right now. The dancers respond with how Broadway is dying and how they'll dance until they can't dance no more. Ultimately they wind up singing ""What I did for Love" and I thought to myself, this is just like us. This is arts journalism.

Newspapers are dying. Broadway is dying. Did you honestly get into this business of writing dance criticism or any form of arts journalism for the money?? Did you? Why are you doing it? What are you willing to sacrifice? Could we put up a show about us "A Hedline" and have it be any different than "A Chorus Line"?  All vying and training and for a part in the newsroom. "A Byline"?

Now I ask, has Broadway died? How does information and training  get passed down? Will standards honestly lower as the Internet intercepts us? Should we give up writing? Can we?

I think we are drawn to write about the arts because we love them. Times are different. Not necessarily bad. But they are changing and they are different. When I see Nikki Snelson move with all the fortitude of Patricia McBride and the character of Violette Verdy and the amplitude of Mikhail Baryshnikov, using her energy points, I know dance is not dead. And just as I know that, I also know journalism, arts journalism, is not dead either.

May 23, 2008 4:00 PM |

You heard it here folks, if you haven't heard it already.

USC Annenberg School for Communication is taking the audacious leap (because what other kind is ever worth taking?) and launching a nine-month Master's Program in ARTS JOURNALISM, as part of the new Specialized Journalism series.

The faculty is led by Tim Page, who until recently was the chief  music critic at the Washington Post and who earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his "lucid and illuminating" music criticism. He's also written widely on film and literature for the Post and other publications. He's a fabulous teacher, if I dare say, and I have totally loved working with him to put this program together.

I'm also on the faculty. So, full disclosure: everything I write about this program is loaded with enthusiasm for it. We are working in dynamic partnership with USC's five arts schools (Cinematic Arts, Theatre, Architecture, Fine Arts and Music). The curriculum straddles the Journalism School and these five schools. What we're hoping is that students will exit the program pumped up with maximum integrity on digital media skills, entrepreneurial savvy and business tools, solid arts backgrounds and good -- really good -- journalism.

The deadline for applications is July 1, 2008. The program begins on August 11 and is open to mid-career arts journalists, recent graduates holding bachelors in journalism or the arts, and to artists. The mix of people and experiential nature of the program's thrust  -- getting out into Los Angeles and behind-the-scene at artists' studios, into places known and unknown, mainstream and grassroots, for one-on-one encounters with arts and artists -- distinguishes this Master's program

Students will also participate in workshops, seminars and performances offered through USC Annenberg's established fellowship programs, the Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship in November and the NEA Institute in Theater and Musical Theater in April '09.

If you want more info, send me a comment or write to the Assistant Dean of Admissions, Allyson Hill

May 2, 2008 1:52 PM |

pattigypsy.jpgI've just started to teach arts journalism to a wonderful class -- sure, give me a few weeks, but I go in optimistic. But then a colleague asked me the question anyone in this business would, should, ask: Why teach a skill for jobs that are drying up?

Tuesday night (March 25), I was handed a solid answer, one that I must admit I already knew. I went with my very dear friend, a Tony-voting theater critic for a major metropolitan newspaper, to the St. James Theater for a critic's-night preview of Gypsy, with Patti LuPone as you-know-who. Opening night is Thursday, so even though I am straining to tell you what I thought of it, I can't.

Yet I bet you want to know, may even be dying to know, which is why, as long as curtains go up, critics will always have work.

My friend, let's call him Brooks, because of a series of editorial circumstances was under absolutely no obligation to review. So the evening was a streetcar-man's holiday, which seemed to make him happy; he even had a glass of wine with his pretheater burger, something I'd never seen him do.

We remained sitting, silent, as lights came up after the first act. Then Brooks hit his fist on the arm of the infant-size seat: "I don't care, I'm going to write about this, whether or not they print it." I could see on his face that he was thinking of scribbling some retroactive notes and already rehearsing his lede.

What would induce a member of any audience to swap an evening of guaranteed leisure and potential enjoyment for a stretch of strenuous observation and then hours of immersion into the sweat-making cauldron of writing? Marx -- remember him, Karl with a K? -- ages ago provided the cliché: unalienated labor, work that's not work but irresistible love. Brooks had no choice. The words (and music!) on stage demanded company, and continuation, for themselves, and he was there.

As you can see, the same thing happened to me.

March 26, 2008 6:36 PM |
UNITY, the alliance of four national journalism associations promoting diversity (Asian American Journalists Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association) recently released its list of workshops for its 2008 quadrennial convention.  Of its more than 100 workshops, not one covered arts journalism.

There's a workshop about business journalism, one on health coverage, and even one on - get this - gossip reporting!  Remember, like the Olympics, this convention only occurs once every four years.

The NAJP submitted a proposal for a workshop called "Promoting Diversity Through Arts Reporting."  And despite having a fabulous panel that included a Pulitzer Prize winner and one of the most respected magazine editors in the country, the selection committee passed over our idea.  We wondered what we could have done better, what we could change if we were to apply in 2012.  Maybe we just shouldn't submit a proposal about... arts coverage!  

What does it say about our field when a group preaching diversity leaves arts journalism out of its own diverse agenda?

March 6, 2008 2:07 AM |


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