Couple Entries Revisited

I am revisiting a couple stories tonight.

The first is some applause for Michael Rice over at Cool As Hell Theatre podcast who has been picked up by station KQED in San Francisco. Michael’s podcast is the first, and at this time only podcast broadcast by the station.

I have to confess, I haven’t been listening to his podcast as often as I would like. Everytime I do listen, I scold myself for neglecting his work. I appreciate that he asks questions you want to know the answers to that most interviewers avoid.

Case in point, in his most recent interview with Alison Jean White. She is the youngest member of American Conservatory Theater’s permanent company, a distinction previously held by Annette Benning. He asks her the requisite questions about feeling pressured to live up to Benning’s legacy. But he also asks her if she felt like she was exploited as cheap labor when she was a student at A.C.T. and talks about how he felt that way when he was in a different acting training program.

Given that she is still employed by A.C.T. and probably wouldn’t want to malign the organization, he probably didn’t expect her to answer negatively if she was disgruntled. I am just always impressed that he asks questions that reveal the inner lives of artists and the struggles and concerns they face. He also makes himself vulnerable to derision by revealing that he felt so exploited and burned out that he turned down offers of employment after a showcase.

Anyhow, I have made up for my past errors by subscribing to his podcast. It will be interesting to see where things go now that he has the potential for greater distribution. (Hopefully those San Francisco Public Radio listeners are hip to podcasts!)

Second issue I wanted to revisit I wrote on a bit more recently. It seems The Independent of London decided to replicate the Joshua Bell experiment the Washington Post conducted a few months ago that I posted about a couple weeks back.

They chose to place violinist Tasmin Little in a station far less appealing than L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. The railway bridge beside Waterloo Station is described as “…amply layered with pigeon shit, blankets belonging to the homeless lie scrunched in a corner, and no doubt the place is used as an impromptu loo by Friday night binge-drinkers. It’s also windy, cold and, with the passing trains, a bit noisy.”

The article admits the environment isn’t conducive to stopping to listen echoing many of the same complaints a French businessman makes as he passes through. In fact, members of the Philharmonia Orchestra are the first to recognize Little and won’t stop because they have a train to catch.

While I feel both the Washington Post and The Independent articles got a little melodramatic as they wailed about the poor children being heartlessly yanked away from the musicians, in The Independent story, far more young people stopped and gave money than older folks who pay large amounts to see Little in concert halls.

It makes me wonder if my earlier thoughts about finding appropriate places outside of the concert hall to perform and then studying the who, what, when, where and how of getting people to sincerely stop and listen as a way of discovering a better method of delivery might have some validity.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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