Engaging Production Blog

Over the last few months, I have been following Don Hall’s An Angry White Guy In Chicago blog as he discusses the process behind the show he is directing, The (edward) Hopper Project..

Hall directed a play based on Edward Hopper‘s iconic Nighthawks painting. He was inspired by a retrospective of the artist at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper via Wikipedia.org

What has kept me coming back on a consistent basis is the fact that he does such a great job talking about his process and holding my interest when so many production blogs fail to do so.

So I thought I would direct a little attention his way (though he certainly doesn’t need my help) and point out some of the entries that caught my attention most:

-His discussion of how to make a play written by a group work. He acknowledges writing by committee generally isn’t going to yield anything of quality and talks about working through the conflicts he had with people who didn’t agree with his cuts. (And here is a reposting of Time Out Chicago preview piece he inserts into his blog later in which his process is described less charitably. To his glee, it seems.)

-Post about the start of rehearsal

One of the interesting things he does is reposts all the reviews of the work, starting on January 19 (if you followed the link to all the Hopper entries, just scroll up and start reading upward from the review by Joe Stead.) He then reflects, pretty fair and honestly for the guy who directed it, about the review, further discussing what his aims had been.

He acknowledges why some people may find the show difficult or dislike the style in which the show was presented. He says as much in response to one of the first reviews

“I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a sigh of relief that someone appreciated the fractured narrative structure and found it “consistent with the mystique evoked by Hopper.”

His review of reviews illuminates in one place the truth that you shouldn’t attempt to gear your show toward pleasing critics. What each seemed to think he lacked contradicted at least one other reviewer.

-One of the entries I loved the most since I have never heard of anyone else even trying to experience their show in this manner is the entry where he listens to his show being described for the blind. He laughs so hard that he approaches the point of sabotaging his own show.

However, Don does suffer some repercussions for his practice of reprinting reviews whole cloth and receives a cease and desist letter in response. The Chicago Tribune Theatre Editor pre-emptively reminds him of the limits of fair use when he provides Don with the link to the review which appeared in that paper. (I assume he does that with all the blogs and not in reaction to the desist letter.)

While I don’t wish legal action on anyone, I appreciate the reminder about the intellectual property issues and concerns one must be cognizant of when creating art. From what I understand, the cease letter was sent in reaction to reprinting a review from a web only publication. Since he fully credits and links to the original review, the only motivation I can think of for hiring a lawyer is that the advertising revenue lost by not having people visit the site. I am not sure Don was even asked to take the post down prior to receiving the letter. As more newspapers move to web only presences, I wonder if this sort of thing will become more prevalent.

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

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.


1 thought on “Engaging Production Blog”

  1. There are clear and specific limits to “fair use,” and Don wholly ignored them. He wasn’t quoting relevant portions to illustrate a point, he was copying articles in their entirety, and distributing those copies (via his blog) without express permission.

    On my blog, I quote reviews constantly; it’s the core of the South Florida Theatre Scene. But I only quote enough to show the general tone of the review, and append references and links back to the source, and that is “fair use” in its correct usage. The reader has to go to the source to read the entire article, and this drives up traffic to the newspaper, which allows them to earn revenue, as it should be.


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