Searching In Boxes

Well, as promised long ago, I have finally started to update my links section to list helpful arts related blogs and web resources. I have only gotten as far last March in my search for valuable links I have mentioned so there are more resource links, if not blog links, to come.

We have been cleaning out the technical director’s office these past two weeks because the clutter was threatening to consume students. We managed to free up about 400 cubic feet of space in the back of the office thus far. Since the piles of…valued possessions (*cough*) started migrating across the scene shop, the secretary started boxing books up to free up some maneuvering space.

It wasn’t until 2 days later I found out that the TD had told a student he would lend her his stage management book if he could find it at home. His book, of course, was not at home but in his office and I had been holding said book reminiscing about my stint as a stage manager years ago.

As I started searching through the boxes to find it, it occurred to me that it might be worth mentioning the book as a resource on the old blog here.

The book I was searching for was an old copy of Lawrence Stern’s Stage Management. It is the bible of stage management and was actually the first text on the subject.

Since it was first written, two other texts have come in to wide use, Thomas Kelly’s The Backstage Guide to Stage Management, and Daniel A. Ionazzi’s The Stage Management Handbook.

Now I haven’t read or used the Ionazzi or Kelly book, but about as many people swear by Kelly as they do for Stern. I know size doesn’t matter. But I have to ask–why the heck is the Stern book $60.00+ and the Kelly book with only 50 fewer pages is ~$20.00? I suspect it is because of the resources and forms in the Stern appendices, but still, geez.

All that aside, for those of you who don’t know, the stage manager is the linchpin of any performance. The director, designers, technicians, actors, etc create the product and the stage manager serves as quality control.

After rehearsals are through, the director and designers leave. The stage manager, having taken copious notes on everything that occurred during rehearsals, is in charge. The SM makes sure everything and everybody is where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to be doing at the exact time it is supposed to happen night after night. If things get sloppy, they must take steps to tighten things up.

If the performance is happening in a union house, they make sure things are being run according to union rules. (Though there is often another member of the cast who monitors the sitation from a different perspective.)

Essentially stage management is one of the toughest, most thankless jobs in the performing arts. If anyone is going to be the target of pent up frustrations, it is often the stage manager. I have done the job so I know.

Some times the person can be a power seeking jerk and deserves the ire directed her way. Other times, the person seems so unperturbable it is a little weird. I fell somewhere in between.

I never did find that book tonight. I will have to go back tomorrow and root around some more. I want this woman to do well as stage manager because she has dreams of getting outta here and working on the Mainland. She has really set herself apart from other students with her willingness to commit to doing thing well. We will all be proud to have her claim she learned her craft here.

Health Care for Artists

About a month ago I made brief mention in an entry of NYFA article that discusses how a hospital in Brooklyn is offering low cost health services to artists in NYC.

I actually made Laura Colby’s (agent mention in article) acquaintance a year ago and emailed her with praise for her efforts. She told me there are similar efforts being made all over the country and I should keep my eye open for them.

I forgot that suggestion until today when I came across a section on the Folk Alliance website listing all sorts of health resources for artists.

Along with a listing of insurance companies, the website has links to pages dealing with industry hazards like tinnitus, performance anxiety and hand care of musicians. One of the most amusingly titled links is The Accordian: A Back Breaker. The webpage includes a 7 part series of articles on the best way to enjoy playing and how to choose the instrument that is right for you.

Much to my surprise, there was also a link to a Performing Arts Medicine program at Ithaca College. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise. There are sports medicine programs, why not performing arts medicine? I mean, except for the fact that athletic programs in schools and professional sports organizations have more money to toss around than their arts counterparts.

But wouldn’t you know it, a Google search on the subject turned up a number of such programs, including a Performing Arts Medicine Association.

Taking up Laura’s challenge, I also did a Google Search for non-union entities that offer help with artist health care.

Washington State, Rhode Island and Texas have a mixture of resources and advocacy efforts for artist coverage going on right now.

The Artists Foundation in Boston directs people to some insurance sources. They also make people aware of the hazardous materials they may be coming in contact with depending on the type of art they are pursuing.

Out in LA, the Center for Cultural Innovation offers medical and dental coverage for $19.95 a year. I saw some implication that it is an introductory rate. Still, pretty dang good unless it just covers bandaids and dental floss.

The Actor’s Fund provides healthcare and support for all entertainment industry professionals. (I actually didn’t know they were a separate entity from Actors’ Equity until today.) They even have their own nursing home.

Fractured Atlas seems to offer the largest listing of resources as it contains a database of health insurance providers for their members listed by state.

It is no surprise health coverage is a big issue for artists–heck it is a big issue for most people. Hopefully as time progresses, similar programs will emerge as more and more people realize this is an issue that needs attention.

Programs like the one in Brooklyn is actually win-win. In exchange for the low rates, some artists promise to perform in the various wards. For some people, there may not be any more potent an encounter with the arts than when they are feeling their most weak and vulnerable.

Arts in Every Classroom

I usually spend my Saturday mornings watching cartoons. But, you know, they are into repeats now so the last few weekends, I have been flipping through the channels. On one of the local public access channels, I have come across a series of programs put together by Annenberg/CPB about teaching the arts to elementary school children.

The programs for Arts in Every Classroom are really fantastic. But let me first promote the above link to those readers who may not read to the end of the entry. You can watch all the 8 one hour programs over a high speed connection by video on demand for free.

So off with you if you have to go or want to watch the shows immediately. Everyone else, let me tell you why I liked watching the shows. (Keeping in mind, I haven’t watched them all.)

What I liked was that the programs alternate showing the teachers discussing and executing the activities in the workshop and then working with the students back in the classroom. And really, while it is fun to see how silly adults look doing some of these things, the rewarding part is realizing the kids really get it!

One of my favorite activities is watching the students make hats that express an idea, integrate that idea into movement while wearing the hat and then discuss how the construction of the hat dictated the way they moved (they moved carefully so that pieces didn’t fall off or perhaps wiggle too much indicating more joy than they intended, etc).

Leading up to the hat construction, the students were shown period costumes and were asked what sort of person would wear those clothes. The students responded with observations about everything from social class to the climate of the place in which the person lived.

This is what I thought was so fantastic about the program–it was crossing so many subject areas. In just one or two episodes, the classes were touching upon dance, visual arts, history, physics, acting, teamwork, etc.

Even though the observation about climate was based on the fact that the costume had layers upon layers dictated more by fashion than weather, the students did show some good critical thinking skills. Another example that pops to mind was that the students attributed a costume as belonging to either a poet or a prince. When asked why they felt the clothing would be worn by people of two distinctly separate classes, the students’ answer showed that they had a sense that a person would want to dress to the level of the company they hoped to keep. (The old adage of dressing for the job you want, not the one you have.)

The other thing I liked was the fact you couldn’t dismiss these activities as ones only a school with money and resources could afford to engage in. In many of the in-school segments, you can clearly see the classes are occuring on the floor of the cafeteria with the tables pushed up against the walls.

These are schools that don’t have the resources for an arts room of any size and have to squeeze classes in around lunch. I have taken programs into a number of these schools. In some, the transformation from classroom to lunchroom and back is pulled off with astounding coordination in the course of 3-5 minutes.

Anyway, it looks as if the program may have run its course on the cable access channel so I may have to watch the show on the ‘Net if I want to see more. I will let you know if I am impressed further.

University of Community Arts

Stumbling through the 1s and 0s of the internet as I often do, I came across an interesting arts resource– CANuniversity. A program of the Community Arts Network, the university exists “a resource for people involved or interested in community arts training. CANu looks at college and university programs and courses and at the university-community partnerships and faculty- and student-led projects that enhance that training and put it into practice.”

The “Why CANu” section of the web page kinda creates a scrappy atmosphere for the project

The field of community arts is growing rapidly, attracting practitioners, thinkers and participants around the world. And when the arts intersect with education, community development, healthcare, environmental concerns, religion, politics – in fact in any sensitive area of community activity – skills are required that have never been a part of a traditional arts education.

Training in these skills is not yet the field norm. Certainly many practitioners have no formal training whatsoever, relying primarily on peer advice and lessons learned “on the job.” Only now as the field matures are formal training opportunities becoming available, often taught by those pioneers whose wisdom comes from years of practice.

Universities are beginning to offer degree programs in community arts, usually as a minor or a concentration within an art degree. But even as this kind of education proliferates, it is still flying below the radar, tucked into arts departments like theater, dance, performance studies or public art, under rubrics like “applied theater” and “art for development.” But it’s also showing up in programs like public administration, business management, social work, social justice, education, community development, public dialogue, social sculpture, architecture, citizenship, public policy, even tourism. This diffusion is partly because its proponents have to use every trick in the book to squeeze this work into the severely protected fiefdoms of academia. But it’s also happening for a healthy reason: As artists collaborate with – and even become part of – other fields, the professionals in those fields are demanding adapted training programs too.

This actually sounds like a reflection of Daniel Pink’s new book coming out called a Whole New Mind which argues that right brained folks who currently don’t get paid very well will be the element that allows the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world market of tomorrow. He suggests that creative people will be in demand in those fields mentioned in the last CANu paragraph I quoted.

I haven’t really had a chance to read the essays and syllabi listed on the website at this point, but I will obviously report anything interesting I come across.

But given that my interests and yours certainly will differ–give it a look-see yourself!