Category Archives: Producing

Little (Mobile) Theater on the Prarie

The events of last Wednesday are still dwelling on my mind, so it was nice to catch this article by Lia Kvatum in the Washington Post Magazine about an itinerant creative who’s connecting communities to their history through theater. It provides some much needed light and joy… and the notion that we can communicate with one another.

Theatrical portraits of Hanson in Granite Falls, Minn. (Caroline Yang via the Washington Post)

Reading about how Ashley Hanson has been traveling to different communities and talking with the people reminds me of both how the Federal Theatre Project had a whole “think national, act local” approach to productions as well as the more recent Playback Theatre‘s attempts to translate personal experiences into short plays.

When it comes to theater, I am biased, what with it being a “non-trivial” portion of my working life, to say nothing of participating in some of the “walking theater” mentioned in the article (although my part got to be on stage). I believe live theater has a way of connecting and impacting people in a way that will make it just as relevant 100 years from now as it was 1,000 and more years ago. So I wish Hanson and others great success in hundreds more towns across America, because it means connecting and deep listening.

Video

Mirror Universe: Workflowy Edition

On Monday, I hinted at New Year’s resolutions and general yearly planning. How am I going to do some of that planning? With Workflowy, an online (and offline) organizer I’ve used and touted since 2012.

The short version of why I like it so much is that it’s essentially an infinitely reconfigurable checklist. Or checklist of checklists. Or checklist of checklists of checklists. You get the idea.

That short explanation touches on one of the traps people can find themselves in, where an item might fit in two categories: say, “Stuff to do Today” and “Items to Research for Blog Posts.”

Their new “mirror” function allows for not just copying a task, but making it so any update on one of the mirrors updates all the mirrors. So you can your organizer can now go all Kwisatz Haderach: be many places at once.

Part of my new year’s planning? Updating my jumble of “Workflowy filing cabinets” into a leaner set of mirrored tasks.

Public Domain Day, 2021

Since I’ve written about it before, I suppose I should make a habit of celebrating the fact that New Year’s Day is also Public Domain Day, which in the U.S. means that, as of today, any copyrights from works released or otherwise published in 1925 have expired and said works are now in the public domain.

Montage via the Center for the Study of the Public Domain

I should mention that I’m not an entirely disinterested party in these matters. As the head of Jabberwocky Audio Theater, I have a keen interest in stories that might make good adaptations for audio fiction. I mean, we can and will continue to find works from the 19th century and earlier to use (adapting “Prince Prigio” last year was a lot of fun). But “new” old stuff would be fun to do as well.

We’re not likely to do an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but as Ian Carlos Campbell argues over on The Verge, the Muppets should totally do a version of that quintessential novel of the Jazz Age.

Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, not surprisingly has a nice rundown of many noteworthy works available sans copyright — and also explains why it’s great to have many non-noteworthy works available as well.

I should also note that Public Domain in the U.S. is a bit different than worldwide rights, which vary widely. But it’s certainly worth exploring. What books or films do you want to see new adaptations of?

Theater Strategy Post-Covid

I’ve been watching how theater and film productions have been coping with the pandemic (as you can see from June, July, and earlier in December). Safely producing new works is important not only considering my role in running Jabberwocky Audio Theater, but also thinking of my many colleagues whose livelihood requires being on stages and sets.

Federal Theater Project production of Macbeth, 1936 (Library of Congress)

So this article in Fortune, not my usual source for theater news, was an interesting read. Author Michael Barra puts forth some predictions about how theater may change, starting with Broadway and how the tourist percentage of audiences will drop, and then taking that change and extrapolating out to theater trends overall.

Considering how many performers are affected outside of Broadway, I hope cities and localities begin to look to how ‘creatives’ can help the economy (as, in truth, they have always done).

Warner Bros. Decides to Upend Theatrical Releases

Just shy of two weeks ago, Warner Brothers decided to drop a bombshell by saying that all their 2021 films would simultaneously go onto their streaming service, HBO Max, along with theaters, as reported in industry publications, Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Some of the 2021 film slate (photos courtesy of Macall Polay/Warner Bros.)

This announcement broke a certain segment of the Internet the Thursday it dropped because –shockingly– Warner Bros. evidently didn’t let any of their producing partners know.

And that’s a big deal, not simply from being courteous to your business partners, but there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake since a big way production companies and above-the-line people get money is through profit participation in the theatrical ticket sales.

Now, Warners evidently wants to mitigate this by generously estimating what the ticket sales might have been and paying the profit participants thusly as they’ve done for the director and star of Wonder Woman 1984.

Of course, this may mean money is left on the table as far as directors, stars, and producing partners are concerned –to say nothing of potential problems with existing contracts. Director and lover of the big, big screen, Christopher Nolan is reportedly furious. And the director of the new version of Frank Herbert’s epic saga is absolutely incensed — in part, fearing that this move might tank the possibility of this kicking off a proper Dune franchise (a lot of books have been written in this series).

If you know The Business, a weekly news show about the entertainment industry led by veteran report Kim Masters, you might expect they have something to say about it and they do.

The week of the announcement, they devote much of the opening segment to it (where it really drives home how much Warner Bros. did not tell anyone this was coming). And the episode this past weekend is all about it.

We knew there would be more and more of shift to streaming in the next few years, but what falls out from this attempted unilateral shift by the Bros remains to be seen.

Keeping COVID Safe on Set

For my colleagues who are going back into production, stay safe.

Aimee La Joie has your back.

A Great Disturbance in the Mouse

2020 continues to be decade of twists and turns stuffed into one unrepentant year.

Now, the whole future of filmed entertainment might be changing course because a certain large House of Mouse has recently said it’s focusing on streaming.

Make no mistake. This is big.

Video

2020 Emmys: In Memoriam

TCM usually gets my nod, but the graphics in this one were very well done… (and these are grim times, so I suppose it’s where my head is):

More on Getting Back to Set

Earlier this week, Cirque Du Soleil announced it was filing for bankruptcy and Broadway said it was going to be shuttered until January 2021. It’s grim for folks in the entertainment industry.

Still people are trying to figure out how to get some productions back in gear, especially film and TV. Last week, I shared some guidance the film industry has been working on.

This week, catching up on Scriptnotes, I heard their late May roundtable about getting back on set which I figured would be useful too.

Short version? It’s not a bad time to be in animation.

Live Theater & Audio Theater

A lot of our company members of Jabberwocky Audio Theater usually make some of their living from performing in live theater… though at the present you can imagine that isn’t as easy.

Still, I know that live theater will return. Last month, I  shared a message from the artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minnesota about theater’s enduring qualities.

In the interim, theaters are finding ways to weather the closures and one way, as detailed on NPR, is to do plays as radio dramas.

The article references Orson Welles’ famous “War of the Worlds” broadcast from 1938, which Jabberwocky commemorated in 2018 with our own live performance of “War of the Worlds,” set in modern day and locally here in the Washington, DC area.

I hope this trend helps keep the lights on for many theaters — and while I grew up with both types of theater, I’m quite excited by the prospects that this introduces new listeners to the “Theater of the Mind.”