Post from June, 2017

Let Go

Monday, 19. June 2017 1:41

You may have heard that the Albee estate denied the performance rights to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? because the producing organization, the Complete Works Project, had cast an African-American in the role of Nick. The director, Michael Streeter, spread the word in his Facebook status and the story took off. Responses have appeared on all media and support both positions. Nobody questions the right of the estate to deny rights for whatever reason, but there is great diversity of opinion on whether this is a good or bad choice.

A friend who is a director and actor said that he thought he would have to side with the Albee estate in this particular situation, but that he wished that playwrights would release their death-grip on their plays. And they do have a death-grip, whether the playwright is living or is represented by an estate.

The first such restriction I observed was shortly after the Mickey Mouse Protection Act of 1976 in a contract for a college production of one of Neil Simon’s plays. The contract said that not a single word could be changed. Since that time, such a restriction has become standard, and one of many. The Albee estate-Complete Works rights denial is the first time I have heard of a copyright owner rejecting a specific cast member.

“Artist’s Rights,” can be taken to ludicrous extremes. For example, Arturo Di Modica demanded through his attorney that because he created Wall Street’s Charging Bull, he should have been consulted before Kristen Visbal’s sculpture, Fearless Girl, was installed just feet away. Di Modica said that “the adjacent art has changed the meaning of his work and violated his legal rights” (ironic, given that the bull, like the girl, was installed without permission).

There are two reasons I agree with my friend’s “death grip” comment on playwright’s rights. First, theatre is a collaborative art: there is an originator of the script and then the interpretation of that script by a production company. This is similar to the composer/conductor-orchestra relationship. The fact is that by allowing any group to produce the work, even with restrictions, the licensing agent is allowing interpretation. Set, cast, blocking will be different in each production. Restrictions applied to professional productions are not required of amateur productions. Some restrictions do not take into account the specific audience that will see the work. These taken together produce an inherent inconsistency in licensing with regard to protecting the “artistic integrity” of the work. Indeed, And at least two of the articles I read (here and here)—citing Shakespeare and Chekhov as playwrights whose work is interpreted in a number or ways and whose work lasts—suggest that if the Albee estate continues its current policy, it well essentially condemn Virginia Woolf to obscurity.

Both Tennessee Williams and the Williams estate have taken a position almost opposite the Albee estate’s position. Williams allowed his work to be done by almost any group, and the estate has followed suit. The results have been a broadening of understanding and appreciating Williams. For example, a 2008 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featuring an all-black cast demonstrated that the play is powerful regardless of race.

The second reason, in my mind, applies to all artists:  Once the artist declares the piece done, it exists in the universe as an entity unto itself. Regardless of his/her rights, the artist needs to have enough confidence in whatever s/he has created, that s/he can let go of the piece and get on to the real work of the artist—creating. A solid work can stand on its own—if the copyright owner will let it.

Category:Communication, Marketing, Presentation, Theatre | Comment (0) | Author:

Is It Worth Keeping?

Monday, 5. June 2017 2:57

Last week my main documents hard drive crashed. Well, not exactly crashed, but became corrupted, the net result of which is much the same thing. No big deal—I had a backup. I bought a new drive, popped it in place, and set about to restore. The backup was corrupt as well. What are the odds?

After I was sure that I had two good backups of my primary images drive, I set out to see if the non-existent files could be recovered. I found an excellent free recovery tool called Recuva, made by Piriform.  On the first pass, the program found no files on the drive and asked would I like for it to do a deep search. I clicked on yes and in 3 hours, the little utility had found 166,649 files, about half of which it thought were recoverable.

Since I had been implementing the decluttering system found in Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, this seemed the perfect opportunity to extend tidying to the hard drive, except it was not a decision of what to throw out; it was a choice of what to put in, what to recover. Looking at it that way, the problem was somehow changed. The other challenge was that all I had to go on was the file name and extension. Since the file was unrecovered, it was impossible to see the contents. It turns out that this particular drive had had a number of uses during its life before it came to be my primary documents drive. Some of the files were ancient, at least in computer years, so there were a number that I knew were obsolete, and a whole other set that I had no idea what were. Then, of course, there were some that I recognized.

So the problem became how to decide, with limited knowledge, what was important and what was detritus. Then there was the time factor: scanning over a hundred thousand files takes a considerable amount of time, even moving quickly, much less making a save-or-delete-forever decision. Even with the software ratings of the likelihood of recovering the files, the time commitment would be enormous.

What happened was that I learned very quickly to come up with criteria about what was worth keeping, at least long enough to evaluate. Otherwise, I would still be running through the list of files. It occurred to me that just such criteria would be very useful in dealing with our art and even our lives. Many of us have stacks of unrealized or failed projects lying about taking up space. We have items in our environments which bring us no joy at all and which are certainly not worth keeping. (Kondo’s criterion for keeping or discarding is whether the object in question brings us joy.) Perhaps we should consider eliminating those elements that make our lives less artistic than they could be. (Living an artistic life was discussed previously here.)

It would not be an easy thing to do. Just like the hard drive, we have many thousands of things which take our time and energy. If we were to eliminate those that were, for whatever reason, not worth keeping, think how much more time and energy we would have to give not only to our art, but to those other things that are really important to us. Perhaps a better strategy than waiting for a hard drive—or an artistic environment—to crash is become proactive and begin to rid ourselves of those things that do not serve us.

Category:Creativity, Quality | Comment (0) | Author:

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