Monday, July 31, 2006

NxNW Theatre Company

We're excited.

We're planning our first event for NxNW Theatre Company for October of this year.

Here's our logo.

I'm thrilled!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bill Moyers, Deepak Chopra, and Two Articles You Should Read

Here they are.

Who Owns Christianity?

by Deepak Chopra

Not many people of moderate persuasion have much sway in the church any more. I was reminded why recently when the Episcopal Church did two important things: It elected a woman bishop to head the denomination, and it backtracked on appointing gay bishops. The first move seems Christian. Women deserve to hold church office as much as political office (one diocese, however, was so incensed that it voted to leave the church, and worldwide there are still Anglican movements that do not permit women to be bishops or ordained priests).

The second move was an act of cowardice because it did not reflect the ideals of love in Christianity and was motivated by reactionaries in the Episcopal denomination. Countering a long tradition of laissez-faire tolerance, the reactionaries have gotten tough and threatened to form their own church if gays are promoted in the priesthood. The worldwide Anglicans are more intolerant, upholding that homosexuality is forbidden, unnatural, wrong or an outright sin, depending on who is doing the disapproving.

You'd think that someone would stand up and ask a simple question: Who are we to condemn gays if Christ didn't? In fact, who are we to condemn any sinner, since Christ didn't? Christianity is about forgiveness, and for the past two decades, as fundamentalism swept through every Protestant denomination, moderates and liberals have been driven out, and were roundly condemned as they left. Along with them went tolerance and forgiveness, not to mention love.

Did Christ teach love or is that just a liberal bias? In the current climate, it's hard to remember, but one thing is certain: Once a tight cabal of fundamentalists takes over any denomination, Christ's teachings go out the window. The reversal of Christianity from a religion of love to a religion of hate is the greatest religious tragedy of our time.

Those of us who haven't been swept up in worldwide fundamentalism, which has corrupted Islam, Hinduism and Judaism as well, have been caught in a double bind. We can't join any sect that preaches intolerance, yet we can't fight it, either, because by definition fighting is a form of intolerance. To escape this double bind, moderates have stayed silent and stayed home. But that tactic failed. As healthy as it is to nourish your own devotion and faith, it's disastrous to allow extremists to take over the church, because the statehouse, the board of education, the Congress, and eventually the presidency are next.

Perhaps civil society will solve the problem of religious extremism. So far it hasn't. America finds itself in the sad plight of being the world's most prominent secular society hijacked by sectarians. One can only hope that the church comes to its senses and regains its moral center. If that doesn't occur, the core teachings of Christ will be lost, for all intents and purposes, to this generation.

© 2006 San Francisco Chronicle

There Is No Tomorrow
By Bill Moyers
The Star Tribune

Sunday 30 January 2005

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress.

For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The offspring of ideology and theology are not always bad but they are always blind. And that is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

One-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup Poll is accurate, believes the Bible is literally true. This past November, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in what is known as the "rapture index."

These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans. Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre: Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "bibli-cal lands," legions of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That is why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. That is why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations, where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." For them a war with Islam in the Middle East is something to be welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The rapture index - "the prophetic speedometer of end-time activity" - now stands at 153.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? As Glenn Scherer reports in the online environmental journal Grist, millions of Christian fundamentalists believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but hastened as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

We're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half of the members of Congress are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian-right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian Coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who before his recent retirement quoted from the biblical Book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to relish the thought.

Onward Christian Soldiers

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelations are going to come true. Tune in to any of the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations or flip on one of the 250 Christian TV stations across the country and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible?"

These people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, America's Providential History, which contains the following: "The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth … while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people." No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot soldiers in this past election, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

Once upon a time I thought that people would protect the natural environment when they realized its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that - it's just that I read the news and connect the dots.

Immoral Imagination

Mike Leavitt, the former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment - a mandate for an administration that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand if actions might damage natural resources.

The Environmental Protection Agency had even planned to spend $9 million - $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council - to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

I read all this and then look at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer - pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age 12; Thomas, age 10; Nancy, 7; Jassie, 3; Sara Jane, nine months. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."

And I ask myself: "Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?"

What has happened to our moral imagination?

The news is not good these days. I can tell you that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - free to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk.

What we need is what the ancient Israelites called "hocma" - the science of the heart, the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you. Believe me, it does

Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs series "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers' remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

Leave It, Leave It, Leave It!

Every puppy goes through an awkward stage... like that awkward time we humans go through in the second or third grade. Sometimes fourth or fifth. There's always a year where your school picture looked goofy -- because you were goofy too.

This is Zeta's... it is a pre and post hairdo photo. It doesn't help that I shot them in the most unflattering ways -- but LOOK at how she pays attention!

I'm just kidding myself. This morning I must have said Leave it 468 times. Leave it, leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it,leave it, leave it, leave it!


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bush and Barney and Zeta

See how much better behaved my dog is than Dubya's?

Doesn't Zeta seem to be saying, "Is this a new dog trick? What the hell is this man trying to do? "

Let's all consider that.

What is Dubya trying to do?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Socializing Your Dog In July

More socializing Zeta!

In this photo, Zeta has joined the Sycamore family for some pre 4th of July socializing. Pop Sycamore and Mr. DP have been slaving away in that cellar making fireworks and The Kirbys have shown up to dinner on the wrong night. Notice the only one who isn't non-plussed is Zeta. She's been socialized so much so far, that she can respond that way. Sadly though, her stagecraft is lacking and we'll have to teach her not to break the fourth wall for our next production.

Friday, July 07, 2006

State of The Arts

I see a lot of theatre. I do. I'm just saying that right away. I've seen around 40 shows this season. I direct one or two shows a year. (And in my area, it's a bonus that I get paid to do so!)I love, love, love theatre. That said, I don't claim to like or know any and everything about the form. If I did profess such, then I'd have to also admit that I'd stopped learning, and artists cannot afford that. It might also mean that the form was not evolving either. However, I do wish to address an interesting "phenomena" -- if you will -- that has been sweeping across my fair city for well over ten years now.

The cultural and social climate in Austin is decidedly different than most cities in which there is an equally healthy theatre scene. I believe this is mostly due to the average age being 34 in Austin. All the colleges and high tech companies in our area are probably fuel for this youthful statistic. The average age of most theatre goers in the country is MUCH higher, and we in some theatre circles refer to this group as the "Church, Luby's, Theatre," crowd that one sees at any given matinee on any given Sunday. In Austin though, most theatres don't even schedule a matinee.

There are at least 87 theatre companies in Austin, more or less. The list includes colleges, companies that perform only once or twice a year, and sub-companies formed from larger companies when they wanna do their own thing every once in awhile. Let's eliminate them and narrow it down to those companies that offer at least three shows a year. Now I'm down to 25-30. Ok, so there are 30 theatre companies that do at least three shows a year. We subtract the childrens theatres (4) and "alternative" theatres (3).

That leaves 8 out of 87 theatre companies in Austin that provide a season of "mainstream" theatre. Three of these are Equity, leaving five "community" theatres. The remaining theatre companies are defined as "rebel" based on the Chronicle's interpretation of such, and total 15. So, we can now assume that over half the theatre companies in Austin that present a season of theatre are "rebel."

At this point, let's define rebel. Outside of it's political and governmental implications, Oxford English Dictionary defines rebel as a verb wherein one resists authority, control, or convention.
So... if a majority of theatres in Austin are defined as rebel and rebel is defined as one who resists convention, then are our rebel theatres really rebel? With such a definition and (admittedly loose) statistics, is rebel theatre really rebel theatre when it's the majority of a city's offerings?

Last month Yellow Tape Construction Theatre bloggers suggested the new website ACOT has begun is full of "Fluff aimed right down the middle of the road." (See post and comments at over at The Construction Zone. ) BTW, to answer a question posed on The Construction Zone blog, yes, according to The Theatre Communications Group, Austin does rank up there with other cities as a "National Center For Performance" as we were included in their 2002 study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts entitled The Value Of Performing Arts in Five Communities. To shatter any thoughts that rebel can also flow into the "mainstream," note participating theatre company Salvage VanGuard.)

Seems we in Austin have, in ways, given avant-garde and Rebel Theatre far more commonplace credit than we artists are willing to admit. Especially if, regardless of the listings on the new Texas Performs website, we still embrace with such glee the stylings of these rebel companies.

I pose a question to our that James Lileks offers in a recent blog on the New Guthrie Theatre:

Has avant-garde become tradition?

This reminds me to insert here a plug for James Lileks and his blog entry on The Guthrie. What a sight the New Guthrie is! Ack!

Is it really rebel theatre if I know exactly what to expect when I attend a production, regardless of how far off the middle of the road it is aimed? If I know the presenting company is offering a style that does not give me something different from production to production, is it rebel theatre, or does the middle of Austin's proverbial theatrical road just look more interesting than the theatrical roads of other cities? Are these theatre companies any different philosophically if they have carved a groove in the road from travelling the same way too often?

Could it be that in Austin, rebel theatre is also "community theatre"? Oh, no! Now I've gone too far!

Come on now! I return to my definition of rebel. A verb wherein one resists authority, control, or convention. SooOOooo, if most of us in the Austin community spend our pennies on most of the theatres in town and they are rebel theatres, then are we rebels or are we just being self- indulgent?

(How many times have I used the word rebel in this blog entry?)

What would rebel theatre be really, in Austin or anywhere else? Wouldn't it be a theatre company that pays it's actors and staff at least a middle class income? Wouldn't it be a theatre company that knows how to raise enough funds to do so without sacrificing it's mission? Wouldn't it be a theatre company that sifts through the finest of profit sector and nonprofit sector business practices and marries them to create a theatre that is successful in each and every area of it's operation? (Dare I include financially successful to the list?) Wouldn't it be a theatre company that can give us excellent production values, talent, AND unique work?

Should we put Alex P. Keaton and Arthur Kopit in the same room and let them go at it?

This company I've got to see. That's rebellious.