I thought it would be fun to try my hand again at old-school theater blogging. A few days ago, George Hunka at Superfluities Redux wrote about the end of the theatrosphere. Blogging about theater was once a popular pastime among theatermakers. Back in 2003 or so, a handful of us got together and thought it would be fun to carry on conversations about theater over the internet. Hilarity ensued.
As blogging became popular, the theatrosphere expanded to include a number of people from around the world. I think one of its strongest points is that we were independent from institutions. While it was true journalists were members of the group, I never had the sense anyone served as an institutional mouthpiece. We blogged about a variety of topics, including sexism, new play development, MFAs, submission fees, Rachel Corrie and the role of the director. It was all fresh territory back then. There were no assumptions, no “been there done that.” There was a feeling in the group that we were breaking ground, comparing notes and talking about things in a new way.
I learned a lot. I met new people and expanded my knowledge about theater, writing and life. I believe strongly that the group changed things for the better.
I also acknowledge that things were occasionally dicey. Some of the flame wars were not illuminating. A few were downright ugly.
There were several reasons I left the theatrosphere in 2007. I discovered someone was using my content for a theater project. I felt violated. It was around that time my Hollywood friends informed me that producers were combing through blogs and actually basing projects on blog content. Apparently, they assumed you could swipe a significant amount of someone’s life legally. So I’m guessing a number of people (in or out of the theatrosphere) might’ve quietly stopped blogging for that reason.
Also, I was country before country was cool. I moved twice from 2004 to 2006 - New York to Austin to Alabama. I attempted to do theater here in my community and ran into major problems. Lack of resources was only a small part of that. Plus, the theatrosphere was urban-oriented. I didn’t think my contributions were valuable.
As well, I often felt there was an all-or-nothing attitude about theater blogging. Either you did it 100% of the time or forget it. As much as I loved theater, that didn’t work for me. Theater is just a part of my identity, only a piece of who I am as an artist/writer. I do other forms of writing. I have a book project, for instance. Some people know me as an energy healer and meditation teacher. My practice in that area focused on artists, including theater folks. But I never felt like I could write about those topics if I was a theater blogger.
Therein lies the crux of problem, I think. Because when I remember all the people in the community at that time, we each had something powerful to offer. For example, George had his incredible intellect. Issac had widespread interests and was extremely articulate. Joshua had wisdom and fantastic suggestions. Scott was steadily becoming an advocate for people in my position. Mac was a funny, cool dude who could lighten things up. Obviously I’m leaving a lot of people out, but you get the idea. Everybody had a place. But after the group grew, I often felt like it was a struggle to be heard. I wasn’t in the position to meet everyone after a show. I was also one of the few women (and only woman at the beginning). When we all came together back in 2003/4, my gender wasn’t an issue. But when the community grew, I started to feel marginalized. It’s not anyone’s fault really. It was just the dynamics of that situation.
For me, George’s post about theatrosphere is timely. I’ve recently gone back to reading theater blogs, particularly Superfluities Redux and Parabasis. I also adore Don Hall’s blog. I started reading it again at 5:30 a.m., when I have to call people in Seoul, Korea to tutor them in English. I found Don’s blog to be a nice, energetic wake-up in the morning.
When I blog about theater, I do it at the Clyde Fitch Report. They don’t tell me what to write and I have no idea who is actually reading my articles. Those two elements are a good thing. I can focus on what I see or need to say.
Also, writing for a website that is not my personal blog gives me more leeway. Look at it this way. What would you rather say?
“Hi! I’m Laura Axelrod with the Clyde Fitch Report. It is a NYC-based blog. And I’d like to talk to you about nudity in theater.”
“Hi! I’m Laura Axelrod and I have a blog. I’m calling from my basement. And I’d like to talk to you about nudity in theater.”
I’m kidding, of course, but you get the idea.
One of the biggest challenges over the past year has been figuring out what to do with Gasp. I’ve also been working on having a “right relationship” with theater. Doors are opening for me in publishing and I’ve been encouraged by professionals in that world to write about other interests on this blog.
As far as the current state of things, it is hard to have a meaningful conversation on Twitter. I respect other blogs, 2amt especially, since they know and have been infinitely supportive of my situation. But I understand what others are saying in the comments section at George’s blog.
From my vantage point, I’ve grown weary of the “what we need to do to improve theater” discussions in this country. These conversations sometimes seem desperate and creepy. Has anyone yet suggested kidnapping people, holding them hostage to create an audience and then mugging them for funding? Because that’s the vibe I get sometimes from the balcony seats, where I sit. If I were a potential audience member, I’d run far away from theater after reading some of these conversations.
During my time in the theatersphere, I’ve tumbled with a few people. I know Scott and I have gone at it several times and I apologize for the intense flaming. I know I’ve told the rest of you off in my head at least once in those years, so I apologize if my secret thoughts gave off nasty vibes.
Wow, is this a personal post? Do we still do that these days?
I'm going to open up my comments, but despite my fears of a spam avalanche. If anyone chooses to link to this post, I kindly request the following: Please don’t say that this is a painful post. So much of my stuff back in the day got spun with that adjective. “Laura Axelrod writes this painful post about (name the situation)” And I’d sit there looking at my monitor, completely confused. Were my observations hurting people? Or did they think I was in pain?
Either way, you should know I’ve written this post with a big-ass smile on my face.
(Picture of dog used to illustrate my emotional state while writing this post.)