If a Married Lesbian Couple Saves 40 Teens from the Norway Massacre and No One Writes About it, Did it Really Happen?

•August 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

If a Married Lesbian Couple Saves 40 Teens from the Norway Massacre and No One Writes About it, Did it Really Happen?.

Earthborne Valkyries. Who knew?

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Regarding PA Senate Bill 850 and The Arts:

•August 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Regarding PA Senate Bill 850 and The Arts: An Open Letter to Relevant Pennsylvania State Legislators, Administrators, Citizens, And Anyone Else Who Might Want To Get Involved In This Mess

Governor Ed Rendell has signed legislation that provides a temporary budget for the state of Pennsylvania. It’s flawed, incomplete by his own admission- but it ensures that state workers will be able to take paychecks home. In his statement to the press, he said, “I believe the bill presented to me for signature today is technically flawed and cannot be viewed as a constitutionally balanced budget enacted with the best interests of the citizens of Pennsylvania in mind; therefore, I am exercising my constitutional right to line item veto all but those appropriations that will allow state employees to be paid and those serving immediate basic health and safety purposes.”

State workers should get paid, and basic health and safety purposes need to be addressed. Despite this budget crisis that affects all areas of our state, the arts community in the Greater Philadelphia area is in an uproar. It’s being said that Governor Rendell plans to eliminate all arts and cultural funding from the budget for fiscal year 2010.

If state arts and cultural funding is eliminated, what'll happen to the Christmas lights in Rittenhouse Square?

If state arts and cultural funding is eliminated, what'll happen to the Christmas lights in Rittenhouse Square?

Casinos are being viewed as a potential generator of tax revenue for Pennsylvania and industry. Mayor Michael Nutter said at the Mayoral debate on October 30, 2007, “The potential negative impact of casinos in Philadelphia I think we’ve not fully come to grips with: traffic, congestion, gaming addiction, as well as crime. It was not the best idea. It’s certainly not the way to try to develop our waterfront.’ (1) Since then, he and many other Philadelphia leaders have changed their minds. It’s incongruous that the potential entertainment factor of casinos could be considered such a saving grace while the arts and culture are ignored.  Creating entertainment opportunities via gambling, and taxing them, is a short-sighted measure. More attention to our state’s arts and culture will enhance our state, and create greater tax revenue, without the significant drain on our city and state resources that casinos would cause.

Proponents of the casinos claim that they will bring jobs. The Sugarhouse casino is being built in a Delaware River vacant lot, so supporters believe that this will enhance our waterfront. There is a theory that casinos in Philadelphia will enhance tourism and attract money that would otherwise go to Atlantic City. Greater arts and cultural opportunities throughout Pennsylvania will do all of these things and much more.

At the risk of boring the pants off of you with statistics and numbers, let’s look at the facts.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the state’s arts budget is $14 million. Writer Alice Carter broke this down to costing “each taxpayer a nickel per week or $2.60 a year.” (2)

Arts and culture are a $1.99 billion industry in Pennsylvania, says Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania. The arts provide nearly 62,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generate $282.98 million in local and state government revenue.(2)

So, essentially, the state of Pennsylvania puts out $14 million for arts and culture and gets two hundred sixty-eight million, nine hundred and eighty thousand dollars back. That’s quite a return on the investment.

Arts and cultural organizations spread the wealth around. “Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion dollar in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences, proving that the arts are an economic driver in their communities that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism,” Americans for the Arts reported. (3)

To put it more simply: “The typical attendee to a nonprofit arts event spends $27.79 per person, per event (excluding admission) on transportation, lodging, and other event-related costs. Nonlocal attendees spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($40.19 vs. $19.53). Thirty-nine percent of attendees are nonlocal. Few industries can boast this kind of event-related spending.”(4)

If you needed proof that casinos don’t enhance local business opportunities: The number of independent restaurants in Atlantic City dropped from 48 the year casinos opened to 16 in 1997. (5) Within just four years of the casinos’ arrival, one-third of Atlantic City’s retail businesses had closed. (6) But why should they try to help out other businesses? Why would you want your patrons to eat at a restaurant outside your casino when you can have them eat at a restaurant inside your casino? Play to win, folks.

Research sponsored by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development demonstrates that arts programs in public housing areas increase neighborhood pride, decrease vandalism, provide safe havens, improve inter-generational communications, and increase tolerance between different cultures and ethnicities. (4) and also, public art and a vibrant cultural community beautifies and animates cities, provides employment, attracts residents and tourists, complements adjacent businesses, enhances property values, expands the tax base, attracts well-educated employees, and contributes to a creative and innovative environment.(4)

It’s unbelievably easy to come to the conclusion that the arts are good for our communities. Yet it’s still being ignored. Maybe there’s a stigma that the arts aren’t an honest, hardworking profession; maybe there’s some stigma left over from our earliest Quaker settlers, who believed that the arts are frivolous. Times have changed, and we need to remove the stigma. We need to get out and enjoy the arts and cultural opportunities available to us, and we also need our legislators to take notice.

These are the people whom you should contact. Tell them that having the ability to go to museums, learn about history, see performances, and do something with your life other than shop, work, eat and watch television is important to you. Tell them that an investment in Pennsylvania’s arts and cultural opportunities will come back to the state government many times over.  Or just tell them that you think it’s a good idea. Thank the ones who are working for us. Nobody ever says “thank you” enough.

And thank you for taking the time to read this.

Senate

  • Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester County and Delaware County. He’s the Senate Majority Leader and former mayor of Chester. Voted with the party for a budget that would eliminate cultural funding. http://www.senatorpileggi.com/ I’m sure he loves the Brandywine River Museum too much to see it go to waste.
  • Jake Corman, R-Centre. Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Voted with the party for a budget that would eliminate cultural funding. http://www.jakecorman.com His “News You Can Use” section reminds you to use sunscreen, and that DEER ARE ON THE MOVE.
  • Jay Costa, D-Allegheny. Costa is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and showed his support for the arts as a speaker at the recent Rally for the Arts in Harrisburg. http://www.senatorcosta.com/

House

  • Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia. He’s the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and his office crafted the $29.1 billion budget plan that would retain cultural funding. http://www.pahouse.com/evans/
  • Sam Smith, R-Jefferson. He’s the House Minority Leader, and voted for a budget that would eliminate cultural funding.  http://www.samsmithpahouse.com He says, “Real People Pay Taxes.” We know. Remind him about that $282.98 million in local and state government revenue.

Sources:

(1)    Casino-Free Philadelphia, casinofreephiladelphia.org

(2)    “At $14 million, the arts are a bargain for state’s budget” By Alice T. Carter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Sunday, August 2, 2009

(3)    Arts and Economic Prosperity III, Americans for the Arts, artsusa.org

(4)    Talking Points, Economic Impact, Americans for the Arts, artsusa.org

(5)    Evelyn Nieves, “Our Towns: Taste of Hope at Restaurants Casinos Hurt,” New York Times, March 23, 1997, section 1, p. 39.

(6)    Robert Goodman, The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America’s Gambling Explosion (New York: Free Press, 1995), p. 23.

Year One: A Haiku

•June 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been wrong about some things before, so if you think that my gut instinct that the movie Year One is not the comedy miracle of 2009 is incorrect, fine; I’ll accept a three-paragraph persuasive essay on the topic. There is such a thing as too much marketing working against a movie rather than for it, however, and I think the marketing for this movie may have hit or passed critical mass. year_one_poster

In the meantime; as I was stuck in traffic on driving up I-95 the other day, I was inspired to write a haiku. I had seen the same piece of advertising for that movie one time too many, and the straw had officially broken the camel’s back.

Ringo Starr just called
You can keep the film concept
Doesn’t want it back.

Thank you.

be wise, be brave, be tricky

•May 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ok, so Neil Gaiman is reportedly breathing a sigh of relief over the stage adaptation of Coraline. I was questioning the idea of putting out a stage musical of this book so soon after the movie came out, and expected a nearly Disneyfied stage companion to the movie. With music by Stephin Merrit, I was intrigued, but I thought this would be just a colorful retelling of the film.

Nuh-uh.

The title role will be played by Jayne Houdyshell.

I first met Ms. H years ago at the McCarter Theatre where she was cast as the jolly and forthright Mrs. Fezziwig in the annual production of A Christmas Carol. She re-defined the role, though there wasn’t much to do, seeing as it’s a British panto in Princeton. Later I met her again at The Wilma in The Clean House, where she played the lead character’s sister desperate to clean, and clean, and clean, all through her sister’s nightmares and breakdowns and rebuilding, vacuuming pots of tossed topsoil from snow-white rugs, competently and vigorously cleaning as if it would save the world, with a deep, smooth voice dispensing humor so dry you could sand oak with it. She’s now known as Madame Morrible from Broadway’s Wicked, and has won or been nominated for numerous awards.

Ms. Houdyshell was, according to Wikipedia, born in 1953, and is not small in any sense. I would be so excited to see her bring her considerable talent to this role. What are little girls made of?

It’s playing in a 200-seat theatre (the Lortel), the perfect size for magic and terror.

Leigh Silverman, I’m quite impressed with your choices. Be wise, be brave, be tricky indeed.

An idea for a new iPhone application, from a playwright.

•March 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Developers, take note. But you have to give me credit. I copyright this March 2009, Lindsay Harris Friel, dammit.

The most frequent obstacle that playwrights face is not cruel critics or cowardly audiences. It’s script printing.text

A copy of a full-length script can cost around $20-$25 after it comes out of your friendly neighborhood self-serve copier. If you’ve written something with four characters in it, and you need a copy for your stage manager and director, that’s six copies right there. Without even getting into the deforestation issues, the monetary cost of getting your script physically in the hands of the people who need it most can run into triple digits.

Every single time I print copies, watch the slices of dead trees pile up, and that little counter tally up how much more of my money it’s eating, I feel an ounce of blood slipping away and wonder if it’s worth it to be a playwright. Last time, I thought it would have been more cost-effective and better for my sanity if I had bought six Kindles for the cast, director and stage manager, and found a way to upload the scripts into them.

But you can’t make notes on a Kindle. (Can you? I don’t know, I prefer books that are wireless and never need charging). You can’t write in your blocking or whatever else you need to, and those notes end up being just as important as the original text.

But what about this? What if you integrated the touch-sensitive screen on an iPhone and made a way that you can display the script on a touch-sensitive page so you can add notes to it? True, an iPhone is small enough that your actors would sue you for eye strain by the time all is said and done. and it’s not as satisfying as a big thick meaty juicy script in your hands, getting worn and creased and the edges curling, with pages half falling out. It’s not as nice as being able to look at your penciled and highlighted notes five or ten years later and think ‘we were all so young.” It takes the kinesthetic pleasure out of it. I’m sure every lighting and set designer who had to lug 12 scripts around in their backpack would disagree, and wish they could upload scripts into their iPhone.

We all know an iPhone isn’t cost-effective for the average human (Don’t even think about trying to tell me anything different. If iPhones were reasonably priced, they wouldn’t be the new trophy toy and we would slap people for playing with them while you’re trying to have an actual conversation with them), let alone a working artist. But it’s definitely something to think about.

Check it out, developers! An iPhone app that can have real-world impact.

Oh, fine, go back to watching your Twitter feeds.

Kate Winslet grips her hard-won Golden Globes

•January 12, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’m a little bit worried about our girl Kate.

Kate Winslet grips her Golden Globe till her fingernails bleed.

I think success is starting to spoil her. I don’t think she’s the girl we all first fell in love with.

Oh, sure, the only constant in life is change. To have the Hollywood fantasy of the Vanity Fair cover, we had to let go of  silken Rose from Titanic, the bawdylicious Maddy the laundress of Quills. To meet those sweethearts we had to let go of the rough and tumble ruffian Juliet of Heavenly Creatures. Kate Winslet’s approach to her roles gives us a multifaceted heroine and a dish of many rich flavors. But what fresh hell is this?

See this grin? The clenched jaw, bared teeth, glassy glint in her eyes? The white in her knuckles as she’s gripping that Golden Globe?  From the looks of this photo, I think if she doesn’t win an Oscar this year, she might just make sure every Academy voter dies a very slow, very painful death.

This new thin, streamlined, Aryan-blonde Kate isn’t one I want to like anymore. She’s had all the life and individuality sucked out of her so she can fit into not only any producer’s concept of a role, but any audience’s concept as well. She’s mainstreamed herself to the point of losing her individuality and soul.  Is she going to get thinner? Make herself more marketable? Sell a little more of her soul? I’m worried.

Kate, honey, chill out for a second. Come on over to my house, I’ll make you some pho. I’ve got some vodka in the freezer, we’ll play with the dogs. It looks like you need to get back to where you once belonged. We’re all a lot of fucked-up girls looking for their own peace of mind. Stop trying to please Hollywood. We miss you.

…well, I may be late but I’ll be up to date when I can shiv ’em like my sister Kate, oh, yeah…

inspiration and joy

•December 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

If there’s one thing I wish I could have in the coldest darkest time of year, it’s inspiration and joy. Two things that bring me inspiration and joy are dance and music. I know little to nothing about either discipline.  Probably because of that, I get excited and propelled creatively by them; I can’t analyze it at all, because I don’t have the vocabulary or tools, so how can I overanalyze it?

In any case, this morning as I was cleaning the kitchen, the song “Right as Rain” by pop singer Adele came on the radio. Out of nowhere, I was compelled to dance like a rag doll, like a Peanuts character, like a Muppet. My dogs ran in barking, and I danced with them while they barked and wiggled in circles and wagged their tails joyfully.  This song always makes me dance, and I’m not a dancer.

That music reminds me of years ago when Twyla Tharp visited the McCarter Theatre while I worked there. Her dance company’s show had sold out so quickly I couldn’t get a ticket, and I had to work in the box office that night anyway. I was sitting in the box office when I heard someone whisper, “There she is.” Along one side of our office were floor-to-ceiling glass windows that looked out onto a brick walkway and out into the leafy, blossomy spring evening. A woman was sitting on a wooden bench, smiling and laughing, as another woman stood and told her a story, her back to the window. This woman was petite and all muscle and sinew, like a racehorse, in jeans and a T-shirt, with a cap of bobbed silver hair. It was Twyla Tharp. As she told this story, which none of us could hear, she became more and more animated, all elbows and hands, knees and feet, bounce, swing and glide, rhythym and melody, and her friend laughed. We sat in the box office like the wrong species in a duck blind, looking across the darkened office to the bright window, as she made her friend laugh uncontrollably on a spring evening.

It was better than the show could have been.  I bought her book on creativity. Before I could even get through the first two chapters my mother “borrowed” it from me and then “lost” it. I’m still furious about it and I want it back, Mom.

I sincerely wish Twyla Tharp would choreograph a dance piece for Adele‘s song “Right as Rain.” I think their styles go together.

But in the meantime, try this, because it’s really fun.

1) Go to emusic.com and sign up for a trial membership. It’s free and you get free downloads.

2) Download Adele’s Grammy-award nominated album, 19. It’s good stuff.

3) Go to YouTube and bring up BeetTV‘s video, Dancy Dancy by Twyla Tharp.

4) Hit Pause immediately, but let it load.

5) In the YouTube video pane, mute YouTube’s sound.

6) Open your mp3 player and bring up “Right as Rain” by Adele. Cue it up and hit pause.

7) When you’re ready, hit “play” on the mp3 player and then play on the YouTube video.

I guarantee you, this is at least as much fun, if not more so, as Dark Side of the Wizard of Oz.