Browsing articles in "Creative Discontent"

Everyone and no one

May 12, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Theatre  //  1 Comment

I directed a show a few years ago that still sticks out to me very vividly, not because the show was particularly memorable, but because of the reactions it got and my own reaction to it.

It was a Christmas show (200… 4? Yeah, it had to have been 2004), which we’d ended up starting from scratch at the end of October. As in, we had no script or anything. We’d started rehearsing a different script (which I’d still like to do one of these years) in August/September, but for various reasons, it just wasn’t the right show with the right people, so we scrapped it and wrote something entirely new, six weeks before it went up. Well, I didn’t write the new script, but a new script was written, and I pulled together a completely different cast and started directing it with less than six weeks to go. (Keep in mind, this is a volunteer cast, so six weeks of rehearsal when you’re only rehearsing once or twice a week for 2-3 hours at a time means something very different than it does in a professional setting where you can put in 30-40 hours of rehearsal a week and 4-6 weeks is a normal rehearsal period.)

To be honest, it wasn’t any of our greatest work — actors, writers, me. Artistically, it didn’t push any boundaries, and the concept was okay, but not great. The staging wasn’t what we wanted it to be (some of our decisions were overridden by people higher up the food chain than us), and the laughs, while genuine, were sometimes a bit cheap. It served its purpose as the church’s Christmas production that year, and it had a good turnout, as always, but there was something about it that left a stale taste in my mouth.

I found that there were three distinct reactions to the show. First, there were friends that I’d invited who just loved it. They laughed, the whole family had a good time, and they had a nice evening out that didn’t ask much of them. Second, I had colleagues who came who gave me those very reserved congratulations. You know; the kind that are masking their real opinion while trying to find something nice to say. It wasn’t that they thought it was an awful show, but they knew that I had the talent and skill to do something better. Third, there was my team’s reaction. The core team had pulled through a lot to get the show up, and we were proud of the fact that the show came together, despite everything. We knew it wasn’t the best work any of us had done, but we also knew what it took to make, and because of that, the experience glowed a little more than it would have otherwise.

So whose opinion counts?
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When “good enough” isn’t good enough

May 9, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, Faith, Reviews  //  4 Comments

One of my primary goals when I was working with the drama ministry at the church was to see it become as professional and high-quality as possible, because what’s the point of putting on shoddy work? Too often, I think that the attitude within the church is, “Whatever we give God, he’ll do something good with, so I don’t have to give my best.” And yes, while it’s true that God makes beauty out of our brokenness, it doesn’t give us the excuse to be lazy or to give less than our best–not only the best of what we currently are, but the best of what we can be, through training, practice, and honing our skills.

(And if I ever end up back in a position of leading the drama ministry at Foothills, one of my goals is to make it a place of training, mentoring, and growth for the team members themselves, as well as a place to use theatre as a ministry to the church and community.)

Mom and Dad gave Colin and I the movie Fireproof for Valentine’s Day. We haven’t watched it yet, but despite not having seen it, I’ve been pretty vocal with my disappointment in it (and maybe I’ll post a review of the movie itself once I’ve seen it, but this isn’t a review of the movie; it’s a discussion of the reactions I’ve heard). I’ve read reviews from sources that I trust, and everything I’ve heard indicates that it’s a pretty formulaic “Christian” movie: overly expository writing, not-so-great acting, less-than-subtle conveyance of its message, and mediocre production value.

Even the opinions of people who liked it have been mixed. They thought it was a good story, but the acting wasn’t the best they’ve ever seen; or they thought the message was good, but it could have been told better.

My argument against it from the beginning has been this: Why put something out there on a stage where it can’t possibly compete with the best that’s it’s up against? Why create something–with a God-honoring message, and with the best intentions in the world–to a standard of mediocrity, where even the people who like it only like it with reservations?

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If there’s no room for you, where is there room for me?

Mar 20, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Faith, School, Theatre  //  1 Comment

It’s the responsibility of any artist to champion the creation of art that he or she disagrees with, doesn’t understand, or is offended by.

This is a theory that I’ve been mulling over for a while–about a year now, I guess–and I think that I can fairly confidently boil it down to that statement.

I subconsciously became aware of it when I was considering CalArts, but I actually put it into words last spring, when I was deciding whether I was going to take the job with the Calgary Fringe Festival for the summer. In that case, it wasn’t about whether I was artistically opposed to anything, but it was the fact that a lot of the work I’d have been associated with and working on would be work that I was morally, ideologically, religiously, and politically offended by.

Could I put my name on that kind of work professionally? Well, in a sense, I do it every day, simply by being at CalArts. A lot of what comes across my path is work that I don’t find very aesthetically pleasing, work that is in direct contradiction to my beliefs and the way I live my life, and even work that mocks the things I build my life around.

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Grad school projects based on “Harold and the Purple Crayon”?

Dec 7, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, School  //  No Comments

A few days ago, my Facebook status read thus: “Alida’s creative idea is inspired by ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon.’ Yes, that’s right. That’s what grad school has done to my brain.”

A friend replied, “If you were in my grad program that would be perfectly acceptable. In fact a girl in my publishing class is doing her project on Harold. I am doing mine on The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

I told her that maybe, once I’d finished the project, I’d post a synopsis of it, just for fun, since I’m fairly sure that a library school project based on “Harold and the Purple Crayon” is vastly different than mine, and it’s cool to see how we can take the same source material and have to do something completely different with it.

My assignment, for my Advanced Case Studies in Producing class, was to create a proposal for a project. This wasn’t a complete strategy (which would include a budget, marketing and PR plan, preliminary contracts, timeline, personnel needed, etc), but rather, a preliminary proposal for a commissioning project that was inspired by the research we’ve done into the worldwide producing environment. Preferably something exciting, challenging, complicated, compelling, and big. Basically, it was a chance to dream big without the limitations of trying to figure out the reality of it.

So here’s what I came up with:

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“Messiah”

Dec 3, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Music, Reviews  //  1 Comment

This weekend, one of the things I got to do in Calgary was see Ambrose University College’s Messiah, which Colin, Mom, and Dad were all singing in (with the AUC Community Singers). It was good, overall, but disappointing in places. The first, biggest, thing was that it was held in the gym of the college that was hosting it. That wasn’t the director’s choice, but the school just built a brand-new campus, so of course the administration wanted the Christmas concert to show it off. Unfortunately, there’s not a large enough concert hall for the event, so they set up the gym.

The sound was quite good, and it didn’t have the terrible acoustics that most gyms have, but the aesthetic was terrible. The mood and formality of the event was really compromised by having it in the venue that they did. I get why the administration wanted it there; I’m also completely on the director’s side, who has said that he’s going to fight to make sure it never happens in that location again. It’s why I will not have my wedding reception in a community hall or something similar. No matter how much you try to dress it up, it still looks like a high-school dance, and that’s an aesthetic that isn’t appropriate for a concert like that.

The Saturday night concert was a sing-along, which I was really excited about, but it was far from meeting my expectations.

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Your argument for Disney’s level of evil leaves something to be desired

Nov 18, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, Music  //  2 Comments

I was browsing through some random websites earlier this week, and I came across a site was full of “evidence” of how evil Walt Disney was (and Disney as a corporation is). It had some of the more common stories, but the one I found most amusing is that “Walt Disney was evil because he chose music by dead composers for Fantasia so that he wouldn’t have to pay for the music.”

While it’s true that Disney (as a company) has an incredibly powerful legal team that understands the inner workings of copyright law better than just about anyone else anywhere, it makes me laugh that using public domain music is evidence of evil. How is it not an artist’s prerogative to choose to either have new work commissioned, support currently established composers, or reintroduce the public to classical works? Any of those three options, especially with the scope of Disney’s influence, had the potential for significant ramifications within the artists’ careers (if new work had been commissioned or contemporary work used) and the public consciousness and awareness of the music scene, even though the film was originally not as well-received as hoped.

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Thees ees… a thesis?

Nov 8, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, School  //  No Comments

So… thesis. Let’s discuss, shall we?

Because this is CalArts and we tend not to do things the “normal” way, there’s no prescribed format for my thesis. I’m not writing a traditional research-based thesis with a dissertation defense and all that stuff… I get to choose my project’s format and do what works for me.

Some disciplines have more prescribed theses: MFA3 directors, for instance, do a thesis project, which is one of the shows in the season. MFA3 playwrights also have a show fully produced in the season. MFA3 and BFA4 actors do their grad showcase in New York and L.A. as a showcase for agents and managers. Producers, though, get to do whatever we want. Kind of.

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Improv Everywhere

Nov 1, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Reviews  //  No Comments

I’m kind of in love with Improv Everywhere. It’s a New York-based performance art group that takes large-scale pranks out into the public, and the whole “improv” concept is rooted in the way the audience responds to the performers’ actions. It’s kind of like a cross between Punk’d, candid camera, and performance art, and the result is really cool.

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Casey and Finnigan

Oct 16, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, Reviews, Theatre  //  No Comments

I’m taking a really fantastic class this semester called “Leadership and Management.” There are seven of us in the class–two each of producers, production managers, and stage managers (and one lighting designer, who’s married to one of the production managers), and each of us is working on projects with several people in the class. I’m working with three of them directly, and the lighting designer is working on my show as well, so there’s an element of working with her, too, although it’s not quite as directly as with the others in the class.

It’s basically a discussion class. Well, actually, not “basically;” it is a discussion class. We read several chapters of a book on leadership (Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” for Managers, Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, and Developing the Leader Within You are the textbooks for the semester) and then spend three hours talking it, both in broad, philosophical terms, as well as how it relates to our day-to-day work in theatre, whether that’s at the school or professionally.

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Joy to the world!

Sep 20, 2008   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Music  //  No Comments

One of the things that I always loved about being two choir directors’ kid, one of the things that I love about being a choir director’s girlfriend, and one of the things that I’ll love about being a choir director’s wife is the fact that Christmas music appears in June. I adore Christmas, and the music, especially the choral music, is one of my favorite parts.

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