Thursday, July 17, 2008

At Home With Casket

To accompany that random list of props from a few weeks ago, here are a few rehearsal pics (from our apartment, natch) that continue the trend of revealing everything and nothing about The Casket of Passing Fancy. This show may be the perfect vessel for whim and novelty; I'd say it contains a solid 80% of anything we've ever wanted to see or do onstage.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


IF you sensed a little humiliation in the downtown air this morning, it was because Rubber Repertory had its first ever City of Austin Cultural Contract panel review. Basically, to apply for city funding, you submit an elaborate narrative description of your company's work, itemized budgets, and support materials, and then you're reviewed by a panel of arts professionals. I showed up early (with shirt tucked in) and got a good seat in the city hall board room where the reviews are held.

When it was RR's turn to be reviewed, I sat down at a little table in front of the panel and tried to look comfortable. The primary reader gave the rest of the group a GLOWING review of RR's work, commending us on innovative programming, a strong administrative record, our commitment to pay artists, the Rockefeller grant, etc. It may have been the best review of the day, and several of the other panelists echoed the sentiments. I was sitting proud, proud of our company, proud of dear Austin for recognizing our precious worth, all too PROUD--when one of the panelists commented that while she agreed with what had been said, she was a little unclear on how we reach out to culturally diverse and underserved audiences. And then she phrased it as a question. Gulp. And then I more or less choked. Gulp. Gulp. I stammered something about how we try to reach out to performers who aren't often seen on Austin stages, I asked for clarification about what kind of documentation they look for, I made a series of increasingly clueless expressions, I was coached from the side by the Cultural Arts program manager, I left the question more or less entirely unaddressed. It was a textbook display of how NOT to articulate yourself as an artist.

Had I gotten out of the headlights, I may have addressed our strong success with word-of-mouth publicity and shown how our desire to cast performers from diverse communities sometimes extends to audiences. Or said something about sliding scale ticketing or free street performances or working with college classes. Or simply admitted that this is an area in which we can improve. But I didn't. And all that's left to say is: Shame on you, Rubber Rep Co-Artistic Director! SHAME ON YOU!

UPDATE: We did just fine in the end, receiving 97% of possible funding.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Duchess SPEAKS II

The main character in our next show is a fascinating woman known only as "The Duchess." As we approach the show's opening in October, we'll be sharing some carefully selected excerpts from her 6,000+ page biography/memoir. In this entry, The Duchess ponders the differences between the classes:

Ah, those were pleasant days! those were pleasant days! Few persons have seen so much of the various aspects—I may say of the two extremes of life—as myself; and few persons, therefore, can be better judges of the difference between great poverty and great wealth; but after all, this does not, by any means, constitute the chief and most important distinction between the high and low states. No, the signal, the striking contrast is not in the external circumstances, but in the totally opposite minds of the two classes as to their respective enjoyment of existence.

The society in which I formally moved was all cheerfulness—all high spirits—all fun, frolic, and vivacity; they cared for nothing thought of nothing, beyond the pleasures of the present hour, and to those they gave themselves up with the keenest relish. Look at the circles in which I now move; can anything be more “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,” than their whole course of life? Why, one might as well be in the treadmill, as toiling in the stupid, monotonous round of what they call pleasure, but which is, in fact, very cheerless and heavy work. Pleasure indeed! There can be no cordiality when there is so much exclusiveness and primness,--no, all is coldness, reserve, and universal ennui, even where this starchness of manner is unaccompanied by any very strict rigour in matters of conduct.

I look out for cheerful people when I can find them—I do everything in my power to make them happy—and yet, were it not for the merry and frequent laugh of dear old General Phipps, could you not swear that my dinner parties were funeral feasts? Look, now, at those quadrille-dancers in the other room; they have been supping—they have been drinking as much of my champagne as they liked—the band is capital—the men are young, and the girls are pretty;--and yet did you ever see such crawling movements—such solemn looks—as if they were all dragging themselves through the most irksome task in the world! Oh, what a different thing was a country dance in my younger days!