Saturday, February 11, 2017

Fit For Empire

As an antidote to reading waaay too much current events / political coverage lately, today I'm rereading Francis Bacon's Essays.

Written about 450 years ago, I figured these musings by the shrewd English philosopher and statesman would give some perspective.  

Yes indeedy.  

Turns out, people are still pretty much the same people now as then.  Political forms are different - absolute monarchs being thinner on the ground today (though that could change) - but politics is still politics.  

Then, while still remembering this morning's headlines about the beginning of sweeping deportations, I read this ancient news-flash:

" All states that are liberal of naturalization towards strangers, are fit for empire."

Bacon goes on to talk about how the Roman empire was the most welcoming of foreigners, inviting them into full citizenship.  This warm welcome and easy assimilation was the great strength and richness of their empire... the very thing that permitted their civilization to flourish and grow.  

Any present day applications come to mind?

A bronze statue of an aristocratic boy - Roman - the Met CC0

The essay is "Of the True Greatness of Kingdoms and Empires."  The Roman Empire lasted 500 years, will ours last the next 260 if we become "ill-liberal" towards strangers?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Setting the Art Free

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just announced that it's set 375,000 art images free.

Fly!  Be free!

All under a Creative Commons 0 license HERE... which means you can do what you like with 'em.  

Free I tell you!

PS In all my excitement I forgot to tell you that the wonderful falcon is ancient Egyptian, the sky a study by John Singer Sargeant, and both live at the terrific Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  Go visit.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Up is Down, Black is White

Feel like America has fallen Through the Looking Glass?

Me too.


Whenever you're talking to, emailing, faxing, writing to, or protesting at your senator or representative on the latest Outrage du Jour, please remember to mention NEA funding too.  The National Endowment for the Arts supports all sorts of art - it's especially important in getting arts into the countryside and into smaller towns, where students (or adults) wouldn't otherwise have art funding at all.  

My personal experience of NEA support comes mostly from Kitchen Dog Theater, where for five consecutive years (the only Texas theater who can say this!) we have received national funding for our New Works Festival.  

New plays by living American writers!

If you do feel moved to write your congressional folk, you're welcome to use this postcard:

Please feel free to use - print at 4 1/4" x 6" on card stock

This year will be Kitchen Dog's 19th New Works Festival.  In our time we've produced 26 world premiers of new plays and 125 staged readings of new works.  That's NEW work by living writers.

Please help us - and all those other artists that count on it - by helping the NEA.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Women in Theatre

I've been invited to sit on a panel discussion of The Designers! :

Monday, February 6 at 7pm at WaterTower Theater.
Tickets can be purchased online HERE or you can buy at the door.  To quote:
"The objective of the Women in Theatre panel series is to explore challenges, issues, and opportunities women working in the theatre face. This year's panel features Leann BurnsClare Floyd DeVriesSylvia Fuhrken MarrsFrida Espinosa Muller, and will be moderated by arts journalist Lauren Smart. Each of the designers will bring personal insights, from a uniquely female perspective, about their experiences navigating the often challenging world of theatre."
Come on by!  Lighting designer Leann Burns and I recently completed WaterTower's production of Silent Sky, which turned out well.  (We're probably going to sit on its stage.)  A great chance to hear about Design Life - with whatever special viewpoint female designers may bring to it.
I'm curious myself to find out.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Please Write Your Senator and Congressional Representative

There have been so many outrageous political happenings this week that it's hard to know where to start.  A sweeping new immigrant ban (temporary?  really?).  Cutting all funding for the arts and humanities.  Muzzling the EPA and National Park Service and many more governmental departments, while nominating leaders for them that hate those departments...  It's a blitzkrieg.

But a good place for a concerned citizen to start is by writing their congress people.

To that end I've designed a couple postcards.  Inspired by the anthem that flash-mobbed at the Washington DC Women's March...

"I Can't Keep Quiet."

MILCK and the GW Sirens at the DC Women's March
singing "I Can't Keep Quiet" 

I love the song.  It captures exactly my emotions right now - seeing America going wrong I just can't keep quiet.  I won't keep quiet.  Let's each become "a one woman riot."  

(Guys very welcome!  Crowds!)

A great illustration, by the way, of how Art can reflect and influence current events.  Just as the musical Hamilton has.  As artists we have - sometimes - real POWER.  

Inspired by the protest song, here are these postcards:

These designs are gifted to the Public Domain.

These are designed to be printed at 4 1/4" x 6", the largest size U.S. Post Office rules allow.  Please feel free to print these on card stock.  Use 'em, share 'em, most of all, mail 'em!

Write to your reps and senators with your opinions on current policy.

Or call them.  Or visit their offices, or march, or...


Thursday, January 26, 2017

I Needed the Laugh

Awards can get a little... crazy.  

I just found out this year's nominations for The Column Awards.  

Perhaps you remember a couple of earlier posts of mine on the intricacies of scenic design and plagiarism versus legitimate reuse etc.  HERE and HERE. The short version is that a tree - and the rest of its set - for A Midsummer's Night's Dream somehow ended up, to its designer's surprise, on stage again as a set for Camelot.

A Midsummer's Night's Dream, Trinity Shakespeare Festival - 
set design DEFINITELY by Bob Lavallee

Camelot, Lyric Stage - photographer unknown 
set design still by Bob Lavallee... or, and... well, it's complicated

So... now BOTH sets have been nominated for awards!  The Shakespeare play's set as "Best Original Scenic Design of a Play - Equity" and its Camelot zombie-after-life as "Best Original Scenic Design of a Musical - non-Equity."  This is credited to both it's actual designer and to its imaginary nom-de-repaint-it-we-won't-say-plagiarism designer, Cornelius Parker.  

That rascal.


As a side note, I am appropriately honored to discover that two shows of my own are also so honored:  Kind Lady, for Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas and The Winter's Tale, for Trinity Shakespeare Festival.  

But I'll happily lose - twice! - to that gorgeous tree.

PS I'd be very happy to credit the photographer of that Camelot photo if anyone knows?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Unknown photographer, please allow this usage

Today sees the new Trump Administration taking a swing at the environment.  

You know, all those "purple mountains majesty" and "amber waves of grain."  


some of us are kinda fond of the stuff.  It being our birthright n' all.  Protest has begun.  (See above, Greenpeace protest flag.)

The new government's first steps have been to stop the EPA acting and to muzzle it and Department of the Interior - along with Human Services and still other departments.  No public communication, no tweets or texts or blogs or talking to journalists or to the public.  Wiping websites of climate and other scientific data.


some brave park rangers aren't having that.  Here's their response, an alt-National Park Service twitter page.  Here facts and science and truth still have a home on the range.


How could we pick this leader?  As usual, Shakespeare says it best:

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day

Well, Donald Trump gets sworn in today.

Yesterday's political-news leak was that his proposed budget cuts spending for the Arts and Humanities to $ 0.

The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that Brian Darling, a former Heritage Foundation staffer now a Paul Ryan aide, said about this budget:

"The Trump Administration needs to reform and cut spending dramatically, and 
targeting waste like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be a good first step ..."

Sure, every civilization up till today has created its Great Public Art - pyramids, Versailles, operas, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Bolshoi Ballet, Muppets - art that survives its era and glorifies it.  Historically, it is Art that makes a civilization remembered as great.  

Or remembered at all.

But that junk's all "waste" so why should the United States of America spend a nickel?

public domain image messed with

The Washington Post has a good article on the stupidity of this "budget" idea HERE.

Addendum #2:
Need the dollars and cents?  According to the NEA, the arts adds $700 billion - that's $700,000,000,000 - to the American economy every year and employs 5 million Americans.  For comparison, the oil and gas industry (as best I can figure out) employs around 2.1 million workers - less than half!

Watch a nice NEA film: