A while back I wrote about copyright and design theft (HERE) and talked about Pepe the Frog, a cartoon slacker-amphibian stolen by the alt-right for neo-Nazi and other hateful memes. Pepe's creator, Matt Furie, tried to fight, to rescue his creation, to rehabilitate him. (I picture a sort of drying-out clinic/swamp for skinhead amphibians - filled with repentant Amazonian poison frogs in gang coloration, taking the twelve-leap program. The original, innocent Pepe might have appreciated that image.) His creator tried to save him. But now...? Now he's still listed by the Anti-defamation League as a hate symbol. Now even his creator has had to give him up as irredeemable. A guilty frog.
Collage from Public Domain images (and poor, poor Pepe)
I joke - sorta - but it's not funny. It proved impossible to save Pepe from the haters. Just as many other artists find it impossible to assert their copyright when their works are stolen for profit . And all the online fans who previously created joyful or silly memes now have to concede that Pepe The Frog is lost to them too. This is why we can't have nice things. Today Matt Furie killed off Pepe. Today, on Free Comic Book Day, is Pepe's wake. Read more HERE.
If you're planning on seeing today's DAVID CARL'S CELEBRITY ONE MAN HAMLETat Kitchen Dog Theater (and if you're not you should be) be warned:
Now showing at Dallas' Fair Park at the Margo Jones Theater / Magnolia Lounge. 2:15 and 7:45. (I'll be at the 2:15 show and so will the Dallas Mayor - come join us!) Because of this last minute Fire Marshall induced move of venue, Kitchen Dog is offering half price tickets... Call 214-953-1055 or email email@example.com or just show up at the door and say you were sent by company member Clare DeVries.
Isn't that gorgeous? Just makes you want to buy a ticket to far star-strewn places doesn't it? Between NASA's poster campaign and the new Star Wars films space is suddenly cool again... maybe we'll get that Mars Colony in my life time. And now that I've set up an inevitable and not-in-my-favor comparison, let me show you some more of the protest postcards I've been designing lately. (Protest? Why ever?)
A handy be-kind-not-cruel card to send to legislators about immigration issues.
A health-care issues postcard. And, for ticked-off women who, whatever your politics, are annoyed by powerful men Not Listening...
In my head the Statue of Liberty is starting to live quite a heroic superhero adventure. The perfect avitar for this moment in American history. Please, if you're writing to your congressional representative or senator and you like a postcard design, feel free to print 'em and use 'em. Pass 'em on! (Print on card stock at 4 1/4" x 6" or stuff, any sized, in an envelope.) Oh, and don't forget the artsy one - the arts need all the help they can get:
From a behind-the-curtain artist's view, all these designs are collages done with computer image / photo editing software (rather than scissors and glue) from public domain images. Turns out, for me at least, political upset means a chance to hone my computer / art skills! Who knew? So, if our American Experiment slides into Authoritarian Tyranny, maybe I can at least get work as a Propaganda Poster Hack. Who knows?
Or they'll need artists on Mars.
And, before I lose this stickynote again, here's a gem of a topical poem I found in the NY Times written by Susan McLean:
Kitchen Dog Theater is proud to announce our new accessibility initiative: Admit:ALL - which provides 20 FREE tickets to every KDT performance this season (after opening nights) for those otherwise unable to afford them.
These tickets will be available at the box office on a first come-first serve basis. Arrive half an hour before showtime and just ask for an Admit:ALL ticket! BIG THANKS to Communities Foundation of Texas for the seed grant to get this program off the ground!
Paper Flowers - running now through March 11th.To see a full calendar of performance dates- go to kitchendogtheater.org
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?
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.
Feel like America has fallen Through the Looking Glass?
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.
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 Burns, Clare Floyd DeVries, Sylvia Fuhrken Marrs, Frida 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.
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... RESIST.
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. Ha! As a side note, I am appropriately honored to discover that two shows of my own are also so honored: Kind Lady, for MainstageIrving-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?
Today sees the new Trump Administration taking a swing at the environment. You know, all those "purple mountains majesty" and "amber waves of grain." But... 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. But... some brave park rangers aren't having that. Here's their response, an alt-National Park Service twitter page. https://twitter.com/AltNatParkSer Here facts and science and truth still have a home on the range. ADDENDUM: How could we pick this leader? As usual, Shakespeare says it best:
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
ADDENDUM: 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:
Now, I may completely enjoy the way gaf tape and paint are the lifesaving tools of theater construction, but I also appreciate real craftsmanship. Enjoy this video showing the crafting of a wooden box:
Did you feel all swoony at the dovetail joint bit? Okay forget that gaf tape! I demand dovetail joints on all my theater sets from now on! Ahem. Feeling calmer now. Speaking of craftsmanship... I'm feeling pretty happy with the progress of my next show for WaterTower Theater, which opens on the 23rd. Silent Sky. Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of the crafting of this set:
Silent Sky, WaterTower Theater, back of the flats
You're looking at the back of the curved wall - which is meant to suggest the astronomical observatory where much of the play's action happens, as well as the night sky. Notice the tidy carpentry and the neat way the (mostly) concealed curved! door sets into it.
Silent Sky, faux "planks" going up
And here you see the opposite side of that wall, which has cardboard light-blocker underlayment with faux "planks" being attached. These are slices of lauan, cleverly painted.
BTW that apparent jog in the front edge of the stage? Just a tech table gettin' in the way of my camera. Sorry. I didn't want to disturb Tech by bobbing around to get a better shot. The tornado warning sirens that brought 30 teenaged actors into the room for shelter that night seemed disturbance enough. (They were very quiet and well-mannered actually - better than the weather.)
The painting is responding very nicely to changing theatrical lighting... and there's a little surprise to come too.
Now, in the funny Doctor Who voice, "Welcome Citizen!"
Okay, I've been bad at blogging lately. Been a little caught up with holidays and politics and work. And writing actually. One of my New Year's resolutions is to Finish the Book. (There it is, out in the universe as a goal!) Also eat better, exercise, sleep, yada yada... Another big resolution is to be a more active citizen. Whatever your personal beliefs and political leanings, I think this past presidential campaign has proven to us all that: A. We all really really HATE politics. and B. Politics is too important to be left to politicians, pundits, and idiots. So. Time to go talk to our friends and neighbors and - even more important - to listen! to them. Past time to be better citizens. No one party or person has a monopoly on good ideas or good will. Let's work some stuff out sensibly, together. Me? I'm talking politics with one neighbor now. I've started donating (small amounts anyway) to groups involved with issues I care about. I'm calling my state and local representatives about issues and leaving messages. (This is supposed to work better than last year's emails. For more advice check out indivisibleguide.org HERE.) I'm gearing myself up to go stuff envelopes or something for a political party - though I'm really an independent. And I'm trying to decide where to volunteer in a social-help kinda way. Where would my weird talents be most useful? On the theatrical front, I'm working on several shows. Sketching, sketching, sketching... WaterTower Theater's Silent Sky techs this weekend! It's going to be a good show.