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Saturday, September 27, 2008


I haven't a lot to say today. One of my heroes has passed from this earth. Paul Newman was one of the best actors that this world has seen, and one of the best human beings as well.
53 years in film, including two of my all-time favorites: The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
$250 million dollars raised for charity via his side business, Newman's Own.
I remember as a kid seeing his face on a bottle of salad dressing and saying to my mother, "Isn't that Butch Cassidy?"
When I had confirmed that it was, I was puzzled. My dad sometimes had to take on extra work to make ends meet on the ranch, but surely movie stars made better money than ranchers. Then when I read on the bottle that the money raised from the salad dressing went to charity, I began to understand the concept of "giving back."
In an attempt to follow in his example, I have endeavoured in my career as an artist to give back whenever and in whatever way that I can -- even when my income has been far less than that of the average struggling rancher.
Paul Newman was, is, and forever will be one of my heroes. My thoughts go out to his family.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Movie Recommendation: Yellow Brick Road

Yellow Brick Road (2006)
(Synopsis from Netflix): "Filmmakers Matthew Makar and Keith Rondinelli capture a high-profile theatrical production of "The Wizard of Oz" (based on L. Frank Baum's beloved children's book), performed by an enthusiastic cast of players with disabilities. By interspersing poignant moments of onstage fantasy with scenes from each character's offstage reality, this moving documentary strives to fully tell the troupe members' inspiring personal stories."

While this documentary shows some additional challenges of staging a show with mentally and physically disabled performers, the significant challenges are universal.
As a director, I have often been heard to say that, when casting a show, I value heart and enthusiasm over talent. (I like it best when I get all three.)
This documentary is about a theatre group with a whole lot of heart, a whole lot of enthusiasm, and a surprising amount of talent.
Plan to be charmed by this movie.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shift Happens

I just wanted to share this with you all. Food for thought.

McCain On the Arts

Okay, my little lambs, let me preface this blog with the following statement. Support for the arts and arts education is my hot-button issue. It may not be yours (though I hope that you have begun to recognize its importance through a few of my blogs here). There are many other issues that are of equal if not more importance in the coming election. I just don't know what the right answers are in many of those issues. "Drill, baby, drill" or make cars that run on cooking oil? I think I know what we ought to do, but I don't know. I've done my research, and I still see both sides.
Support of the arts and arts education, however, is a topic upon which I know where I stand. I have read the statistics, and I have seen the influence of the arts with my own eyes. It's an important issue to me. I'd like it to be an important issue for everyone else, too, but we each have our own issue that is dear to our hearts and minds.
So before I get into discussing John McCain's policy on the arts, I just want to say that, whatever his policy may be, I do not expect that it will necessarily change or affirm your vote one way or the other (though I do hope that it will influence it).
Okay, John McCain's policy on the arts is, as near as I can tell, that he doesn't have one presently. He has shown in his senate career a tendency toward not providing for the arts, but he has no official policy that I have been able to locate.
In fact, the last word from John McCain on the arts that I have been able to dig up comes from 1999 in regard to the NEA:

”I have opposed federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts because I believe it is not proper to use tax dollars for what many Americans feel are the obscene and inappropriate projects this organization has supported. I support providing federal block grants to the states for arts education and artistic endeavors pursued by state and local authorities, while assuring that federal tax dollars are not spent on obscene or offensive material.”

Okay, that seems reasonable enough, but here's where I may have to nitpick just a little bit. What is obscene or offensive? Who makes that determination? Further, even if we can all agree that something is obscene or offensive (which we can't), is it without value? Shouldn't art be allowed to challenge boundaries set by societal ideas, strengthening those ideas that make sense and obliterating those that do not?
See, I have a good friend in town who is also a director. Recently he directed a show that some people found obscene and offensive, and he found himself in some pretty hot water for it at his day job. Now, it all worked out eventually, but the problem arose because his artistic expression wasn't fully grasped by a small group of very vocal individuals.
I guess I would be curious to know what John McCain's definition of "obscene or offensive material" would be. I expect that John McCain would not have liked my friend's show, and would have opposed the SCFD funding that allowed it to come to fruit.
I am glad to hear that John McCain supported federal block grants for state arts education in 1999. I think I would like to hear it more often in 2008.
If anyone has, please comment here or e-mail me. I want to give Senator McCain his equal time.
In the meantime, maybe someone could direct the senator to the Americans for the Arts website.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama on the Arts

Busy. Busy. Busy. Sorry, piglets, that it has been so long since you've heard from the Wolf -- I've just got a bit on my plate. I'm directing a new play right now that will open in a few weeks, and that has been taking up a fair amount of my blogging time.
I did not, however, forget my commitment to investigating the support for arts education from our future leaders.
Starting right at the top, I am looking at the two men who are currently neck-and-neck to become the next President of the United States of America.
Today, let's look at Barack Obama.
Here is a fact sheet from the Obama camp detailing the candidate's plans for incorporating more arts in America's schools.
Here is the candidate himself speaking about arts in the schools back in April of this year:

If you want to hear more interesting facts about the impact of arts on kids and communities, spend a little time browsing around the Americans for the Arts website.
In the interest of equal time, tomorrow, we'll look at John McCain's views on the importance of arts education.
I will say that it is not a coincidence that I chose to put Obama's policies on arts education up first. I found most of what I needed with a simple Google search in 0.27 seconds.
McCain is saved for tomorrow because, frankly, I'm still looking.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Come Eleven

The skies in Denver are literally gray today, and the expressions on some of the faces are just a bit grayer. Seven years since we discovered our skies weren't as friendly as we thought, nor our borders as secure. Seven years since we found a new reason to fear.
Now, people aren't as morose today as a year ago -- even less so than two years ago, and so on and so forth. And that is probably a good thing. Life is about moving forward. In fact, if not for the media blitz every 9/11 (which, too, decreases from year to year) I expect that many would not realize that this Thursday morning was an anniversary of anything at all. I don't really think that there's anything wrong with that. Forgetting that today is September 11th is the same as forgetting that yesterday was September 10th -- it doesn't mean that the events of September 11, 2001 have faded from memory. Nor does it diminish the grief we all still feel for the loss of so many lives and of a part of our collective innocence as a nation.
Perhaps we don't need to be reminded so conspicuously: banner graphics on TV morning news shows, politicians competing for the pithiest 9/11 commemorative sound byte, and insipidly patriotic country-music songs on the radio.
Perhaps I shouldn't even be devoting a blog entry, but I was overcome with concern this morning. It wasn't concern over another attack by Iraq (or Turkey or France or whoever it was). It wasn't concern that we would forget the tragic loss of the day seven years ago. It wasn't even that Kid Rock would criminally filch another Warren Zevon song to create another sort of uber-patriotic southern rock anthem. (Poser.)
No, my concern on this morning, seven years since the planes went into the buildings, is just what we as a country and as a people have learned in that time.
What I see is that we are more fearful, more suspicious, more hateful. We are more resolute in our "rightness." Even those who oppose the war in Iraq often do so still from a place of "superior" wisdom about these foreign civilizations.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. (Actually, I do pretend to have all of the answers, but that's just to get chicks. I'm as clueless as the rest of you.)
I just think that what happened seven years ago ought to make us less certain of our position on this planet, not more, and that lack of certainty should not inspire fear, but introspection. When I hear Toby Keith sing about putting a boot in a particular orifice of our enemy as being part of the American way, I cannot help but wonder if that American way gives us much more than some very dirty boots.
Now, I'm not saying I'm right and everybody else is wrong (well not today, anyway). I'm just saying that maybe none of us have given enough thought about what makes us right and somebody else wrong. A lot of lives have been lost prior to and since 9/11. Maybe today when we take a moment to remember the victims of 9/11, we should also take a couple of minutes to remember all of those others as well. Then maybe we should take another moment to ask a couple of questions of ourselves.
If your answers remain the same, well good on you, then. You're convictions are sturdier than mine, and maybe I think about it too much. But my fear -- my red level threat, if you will -- is the possibility that we think about it too little.

Oh, and Kid Rock: I just sent an e-mail to Toby Keith asking if I could borrow his boots.