Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hearing Voices

Soomi Kim's "Lee/gendary" had a short run of performances recently at the Beckett Theatre as part of the first National Asian American Theatre Festival in NYC. Soomi Kim created and co-wrote a show for which she was the centerpiece playing Bruce Lee. That's right, SHE was playing Bruce Lee and was absolutely stunning. The piece examined the life of Bruce Lee by trying to get behind and humanize the icon we know today. The show had it all: martial arts choreography, multimedia, live drumming, original music, etc.

In particular, though, what hit home for me about Bruce Lee was his steadfast vision and his drive to bring martial arts to the forefront of mainstream culture; to strive for excellence as a martial artist; to carry himself like a superstar even when Hollywood used his Asian-ness as an excuse and explanation to exclude him.

To illuminate Bruce Lee's Ambition and vision, Soomi Kim quoted from the work of American writer Jim Harrison: "Some people hear their inner voices with such clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people became crazy, or they become legend."

As a new staff member to the New York Innovative Theatre Awards, this quote helps me to understand the dedication of my new colleagues. I like to imagine that the founding directors—Shay, Jason, and Nick—were first guided by such inner voices that said: "Create a platform to recognize Off-Off Broadway Theatre to celebrate the art and the artists. Foster community and solidarity in the indie theatre scene in New York City." And I like to imagine that these inner voices were persistent but rang clear and true. And they acted on it by creating the New York Innovative Theatre Awards, and when the vision was expanded, created the New York Innovative Theatre Foundation.

These folks live by what they heard because what started out as an idea has now reached its 3rd year. To get to this point, just imagine how many dedicated hours, resources, skills, sweat and tears have been donated for the good of the Off-Off Broadway community. Let's be honest and say that most of us would normally consider this crazy behavior to execute for three years now something that has no material gain or personal advancement.

It would be a tad facetious of me to start throwing around the word "legend" to describe the IT Awards in a blog entry found on the IT Awards Myspace page. However, I have been thinking about this quote… and about Bruce Lee… and about making theatre… and about the New York Innovative There Awards. And look around us: the wondrous possibilities from listening and living for what we hear clearly in our heads and hearts, and ultimately, the powerful impact that it has to those around us.

Nancy Kim
Member Services Manager

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reaching Out...

WOW! My first IT Awards blog – Well, I suppose I should introduce myself…Morgan Lindsey Tachco - the new Community Relations Manager for the It Awards – Part of the beginnings of an entirely new Outreach department! So happy to be working with everyone…

I am fortunate enough to be working in Off-Off Broadway full time as the Artistic Producer for Horse Trade. I am also an Actor and Box Office Assistant at Second Stage Theatre – long story short; I hope to have a lot to bring to the IT Awards. Partnering with these fine folks opens up many different points of view by getting even more circles together – as if you didn't think our community was close enough! J

At any rate, I'll be working hard to get the word out more about this great organization and everything it does and can do for the community, er – you.

A couple of things…

Take the Survey!
One of the great things this organization has the ability to do is be an advocate for Off-Off Broadway as a whole, and we need some hard facts to do so. It's anonymous, it'll take you ten minutes, let your voice be heard! Pass it on to other producers…

The New York Innovative Theatre Awards' process captures the spirit of the community by opening it up to itself. Register your show so it can be seen by an IT Judge, and you can see great theatre for free as a judge yourself.

Tell your friends! Tell your audiences! Tell everyone! Spread the word about not only our awards ceremony, but our grants, and the coalition for code reform.
Sign the Petition, and educate yourself on this important subject. Save the date for the big convocation – July 8th!

Don't forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter. I mean, that's how Nancy and I got in on the IT Awards! Going into the summer, we will just be getting busier...wouldn't you like to know?

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Jason, your favorite executive director.

I am a bloging virgin…funny the word bloging shows up as misspelled in Word. Let's see what alternate words it gives me: blowing (a favorite word, I can't help it), bogging (a word that makes me laugh, reminds me of Edward Gorey) bolting (what I wanted to do from the top of Act II of Legally Blonde, the jump rope #), bluing (turning blue?), and belonging (well isn't that appropriate, and leads me into…)

So yesterday we had a big IT Awards staff meeting. Everyone got together to catch up on activities, make some introductions of new staff members (shout out to Nancy and Morgan, so glad to have you ladies) and plan for our big upcoming events. I sat there amazed by the devotion this group of people had. Everyone volunteers and has for a number of years now, this was a Sunday at 10AM meeting (in the real world this may not seem like much but to these artists this is an abomination) and the passion for their tasks was easy to see.

This is one of the things that really has impressed me over the last 5 years, the devotion and passion people have towards what we work to do and the community we spotlight. Personally I love what we do and feel that I can see a change in air. I have an awareness of so many companies I never knew existed, I have many new and incredible artistic relationships as well as friendships and I have had the enjoyment of hearing about the IT Awards well outside of New York.

This past year I spent the majority of my time in Utah helping my family. One evening I went out to Pioneer Theatre Company to see "Othello". As I was looking through the program I noticed the actor playing Roderigo (and doing a great job by the way) was Dan Domingues, and I thought I recognized the name. As I read through his bio I came upon a show called "Masquerade" and behind that was a mention that he was an IT Awards Nominee for Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role. I sat there not really knowing Dan that well but feeling totally connected to him and completely happy to see him working a good money gig. Hope you are working like crazy Dan, hell I hope everyone is working like crazy. I hope that Off-Off-Broadway becomes a place where the incredible work I see can be financially recognized as well as being artistically recognized. I know that everyone at the IT Awards feels the same and we will keep getting up at 10AM on a Sunday and working the work and fighting the fight and drinking the alcohol (all we can get our greedy hands on) until it is better! Can you hear the people sing….

Jason Bowcutt
Executive Director
New York Innovative Theatre Awards

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Off-Off-Broadway: A Sign of Brilliance

Hey -- Desmond here. Current mood: FRUSTRATED!!! I am new to blogging and didn't know that when you go to preview your'd better not hit the back button! I just spent the better part of an hour writing about a production that I really enjoyed...and now it's gone. Gosh darn it! I was clever and witty, too! We'll just have to see how much of a reserve I have...

Oh, well. I will try to remember what I wrote. (oh, yeah, I got the darn smily faces down, but I didn't know not to hit the back arrow...) Anyway, it started like this:

Hi ya'all -- Desmond, here. When I'm not JudgeWrangling (which Shay might tell you is far too often ), I like to see plays. Well, I saw a production the other day that reminded me of why Off-Off-Broadway is so darn frickin' cool and I wanted to share why it makes me happy!

I had the pleasure of seeing Christopher Durang's play "Beyond Therapy" performed by the New York Deaf Theatre. Now when I heard that the play was perfomed in sign language I felt like an idiot (or a jerk, you take your pick) because I literally thought: How are they going to pull that off??!! Now I know that Gallaudet University in DC and other such schools have drama depatments but I've never seen their plays so I don't know how they do it...?? How do you go beyond the audience members who can sign to reach those of us who don't? Sure, there are interpreters or but how do you fuse them into a play? How, how, how???

Well, there may be many ways but "Beyond Thearapy" had a wonderful solution: While the deaf actors playing Durang's roles only communicated through sign, there were also two speaking actors who would interpret the dialogue as they blended into the scenes. And I mean really blended. For example, much of the play takes place in a restaurant with the characters bring the story to life while our two speaking interpreters were sitting at one of the other tables. They would watch the action they were interpreting like any other extras in play would watch the action. In other scenes, like an apartment -- where it would be weird to have two "extra" people who are not written to be there -- the play was more abstract, placing the speaking actors upstage on a couch behind a skrim that represented a wall, or having them sit all the way down stage with their backs to the audience as if they were watching the scenes unfold. It was brilliant! True it did take some adjustment, but it was very easy to get used to. The interpreters would bring the dialogue to life just a tad but not too much since that acting was already being done on stage by passionately funny, well-connected actors. they all worked well together and certainly gave new meaning to the word 'ensemble'.

Now, I'm not trying to write a review -- that's not what this is about. The reason I wanted to write about this is because I feel that nowhere else but Off-Off-Broadway provides an opportunity for theatre companies like The New York Deaf Theatre to exist. It is only my oppinion, but I'm guessing that B'Way and Off-B'Way have too many revenue concerns to take a chance on something that is not going to be, at least they hope, a huge hit. And although deaf schools have plays and final class projects, that's not quite the same thing as deciding on a show, filling the seats, and maybe making a profit for more seasons...or at lest, hopefully, breaking even. But they can do it in Off-Off-Broadway! As I watched "Beyond Therapy" I was proud to be a part of this community -- it make me feel like we really can bring our art to life!

Before I leave you, there are two other things I realized:

(1) Sign language is soooooooo beautiful! I really think it is elegant, expressive, and passionate. I can't wait to learn! I decided after watching the play that I will make it a goal to someday learn that fascinating language.

(2) Thanks to the play's comic scenes that include phone calls, I realized that the deaf community is already quite used to tv phones -- they use them all the time to sign on the phone. They are already living in the future!!

Peace Out, ya'all!

xoxoxox =Desmond