...because we're bold

Monday, December 10, 2012

Full Speed Ahead!

I am pleased that after a long week of meetings, the workshop Commedia production is starting to gain momentum. More cast members are signing up everyday, deals are getting worked out, and the script is coming along at a pleasant clip. All in all, this will be an experiment in circus arts and comedy, the likes of which haven't been seen in 500 years. The cast and crew are all chafing at the bit for rehearsals to begin.

The other big news is that I will be working with the 14/48 Festival in Seattle as a director, and we will be meeting to discuss the possibility of bringing it to Pittsburgh. If so, this event will also not be one to miss, as 14 new plays are created over 48 hours. Of course, they can tell it better than I can, so if you have a chance, you should check them out at http://www.1448fest.com/.

Of course, I can't post without a teaser of future work, so here is a glimpse of some of the work being done, sculpting one of the Masks:

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Joe Paterno, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus

It seems that Pennsylvania is once again in the center of an artistic controversy, this time over the statue of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Just in case anyone is not aware, Joe Paterno was implicated in covering up the sexual assaults committed by his assistant, Jerry Sandusky. As a result of this situation, the college is now considering removing his statue. While this is a tremendously charged issue, as any situation involving child abuse is wont to be, this is less an issue of what Paterno did, or in this situation, did not do, and more of a case of how his legacy will be remembered. The case will then be if he is remembered for his good accomplishments, or if he will merely be known as the man who could have done more.

The author James W. Lowen once set out the case that a monument is actually a commemoration of two time periods, that of the time it was constructed, in addition to the actual commemoration taking place. This is easily seen in the example of Paterno, as the statue was constructed at the height of his accomplishments, and as such, it was seen as the glorification of him, as well as the college. Now, with his legacy and reputation in doubt, this statue may be seen as something altogether different.

An excellent example of this might be in the case of George Washington. He is naturally considered the "Father of the Country," a title which is actually not that inaccurate. However, he also owned slaves. Moreover, unlike his contemporary Thomas Jefferson, who rankled with the issues posed by stating "all men are created equal" while holding men into the bondage of slavery, it appears Washington had no such scruples.

It might be argued that Washington is a special case however, in the sense that it might be in the Americans self-interest to essentially repress these facts. After all, if Washington is considered the foremost of the Founding Fathers, and he is flawed, then how strong is the foundation on which we rest?

Therefore, we might look to another example to describe the situation going on, with ramifications into today, that of the heroic figure of Christopher Columbus. No known portraits of Columbus exist from his lifetime, yet a proliferation of statues and monuments exist. While Columbus is considered the foremost navigator of today, it might be more accurate to describe him as having one of the world's foremost publicists. In actuality, his accomplishments, while notable, were not the high mark of the age of navigation. However, he is the most well known of the explorers. Meanwhile, in addition to his navigational accomplishments, he is largely responsible for the destruction of the Arawak nation, and the conquest of the Americas. We honor a man who accomplished something great, yet was also incredibly destructive. In the end, we honor the accomplishment, but not the man.

A final example lies in a somewhat lesser known historical figure, from the American Civil War. Nathaniel Bedford Forrest. Markers and monuments to him dot the Southern landscape, as he was one of the best cavalry commanders of the Civil War (this is less conjecture than it seems, as he was noted as such by officers on both sides of the conflict.) He was made notorious by his actions both during the war (including commanding the forces that committed a massacre at Fort Pillow) and immediately following it (commanding the Ku Klux Klan.) Several years later, he reversed his views on race, in favor of reconciliation. In the American South, he is now considered still a hero, but a relatively minor one at that. Some institutions still honor him, but it is tempered by a knowledge of his actions.

I think this is the route that will be, and should be followed in regards to Joe Paterno. His deeds cannot be erased, but we have already noted him for his accomplishments. As such, we should keep his monument in place, but with the knowledge of what he did. It would then serve as a greater monument than ever before, to serve as a monument both to what Joe Paterno actually accomplished, and as a reminder of the dangers of not speaking out.

Andrew W. Huntley II
Artistic Director, Theatre Sans Serif

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Projects in Progress.

I know it has been a long time since I have updated this, and for that, I must apologize. There has been much going on with my family's health (unfortunately) but now that it seems things are settling out, I have more time to devote to the company.

There have been many things in the works for upcoming shows, and much paperwork has been settled to allow me to finally announce what will be taking place coming up this, and the beginning of next year.

First of all, Theatre Sans Serif will be taking part in Relative Positions, a performing arts residency that will create site specific work within the Union Project in East Liberty. The performance for that will be July 6th.  I am very glad to be a part of this, as it seems like the natural next step for Theatre Sans Serif to create fully experimental work.

Following that, in August, we will be producing one of the staged readings at the Pittsburgh New Works Festival. The meeting to select the plays for the festival was last night, and while I can't announce the particular play we will be doing yet, I can say that I am very satisfied with the selection.

The one smaller bit of news is that we will be producing a reading of "8" with the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and Broadway Impact in March of 2013. I am really looking forward to this, as I feel this is a very important subject to be discussed right now. 8 is the theatrical version of the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger trail, written by Dustin Lance Black in response to the blackout order on the trial, over whether Proposition 8 is  unconstitutional. I wanted to produce this play very badly, as this issue is one very close to me. I think that bringing this issue to light, and discussing it in the public forum is the only way to change minds. 

Finally, in keeping with the idea of bringing the arts to the public, I have decided to launch a new project under Theatre Sans Serif, tentatively titled "Commedia for the Community." The main thrust of this project will be to construct a trailer based stage, which can be easily set up. This stage will then allow us to take a portable theater to the heart of lower income communities in the Pittsburgh area, where a wide variety of classical texts (our predominate focus includes Moliere, Goldini, Ben Jonson, and of course, Shakespeare) will then be performed. This approach of bringing the theater to the people will allow us to serve a large community which otherwise might not have the exposure to the arts. As an additional benefit, having a mobile theater will lower our operating costs greatly, so that these performances can continue to be offered free to the community. This is definitely an open ended project, and any help would be greatly appreciated. If you can offer any assistance, be it ranging from goods, (the things to build a theater, i.e. wood, a trailer base, etc...) services (actually building the trailer) or anything in between, please do not hesitate to contact me at theatresansserif@gmail.com I will keep everyone up to date here on the blog as things progress. I hope to see you all at the events coming up!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

With Great Funding Comes Great Responsibility.

It seems as if the theatre community in Pittsburgh is in a general uproar over the decision of the Pittsburgh Opera to honor Governor Corbett for his contributions to education. That being said, his main "contribution" to education in Pennsylvania was to cut the school budgets by almost a billion dollars. Therein lies the rub, why would the Opera honor a politician for his axe?

I believe this situation deals largely with the delicate position most theatre companies, (and indeed all artists face) when dealing with funding. This instance can trace its origins to a simple conflict of interest. It is the role of the artist to act as a provocateur, but many donors in the private sector (especially corporations) have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. This places the artists in a precarious position, having to choose between artistic integrity and financial solvency.

In this particular instance, I do understand the financial goals of the Opera. Governor Corbett and his wife have been involved with the company for the past decade, and it is natural that the Corbetts would expect some sort of thanks in regards to their previous contributions. It would naturally follow that with those honors going out, the Opera would expect further contributions from the Governor in the future. Nothing is truly notable about this, as this sort of situation occurs in the arts constantly.

The issue becomes a problem, however, as a company picks up the baggage that comes with a donation. This is not a legal situation, but strictly an ethical one. A company has a need to maintain relationships with their donors, as a relationship is an excellent way to establish continued funding. However, in most situations, the need to maintain this company-donor relationship is to make some sort of artistic concession. For a completely hypothetical example, say I had received funding from a far right religious organization. I imagine that would have a few problems if I then decided to stage Agnes of God, Doubt, or The Laramie Project. Most likely, they would threaten to pull their funding for the next time. Therefore, I would be left with a choice, to have financial backing (which does make everything much easier) or to maintain artistic integrity, and personal agency, to be allowed to act as the provocateur that an artist needs to be?

I realize I am oversimplifying the situation, and this may very well be the case. While it is easy to kick sand in the face of the Opera at a time while they are already under fire, I refuse to sit here and state that I would not make the same choice that they did. Artistic Directors are human as well. While I do not think the Opera made a very good decision, I do understand their reasoning. I would like to think that I would have chosen a different path, but who doesn't? I won't make such a statement until both paths are laid out. In the end, yes, the Pittsburgh Opera did damage their reputation slightly as artists. However, by remaining solvent, they ensured that they will continue to produce in the future. The Pittsburgh Opera made a choice, and they must now live with it. This is the danger of receiving funding from the private sector, as the once free artist is now burdened with a debt they must repay.

Monday, February 27, 2012

War Is Child's Play: The News is In!

Photo By Nancy Hart

War Is Child's Play received a great write up in Pittsburgh Urban Media. The link can be found here: Pittsburgh Urban Media. Be sure to stay tuned for future events from Theatre Sans Serif later this year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

War Is Child's Play

New exhibition to show in the Spinning Plates Gallery in February 2012

Pittsburgh, PA- Theatre Sans Serif’s Artistic Director, Andrew W. Huntley II will be hosting an exhibition at the Spinning Plates Gallery in early February 2012 until March 2012. 
This gallery exhibition will be showcasing sculptures completed by Mr. Huntley- featuring sculptures using children’s toys to illustrate the introduction of war into society at a young age.  Other pieces to be featured are paintings and installation pieces by Huntley to assist his commentary. The Gallery opening on February 11, 2012 will be featuring an opening reception with food and wine as well as a soundtrack by a wide variety of composers and musicians featuring themes of military and warfare.
            Huntley has had artwork featured in The Autumn Harvest Art Show with Most Wanted Fine Art and his clients have included the National Aviary, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the National Society of Precision Manufacturers.  Huntley is an artistic visionary with amazing skills and has created a thought-provoking and almost chilling exhibit that will leave audiences disturbed and dazzled by the intricacy and the use of what normally would be considered play-things as artistic and sculptural medium. This is Huntley’s first solo art show and his first long-term exhibition at the Spinning Plates Gallery.
            “So many people accept military toys as just a matter of play-things, but when people take the time to think about it the ideas behind them are actually much darker than it would first appear,” said Huntley.
            War is Child’s Play’s opening on February 11, 2012 will begin at 7 p.m. and will be open until 12 a.m. at the Spinning Plates Gallery 5720 Friendship Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15206. No admission fee, but donations appreciated.