RIP Pina Bausch 1940-2009

9:17 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

What a terrible week it's been...

German dance legend Pina Bausch dies at 68

Acclaimed German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch has died at the age of 68. The recipient of numerous awards and prizes, she left her mark as an innovator in the hybrid genre of "Tanztheater," or dance theater.

The director of the Wuppertal Tanztheater said Tuesday that Bausch had passed away unexpectedly earlier that morning. The choreographer had just last week been diagnosed with cancer, but had continued with her work up until her death.

Attesting to her global stature, tributes are coming from the world of politics as well as the arts.

"Unlike almost any other, she broke out of traditional structures in dance, modernized classical ballet and coined her own idiosyncratic style," said a statement released by German Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"She was the biggest choreographer in the world," said Paris-based US choreographer Carolyn Carlson. "She made a revolution, she was a revolutionary. She was absolutely unique."

Bausch formed the successful Wuppertal Tanzheater in 1973, turning the Ruhr Valley town into an international dance mecca.

Though Bausch tended to avoid the limelight, she became known to many people outside the dance world with her appearance in Pedro Almodovar's Oscar-winning film "Talk to Her." The film also pays homage to her work.

Bausch's oeuvre explores memories, questions of identity and the difficulty of human understanding. Frequently, she thematizes the difficulty of relations between the sexes. Men and women can flirt tenderly at one moment, then fling each other violently across the room the next.

"It is about life and about finding a language to describe life," she said. The choreographer, on the whole, usually avoided pinning down or labeling her creations, preferring to let her audiences make up their minds.

In 2007 she was awarded the Kyoto Prize - one of the top prizes in the culture and arts field - in recognition of her work in breaking down the boundaries between dance and theater, and pioneering a new direction for theatrical art. She was the first woman to receive the accolade in the category art and philosophy.

Bold and visually arresting, her first works were roundly criticized by traditional ballet fans. She became notorious for having her company dance on dirt, on leaves, in ankle-deep water, as well as for bringing them into direct contact with the audience.

But she began to attract attention abroad with her performances at the World Theater Festival in Nancy, France, in 1977. This was the start of a flourishing international career.

The grande dame of modern dance was famed for her collaborative way of working. She would start by directing a barrage of questions at her dancers, who would respond with words, gestures, and improvised dance. "I'm not interested in how people move, but what moves them," she once famously stated.

Bausch was strongly influenced by Kurt Jooss, a pioneer of German expressionist dance, with whom she began studying at the age of 14. He was to have a strong influence over her work. The psychological ballets of Anthony Tudor, whom she encountered during a scholarship at the Juilliard School in New York, also made a marked impression on her.

Although she led her company for over 35 years, she didn't talk of retiring. Upon receiving the Kyoto Prize less than two years ago, the choreographer said she still had "an awful lot of plans."

Editor: Michael Lawton


Off-Broadway as economic engine

2:27 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Better late than never...

Off-Broadway as economic engine
By Miriam Kreinin Souccar
Published: June 19, 2009 - 2:30 pm
In an effort to grab some of the spotlight that usually shines on Broadway, a group of off-Broadway producers, theater owners, and other industry executives are releasing the first study of off-Broadway’s economic impact on New York City.
The report, released by the Off Broadway Alliance, found that shows produced in theaters with fewer than 500 seats bring more than $461 million in direct and indirect revenue to the Big Apple.
During the 2007/2008 season, 5.47 million tickets were sold at off-Broadway theaters worth a total of $173 million. The tallies included data from both commercial and non-profit off-Broadway productions.
The impact is small in comparison with the Great White Way, which contributes $5.1 billion to the economy. But the numbers show that off-Broadway is a greater economic force than a number of other local attractions. Off-Broadway productions were attended by 1.7 million more people than visited the Empire State Building, 1.2 million more than visited the Statue of Liberty, and 2 million more than Coney Island, according to the report.
“The figures released today reinforce what members of the Off-Broadway community have long suspected,” said Peter Breger, a theater attorney and chair of the Off-Broadway Alliance. “Off-Broadway’s economic enhancements to the city of New York are on par with, and in many cases they outdistance, those attractions generally perceived to be among New York’s top destinations for locals and tourists alike.”

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RIP Michael Jackson!

10:19 AM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Photo: 2008 Halloween Parade "Thriller" Dance
Like the rest of the world, I was absolutely shocked to hear that Michael Jackson passed away yesterday. He was my first "favorite singer". I had a blue and white dress I called my "Michael Jackson dress" that I would wear and sing "Bad" and "Beat It" (at age 5, of course). Every year there are a group of people in the Village Halloween Parade that dress up and dance to "Thriller". In 2008 I was proud to be part of it (after wanting to do it for years). I'm sure that this year it will take an entirely new meaning. It has been moving to see the many tributes to him and the impact that he has had on so many levels.
Last night in Union Square there was a impromptu tribute to Michael Jackson that involved a lot of music, dancing, candles and MJ impersonators. It started at around 9:00 pm and went on well past midnight. It was beautiful to see how music can bring together so many different people. A friend of mine Sherly, posted this on facebook this morning and I think it says a lot:
"Firstly, if there was anyone who didn’t see the power of music prior to Jackson’s passing, they see it now. I mean, think about it. Why is cable news covering his death as if a popular high profile politician was assassinated? Why do we really care about his death? None of us ( his fans and even most artists in the music industry) really knew him personally. Some people really do believe that he was a child molester or couldn’t be fully trusted around children. At the end of the day, he was “just” a singer right? Nah… I think music is a powerful medium precisely because of the power it has to inspire people and evoke certain emotions within them, especially when the subject matter deals with complex human emotions that derive from the human experience. Music has the power to affect culture. And Michael’s music truly transcended nationalities, ethnicities, religions, political persuasions… In addition to his signature sound, he was an AMAZING performer. I think most people, if not all, admire people who are the best in their chosen field and Michael was definitely great in what he did."
RIP Michael Jackson! I hope that you have found peace.
My favorite MJ video - "Heal the World"
The NYC Village Halloween Parade Thriller Video -


Rethinking Gender Bias in Theater

11:36 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Theater Has a Gender Bias? Do Tell -

June 24, 2009

Rethinking Gender Bias in Theater

When more than 160 playwrights and producers, most of them female, filed into a Midtown Manhattan theater Monday night, they expected to hear some concrete evidence that women who are authors have a tougher time getting their work staged than men.

And they did. But they also heard that women who are artistic directors and literary managers are the ones to blame.

That conclusion was just one surprising piece of a yearlong research project that both confirms and upends assumptions about bias in the playwriting business.

“There is discrimination against female playwrights in the theater community,” said Emily Glassberg Sands, who conducted the research. Still, she said, that isn’t the whole story; there is also a shortage of good scripts by women.

Ms. Sands, a Princeton economics student who is heading to Harvard this fall for graduate work, undertook the study, but eminent economists vouched for its high quality, including Christina H. Paxson, the chairwoman of Princeton’s economics department and the newly named dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Cecilia Rouse, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; and Steven D. Levitt, the co-author of “Freakonomics.”

The detailed examination was done at the urging of the playwright Julia Jordan, who has been speaking out about the huge disparity between the number of shows by men that are produced and the number by women. (Ms. Jordan was a childhood friend of Mr. Levitt.)

To sort out the findings, it helps to look at the research. Ms. Sands conducted three separate studies. The first considered the playwrights themselves. Artistic directors of theater companies have maintained that no discrimination exists, rather that good scripts by women are in short supply. That claim elicited snorts and laughter from the audience when it was repeated Monday night, but Ms. Sands declared, “They’re right.”

In reviewing information on 20,000 playwrights in the Dramatists Guild and, an online database of playwrights, she found that there were twice as many male playwrights as female ones, and that the men tended to be more prolific, turning out more plays.

What’s more, Ms. Sands found, over all, the work of men and women is produced at the same rate. The artistic directors have a point: they do get many more scripts from men.

For the second study, Ms. Sands sent identical scripts to artistic directors and literary managers around the country. The only difference was that half named a man as the writer (for example, Michael Walker), while half named a woman (i.e., Mary Walker). It turned out that Mary’s scripts received significantly worse ratings in terms of quality, economic prospects and audience response than Michael’s. The biggest surprise? “These results are driven exclusively by the responses of female artistic directors and literary managers,” Ms. Sands said.

Amid the gasps from the audience, an incredulous voice called out, “Say that again?”

Ms. Sands put it another way: “Men rate men and women playwrights exactly the same.”

Ms. Sands was reluctant to explain the responses in terms of discrimination, suggesting instead that artistic directors who are women perhaps possess a greater awareness of the barriers female playwrights face.

For the third piece, Ms. Sands looked specifically at Broadway, where women write fewer than one in eight shows. She modeled her research on work done in the 1960s and ’70s to determine whether discrimination existed in baseball. Those studies concluded that black players had to deliver higher performing statistics — for example, better batting averages — than white players simply to make it to the major leagues.

Ms. Sands examined the 329 new plays and musicals produced on Broadway in the past 10 years to determine whether the bar was set higher. Did scripts by women have to be better than those by men?

Of course, there are many ways to define “better,” but on Broadway, with the exception of three nonprofit theaters, everyone can agree that one overriding goal is to make a profit. So did shows written by women during that period make more money than shows written by men?

The answer is yes. Plays and musicals by women sold 16 percent more tickets a week and were 18 percent more profitable over all. In the end, women had to deliver the equivalent of higher batting averages, Ms. Sands said.

Yet even though shows written by women earned more money, producers did not keep them running any longer than less profitable shows that were written by men. To Ms. Sands, the length of the run was clear evidence that producers discriminate against women.

The findings are sure to spur debates within the theater community. Representatives from about a dozen New York theater companies, including the Public Theater and Lincoln Center Theater, attended. Many women in the industry have argued that a rise in the number of female artistic directors would lead to more productions of works written by women, but the study calls that claim into question.

Ms. Sands also found plays that feature women — which are more commonly written by women — are also less likely to be produced. Kathryn Walat, a playwright who attended, said, “Most startling was the reaction to women writing — and I think of my own work — about female protagonists and the unlikability of those characters.”

As for Ms. Jordan, she said, “I suspected it wasn’t pure discrimination, but I was surprised that women were driving it.” Whether the sex of Broadway producers is a factor is unclear, she said: “One thing I have learned is not to make those assumptions anymore.”

Professor Paxson, who helped to supervise Ms. Sands’s research, wrote in an e-mail response: “Each study uses different data and the best available research methods to investigate whether there is good evidence for gender discrimination in the playwriting business.”

Ms. Rouse said that the findings should “make even skeptics take note.”

Ms. Sands acknowledged shortcomings in her work as well as many unanswered questions. Most problematic, she said, was the use of as a database. Because the site depends on users, some information may be incomplete, outdated or incorrect.

Still, at the end of the evening, Ms. Sands, who seemed surprisingly comfortable on the stage for an aspiring economist, received the kind of reaction that many playwrights in the audience would wish for: prolonged applause.

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Quote of the Week

10:53 AM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. - Anais Nin


Summer Loves!

9:47 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

2009 Summer Loves (thus far)

- Gardening and planting seeds

These pictures were taken the day we planted. I now have tiny hints of Indian Corn, Sunflowers, Columbine, Zinnias, Dahlias and Oregano sprouting up all over the place.

- The snake that lives in my garden (who has been named Senor Charles Snakeums Esq.)
- Reading backstage Blogs (
- Random art projects... like painting the bookshelves. Finally putting some of my Frida collection to good use!
- Blonde hair
- Various summer 2009 theatre projects I'm working on
to be continued...

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A productive start to summer...

10:49 AM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

I'm happy to say that June has been a really productive month thus far (and we're only 7 days in!). Last week, I spoke on the "Return to Springboard" panel for the 2009 SpringboardNYC class (who is currently at the Tony Award Rehearsal... JEALOUS!). I spoke a little about what my experiences in this crazy industry have been like so far and the transition from undergrad to grad to real world. I hope it was helpful. It seemed to get great feedback. One of my friends Kahlil Gonzalez-Garcia (who is now in Chapel Hill's MFA Acting Program) was also on the panel along with Illana Becker, who assistant directed "Reasons to be Pretty" on Broadway this season. Springboard people are doing exciting things!

This weekend I finished all of the major FringeNYC publicity/marketing/press information we need and about 20 directing/acting/playwriting submissions to be mailed on Monday. I still have quite a few to go but I've recently discovered the joys of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which makes my life (and mailing process) a little bit more organized.

After work yesterday I got to checkout this awesome street fair for "Young Artists and Leaders" produced by Downtown Art ( on the Lower East Side. It was for teens and youth theatre groups, but I was hoping to get some ideas for where we can go with GirlPower in the future. I met some phenomenal groups and saw some great performances. My favorite organization (and I'm ashamed that I never heard of them before yesterday) was called City At Peace ( and I was incredibly inspired to read about what their youth theatre is accomplishing. I had a brief discussion with one of their directors and definitely hoping that we can form some kind of relationship. I would love to incorporate some kind of service component into the GirlPower program next year, like City At Peace does.

That's all for now!

- Go to Staples and see what they can do about poor lil' red (my laptop)
- Go to Rite Aid (or CVS)
- Watch the Tony's at 8:00 pm tonight!

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Make a List...

10:05 PM / Posted by Ashley / comments (0)

Summer 2009 To Do List:
- Read all the books that I have been stacking up since undergrad...
- Launch website by August
- See more theatre (bi-weekly). See my friend's shows!
- Attend at least 3 of those "industry networking events" that always come in my e-mail
- Sign up for the GRE (to take after Fringe and Lincoln Center Directing Lab)
- Complete ALL summer directing/playwriting submissions...
- Plant a garden in the backyard

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