What Artists do for Artists (4)

Yesterday I talked about the nuances of being an artist who’s a fan of another artist — how far that can go. Today I’ll draw you into the next step: How the artist gets to know fans.
How does an artist get to know other fans? Start small.  Share some of your work freely (a story, a poem, an article, a good quality photo, comic, or painting. Are you willing to give one away?
I do. I write in many formats, draw, produce performances, and record music and give about 5% of my fiction and poetry away. For my fans, there would still be plenty more works to share, and sell. I still hold the copyright. Sharing some work is a low-res way for people to get to know it and see if it fits them.
And the best part? Because I retain the rights to the stories, I’m not prevented from one day publishing a book of all the stories. And it’s the case. Your true fans would pay for a book of your stories, or a free song on iTunes. Say you craft a series of pillows out  of Mexican wool with a half-drop abstract Quetzalcoatl pattern on them. What if gave a video tour of your film studio in a re-purposed silks factory? What if you were a painter, and gave a free podcast about your working methods; how you alternate your medium between encaustic and tempera for every painting because it keeps you shook up and fresh?
This is human nature. A beautiful book, that people can hold, filled with the work of an artist that reaches them. A wonderful song that people can dream to. A print (or an original) of your painting in their home, or publicly displayed. It just makes sense and it’s inevitable that you want to share your work.
Taking this to the next step. If you “know” tens of people, or hundreds, or thousands, or find a way for tens of thousands, or more , then you needed to find the way to communicate who you are to a wide audience first.
So it’s always just people who know you, interacting with your work. They start as drive-bys. They could turn into witnesses, and then turn into fans. 
Next week, I’ll put out a series on how you can reach your fans.

What Artists do for Artists (3)

Yesterday I mentioned what being a fan of yours means to me economically, and morally. Today I’ll take that ability to contribute to the extreme!
At the furthest end of fandom, I might have put together a project to produce your work. For me, it’s just been a hundred artists (give or take) I’ve done that with. Some people can do a lot more than I can.
But with a production, I’m now working to make even more people know your work than I’d be able to do just by sharing your project Facebook page, or re-tweeting you.
Producing your work is an extreme level of commitment added to being your fan.
Don’t forget it also means I am still doing the other things — buying your work, talking about your work.
If I produced you, know that even long afterwards, I go to Amazon or to the Bookshop, and buy your latest script; I pick up your prints; I re-tweet you, and Like your pages on Facebook.
Sort of like stalking you, but the way fans do — “stalking” your work.
I’ll talk a little more about the other echoes of what being a fan means tomorrow.

What Artists do for Artists (2)

Yesterday I mentioned that if I know you, and if you have work for sale, I’m likely to want to  buy it.  Because I know you, and your work is part of you, and I want to know it.
And as your fan, only circumstances constrain my spending limit.
If my circumstances are great, I might spend $100 on your print, your ticket, your limited edition. It might be because I have money all the time, or just temporary good fortune.
Or, if money is tight, I might buy your mass-published work for $20, or see your show for $25. If it normally costs more, I might have to opt out, or to wait for a discount.
But if I know you, I want to know your work.
In some cases that’s led to my becoming a super-fan, a fan who’s so avid, I’m almost “rabid.” As a super-fan, I tell everyone about your work, because I think if they know you, they’ll know what I know, from knowing you.
Tomorrow I’ll explore the limits of what I would give when I’m a truly avid fan.

What Artists do for Artists (1)

Here’s something I wish more artists would say to each other. Many do. But many do not.

“Since I know you, if your work isn’t published, send me two, and I’ll fully expose myself to your work, and we are now in touch.

If they are published, I’ll buy two.”

If I know you, I generally buy your work if it’s being sold, because I know you.
It’s not just artist financially or morally supporting artist. It doesn’t matter if our politics coincide or even if I feel a natural inclination to your work. It’s communicating. It’s being open, exposed to eyes and voices.
There’s more to this thought. Tomorrow.


The wise person withholds offense.

People just want to live.

Like understudies: (The part of you will be played by you),
lacking sufficient rehearsal,
they have to wing it.

Do they mean to bump into you?

if their mere being “bugs” me:

That sure is my problem.

Not theirs.

Beliefs are

Beliefs are… not facts.

To be a belief, a concept requires a transient thought in your head.

To be a fact, a concept requires corroboration with verifiable data.

So beliefs bring big risk: less likely to mesh with reality.

Recognizing that human memory can be flawed and malleable, and that our powers of perception can be limited to circumstance, a wise person humbly recognizes the concepts in their head require outside verification.

To blindly accept any concept you hear or see that does mesh with your self-interest, fears, desires, and to reject concepts that do not, regardless of if it is verifiable can only be called one thing.


There can be no place at the table of public discourse for the lazy.

If you want others to accept and act on your concepts, they must be verifiable.

I think I remember…

a biased review of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics winner Daniel Kahneman summarizes a life of research and publishing (often with his partner Amos Tversky).

The pair wanted to understand why human behavior so often defies economic logic:

  • We change the question to simplify things. Imagine Linda; young, single, outspoken, very bright. As a student, she was deeply concerned with discrimination and social justice. OK. Asked if it was more probable Linda was a bank teller or a feminist bank teller, most said feminist bank teller was likelier.
    This violates the laws of probability: feminist bank tellers all belong to the probably bigger group called bank tellers.
  • We neglect denominators. “A disease that kills 1,286 people out of every 10,000” is judged more dangerous than a disease that “kills 24.4 out of 100 people,” just because 1,286 (the sample chosen) is bigger. (BTW 1,286 is only 12.86% of 10,000… meaning it’s less dangerous).
  • We get used to a number and base all our numbers on it.  The initial price offered for a car sets the standard for the negotiations; lower prices than that seem more reasonable even though they could still be more than the car is worth.
  • We act to prevent loss quicker than we act to gain.
    People hold losing stocks and sell winners, even though winners are more likely to keep making money; losers to keep losing it.
  • We care more about what we remember than what we experience. Two tested groups agreed to endure an irritating stimulus; one endured it longer time, but with a slight decrease just before the end; the second had a shorter time but the same level of irritation throughout. The group with the longer time said it was more bearable, because the irritation decreased, even though they actually endured the full irritation longer.

The way we actually behave:

  • Fits into a new replacement to the Bernoulli Expected Utility Hypothesis used by many economists. It attempted to explain behavior in terms of rational action to get value; with it, economists tried to predict behavior, but were often stymied.
    Kahneman and Tversky’s proposed (and Nobel-winning) replacement, Prospect Theory, is a model for how decisions need to adapt more towards avoiding loss than appreciating gain.
  • Uses the fast-deciding part of our minds (system 1); meanwhile a somewhat lazy but more meticulous reviewer (system 2) evaluates and edits the fast decision-making process.
  • Gets us two selves – an experiencing self responding to stuff, and a remembering self that holds on and ultimately owns our interpretation of the stuff.

So the you that posts your life to Facebook and takes selfies in the bathroom mirror, at Lady Gaga concerts, at the Met, what have you, is your remembering self.

If you’re as much a logic lover as I am, this book will bend your mind. You find yourself no longer judging  human behavior as “illogical.” There’s another logic model at work.

Walking through Manhattan on the first “warm” (40 degree!) day last week, I had a long experience of joy. I thought to put my remembering self aside because the experience is more important. I knew the day seemed warm because I had been anchored to expect a cold winter day. I also knew I’d write about the experience in this review… so my remembering self wins, after all.


The book: Recommended: Large Blog ImageLarge Blog ImageLarge Blog ImageLarge Blog ImageLarge Blog Image

What would be, say, Six Tenets of theatre Perfection

If one were actually going to start a theatre company that would actually handle not just the production but also the aesthetic and total artwork of theatre. What properties would such a company need? It seems to boil down to six (hence the post title) but perhaps there are more. What do you think? Please comment, tear this up or agree or whatever you want to do. You might have already started a company with such or similar goals in mind. Or you might be afraid to do one. Or you might be mad enough to plan it and do it. One last thing. The question mark is intentionally missing from the title. This poses as the first draft of a question. But not quite a question yet.

Ultimate Experience – A life-altering experience for the audience and the performers must be offered, every time. It’s a big thing to promise and you can never achieve it fully. An ideal is intended to be beyond reach. This is the most important tenet.

Revolutionary Design – The visual and aural aspect of every performance must push the boundaries of the known state of the art. Perfect and life-altering look and sound. These designers want to change the world through light, color, depth, tone, melody, emotion.

Physical perfection – to keep the instrument of every performer in perfectly tuned shape, permitting no limits to what can be accomplished. The maximum possible human physical state, to ground what must come from the performer and company.

Cultural breadth – Sufficient knowledge of all major branches of human knowledge that the performer can call up an immense library of knowledge in performance. Every performance calls up Joyce, Popper, quantum theory or finite automata, and intelligently, in the service of story as well as culture.

Situational Dexterity – Having studied every form of improvisation known, the performer can call any one up at will. This includes Commedia, Spolin, Bebop Poet, Jazz, Rap / Hiphop, Slam, & whatnot.

Genre Flexibility – Discovering, understanding, codifying scene, act and work structure of every known storytelling genre ever used. Then, more importantly, the ability to instantly adopt that genre for use, both overall and within a scene.

The first government was formed this way

Many times ago, a citizen dug her own grave. (Not metaphorically.) She dug a hole in the ground, in a place where people were already being buried, for people to come visit her after she died.

First digging your own grave was considered a virtue. Then custom; then unwritten law; then maktoub as Law.

It was a sign of honor and great virtue to dig your own grave. The Great dug their own graves, and all the citizenry aspired to be Great.

And each citizen was good about it. Generally. He’d set some time aside, before he died, to dig the grave. It would get dug.

Usually. Sometimes he didn’t do the duty. Perhaps it became something he tended to put off until late in life (after all, if he dug his grave too soon, he’d have to go keep going back to make sure the grave stayed dug, as another person, or nature, might tamper with it).

Sometimes he managed to die before it got dug. In that case, some family friend or descendant would sneak in and dig the wayward grave before anyone found out (as digging your grave was a sign of honor/virtue, not doing so would be a source of familial embarrassment).

In general the Great were good at it too, perhaps actually better, it being a sign of Virtue and all. But sometimes the Great said, “I’m too busy. If I forget to do some Thing, you understand,” etc. So it got be done anyway, as it was Law. Maybe bought, but done, and since the Great gave life to the People, the People got it done. Reliably.

De facto there was now a government, there to get things done reliably. And perhaps economics. As if a well-dug grave inspiring government wasn’t bad enough, maybe it should also start money.

Remember, stories are our best revenge.

New Works of Merit / Sade

So I get, again, after asking to be removed from their email list 3 years running, yet another email about the “New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest.” This is a particularly egregious example of a writer rip-off, for reasons far too numerous to list in full, but let’s begin with their “$25 entrance fee.” Yea, the O’Neill has been charging an entrance fee for uninvited writers (a group to which I still belong), but at least they bothered to develop a reputation before skimming lunch money off said writers.

This contest is run by 13th Street Rep, a company that certainly have “established” a “reputation” for themselves (their last produced original work of merit being the play “Line” by Israel Horovitz back in the 70s – or was it the 60s?). Which I believe is still running there??

I checked on the Web to see how many others have been warning against entering this contest… OK, perhaps they actually do offer the winner of this contest a reading at their theatre. They probably even fund that $300 check the winner receives… note that I didn’t bother to fact check this by contacting those winners, but let’s give them the benefit of doubt.

Then I noticed this additional note on their entry page:

TO RECEIVE EVALUATIONS OF YOUR SCRIPT: One Evaluation …. $25 + $25 submission fee Two Evaluations … $50 + $25 submission fee

$75 for “evaluation” services. These must be highly qualifed dramaturgs, folks. And what a refreshingly original way to offer this dramaturgy service.

The best moment reading their website was the statement that the moderator, who is also the “executive producer” at 13th St. Rep, is a member of the DG.

Note she’s still a member – they don’t return her check. Perhaps it is funded at least in part by this contest?

After reading this blog post, playwrights, if you still feel the need to send out a check for $75 because you wrote a play, what the hell, send it to me. I’ll write you a better critique, I bet, and would use the money toward a real play production, not to fund my rent, liquor bill, or membership in the DG.