Apparently the communications forum known as Disqus has a problem with labeling legitimate comments as spam. There appears to be no way to revoke that designation; worse, per user discussion, once a comment has been so labeled, all of the commenter’s future comments are likely to be so classified, regardless wherever online they may appear, any publication using Disqus.
I had the beginnings of a thought-provoking conversation with a user taking the handle @Noodle94. However my last comment got marked as spam, and remains unpublished, so I will reprint the entire discussion here, with regrets at its discontinuation. (I don’t have this page set up for comments, partly because I want to avoid the chore of scrubbing spam, about the only comments my ratiocinations are likely to garner.) The odds of Noodle94 coming here are small; yet, having construed a set of paragraphs, I want them to see the light, even the minimal light of this low-trafficked blog.
I made a comment at the American Theatre website after reading an article called "The Good Places" by Chad Bauman. It should be noted that the editor or comments moderator at American Theatre is unlikely to have seen my comment; the spam designation appears to come from Disqus and such comments are automatically withheld from the host site. At least such is my understanding.
The brief exchange follows.
David X Novak:
“We” do not need “a cohesive definition of excellence.”
Why not? Considering how much crappy theatre is being done around the country, what's wrong with a statement that identifies areas and goals we can all agree upon? And I say “all agree upon” because I doubt anybody would argue against equity, diversity, new work and financial stability...
David X Novak:
You will always have “crappy theatre”; you will not democratize it out of existence. It's the nature of the beast.
Perhaps I'm fortunate, in Chicago, in that we have an awful lot of good theater. Often, as it happens, it’s the smaller companies that are better, the larger that are worse; but there’s not a one I can think of that’s not marked by unevenness. I used to think that it was director-based, but that’s not it. You can have a Charles Newell directed Agamemnon that’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen; but on another day he’s passing off garbage as art.
Frankly, Noodle94, I’m starting to think good theater happens by accident, or by a strange concatenation of events that is hard to predict. The talent in the city is not negligible, which may account for the overall level here, but even the best fail.
I agree with you on all of your post, but I think the article is positing less a way of creating theatre and more a set of tenets for the reason to create. Good theatre productions are always half alchemy and half luck. But if we can agree that we create theatre because [fill in the blank], and that we are responsible stewards of the art form, then the theatre is bound to become more responsive to what is going on in the world.
We live in a world where what the theatre was isn’t what it used to be. Personally, I mourn that, but that’s for another article. Meanwhile, theatres have to maintain some form of aspirational relevance or they’re going to turn into coffee shops. If a “statement of principles” gets all of us to raise our games (even if that’s just financially), the “art” will continue to thrive...
David X Novak:
The article starts with the “vast majority of theatres nationwide [that] have put the word ‘excellence’ in their mission statements.” This itself is a dodge. “Excellence” is a by-product, not a goal.
While I recognize the good intentions of the piece, the article is too jargon-laden for me to wrap my head around. In Chicago, there are few (if any) “theatres that display a clear lack of diversity, from their resident acting companies to the productions they stage,” yet that does not automatically correlate with “excellence” however defined, and does not speak to diversity of administration or of audience, which may be more critical, insofar as “theatres... work at the intersection of the arts and social justice”.
In any context the term “world-class” is not helpful. But to my view it’s hardly necessary for a theater company to work at that intersection. Rather, it’s the multiplicity (or diversity) of goals and ambitions, among individual artists no less than institutions, that appeals to me. Any art—and I trust you are discussing theater as an art—defines the standards by which it will be judged (you might say creates them), and so placating critics or funders is no easy matter. Brecht and Weill had half their audience walk out; not good for the business plan, but inherent in the medium. And half applauded. (I am not the first soul to notice that everything gets a standing ovation in Chicago—“all but the best” as I posted recently.)
But Chicago is a good place for theater. It is possible to see a lot relatively cheaply, which does not seem to hold for other communities.
I would like to see your “another article.” I've never had the macro-sense to say, “We live in a world where what the theatre was isn't what it used to be.” Either it has been a hands-on experience, really too close to see beyond the crossing and dotting of t’s and i’s on the page so to speak, or else a plethora of fabulous and sparkling entertainments (albeit that sometimes fail miserably). So I’d like to understand better your sense what it was and what has changed—do flag me if you yourself compose such an article.
Edit 24 May 2018: For anyone else who encounters this trouble with Disqus (apparently it is fairly common, as per this article here), I contacted American Theatre and they were able to pull my comment from spam and graciously did so. I dislike having to impose on them; but trying to redress this problem through Disqus proves as hopeless as the article cited tells. It remains to see if I retain the Scarlet S (for spammer) on my forehead henceforth on Disqus. I will continue to use the forum, tentatively. But for this one experience I have liked it. Plenty of other users testify that the Scarlet S cannot be scrubbed, alas.]