Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Musical for the Emo generation?

So last night I went to see what all the hype was about. That's right. The first touring cast of Spring Awakening performed last night right here in little ol' Des Moines. So I went.

And let me say right up front that I enjoyed the show. No question, it's definitely full of energy and has some very beautiful music by Duncan Sheik. Visually, it was marvelously simplistic in its design. The performers, musicians and singers alike, gave every bit of themselves to the audience. In a nutshell, it's a very well put-together show.

But I just couldn't get into the story. Maybe it's the fact that I just don't respond well to angsty whining from priviledged white kids. Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm a bastard, but that's how I feel. That's why I hate Emo music so much. I had a rough childhood too, a lot rougher than most of these scenesters and self-proclaimed emo kids that flock to this genre. But I don't go around bitchin' about it. It annoys me when people do.

And maybe I'm just getting old, I dunno. I liked RENT. I remember a few years ago when the one of the first touring casts came through town. An arts patron a number of years my senior said he didn't care to see a bunch of kids whining about not being able to pay rent when they could very well go out and get jobs! I thought it was kind of a fuddy-duddy thing to say at the time, but now I wonder if that's me.

In any case, maybe I'm just not the demographic. Theatre is a business after all. Some shows sell well to different market segments. Spamalot brought more 18-30 year old males to the theatre than many shows previous. It's all about how you sell it.

Maybe I'm just an innocent victim in the wrong market segment. Victim? Wait that sounded emo...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Making Chicago Connections

Not even two days into setting up this site when I got a comment from a blogger in the Chicago area asking about my Twitter connection. I'm truly convinced of the power of this new medium. Reprinted below (with permission, of course) is a transcript of the email conversation Scott Zacher of Check it out. And be sure to visit his site for information about theatre in the greater Chicagoland area!


Hey there, this is Scotty Zacher from Thanks for listing me on your bloglist. That's very nice of you.

Best of luck with your arts blog. Blogging can be time consuming, but also very rewarding. My goal is to try to get as many people out to see theater as possible. Looks like you're heading the same way.

By the way, I had no idea that you could connect a Twitter account with your blog. Have you found this to be useful/helpful? Are people able to send you info to post this way? (I guess I'm totally clueless when it comes to Twitter).

Take care, and PLEASE stay warm.


Scott, Thanks for taking the time to write. I've only been blogging for a couple days now, so I can say how much having Twitter on my blog has helped. But it's kind of what gave me the idea to start doing it. I joined a couple of Twitter groups recently including #Actors and #Theatre and I noticed I began to get followers from those groups. In addition, I noticed a few of them who were theatre professionals from the Vancouver area who have their own blogs. I also noticed that they seemed to be connected through this online community of theatre bloggers. That's when I decided to jump in.

The thing about Twitter is that its a great social networking tool because of its simplicity and its portability. You can access it through a wide range of applications and your mobile device of choice. So you can micro-blog at just about anytime from anywhere. Plus you can set it to update your status on Facebook and Myspace automatically whenever you post. I connected it to my blog because I knew I could use it to post links to theatre-related articles quickly and easily without feeling obligated to blog about everything I come across.

Right now, Des Moines has one of the largest Twitter communities. The techies seemed to have latched onto the idea... lots of IT, Graphic Design, Social Media and Marketing professionals seem to be using it the most. The last DMTweetup (or Des Moines Twitter meetup) brought out about 100 people. I'm trying to bring more performers and theatre artists into the mix.

Thanks for the comments! Stop back again soon! -JR

--------------------------------------------------- got my mind churning (which is a hard thing to do! LOL) - I was planning on buying an iPhone, and if I do I could plan that, when going to plays, I can take pics and send them to my blog as well as twitter about it. can you send pics with twitter?
(sorry to bother you about this - but I'm trying to find something that sets me apart with other theater sites here in Chi-town, and there's a lot of them! I'm working on getting more video, signing up college students that are getting film degrees; something like that).
So have you gotten to go to much theatre in Chicago? I end up going to about a play a week, though have been known to see three openings in one weekend. (though don't recommend it). I've been on a sort of dry spell being busy with my church, etc., so haven't been to a play since before Christmas! If you get a chance, I would recommend "The Seafarer" at the Steppenwolf. Wonderful play and very powerful. It was supposed to close the end of December, but now has been extended through the middle of February.
Thanks again for the link. A fellow arts-lover, Scotty Z.


Scott, You can upload a picture at and it will automatically post a message and a link to that picture on your Twitter stream.
They say the Revolution will not be Televised. However, it will be streaming live online. ;) Viva la Relolucion!

Have heard great things about The Seafarer. Would love to see it, but I don't get to Chicago much. Last Steppenwolf production I saw was Topdog/Underdog. And that was in Houston!

You mind if I blog any of these emails? Thanks, -JR


sure, you can blog them. Be my guest.
I don't know if you knew this, but just in case - your Iowa readers - if they're planning a trip to Chicago for a weekend - might want to check out HotTix, which now offers half-price tickets online (as opposed to having to go in person downtown to the HotTix counter). The link is
I'm now off to see the play "Little Foxes" at Shattered Globe. Hope I don't freeze my butt off waiting for the el!
Cheers, Scotty Z

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Increasing Traffic and Dialogue

One of the things I'd like to do with this blog is make it a "go to" place for Performing Artists and patrons alike... especially those living and working in Iowa. So if there is content you would specifically like to see included on this site. Please let me know.

Right now, there doesn't seem to be a "go to" site for Performing Arts in the Greater Des Moines Metro and Iowa at large. I'm trying to fill the void. Jeff Bruner, former critic from the Des Moines Register was the last person to write a performing arts blog that people here in the Metro would visit with any amount of frequency. At least that's the last time I remember there being any significant amount of discussion regarding theatre.

As far as getting out information, Thatcher Williams over at Change (formerly Theater... For a Change), has done a really good job at disseminating upcoming show info via a weekly email blast. But as far as there being a forum for discussion, there doesn't seem to be one. So I'm offerring to develop such a forum at this site.

I realize that confining disussion to theatre only would probably not generate a ton of discussion, so I'm keeping it open to Performing Arts in general including dance, opera, poetry slam, music... anything that involves performers and audiences. I will probably also include film-making as it pertains to the many disciplines of storytelling including writing, acting, lighting design, and sound design.

Lastly, this blog is also meant to highlight advancements in the Performing Arts and the incoporation of new technologies in and approaches to production. I strongly believe that in order for the Performing Arts to remain a strong and vital part of society and continue to grow they must reach out to newer, younger audiences. And part of doing that is embracing these ideals.

So please feel free to write in and comment.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Construction Begins

And so I join the ranks of the theatre bloggers nationwide from right here in Central Iowa. It seems like the right thing to do at the right time.

For many years, Des Moines has seemed cut off from the rest of the world and even the rest of the State. Having lived and worked here now for the past 15 years, I've found myself falling into that seclusive mindset on occasion. Some people who've lived here all their lives are fine with this way of thinking and the island Des Moines seems to have created for itself. But in many ways, that is beginning to change. Revitalization of the Downtown has created new living space, new restaurants, and new shopping boutiques. Young professionals are moving in and a creative working class is emerging. People who aren't from here are beginning to take notice of some of these changes as evidenced by the New York Times article on Des Moines' "East Village" during the Iowa Caucuses.

But there seems to remain, at least among the vast majority of those in the performing arts community, a pervading attitude of seclusiveness when it comes to growing a professional market here. I can't say for sure exactly what this stems from, but it seems to be a combination of insecurity and low self-esteem. Outside influence is often seen as a threat. And collaboration is a foreign concept to people who participate only to feed their own self-serving egos. I imagine some of these problems exist in other markets as well. But it is especially frustrating in a market where very few professional opportunities exist for performing artists.

The overwhelming majority of people who perform in the theatre here do so because of the communal aspect of it, because it's "fun" and because they enjoy the applause. Some straddle the line, doing commercial work on occasion for the money and exposure. The rest are students who perform theatre to gain experience and do commercial work for the money until they finish their degrees and move somewhere like Chicago, New York, or LA where they can get "real" experience. Still, there remains a small fraction of folks that choose to live here who live, breath, eat, and sleep the art of the theatre and who are provided with absolutely no opportunities for professional development. That has to change.

One of the things I realized after joining the community is that it is possible (and in fact fairly easy) to network with those of like minds and similar professions throughout the state, the country and even the world. It's not that I didn't know this before (I've been using the Internet since 1993 for Pete's sake), it's just that the sudden accessibility that Twitter provided re-awoke the cosmopolitan in me. So now I'm tossing my two cents in the pot and joining the blogosphere... or in this case the theatrosphere.

A little about me at the present moment: I am currently unemployed thanks to downsizing and the current economy. Until May of 2008, I held a day job with a motion picture equipment facility. Now I do freelance film/video production. I have been acting and performing in the theatre now for over ten years and occasionally manage to make some money doing it. I consider myself a life-long student of the craft and have managed to "hook up" with like-minded individuals who have committed to bringing a professional repertory theater to Iowa's capitol city. This blog will exist in part to expound on some of the company's and my own personal endeavors as well as comment on the state of the arts in general both here in Central Iowa and the nation at large.

Comments are welcome and encouraged at home and abroad.