ALCStudies Journal

Advanced Labor & Cultural Studies Web Site & Blog

Voltaire et Charlie

“I do not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it…” – Attributed to Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet )

Voltaire might certainly have said, ‘Je Suis Charlie Hebdo’.

Doing the Right Thing

Welcome to the New Year, a time of resolution and retrospective. We are all trying to create better versions of ourselves. As we see from the news, there’s lots of room for us as individuals and as a species to improve. But sometimes the impulse toward self-improvement is overrated — especially when urged by others who know us little and appreciate us less.

A colleague and I went out for drinks. We talked about work. Looking back on his career at the same organization, he told me, “I’ve been called ‘subversive’, ‘too philosophical’ and most recently told that I’m a ‘talker'”.  He took this advice to heart, and it’s obvious it troubles him. (I suggested he tweet everything or send smoke signals.) He has good working relationships, completed many tasks and projects successfully in challenging circumstances and receives commendations from people he’s worked with over twenty years. It seems appropriate to ask:

  • When does ‘subversive’ = thinking critically?
  • When does ‘philosophical’ = thoughtful?
  • When does ‘talker’=communication skills?

Aren’t these the sorts of aptitudes companies say they need? Perhaps he’s been doing something right all along.– DA

 

‘Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh’ 2014 LR Performance Photos

Please see a slideshow from our 11/22/2014 and 11/23/2014 live radio performances of The Thin Man Comes to  Pittsburgh at the Omni William Penn. Photo credits: Jessica, with cast photo by Randall Quesnelle
 

‘Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh’ Live Radio 2014 Playbill

Please see the digitized playbill for our upcoming November 22nd and 23rd The Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh weekend performance at the Omni. Show tickets are still available both days. Read more of this post

11/22/2014 ‘Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh’ Package Sold Out ; Show Tickets Available

The Omni William Penn sold out dinner packages for our upcoming 2014 performance of The Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh for Saturday 11/22 and Sunday 11/23. Show tickets are still available. Please call 412-553-5000 or e-mail jkaiser@omnnihotels.com. Also, the show was featured on 10/24 in the Post Gazette’s Radio Notes.

'The Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh' 2014 Poster

‘The Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh’ 2014 Poster

Interview in the PDCDC Newsletter

August interview with Taia Pandolfi in the PDCDC (Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation) Downtowner on collaborating with creatives and following my bliss in the ‘Burgh.  And see a related essay on live vs. virtual performance by Stefany Anne Golberg in the Smart Set. — CDL

‘Virtually Yours’ 8-16 Premiere

We had about twenty-five people for our Virtually Yours live read Saturday 8-16 at the Cabaret at Theater Square. Not bad for a post-10pm premiere of a new play in ‘Burgh. Thanks to everyone who attended, including those who stuck around for the performance following Ring of Fire or joined us after hearing Yanni at the Benedum.

Randy Kirk, Bob Bollman and Kevin Buck at the Cabaret made us feel at home. Randy, the Cabaret manager, made time around a tight schedule for us to rehearse in the space. Bob set up three hanging mics for us the night of the show while Kevin covered the house and cued us to go on.

Caitlin, Mark, Chris and Jeannine did a wonderful job turning the script that I was revising until Thursday night into entertainment for our audience to enjoy. Thanks also to Taia P. and Georgia at the PDCDC for promoting the show in their newsletter. — Chuck

 'Virtually Yours' at the Cabaret : Chris Leon, Caitlin Northup, Mark Tierno, Ms. Swanheart

‘Virtually Yours’ at the Cabaret: Chris Leone, Caitlin Northup, Mark Tierno, Jeannine Lanigan

 

‘Virtually Yours’ Pre-Production Week Two

We started Virtually Yours rehearsal May 31st with a partial read-through. I had only completed typing the first 103 pages of the script. I have worked with the cast before. Chris, Mark, Caitlin and Ms. Swanheart did  great job beginning to turn words on the page into characters and dialogue.

The following Monday I ran over to Penn Avenue at lunchtime to meet Randy Kirk at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, who booked us for a live read at the Cabaret at Theater Square August 2nd. No selfies, but I snapped a couple of photos of the stage as it is set up for CLO’s  Ring of Fire, and as it will be when we perform.

 

Using the photos, I made quick sketches of the stage with characters in certain scenes. In addition, I started creating rough drafts of images for posters and announcements.

 

These are not fine art by any stretch. But they help me imagine how the show will look and feel.  As a director (and producer, and writer) embarked on a second creative career  I sometimes feel like I’m making things up as I go along. But the sketches seemed a useful exercise while I’m still revising the script and when we’ll have limited time to rehearse in the Cabaret space. And it’s a fun and different way to use my brain. You’ll see a selfie of me in one of the slideshow drawings. I’m the guy with the beard and mustache. ; – ) — CDL

Two Events Booked in Late 2014

‘The Thin Man’ Comes to Pittsburgh live radio returns to the Omni William Penn November 22nd and 23rd after a sold-out performance in 2013.  As with last year’s show, this year’s event coincides with Pittsburgh’s kickoff to the holiday season.  It includes dinner in the hotel’s Terrace Room, a drink in the Speakeasy and live performance. The show is an adaptation of the original Thin Man film, and features a local cast and live music.

Preceding Thin Man, Advanced Labor & Cultural Studies will present a new play August 2nd at the Cabaret Theater in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.  The show, with a title TBD, is inspired by one of the first and best screwball comedies of the 1930s, with a story updated for the New Millennium. An entitled heiress runs away from her wealthy CEO  father and member of the one-percent to reunite with her fiancé, a media celebrity and reality show star.  On the way she meets a newspaper reporter who has quit his job to become a blogger and aspiring social media guru. As the two travel together, the reporter is determined to exploit the celebrity couple’s story for his own ends. Hijinks ensue when he and the heiress fall in love.

The show will appeal to Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomers and anyone else navigating fifteen minutes of fame on the way to romance and relationships in the 21st Century.  Can true love prevail amidst unmitigated wealth, blocked roads and daily tweets?

Advanced Labor receives fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas a non-profit arts service organization. For more information on these events,  please e-mail outreach@alctudies or call (412) 353-3756.

 

Art & Artificiality: Selfies & Dandies

As background for our ongoing oral history on technology in literature and popular culture, I just finished reading David Hughes’ The Shock of the New . Hughes describes dandyism and art in the 19th century, along with the eponymous figure of pop art and Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol.

Writing in the Paris Review on February 20th [1], Tara Isabella Burton compares the cult of 19th-century dandyism with our 21st-century predilection for taking cell phone portraits of ourselves (aka ‘selfies’). She quotes Charles Baudelaire, the 19th-century French poet, who describes the dandy as:

…transcending his humanity—by choosing and creating his own identity, he remains splendidly aloof, unaffected by others or by the world at large.

Oscar Wilde, Dandy Extraordinaire (Wikipedia Commons)

She also quotes 19th-century French writer Jean Richepin:

“…the true dandy evokes surprise, emotion, and passion in others, but remains entirely insensible himself, producing an effect to which he alone remains immune.” And is: 

“… brilliant and bored;  he lives in terror of being pigeonholed by others. “Having dabbled in nearly everything—arts, letters, pleasures—he had forged for himself an ideal, that consisted in being unpredictable in everything.” … he applies false hair and makeup to alter his appearance and confound his peers.

Hughes writes about Andy Warhol, a 20th-century dandy by any other name, whose:

… ‘autistic stare was  the same for heroes and heroines as for death and disaster… the shallow painter who understood more about the mechanisms of celebrity than any of his colleagues, whose entire sense of reality was shaped… by the television tube.”

Andy Warhol
Poul Webb, Art & Artists

The period of 19th-century dandyism that Burton and Hughes cite between roughly the 1840s and 1900  coincides with the appearance of photography,  which allowed for endlessly reproducible images.

Anyone who has seen portraits of Warhol, who famously ‘liked to watch’, instantly recognizes the carefully constructed image: fright wig, the glasses, the stare. And of course Warhol utilized the replicated, mass-produced industrialized image in reframing everyday objects and celebrities as objects worthy of attention and art all the way to the bank.  As Hughes writes:

“Warhol did more than any other painter alive to turn the art world into the art business. By turning himself into pure product, he dissolved the traditional ambitions and tensions of the avante garde.

Burton quotes Jennifer O’Connel[2] in the Irish Times: “We are living in an age of narcissism, an age in which only our best, most attractive, most carefully constructed selves are presented to the world.”  Paradoxically, O’Connel also writes about the increasing prevalence of loneliness in our lives.[3] In the 1970s, when I was in college, Christopher Lasch warned (or at least pointed out the consequence) of this direction in our culture in The Culture of Narcissism.

In addition to mass media of television, film, advertising and the web, consumer culture gives us cell phones, helmet cams, Google glasses and personal monitoring devices. These technologies purportedly give us the freedom and power to define ourselves, endlessly watching, refining, redefining and creating our image. But where is the line between the freedom to create our own identity and the demand that we do this incessantly (and exclusively) for the consumption of others ?

In Ken Gergen’s ‘The Self in the Age of Information’ the cult of narcissism calls into question the whole idea of self, in the sense of immutable character. Gergen proposes that modern technology (including now Facebook, Twitter, and evolving forms of social networking) make the plastic personality, the chameleon self, a primary asset in creating and presenting a public persona. Image is all. Warhol also creepily said ‘I want to be a machine’. But if we are all busily  creating digital versions of ourselves for public consumption, whatever our private struggles and personal joys (if these count for anything), who is the audience we are doing this for? And what happens when they move on to the next trend, or if we need a human connection beyond people just watching? – CDL


[1] Keep Smiling, Tara Isabella Burton, The Paris Review

[2] Selfie, word of 2013, sums up our age of narcissism  Jennifer O’Connel, The Irish Times

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