Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pleased To Meet Me

So…why this blog? Because I’ve been reading this guy and this guy and feel like there’s a conversation that needs to happen and we need voices having it. Theatre is coming to a crossroads, in terms of producing/development models and we need full-throated discussion about it. The more voices, the better.
That's from the first post I wrote here, just about two years ago, almost exactly. At the time, I was coming off of seven years of work as an administrator in various Off-Off-Broadway theatre companies and organizations and had been working in a non-theatre-related day job for about a year or so. I'd just discovered (coming late the game, I know) the theatre blogosphere and was thrilled by the conversation. I was, and continue to be, a theatre organization nerd. The last theatre job I had, in a development organization, was in part focused on organization issues. It's kind of my thing.

This blog came out of that thing. And it's been a pretty interesting ride. I've had my issues, taken my leaves of absence, made some friends, pissed some people off, stirred up my share of hornet's nests. I've certainly said my share of provocative things. But, in general, I've enjoyed the conversation.

After reading Outrageous Fortune and this post from Scott Walters, I feel like the conversation has, at least for me, hit a tipping point, certainly in its current incarnation. Outrageous Fortune convinced me that the overlapping issues facing our institutional theatres might be insurmountable. Scott reminded me that there are other paths (I also liked David Dower's comment). I think I have to forge one of those other paths in order to stay true to my work and ideals. But I also think the conversation should continue and grow. More voices are always better than fewer.

In order for the conversation to be most effective, though, it requires transparency, openness and honesty. As Bob Dylan said, to live outside the law, you must be honest*. And, to be honest, for a while now, the whole anonymity thing has chafed a bit. I've had to hold back some details and specifics, in order to protect my identity. If I'm going to be honest about the work I'm doing and trying to do, I can't keep protecting myself.

I was invited to attend an upcoming convening on black playwriting at the Arena Stage and blog about it here. Certainly the people there would learn my actual identity and then, well, as they say, it's a small world. So. It's time to let some things go and move the ball forward.

Here goes nothing. This is me. You can find my bio here (though it's a bit outdated...I gotta update it), and they've published a number of my plays. Over the last decade, I worked here, here and here. There's more info out there, but I trust you can find it.

So what does this mean? Functionally, not much, really. I plan to keep this blog going, pretty much the same as it has been. Okay, maybe a little gentler, not so much with the flamethrowing, but with as much honesty as I can stand. I'll also add some things that aren't strictly theatre, some more review-type things, maybe even some strictly personal things. Really, I don't know. But I hope you stick with me.

As for my new thoughts, I'm going to be looking very seriously at self-producing, about starting a production company, probably under the name of 99 Seats. More about that as it comes.

At any rate, it's a new year, a new decade. Time to turn the page.

*For the record, and to maintain my nerd cred, I first encountered that Dylan quote in the ads for this comic book. Just so you don't think I'm cool like dat.


Dennis Baker said...

I too wonder if the current state/issues of institutional theaters are insurmountable. I was intrigued by your previous comment about wanting to self-produce. Anytime I think about, or get involved with other artists, in self-producing it just ends up being the same type of 99 seat theater companies that are already out there.

I am curious to read your thoughts and ideas. I have been processing The Prof's idea of creating a community, ensemble theater in smaller regional communities. I also wonder if applied theater work has a place in this thinking to create a theater that, "shares a sense of creativity to our society...sense of connection between people, [and] helping people find meaning in their lives and relationships."

99 said...

Thanks, Dennis, for the thoughts. I'm sensing that there are some new thoughts about ways of self-producing and self-organizing that are different from the more standard-model theatres out there and those ideas, plus the ideas I've kicked around here are the foundations to look at. If new organizations are built on the same standard model foundation, that won't do any good. But I get the sense there are new thoughts in the air. That's what I'm following. And in the end, yeah, I hope to build an company that builds better connection between people, artists and audience.

David Dower said...

Yet another sign that 2010 is a year of change. Pleased to know you and look forward to seeing what comes next!

See you in DC in a couple of weeks!

Write on...

joshcon80 said...


It's funny. Self-producing is all I've ever known. Since I got into Youngblood, where I'm pretty much the only self-producing playwright, was a wake up call. A lot of those writers have never been produced. Ever.

My productions in my little basement theater may be small, but I'm proud of them. And because I self-produce in my own space all of my plays have been produced. Every single one of them.

Why should I wait for Rattlestick or Soho Rep or Playwrights Horizons or whoever to come around to my work? I know my work is good now, and writers don't ever get better by NOT producing.

Adam said...

Welcome to the visible world. See you in DC.


99 said...

Adam and David - Thanks! And I'm looking forward to it!

joshcon - That factoid about the YB playwrights is totally sad and very, very true. Actually, you're one of my inspirations in all of this. I might just be bending your ear for advice and ideas.

Qui Nguyen said...

J friggin' Holtham! Welcome out of the shadows, brotha! So nice to know it's been you fighting for us little guys this whole time. You are fuckin' brilliant.

And, Conkel, I couldn't agree more! Why wait? I love the audience that comes to my Vampire Cowboys plays. They're awesome, fun, and fit the younger, more racially diverse demographic I strive to entertain. To be frank, even if a bigger institution picked up one of my VC plays, I don't think they'd be bringing me more of that audience that I already have, it would be me bringing it to them. Would waiting around hoping to be produced by a more established Off-Broadway company give me more legitimacy? Maybe to the mainstream theatre world. But to my audience specifically? Absolutely not.

This, of course, isn't to knock any writers who take the other route to getting produced (Getting your shit done and done well is never easy). That route just isn't appealing to me. I'm too impatient. I don't write to save stuff onto my hard drive so getting my stuff seen is far more important to me than getting my back patted by the "grown-ups". Which I'm sure you understand since MilkMilkLemonade is easily one of the best productions of 2009 instead of just being yet another "promising script" waiting for more development.

Love your blog, Holtham! Can't wait to see what else you got for us in 2010!

Scott Walters said...

Welcome to the world of naked faces!

Dennis Baker said...

One of the first questions I am asking re:self-producing, is NY/LA/Chi worth it because of the saturated market?

@joshcon80 & @Qui Nguyen, are your audiences made up mostly of other theater artists?

Do theater companies in NY/LA/Chi, create productions where the majority of the audience is other theater artists? Is that a concern?

Do artists want to bring theater to the areas and places where theater is not being produced? While there may not be an over-saturation of productions, there will not be the base audience of theater artists that will come see the work. But isn't that a good thing? Do we want our work to be in dialogue with only ourselves, or do want an audiences that consist of the community-at-large?

Oh, and did not mention before, J. it's good to know the face behind the words.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog, but the white lettering on the all black background hurts my eyes. Change please?

joshcon80 said...


I suspect my audience has a lot of theater artists in it. It has a lot of artists in it period, because my theater is on St. Mark's Place in the east Village and I write plays for queer(ish) audiences. I would say that my audience is more diverse in terms of ethnicity and economic class than what I observe at most institutional theaters I go to.

I'm guessing (just a hunch) that this might be true of Qui too, but I also get a lot of people who never see plays or only see my plays, which come once or twice a year.

Qui Nguyen said...

Um . . . I'd actually say at this point the majority of Vampire Cowboys' audience are comic book nerds and cinema geeks (Which I, of course, include myself. I lurves me some comic books and action movies.) But I won't deny that there's not a healthy dose of awesome theatre peeps there too. They just don't make up the majority anymore. Without a doubt tho, eight years ago when we first started, that was definitely not the case. But like any company that wants to survive beyond a couple of years, it was necessary for us to find an audience outside of our friends, family, and fellow professionals. That's however just the nature of the beast. As artists, we're all striving to reach the largest amount of people possible with our work.

Ian Thal said...

Pleased to meet you too.

Tom Loughlin said...

Welcome, Jason. I peeped your FB page very quickly, and it appears we even have one friend in common. Small world.

@Qui - I have been trying for a month now to get Vampire Cowboys up for a visiting workshop at Fredonia. Left vmail and email w/Amy, no response. Sorry to hijack 99's comments for this, but - any word?

Ken said...

What a trip, to learn that one of my Facebook friends with the best status updates also has one of the best blogs around. Awesome.

99 said...

Thanks, Ken. Much appreciated.

99 said...

I do have some thoughts about audiences and how to serve them, but I'd love to hear more from josh and Qui about their experiences. It might even be worth a separate post...hmm...

Tony Adams said...


Qui Nguyen said...

Sorry, J (and everybody), for this hijack as well.

Hi Tom,
Abby emailed before the holidays to confirm that Robert and I can definitely come up on the weekend of January 29th. It must have gotten lost in cyberspace somehow. She'll email you later today to follow up. Looking forward to meeting your students, man. Looks like a fun time.

Tom Loughlin said...


Wrote back at your blog. Thanks 99 for your patience through the hijack.

elev8 said...

Sports is very amazing and fun at the same time, it can really help maintain a good health and stability of your body.sports supply archery