Those darn statues

Last week on News and Notes, I received a visitation from someone or something known as "Rais Rooney". It turns out that this malevolent entity was hellbent on absorbing and assimilating my consciousness into its digital hive mind in order to better prepare itself for the ultimate destruction of mankind. It's hard to describe what happened since then, but I was briefly uploaded into a network of similar entities using their collective consciousness to generate a nightmarish universe strung along the nodes of the world wide web. It's hard to describe what happened next, since this unholy melding of machine and mind expressed itself as a hallucinatory, ever-shifting semi-metaphorical construct of non-euclidean geometry, but I did manage to break free after aligning with a small band of white hat hackers who attacked the network with a coordinated, distributed assault on the major shadow network underpinning the enterprise. It's really outside the scope of this article so I won't go into too much detail; but, long story short, there is now a smoldering ruin that used to be a major server farm under a Swiss mountain, and I really wouldn't advise doing any electronic banking in Moldova until the nuclear batteries powering The Gibson Device run out.

At any rate, I was returned to corporeal form in a highly implausible manner just in time for the Oscars to happen, at which point I screamed into the molten plastic that used to be my VR set, "NO! SEND ME BACK! I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHO HAD THE BEST DRESS!" Sadly, the neuro-portal had been shut down for good, so, here I am, sullenly recapping an award ceremony that you probably watched, because you're in the theater world. *sigh* Let's do this as fast as possible…

A bunch of white people took home little gold statues. One of those white people once made a play about ice fishing right here in Minnesota. Another one of them was Leonardo DiCaprio, which everyone was expecting, but everyone tweeted about incessantly anyway. Host Chris Rock spent most of the night making all those white people uncomfortable by talking about how white they are. Nobody likes The Thank You Ticker. As per usual, plenty of important jobs still went unrecognized. The best damn movie of the year won all the awards, except for the one it really, really deserved. And, yeah, Chris Rock apparently did a good job balancing his hosting duties with calling the industry out on its actions. And, no, I will not link to anything talking about anyone's dresses, so deal with it.

There. Oscar duties done. Let's all get together next year and give out more gold statues to white people, shall we?

You can't please everybody

We can argue all day and all night and some of the next day as well about whether or not a diverse group of artists really needs the validation of an obviously flawed system like the Academy Awards; but did you know that the theater world also sometimes has a problem with diversity and representation? Don't worry, though! It's changing! Diversity on Broadway has been ticking steadily up lately.

A lot of people are praising Hamilton for this. The most diverse musical in New York is hammering its competition and winning all the awards in its run up to the 2016 Tony ceremony. Producers would be crazy not to notice. By all accounts, it's an amazing, historic show that is opening doors and knocking down walls, and it will forever change the way theater is done, which is why it's no surprise that a counter-revolutionary at HowlRound has found a way to hate it.

When a lawsuit is not yet a lawsuit

At the end of 2015, I wrapped up the year by identifying five topics we'll still be kvetching about in 2016. Diversity was the major one (see above), but I've been disappointed to see almost no news about another one that I think is pretty important, even though it doesn't directly affect me. That is, of course, the battle in LA over changes to the 99-Seat Plan made by Actors Equity.

When we last left this story, a group of LA actors had filed (but not served) a lawsuit against AEA to stop implementation of its changes. Back in December the plaintiffs and AEA announced that they would enter into negotiations rather than plunge headlong down the lawsuit logflume.

Well, that was then. This is now. AEA recently sent statements to its LA members that these talks are not "negotiations", but rather "facilitated discussions", putting the union on track to win "Weasel Words of the Week". So, I guess it's a good thing that the plaintiffs, while they were not technically serving their lawsuit, were out raising $75,000 to pay for the suit once it inevitably gets rolling.

A little less somber ceremony

This week's News and Notes is a little shorter than normal, and you're probably grateful for that. But, don't thank me. Thank the Minnesota Fringe Festival. I usually stay up until the wee hours the night before this column's deadline, carefully crafting every last syllable until it has reached the peak of perfection for you, dear readers; but, heck, tonight is the lottery for the 2016 Fringe Festival, where madness and chance rule. Since this year there were a record number of applications and the lottery is being held at a bar, it's going to be a very exciting night for me. So all that careful crafting can kiss off for one night. I'll see you all next week, when I will hopefully have a long, absurd list of names of theater companies and shows to paw through.