Hello, you beautiful, loud Americans! It's the Fourth of July, the day we solemnly gather together to commemorate a date that is neither the day that we declared independence nor the day the Declaration was signed, but rather the day that President Bill Pullman rallied us to America's greatest victory in the history of the universe. (And that's just a small sampling of our limitless ability to misremember history.)

I am currently down in the land that spawned me, good ol' Pike County, Illinois, celebrating the birth of a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, exactly the way that great Illinois statesman Abraham Lincoln would have wanted: gettin' drunk and blowin' stuff up!

Since I need a good deal of concentration right now in order to maintain my current number of fingers and eyeballs, I may need to pull my attention away from theatre from time to time. This is especially important, since, holy crap, that mortar that someone brought illegally over the state line from Missouri (or "Missourah" after I've had a few drinks) just blew up about 15 feet over our heads! It's just beautiful the way the still-burning embers are glowing on the asphalt shingle roof. It's a good thing there's this unsupervised, unlit inground pool right here next to where we've all been drinking for the past twelve hours.

God, I love this country!

99 theatersitze

I've been following the battle over the 99-Seat Plan in Los Angeles since Actors Equity first said "screw 'em" to their local voting membership. And now the saga continues. Here's this week's play-by-play:

After AEA walked back its promise for negotiations and rebranded them as "facilitated discussions", the union has carefully considered the feedback from its LA membership and declared that they're going ahead with the plan to wipe out the 99 Seat Plan anyway.

Equity released a statement fully acknowledging that they know this will end up in court, to which the actors who have organized in LA have responded "Yes. Yes It will."

AEA responded by claiming that all the theaters in LA can afford to pay minimum wage. A well-reasoned response to that came in the form of a well-researched group of statistics showing how the current plan has actually led to jobs as newly developed shows transfer out 99-land. For those of you who hate reason and respect, though, there are also plenty of responses like "Actors Equity is trying to kill Los Angeles theater."

So, this should be fun. I do so love these metaphorical fireworks. And these literal fireworks. And this beer. Hey, are you guys setting those off next to that truck? Oh, in the bed of the truck. That's good! If you keep the launch platform mobile, it's that much harder for the cops to track you down. USA! USA! USA!

Meanwhile in Oregon

Last week on News and Notes we led off with a less savory side of our overly-proud nation's heritage: actor Christiana Clark's unfortunate run-in with a wonderful gentleman with a dim understanding of modern state, federal, and constitutional law.

Since Clark's video describing the incident went viral (3,000 shares and 200,000 views and counting), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which was already planning an event around Juneteenth, has added a series of gatherings and public forums to discuss the state of race relations in their area. As an added bonus, the Ashland, Oregon police department is actually trying to find the guy who delivered his veiled racist threats right out in public. (Stick around to the end of that last article for another lovely rundown of Oregon's history of racist laws)

Speaking of cops, guys, where did this moonshine come from and how is it possibly legal? I think this is only good for stripping varnish and making hillbillies blind, but I am going to drink it anyway, because THIS IS AMERICA, DAMMIT! Also, we should probably cover up the grease in that turkey fryer, even though William Shatner taught us that turkey fryer fires are hilarious.

Dollars and LORTs

The past few years have seen the number of LORT theaters reduced by a few. 2014 alone saw the demise of San Jose Rep and Georgia Shakespeare in much the same way that we witnessed the fiery demise of the toolshed from which we were launching this last round of mortar bombs. Last year we watched Philadelphia Theater barely crawl out of spiraling debt death after some emergency loans and donations, much like the ones we are currently collecting here to help replace that toolshed.

Now we witness Arizona Theatre Company in Phoenix announcing that they need $2 million by July 1 to avoid canceling the upcoming season. According to the company's Artistic Director, "“This is not a sort of fake, end-of-year, we-need-to-motivate-some-contributions [announcement]. We need some cash to begin building the season, because we begin that on the 2nd of July.” Of course, once the July 1 deadline that was so incredibly important passed and the money was not yet forthcoming, the deadline was immediately moved back to July 15, because we cannot let Phoenix get this bummed out just before the annual EXPLODE THE NIGHT FOR FREEDOM festivities.

While the greater Phoenix area is busy trying to cough up two million large, let's ask what we can do to keep this from happening again. I would kindly suggest that everyone stop dumping money into big, unsustainable buildings, but we all know that's not going to happen. Instead, we have to look at the income side of the ledger and wonder what we can do to to increase attendance at our regional theaters.

Maybe it's the continued lack of gender equity across the board. Maybe fixing that would help. Maybe ticket prices should just be cheaper. Or maybe we should all be doing any number of things to attract a younger crowd before the old one dies. I don't know. I'm just spitballing here. I'm also drinking peach moonshine and lighting off roman candles.

Hey, guys! If you're going to race those plastic kids' cars down the driveway into that active street, you totally need to be firing off these roman candles while you do it! You can aim them like a cannon! OK, "aim" is a relative term, and, hey, is the sun even down yet? We need to go back to Missourah to get more dangerous explodey things sold to us out of a totally legitimate and not-sketchy-at-all tent on the side of a highway, because this is what our forefathers fought and died for! USA! USA! USA!

Fringe it!

Attention! Attention! This is not a drill! The 2016 Minnesota Fringe Festival site is now live!. (Also not a drill, guys: this entire brick of sparklers is on fire, and we definitely don't have enough Bactine for this. Also also, it turns out Bactine is flammable.) You can now buy tickets to any Fringe show you want.

Ha! Just kidding! You can't buy tickets anymore, because there are no more tickets. This year, the Fringe is rolling out day passes in the form of wristbands. No longer must you bow to the tyranny of the ticket. Forget that there ever were tickets! It's all access all the time!

So, start making your short list of shows to see and devising your watching strategies. We are going to Fringe so hard this year, you won't even believe it. They should get fireworks! And another dumpster fire! And a dumpster fire full of fireworks!!!

Also, guys, not only is Bactine flammable, so is this moonshine. And so is that basket full of loose bottle rockets. You should probably shut the windows on the house before… OK, new plan, then: you try to remember if there's a fire extinguisher around anywhere, you over there listen for sirens, and I'm going to curl up on the ground here and try to ride this thing out. Seriously, guys, how many things around here can be this flammable?! It's like living in a Michael Bay movie.

USA! USA! USA! (Also, if I may add: WOOOOOOOOO!)

You're an angel

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Since many of you are going to be spending some time coming up in the burn ward, getting skin grafts for America, here is some nice reading for you: an oral history of Tony Kushner's landmark Angels in America.


Also, you probably shouldn't drink the peach moonshine.