Looking for leaders

Are you an out-of-work arts administrator? Are you looking for the next step in your career? Do you just want a title with "director" in it? Well, have I got some deals for you! It's all the rage these days for performing arts organizations to get new leaders. Darling, you simply must try it. Everyone who's anyone is! And that means that there are plenty of chances for you to shop around your leadership talents.

Do you want to be an executive officer, but only like to work part time? The Southern Theater would like to talk to you about their Executive Director position.

Do you enjoy being around dancers? Have you always dreamed of reporting to Linda Z. Andrews? Zenon Dance Company and School is looking for a Managing Director, and you sound like the kind of person who would apply for such a thing.

Do really love playwrights? Like, a lot? Would you like to be at the exact center of their world, but not in a way that involves homemade shrines and night-vision goggles? The Playwrights' Center is also looking for a Managing Director. If you're one of those truly weird people who just likes raising money for playwrights (even the night-vision goggle guys are weirded out), then you should know that PWC is also looking for a Development Manager.

So, get out there and get yourself in charge of something. Don't worry. This probably won't turn out like the last time we talked about job openings. Probably.

Is it safe?

Somewhere out there in America, there is a well-meaning teenager—let's call him Stewart—who watched last week's hubbub between Hamilton and Mike Pence and decided that now, more than ever, it is important for him to become a theater major, no matter how much his dad thinks he should go to business school and take over the family's car dealership. (Stewart, there are other things that you should think about, but we'll save those for another time.) Obviously, now is the time when theater is needed more than ever to help sort out this crazy world, and Stewart's ambitions and talents are needed to join the magical safe space of theatrical expression and strike back at the dark forces of the world! This is obviously more important than getting someone a good trade-in on a dumb old Ford Expedition.

But, slow down there a minute, Stewart! The Ford Expedition received a 5-star review from Car and Driver (much better than that middling, two-star Toyota Sequoia). It's got a top-of-the-line independent rear suspension and gets better gas mileage than just about any car in its class. Say what you will about SUVs and crossovers, but if you're going to get one, you should get the best one, and Davis Family Ford stands behind every car it sells with its trusted, true bumper-to-bumper warranty. Also, Stewart, theater may not be the magical safe space you're thinking of.

Ever since Donald Trump sent out Dumb Tweet #5,670,498, his ongoing war on coherence has had us all falling all over that "safe space" question. For the record, Theater has never really been a "safe space". It turns out that "interesting" and "entertaining" are often synonymous with "dangerous" and "raucous". I ask you to consider this article by Jesse Green at Vulture, which asks you to think of the theater not as a safe space, but as an open space, where anyone and everyone is welcome to shout their voices into the mix:

"if the space is so safe that no outrageous (or even just difficult) ideas can permeate, and no people not already converted to liberalism will bother, what function can the theater hope to serve in shaping or resisting the Trumpian moment? So invite Pence back, and take him to Lynn Nottage’s Sweat while you’re at it. Bring Bannon to The Color Purple. Perhaps a special matinee of Falsettos for bullies? (Come to think of it, Trump might well enjoy Natasha, Pierre, if only for its autocrat nostalgia.) But keep making those curtain speeches, too. The safe space was fine for holding hands, but the open space is needed for raising them. We’re not in drama club anymore."

And, maybe, just maybe, Stewart, you might learn something new about yourself. For example, did you know that you and Donald Trump both have the same favorite musical? That's right! You both love Evita. Sure, you only love it right now because your mom let you watch the movie in junior high, in spite of her reservations about that Madonna, and Trump's love of the show says something very, very different about him, but at least for now you have some common ground.

That is, until you go to college and someone finally shows you something written by Sondheim and you become that annoying theater kid who wanders around singing snippets from Into the Woods all the damn time; but that's about 18 months in your future, Stewart.

This lawsuit is not over

Last week on News and Notes, toward the end of the article, I told you all that the current lawsuit against the Minnesota Fringe Festival was over. I was happy about this, since that news fit so neatly into the narrative structure of the article, coming as it was on the heels of the whole contentious Hamilton thing. (see above)

Unfortunately, reality doesn't care about my narrative structure. Over the weekend, Minnesota Playlist was contacted by some astute readers to inform me that my reading of the phrase "Order Denying Motion" was incorrect. We were also contacted by the lawyer for the plaintiff, who had this to say:

"[T]he judge says that she does not believe that the Fringe used a juried process (which we agree with), but she does believe that the Fringe may have engaged in censorship by removing Mr. Neely's show form the Fringe. Because she wanted more information on the matter, she denied our motion to rule in Mr. Neely's favor right away and ending the case, and instead directed the parties to continue towards trial. The case lawsuit is far from over."

He also included a copy of that motion that I could not locate last week, and I indeed see now that my understanding the situation was completely wrong. In short, the trial will now be heading toward a jury phase, which is the exact opposite of what I thought was happening. I waded too far into waters whose currents I could not read, and for that I sincerely apologize.

So, ignore what I said last week. The circus goes on!


In all seriousness, I am pretty disappointed in myself for that error. The only thing I dislike more than being contacted by a lawyer is the transmission of bad information. The world we live in now is inundated with information, and, unfortunately for us, an incredible amount of it is completely fact-free. No matter how much you think you are insulated from such things, the phenomena of fake news, misleading science reporting, and outright propaganda shoot straight through almost every platform the modern person on the go accesses and spreads through your personal echo chambers faster than bedbugs in a New York apartment building.

Some of it is the result of deliberate hit-jobs, some of it is done to make a buck, and some of it is born of pure negligence. Fortunately, I will never be one of those first two (they don't pay me enough here to lie to you); unfortunately, I was briefly part of that last one.

I will always strive to be better than that, but that's also what every two-bit huckster with a story to sell will tell you. How can you tell the difference between some schmuck who occasionally gets a fact wrong (like me) and a malicious troll who will lie to your face and laugh when you believe them (like a scary amount of people with internet access)? Though they make a noble effort, you can't rely on Snopes to fact-check everything for you. That's why it's incumbent on all of us to learn how to spot bad information on our own.

In my case, readers who were already in the know were able to alert me to my mistake (and thank you for notifying us); but how equipped are the rest of us? Here's how you can get started: read this article from Forbes about practical ways to distinguish real news from bullshit. And actually read it; most of the good information is on the second page, and we know pretty darn well that most people don't read to the end of online articles.

Once you have read that, I will send you to the strangest place I have ever asked you to go in order to test your newfound abilities: a crazy libertarian website and this blog post that makes the interesting and surprisingly cogent case that Donald Trump is more like Alexander Hamilton than Lin-Manuel Miranda would ever admit. The site has "Liberty" right in its name; there are ads trying to sell you gold as a sound retirement investment; and there's a link to an article on one side in which Ron Paul warns about the sinister "Shadow Government". It's pretty easy to look at this site and dismiss it out of hand, but I implore you to dig deeper: is the information presented actually wrong?

If you can stare into the eyes of that beast, then you're more than ready to take on the internet. In the meantime, if you see me get anything else wrong, continue to let me know so that I can fix it.