Welcome to Stage Raw!



Notes From Arden Steven Leigh Morris

Welcome to Stage Raw!

So, the Forest of Arden in As You Like It is the place where the ex-pats gather, those either cast out from the pomp of court, or self-exiled. If you’re in the arts, if you love the arts, welcome to Arden.

To quote Duke Senior, his dukedom stolen by his brother:

“Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

I would not change it.”

Adversity has rolled through the arts as well as through the journalism that once supported them.  If you believe Jeremy Rifkin http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-anti-capitalism.html?_r=0, the core of the crisis lies in “competitive markets bringing costs so far down that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces.”

Welcome to the world of arts journalism.

Competitive capitalism isn’t going away anytime soon, Rifkin suggests, but a new anti-Capitalism paradigm – a non-competitive, inclusive, collaborative, non-profit model – is rising of necessity. Without it, he claims, we won’t have, as professions, schools that actually work, nor hospitals that function humanely, nor care of the elderly, nor the arts, nor arts journalism – all of which are so vital to a civilized society. And if you believe that the non-profit model can’t sustain itself, that it’s a parasite sucking the blood out of government and donors, Rifkin’s article provides data from around the world that suggests otherwise.

“A recent study revealed that approximately 50 percent of the aggregate revenue of the nonprofit sectors of 34 countries comes from fees, while government support accounts for 36 percent of the revenues and private philanthropy for 14 percent.”

Perhaps you’ll indulge my fantasy that Stage Raw, as an embryonic non-profit digital arts journalism platform, is part of a rising tide, serving the denizens of Arden who’ve been so rudely abandoned by the court.

This week’s launch is Stage Raw taking its first baby steps. We expect to get scraped on a few twigs, stumble, and even bruise ourselves. Please be patient with us: we’re just learning how to walk.

In addition to the kinds of theater columns you’re seeing on the site, we aim to expand into dance, music and the visual arts, weather permitting.

This launch edition is largely dedicated to honoring Los Angeles as a destination, rather than as a pit stop. Hence, in the Features section, a compendium of “most memorable moments in L.A. theater” contributed in a two-part column, “Our Town.” The first installment features stories by Rob Weinert-Kendt, Ron Sossi, Jeanie Hackett and French Stewart, with reflections on the past and prospects for the future. (Next week, we’ll be hearing from John Pollono, Cathy Carlton, John Achorn, Jamie Andrews and Rhonda Aldrich.) In a similar vein, critic-playwright-director-producer Neal Weaver reflects on 60 years working in the theater (“Flight of the Bumblebee”), why he left New York in the 1980s, and what he found when he arrived in L.A.   Meanwhile the irrepressible Bill Raden has an about-town column (“Stage Rows”) reporting on breaking and broken events in our community, following our theater-makers out of their shows and to their parties. Inquiring minds . . .

Also on Stage Raw’s agenda are all manner of interactive frolics, a film documentary series on arts institutions that have provided Southern California with a sense of place (we’ll start with Pasadena Playhouse),  and an international new play exchange through video-streaming. Pier Carlo Talenti, literary manager for Center Theatre Group, has agreed to help on the L.A. front; Joanna Klass  of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute is reaching out to theaters in Warsaw and Kiev; John Freedman, theater critic for the Moscow Times, is shepherding theaters in Russia. Later this week Stage Raw will be meeting with the Royal Court and Young Vic theatres in London, and next week with Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers outside Paris. We’ll report back soon with news of who wants to play.

We expect that this is just the beginning of many exciting things to come.

So many people to thank – where to begin? David Elzer and Michael Seel, who jumped in to help when I first raised the SOS after theater coverage cutbacks at the LA Weekly. Thanks to Philip Brandes, Cindy Marie Jenkins, Bill Raden, Mindy Farabee and Doug Clayton for their invaluable counsel. Thanks to Chelsea Sutton for her generous help. Thanks to our distinguished Advisory Board: Olga Garay-English, publisher Martha D. Ludlum, Alan Mandell, Luis Reyes, Travis Preston and Michael Seel. Thanks to our marketing/advertising director Shelley Leopold, who said “yes” when we asked, sight and site unseen. Thanks to designer/web-developer Ryan Colditz, doing our thing from Sacramento and burning up the midnight oil. Thanks to our team of writers, working for a pittance.  Thanks to the Pasadena Arts Council for agreeing to be our fiscal sponsor.

And finally, thanks to the many people who put their money where our mouth was, and is. It is only because of you that we are here. Thank you for the trust you are placing in us. You have our promise that everything we’re doing each and every day is all about living up to it.