Martin Denton is Full of Surprises

November 12, 2008
Martin Denton

Martin Denton

Martin Denton never fails to surprise me – just take a look at his responses to the meme I tagged him on yesterday. That he answered it all was a pleasant surprise, as memes are not usually his thing. But I appreciate him getting into the spirit of it and indulging in a rare display of public disclosure. Especially since I learned a few things about him I didn’t know.

6th grade Snoopy?

Rudy Vallee’s autograph?

A Jeopardy! tryout?

This is too good to pass up, people. Take a moment and get to know your favorite theater reviewer a little bit better. You’ll be glad you did.

And thanks to you, Martin, for putting it all out there!


Seven Little Things About Me

November 11, 2008

In light of my previous Let’s-Make-a-New-Model-for-Arts-Journalism post, how do I choose to follow that up for revolutionary masses? You guessed it, people: by responding to a meme. I never get to do these so I figured “What the hell?”

Thanks to both Matt Freeman and Zack Calhoon for tagging me on this. The point is to list seven strange things about oneself. I wouldn’t necessarily call any of these strange, but they are all singularly nytheatre mike-ish. Here goes…

1. I’m a native New Yorker.

That’s right. Born and raised on the Upper West Side. Which makes a lot of people look at me as if I’m some exotic endangered species. Hell, if I survived Amsterdam Avenue in the 1970s, then I ain’t gonna be extinct anytime soon.

2. I trained as a singer with the Boys Choir of Harlem.

For about a year or so during grade school, with Dr. Walter Turnbull himself. Finally decided to stop going because I was tired of commuting up to Harlem once or twice a week. The first of many foolish career decisions to come.

3. I auditioned for the lead role in the feature film Lost Angels.

Which I obviously didn’t get because it went to this guy. Not a cinematic classic, so I figure it all worked out.

4. I attended the Fame school.

Also known as LaGuardia Arts. When I went there it was simply known as the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts. Whew. There was no dancing on the lunchroom tables, but there were plenty of other shenanigans I probably shouldn’t tell you about. (I majored in Drama, by the way.)

5. I have never travelled out of the country.

Unless you count Tijuana. Which I don’t. It reminded me too much of Amsterdam Avenue in the 1970s.

6. I used to be a bar bouncer.

For about nine months in the early 1990s. Worked at a bar in the coastal North Carolina town of Wilmington. Which means that not only can I sing (see # 2 above), but I can kick your ass while doing it. In addition to the usual mix of locals, beachbums, and rednecks, we also had a surprisingly large military clientele. Talk about job training under fire.

7. I used to help Joseph Wiseman run his lines.

You might know Joe better as the infamous Dr. No. I was a member of the stage crew for a show Joe was in during Signature Theatre Company’s Arthur Miller season, and I got assigned to help him run lines before the show every night. His memory wasn’t what it used to be and he needed to practice before every show in order to stay sharp. It worked: he won an OBIE Award for his performance. (No need to thank me, Joe.)

So, having said all that, I tag: Becky, John, Leonard, Martin, and The Brick.

To Be Or Not To Be

November 11, 2008



That is, indeed, the question.

You’ll notice that there’s been a noticeable lack of content on this blog for the last two months. There have been several reasons for this.

One reason is that I’ve been acting quite a bit. Since September I’ve sung and danced with Trav S.D. & Co., and gotten nice and bloody with the gang at Nosedive Productions (a show I was so busy during that I didn’t get a chance to plug it here on the ol’ blog – sorry about that, Nosedivers). And there’s no real end in sight. This week I start shooting the lead role in a short film written and directed by my increasingly frequent collaborator, Danny Bowes; and in January, I start rehearsing…well, that’s a surprise I’ll write more about the closer we get to it. (Here’s a hint: I’ll be reprising a role I played earlier this year.)

Another reason is that I just haven’t had the time. Usually I reserve the blogging for the daytime hours at work, but my current temp job just hasn’t made it possible for me to do that. They keep me busy. At night…well, I’ve been rehearsing or performing most nights for the past two months. So that hasn’t been an option. And on the rare occasion when I’ve had a day free recently, I’ve just wanted to live my life instead of blog. You know what I mean: take my girlfriend on a date, go see a movie – that sort of thing.

I have also discovered that I am a notoriously slow writer. I just let things percolate for a long time before setting them down for public consumption. Many times in recent months I’ve had an idea for a lengthy blog post only to have its relevance fade by the time I decided to sit down and write it. But then again, I’ve always been a late bloomer.

And since I equate blogging with journaling or keeping a diary…well, that’s made it tough. I have always been awful at keeping a diary or journal, starting in a flourish of fiery, prolific earnest only to have it fade down the stretch. Maintenance and follow-through has always been a challenge for me in that regard. I’m still learning how to be a fourth-quarter finisher.

Then there’s that nagging question: what do I really have to contribute to the theater blogosphere? Besides a deep love and enthusiasm for the theater and the people in it, I’m not really sure. I don’t report the latest theater news (these guys and these guys have that pretty well covered); I don’t review shows (a far too time-consuming task for one who writes slowly and doesn’t get paid to do it – besides, the gold standard in New York theater reviewing is a tough act to follow); and I don’t write big theoretical think pieces the way these guys do or feature stories the way these guys do.

Although, I tell you, I would love to do all of those. If I had the time. But I don’t. At least, not at the moment.

So, with all that to consider, I’ve been left wondering lately whether I should even continue this blog or not. I was leaning towards not, but then two recent events made me decide to keep going. At least, for now.

Event # 1 happened one weekend about a month ago. Over the course of two nights I ran into two friends whose work I like and respect: Moira Stone and Tim Errickson. They each, in turn, asked me when I was going to be posting something new on here. Which, in turn, made me say to myself: Wow, if they’re still looking at this thing regularly even though I haven’t posted anything in a month, I wonder how many other people out there feel the same way. Maybe I should post something…

Event # 2 has been happening for the past month or two, and is being well-documented on my friend Leonard Jacobs’ blog: the death of journalism – and especially arts journalism – as we know it. Except for the obvious hardships this is causing to thousands of journalists and other workers who are losing their jobs, I’m kind of glad this is happening. Journalism as we know it deserves to die, in my opinion. It is no longer objective or non-partisan and resembles the yellow journalism of olden days more than ever. As for arts journalism, don’t even get me started. Let me just say that when it comes to arts coverage of any kind, I prefer those who consider themselves fans of the art to those who see themselves as arbiters of public taste and opinion.

In other words: it’s time for a new model.

And I think people myself and other bloggers out there can help pave the way for that model – i.e. arts coverage for the artists and the audience written by those who are practitioners or fans of the arts. Seems reasonable enough, yes? And yet artists and audience members continue to take their artistic cues from people who have nothing to do with the arts and may not even like them all that much. People who may not have very deep or meaningful things to say about them. People who think that having a journalism degree makes them qualified to be an arts journalist. People who think that artists themselves could never be objective enough to be journalists, fearing they would favor their own self-serving interests over properly serving readerships. As if that happens now among arts journalists who aren’t also practitioners. Please.

What I’m saying is that I feel like this is the time for artists and audience members alike to take arts journalism out of the hands of the snobby, elitist mainstream media corps and co-opt it for themselves. Let’s show the status quo – and the rest of the world, for that matter – how things should be really done. Like showing compassion and love towards the arts and the people who practice them instead of standing in eternal judgment with that jaded guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude. Whether anyone else wants to acknowledge it or not, critics have expiration dates and many of the ones currently working are way past theirs, in my estimation.

So, for the sake of doing my part to establish a new model for arts journalism, this ol’ blog will continue on. Doing what, I don’t know, but I will figure it out as I go. And hopefully all of you will come along for the ride.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience during my unintentional two-month hiatus. I will do my best not to lose the name of action.