Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Art in Deliberately Making You Uncomfortable

Making someone deliberately uncomfortable for the sake of art is a concept that is not new to me. Antonin Artaud’s philosophy of Theatre of Cruelty employs tactics which are meant to shock the audience, with the idea to create a more intense theatrical experience. Jana Sterbak stitched together a meat dress in her art piece “Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorexic,” which could have very well been the inspiration for Lady Gaga’s Video Music Awards outfit last September.

In A Bright New Boise, Felipe Cabezas’ character Leroy wears shirts that display expletives to evoke a very specific response. An art major at Boise State University, Leroy describes his self-made t-shirts as art, using words and phrases such as “YOU WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN” juxtaposed against the purchasing of cheap craft-store supplies to make a dramatic statement; to make Hobby Lobby shoppers deliberately uncomfortable.

A Bright New Boise’s Assistant Dramaturg, Cameron Huppertz, informed me that Sam Hunter’s inspiration for Leroy’s artistic statement comes from the work of Jenny Holzer and her focus on text as art. Her technique of using provocative text/language/placement to elicit a response from the viewer has been received with great acclaim, garnering her awards and landing her art real-estate in a number of different locations, from the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, New York, to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, around the corner from Woolly!

I find it interesting to think about other aspects of our lives that are specifically manufactured to make us feel uncomfortable, one aspect which is coming up very soon—Halloween. Our entire culture has been built around the idea that Halloween is a day when people want to be scared, surprised, made nervous, and/or uncomfortable. Elaborate costumes are sold in costume stores that pop up especially for Halloween. Fog machines, spooky decorations, music that will make your skin crawl are put together in Haunted Houses which can be found just about everywhere in the week leading up to All Hallow’s Eve. Is this idea about finding pleasure and entertainment out of experiencing fear and discomfort any different from Leroy and his t-shirts?

What do you think about art making you uncomfortable? Do you think it’s cool? Is it not art to you? Does it deepen your connection to the piece by creating an emotional response, whatever emotion that may be?

~ Melanie Harker, Connectivity Assistant


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Felipe Cabezas on Meaning & Theater that Matters

“Your life is meaningless, my life is meaningless, and the only thing that gives any meaning, that brings any hope to this life, is my unshakeable belief that God will come again in glory to replace this disgusting life with something new, and pure, and meaningful.” – Will

To me, the overarching theme of A Bright New Boise is the search for meaning in one’s life—validating that one’s thoughts and actions contribute to a greater good. As the play’s five characters pursue five distinct paths to meaning, we inherently identify with that universal quest—even if our definition does not include the divine annihilation of the world.

This theme, and Will’s journey, resonates particularly closely to me: my father entered the Catholic seminary because he wanted to help people improve their lives. The best way to do this, he thought, would be to guide them spiritually, yet he quickly realized his vocation did not rest in the priesthood. He eventually became a lawyer and spent decades working for the World Bank and International Finance Corporation, where he aimed to improve communities’ quality of life through the organizations’ development projects.

I followed in my father’s footsteps by working at Ashoka and GlobalGiving, yet I also find myself on another career track: acting. When one works in the international development sector, it is relatively easy to answer “What am I doing for the greater good?” In the performing arts sector, it becomes trickier.

Howard Shalwitz, Artistic Director of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, recently shared his struggle with this very question: “As someone who came from a family of doctors, started out pre-med in college, detoured to philosophy, then teaching and finally to theater—not only did my career choices slide steadily downhill from my mother’s perspective, but I was left with a moral conundrum: does my chosen profession, theater, make a valuable contribution to the world when compared with the other professions I left behind?” He then listed seven reasons why theater matters:

1)     Theater does no harm.

2)     Theater is a sophisticated expression of a basic human need—one might call it an instinct—to mimic, to project stories onto ourselves and others, and to create meaning through narrative and metaphor.

3)     Theater brings people together.

4)     Theater models for us a kind of public discourse that lies at the heart of democratic life and builds our skills for listening to different sides of a conversation or argument and empathizing with the struggles of our fellow human beings whatever their views may be.

5)     The making of theater and attending of theater contribute to education and literacy.

6)     Theater as an industry contributes to our economy and plays a special role in the revitalization of neglected neighborhoods.

7)     Theater influences the way we think and feel about our own lives and encourages us to take a hard look at ourselves, our values and our behavior.

The fourth and seventh points underscore why I value theater and believe it to be a critical component of society, just as valuable as architecture, medicine, or the law. The plays that excite me most are, yes, ones that entertain but that also challenge the audience’s beliefs. Core beliefs –those that fundamentally shape people’s identities—share universal emotions and interpersonal relationships. Where political discourse constructs compromises through an intellectual understanding of separate parties’ positions, theater encourages sympathy through emotional connectedness. In this way, wouldn’t theater facilitate political discourse? As JR, a French street artist, said: “In some way, art can change the world. I mean, art is not supposed to change the world—to change practical things—but to change the perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world . . . Actually, the fact that art cannot change things makes it a neutral place for exchanges and discussions and then enables it to change the world” (21:39).

A Bright New Boise is one of those tremendous plays that entertains and challenges. Regardless of religion, you will laugh . . . a lot. Yet if you cast a sideward glance at fundamentalist Christians, you will second-guess whether to think of them as Will says as “bigots, fanatics, hicks and idiots and to mock and to insult their beliefs.” In fact, leaving the theater, you may sympathize with Will and want to explore why exactly people cling tightly to their religious beliefs. In a society in which people pray for the Rapture, atheism is growing, and politicians tout Islam as a trait of enemy countries, isn’t this important?

~ Felipe Cabezas, “Leroy” in A Bright New Boise


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Remember good old (no pun intended) Harold Camping? He told us the world was going to end on May 21st, with all the “good souls” raptured up to heaven while the rest of us encountered plagues, earthquakes, etc. etc. Well after May 21st came and went with no apparent changes, Camping told the media that May 21st was a “spiritual judgment” and the actual Rapture would now occur on October 21st. A “snooze button apocalypse” if you will—thanks Alexandra Petri. (PS- check out the shoutout to the Boise playbill in the article hooray!)

Well today is October 21st—I’ve been searching for weeks to see if there would be as much hype this time around: trending Twitter topics, post-Rapture looting Facebook pages, Non-Rapture parties, pet rescue services, hey even Woolly joined in and had a Non-Rapture discount on our Season subscriptions!

I’ve been following this story today and tweeting out some funny things I read, here is a sampling:

  • Many ultra-religious people don’t believe Camping because they say the Bible says the date of the Rapture is unknown.
  • With this website  people can fill out a Power of Attorney form for $100 to decide who to leave their possessions to in the case that they’re Raptured.
  • In September 2011 Harold Camping was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize (parody of the real Nobel Prize) for “teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.”
  • Apparently today is when the October LSAT scores come out today, hence why some say the Rapture is coming.

@TheLocalGinger: Not wanting to brag but i’ve survived about 5 raptures now. #rapture

@TheatreRo46: Cannot decide what to wear for the #Rapture this time. Know I have to leave it behind; but, I do want to look my best when He gets here.

@RaptureHelpDesk: You are allowed two carry-ons for the #RAPTURE today, small animals are counted as one…

We even had some casualties in our own theatre today…(see end of album).

In addition, because we want everyone to see A Bright New Boise before the world ends, we want everyone to stampede to Woolly tonight: ALL REMAINING SEATS FOR TONIGHT’S PERFORMANCE ARE BEING SOLD AT THE PRICE OF A STAMPEDE SEAT- $15!! Yes, that’s right you heard me correctly. Use code 1428 in person, over the phone (202-393-3939), or online at

Until next time…(maybe)

~Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager









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Retail Fairytales

Welcome to the world of retail: where the customers are relentless, the hours are few and far between, your manager is from hell, and you have to work on the weekend. Today we’ve got some Woolly retail fairytales for you:

  • A Brooks Brothers’ Bark: “I worked with a 50 year old guy who would start barking whenever a hot girl walked in.”
  • Cinderelly, Cinderelly: “When I worked at Le Gourmet Chef, I had to mop the floors at closing every night. I felt like Cinderella. My fairy godmother never came to rescue me.”
  • Caught Red-Handed (almost): “I used to work at a small boutique chain that was slow in foot traffic. There were days where less than ten people would walk in (one of my jobs was to actually keep an hourly tally of who came in), so I would get very bored. When there wasn’t any re-organizing or cleaning to do, I would try on clothes. Now, this was started by my boss and fellow employees who would ask me to model new clothes for them. However, it probably isn’t the best idea when you are running the store solo. There was a bell on our door so I could hear when someone came in, but there were a few times where I had to rush to get some clothing on before a customer (or my boss) saw me trying on merchandise. Luckily I came out of the dressing room fully clothed!”
  • Sir, are you alright?: “I work at a Coach Outlet, which has a history with the five finger discount. Recently, an awkward man came in to shop for his wife, which is a totally normal occurrence. He denied any help looking for an item and browsed on his own. He stood by one area for a while interested in one type of purse. I noticed him struggling for about 20 minutes hunched over in a very odd position. I notified my supervisor, who went over to ask him if he needed help. He had said he was fine, but he looked like he was in pain. It was soon obvious that he was trying to hide something. My supervisor asked him several questions and finally confronted him. He had been trying to stuff a very large purse up his shirt. In order to do this, he had to take a lot of stuffing out, which was noticed after he left. He denied trying to steal, and finally gave up, leaving empty handed. You don’t think anyone’s gonna notice a pregnant man walking out of the store??”
  • Can’t get enough of the golf game: “I worked at a golf store where one old guy would come in every Sunday to just sit and chat to me and my friend that worked there. He would talk for hours and not buy anything. Two years later, I stop by the store and he’s working there…guess he wanted to start being paid for coming in every week!”
  • The Customer is Always Right: “I worked at a women’s boutique where several men who would come in shopping for their significant other, or just to browse. An elderly gentleman came in once and gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten while working retail. He told me ‘If you only do one thing in life, you need to go to Times Square for New Years Eve.’ I thought it was funny at the time and I did take it to heart, but now I feel like he might have been trying to tell me to get out of retail. I have yet to fulfill this goal.”

Care to see what working in a Hobby Lobby is really like? Check out the pros and cons of Hobby Lobby life so generously given to me by our Woolly Literary Assistant Cameron Huppertz. The cons of “slave labor” definitely outweigh the pros of Christian themes, but there are some voices in the reviews worth checking out that are similar to Will, Leroy, Alex, Anna, and Pauline.

Those of us who have worked in retail know it’s an endless monotonous mountain of folding t-shirts, labeling, and register counts. But there are some who find reward in retail. In A Bright New Boise, Leroy even goes so far to make his work day exciting by deliberately making customers uncomfortable with FUCK tee shirts.

Got any retail horror stories? We’d love to hear them! Share on our blog, or tweet it at us with the hashtag #RetailFairytale.

You can also follow this week’s conversation on Twitter: Awkward workplace conversations. Have you been involved in any? What was it about? Where do you draw the line? Be sure to use the hashtag #WoollyBoise!

~ Noel Edwards, Marketing and Communications Assistant

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Apocalyptic Art Through the Ages

Creating art about the end of the world doesn’t seem the most cheerful or popular subject, however, this past weekend, I was reminded it’s a theme that is often used for artistic inspiration. As much as I’d like to compose a multi-page paper on the topic and do my BA in Art History and Dr. Ayer proud, I’ll keep myself in check and limit this to a very brief overview.

This past Saturday, a friend and I visited the Maryland Renaissance Festival, as part of an annual ladies’ outing (yes, we dress up, it’s more fun that way. You should check out my ridiculously awesome hat in Woolly’s Facebook album.) One of the first booths you encounter through the gate, to your right, is Pyrated Prynts, a fine purveyor of Renaissance reproductions. I’m always drawn to the store, particularly the Albrecht Dűrer prints. He was a German engraver, painter, and printmaker who lived from 1471 to 1528 and is considered one of the primary artists of the Northern Renaissance. While Dűrer’s artwork addressed both secular and sacred topics, he did a series of 16 woodcuts with the Apocalypse as the subject, one of the most recognizable being The Revelation of St John: The Four Riders of the Apocalypse.

The print depicts, from foreground to background, Death, Famine, War, and Conquest. John’s writing in the Bible describes the riders on varying-colored horses but as the piece is in black and white, Dűrer relies upon symbolism and personal characteristics to identify the riders. Death and his horse are emaciated and he carries a trident, which has now been replaced by the more commonly used scythe.  Famine carries scales that would be used to weigh bread during times of need. War carries a sword and wears armor while Conquest holds a bow with arrow drawn. I really enjoy this print, not so much for the subject matter but for the incredible amount of detail, the impact of the black ink and white spaces, and how dynamic the characters are. I think the Beast eating the clergyman in the lower left-hand corner is a nice touch, commenting on the equality of the end times affecting both the weak and the powerful.

The following day, Sunday, we hit up the Smithsonian American Art Museum and browsed several exhibits. On the first floor, they have a great permanent display of American Folk Art. These were folks that, unlike Albrecht Dűrer, did not study under great artistic masters and have workshops or studios devoted to their livelihood of creating pieces. These were people who often created art with found materials in their spare time, drawing from their personal experiences and basing them on subjects that meant a great deal to them. There are several pieces that have religious themes, particularly about the Apocalypse, Revelations, and the Tribulation. The work And the Moon Became As Blood by the Reverend Howard Finster is particularly striking.

Painted in 1976, Finster illustrated passages from Revelations, incorporating the text into the painting. Although, if you were unable to read, you could gather very quickly that the work was primarily about blood and that the end of days would involve a large quantity of it. The cartoonish quality of the art and the addition of color makes the painting less intimidating than Durer’s print. For people who are unfamiliar with the Bible, this might be more approachable and render an audience more open to Reverend Finster’s message of redemption through Christ.

It’s very easy to type “apocalypse” into Google and plethora of images are the result. As I was doing research for this post, art from the video game Fallout 3 would come up and I was reminded of the controversy about the promotion of its release in Washington, DC. Bethesda Softworks, the company who wrote the third installment of the Fallout series, bought out the Metro Center station for a month around the release date of October 28, 2008. There were floor clings, banners, and, probably most attention grabbing, illuminated dioramas containing screen captures  from the game, which happens to take place in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear-ravaged Washington, DC.

The reaction to the ads was mixed which reflects my own personal feelings to the ads. On one hand I really like the muted color palette, the creativity of distressing items with which many of us are familiar, and the social commentary that nothing is sacred, buildings are not indestructible, even landmarks. On the other hand, it’s disconcerting to see the city I live and work in destroyed. In today’s security climate, is a genuine possibility we all live with every day and we’re reminded by the suspicious packages, the bomb threats, the white powder, jersey barriers, bollards, checkpoints, and law enforcement with tactical shotguns, to name a few.

In reminding us of our mortality, these images from a video game are really no different than the enamel painting on fiberboard of a Southern preacher or the meticulous woodcut print of a Renaissance-period German. Whether or not the agent or agents of the end of civilization are four horsemen and rivers of blood or a nuclear explosion, the apocalypse has been and will continue to be a subject that compels people to express themselves through many artistic media.

~ Kate Ahern Loveric, Graphic Design & Web Manager

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School Yard Drama: Internal Clashes Within Religion

It would be a gross generality to assume that if you all belong to the same school, you all love and accept each other without exception. Yet like a school, there will always be throw-downs during recess, on the black top, as different groups’ opinions clash and tensions rise.

So… maybe I’m kind of lame at metaphors.

In A Bright New Boise, Anna (played by Kimberly Gilbert) is a sweet Hobby Lobby employee who identifies as being Lutheran, enjoying her church life because it’s “nice” and “it’s not all about hell and sin and whatever.” On the other hand, Will (played by Michael Russotto) believes that going to a liberal church like Anna’s means a one way ticket to hell for not “standing for truth” as he does. Both of these characters belonging to the same school of belief, and yet they come into contact with each other in a rather violent fashion.

I grew up understanding that internal clashing within religion was just something that occurred, that it was completely normal and something that faith-centered people deal with regularly. When my mother was young, growing up as a Jew in New York City, she encountered numerous clashes between the way her family practiced Judaism and the practices of the Hasidic Jews. She told me a story recently about how her and my grandmother were walking down the street on a Saturday afternoon and an older Orthodox Hasidic man called out to my grandmother in Yiddish. Because the Yiddish language is so intertwined with Jewish culture (since the word literally translates to “Jewish,”) the man had to have made a swift judgment call and assumed that my grandmother was, in fact, a Jew herself. The man asked my grandmother if she would turn on the heat in his apartment for him—and much to my grandmother’s chagrin, she obliged. The crux of the issue here, of course, is that on the day of the Sabbath in the Jewish religion, one is not to do any “work” and is strictly instructed to rest. Some Jews, like my mother and grandmother, take Shabbat seriously as  a day of reflection, and rest, but there are Orthodox laws that prohibit any kind of work—from writing, to plowing, to (most importantly) lighting a fire. My grandmother was insulted that this Hasidic man would shout at her on the street and assume that she was a bad Jew on the Sabbath and would help him cheat the rules for him.

The Orthodox versus non-Orthodox Jewish conflict is just one of many internal disagreements. The Episcopalian Church disagrees about the acceptance of homosexual members and their role within the congregation and Catholics had their own internal disagreements during the Spanish Inquisition. What it all comes down to, for me at least, is the interpretation of truth and the judgments you make based on that truth. What kind of truth do you stand for?

~ Melanie Harker, Connectivity Assistant

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Favorite Childhood Crafts

I went to sleepaway camp for 11 years. What does this mean besides I’m a pro at jacks, coming up with rainy day activities, and memorizing song lyrics for alma maters? I’ve done A LOT of crafts. Take a visit to my parents’ house and you’ll see tons of clocks from the woodshop, paintings, pottery, friendship bracelets—you name it I’ve made it. In honor of the Hobby Lobby setting of A Bright New Boise, I figured I would make a list of my top 10 favorite childhood crafts. Here we go:

#10: Lanyard: You know, there was the “box stitch,” “chinese staircase,” “cobra,” etc. You can also do these stitches with string in the place of lanyard.

#9: Bead bracelets: Yeah, pretty self-explanatory.

#8: Watercolor paintings: My mom says I used to make a ton of these and then frame them as gifts for my family.

#7: Painting shells: Whenever I’d go to the beach one of my favorite activities was to come home and paint the shells afterwards.

#6: Googly eyes: I’m not really sure what was so fun about googly eyes but this was another staple of my childhood. On popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, etc.

#5: Ceramics/clay projects: I meant to take photos of some of the ones in my house when I was back in NJ this past weekend (#fail) but I do have lots of these. I also used to love those birthday parties where we got to make these.

#4: Collages: For my mom’s birthday one year I made her a photo collage of my siblings & I in the shape of the word Mom. Yeah, I was that cool.

#3: Tie dye: There are few things more fun than tie-dying. My sorority in college even had a tie dye event to raise money for our philanthropy. *Disclaimer: be careful with the laundry…might have found that out the hard way.

#2: Hot loops: Come on ladies, you remember these. You put the loops over your fingers to make neon colored scrunchies, bracelets, and headbands. See:

#1: Perler beads: This was my absolute favorite rainy day activity. Making all these bead projects with the shapes they gave you, or in my more creative days using the blank square/rectangle and making my own designs out of it. See:

As part of the social media activity surrounding A Bright New Boise, we’ll be asking our followers on Twitter a question at the beginning of each week pertaining to the show, and we invite you to respond to us (use the hashtag #WoollyBoise). This week, you guessed it, the question is: What is your favorite childhood craft?

Follow us on Twitter and let us know!

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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