Monthly Archives: January 2012

Vegetarian Mammoths

I am the worst vegetarian. Well technically I am just a mediocre pescetarian, since I’m ok with eating fish now. What started out as a personal protest against our culture’s addiction to inhumane and environmentally unsustainable means of food production—a decision made in the wake of breaking up with my hippie-ex—has since relaxed into a mixture of simple personal preference and stubborn persistence. So now I call myself a vegetarian because explaining to people that “yes there is a term for people who eat fish but not other meat” takes too long sometimes.

I’m not strict about my vegetables coming into contact with meat. I even give into the occasional meat craving from time to time. As Woolly Mammoth gets ready for Jason Grote’s Civilization (all you can eat) I find myself reflecting on my own relationship with food. How something as simple as eating, something rooted in our most basic biological functions, becomes increasingly complex as we begin to interact with others.

I, of course, am not the only person in the Woolly office to make the decision to abstain from meat, nor are us veggie/vegans the only people actively deciding to eat differently than the average American consumer. So I thought the approaching opening of Civilization would be a good opportunity to get some of my co-workers’ food stories.

Interview with Rachel Dutcher, Development Manager, Annual Giving

Cameron Huppertz: What term do you use to describe your diet?
Rachel Dutcher: Mostly vegan
CH: When did you start eating vegan?
RD: About four years ago
CH: What motivated that decision?
RD: Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating. Once you know, you don’t go back…
CH: What is the craziest thing some has said to you about your food choices?
RD: Some of my less adventurous family members have asked, “So if you don’t eat meat, eggs, or dairy, then what DO you eat?” To which I responded: “Everything else.” The obvious answer, of course.

Interview with Doug Eacho, Assistant to the Artistic Director and Assistant Dramaturg on Civilization (all you can eat)

Cameron Huppertz:  What term do you use to describe your diet?
Doug Eacho: Vegetarian, though I wish I had a better term. More accurately, ‘A person who does not eat factory-farmed meat and is also poor and thus is a de-facto vegetarian.’ I eat some fish, but (a) rarely, and (b) not most fish—I’ve researched which fish are OK and which are not, and stay pretty strict about that. So ‘pescetarian’ seems more liberal than I actually am. THUS, after some deliberation, I say I am a ‘vegetarian,’ with confidence that our culture knows that this is a slightly fuzzy word.
CH: When did you start eating veggie?
DE: This past July.
CH: What motivated that decision?
DE: Many things. Specifically, the fact that I was moving to a new city/job, and was making a lot of life changes, so it seemed like an excellent time to transform my eating habits. More broadly, like everyone, I know the countless moral reasons to avoid meat: the extreme cruelty of factory farms towards animals, towards the farms’ own workers, the damaging effects of meat’s antibiotics and hormones on public health, mass pollution, the centralized corporatization of food production and distribution, a gross misunderstanding of the way in which humanity should relate to the Earth. I am fundamentally OK with eating animals, but very much not OK with the way we do it. But I knew those reasons for a while before I converted. You can know the right thing to do without doing it; I think this is the state of nearly all meat-eaters in today’s America. I eventually realized that making a firm moral choice—a very public one, that as a form of protest is actually having success in transforming the way Americans eat—is itself an exciting statement, a way to demonstrate the power of the individual will against the black hole of neoliberal culture.
CH: Do you ever break your own rules, and if so for what?
DE: Well, if you regularly break rules, you’re not really breaking your rules, just changing them, right? I am much more lenient in Europe, where the meat production is much more localized, organic, and humane. I also think eating meat on holidays is deeply culturally significant and worth doing: eating the flesh of another as a way to celebrate turnings of time and spinning of planets.

~Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant

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The “American Dream”

We’ve got a new American Dream: it’s not any easier to attain, but it doesn’t require quite as much hard work. You’ll be rich and famous, but you’ll most likely be judged for it.

It’s the American Dream to be a sellout.

Urban Dictionary included this example in one of its definitions of “sell out.” I decided to explore it a little more.

This American Dream doesn’t quite fit the original, but if you think about it in terms of getting the mansion with all its accessories, most people would go to any lengths to get there. In Civilization (all you can eat), there are a number of characters who are trying to make it in a competitive and unforgiving business world. They all make sacrifices, some more of a detriment than others, to attain the American Dream in the big pig Capitalist world.

How far would you go to achieve the new American Dream? Would you go far enough to sell out?

Here are some big examples of those that may have lost sight of their artistic dreams. Now these might not be people we all dream of growing up to be, but most yearn for their celebrity status.

For an explanation on this one and other examples, read this article on the 7 biggest celebrity sell outs of all time.

This one should be easy. They already have an all-expenses paid life thanks to their macho husbands, and they flaunt it on national television for about $250,000 a season.

Ricky Gervais knows he’s worth more than the Golden Globes, and he might start accepting the big gigs he’s turned down just for fortune. Is he selling out?

Nelly is considered a sell out by some who think he has left his real roots for urban hip hop.

There are those that choose not to sell out though. They work hard and achieve success on their own terms. Like Mark Zuckerberg:

and

Steve Jobs, who admitted he admires Mark Zuckerberg for not selling out.

BUT (and I hate to disagree with a guy who really achieved the American Dream), selling out just might be the new way to achieve the almighty American dream.

~ Noel Edwards, Marketing and Communications Assistant

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Viral Videos and Internet Memes

What does it take to go viral?

Something borderline offensive? So ridiculous you want to buy the product? Anything involving really cute kids or hot men (hey Ryan Gosling)?

There’s a hilarious scene in our upcoming show Civilization (all you can eat) that involves a TV commercial with some similar qualities to viral videos we are familiar with.

In that spirit I decided to have some fun in social media-land today and will be posting some of my favorite viral videos and Internet memes from Woolly’s Twitter account, so be sure to follow along and send us your favorites!

Here are my choices:

David After Dentist

Falling under the “cute kids” category, I’ve always loved this video of a seven-year-old boy who has a funny reaction after dental surgery. “Is this real life?”

Charlie Bit Me

Another classic “cute kids” one. Not sure I can add any other commentary here, just watch it.

Old Spice Guy

This is one that’s similar to Civilization in that it started as an advertising campaign and quickly went viral afterwards, propelling Isaiah Mustafa to fame as “The man your man could smell like.”

Potter Puppet Pals

For all the Harry Potter fans out there, the “Mysterious Ticking Noise.”

Shake Weight

Claims to help women tone their arms in actions that appear notoriously sexual…

LoLCats

Moving into the Internet memes category: “I can haz cheezburger?”

Hungover Owls

A favorite in the Woolly office for “mornings after”…I mean no this never happens to us…

Ryan Gosling Tumblrs

There’s pretty much a Ryan Gosling Tumblr for just about every group of people or occupation. Some samplings: Silicon Valley Ryan Gosling, Hey Girl Happy Hanukkah, Is Ryan Gosling Cuter than a Puppy, and of course my favorite: Ryan Gosling Arts Administrator.

Shit ___ Says

The videos that have taken off recently…if you don’t know what I’m talking about you’ve been living under a rock. Like Ryan Gosling, almost every group of people is stereotyped in these videos, which have now been expanded to cities with the brilliant Shit DC Says.

And last but not least my all time favorite:

THE SNUGGIE!!!!

I think the first time I saw this infomercial I was actually sitting on my couch in the middle of winter and knew I needed one of these. A BLANKET WITH SLEEVES! My family currently owns five of them, one for each of us. We’re sick I know…

Happy Friday! Remember to send us your favorites!

~ Brooke Miller, Press and Digital Content Manager

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Howard Shalwitz on CIVILIZATION: Creating a Theatrical Event

As a director, I love plays that don’t just tell a story, but that give me a chance to create a truly original theatrical event. Jason Grote’s CIVILIZATION (all you can eat)—with its interweaving narratives, bizarre dance episodes, and talking pig—is a veritable director’s playground! For me, it comes along at the perfect moment.

Over the past two years, I’ve had four visits to see theatre in Eastern Europe, where directors dominate the scene with their aggressive and highly conceptual approaches to both classics and new work. After soaking in this inspiration, I was looking for a script that was open-ended enough to let me and my collaborators really invent!

CIVILIZATION is especially timely in relation to the election season that’s now heating up. The play looks back at our previous Presidential election cycle: the summer of 2008, just as the financial crisis was unraveling and Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate in the race against Barack Obama. In a series of vivid character portraits, playwright Jason Grote captures the nation’s mounting anxiety about questions of race, about “making it” in a hostile economic environment, and about the sustainability of American capitalism.

Lurking in the background is that talking pig I mentioned above—named Big Hog and played in inimitable fashion by Sarah Marshall. Trapped on a mechanized pig farm with slaughter fast approaching, Big Hog opens the play by threatening the audience with his plan for escape and revenge. When I first read his fiery speech nearly two years ago, I knew that Woolly couldn’t resist producing this play. As the story moves along, Big Hog’s intensity is matched by the emotional desperation of all the characters, including an aspiring filmmaker and two actors, an inspirational business consultant, and a struggling waitress and her 21-year-old daughter. I love them all for their naked longing and raw striving for a better life than the ones they have.

Jason Grote invokes filmmaker Robert Altman when describing the structure of CIVILIZATION. Like Nashville, Short Cuts, or Gosford Park, the play begins with a series of apparently disconnected scenes, and only gradually reveals the web that binds its characters together. Our production will accentuate this structure by presenting a series of “parades” that move from scene to scene. Some of the parades will expand into abstract dance episodes called for by the playwright that provide a thematic lens on the main action—or at least I think that’s what happens, depending on what we learn in rehearsals. Our process so far on CIVILIZATION has been the fullest in Woolly’s history, involving workshops in New York and Washington, and a whole course based on the play with Masters students at Towson University. But once rehearsals begin and our brilliant cast gets to work, anything could change.

That’s why I love open-ended plays like CIVILIZATION. They’re a bit scary, but ultimately exhilarating. I look forward to sharing the results of our investigation with you, and hearing your reactions to Jason Grote’s provocative parade of humans, beasts, and the ongoing project we call America.

~Howard Shalwitz, Artistic Director

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Comedy: A Tool to Ignite Dialogue

In one sketch during Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies, James T. Alfred, Travis Turner, Aaron Bliden, and Scott Montgomery all sit down to watch a Cubs vs. White Sox game on Alfred’s big screen TV.  At the top, you feel like you’re in for a funny scene about Chicago sports rivalries. Then Turner drops the comment, “Man, the Cubs are the N!@#$&s of baseball.”

The tides then change.

What unravels (in tornado-esque fashion) is an in-depth look at racial tensions in Chicago; Cubs versus White Sox, North-side versus South-side, White versus Black. To me, the most fascinating part of all of this is a topic that is so volatile and so taboo in casual conversation can be the base for some of the funniest comedy scenes. (And let me tell you—between Bliden’s nerdy-white-guy awkwardness, Montgomery’s blundering ignorant comments, and Turner’s impression of Montgomery—this scene is tears in your eyes hilarious.)

It’s pretty easy to think of examples of comedians who use their race as fodder for material. Dave Chappelle had “Negrodamus,” Russell Peters uses his Indian heritage and cultural accents to illustrate his acts, and George Lopez has (had?) his self-titled sitcom. All Things Considered host Michele Norris, in an NPR piece about Comedy and Race in America, comments that “…in the world of stand-up comedy, the subject of race is not so much a minefield, but rather a goldmine… because comedy provides a comfort zone to discuss uncomfortable topics–a place where audiences can laugh at themselves and look past pain to acknowledge unvarnished truth.”

Much like in the second act of Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park that we had running this past August, comedy can be a really excellent vehicle to spark conversation about racial tensions when audiences of all races would be more hesitant to do so. While I agree that laughing past the pain can help dig deeper towards the truth, I think that the conversations that should follow (and did in the case of Clybourne Park,) don’t happen nearly often enough.

“I know what you’re thinking,” says Alfred near the start of the show. “How’d that black guy get from all the way over there, to over here? The answer is that… all black guys—all black people are magic.”

So why is that so funny? Or so not funny?

~Melanie Harker, Connectivity Assistant

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