Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

September 1, 2012

Playing to Two Audiences (what Pixar and digital theater-makers have in common)

Woke up thinking about #scratchr and this question:

How can theater-makers create work for 2 audiences: in-house and online?

I was reminded of Pixar’s “Toy Story”.


Well, I went to the Battersea Art Center’s Hack and Scratch event last night not knowing what to expect.

[Side note: go to the BAC and get involved. It’s amazeballs. Seriously, go now. Go. GO I SAY!]

[Did you go? What’s wrong with you? Maybe you should consider taking part in their immersive theatrical event “The Good Neighbor” (deadline this Monday.) You will? Good.]

Much to my surprise, the night was perfect for me (a solo performer) and my companion (a digital director for non-profits.)

Richard and his producing team were unveiling, the online version of BAC’s famous Scratch events, where artists share works-in-development with audiences for feedback. The site is early beta (it’s the scratch version of!) and needs your input. Go sign in and poke around.

After watching the site presentation, we broke into three group discussions. I chose the conversation led by the lovely Katherine Jewkes on digital theater. A lot of interesting questions were raised and ideas batted about.


The next day, the question that sticks with me is this: How can theater-makers develop work for the audience that comes to the performance space and the one that attends via their web browser?

How can we create performance that isn’t simply broadcast via the internet, but has two unique iterations? That is at home on-stage and online, playing to the strengths and possibilities of both contexts?


I’m reminded of Pixar, and why they make such appealing movies. Pixar’s movie-making mantra is “story, story, story” and every scene they write must play to two audiences: 5-year-olds and 35-years. Because 35-year olds take their kids to the cinema. So Pixar thought, “Why not make a movie that the parents will enjoy, too?”

For example, when Mr Potato Head’s face is knocked off and then reassembled in the wrong order, the kids laugh because his face is funny. The parents laugh when he says, “Look, I’m Picasso!” The scene speaks to both groups.

Analogously, in order to make successful digital theater, performance practitioners should think about their two audiences — the groundlings and the gamers — from the beginning. How can each moment play to both? How can we engage the person looking back at us from the front row and the one watching online, and create a unique, theatrical experience for both?

Pixar shows us that your work can take multiple, very different audiences into consideration, and make work that engages them simultaneously. The line between a movie for kids or adults is false. How can we learn from this example and make theater that work onstage and online?

August 2, 2012

Bach & Buddha

ich habe genug = I have enough.

It’s the title of a Bach cantata and reminds me to be grateful.

AND it’s fund to say. Ick habbuh gah-nug!


June 17, 2012

7 Lessons In Creative Non-fiction from Gay Talese

Some lessons in creating literary-quality non-fiction from a master.  Gay Talese was a journalist whose “innovation was to apply techniques from the craft of fiction to his newspaper and magazine stories, giving them the shape and life of short stories—a style, later referred to as New Journalism, which he originated in his days as a New York Times reporter in the fifties.”

Inspired by the Paris Review’s illuminating interview with Gay Talese, here.

  1. Research deeply: Talese’s innovation was to apply literary techniques to non-fiction. To accomplish this, he had to do unconventional things, like spend days interviewing people in their environment; immerse himself in the world he was trying to describe; spend months finding people who were interesting characters, had interesting stories, and were willing to have their real name used. “In order to get to know these people, and to get in their heads, I felt that I had to be there. More than that, I had to be there in such a way that I didn’t seem different from them. I couldn’t be seen as a journalist…The point is that they had to trust me and I had to trust them. I couldn’t have done it any other way.”
  2. Be curious about other people: “All I have is intense curiosity. I have a great deal of interest in other people and, just as importantly, I have the patience to be around them…I was just interested, endlessly interested, foolishly, unadulteratedly, with unparalleled vigor, interested in all I could do to extend my range, to extend the boundaries of my own particular experience.”
  3. Finds the interesting angle: Talese looks for the stories behind the news and the interesting unnoticed perspective. “Once, at an NYU baseball game, I overheard a conversation between a young couple who were having a lovers’ quarrel. I wrote the dialogue and I told the story of the game through what they were watching and what they were saying. At the St. Patrick’s Day parade, I wrote about the last person in the procession, a little guy who was carrying a tuba, and behind him came the sanitation trucks. I followed the parade from the vantage point of this tuba player.”
  4. Get inside people’s heads: He consistently asks people what they were thinking at the time so he has a non-fiction account of their interior monologue. “When we speak in person I ask him not just what everyone said, but what he was thinking. I always ask people what was on their mind.”
  5. Note your observations daily: At the end of each day of typing up his notes, Talese will type up how he was feeling that day, how he responded to what happened. “[I always record] my personal observations, what I myself was thinking and feeling during the day when I was meeting people and seeing things and making notes on shirt boards. When I’m typing at night, on ordinary pieces of typing paper, I’m not only dealing with my daily research, but also with what I’ve seen and felt that day. What I’m doing as a researching writer is always mixed up with what I’m feeling while doing it, and I keep a record of this. I’m always part of the assignment.”
  6. Let the form fit the story: Gay Talese moved from newspapers to magazines to books in an effort to find the best format for the stories he wanted to tell. “I could not contain myself within the twelve-hundred-word limit of daily journalism. Wherever I was, I thought that there were stories that other people weren’t telling…Other reporters didn’t even see the story, they just saw their job. Yet because it was a daily newspaper I was always being pulled away from these stories. I couldn’t do them at any real depth. That was really why I couldn’t do the job anymore.”
  7. Do the work that other people aren’t willing or able to do: His work is daunting. The time it takes to this quality of reporting is intimidating. And as such there is value in that. He adds value by doing something that no-one else can do, mostly because they don’t have the personality for it. “Original research is difficult and time-consuming…Most of what I gather for my work doesn’t wind up in a book, but I don’t think one can do too much research. All my research is important because it gives me a foundation and a sense of proportion for my subject…In order to get to know these people, and to get in their heads, I felt that I had to be there. More than that, I had to be there in such a way that I didn’t seem different from them. I couldn’t be seen as a journalist…The point is that they had to trust me and I had to trust them. I couldn’t have done it any other way.”
May 14, 2012

Be Shameless and Ask

Sometimes you have to ask.

I saw an opportunity for work exchange — your admin help for free rental of studio space. This is exactly what I need!

Then I saw the age limit: 18-30. Damn. But I wrote them an email anyway. I have to ask. And what’s the worst that can happen? 

I’ve copied my plea, er, email below. xCW


SUBJECT: I have to ask


…even though I already know the answer.

Hi, I’m Chris Wolfe, arts entrepreneur and solo performer.

Nice to meet you. Saw the brief for [this project] and think it’s an amazing work exchange opp.

I just so happen to have edited and done motion graphics for an Emmy*-award winning US TV show in the US. And I’m a writer (even won an award for that.) And hey I do database/supporter services consulting for a living, if that’s needed — Oh I’ve got a nice smile, too.

THEN I saw it was ages 18-30.

You can see where this going, can’t you?

And I know what you need to say: “Yes, Chris, you sound nice and are undoubtedly good-looking, but the rules are the rules, and while we don’t want to be all Logan’s Run about this to someone who is only 2 years too old, we have to say no.”

I get that. I really do. But I want to make a counter offer. That outside the scope of this [project] you consider “paying me” to do some work for you. I can even give you a better rate of exchange.

I’m quite good (I know that’s immodest, but I’m American, so you understand) and I have big plans for the next 6 months: Expanding my one-person show (Generation 9/11, about how a generation was defined by 9/11 at a distance via TV, internet, and phone) online to create a ground-breaking digital space for sharing international perspectives — the end result being a viral performance that can be performed by anyone, anywhere, including the Middle East/North Africa region (where another Generation 9/11 led the Arab Spring.)


I need this.

Thank you for listening.
I understand if you need to say no.
I understand that flattery will not work.

…but it’s still worth mentioning that you are all undoubtedly good-looking.

Best, Chris

May 10, 2012

Focusing on one project at a time: Part 1

Last Thursday, I decided to focus all of my attention and time on starting-up my own database consulting business.

My theory:

  • By monofocusing on setting up my business, that I can be 80% of the way there by the time I finish
  • The remaining 20% of the work — chiefly contacting, following up and meeting with clients — is largely a waiting game, and can be run in tandem or on the margins on other work.

It was an experiment. I was testing:

  • If focusing on one thing made me more effective, helping me to crest the learning curve more quickly
  • If I could sustain a 7, 10, or 14 day push and how that felt.
  • If I could master the legal requirements of becoming self-employed, setup my website and other marketing materials, and meet with colleagues and potential clients.

For the last 7 days, that’s all I’ve done. And it’s all I’ll do through Sunday.

The results? So far, it’s been successful, but not fun. I’ve gotten a lot done in a short period of time, and accomplished all of the business tasks I set for myself. But pushing this hard is partially responsible for the cold that showed up today. Life hasn’t been particularly enjoyable, as the most important things to my happiness — my close relationships, being physical, and meditating — have moved to the back burner.

I’ll post more on this soon, as the big push winds down. I’m looking forward to Monday and Tuesday, which I’ve designated at my weekend.






May 7, 2012

Unlearning how to write a play

In the past:

  • Plays were the source of theatre.
  • Plays were written by one person alone in a room.
  • The timeline of taking a play from creation to performance was long.

The internet and evolving theater practices are helping us to change this.

Plays no longer need a playwright; much of the most interesting work is devised.

The internet can be used to source material from people all around the world; I can interview someone in China via Skype and translate their story to a monologue.

Performances can be created more quickly in response to real-world events by theater companies that engage communities (eg Tricycle Theatre’s The Riots.)

How we write plays and create theater is evolving: What are some examples you can think of?

May 2, 2012

Be your own coach

If you’re berating yourself for making a mistake, it can be helpful to ask yourself the question: “If my friend made this mistake, how would I respond?” Most often, you’d treat your friend with more kindness than yourself. Asking yourself this question gives you perspective.

Similarly, if I’m stuck — lacking direction, feeling unmotivated or indecisive — it can help to ask myself, “If my friend came to me with this problem, how would I help them?”

You can be your own coach. Simply asking yourself this question gives you some perspective; often, that’s all you need to bust through what’s blocking you.

A personal example: I just finished up a major, time-consuming project: getting my solo show edited and on a DVD with a nice menu. I’m proud of the result, but it took me over two weeks of constant work to get it done: now I’m completely disconnected from what my show needs next, not to mention my other projects.

I took a 2 day break so that I could look at the show with fresh eyes. But when I sat down with the project this morning, I was  overwhelmed with questions: Do I work on this, or this, or that? How can I balance performing/creating with marketing myself? Can I afford to focus all my time on my show, or do I need to be thinking primarily about my next freelance paycheck?

Fortunately, I’ve done this enough to recognize the problem. To get perspective and breakthrough this block, I did 3 things:

  • Conversed with friends: Often my friends have excellent insights into my problem. More often, the simple act of talking about my plans outloud to someone who’s willing to listen gives me clarity.
  • Wrote in my journal: Again, externalizing all of my thoughts is key. The advantage of writing is I can vomit it out without worrying whether I’m making sense, than review  what I’ve written for patterns. Also, there is something about writing pen on paper that helps me dig deeper.
  • Got perspective: Asked myself, “If a friend came up to me with this problem, what would I tell them?

Now it’s lunchtime and I have 2 sets on plans: one for my show and one for my day job. My next steps are clear: After lunch, I can go and start taking action on them.

Be your own coach: Where are you stuck right now? If a friend came up to you with your problem, what would you recommend they do?


April 28, 2012

Why smart and creative people are bad at habits (and what to do about it)

Because they’re too creative and smart for their own good.

They think. Too much. They mistake knowing something, with understanding something.

I’ve talked to many people who say: “I really ought to run/write my novel/take Amish quilting lessons. I know I should, but I can’t make myself do it.”

Here’s what I’ve learned and seen other people practice successfully: Do it until it feels good.

It took me 10 years to start a regular yoga habit — 10 flippin’ YEARS. I’d sit there, between years 1 and 9 thinking “I know yoga is good for me. I know I like how I feel after it’s done. I’ll do it.” And then I’d sit there and not do it.

This was immensely frustrating: I knew yoga would make me feel good, so why couldn’t I do it?

Do it until it feels good. That’s what I did in year 10. I started with 5m, everyday, first thing in the morning. 6 weeks later I was up to 20m. Now, I cannot NOT do it.

Why? Because I don’t only KNOW it feels good (in my creative, squirrely, mental brain) my body UNDERSTANDS that it feels good.

My body is slow, but wise. When it learns something it holds on to it. My brain is smarter, but has 1000s of thoughts running through it a day.

Smart and creative people are often disconnected from their body. It happens when you get lost in thought, or excited about creative projects where your mind in spewing forth inspiration. Also: if you’re smart you can spend too much time deliberating: Should I run, do yoga, or bodyweight exercises? Would it be best to edit my 4th chapter, work on the end, or outline the middle?

Stop. Do it. Do it now. Do it until it feels good.

Creative people find consistency challenging. Routine is boring. It’s uninspiring. I know people who can write a screenplay for 9 hours straight when the muse hits, but can’t do 5m of writing a day for 5 days straight. Unfortunately, consistent routine is how our bodies learn.

So just frickin’ do it now. Until it…what? Feels good.

I’ve seen this work for others, again and again: A friend, not running for years, thinking she couldn’t run, downloads an audio guide called Couch to 5K. She’s run 2 of them now. It’s not that she doesn’t fall off the wagon. But now she misses it and is motivated to get back to it again, because she knows it feels good.

What do you wish you did more of? Do it for 5m today and for the rest of this week. And then 10m the next. And keep doing it for at least 4 weeks.

Do it until it feels good.



March 11, 2012

Quote: Excellence vs Perfectionism

“Striving to be your best can be very positive as long as your goals are realistic, they move you forward, and they provide you with satisfaction from the efforts at self improvement. Perfectionism becomes a problem when your goals and expectations make you feel worse instead of better or leave you always unsatisfied and self critical because perfection is always out of reach.” – Howard E. LeWine, M.D

March 11, 2012

Stop working hard

Work smart, not hard. Easy to say, harder to do if you measure progress as how hard you work.

I realized in January that I experience progress as an internal feeling. That is, feeling like I’ve made progress is more important that actually getting things done. And it means that if I don’t work hard, I never feel like I’ve made a sufficient amount of progress.

In short: If work is ease-y, it doesn’t feel like I’ve worked hard enough.

“We do not trust the effortless way. We seem to have absorbed through our very pores the notion that there is some unnamed merit in the hard way. We credit as”real” only that which we do on purpose, which takes teeth-gritting effort. We belittle or ignore that which we do without deliberate intention, that which seems to happen. If we cannot take credit for the doing, we discredit it.”

–Denise McCluggage, The Centered Skier (via The Perfect Wrong Note)

The formula for my current way of measuring progress: Distance = Effort. This is confused. Would you measure the distance of a hike by how hard you walked? You walk the same distance coming down a mountain as you did going up it, even if the former feels easier.

I’m trying to rewire how I perceive progress, by:

  • Setting objective, external ways of measuring progress
  • Picking a most important thing (MIT) to do each day;  everything else is a bonus.
  • Accepting that I’ll almost always feel like I haven’t done enough, and that a) that’s okay and b) it’s not accurate.

How do you measure progress?