Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jill Gibson's Open Letter to The Boston Phoenix

I found this letter through a link from Lainey SchoolTree's Facebook page. It's an open letter to the Boston Phoenix (thus the title) about the local arts scene, especially the performing arts, and the what's covered, and what's ignored, by the local media written by Jill Gibson of Axe to Ice Productions. She highlights many undercovered institutions on the local scene, including The Steamy Bohemians (a musical comedy duo of which SchoolTree is half). She focuses specifically on the Phoenix's annual "Best" issue.

Her thoughts are worth keeping in mind every time you read a "Best" kind of poll in a newspaper or magazine. These kinds of things are fun popularity contests, but they are often limiting in scope, and rarely reflect a true consideration of what a scene has to offer. That doesn't make them bad, but take them at face value, mostly as a celebration of shows and artists that you probably already know and read about.

But, before I hijack Gibson's point, here is her letter.

Dear Boston Phoenix,

I noticed that your esteemed paper is once again accepting nominations for “Best of” awards and I wanted to address the gaping void in your categories that irks me every year- the continued omission of underground, queer, and independent entertainment that fills this city. With such strict labels on categories, there is no hope for performers and producers like Vanessa White, Artistic Director of Babes in Boinkland, who produced a show for a second consecutive Christmas season that was attended by over 7,000 people (!) and funded on little more than life savings and the faith of a cast that worked at The Slutcracker because they loved it. There is no room for All The Kings Men, who for 8 years have pioneered a new genre in the queer scene, and seem to be recognized all over the country except for Boston. Though there is room for The Steamy Bohemians in comedy categories, these singer/musician/producers have pioneered the way for neo-vaudeville in Boston, and have certainly done it on more than their incredible comedy alone. There is no room for the legions of burlesque dancers, drag performers, aerialists, physical performers, puppeteers and other creative original artists in Boston who create their ongoing vision every day. And there is no room for shows like my company’s Bent Wit Cabaret, which is dedicated to producing the best variety in this great city and committed to working with these artists with a striking point of view.

All of these performers and producers have no funding and work for free or gamble rent whenever a show comes up, or trade amongst themselves in this flourishing community we have created. There is no sponsorship, no bluehairs, no promotional and media budget. Imagine writing a show, sewing your own costume, writing a press release, balancing a budget, creating a website… it’s amazing the skillsets you gather when you’re only you, but to be an artist you have to be all of those other things too, and work a day job to pay rent on top of it.

Boston is often compared to, and found lesser than, New York City. I choose Boston. I love this city. Here we can produce the art we want to produce. We can have a voice and a point of view, and make up the rules without fear. The independent art and theatre community has been for too long bypassed for “real” theater- and for a group of people that is so proud to continually cultivate the landscape of Boston’s flourishing art scene, it is a slap in the face to not have a place to compete in the “Best of Boston” categories. We create original, creative, affordable entertainment in this community and we rightly deserve a place in your nominations categories. Without us, I sincerely believe Boston would not be the same great city. I ask that you consider including our presence in your nominations.

Most sincerely,

Jill Gibson
Producer & Performer
Axe To Ice Productions

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This letter would have more weight behind it if a) it wasn't ludicrously self-serving, and b) if Vanessa White's "Babes in Boinkland" burlesque troupe hadn't won "Best Dance Troupe" last year entriely on the strength of The Slutcracker.

Personally, I don't want to see special categories for every form of fringe entertainment. I want to see fringe entertainment that's good enough and professional enough to go head-to-head with "mainstream" entertainment.