Sorkin's new HBO show The Newsroom draws similar bogus criticism as his past series By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
I’ve loved the television shows of Aaron Sorkin ever since I was first introduced to the The West Wing by my friend Mariana back in college. We were at her apartment one afternoon and the show came up randomly in conversation. I admitted I had never seen an episode. She turned, grabbed a DVD box that had been lying nearby, and popped a disc into the player. “Don’t blame me,” she said, smiling, “but you’re gonna become obsessed.” She then leaned back on the futon, raised the remote, and hit “play.”
And she was right. It wasn’t just the politics (which I loved), or the fascinating characters, or the wonderful performances. It was the writing. This was a rhythm and style and wit I had never heard on television before. After binging on that show for the next few days until I was caught up, I got my hands on the DVDs of Aaron Sorkin's earlier show, Sports Night and watched all two seasons in one 12-hour sitting. Three years later, in May 2006 when The West Wing was coming towards its series finale, I was excited to learn that a new Sorkin show titled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was set to premiere the coming fall.
I remember watching the pilot of Studio 60 and being awed by the show – the characters, the premise, that opening rant about art vs. commerce (see the video below), the built-in ticking clock (plus a surprise appearance by Donna Murphy – her character disappeared after the pilot) all made me think: this is a show I’m going to love watching:
A small--well, valuable, but small--tribute to a great writer. By Shoshana Greenberg (lyricist-bookwriter)
I had a dream three years ago that Nora Ephron was my cousin and was taking me out to brunch. The next morning I called my mom to make sure Nora and I weren't actually related, and my mom said she was sorry to disappoint. Thinking about the dream now, it probably meant that as a writer I wanted to be related to a very successful one, but I also think the dream reflects how open Ephron was in her writing, as though instead of words on a page or on the screen she were chatting with you over mimosas and eggs benedict.
I did meet Nora Ephron once when she signed my copy of I Feel Bad about My Neck at Barnes and Noble in 2006. Our conversation went like this:
Nora Ephron: So what do you do? Me: I graduated from Barnard College. Nora Ephron: Ah, where my two sisters went. Me: Yes. And now I'm in the graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at NYU. Nora Ephron: Oh, wow. So are you a lyricist, bookwriter, or composer? Me: I'm a lyricist bookwriter in the program. But I also write stuff. Nora Ephron: Great. Me: Thank you. (exit Me.)
This is verbatim. I wrote it down immediately afterward so that I would never forget it. Not a conversation of note but a moment that I of course remember to this day, especially after she passed away this week.
Whether you like it or not... By Geoffrey Kidwell (actor)
Wikipedia describes a “twink” as “a young or young-looking gay man (18–23 age category) with a slender, ectomorph build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair.”
Oh, you’re more of a visual learner? Okay. This is a picture of a twink.
But my friends and I – who are currently living it up on Fire Island – have spent the week wondering…
What happens to a twink when his best days are behind him?
What will become of him?
How does a twink survive when he’s no longer a twink?
Can a twink live a fulfilling life when the smooth skin has wrinkled and the flat stomach has grown a bit of a paunch?
Well, fear not former twinks.
My friends and I stumbled upon a revolutionary theorem.
If a twink does not resist the changes going on in his body - the sagging skin, the slightly less sparkling eyes, the softening core and the need to shop in the adult section – he can metamorphose into a…
But Geoffrey, I have never heard of such a thing?
What in the world is a twonk?
Friends, a twonk is a twink who has successfully gone through the process of twanking.
I know. I know. I’m going too fast.
How about this:
Everyone goes through puberty right? It’s a pretty sucky time in one’s life, but most people come out of it much better off.
Twinks go through a second pubescence known as, “twanking.”
Didn’t know that, did you?
Well it’s true.
Around the age of twenty-two or twenty-three, twinks will notice that their powers are becoming a bit less effective. They are getting a little less attention from older daddy types and they just aren’t feeling as hot as they used to feel.
"Having the goods" is one thing. "Selling the goods" is quite another. The most successful artists rock at both. Amanda Louise Miller (writer / composer / grad student / multitasker)
Artists are corporations of one. We have to be. And what real corporations have entire floors of eager college grads to do, we have to do solo, wearing different "hats" depending on the task at hand.
(Sometimes all the hats I wear feel like this!)
All these hats can result in all sorts of internal "United-States-of-Tara-esque" conflicts(1), one of the most challenging being the balancing act between product and brand.
"Product" is the actual thing we create--and its quality, creativity, and palatability. Having a good product means having an original, artistic point of view and successfully conveying that view through craft and attention to detail.
"Brand," on the other hand, is how we trick coax the world into seeing both ourselves and our product. Brand is embedded in how we package ourselves -- a YouTube presence, for example (here's mine!), a web page, even our weekly postings on awesome, musical-theatre-oriented blogs. ;-)
But when juggling product and brand, most of us, at some point, overfocus on one at the expense of the other. Take the actor who spends big bucks on new headshots instead of on a valuable acting class or the writer who locks themself away from their performers and audience in a cave of perfectionism -- they've both got a floor of their artistic corporation that needs, shall we say, revisiting.
As for me, after an 8-year hiatus in the "real world," I recently went back to grad school to study music composition full time. (PS: Avenue Q was right, and those kids ARE so much younger than me, but more about that another week!) When I started my master's program, I'm pretty sure the rewards I planned to gain were more "brand-" than "product-oriented." But thanks to some gentle butt-kicking from the experiences and teachers I've had so far at OCU(2), I've realized that, for me, grad school is an invaluable opportunity to amp up the quality of my creative work. So, for the next year anyway, I plan to be as product-centered as possible. (See, Dr. Knight - I was totally listening last semester!)
But working on your product -- or your brand! -- doesn't have to mean diving headfirst back into academia like this nerd did. There are all sorts of free resources on the web for folks who want to do some amping up of their own. The bottom line is that we artists have to make a conscious decision to cultivate BOTH the product and brand floors in our "corporation of one" if we want successful, lucrative (!), and rewarding careers. Which floor do you need to revisit?
(1) If you haven't seen the Showtime series The United States of Tara, run immediately to your nearest streaming Netflix viewing device, and start watching it now. Trust me.
(2) Hear Kristin Chenoweth give my school a shout out HERE.
AMANDA LOUISE MILLER is a non-traditional graduate student, working towards an MM in music composition at Oklahoma City University. Currently, she is living the life of a summer-vacationing vagrant, spending most of her time on the road between her family and friends in Nebraska, and her apartment in Oklahoma City, with her chinchilla, Fosse, reluctantly in tow. www.amandalouisemiller.com EMAIL HER | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | OTHER POSTS BY THIS AUTHOR
This video makes me happy. Two Push Two Productions (2P2), a delightful video company that illustrates stories via stuffed animals, just did another video for a Caspar Babypants (a.k.a. Chris Ballew of The Presidents of the United States of America) song (check out their first collaboration here). Upbeat, quirky and cute, The Frogs shows us leaping frogs and "hoppy" music.Silly and fun, unique and charming, this one is geared more towards the parent/kid set than some of the other great videos (and they are all awfully sweet) - what's not to love? Happy froggies!
So happy Summer, folks. Let's jump!
For Two Plush Two Websites and more of their enchanting videos go: here and here.
It's only child's pose in the middle of Times Square. By Rachel James (Treasurer/Writer)
The summer solstice was last week, and I decided to welcome it by getting up at 6 in the morning to take the D train to Times Square and do some yoga in front of the red steps at the TKTS booth.
I sold merch for Wonderland... so that’s why I have that shirt... Glad we cleared that up...
I met up with my friend and we made our way into the pedestrian plaza to find some spots. Luckily we got there about an hour early. Otherwise we might of found ourselves using cardboard flats on top of a ledge.
(I use yoga to balance, but that shit’s ridiculous.)
As terribly hot and muggy as the weather was last week (as Miles showed during his Bikram demonstration), starting yoga at 7:30 am turned out to be in our favor. The sun hadn’t risen to its full potential, and the buildings turned out to be wonderful shade for my pasty white skin.
On Saturday as my songwriting partner (Sean Havrilla) and I were tweaking the opening number to our new musical (F*#KING BEAUTIFUL) we somehow got sidetracked by the Madonna/Lady Gaga feud.
Sean quickly took sides with Lady Gaga, while I defended my queen, Madonna, but somehow my side-comment about a titty-flash became a larger discussion about artistry vs. fame, and more importantly; who was more famous.
The truth is, I spend way too much time thinking about things like this. Fame, as Lady Gaga would put it, is a monster, and has nothing really to do with artistry. Fame can be a short fifteen-minute visit or consume someone’s entire identity, as they become martyrs to it. It has become very clear to me that the world needs a way to measure this phenomenon called fame, and so I present to you: David Davila’s Five Levels of Fame.
I just had the pleasure of being hired to produce the workshop of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's musical HERE LIES LOVE up at Williamstown Theater Festival in collaboration with the wonderful Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Public Theatre.
Photo by Janelle Velasquez
It truly was a unique theatrical experience...and I'm excited to see the work we accomplished fuel the fully realized production at the Public in the Spring.
Now, after 6 or so weeks of pre-production, a week and a half of nyc rehearsals and 3 weeks in residency up in Massachusetts, I'm finally back in NY and finishing up my work on the piece...and my body can't handle it.
As anyone who works in theater knows...the collaborative nature of the art form is what makes it at times challenging but also fun. And on this project I was lucky to be with a huge group of awesome people navigating the challenges.
Now my body doesn't know what to do now that its not working 12 hour days and seeing the same group of artists and theater technicians day in and day out. I'll be onto some other things shortly but the drastic drop and lull in constant work and socialization is palpable. (And I live in Manhattan for god's sake!)
So to feed my addiction I'm heading off to spend more time with the folks I just spent 5 weeks of constant time with to see our Associate Director's show at Ars Nova and for likely post-show methadone cocktails with some of the company. (thank you Andrea Hood for this phrase).
You gotta come down off these highs gradually after all.
RYAN BOGNER is a New York based Theater Producer. He has produced Here Lies Love, Yeast Nation, Hurricane, Hater and Hey, You Know What Movie Would Make a Good Musical? among others, and is working towards an MFA in Theater Management and Producing at Columbia University. www.heyyouknowwhatproductions.com