WARNING: The opinions expressed below are DEFINITELY those of The CoLab Theatre Company! Learn more at www.colabtheatre.org!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Art as a Commodity: The CoLab v. Illiterate Corporate Incompetence

I've been thinking about consumerism and the effect it has on the arts. Originally, I had been pondering nuanced thoughts, with a dash of civil intellectual discourse. However, a few days ago, we here at The CoLab recieved an unexpected e-mail message:

Editor's Note: E-mail edited for satirical purposes. I replaced the actual queries with red stuff. As if you needed to know that, but they seem awfully trigger happy with the legal talk...

I've lost interest in civl discourse. These guys are idiots.

For those of you just joining us, last week Mary-Liz posted a less than stellar review of a new Threepenny translation. Nowhere do we ever so much as imply that we produced anything. Moreover, the first line of the post reads:

"Last weekend I went to see The Threepenny Opera at Boston College."

She goes on with phrases such as "Brecht is rolling over." and "Weill is rolling over."

I would have to agree, but on a different topic. Now, clearly this is a misunderstanding. Someone over this large publishing corporation misinterpreted our post and mistakenly believed that we were producing an unauthorized production. That's, fair right? You respond, you let them know the details, they realize their mistake, go on their merry way.

If only it were that simple. For I pose this question: Did anyone actually read our post? Initially, the prospect of legal action was exciting, as Mary-Liz and I put it:

"Holy Crap. I think the Kurt Weill Estate is reading our blog! Awesome!"

But upon further inspection...all you have to do is read the first sentence to realize we weren't producing anything. Moreover, nowhere in that post even suggests that we lifted any fingers beyond typing a critical review (with concern for the wishes of the departed Brecht and Weill, mind you.) This begs the question: Did anyone even bother reading our post before greenlighting that e-mail? Who exactly is running these corporations and what intellectual power do they actuall possess? Don't you have to be literate to hold these positions?

The fact of the matter is, they don't care about us. They don't care about you as an individual and they don't care about the artists. They are looking to protect their investement and secure their monopoly on intellectual property. For all their billions of dollars in revenue, they feel threatened by a small, grassroots theatre company's blog so much that they feel the need to shove legal speak into our faces to get the point across. Don't mess with us. We're bigger than you and have more money than you. And we will not have our profits cut into. But we won't read what you have to say, because we don't even care to use our energy on anything that doesn't make us more money.

A few weeks back, I attended the Quiet Desperation WBCN Rock n'Roll Rumble. This event was organized in commemoration of the now defunct rock and roll institution that was overrun with corruption, legalized payola and corporate control during it's final ten years. Rob Potylo, as well as countless other DJs, witnessed the decline of the once glorious WBCN from the inside:

The people who run BCN beyond the DJs are businessmen. They look
at Nirvana and Pearl Jam no different than they look at oil and gold, they are commodities. They do not know you, they will not be at these shows...

Know that when you’re listening to these f***** stations, there is no such thing as a request. A computer picks it out at the beginning of the day, I’ve seen it. When you call up for a request, if doesn’t f*****' exist. If we happen to be playing Nine Inch Nails, we will play your phone call and
make it look like [we took your request]...

But most of the time, what we are authorized to tell you, because I worked there for three years: “Sure dude, it’s coming up!” So if we f****’ picked up the phone and you were like:

“Hey dude, can I hear a little Darkbuster?”

“Sure dude, it’s coming up!”

But of course, it never did.

So what am I advocating exactly? I'm not entirely sure. I do my part by producing independently, and working with non-profit and start up theatrical ventures. I support my local artists, I go to Broadway to see Broadway, and Boston to see Boston. I try to create new venues for Boston theatrical risk taking.

But that's just me. There's no one path. Go ahead and see Young Frankenstein and other touring Broadway shows. That's your perogative, and I probably will at some point choose to invest my money in those shows. It's all up to you how to make your impact and stand up to these leeches who would take the legacy of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and transform them into commodities.

I refuse to look at Kurt Weill with the same eyes as I look at oil.

I leave you with Rob's words:

The problem with this generation is you guys are cynics and they
want you to be cynics . It’s taken over past comedians. They will tell you that
it can’t be done!

But the fact of it is, if you want support the bands you see
tonight ,the people you see here then f*****’ do it!

Because we give a s*** about you, we come from the same neck of
the woods, we’re not doing country clubs and cuttin’ up this country a little bit smaller for each other.

Be well,


Rob's Speech at the Quiet Desperation Rumble can be found at:



  1. I'm not sure which is funnier:

    The Weill estate confusing a review for an unauthorized production and sending a cease-and-desist order; or someone insisting on the right to make unauthorized productions on the grounds that "Brecht was a socialist and I don't think socialists should care about their intellectual property."