Random thoughts about watching, working and living in the arts, from HMS co-founder and executive producer Scott Silberstein. "In The Moment" offers a quick 60-second read about new ideas, events, shows and productions in the HMS world, and "Adventures In Yes" takes a deeper dive into how art and media reflect, define and inspire our world. Enjoy!

July 7, 2011

Welcome to "Straight From The Arts"

My apologies for the obvious name of the blog, but I'm a straight guy from the Midwest who loves the arts, and it's a point that I make because, according to stereotypes, I'm exactly the guy who is not supposed to love theater, music, dance, museums and so on.

I live in Chicago, I was born in Ohio, I love baseball and football, I listen to The Beatles, U2 and Springsteen religiously, I love Star Wars and Doctor Who, I eat red meat, and I date women. Ask any marketer to define the demographic of arts lover, and they won't include me, and a lot of guys like me, in the team photo. They'll go along with the widely held notion that we don't buy tickets to shows because we're not interested.

That might be true to some extent – certainly not all men are interested in seeing Lookingglass Theatre, Joffrey Ballet or Billy Elliot. Nor are all women. Nor are all guys by definition interested in baseball, wrestling and Transformers 3. I'm no marketing expert, but it seems to me that you can't assume a group of people didn't go to a party because they weren't interested. It's entirely possible that they didn't go because they weren't invited. I bet the experts might be more than a little surprised at how many of accept the invitation. Seriously – it's essentially an upscale party with great entertainment, cool music, great looking women and men, and usually an at least halfway decent bar. Who's not going to accept that invitation?

Among my various job descriptions is television producer, and I recently had a meeting at a prominent cable network on the east coast, which describes its demographic as "Not New York, not LA, but everyone in between." Apparently, everyone "in between" New York and LA, in addition to being homogenous and single minded, is interested in not much more than bounty hunters, hoarders and storage wars. I don't know if you knew this, but I didn't. But I only live here.

OK, hats off to any network that can make money of such a strategy, however narrowly focused and socially obtuse, but you know what else we flyovers are interested in? Theater. I wonder how many people realize, for example, that here in Chicago we have more theaters than they have in New York. I think we love going to theater for the same reason we love going to Wrigley, the Cell, Soldier Field, the United Center or a great old minor league park in Schaumburg. We love great stories with great characters. We like to see people do, feel and discover extraordinary, impossible things. I love sports as much as the next person, but really, there's no better (and cheaper) place to find this kind of experience than in a theater. That's why movies are going 3D – because they want to be more like theater.

I also love dance. I don't mean that I love to dance – trust me, I am among the last handful of people to get dragged out on any given dance floor (although once I get out there I usually wind up having more fun than I thought I would). But that aside, I love to watch dance. You do too, by the way, and I know this because you love music, because everyone loves music, and if you love music, you love dance. Dance is what music looks like, and music is what dance sounds like. Try watching and listening that way, and you will never again have to ask yourself or anyone else, "What does this dance mean?" Seriously, when was the last time you heard the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth and asked, "What the hell does da-da-da-DUM mean?" When did anyone ever say, "Wow, Edgar Winter Band's 'Frankenstein' sure rocks along, but I don't understand it.'" Never. Ditto anything by Miles Davis, the Chemical Brothers or Radiohead. Whatever radio station you listen to, whatever kinds of music you have on your iPod, I guarantee you, somewhere in Chicago, there's a dance company dancing to it. Watching people dance to great music is an incredibly cool way to listen to music.

So yes, this blog is about the arts: dance, theater and music, with a healthy dose of some museum-going thrown in, but it's not about what's "good for you." It's not even about what's "good." It's about what's real. Real music and movement, real stories and pictures, created by real flesh and blood people, right in front you, here in Chicago, tonight and every night, often close enough to you while they're doing it that you could whisper to them, and near enough to them to be able to literally see how hard they're breathing and how fast their hearts are pounding. You don't have to be straight or gay to get turned on by that. You don't have to do be man or a woman, or white or black, or old or young, or tall or short. You just have to be alive. Consider this blog to be an invitation to come see some cool stuff that keeps me up at night. Hope it'll keep you up, too.

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