A flood of emotional telephone calls and e-mail messages ripped through Seattle's dance and new performance scene this Tuesday, as word got out that On the Boards had fired longtime artistic director Mark Murphy. In his 14-plus years at the organization (12 as artistic director), Murphy had built On the Boards into an institution respected around the world, capable of drawing the cream of international dance and new performance to Seattle, while also serving as a launching pad for local artists like Pat Graney and 33 Fainting Spells.
Murphy was fired in a meeting on Monday, April 26, after which board members met with On the Boards' shocked staff to convey the news. A press release sent out by the board Tuesday announced that OTB would "restructur[e] itself under the leadership of a single executive director," eliminating the positions of artistic director and managing director. Sara Pasti, who held the latter post, will stay on as interim manager through September, while an international search for the new position is held.
Little justification was offered for Murphy's firing. According to a source at On the Boards, the organization has exceeded its audience goals since moving to its new home on Lower Queen Anne, and On the Boards' programs at the new space (including Will Bond's Drama Desk Award nominated Bob, Spalding Gray, and a collaboration between Brussels choreographer Meg Stuart and visual artist Ann Hamilton) have been critically well-received. Reaction from local artists was best summed up by playwright and director Bret Fetzer, who said, "I don't know what On the Boards without Mark Murphy will be."
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A friend recently returned from London, where she'd seen a big Chris Burden installation at the Tate, called When Robots Rule. (You may recall that Burden, the notorious '60s performance artist turned installation artist, was originally scheduled for a large-scale retrospective to coincide with the Henry's reopening--an exhibition that was derailed when Henry senior curator Chris Bruce departed.) When Robots Rule is subtitled The Two-Minute Airplane Factory, which is exactly what it is: a mechanical assembly line that, without human workers, manufactures model airplanes from paper, plastic, and balsa wood for museumgoers to take home. Unfortunately, the installation was broken the day my friend visited, and she got no airplane--which reminds us that even when the robots take over, they'll still need us around to fix them.
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Congrats to Aviva Jane Carlin, who's been nominated for a Drama Desk award for her one-person show Jodie's Body, currently running at the Arc Light Theater in Manhattan through the end of 1999. Jodie's Body originated in Seattle, as a commission for a 1994 solo performance festival at Rm 608, the now-closed Capitol Hill alternative arts space run by Matthew Richter. Carlin, then known as Kia Sîan, later moved to New York, where she reverted to her birth name and remounted her show. The Drama Desk, a half-century-old critics' organization which honors on- and off-Broadway productions in New York, has nominated her in the (redundantly titled) One Person Solo Performance category, alongside competition such as Will Bond for Bob (seen this year at On the Boards), playwright David Hare for his monologue Via Dolorosa, and Five Lesbian Brothers member Lisa Kron for her solo show 2.5 Minute Ride. The winners will be announced Sunday May 9.