Who’s Afraid of Sylvester Goat?

Creative Capital is a New York-based art-funding organization. They’ve been around for ten years and have been increasing their funding levels every year. They also provide the Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, which is a weekend workshop retreat. The city of San Antonio (through our Office of Cultural Affairs) has sponsored this program for three years so far.

It’s an intensive program geared to make artists look at their creative life in a new light. As a business. Creativity is all fine and well, but there are pragmatic necessities that can’t be ignored. For instance, what is your time worth? And this isn’t always a dollar figure. Maybe it’s more important for you to cut down the hours of your day job — thus sacrificing income — to give more time to work on your art. Or maybe you just need a longer buffer zone between your professional work-a-day life and your artist life. But, of course, money is important. Is there a way to transition out of this weekend artist life with a supporting job into becoming a full time financially stable artist?

There are times when the CC retreat slides into a cultish realm along the lines of EST or Bible Camp (’cause they are indeed pushing an ideological agenda … though it’s not so bad; the bottom line is, what is it that you, the artist, needs to continue to make your work?) They provide a lot of workbooks as well as conceptual tools, such as time-tracking; one year and five year plans; writing your own obituary; and other basic life-hacking tools to break us out of our old and unsuccessful patterns.

Anyway, I was selected for the Creative Capital PFP in 2008. And the 2009 recipients were tangentially engaged in the retreat last weekend. Saturday night we had a potluck at Joe Lopez’s famous Gallista Gallery on S. Flores. Alums from 2007 and 2008 were invited, as well as the fresh meat, those from 2009 … and those boor bastards still had another day of grueling workshops and self-revelation.

It was a wonderful night. First off, Joe Lopez is the best host you could hope for. He was a 2008 alum, like me. A truly good human being — a respected elder in the San Antonio Chicano arts community. Also, I just love his art work!

The place was filled with so many great people from the San Antonio art community.

At the bash were Oscar Alvarado, Dora Pena, Ann Wallace, Guillermina Zabala, Estevan Arrendondo, Julia Barbosa Landois, Erik Bosse (that’s me!), Ilze Dilane, Donna Dobberfuhl, Rex Hausmann, Deborah Keller-Rihn, Jose Luis Lopez (that’s Joe Lopez), Roberto Prestigiacomo, Luis Valdaras, Nate Cassie, Dayna De Hoyes, Rebecca Dietz, Rudolf Harst, Modrea Mitchell-Reichert, Victor Payan, Sandra Pena Sarmiento, Ethel Shipton, and Laura Varela.

These are the folks I who I already knew or who I met Saturday night. There were attendees of the Creative Capital retreat 2007-2009 who I know but didn’t show up. And there were folks who showed up, but who I don’t know. But the bottom line is, Saturday night at Joe Lopez’s Gallista Gallery we had a great show of the vitality and powerful diversity of the San Antonio art scene.

One of the folks brought down from New York was Cuban-American filmmaker Ela Troyano. She has come down with Creative Capital all three years. I found her very inspirational last year. And when I was in Newport Beach for the annual NALIP conference earlier this year, she was in attendance. I was cool reconnecting with her in California, and again tonight.

Felix Padron, head of the San Antonio Office of Cultural Affairs, showed up with his wife. He made a very heartfelt speech, praising the Creative Capital experience. I liked that he acknowledged Joe Lopez as a “national treasure,” “one of this city’s most important artists.” I couldn’t agree more.

At some point, Sebastian Guajardo came op and asked me if I’d like to be interviewed as an alum of Creative Capital. Two things to take into consideration. Sebastian is an outrageously charismatic guy recently hired by the San Antonio OCA. I can’t see anyone saying no to the man. Certainly not me. And my friends Deborah and Rose (who had started drinking earlier at Tito’s with margaritas) peer-pressured me into a couple of glasses of Chianti before Sebastian pulled me away.


And so there I was with Sebastian in one of the side galleries at Gallista. Linsey Whitehead of the OCA was standing behind the camera. Sebastian stuck a microphone in my face. I blathered some useless bullshit. I pity the poor bastard who has to edit my nonsense. But Felix, Linsey, Sebastian, and all the crowd at the San Antonio OCA are really working their asses off.

I had a great time. I finally met Shimi’s husband, Oscar Alvarado — he’s a very interesting guy. He credits Creative Capital for his recent and outrageous successes as a public artist.

I also had a chance to catch up with Anne Wallace. I love what she does. And I have an enormous amount of respect for her as an artist and as a person. I’m curious about an upcoming public art project she’s doing for the southern river extension.

It was a good night. Thank you everyone for showing up. And especially thank you Joe Lopez for being our host!


Over the weekend I was at the C4 Workspace. The word was put out for volunteers. I headed over and helped to assemble about a dozen chairs and 14 tables, It’s all IKEA. I still don’t know if the IKEA master-plan is brilliant and very useful, or just plain evil. I love how the stuff is put together — intriguing puzzels. But how long do you think this stuff will actually last? I just don’t know. But we did what was needed to be done. I found myself working with Perla. I like her a lot. If I decide to rent desk space at C4 I really need to know that I will be surrounded by good people in this workspace environment. So far, they’re winning me over.

Below is a picture of tables and chair assembled by volunteers



Sunday I headed over to the Attic Rep Theater, deep in the bowels of the Trinity campus. I’ve only been there on two occasions, but I expect that my third visit I’ll be, once again, opening up the browser on my iPhone, getting to the AR webpage, and reading the incredibly detailed directions. The directions are impeccable, but why is it that I never seem to be able to get my bearings on the campus?

I was there to see the final performance of Edward Albee’s “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” This was the San Antonio premiere. This surprised me at first, because I thought it was an older play. Not so. It first opened in New York in 2002.

Whenever I see a play — particularly one by an iconic playwright — I find myself breaking my response into two spheres. What I thought of the production. And what I thought of the writing.

The production kicked ass. But the characters were unengaging, the plot was overblown, and, quite frankly, the dialogue was not nearly so clever as one expects from Albee.

It’s a story of love, love’s betrayal through bestiality, and the eventual collapse of an all-American family. (Yeah, that’s right — I said beastiality, what of it?) I assume that Albee wants us to see this as a comedy, at least on one level. But if it’s also supposed to be this high (though absurdist) Euripidean tragedy, we really need something more transgressive than a man whose wife leans he’s fucking a goat. When Woody Allen handled the same material decades ago, it was slapstick. As it should be. (Well, as I recall, Allen was dealing with a sheep — maybe a man in love with a sheep is comedy, and the same with a goat is a tragedy?)

Now, I do think the play could be run as a thorough thigh-slapping farce. In fact, Shakespeare would have been incapable as seeing this as a tragedy. I mean, the guy’s fucking a goat. Part of me wishes that the Attic Rep would have gone pure farce. Basically, the goat fucker (let’s use his character name, Martin) and wife would be Rob and Laura Petrie. Everyone loves them. The perfect combination of hip and square. Sally walks into the office and hooks a thumb Rob’s way. “What’s with his long face?” Buddy looks up from Variety. “The wife caught him fucking a goat.” Sally reels back clutching at her throat. Rob shakes his head and says, with a weary smile, “Her name’s Gloria, and she lives in a little pen on a farm up in Bucks County.” Sally croaks, “But this is monstrous.” Rob toys with the keys of his typewriter. “Really? Is it all that different than what you have with Mr. Henderson?” Big laugh from the audience.

It just seems pointless to take a topic which Woody Allen and John Waters understood is racy … for 12 year olds, and build a Medea around it. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be absurdism. But, dammit, why do our great American and British absurdist playwrights create the most bloodless and uncreative story-lines? I blame the New Yorker magazine. Decades ago we began to see less Katherine Anne Porter, and more John O’Hara. Less of the magnificent Southern gothic of Flannery O’Connor, and more of the appalling suburban gothic crap of Cheever and Updike.

Albee takes absurdism and squeezes out the absurd so that it becomes, again, naturalism. The goat fucker … sorry, I mean Martin isn’t setting Sylvia up in some Greenwich Village love nest where he’s carpeted the floor with winter wheat. And don’t expect that the two of them, during their amorous encounters, share a fine Riesling from the same trough before retiring to the circular waterbed in the boudoir. But, nope, he’s fucking a goat in a field somewhere out in the country. Sure sure. Albee has Martin carrying around a photo in his wallet of Sylvia. Absurd? Maybe. But why hasn’t he put his goat friend on his life insurance policy? Why hasn’t he bought adjacent cemetery plots with her? Why isn’t it revealed that Martin has been sneaking around and paying for Sylvia’s pedicures and Pilates classes? I’ll tell you. Because this is half-ass absurdism. I’ll give some points for the bestiality. Hell, who wouldn’t. But we need more than that. This is the 21st century, Mr. Albee! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. If someone doesn’t start fucking a corpse soon, or hot-wiring a UFO for a road trip to Uranus, well I’m outta here! Audiences need some stimulation. And they need it ASAP!

Now if Albee really had los huevos grande, he’d have had his hero on the receiving end of the goat fucking. Let’s push for a rewrite. “The Goat, or Who is Sylvester?” Really, I’m thinking it would have played Broadway a couple of week longers. Just saying.

But I digress.

The cast was great. Andrew Thornton and Rick Frederick were unstoppable together in True West earlier in the Attic Rep season. A little less Rick this time (which was sad), but they were both phenomenal. Gloria Sanchez (who I might have auditioned for a film years ago) brought this spunky Suzanne Pleshette energy to the piece, before the weird and wild deconstruction got into high gear. By that time, she was not just good. She was awesome. Robby Glass, as the teen-aged son had very little to work with. But he sure as hell held his own alongside Thornton’s fantastic energy.


The art design was also top notch. I loved the set. I was sneaking a photo before the play began. Little did I know that this Swedish modern room would be completely trashed by the end of the second act. And the trashing of the set was handled in such a smart and surprising manner.

Plays at the Attic Rep are damn pricey. I paid 20 bucks. But they are always sold out. Why? They give you flawless performances of incredible plays. I have no problem making these occasional splurges.


I’ve been thinking about a film opportunity. There is no pay (of course, I never seem to pursue projects that pay). The concept runs something like this. What movie made you want to be a filmmaker? Take that film, and, with your own special twist, retell it. The run time, I suppose, is ten minutes or less. This is a promotional concept for a local film festival. There are some problems here. Much as there were problems when the Cine Festival wanted to get people to contribute to their Trailer Trash Fest (something like that), where filmmakers produced fake trailers for films. Both concepts place a large onus on the filmmaker to shoot at quite a few locations. I don’t care if this is two minutes or ten, that’s a lot of production to shoulder.

But, still, it’s an intriguing idea. The problem is, I don’t really know when I wanted to make movies. It was a slow-percolating process. I watched loads of classic and foreign movies in my teens.

The other day I was running some classic films through my head. The Third Man seemed a pretty basic story line. Guy comes to another city because an old friend has written him about a job. When guy shows up, he’s shocked to learn his friend has just died. He has arrived in time for the funeral. Next he learns his friend might have been killed. He begins to investigate. It becomes a mystery story. He eventually learns that his friend was actually a criminal, whose activities caused the death a many people. He then learns his friend is still alive. He betrays his friend by helping the police track him down. The friend dies. This time, the funeral is for real. Roll credits.

I’m thinking of taking a San Antonio specific story under ten minutes which can accomplish these plot points, be engaging, and still stand as it’s own story, it’s own film. We’ll see. Did this film make me want to be a filmmaker? Why not? I fell in love with it the first time I saw it.


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