Monday, July 27, 2009

50BC09 #13: Running Theaters

Running Theaters: Best Practices for Leaders and Managers Running Theaters: Best Practices for Leaders and Managers by Duncan Webb

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As books about performing arts administration go, this one wasn't bad. Webb consolidates a lot of good research regarding theater management. However, what was missing was synthesis of the many, many, anecdotes offered by theater managers across the country. Webb's "let them speak for themselves" sometimes left me hanging for a larger point.

There are several chapters, however, which provide a decent overview and would be good inclusions in a course reader. The "Facility Development" and "Audience Development"chapters are particularly good for this purpose.

50BC09 #12: Outliers

Outliers Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Malcolm Gladwell has done it again. In a book both provocative and informative, Gladwell helps us to understand achievement is not only about hard work, but cultural legacy, and being in the right place at the right time. Indeed, when a person is born can predetermine their chances at a place on an elite hockey team. Where a person is born can determine their ability to commandeer a jumbo jet if need be.

Gladwell's revelations may be startling for some, but what is most impressive is his ability to talk about culture in a way that is straightforward and not burdened by politically correct parleying. In a climate where we are supposed to be having unencumbered discussions about culture, Gladwell's book is a step in the right direction. He looks at several examples of cultural legacy with an objective, yet not passive, eye.

As other reviewers have commented, there is a noticeable absence of female "Outliers." While Gladwell does have a wonderful section about his grandmother, it is disheartening that Gladwell didn't take the opportunity to examine a well-known female outlier, particularly since it would have supported the "working against hardship" vs. "timing" hypothesis so well.

That said, we would do well as a society to take notice of what Gladwell reveals and summarizes in this book, as it largely accounts for huge achievement gaps in our educational landscape and our inability to move freely about the socio-economic strata in both the world and the U.S.

50BC09 #11: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery


It is rare that I am so enticed by the back cover of a book that I pick it up in the store, but when I read the synopsis of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I did just that. This book is now in my top five favorite books of all time.
The characters are enchanting, yet real. While I found twelve-year-old Paloma to be a bit overwritten at times, her fellow protagonist, Madame Michel, is so engaging and at once heartbreaking and loveable, that the precociousness of Paloma can be forgiven.
And the book is heartbreaking, but not because of the tragedies, but because of the joy. Life, in all its guises, leaps off the pages and finds places in the reader's heart that may have long been hidden. It is that kind of book.
I'm reticent to say "everyone should read this book" because I think it resonated with me according to my life experiences and my personality (I am Paloma and Madame Michel both). I'd give it a try, however. And I'd stick with it...if the intellectual meanderings of Paloma and Renée get tiresome, read quickly until Ozu enters the scene. Then, if you liked The Time Traveler's Wife, I think you'll find the rest of the book to be utterly compelling.