Jan. 5 2011 12:00 AM

Newsmaker Amnesia?

In your paper’s delightful Newsmaker’s of 2010 interviews - which highlighted the arts so clearly and wonderfully as being newsworthy - Chad Badgero’s interview with James Sanford highlighted, with ironical twists, the issues that were brought up in “An Artist’s Nightmare” at the Renegade Theatre Festival in 2010.

Chad states: “Williamston Theatre and Riverwalk have their own spaces, but other than that we’re mostly an itinerant theater world around here”. In 2005 I invited Chad to our own theatre space here at the Ruhala Performing Arts Center (RPAC). Our conversation that day was centered on having our two theater organizations collaborate together in the spirit of cooperation and to share this space that our theater organization owns. Chad had never thought of the idea and loved it and said he would get back to me next week. He never got back to me. It is ironic that the idea I have been persistently asking for which did not exist when I came into town in 2004 is now spreading like wildfire as all kinds of wonderful collaborations are taking place in our theater community enriching the experience for all of us; even if RPAC is excluded.

It is also spookily ironic that Chad goes on to say “To have a permanent space would be a sign that an organization is seen as being culturally viable. It would show we’re serious about being a part of the community”. The Ruhala Center is an example of how wrong Chad is. We have our own space and always have yet we are excluded from the theatre community theatre awards, the critics do not see our shows, and the arts councils, newspapers, and theater directors in town ignore our work, even when we bring in acclaimed artists from Broadway, from New York and from Europe. It is indeed spooky to feel like you do not exist, when in fact your work is so vibrant and creative.

Yes, our ownership of our theater space here in Lansing shows how “we’re serious about being a part of the community”.

Unfortunately the community that appreciates our work, programs, educational opportunities and performances does not include the theater community – they are simply not a part of what we do as much as we have asked, invited, and offered complimentary tickets throughout the years. No, our community is chock full of people who appreciate the unique qualities and spirit of unity that the Ruhala Center offers.

— Mark Ruhala, Artistic Director Ruhala Performing Arts Center

’Sour grapes’ The 12-22-10 article by Andy Balaskovitz (For The People, by The People) was very optimistic about the future of Public Access TV in the Lansing area. Perhaps I can shed some more light on the subject.

From 1979 to 2007, I produced hundreds of local Public Access programs. I created such series as “Required Views,” “Outdoor Moovies,” and “Lansing Music Access,” to name a few. My volunteer efforts were exemplary and improved as I gained more experience, and, my dedication to Public Access programming for the Lansing community was, if not unequaled, quite apparent to even casual viewers.

When the Office of Community Media released a grant outline calling for high quality Public Access programming from producers who would be held to a high standard of experience and dedication as well as results, I decided to apply.

At this point, readers should note that Mayor Virg Bernero could have kept local Public Access continuing without interruption, and, it is not outrageous to suggest that this delay was politically motivated. Now that the gubernatorial race is over, easily accessible free speech, via local Public Access, returns to Lansing. Coincidence?

My proposal to re-launch “Required Viewing” as a more professional effort and to produce a documentary on Michigan drive in theaters was rejected. Looking at the winning applications, I was flabbergasted.

One winner had no Public Access experience, but, she’s willing to try. Another grant recipient, from Haslett, has no Public Access experience and needs training to use a simple camera and editing program. One winner, without mention of any travel plans, says he’ll produce a documentary on the National Parks of our state. He won even though he plans to produce just one 30 minute program (about nonprofits) per month instead of the required one hour. I wonder how that slipped by? In fact, none of the individual winners have proven themselves locally. All will be starting from scratch.

If this sounds like sour grapes, it is. I was excited about returning to production. Losing out to a group of novice beginners is most perplexing. Did I show the Lansing Civic Center being demolished one too many times? Was the “Required Viewing” airing of the Neo Nazi rally, an event the aforementioned mayor didn’t want us to see a bit too much? Whatever the reason for my being rejected, it flies in the face of the criteria set forth in the grant guidelines.

Weep not for me. I’m having a blast at www.youtube.com/RQVOutdoorMoovies. I wish all the new producers good luck, and, thank everyone who ever appreciated what I brought to this community. Some apparently didn’t.

— Darryl Burgess, Lansing