Theodore Swannz likes a drink — and a fight.
The head of the School of Theatre Arts at New York University has tried to prevent an apparent grad student from slinging punches. She’s threatened to administer chemical castration. She once shoved a member of the Art Directors’ Guild of America. She’s recently stomped on the flag of the fight club, smashing the Stars and Stripes in a stunt rehearsal.
And now, on the eve of her 40th birthday, Swannz and two colleagues are engaged in what amounts to guerilla warfare against an undergrad eager to earn her financial aid — waged in the dingy spare space beneath NYU’s dance studio, located next to the Fall Theatre School.
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Flipping to “preparedness” on the Netflix drama’s website, there’s a simple feature. Tap a button and a little orange dot appears around the plot of the show, suggesting that the show is “about saving the world.” That, or people are hypersensitive to fake explosions.
It’s a clunky marketing solution, but why would this go over so well on a home screen that’s laden with cats memes and matching superhero socks? That answer is as obvious as (a graphic, hoarding habit).
Like most Netflix series, Drawn and Quarterly’s original and far superior entry into the world of potboiler theater reviews also had a bit of a cult following. Or, at least, enough fans over time to make it an appealing commodity when it was getting set to release its third season this week.
The show, which was written by three fellow New York University grads, Jeffrey Bernard, Cottle Persson and James Graham, all have their share of ambition. They know the way to promote the documentary, Dipped in Blood: Theater Professors are Under the Gun, could involve the power of the swipe and search button.
So Swannz was enlisted as a guest reviewer on the Netflix series. The production clip that accompanies the script adds a bit of backstory. Both Swannz and Datedita Chakrabarti, the star performer whom Swannz is filming as part of this episode, once studied the writing and performing techniques of Anton Chekhov.
Mingling highbrow wit with the sweat-inducing morning grind of early morning performance rehearsals is also a part of the show’s appeal.
Of course, Swannz is closer to his reporting on the nationwide “Preparedness” movement in the current episode than he is to his review of a Broadway show. This time, Swannz takes the curation role in part (as he is the only one from this School of Theatre Arts who also contributes regularly to iNews).
The most interested-in-him-not-about-him performance (or “assignment”) Swannz shares is a full-dress examination of the topic in the third episode. It’s a good line about how pre-professionalization has morphed into “preparedness,” but it needs to take a back seat to the two other questions Swannz wants the audience to tackle: “Could we afford to have the theater professional public sector cut off from the cheap private rental sector?” and “Has the rise of the free market in ‘preparedness’ put on hold, or taken a back seat, the efforts to make production houses more economically sustainable?”
That’s a good start, and we’ll be curious to see how Swannz and the rest of the creative team resolves the remaining unaddressed questions (and how much of a dent they can make on the economy).
Written by Jeffrey Bernard, Cottle Persson and James Graham
Directed by Jonathan Blazer
Starring Ming Dang
Slapped on the Netflix profile? You can find it here.