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Unembedded: Jeremy Scahill in Iraq.

No News Like This News

Tommorow (Friday), the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center will debut a new documentary, Independent Media in a Time of War, the third in the Center’s series of films exploring themes related to the buildup to war with Iraq.

The documentary, narrated by Demo-cracy Now! host Amy Goodman, was a collaborative effort of a number of Capital Region filmmakers, editors and producers in the traditional indie-media, DIY style. The filmmakers conducted exhaustive research for the film, scouring a number of print and online libraries, as well as a variety of media archives. The end result, said Steve Pierce, who helped edit the film, is a withering look at the Bush administration’s case for war with Iraq as portrayed by the mainstream media.

“There is a lot of stuff in there that people have never seen because it was on Al Jazeera or it was on international programming,” Pierce said. “The corporate media showed the fireworks over Baghdad, the silhouettes of tanks and soldiers at sunset in the desert—these really glamorized images of war—whereas in Europe and other parts of the world, what they saw were images of kids and women and civilian causalities.”

Besides presenting the horrors of war unseen to American audiences, Pierce said Independent Media offers a rallying call to those unhappy with the mainstream media’s representation of the facts.

“The call to action is to not accept what we’re getting from the corporate media, to challenge what they’re telling us, and to create alternatives,” Pierce said. “The overriding agenda is to encourage people to wake up and start holding some people [in the media] accountable for their responsibility in what happened.”

Pierce said the film is being distributed by the Media Education Foundation, which circulates various documentary films and media literacy tapes to colleges and universities throughout the country. Storied social activists Noam Chomsky, Robert Mc Chesney, Naomi Klein and Todd Gitlin, among others, sit on the 12-year-old organization’s board of advisors.

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist with Democracy Now! who has been unembedded in Baghdad since major conflict began, will be the evening’s featured speaker.

The film will be shown tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 12), at 7:30 PM at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s West Hall. Admission to the screening is by donation and tapes of the film will be on sale. All proceeds will go to benefit the Hudson Mohawk Indy Media Center, which is part of a worldwide network of media activists using traditional and new media technologies to cover global movements for peace and justice.

—Travis Durfee

Changes in Stages

Entrepreneurial ventures have pretty miserable rates of success; artistic entrepreneurial ventures, sadly, face even more daunting odds. The most recent area organization to fall to those odds is Saratoga Stages, the professional theatrical-production company founded by Lew and Pat Titterton (co-owners of Funny Cide) and Bruce Bouchard, the founding artistic director of Capital Repertory Theatre.

Though the company generated critical enthusiasm for their forward-looking programming and their ability to attract well-respected troupes—such as the Barrow Group and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s LAByrinth Theater Company—to the area, the money just wasn’t there. Audience response was favorable; audience size was not. Furthermore, difficulties with fund-raising, the lack of a dedicated performance venue and a slew of other logistical obstacles made the going rough from the very beginning, when the company’s initial production was scaled down to a dramatic reading.

“No home, a terribly difficult winter, a cold start with The Dead Boy, our peripatetic nature, the war, the economy,” Bouchard ticks off. “None of these things helped. When you produce theater, you worry about any two of those things.”

Those challenges notwithstanding, Bouchard is quick to point out that Saratoga Stages did manage to present six professional productions in just over a year, and for only $220,000.

“And that’s everything, from staff to Roadrunner,” Bouchard says. “You can’t get any more cost-effective than that.”

Bouchard identifies the hard work and contributions of his staff and cofounders as primary factors in the company’s artistic successes: “Kudos to the Tittertons for great taste, great vision. We gave it a shot, it didn’t work. That’s it.”

Saratoga Stages will attempt to continue as a volunteer organization, though at present the character and programming of this reconstituted company is up in the air. Bouchard hints that he is looking for new opportunities in the area, but will not divulge specifics.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he chuckles, “I’m being coy.”

He is intent on pursuing the mission of Saratoga Stages in some form, however, and does allow that his next endeavor may pick up where his last left off.

“If I continue doing what I feel pretty strongly I was put on Earth to do, all those relationships are still in place.”

—John Rodat


Photo:John Whipple

Think Ink

Last weekend (Sept. 5 through 7), throngs of tattooed, pierced and otherwise physically altered folks descended on the Hudson Valley’s premiere hippietown for the Woodstock Tattoo and Body Arts Festival. The shindig gave people a chance to show off their own bodily alterations and adornments, and, according to reliable reports, critique other participants’ pins and ink—in often unflattering, even cutting, terms. All’s fair in love and piercing, apparently. (You should see the pictures we aren’t running—the too-heavy fellow hanging by bloody fish hooks was just a bit too much.)

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