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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Friday, August 12, 2005


Random thoughts from an over-tired mind:

  • I once did a monologue for acting class from Eric Overmyer's overlooked play Native Speech...I played the Hungry Mother part...a kind of deranged dj obsessing on America.


  • I'll never forget seeing an evening of one-act plays by Sam Shepard done by students at the Black Box Theater at Macalester College in St. Paul....that was probably 1984, and those plays felt like the most radical experiences I'd ever had....here's Shepard's mis-en-scene for his play Cowboy Mouth...it'll give you the raw flavor of his early stuff:

    "A fucked-up bed center stage...Scattered all around on the floor is miscellaneous debris: hubcaps, an old tire, raggedy costumes, a boxful of ribbons, lots of letters, a pink telephone, a bottle of Nescafé, a hot plate. Seedy wallpaper with pictures of cowboys peeling off the wall. Photographs of Hank Williams and Jimmie Rogers. Stuffed dolls, crucifixes...A funky set of drums to one side of the stage. An electric guitar and amplifier on the other side. Rum, beer, white lightning, Sears catalogue.

  • A year later I saw Romanian director Liviu Ciulei's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. There's really no way to describe the mood that evening other than to say the theater lobby had been filled with huge copies of the paintings of the Belgian painter....Paul Delvaux. To say that Ciulei took us to another world would be an understatement. Oberon and Titania made their entrance on a glass bed that descended from the ceiling. For a sixteen year old, it was eye-opening. The play, the acting, the world that Ciulei created.

  • I don't know why I'm thinking about theater. There's something about going to a small black room with a bunch of other people and watching a play. There's something about acting that is raw and naked.

    In contrast to the hype and the bluster, the jadedness of our visual culture...a culture of which I'm a part... there's something primal and immediate and oppositional that can get expressed in plays like no other art.

    Funny thing, the idea that walking into a theater could change your life.


    • Funny thing, the idea that walking into a theater could change your life.

      Funnier thing, the idea that walking into a theater shouldn't change your life. Playwrights started rocking the boat with Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Aeschylus' The Persians, if not before.

      There is, unfortunately, an awful lot of truly awful garbage in the repertoire. But there are also a hell of a lot of giants.

      I didn't do much theater in college (at least from an acting perspective), but I did enough that I still get pumped when I smell greasepaint, or that instantly recognizable (if undefinable) scent that every theater has.

      By Anonymous Michael, at 10:22 AM  

    • k/o, I too had my life changed in a theater: seeing an afternoon of Noh plays in Tokyo, spring 1982. (I was living there for an extended time, squatting and etc.) Something blasted through the inability to understand the spoken word, and cut right to the bone of 'me'. And it all happened with the simple tilt of a human head hidden by a mask. (And the thunderstorm of the music & chorus.) The story became vivid, and everything changed. That's vague, but too much to get into here. Suffice it to say it did the job of 'opening the flower of zen' as the Noh-bodies say, and I was done.
      Out here the NY Fringe is up again, so a timely post.
      Anyway, thanks again for the great site. (I was anonfornow re: wkcr a few days ago.)
      (Amongst other things, I make theater now as well; check the (new) site if you're interested. Click the burning book to enter.)

      By Anonymous volcofsky, at 1:11 PM  

    • Michael, I think you hit on something powerful mentioning:

      Lysistrata and the Persians.

      I can't help but add Cindy Sheehan, and her protest to that mix. (Someone mentioned Rosa Parks in rereference to Sheehan elsewhere...there's something to that.)

      The image of a woman standing alone...in opposition to power and war...in opposition to the status quo...in opposition to men's lies.

      It's where drama and politics mix.

      And it's of the moment.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 1:11 PM  

    • A year ago last February, I had the pleasure of going back to my alma mater for Repertory Theatre Term XIII. Rep Term, as it is universally known at the college, is something the theatre department has been doing every third year since 1969. It offers to anyone who's willing to commit to the work (and obviously who has a least a modicum of talent) the opportunity to help put on two full-length plays (one modern and one "classical," one comic and one tragic or dramatic) in the space of ten weeks.

      I was back on campus because Rep Term XIII was going to be the last one with one of the originators of the idea, Ivan Davidson, who was to retire at the end of that academic year. I went back primarily for that--but also because of the two shows they were doing: Lysistrata and The Trojan Women. Two war plays, in the middle of a war, and both predominantly featuring female characters. They broke with the tradition of doing one modern play, and I couldn't have been happier.

      I saw Trojan Women first. It's never been my favorite Greek tragedy (that would be Eumenides, on which I wrote my first master's thesis), but it was worth the trip down to Galesburg and the price of admission--and then some. Frankly, I don't know how those young women staggered off the stage at the end of the play--they'd been going full-out for more than two hours, with only a brief interval to recompose themselves.

      Then they shifted sets, came back the following night, and did Lysistrata. Another outstanding production. I loved the fact that in the lobby outside the theater, in addition to the usual displays about the sets and costumes, they offered information about the histories of the wars depicted in the plays, and of warfare in the modern world. They very carefully, but very obviously, wanted to make the connection between the 2500-year-old plays they were putting on and the modern-day situation in which those productions were taking place.

      I've rarely been prouder of my alma mater, or my theatre days there, than I was that weekend. (I blogged a bit on my own experiences with Rep Term, and the trip to see these two shows, here.)

      By Anonymous Michael, at 5:55 PM  

    • Oh, and as to The Persians, it was considered revolutionary in its day both because it dealt with more-or-less contemporary events instead of stories from the ancient past and the various myth cycles, and also because it portrayed an enemy of Athens in something resembling a sympathetic manner. Imagine the reaction of the right-wing noise machine if someone were to write The Iraqis in a parallel tragic form.

      By Anonymous Michael, at 5:58 PM  

    • Great comments Michael.

      That bit about the "Persians/Iraqis" is gold, and tragic at the same time...

      because it's obvious we don't know the first thing about the Iraqi people...and there's no stage in D.C. or room in our Senate where that is going to get acknowledged.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:28 PM  

    • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      By Blogger NYBri, at 9:41 PM  

    • Theatre has been my life. I've been an actor, director and teacher for the past 30 years.

      The magic or theatre well done is unmatched in my life.

      Interesting you should bring it up, kid.

      Theatre isn't dead, it's just hibernating.

      By Blogger NYBri, at 9:41 PM  

    • Maybe I need to start thinking about translating/adapting the Persai and the Oresteia. The Iraqis would be a good play to have in the progressive arsenal, and I seriously think there's enough hubris in the Second Imperial Presidency to get a trilogy out of it. Instead of the House of Atreus, it would be the House of Bush--and I'd love to be able to sneak in something along the lines of Ζεὺς ὁστίς πότ' ἐστιν, εἰ τὸδ' αὐτῷ φιλὸν κεκλημένῳ, τουτὸ νιν προσεννεπῶ (Agamemnon, 160-161: "Zeus, whoever he may be, if this [name] is pleasing to him in invocation, upon him I now call"), just to piss off the fundies.

      By Anonymous Michael, at 8:38 PM  

    • I saw Jesus Hopped the A Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis at the Arts Theatre in London. Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, this was the first production I'd ever seen that combined a great cast, a great play, and a great room for a truly unforgettable experience.

      Definitly fits, "...the idea that walking into a theater could change your life."

      By Blogger simplesinger, at 9:44 AM  

    • Here are some links if anyone is interested
      Jesus Hopped he A Train

      Performance at the Arts Theatre

      By Blogger simplesinger, at 9:48 AM  

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