Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

30 September 2006

Another Gorgeous Poem That Struck My Heart

Poem: "Grapefruit" Ted McMahon from The Uses of Imperfection. © Cat 'n Dog Productions. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


My grandfather got up early to section grapefruit.
I know because I got up quietly to watch.
He was tall. His hairless shins stuck out
below his bathrobe, down to leather slippers.
The house was quiet, sun just up, ticking of
the grandfather clock tall in the corner.

The grapefruit were always sectioned just so,
nestled in clear nubbled bowls used
for nothing else, with half a maraschino
centered bleeding slowly into
soft pale triangles of fruit.
It was special grapefruit, Indian River,
not to be had back home.

Doves cooed outside and the last night-breeze
Rustled the palms against the eaves.
He turned to see me, pale light flashing
off his glasses
and smiled.

I remember as I work my knife along the
membrane separating sections.
It's dawn. The doves and palms are far away.
I don't use cherries anymore.
The clock is digital
and no one is watching.

28 September 2006

A Poem for Today from The Writer's Almanac

For The Writer's Almanac Page go here.

Poem: "Messenger" by Mary Oliver from Thirst.© Beacon Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

26 September 2006

Two Quick Reviews

I haven't been seeing many movies in Tally. There are two main reasons for this: I have no time and they don't show movies here that I want to see.

The Student Life Cinema program on campus has been showing some fun movies, though, so I caught two of those in the last week or so. They're free, so that's awesome, but these last two have been less than brilliant:

Duck Season (Temporada de Patos) is a poetic Mexican movie about adolescent boredom and desire. I liked it, but it's not great which is what Nathaniel made it out to be. I was a little disappointed that it didn't aim a little higher than it did. It's undeniable that the film's poetry has a uniqueness and power, but in a lot of ways it's about the same ennui that films about disaffected youth are always about.

Hard Candy I liked even less and not just because of its subject matter. This is a very difficult film in a lot of respects. It's well-made, but it... well I don't think it has much of an opinion. Its political stance is shaky and the end made no sense to me at all. It is a squirmer, though. I cannot deny how good the film is at making its audience shudder and grimace. But so what? Or rather for what? It's a film that wants to be a Postmodernist exploration of extreme Feminism. Its opinion (deliberately) never comes to anything. The director never takes a stand: and this is the point. But the point is then nothing. Or the point is that this issue is too much to deal with. And again, I say: so what? The characters are hateful for the most part and the film ends up being about as satisfying as last year's The Dying Gaul. I have to say, though, I thought Patrick Wilson was fantastic in the film. His performance totally rocks. I still can't forgive him for playing Joe Pitt in Angels in America (a character I despise) but maybe one day I will stop thinking of him as Joe Pitt.

24 September 2006

School Is Keeping Me Busy

Today I'm grading papers. I am so sick of reading about gender issues in Othello I can't even talk about it. Some of them are about racial issues, too. And, like, two of them have been about how Othello is a tragic hero in the Aristotelian sense. Let me tell you I am tiiiiiired of this play.

I have fifty-one papers to grade on Othello before Wednesday. I've finished more than half, but I have a new batch of papers coming in on Wednesday, so I have to get cracking. Wednesday's papers are going to be all about Fences. I like that play a little better than Othello, but I'm sure after fifty of those I'll be just as sick of August Wilson.

In truth, though, I'm only grading papers because I really really don't want to do what I should be doing (researching Faust.) So may the lord bless Othello and paper-grading. At least it's keeping me away from Johann von Goethe.

21 September 2006

Pondering Femininity, Homosexuality and Divahood

I have been thinking this evening about female behavior. This week I was thinking about all of these boys in their flip-flops on campus. All of these untouchable undergrads, to whom I am not supposed to be attracted, but who walk around in various states of undress. And I was thinking that nudity in males translates also to me as femininity. I like men who wear flip-flops not because I fetishize feet, but because I fetishize vulnerability and bare feet represent the uncovering of something traditionally covered, something that is normally hidden now exposed to the air, inviting danger, needing protection like traditional thinking about women. And no matter how much I attempt to approach my relationships from the point of view of a "normal" homosexual, I find that I'm following heterosexual norms and attempting to fit into the traditional hetero-male role of the protector.

Juxtapose this thinking with what the second year MA student said to me last week: "Aaron, you make a terrible black woman." I was, of course, stunned and hurt. I vented to roomie later about this girl's insensitivity to me and I said, "almost every homosexual wants to be nothing else in the world but a fabulous black woman." What she said, was, obviously, insensitive and mean-spirited and though I was shocked by her statement, I understand. I am not a black woman and I never will be but, damn: a girl can dream.

I've also been thinking about male-male relationships. Not having had one for any length of time that is worth discussing, I don't know that I can even offer an opinion on the role of femininity in homosexual/homosocial relationships. In short, I wouldn't know what I was talking about. So instead, I worry about the role of femininity in my relationships with other men: how feminine am I? Am I too feminine to attract another male? Am I not feminine enough to stand out in this crowd of heterosexuals? Is that why he doesn't like me? Am I too feminine?

Thinking about these issues made me dig out Wayne Koestenbaum's The Queen's Throat, where I happily happened upon this:
Codes of extravagant female behavior have arisen around the diva: these mannerisms, collectively, are as famous and influential as any masterwork in the operatic repertory, and they transcend the borders of opera culture. Diva conduct, whether enacted by men or women, whether, indeed, we feel that diva conduct differentiates between men and women, has enormous power to dramatize the problematics of self-expression. One finds or invents an identity only by staging it, making fun of it, entertaining it, throwing it—as the ventriloquist throws the voice, wisecracks projected into a mannequin's mouth. Geraldine Farrar dared to tell Arturo Toscanini, "You forget, maestro, that I am the star." One need not be a star to relish Farrar's concise way of gathering a self, like rustling skirts, around her; he or she who will never become a diva, no matter how many social or vocal revolutions occur, may still wish to imitate Farrar, to say, "You forget, maestro, that I am the star." No single gesture, gown, or haughty glissando of self-promotion will change one's actual social position: one is fixed in a class, a race, a gender. But against such absolutes there arises a fervent belief in retaliatory self-invention; gay culture has perfected the art of mimicking a diva—of pretending, inside, to be divine—to help the stigmatized self imagine it is received, believed, and adored. (133)

Adventures in Browsing: an Assignment for My Bibliography & Research Class

In the last four weeks I’ve seemingly spent hours in the Strozier library. At this point I feel like I know my way around that place like the back of my hand. My favorite day there so far was last Sunday. The Documentary Theatre class was asked to attend a conference that commenced on Sunday evening and I decided I would go early and spend some quality time at la bibliothèque. Roomie decided she would come too, so off we went. We spent a little time together in the library and then without really talking about it we just sort of split up. I had all kinds of journal articles I wanted to read and so I ran around on the second floor copying journals. Then I headed for the fifth floor to find some more stuff on Faust and some other journals they had up there. As I walked into certain sections of the fifth floor, the lights came on—literally. It hadn’t occurred to me that the lights would be on a timer, although that makes perfect sense now that I think about it. I hunted around on the fifth floor some more until I looked up and saw Roomie about a hundred feet away from me in the same row. I chuckled to myself and we compared what we had found. The amount of stuff in the original Deutsch surprised me the most. But I love just looking at the shelves, hunting and pecking for data and ideas in the same way I type on a keyboard. Funnily enough, many journal articles can no longer be found in the library itself: they are all electronically stored now. I couldn’t even locate the journal Theatre Topics in the Strozier library. They don’t carry it. It is now available exclusively as an "e-resource."

My next place of exploration was the Music Library. They have a seemingly endless number of scores and pieces of music, all arranged in a manner similar to the Library of Congress sorting methods for traditional manuscripts. The Music Library also had more journals than I could count, though my favorite part of the library was probably its reference section, which was filled with data on various contributors to the field. I got stuck in the “W” book for a good thirty minutes: Richard Wagner, Kurt Weill—so interesting.

Roomie and I also ventured down to FAMU’s library for a book she wanted, though I don’t think we quite understood the browsing assignment at this juncture. My attitude towards FAMU’s library was “it’s a library; big deal.” Of course, they have some really interesting special collections, none of which we explored, being so focused on retrieving a plethora of books on musical theatre. I have to get down there and look at the Black Archives. I read a little about them and I’m very interested. The traditional library part is going to be much the same no matter what library I visit: it is what makes the library special that deserves a special trip and extra digging. Even the art on the wall at FAMU is specific and different and deserving of attention. I, unfortunately, wasn’t paying very close attention. Bizarrely, I did, in my browsing of the shelves, find a book I had wanted on queer theory and performance art. The find was random and serendipitous.

Roomie and I also took a trip down to The Mary Brogan Museum in downtown Tallahassee. They have a standard sort of instructional science gadgets there, aimed at teaching (young) people about pressure, leverage, color, vision, etc. They also have a wind tunnel and a couple other neat gadgets. We were followed around by the Science director of the museum, who showed us anything that was anything in the science area. He asked us, rather pointedly, if we were “science people or art people”: in order to gauge our knowledge? interest? I wasn’t sure which. I pronounced us “art people,” though Roomie objected. Easily, though, the best part of The Brogan was their top-floor exhibit, called Currency: Art as Money/Money as Art. It is a fascinating exhibit with some really interesting pieces and a lot of political dialogue. My favorite was this collection of pieces of food fashioned out of money. Various countries were represented, each by a different food item, and each food item was made of the national currency. The United States was represented by the ubiquitous hot dog, Japan by a piece of sushi and some chopsticks, Malawi by worms, etc. This is definitely a museum that wants to create dialogue.

We also visited the (new) Capitol Building of Tallahassee. They have a beautiful fountain/sculpture outside, though it is in the rear of the building. It fit in perfectly with the previous day’s conference discussion on public art and how public art can be affirmative of local cultures and society. I am currently questioning ideas about public art: theatre seems to me to be the most public of arts and the question for me continues to be what is the artist’s relationship with the audience? My art is public and my audience must be considered. Is this a fact? I am not sure. Surprisingly, there isn’t much at the Capitol, though they do have two “walls of fame:” one filled with famous Floridian artists, the other with famous Floridian females. (Zora Neale Hurston graces both walls and I didn’t even know she was Floridian!) What the Capitol does have is quite a few brochures for various cultural sites around Florida: in this way, the Capitol is really its own kind of resource: a sort of jumping-off point for what Florida has to offer in the way of culture and possibility. There is, for instance, a strawberry festival, and about two hours away, a museum dedicated to Salvador Dalí. There’s also a chapel, with bronze plaques on the wall depicting the religious history of the state, and though there aren’t any crosses on the wall, there is a small altar and a very large King James Version Bible: with a format very like one I remember having in my library at home as a small child, with descriptive headings every twenty verses or so, ushering me toward what was to come. I had forgotten all about it.

20 September 2006

More Reading: Lots of Crying

Can we talk about crying? I read August Wilson's Fences and Emily Mann's Greensboro (A Requiem) today, and though I didn't cry at Greensboro, I couldn't stop crying all the way through the last scene of Fences. I have actually never read any of the plays in Wilson's ten-play cycle, though I've seen four of them. I've avoided buying the plays because no one is selling them yet as a group. But we're teaching Fences in the Intro class and I had to read it before next week. It's sort of clumsily written: lots of exposition in weird places and a sub-plot about garbage collecting that is a bit all over the place, but the characters are lovingly and beautifully written and Wilson's father-son relationship struggle shines much better here than in his earlier play Jitney. In a lot of ways Fences seems like a continuation of Jitney, a more fleshed-out, mature version of that play, and while I found some of the writing a little clumsy, I cannot deny the emotional effect the play had on me. (We all know I'm a sucker for stories about father-son conflicts.)

19 September 2006

A Poem for Last Friday (9.15.06)

My house closed this evening. Finally. Anyway, on to the topic of this post: poetry!

I wrote this poem on Friday, though it had been germinating for a week in my head. And though I don't normally share my poetry with you guys (except for my haiku), I am proud of this one and it sort of embodies the FSU spirit as it relates to me.

On friday the campus quiets
The heavy air pushing the students
Out of the classrooms
Off of the fields and away
Taking refuge from the depressing air
In bars and barbecue joints
And parties where the keg is the
Center of attention
They celebrate the holiness of the weekend
Forgetting their three-page papers
Their reading
Their upcoming tests on the relations of race in
But I haunt the campus in the late afternoon on friday
The quiet reminds me that I must work in solitude
But like my fellows
I too begin to forget
Worries about presenting my research
Abandon me under the blanket of the air
And stillness visits me
With friday comes a small peace
For now the week is over
An armistice is called between me and my teachers
And they won't ask me anything else
Until monday

17 September 2006

Dark at the Top of the Stairs

I have been rather gloom and doom the last two or three days (last night was a notable exception) says my friend and I suppose he's sort of right.

But you know what? I have nothing at all to complain about and I'm not going to mope over nothing at all when what I'm actually feeling is a little overwhelmed and a little distasteful of the assignments in one of my classes. (Well, maybe I will mope, but I won't be doing so in this space.)

Life is great. My classes are mostly great and I feel like my research is going well.
Rumor also has it that the house is supposed to close tomorrow. Of course, I've heard that every day for a month but every day I hold out hope that today it will be true.

14 September 2006

For Fun

For everyone's amusement, I thought I would post what my assignments are for this weekend:

  • Research the political situation in Germany immediately preceding and during the life of Goethe
  • Finish and submit materials for the Program for Instructional Excellence certificate
  • Read Emily Mann's Greensboro (A Requiem)
  • Research and write presentation on Performance Studies International
  • Research and write presentation on the journal Theatre Topics
  • Finish Library Browsing exercise (i.e. visit three two more libraries in Tallahassee)
  • Read Rolf Hochhuth's The Deputy
  • Read Heinar Kipphardt's In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer
  • Read the MLA Handbook: Chapter One
  • Read Anne Huff's Writing for Scholarly Publication: Chapters 3 & 9 and Appendix C
  • Research Wallace Shawn's The Fever and The Designated Mourner slightly more thoroughly (i.e. enough to have a clearer idea of what my paper will look like in Research & Bibliography)
I know right now you're thanking your lucky stars that you aren't in graduate school. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go read.

13 September 2006

The New (i.e. Not New At All) Car

I wanted to post some photos of the not-new-at-all car:

And in order to really illustrate the bad paint job that covers this car:

Yeah. So the good points about the car are as follows: it is painted one of the school's colors (i.e. garnet) and it cost me exactly $1600.00.
The air conditioning works and it drives. It gets good gas mileage. I don't think any of my friends will actually want to ride in it, but it's going to get me where I need to go (i.e. school and places where they serve liquor).

Emily Mann

So I'm reading the work of Emily Mann right now as a sort of complement to the reading assigned to us in Documentary Theatre. I have a lot of work to do for my Research & Bibliography class that I could probably be doing, but I had 147 papers to grade and then I was too tired to do any real research.
"Read a play," I thought. "That will relax you." Emily Mann's Execution of Justice is about the murders of George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1978 by City Supervisor Dan White. It is a powerhouse of a piece of theatre and I was blown away. I finished it and I put the play down and I kept repeating "oh my god" and then I went into my room and cried. And I know, I know: I cry at everything, but... the city of San Francisco has its first out gay elected official assassinated in cold blood and the jury hands down a verdict of involuntary manslaughter. It hit me somewhere else, you know? Like I wasn't crying because of empathy or whatever other reasons I usually cry at theatre: like crying for Oedipus Rex last week. Execution of Justice is something else. It raises some other consciousness inside of me: a different anger, a different grief.

12 September 2006


You might feel like measuring the balance of energy in your life, Aaron. You could analyze certain relationships and habits that you are involved with. Maybe you will see that in some situations you give too much of yourself. Although you have a generous spirit and a warm heart, beware of being so generous that you deplete yourself. Take stock of how energy is flowing in and out of your life today.

Oh my god. I was thinking about this today during one of my classes and then I thought I would read my horoscope for a lark. This is really good advice. I needed it repeated to me today and I'm glad I read it.

11 September 2006

Reading, Closing & Calling

Bored with Goethe, I turned my researching interests toward Wallace Shawn today. I started reading scholarly articles that touched the man tangentially or topically and found that there is a book all about Wallace Shawn. In fact, it's entitled Writing Wrongs: the Work of Wallace Shawn. It was published in 1997. And we had it at the library on campus. So between the clusterfuck meeting I had in the morning and my Intro to Theatre class in the afternoon, I went down to the library and picked this book up. I also found one of Shawn's plays that I hadn't read and picked that up too.

When I got home, another Shawn play I had ordered had arrived in the mail. So after doing all of my grading for the day I sat down and read The Fever and then decided to read Marie and Bruce. I'm getting used to all of this reading. It's not so bad at all. I think, though, that I am going to have to increase the number of books I have in the column at right; I am going through too many at once. I don't think I've read this much since I was eleven years old.

The house still hasn't closed, much to my chagrin. I've been in Florida a month and I've lived in this house a month and I still don't own it. The thought of that drives me absolutely bonkers, but we're supposed to close tomorrow and life will feel much calmer once we have. (Though, we were "supposed" to close a month ago, and we were "supposed" to close three weeks ago, and we were "supposed" to close on Friday, and we were "supposed" to close today, so I don't have too much faith in the dates and times given to me by my real estate agent.) And god bless my support system in Tally. I found out my house wasn't going to close today and I was on the verge of tears. I told my Theatre Studies pals and they just turned back to their work. Which is fine, I mean, they don't really owe me any support, but then I called Ryan (MFA director) and he was on top of the sympathy. It was totally helpful and supportive and I was very grateful. Then Alison (MFA director) called me and talked to me some more about it. Boy was I thankful for them. It's nice to know that I have support here in Tally and not just at home.

Speaking of which, I got calls from numerous California folks today and it was really wonderful. So, thanks Elizabeth, Ashley, Marcos and Aines for the pick-me-ups. They were needed.

I think I found a car, too. I will let you all know more details about that tomorrow after I go check it out...

Walk on the Wild Side

So I've been told by my writing teacher that "the blog is a good idea, but..." and she rolled her eyes a little bit into the back of her head and said, "you really need to keep your critical writing muscle strong." Now, I'm not quite sure what she means, although I know for a fact I shouldn't have used italics just then. It's frowned upon in academic circles, doncha know: we're supposed to create emphasis with the words we use and not fall back on the crutch of italics. Anyway, I thought I would take some time out and try to actually write a film review. It's the closest thing I can probably come to critical writing at the present time, so, here goes.

1962 saw a lot of great movies. Lawrence of Arabia won the Best Picture Oscar that year, but 1962 also boasts Long Day's Journey into Night, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Music Man, The Manchurian Candidate, Days of Wine and Roses, Sweet Bird of Youth, and one of the masterpieces of cinematic camp, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Tragically forgotten among these films (most of them gems) is a story of doomed romance and a delicious exercise in high camp that ought not to be ignored by film lovers: Edward Dmytryk's Walk on the Wild Side.
Walk on the Wild Side follows a young, green drifter named Dove Linkhorn (Manchurian's Laurence Harvey) with a pocket full of cash as he hitches his way through Texas on his way to New Orleans. Dove has his sights set on the love of his childhood, Hallie (French beauty Capucine). Dove is aided early on by a young drifter named Kitty (Jane Fonda) and café-owner Teresina (Anne Baxter). Kitty helps Dove into town and Teresina sets Dove up with a steady job and a lot of home-cooked meals. Both women immediately fall for our young hero, but he only has eyes for Hallie and refuses to rest until he finds her.
We find Hallie before Dove does. She is working as a high-class prostitute in a place called the Doll House, wasting away her talents (she's a sculptress) and spending most of her time pouting. The madam of the Doll House, Jo (Barbara Stanwyck), is clearly in love with Hallie and will do anything to keep her favorite trick in her employ. From here the conflict centers around the question of whether or not Hallie and Dove will run off together or whether Jo will prevent them somehow with the aid of her hired muscle.
Saul Bass designed the titles for Walk on the Wild Side and they beautifully set the film up to be exactly what it turns out to be: very high camp. As the titles roll at the top of the film, we follow a black cat wandering through a cement wilderness, finally coming upon a white cat, fighting it and claiming its territory. This actually might be the problem with the film. The cat in the titles is clearly Kitty, the film's best-drawn role, but the film itself doesn't follow the story of Kitty. Fonda is superb in the role and the character has all of the best lines, but the film isn't really about her at all.
Dmytryk sets up a story about a man with a fire in his belly and a woman on his mind. Neither of these two (star-crossed) lovebirds is represented by the cat in the title sequence, and our drifter's story is overwhelmed by the female presence on the screen. The only real rival for the ideal woman of the film, Hallie, is another woman: Jo, the madam of the brothel and the villain of the piece. Perhaps, though, it is Laurence Harvey who is to blame for this overpowering. He is not a strong enough performer to share the screen with the likes of Anne Baxter, Jane Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck. He seems to dominate the action very well when he is paired with Capucine, but when sharing screentime with one of the greats, Harvey's Dove looks like exactly that.
All of this feminine energy leads the film directly toward the neighborhood of camp. Eventually, the catfight in the titles must be played out on screen. The callgirls have a brawl in the saloon and the women say things like "he only ever thought of you; he never would've touched me." The film's lesbian character is worthy of note as a kind of milestone in film. Lesbian characters had appeared before on screen (The Children's Hour comes to mind) and would again (two years later in The Night of the Iguana), but Stanwyck's Jo is a hard, sad, difficult woman in love with a heartless, heterosexual woman and she doesn't have a chance. It's an old-world, campy performance, but one that feels possible and real. What else would a lesbian in the 1930's do?
Of course, the real revelation in the film is Jane Fonda as Kitty. The character's arc is wide and she has the chance to play both the scared, desperate child and the scary realist. It doesn't hurt that she looks stunning at twenty-four. But she plays Kitty with a fearlessness not to be expected from an actress with as little experience as she had. She would play a similar desperate type several years later in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, but it's clear even with this 1962 film why this woman's career took off. She looks like she plans on conquering the world.

10 September 2006

What Have I Done to Deserve This?

Yesterday (well before my date) I watched Pedro Almodóvar's What Have I Done to Deserve This? (¿Qué He Hecho Yo para Merecer Esto!!). It stars Carmen Maura and a whole cast of other crazy people. This film, though not as widely known as Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, is in a similar vein and deals with topics a bit more serious. It is similarly filled with drug-addicted and crazy people and is very, very funny though its humor is scathing and socially critical. I liked it a lot. I'm preparing for Almodóvar's Volver, which comes out this year and will hopefully find its way to Tallahassee at some point.

Public Version of Previously Private Entry

Tonight a very good-looking young man took me to a very good Thai food restaurant in Tallahassee.

I had a really great time.
He's intelligent and politically active and probably reading this so I should probably shut the fuck up.

07 September 2006

X-Men 3

So has everyone already seen X-men: the Last Stand? I know that shit came out May 26th and I know it's September 7th, but I saw it tonight for the first time. It was free, though, so I guess that's good.

Did everyone like the movie? I liked it. I mean, I know it's not Bryan Singer and all and the intelligence quotient of the film plummeted from the second to the third, but I still really liked it. I did groan a couple of times (at the cheap sentimentality), but I still hope they make a fourth one. I love X-men. It's my favorite of the comic book series (not that I'm well-educated in such matters.)

Also: any excuse to see Shohreh Aghdashloo is a good one, in my opinion. And I'd also like to say that Ian McKellan's Magneto is, like, my new gay hero. He's all about taking no prisoners. It reminded me a little of Rufus Wainwright's "Gay Messiah." I think Magneto is the Gay Messiah. Pray for your sins: the gay messiah's coming. It's Magneto in a fabulous outfit, oh yeah, and he can kill you.

Figuring It Out

I had an epiphanous day today. It was awesome, in fact. And after yesterday was so horrible! It was really amazing to feel connected again, to feel as though I fit and know what I want to do. The car is still a problem. I don't have a car now and I am going to have to spend a mint of money to get it fixed or get a new car (not yet sure which.)


I stayed up last night reading Faust. In fact, I finally decided circa 2:00a that I wasn't going to be able to finish both Act Four and Act Five before morning and so I ought to skip ahead, read Act Five, and just read the notes on Act Four. So I finished doing all of that at about 3:00 and decided to try to get some sleep, feeling a little disappointed that I couldn't finish... but I couldn't just not sleep. Right? Right?

So all of my reading was rewarded during class while MKD (that's my professor: I think I linked you to her bio before) talked about Faust. It was great! And the more she talked the more I realized why we had to read Faust. Here it is: the play is ridiculous and obtuse and filled with nonsense. It's epic and ambitious and out of control. It's also unreadable and punishing and horrible. I dare anyone who reads this blog to read it and not say What The Fuck? And this is great for Dramaturgy because it means that none of us wants anything more to do with the show, but we must. So it's perfect for us as a casebook. Because we have to find a way in to the material.
See, because of all of the reasons I listed earlier, the list of questions to ask about Faust has got to be nearly endless. For instance, in class, I started thinking about Faust in the context of contemporary Christianity. What does Faust say about Christianity in the German states at the time? How does the Catholic church figure into Faust if it does? How did clerics at the time feel about Faust and what it says about sin and redemption and The Bible? See what I mean? I can ask a hundred questions right off the bat. And with Faust you can do this on literally a hundred different topics: Symbolism, Greek mythology, pregnancy, demonology, North Germanic witchery, pageantry, alchemy, the list is practically endless. There are probably hundreds of dissertation topics still to be mined from Faust. Seriously.

Anyway, in addition to this "way in" to Faust, which was exactly what I needed for Dramaturgy to work as a class, I decided on my own dramaturgical topic for the class (we each have to pick a play.) I'm going to write about Wallace Shawn's The Designated Mourner and I'm really really excited.


While I was talking to MKD about Wallace Shawn and Goethe, I was talking about the NEA4 for a while. I had been thinking about doing a research project on them for the Dramaturgy thing, but instead a new project came to mind about the NEA4. I don't want to write about it here... it's too public but I have an NEA4 project I'm going to start very soon and I'm so excited.

As usual. One day down; the next day up. Just like directing. Fucking Piscean nature.

06 September 2006


I was in a car accident this morning. I rear-ended a kid while Roomie and I were going to one of our classes. I'm fine. Roomie's fine. But my car... the damage has yet to be assessed. I feel really stupid and depressed about the whole thing. It made us late to class and the police came and my car had to be towed and it's just a whole nightmare.

My life is usually so undramatic, but move me across the country and throw me into a graduate program and presto change-o: drama.

I'll be better and I'll be smarter and more grown up and a better daughter or son and a real good friend.


05 September 2006

The Winter's Tale at CSUP

You really must check out this video of my dear friend Marcos Tello promoting the Southern California Shakespeare Festival, my employers last summer.

Shame on the interviewer for the following: she pronounces his name "Marcus Teijo" and she uses the non-term "Thesbian" (or perhaps she meant Lesbian actors... maybe she knows more about this production than she lets on.) I also feel like I ought to take issue with her pronunciation of the word "familiar" as "fermiliar" (this is a new pet peeve of mine) and her total misuse of the word "alumnus:" an error that, I guess, stems from the constant use of the word "alumni" as the singular. Has "alumni" been misused so often as the singular that we now think "alumnus" is the plural? Sheesh.

And "first professional season?!?!?" Is my friend serious? Even if this show were some kind of first for the Southern California Shakespeare Festival, which it isn't, a show does not a season make. Even last year felt a little more like a season and that was two shows back to back, something I wouldn't call a season either.

God bless Marcos, though, for his insight that speaking Shakespeare once you know what you're doing is as "easy as pie." He's right as rain, here. And good for him for plugging the Taper and the Geffen, though the Taper, in all fairness, is not a part of some resurgence in Los Angeles Theatre: it's been going strong for decades now. I have praised the Geffen more than once in this space, though, and I'm glad Marcos found time to do it. Good for him too for singling out the "phenomenal faculty" at CSUP (I agree) and making a point of our excellent technical program. Finally, kudos to him for introducing some of the play's elements in his interview, as well: "the laid back Bohemia and more rigid Sicilia." How knowledgeable he sounds! Call me impressed.

More Faust Drama

Even though we
(1) discussed it in detail today during Dramaturgy and the professor
(2) clearly loves it to pieces and
(3) plans on an unflagging discussion of both Goethe and Faust for the length of the class,

I am still kept from reading it by
(1) the sheer unfinishability of the thing (750 pages with the notes: and the notes are important) and the fact that
(2) it is, even with the notes, incredibly, punishingly boring.

I need a boyfriend.

Little Miss Sunshine

I finally saw Little Miss Sunshine tonight. I just couldn't read any more Goethe, so I gave up and went to what passes for a proper cinema down here. (The theatre is so bad that you can hear the other movie that they're playing in the adjacent room. At some point one of the other patrons got up and had management turn up the volume in our theatre just so we wouldn't have to hear the bad accents of The Illusionist.)

It doesn't matter too much though, because Little Miss Sunshine is hilarious and I loved the film. It has a stellar cast (Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Steve Carrell and Alan Arkin) and a great plot. The script is so clever and so fresh that family dysfunction seems like new territory. At some point I thought of the awful pretended-to-be-a-road-movie Transamerica and it occurred to me just how good Little Miss Sunshine is and just how bad it could have been in the wrong hands. But in capable co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the movie shoots right along and sparkles the whole way. If you haven't seen this yet go out and do so. It's easily been the most enjoyable movie to come out this summer.

03 September 2006

So Far Today...

I've finished Arthur Arent's One-third of a Nation, a Federal Theatre Project play from 1938 that is astounding in its scope and theatrical innovation. It's what Cornerstone Theatre wishes it could be one day.

I'm also a hundred pages into Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, which is good and very funny, but also lightweight. I must admit, too, that it feels a bit, um, unnecessary (?). Or maybe I just don't get it. Or maybe I'm not a writer.

Now, a picture or six from last night's birthday festivities for fellow graduate student Alison:

OK. I'll get back to Faust now.

02 September 2006

How I Learned to Drive / The Illusionist

I am well into my reading for this weekend. I finished Vogel's How I Learned to Drive this morning, I am through Chapter Three of Documentary Theatre in the United States: an Historical Survey and Analysis of Its Content, Form, and Stagecraft and I read Act One of Goethe's Faust.

That Faust. Goddamn it is boring. It gets a little exciting once Margarethe gets pregnant and all of that fun stuff, but all of the stuff before that: snore. I don't care how much influence Goethe had on continental theatre. It's still boring.

But How I Learned to Drive. That play kicks ass. It's moving, powerful and covers so many really interesting (and taboo) issues. I recommend this to everyone who reads plays. I can't believe I hadn't read it up until now. (And even now I only read it because we're teaching it in our Intro to Theatre class.) It's a play about sexual abuse and pedophilia; it's fascinating and superbly written. Vogel uses learning to drive as a metaphor for sexual experience and accumulating life lessons. As the character learns to drive she comes into womanhood and awareness of her own sexual power. It's really very interesting.

And last night I caught Neil Burger's The Illusionist, which I found boring, predictable and really silly. Rufus Sewell is excellent as Hungary's jilted Crown Prince Leopold, his line delivery getting the film's only few laughs, but Edward Norton is earnest as ever (that boy needs to loosen up.) Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti are fine and give sturdy performances, but both are hampered by a silly script and poor Biel has hardly anything to do except look beautiful. I was delighted to hear Philip Glass's score (which is lovely and somewhere above and between his scores for The Hours and The Fog of War.) The costumes (by Ngila Dickson) look lovely, but the rest of the period's detail appears to have been too expensive for the producers to wrangle. The film is shot mostly in closeup and interiors, often only the faces of the characters are lit, hiding whatever art direction exists. The Illusionist is feebly directed, clumsily edited and while the special effects are occasionally eye-catching, the film is one dreary uninteresting scene after another. The plot, purportedly a mystery, is never mysterious, but the plot never even really matters because the audience never finds time to care about the characters so poorly is the film directed and cut.