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

31 March 2007

Busy Bee

Remember when I used to blog?

I got a shout out from my favorite blog to read the other day. Go here to read it. Nathaniel calls my blog the best titled livejournal on the planet.

Sorry I've been non-existent. I'm directing this show right now and then this week I had a panic attack because we have four more weeks of school and I have three enormous projects due by the end of that time. I have some serious research to do.

On Thursday and Friday I lectured in the Intro to Theatre classes: Solo Performance and Performance Art. I talked about Tristan Tzara and DADA's influence on American performance, and then I talked about some of the people in the movement: John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Nam-June Paik, Carollee Schneeman, Yoko Ono, Charlotte Moorman, etc. It was fun.

Last night. Well, I told you I was in COGS, right? I joined the Congress of Graduate Students at FSU. So I am graduate student representative for my College (Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance). And last night we had budget hearings. All of these various graduate student organizations come to us and ask for funding. And we have a huge budget, which we distribute among all of these graduate student organizations, etc. We also provide funding for students who are visiting conferences and extra money for grads who are presenting at conferences.

Plus, I have been going to the theatre down here. FSU put on a new works festival called New Horizons. We have six MFA playwriting students, and all of them got a play presented. Three were presented as staged readings and three as full productions. They spread the six shows over three evenings, so I went to all three. No exciting news to report from the festival, except there was one completely brilliant play about Andy Kaufman in the mix.

I also saw A Chorus Line at Tallahassee Community College. And tonight FSU's opera school is putting on Don Giovanni, so I'm attending that.

All of this leaves no time for movies, though I have three at home waiting for me:
The Ten Commandments (the classic. it's a big one.)
Day for Night (also classic. I've never seen it!)
Shortbus (I will report as soon as I can whether it's too much like porn. I assume some people are squeemish about renting this one.)

My research is currently:
Aristotle's Poetics (which is a little bit sleep-inducing)
Kushner's Caroline, or Change (I'm researching representations of black women)
John Fletcher and his sequel to Taming of the Shrew

I'll be back soon. Or, at the very least, I'll try to be here more.


23 March 2007

Picture Share

By request, here are some pictures of my house. I know, I know; I've lived here since August and I'm just posting pictures?! Yes. And the reason is that I got new stuff for the walls over Spring Break and now they don't look so bare and I don't mind sharing pictures. So: from the front door if you look directly to your right, you see:

From there:

You can't really see the kitchen or the bathroom all that well, but here's one of the great room:

And another:

And these two were taken from my bedroom door:

And for kicks, this is Joe and Gretchen. We're at the Irish pub in Tally called Finnegan's Wake. Joe is the musical director and Gretchen is the producer for the New Musical Project:

Small Thoughts

A) I had a good rehearsal, or at least sorta good. I pretty much love my cast. They are amazing. It's so weird to spend time with singers. It's a whole other performing art, the musical. I mean, I can't do that. You know? It's also odd being tied down by the music. I need the support of the musical director and the accompanist constantly. I can't even block without them, for the most part. This is a whole new experience. It's very cool. And the cast is pretty damn near brilliant. AND the producer is awesome.

B) I opened a new bottle of gin that my friend Alison got me for doing her taxes. It's called Citadelle. It tastes very different. It's kind of savory. Weird. I need to drink more of it, but not tonight, because I'm getting drunk and it's midnight.

C) I am coming to Los Angeles around May/June, y'all. Mark those calendars. Is anyone dong anything I need to see while I am there? I can work around your schedules. I haven't bought any plane tickets yet...

D) My history teacher pronounces the word "panoply" like "pan-opoly" as though it rhymes with monopoly. That's wrong. I'm just sayin'.

E) I watched a little bit of All About Eve today and found myself laughing out loud. GODDAMN Bette Davis is brilliant in that film.
Eve: Is there anything else I can do?
Margo: Thank you, Eve. I'll have a martini, very dry.
Bill: I'll get it. What can I get you Eve?
Margo: A milkshake?

22 March 2007

Five Topless Pianos

I wrote this piece for my Dramaturgy II class. We're doing criticism (well, a little of it) in there now. Anyway, I am kind of pleased with it.

Perhaps the most extraordinarily talented musical family since the Von Trapps recently appeared together at Florida State’s Ruby Diamond auditorium. Each of the 5 Browns—siblings, ranging from ages twenty to twenty-seven—is a trained, classical musician. Each of them attended New York’s Juilliard School in rapid succession, a first in the school’s history. Each of them also plays the piano. And on Wednesday the five performed for a completely packed, totally enthusiastic house of just under fifteen hundred.
The evening opened with a five-piano transcription of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, a piece so ubiquitous in popular culture that even the audience member claiming complete ignorance of “classical” music will immediately recognize it. The Browns perform the piece together, on five pianos—without tops—arranged in a spiral. The interpretation of the Rhapsody immediately feels revelatory. No one has ever seen anything like this. The audience teems with excitement and the Browns play as if they are having the time of their lives. The siblings are in constant eye contact, grinning and winking at one another as they play. This is a family that spends an inordinate amount of time together, and the siblings’ affection for each other is evident from the outset.
As the Gershwin piece ended (a version some six minutes shorter than the standard orchestral one), the audience erupted into applause. The Browns took their bows and the youngest, Ryan, aged twenty, introduced himself and his older brother Gregory, aged twenty-three. Ryan then introduced the group’s next piece, Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malagueña.” The boys play the piece on separate, dueling, pianos. Ryan spends his introduction speaking about the piece’s composer, its genesis, and where we might have heard the piece before: Zorro movies. With a wink, Ryan then professes a benign interest in Catherine Zeta-Jones. The audience applauds again and the boys commence.
“Malagueña” is lovely, and rare enough that the two-person format still finds new avenues to explore. When it ends, the boys rise to deafening applause. This is followed by the entrance of Melody, aged twenty-one, who enters to applause and introduces her piece: Lowell Liebermann’s Gargoyles. Melody introduces the piece, following the format of her brother: she tells us about the composer, what to look for in the music, and why she responds to the piece on a personal level. The audience applauds again after her introduction. Melody’s responds to this second round of applause (what was it for?) with a combination of bewilderment and awe. The evening continues following this pattern. Each Brown’s introduction to his or her piece displays a deep respect for the music and a passion expressed vividly during performance. The Browns also seem amazed and humbled by the audience’s praise, as though playing the piano were the easiest thing in the world.
After intermission, before the second half of the program, stagehands set up five chairs in front of the five pianos, and the 5 Browns hold a discussion with the audience. The audience asks the family questions. Where are you all from? Why the piano? Your parents must be amazing; who are they? The Browns’ answers are rehearsed and cheerful. They are personable, delightful individuals, and as a family appear nothing short of miraculous.
It is this—the story of the incredible 5 Browns—that appears to have made them popular. There is no shortage of fine pianists in the world, and the 5 Browns format has allowed these five pianists, as a combined unit, to find some measure of fame. (The Three Tenors did this successfully in 1990.) The music, however, is no better off in quintuplicate. Though the solo and duet pieces—the largest part of the program—feel unique and discriminatingly selected, the pieces performed by the 5 Browns together sound, by contrast, rather limp. Stravinsky’s Firebird feels dated and without surprises on five pianos; the instrument is not particularly adept at sneaking up on an audience. A medley of Leonard Bernstein’s score to West Side Story feels equally stale, and it becomes clear that while the five-piano format may have nothing intriguing to add to the music of Copland or Rimsky-Korsakov, new interpretations of modern music are not really the point. The 5 Browns is a gimmick. Certainly, each of the siblings is an extraordinarily talented musician, but this show isn’t really about music. The 5 Browns is a piece of theatre: a display of talent comparable to the routine of a brilliant juggler or acrobat from Cirque du Soleil.
Here lies the explanation for those numerous rounds of applause. In a country where dominant media constantly tell us stories about high school students who murder their classmates and college students who abuse alcohol, the Browns emerge as positive role models for young people. A family of five white, home-schooled siblings who love one another and go to the ice cream parlor after the show instead of the bar are to be regarded with awe. The Browns are, more than anything else, a kind of twenty-first century freak show: a form of entertainment that has been popular with audiences since long before Franz Liszt ever sat down to a piano.

21 March 2007

New Musical Project

My rehearsal sucked tonight. Mostly I sucked.

We have all of these problems with needing space in which to work. For some reason we never have a rehearsal space. It's been making me totally crazy. So again, today, we got into our space at eight and got kicked out at nine. So we had to move. It's not like it throws off my chi or anything, but the actors start to think that this is a slipshod operation and they don't have to work hard. So they were silly and unfocused and I was getting frustrated.

But of course I hardly know these actors, and they're lovely young people so I can't get too stern with them. And they don't know me, so they don't know I'm getting irritated or anything. Grr.

Ah well. There's always tomorrow. And we don't open until April the sixth.

18 March 2007

Rice & Pasta

Is rice cheap where you live? It's expensive in Tallahassee; at least it is at my Albertson's.

I made Thai red curry for dinner, with zucchini and chicken and bamboo. And I was going to put it over rice. Well, I am going to put it over rice, but the rice is so very expensive. I bought it anyway, but the rice costs so much more than pasta. What's up with that?

Love and kisses,

New Musicals

I don't know why but lately I don't feel like talking to anyone. I am much more interested in loving from afar.

Perhaps I'm receding into the gray twilight that is turning thirty. Hahaha. Okay that was a joke.

There is a risk of becoming sedentary in Theatre Studies. It would be so easy to not ever DO any theatre. Instead I could just read, read, read about it until my mind is filled with (not necessarily meaningless) data about bunraku and and Dael Orlandersmith and Coco Fusco and kabuki and Seneca.

I am working on a show now, though. It is called The New Musical Project (I didn't write the title, not that I dislike it) and it will be a staged reading of four new musicals, all of which are really great. Did I tell you guys this? The titles of the musicals are:

The Birthday Present: a 25-year old gets his brother a birthday present to cheer him up. Songs include "Dude, It's a..." and "The Best Present Ever".

The Adventures of Gilda: a famous hand model goes into hiding by wearing opera-length gloves and driving an ice cream truck into the desert to bring ice cream to the desert children. Her co-travelers are Zac, a recent escapee from a camp for the masculinely challenged and Baby Jesse, who had fifteen minutes of fame when she was rescued from the bottom of a well as a youngster but wants to shed her youthful image. Songs include "Teddy Bears are Bitches" and "Battleground".

What Happens Here: a young man hires a prostitute for the evening in Las Vegas. Both are harboring dark secrets. This is a sung-through show.

Soon Never: Colby, a 22-year-old production assistant for a Hollywood bigwig watches his boss's daughter, 12-year-old Montana, for the day. Montana is a famous actress (shadows of Dakota), who promptly seduces Colby (after accusing him of rape) and convinces him to kill her dad. Songs include "Purple House" and "You Said," which is the creepiest song ever.

12 March 2007

Other Pisceans

The following people were born on 12 March.

1890: Najinsky. Russian dancer and choreographer.

1921: Gordon MacRae. Oh what a beautiful mornin'

1922: Jack Kerouac. Author of On the Road.

1928: Edward Albee. I've read almost everything this man has written. His work includes the plays The Zoo Story, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance, Seascape, Three Tall Women, The Goat, and on and on. He has three Pulitzer prizes.

1946: Liza with a Z. The legend.

1947: Mitt Romney. The 2008 presidential candidate. Liza and I are not pleased about this.

1948: Sweet Baby James.
There's nothing like the sound of sweet soul music
To change a young lady's mind
And there's nothing like a walk on down by the bayou
To leave the world behind

1949: Rob Cohen. Director of such luminous cinematic creations as xXx and The Fast and the Furious.

1953: Ron Jeremy. Yeah, baby.

1962: Darryl Strawberry. Famous when I was a kid for being a Dodger. Famous now for being a cokehead and domestic violence.

1968: Aaron Eckhart. Good birthday. Good first name. And at least one good movie (Thank You for Smoking).

1970: Dave Eggers. Author of the totally badass A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which begins:
Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the trees calligraphic. Exhaust from the dryer billows out of the house and up, breaking apart while tumbling into the white sky.
The house is a factory.

10 March 2007

Stop All the Clocks

The following is the text of a W.H. Auden poem I was trying to remember last night. It's one of his most famous:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Why Can't I Get Anything Done?

Maybe I'm having trouble focusing.

Or maybe the book I'm reading on the performance traditions of Japan is just really boring.

Maybe both. I spent the morning doing copy-editor duties for the School of Theatre's student newspaper and then I finished a play: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, which I mostly loved. Anyone who can work the word motherfucker (actually: mothafuckah) into a Bible story as many times as Stephen Adly Giurgis can deserves props. But I sat down to read 100 pages of the Benito Ortolani J-pan book and it's putting me to sleep. I got through about forty pages, but I don't think I can continue. It is some dry shit. Thing is: I really need to finish up my work on this. I've got rehearsals starting tomorrow and I'm going to be mad busy the next four weeks. I have no time for messing around.

But I just don't feel like it. I'm being a really bad grad student. I want to sit down and read a novel, or maybe a couple more plays. I get tired of history and research after a while. Bitch, bitch, bitch. I'll shut up now.

09 March 2007

Celebrity Look-Alikes

Oh My

Has it really been a week since I posted? I must be busy...

But I'm not actually busy. I'm on Spring Break which means I'm trying to be busy but not actually achieving busy-ness. I will post today, I promise. I have two posts sitting in the back of my head just waiting to bring forth fruit (how Biblical I am today!)

Let me say a few things about 300, which I saw last night at midnight on a fluke. The audience for this thing was like nothing I've ever seen before. Nearly everyone there was a nerd. I have been to midnight showings of things before (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Phantom Menace--has there been anything else?), but the audience for this comic-book thing was unique. I didn't know men still wore long hair. What is that about? I apologize to anyone who reads this who has long hair and is a man. I don't think it looks horrible or anything, but can you explain why it is that you wear your hair long?
300 is very silly. It knows who its audience is and it plays to that. The men are in speedos the entire time, which I found to be giggle-inducing. They have huge muscular bodies that aren't really my type, so the speedos weren't so much hot as, well, silly. The film looks fabulous, of course, and this is supposed to be a film about style, so I didn't find its style irritating. The film is shot with a washed-out look and the scenery is really the sky. The sky and the earth are the main scenic elements in fact.
Pretty much everyone will see this movie, so there isn't really any reason to keep talking about it, but... the film got irritating in its third act when it became a film where words like "freedom" and "justice" got thrown around. "Freedom"? We're in ancient Sparta. They have slaves. The re-writing of history was inevitable with 300--they have a near-naked Xerxes and hideous creatures of all sorts--but certain things about Sparta seem to be re-written for ulterior purposes. The writer of the film (and the scribe of the graphic novel, no doubt) introduced two father-son narratives into the film. There is all this talk of fighting for sons and loving of sons, etc, etc. It's something that would've been completely unknown in Sparta--half the time they didn't even know who their sons were! And it's not the the father-son thing that bugs me. You know I love a good father-son narrative. But this is a film about war and battle and honor and justice and freedom and—dare I say it—Iraq. So of course the Spartans in the film have to have an American reason to fight—their sons—instead of a Spartan reason to fight.
Lena Headey, who plays the queen, is appropriately gorgeous and severe, and she gets most of the cool ancient lines like "Only Spartan women give birth to real men" and "Come back carrying your shield... or on it." The rest of the performances are overdone. Gerard Butler screams the entirety of the film. David Wenham, never a commanding personality, is his usual beautiful but sleep-inducing self. Rodrigo Santoro, looking like a drag queen (I assume it is intentional--we Westerners do like our Easterners to look feminine) has had his voice dubbed or re-recorded in a lower register or something. I didn't even recognize him.

But this is a film about style. The acting is unimportant. The battle sequences are fun, I guess. And the script is cute. Actually, that's the word that describes this film best for me: cute. I thought 300 was mostly cute. It looks harmless on the surface, too, but I bet once I start deconstructing the film in my head it's Iraq allegory will become clearer and its Orientalist sentiments will reveal themselves. Maybe I'll try not to think about that stuff and go back to thinking about men in speedos.

02 March 2007

Buddy Comedy

Remember Steve Guttenberg? I do, but barely. Well, today I watched the 1982 Barry Levinson drama (comedy?) Diner. The film stars Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Paul Reiser, Tim Daly (whose name I could not, for the life of me, recall) and a superb Ellen Barkin. Steve Guttenberg is first-billed. I didn't really think much of the film, but then, I am not nostalgic for the 1950s. I don't think I will ever understand the obsessive hearkening back to the 50's as the be-all end-all of Americana. Why is everyone so sentimental about that decade? And Diner isn't at all a deconstruction of the decade. It's more of a love letter, an homage to marriage as an institution and an ode to male friendship and homosocial bonding. It's all very hetero. It wasn't my cup of tea, but I'm not usually a fan of Levinson's work and I guess I shouldn't have expected too much. I have to say, though, it was very cool to see all of those guys so young.

And a couple weeks ago I saw the ridiculous Tony Goldwyn remake of Gabriele Muccino's The Last Kiss starring Zach Braff, Casey Affleck, Jacinda Barrett, Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner. The film is very stupid and, of course, derivative. The script for The Last Kiss is based directly on Muccino's L'Ultimo Bacio (a film I loved), which was based on Fellini's I Vitelloni. The Goldwyn film was written by Paul Haggis and, while it contains most of the plot points of the original, fails to retain any of the emotional resonance and power of L'Ultimo Bacio. In fact, the film paints all women as either whores or shrews. The men, really aren't any better. They behave as though they are in a script by Neil LaBute, continually doing hateful things to one another and behaving as though all of those things are okay. The role suits Braff, but the writing is so terrible that his talents are wasted. Ditto Blythe Danner's performance, which is easily one of her best performances ever. (And I think she's quite good in Sylvia and downright brilliant in Mr. & Mrs. Bridge.) I wish I could recommend the film just for Danner's work in it, but the film is so infuriating, I wouldn't dare recommend it to anyone. Roommate and I both wanted to throw things at our television screen. Paul Haggis (who is everywhere these days) did, as I recall, a great job of making me hate everyone in his film Crash, and with The Last Kiss he's done it again.