Wednesday, May 28, 2008

October/And kingdoms rise/And kingdoms fall/But you go on.../...and on...

Okay, it's been published on the website so it must be true. My start date is officially the 6th of October, 2008, if any of you care about those kind of specifics. This will be two days after my bff gets married, in a wedding where I'm maid of honor. So it looks like I'll be flying out the next day, or that night, alone (no one can make the trip over with me, it seems), and arrive in London really early on the first day of classes, or just a few hours before that day actually starts. Pretty crazy, and the jet lag may be** a bitch. I'm hoping not. I found this little counter (above) and couldn't figure out how to add it to my formal blog layout, so I just posted it.

(**Non sequitur: Lately I've been writing "may be" instead of "maybe" quite a bit. I still occasionally do the latter, but it's not too consistent. Does anyone know if it's justifiable to do the former in specific usage, or am I just stupid?)

More on the concept of flying over alone another time. Or maybe never. That's a bit too gushy fare for me.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NY Event Number Ten: Watching ballerinas rock out.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit through the final dress of the new show, Memento Mori, by the company Ballet Deviare. It was unlike any ballet I've seen, and probably unlike any you've seen, but it left me leaving the Baruch Performing Arts Center thinking one thing:

I wish I was that hardcore.

Most like to think of ballet, of ballerinas, as flighty, fluffy, graceful, always beautiful, always just beyond the movement of mortals, and therefore somehow closer to the divine. Working with the same movement vocabulary and the same rep offerings over and over again (Swan Lake, Giselle, Swan Lake, Giselle...), watching ballet can sometimes feel like watching a dead art form something to be revived every so often in order to show the beginnings of this kind of choreographed movement. Various productions of Commedia dell'arte or classical mime can have the same affect. Don't get me wrong--these productions can still be inspiring and do serve their purpose (I'll always be the first person in line for a showing of Shakespeare done in tights and doublets, no doubt, and when there's a good period piece on Master Piece Theatre, just try to get me out of my house on a Sunday night--you'll not succeed.). But over time, as an audience member, things can get a little stale. And the stereotype surrounding the artform has alienated a large part of the theatre-going, dance supporting public. So it was great to see an original work, that threw a well-manicured middle finger up against the grain, while at the same time inviting in a new kind of audience.

Ballet Deviare was founded in 2003, by Laura Kowalewski and Andrew Carpenter and since then has been offering up work that would do any anarchist proud. Namely, it has been setting classical ballet to heavy metal music. Oh yes, that's right: pointe shoes and death metal. The live band that plays intermittently during the performance, Gwynbleidd, is billed as "a dark/aggressive/progressive metal music project." They're very good, and had me head-banging between dances. The final piece is actually danced while the band performs live, rounding off a show that feels more like a rock concert than a night at the ballet.

There is probably an argument against this sort of work in the ballet world, which probably deals with the great tradition of the art form, and the attempt to maintain it's old standards and ideals. But the people who make that argument seem to forget, or do not appreciate a simple truth that has also existed since the first company: Classical ballet is extreme. The very nature of this most beautiful movement is slightly masochistic. Ballerinas are essentially putting their feet, and the most fragile part of their feet, down into a piece of wood over and over and over again. Compound that with gruelingly long rehearsals in a company setting, outside classes to touch up technique, and any number of eating disorders that plagues the entertainment industry but always seems to be focused here, where the body is on display for constant wonder or constant scrutiny, and you come to realize that this is not the sort of thing for the weak of heart. Theatrical legend has it that dancers in a center very well known company would actually have their feet broken and set by doctors to gain a more perfect arch. So it's entirely appropriate that a company of ballerinas would work like this--with movement and music that is just as extreme as the art form itself. Co-founder and choreographer Kowalewski herself has a strong and long classical background, as well as a full length sleeve tattoo covering her left arm (which I was very sad to see was covered up in the one piece she was featured in, the only piece she did not choreograph from the show).

So if you're in New York and want some of your old ideas broken down, drop by some evening this weekend, and give it up to the ballerinas.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NY Event Number Nine: Going to an art opening.

I went down to East West Books tonight after my meditation class, to see a series of paintings called "The Madhubani." They were all hand drawn and painted by women--it's actually a tradition that has been passed down from mother to daughter over the centuries. They depict mostly various Indian gods, or some meditation on Indian philosophy/religion, and in that way, they seem to function almost as a prayer, as well as being visually stimulating. Apparently the paintings that you are most drawn to in the exhibit showcase something in their subject's energy that extends to the specific energy of the viewer, and that's why some paintings intrigue you more than others. The one I was most into sits to the right of this text, known as Jaladevi. The description is as follows:

One of the rarest images in the collection, Jaladevi (Goddess of Water) is the presiding deity of the primordial soup, water, rivers and oceans. She is also the Shakti force that breeds life in water and the living goddess who supplies nourishment to all forms of life. She sits on a crocodile among smaller water creatures (frog, fish, snail, water snake, salamander) holding lotus flowers in her hands and wearing a lotus crown. With her hair flowing in the water current, her benevolent smile and forward gaze is a blessing of nature’s bliss to all who worship her.

I do like the sea, it is true, so being drawn to this picture makes sense. I guess. I always walk on the edge of being a "true believer" as it were. But it's still pretty beautiful in its intricacy.

I hadn't been to the East West bookshop before this, and was really impressed by the amount of stock they had--books, crystals, natural musical instruments, home decor (I think I'll be going back for some bells I saw there, apparently designed to keep away evil spirits, but are also hand made and really cool looking), and a cafe/art gallery upstairs. Everything a modern day spiritualist needs is here, from sage to burn, to rune guides, to Buddhas in every shape and color. I think I'll be spending way more time in this shop, if only because of the novelty.

So often we forget about the divine, yet it is something that shapes our lives every day, whether we believe in a higher power or not. If we believe, how we display or don't display that belief or acknowledgment of that power shapes our lives just as much as some one who does not believe in such a thing. The idea of the divine has shaped and produced art on so many levels over the years, whether praising it or reacting to it, and therefore must be respected as a viable source of inspiration for the production of work. But nowadays, try to weave a little divinity into something, and you're often shuffled around with the label "Jesus Freak" or something else. I hate a morality play just as much as the next person--they're usually really dry, and they all end up the same way, don't they? And there's nothing less interesting than predictability.

Is this dismissal of work that has some kind of theological base occurring because we fear offense--we worry people will be hurt by our expression of something? Or do we work to create a "universal" spiritualism, something vaguer than a morality play, say, to make it accessible, and hope that we've somehow covered everyone's bases with what we've put together. This seems futile, as everything will offend at least one person for some reason no one could have thought of, before that person came along and got offended. So why is religion such a hot issue? Is it because much of the work done around/about religion is propagandic somehow--if you believe,"x" will happen to you; OR, if you don't believe, "y" will. How does one create work that provides the wonder, the awe, the release, and the appreciation that most strictly religious work is meant to inspire in us, and make it less...religious? Is that possible? And would it be nearly as powerful if you cut the whole ethereal thing out of it?

I don't know the answer to this, but it's something to think about for possible future projects. One thing is sure: without a concept of the divine, the exhibit I saw wouldn't have existed. Neither would the Sisteenth Chapel's ceiling, for that matter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NY Event Number Eight: Seeing "Indiana Jones" before anybody else.

I stood outside for two hours in the rain, on line, in my soaked-through sneakers, standing under an umbrella, the use of which I find morally abhorrent (I'm a noir girl, damn it), that I had to buy, all in the abysmal area of Manhattan known as Kips Bay, which is the island's closest answer to a suburb. I don't like standing on lines, I don't like being wet, I don't like standing for two hours, I HATE umbrellas, and Kips Bay is lame. What does this prove?

Answer: People will do anything for Indiana Jones.

My friend Jenni got advance passes to see the movie two days before its official release on May 22nd. I don't know how she got them, but I feel like it may have something to do with her job in advertising (She went to a New York Times sponsored event the other day, and occasionally has a new bag, courtsey of various clients. I wish was fancy, but alas, I am not.). In any regard, she got them, passed them off to me, and I headed over through the pouring rain to grab us spaces in line. And was it worth it?

You bet your ass it was.

I won't talk about the plot of the movie (there's probably some secrecy clause I'm entitled to uphold, although I signed nothing), but let's say that while it went a direction I wasn't expecting, it did the legacy proud. And there were a lot of nod-backs to the first three films, which allthe fans will Love. And Marion Ravenwood, the best Indy girl EVER, was in it, and I can't ever complain about that. (Apparently, Karen Allen actually teaches yoga and designs knitwear. Both make her even more amazing.) I also think it was a nice close to Indy's story, and even after all these years, he will always be the first man in my heart.

Or maybe second to Han Solo.

Damn it. Who could choose between them?!

No, okay, Indy.


Damn it. We'll save that debate for another time.

But seriously: check this out.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"...I'm leaving on a jet plane..."

Not yet. But below is a picture of me backstage of the show I'm currently in (we close tonight), playing a GPS unit in a car. And oh yes, that's a stewardess's outfit. I look like I walked out of the Britney Spears "Toxic" video (I love that video!). The girl to my right is fellow cast member, Colleen.

This is what happens when you do favors for people. I was a last minute replacement when they had some girl drop out unexpectedly. My friend Jake asked me at an audition we were both at two weeks ago to step in, and I realized I wasn't doing anything else this weekend so might as well. I do more random stuff because I have nothing else scheduled, I swear. Another friend Andrew is also in the show, in the first piece of the evening, which was unknown to me until he sent out an invite e-mail. This just proves once again that the New York Theatre world is really only four people big, and that some where along the line, you'll have worked with everyone, even if just by-proxy.

I have to find/write another play wherein I play a stewardess so I can get my money's worth out of the costume. Though I have to say, I have a right mind to wear the little jacket out--it's ridiculous, but somehow cute in it's gratuitousness. Very dance recital. I need to put some darts in the back, though. I picked it up at Abracadabra, and I suppose it's meant to be one of those "sexy costumes"<--the company that manufactured it was called "Secret Wishes." It's made out of this kind of manufactured polyester that's closer to plastic, that I can only assume is really useful in terms of being easy to clean if something is spilled on it ("Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more!"). I look very silly, I assure you. But I do so little in the play (the majority of my lines are directions: "Left turn in point two miles." "Make a left." "Remain on the current road.") that I had to do something to entertain myself. This was the best thing I could think of.

I guess this will be the last show I do in New York. That realization is kind of weird, considering the piece, and considering that it may very well be it for me in this city. But that can't true. I don't think I really believe that.

I wish I had little gloves that stopped at the wrist. That would be the ultimate accessory for this outfit.

Next time.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

NY Event Number Seven: Going to an art house and seeing a movie.

Maybe this doesn't really count as an event, seeing as how I do this sort of thing all the time. An exchange I had on my way to the first movie of my w/e of art house cinema with my friend Jake emphasizes this:

Where are you going?

To go see a movie.

What movie?

Pierrot Le Fou. They're having a Godard retrospective at the Film Forum. It's my favorite.

Who are you going with?

...No one...

...That's just like you, isn't it? That's just like a "you" thing to do.

Is it? Am I that predictable? I suppose so. In any case, I caught Pierrot Le Fou on Saturday night, and A Last Tango in Paris on Sunday night. Both movies are pretty angsty, and were therefore appropriate to the mood I'm in lately, brought about by the HUGE LIFE CHANGE that's looming in the air. I had seen both before, but usually if something I've liked is out in a theatre somewhere I'll try to catch it on the big screen, to see how it was supposed to be really experienced. (For the record, if The Maltese Falcon is playing anywhere remotely accessible to me within a 50-70 mile radius, I always go. ALWAYS.)

The Film Forum is one of the few art houses I've been to in the city, the others being the Paris, the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, the Walter Reade Theatre, and the Angelika. (The last is a nice addition to my walking tour: "This is where I saw my first foreign language film.") Going to art house movie theaters is something I started to do as much as I could when I was younger once I had a car and could get out to cities that boasted such places (Flemington, New Jersey, despite all its wonderful shopping outlets, has never been a mecca for international entertainment.). My favorite has always been the County in Doylestown, PA, which made those kind of films accessible in a way that was unique to where I grew up. In suburbia, a person interested in film's best friend is their Blockbuster or Netflix account. But getting a chance to see classic and foreign films in their true element was such a treat, and such a learning experience--you get so much more of an idea of the picture the filmmaker is constructing when you can see it laid out like that. (It also makes you feel artsy-fartsy in an otherwise sterile environment, and any excuse to feel a little more cultured and a little more pretentious is usually welcome, let's be honest.) I'm happy the city has afforded me the opportunity to catch more of this sort of thing, from filmmakers you can't necessarily come across in your local suburban mall. And it introduced me to one of my favorite quotations, from such a filmmaker:

"I left the ending ambiguous, because that is the way life is."--Bernardo Bertolucci

NY Event Number Six: Taking a walking tour of a specific area--this time, the Flatiron District.

Did you know the historic Flatiron Building holds the record for being the image most printed on postcards?

It's true--according to my walking tour guide.

For Mother's Day, my parents came in and spent the afternoon in the city with me, starting out with this free walking tour of the historic landmarks surrounding Madison Square Park. These included, but were not limited to:

The Flatiron Building

The Toy Building North

The Worth Monument

The Gilbert Hall of Science

The Appellate Courthouse

The Met Life Tower

I'm not going to run down little historical blurbs for every attraction we saw--that way madness lies (and a very bor-red Lea, to be sure). But the experience was fun overall, particularly because of the novel pieces of information our tour guide dropped in every now and then. For instance: the meeting place of Broadway, Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street at the front point of the Flatiron was a place of very strong wind gusts, and lots of men would gather there to watch ladies' skirts rise up. Police officers were assigned to the intersection to break up the ogglers, and the term 23 skidoo was coined.

Little pieces like that made me wonder what a walking tour of my own design would be. Things like:

"This was the theatre where I saw my first Broadway show" (The Winter Garden)
"This was the first bar I got picked up in" (Kelly's on the UES, no longer in existence)
"This was the subway stop I fell in love at" (questionable, the "love" sentiment, but let's say the 86th 4/5/6 stop holds a very memorable place in my heart)
"Favorite watering hole" (Banshee on a Sunday or Monday night with nachos from Blue Moon delivered in).

I feel like I'll be adding to this list as my tenure in this city comes to a close, and especially when I go home to Jersey. Which will not actually be "home" at all, as my parents recently sold the house I spent the latter part of my formative years in the day after this walking tour took place. So I'm going to...I don't know. And then...I don't know.

But enough of that. What would your various walking tours look like? Any city accepted.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What it takes in this day and age.

After having stolen the widget from zuzu*s petals, I was exploring the site and came across this little gem. I liked it, so I thought I'd throw it up here. He expands on each of his points here, but I figured I'd just post the list.

Keep the faith, people.

"How to Be Creative"

So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years:

1. Ignore everybody.

2. The idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to be yours.

3. Put the hours in.

4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being "discovered" by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.

5. You are responsible for your own experience.

6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

7. Keep your day job.

8. Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.

11. Don't try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

13. Never compare your inside with somebody else's outside.

14. Dying young is overrated.

15. The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not.

16. The world is changing.

17. Merit can be bought. Passion can't.

18. Avoid the Watercooler Gang.

19. Sing in your own voice.

20. The choice of media is irrelevant.

21. Selling out is harder than it looks.

22. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.

23. Worrying about "Commercial vs. Artistic" is a complete waste of time.

24. Dont worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

25. You have to find your own schtick.

26. Write from the heart.

27. The best way to get approval is not to need it.

28. Power is never given. Power is taken.

29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually.

30. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.

31. Remain frugal.

32. Allow your work to age with you.

33. Being Poor Sucks.

34. Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.

35. Savor obscurity while it lasts.

36. Start blogging.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

NY Event Number Five: Visiting the Brooklyn Museum

My friend Brooke and I do something we like to call Sunday Dates. It started out about a year ago, when we started hanging out outside of work (where we met and continue to spend the majority of our time, together or apart) on Sunday evenings, the only night either of us seemed to have free and also when neither of us had to work the next day. So every few Sundays or so we would get together and do something that at least one of us hadn't done yet. Because of our schedules and various other to-dos, we've occasionally had to shelve the "Sunday" part of the date, and do something called Weekday Dates, which never seem quite as cool as the concept of Sunday Dates, despite being just as fun. This week we went on a Saturday Date (which is not as much fun to say as either Sunday Date or Weekday Date--I blame the number of syllables) to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Every first Saturday of the month, the museum is open and free between the hours of 5PM and 11 for an event called Target Saturdays. There's usually live music, occasionally performance art, and other special presentations (film showings, etc.) surrounding the common theme of the evening. This night it was "Japan in Brooklyn." My bff (I know I'm twenty-three, but I can still say that, can't I?) Kate was in town from Boston to visit, under the guise of looking for bridesmaid dresses for her wedding (we never actually got to it, though we did brunch Sunday morning and then saw "Iron Man," which, to me, is almost better than a wedding), so I grabbed her at Port Authority, and we headed down to Brooklyn in the evening.

The Brooklyn Museum of Art is a pretty impressive building, as is most of the substantial surrounding architecture in that area--the Soldiers' and Sailor's Arch and the Brooklyn Public Library are right around the corner at Grand Army Plaza, and the beauty of Prospect Park I think cannot be debated. It is simply fact. Actually, the BPL reminds me a bit of the fascist architecture in the E.U.R. district of Rome.

The featured exhibit was of Takashi Murakami's work (hence "Japan in Brooklyn"), but we skipped that because we'd still have to pay to get in. Kate and I started on the first floor ("...a very good place to start...") in the African section which was pretty cool and had a lot of great masks. We moved upstairs to the Decorative Arts area and met Brooke, and we meandered through various exhibits of home decor as art, or art as home decor, whichever you prefer. One of the really cool parts of this section was seeing whole rooms transplanted from homes and displayed in a museum, in order to showcase design choices from various periods and locations. I can't imagine what it would take to disassemble a room, and then construct it to its original layout in a new space. This just seems very strange to me--it's not just furniture we're talking about: it's floorboards, it's walls, it's crazy. And in one of the rooms there was a toy Noah's Ark with all of the animals circling into it, two by two, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Then we went to the Egyptian floor, which was less exciting to me. While I really love the mythology of ancient Egypt and do appreciate some of it's art just in terms of the shape and boldness of much of it (hieroglyphics are awesome, and all the adornment reminds me of something I miss a lot from the ceremony of the Catholic mass: the drama and spectacle that comes when man tries to capture the divine), I have a severe and strange prejudice against the desert. I hate sand. I hate Westerns (except for "Tombstone," and only then because of Val Kilmer as, let's face it, he is the only redeeming part of that film.). I could not get through "The English Patient," or "Lawrence of Arabia" despite my affection for both Ralph Fiennes and Peter O'Toole, and it took a while for me to warm up to "Firefly." Also I dislike the jungle. Perhaps in a past life I was buried alive in sand or devoured by a crocodile in some lost swamp, but whatever the reason, whenever I stumble upon these types of exhibits I tend to shut off. Kate and I were also getting hungry, so we bounced soon after exploring one of the interactive computer touch screens installed in the wing, and celebrated our own "Japan in Brooklyn" by eating sushi a few blocks away from Grand Army Plaza.

Some things taken away from this experience to consider in terms of creating art at a later date:
1) The transformative power of a mask.
2) And isolated room, put on display. (Honestly, this is kind of a stolen idea {try to find something on the Tartuffe McCarter did last fall} but still something interesting to consider...)
3) That toy Noah's Ark image, and other implications (children understanding disaster simplicity as something that just happens, before they learn to ask why), as well as our relationships with toys and how they change as we get older. Or, still perhaps more interesting, how they don't change. And can anyone do anything with toys on stage now without being called a Julie Taymor poser right off the bat?

Despite my misgivings when it comes to Egyptian displays, I'm happy to get out and let myself be exposed to what other cultures and people have produced because it keeps my own gears turning. I'm trying to stay available, and one of the great things about Sunday Dates is that it forces me to do so. They are something that I will miss an awful lot when I'm away, in part due to the company.

Which brings me to something else: part of the reason I've been doing anything at all these past few weeks in terms of taking advantage of the city is because of my friends, getting me out and taking me places. If I were left to my own devices, I would seriously not do anything except watch Netflixed movies in my apartment all the live long day and avoid my abusive cat. How will I find the gumption to get myself out of my Anglican hovel to see any of that new city, without these people near me? I suppose there are other friends to make, but I will miss a lot the friends I have, and the friends I've just been finding over this past year.

Aw, Brookes. You'll have to visit me some Sunday in England!

And we're off.

The money and paperwork is sent and should, so FedEx tells me, get there by next Tuesday (past the deadline, but an acceptable delay, I have been assured by staff members of the registry).

So this is it, people. No turning back now.