Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion (And a Happy New Year)

"I love you more!" "NO--I love YOU more!"*

Once upon a time before I was getting a masters in devised theatre, I spent about a year as a member of Wide Eyed Productions, first running the light board on their production of The Medea, then as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (that's me above with Benedick--Brian Floyd--squaring off in the "I love nothing so well as you" scene), and again running the light board this past summer for their production of A Devil Inside. Company member Jerrod Bogard cut together a little video of three of their shows (Medea, Much Ado, and this past fall's Phedre) for grant submissions, and thanks to the glory that is Youtube, you too can hear me speak just a little snippet of pre-established (and classical!) text, and see some lights that I controlled. Also the song's awful pretty. Go here.

And happy New Year.

*Photo by Amy Lee Pearsall

Sunday, December 28, 2008

OMG! I = your BIGGEST FAN!

If I was a more honest person, I'd wax poetical all day and all night about the VAST enthusiasm that fills me every time I see art I really like. I'd proclaim it to the heavens, dance in the street, herald it to the masses, and probably even cry (like I did within the first ten minutes of Wall-E--BOTH times!). But I put up a front because often I fear I'll look like a child if I'm caught enjoying anything. And living in New York for a while hasn't done much in terms of making me a more openly enthusiastic person.

Well, friends, today this ends, twofold. First, I found out I got a belated ticket to Improbable's annual theatre forum Devoted and Disgruntled. My love of the theatre company knows no bounds (at least, I've yet to find the boundary yet) and ever since I dug around their website after the awe-inspiring production of Satyagraha I caught at the Met last year, I can honestly say I have been waiting for the opportunity to go to this event since April. I am so psyched! But there's a glitch: I arrive back in England the morning of the event. It starts at 10AM, and I get into Heathrow at 8:45. What is it with me and the close calls re: continental travel? Seriously, I need an assistant. Not to mention the jet lag I'm going to be dealing with those two days. Also, I never sleep on planes. But it will be worth it, I just know it!

(Hear those famous last words?)

Maybe I'll try to change my ticket. I need to stop living at extremes.


The second thing I'd like to gush about today is The Wrestler. I caught it the other night at one of my favorite smaller art house cinemas in NYC, and loved it. I hated the last Aronofsky film (HATED it) and despite my complete adoration of Requim for a Dream, I wasn't sure I could ever trust that man again. But now my fears are all allayed. The topic of the film seems almost ludicrous, and as someone who used to watch professional wrestling a lot (I was doing it so I would have something to talk about with a boy--lame I know, but who here isn't guilty of that sort of thing at least a few times in their lives) I wasn't too sure what I would gain from watching this movie. Of course, the film doesn't deal with the more recognizable, more commercial version of professional wrestling that blew up about nine or ten years ago, but the time that comes after the fall of fame for one wrestler, played with the most beautiful honesty by Mickey Rourke. For serious guys: he was really freakin' good. I haven't seen a performance like this in a while, probably not since Javier Bardem in A Sea Inside. If you know anything about Mickey Rourke's career, the film takes on an extra life beyond the screen when you watch his character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, dealing with the seeming futility of his life. (Oh, Mickey Rourke...) Clint Mansell's scoring is really sparse, and Aronofsky keeps most of the film silent, with an occassional rush when Randy puts his hearing aid on. It's a really nice choice, and makes the movie more realistic, less melodramatic or sweeping which seems to be the effect of the scores to the other Aronofsky films I've seen (never caught Pi--I know, I know, I have no integrity).

The director also made a really interesting choice in having the camera follow his subject from behind, obscuring his face for most of the beginning of the movie--this sense of following close behind Randy, joining him on his day to day journey, and also creating a sense of distance between the character and the audience by denying us his face. The proverbial "they" always talk about the psychological association that a viewer experiences when watching a film: if you see someone looked scared, you experience fear; if you see someone with a smile on their face, you feel at ease. We recognize ourselves and our own feelings in characters. It's a natural, more basic, more psychological extension of empathy, really. This is something I've brought up briefly before re: my interest in exploring how to create this effect on the body using people on stage (perhaps a little more next term) and it's really great to see such an effective example of this.

(Quick side note: I seem to be pre-occupied with adapting filmic qualities for the stage. This seems ludicrous for a lot of reasons I needn't list here, mostly because some are so painfully obvious. But the big piece of feedback I got from my peers on my final solo performance piece for the term (which you will not see here because of my fear of artistic plagiarism, but I will grant special viewings for those who request them) was that my work was very "filmic." I don't know if that was meant as a compliment, an insult, or if it was a strict observation. But that's what was said.)

But anyway, yes: great film, go out and see it today.

And now to discover the cost of a flight change...

Friday, December 26, 2008

The longest pause...


Harold Pinter died two days ago. I only found out last night from my news feed on the Facebook, of all places. <--Why is it Facebook seems to be the only way to know what is happening in people's lives? Recently, I had yet ANOTHER friend announce their engagement there before I heard it from them. What is that about? I confess to being just as addicted to the social networking site as much as anyone else, but for frak's sake people, pick a phone already. I want to hear it from you directly, not just because I spent my afternoon stalking you online.

Anyway.

I love Pinter, and I can honestly say that he was the second playwright to actually make me think about what theatre can do, and more specifically how text can shape an entire show/performance. I first read The Homecoming my freshman year in college, and before him no playwright had really left an impression on me other than Shakespeare, who by then I had been acquainted with for about six or seven years. Reading that play blew my mind, and for one of the first times I actually started thinking about how modern theatre could do exactly what classical theatre did for me, but in an entirely opposite way. They say that with Shakespeare the characters live on the line--most classical has this reputation, that there's no "internal life" necessarily, because everyone is running around telling the audience exactly how they feel all of the time, usually using beautiful imagery, etc. But then came Pinter and his pauses, where he showed you exactly how a character was feeling, but in a completely different way: by having them say nothing at all. Or by having them talk around what was happening, about things that didn't seem to be connected to the plot or stage action at all (which may have been one of the reasons The Birthday Party only played eight performances). Actors have to be completely grounded in those characters so it makes sense to them (and hopefully at least some of the audience) why they can do one thing on stage while saying something else. This seems like an obvious point for anyone who's had any kind of acting training, particularly when we talk about any play that we respect as having subtext. But I submit that often, especially with a writer like Pinter, this doesn't happen. Or doesn't happen fully, because he's pretty tough. (Another writer this happens with easily is Mamet, who by his own account seems to completely dismiss the actor in terms of the play, other than being a vessel for his {Mamet's} words. I think that's unfair: when Mamet's plays are done well, it's usually because the actors are smart enough and talented enough to actually understand what to do to make his text completely comprehensible to a spectator's ear. Otherwise, it could turn out to be a real mess. {Sorry Mamet, but fuck off.<--It's okay, he'd find that endearing.}) But when it does, oh what theatrical magic! What resonant moments that can happen on stage! What interesting stylistic choices! I just love it.

A more personal reason for lamenting the loss of Pinter is that this past October he was named president of Central, having also been an alumni of the institution. In a way, we belonged to him, and he belonged to the students who were running around in his old house, so to speak. We are meant to carry on the reputation of the school, part of which he established, and we thought he'd be around to shepherd us a bit. I'm sad we won't have that opportunity. I am interested to see what kind of memorial or tribute the school pays to him when we get back--he already has his name on one of the steps, so I'm sure that won't be it. I also wonder if his passing will re-inject his theatrical sensibility in any of the work my peers and I come to generate. Maybe the most fitting tribute would just be subjecting an audience to watching two characters stand in silence.

He might.

Like.

That.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I want to be a part of it.



Stepping off NJ transit last night, out into the flurries, out into the cold, the noise, the crisp winter air, the lights, the traffic, the tourists mucking up maneuverability on the sidewalks, the ease with which profanity left my lips when my bag would stall in a crack or someone got in my way or said something obnoxious, standing in line for a taxi and then my driver hitting on me, telling me not to let anyone else drive me up to Connecticut this weekend (I am not going to Connecticut this weekend), spending the night in some body's loft, I had to ask myself:


Why did I ever leave New York?


I went to yoga this morning (one of the perks of being home is actually subbing at my old work, which is great as I need monies and some peace of mind indeed) and someone came in right before class started and asked me to move my mat so they could fit. Instantly I was full of resentment--"Why didn't you get here earlier? Why don't you ask somebody else to move? Don't you understand the nature of New York real estate, bitch?" I'm a volatile yogini, I know. Of course I moved, but having that moment of spite for something as simple as that reiterated for me the fact that people don't change. They really don't. I'm still the same hyper-competitive, driven, incredibly susceptible to stress girl that I was when I left. I still have the same prejudices (Seriously: I hate it when people ask me to move my mat. HATE. IT.), still enjoy the same things, the same company, and still miss the same people I seem to have misplaced. You can take the girl out of New York, but...


I haven't adjusted to England yet. There are too many parts of myself that I'm not certain what to do with in terms of that city. The truth is, there I will always be an outside: an American with a different urban sensibility who talks funny. And here, well, I'm exactly what makes up this place.


Still, New York doesn't feel like home anymore. Events have happened in my friends' lives that I haven't been around for, and other things (people included) have simply moved on without me. And it's not like I actually have a home here. The biggest "Huh" moment I had leaving London was looking at my empty key ring. My parents had just moved (again) and I didn't have a key to their new home, and there were of course no apartment keys resting there, having waited months for use again. I had already turned in my halls keys to the front desk when I checked out, in an effort to get reimbursed for the days I would not be staying there. So there I was, without any ties to any place. And it was strange. New York feels familiar--like some old lover we can pick up the dance right where we left off. But it's not home. And neither is England--not yet, anyway.


And where is the art in this discussion? Non-existent it seems. Except that your surroundings influence your output, and having a place to rest is the first step to being able to think clearly. And thinking clearly helps you see, and create, and all that good stuff. I left New York because I felt stifled, artistically and in life generally. In England I feel mostly lost and alone, but on the brink of something great that I can only discover by myself (for some reason, this last bit seems to be the most true thing I know), though in part aided by others. So how do you make art that is grounded in anything, when you yourself are not? And what changes that?


I guess we'll find out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

As if things couldn't get any better...

...several friends old and new reached out to me today to lend support, an ear, a shoulder, and even offered monies. Thank you all. And the best news is:

Someone found my wallet. I should be able to pick it up as soon as I arrange a meeting place with said savior.

But thanks to my parents, to the Central staff (who I've no doubt will not read this), and to my England (not all of them English) friends who supported me through the day during a huge time of trauma. And thank you to Amy and Sean for your online support!

Just remember the Killers: "Everything will be all right..."

As if things couldn't get any worse...

...today I lost my wallet.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"It feels like Christmas"


Truth be told, I hate December. Nothing makes me feel worse than the cold, the dark, and the holiday stress: between seeing an overwhelming amount of people, the amount of money spent (especially when one has so little to start with--will the impoverished artistic existence ever end?), and the feeling of never being able to give enough...yeah, it takes a lot for me to really savor the season, as it were.

So for me, the spirit of the season never really starts until I see A Muppet Christmas Carol for the first time. Today I went with some classmates to see the movie, which was playing at the Barbican Centre--a HUGE arts complex, placed in the middle of a strange place. The buildings that surround the Barbican creates a microcosm in the middle of London, designed in tones of Orwell. But there are flowers. Weird. But the Barbican Centre is a remarkable place, host to some pretty remarkable work, as well as a family film series. This program was the (brilliant) reason the movie was showing. I haven't seen the movie on the big screen since it came out in 1992 when I was in the third grade, but I watch it every year, multiple times, know every line and song by heart, and it never ceases to pick me up. I love that there are some pieces of art that stick with us always as something we cherish and remind us of what's really important in life, and what we can do to make our existence a little easier. It's good to remember, to paraphrase the Muppets, to carry the love we find so we're never quite alone. I hope to carry the love I've found over this past year from friends and family to make this season go by a little easier, and I hope you can all do the same.

And now, to more X-mas shopping...

Blech.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The kind of thing I can only say during my course work:

When discussing a collegue's solo piece the other day, I caught myself saying: "Well, maybe strike the dinosaur, but keep what you were doing with the orange."*
*Upon seeing the dinosaur, I hope she keeps it.