Archive for April, 2010

Photo diary

April 28, 2010

found object in refrigerator: four-week-old leftover charoset. mmmmm!

another version of having an office in midtown....

Quote of the day: ACTING

April 27, 2010


I think the problem for a lot of stage acting is that it’s so often concerned with the actor’s desire to make sure that he or she is connecting with the audience. So, there’s always this little thing, this patronizing thing, that they are always one little second ahead of the audience telling them what they should feel and what is coming next. I don’t want performers to be responsible for this. This should be the responsibility of the piece as whole, it’s not down to individual performers.

So the ego of the performer has to push to the back?

In some ways, in other ways it’s pure narcissism. you have to have a certain kind of narcissism because you have to trust that the audience will watch whatever you do. A lot of actors have egoism, but they don’t have this kind of narcissism. Maybe the egoism comes from film, where the actors always want to make sure that they are doing something important — this is so different from the narcissist, who simply doesn’t care.

— Elizabeth LeCompte, interviewed by Andrew Quick in The Wooster Group Work Book

Performance diary: doubling back

April 25, 2010

April 23 – Andy and I went back to see North Atlantic because you can never absorb everything about a Wooster Group production in one viewing. And indeed, it was very different this time sitting in the next to last row downstairs than it was sitting in the second row center. From the very front the actors were on top of us and overwhelming in their way. From the distance of the back row, the entire frame came into view, including the minimalist video representing the ocean surface behind the stage. When you’ve seen the piece once, you don’t have to focus on whoever’s speaking and you can pay attention to what crazy things the rest of the ensemble is up to. They’re not frozen in place – I just noticed this time the nutty shoeshine business that Doberman and Houlihan were up to as the military officers strode back and forth. I’ve just finished reading The Wooster Group Work Book, Andrew Quick’s incredibly detailed and engrossing study of five productions (from Frank Dell to To You, the Birdie!), in which Liz LeCompte talks about the paces she puts the actors through, having them work very hard to make something happen in the moment rather than looking overly rehearsed. So I was very aware of how, for instance, Scott Shepherd (below) managed the dead space around the leaden jokes he tells as Colonel Lud.

Almost all the notes I took were crazy little Jim Strahs lines I hadn’t necessarily heard before, such as:

— Waddya got for the layman, something that lights up and talks back?

— Ya gotta make ‘em squirt.
— I can’t do that. What does that make me, a soft-shell crab?

— You’re so deformed you could have been born in a can of Pepsi.

— Go ahead, wet your stick.

— Slithers??? Jumps!

— You’ll be shitting shoelaces for the next 35 years.

— Who’s he calling Schwitzpuppen?

The sound score is always subtly changing, throughout the show and from one performance to another, and you could spend the entire time just tracking that. I still giggle every time I think about the scene where the men down front are singing the dirty ditty “There’s a Place in France” (“where the women wear no pants”) while upstage the women are sliding on the tilted stage floor faintly mashing it up with snatches of Chic’s “Le Freak” (“awwww freak out!”). I spoke to Liz briefly after the show and that’s what she was fixated on – she said they’d only just solved some of the acoustic bugaboos in the theater at the Baryshnikov Arts Center that North Atlantic has inaugurated. She also said the group is leaving soon to perform in Romania – “Don’t ask!”

Andy and I happily debriefed about the show walking up Ninth Avenue afterwards until we found ourselves stopping for dinner at a relatively new place, Terrazza Toscana, at 50th Street, where sat outdoors on the roof and had a delicious meal: spaghetti with lamb stew for him, orecchiette with pancetta and haricots verts for me, with a lovely bottle of copertino.

April 24 – Revisiting American Idiot: for all my grumbling about how the songs in the show  blurred together after a while, I notice that after listening to the original cast album now I can’t get several of them out of my head (“Are We the Waiting,” “Know Your Enemy,” “21 Guns”). I guess if I knew the Green Day album in advance – like apparently Theatermania’s Dan Bacalzo did – I would have been squealing with delight throughout the show at what Michael Mayer did with each song. That’s what I would probably do if someone made a stage show out of, say, Joni Mitchell’s Hejira album. Not a bad idea….paging Michael Mayer!

Quote of the day: QUEER DHARMA

April 25, 2010


The Buddhist teaching of equanimity is at odds with the cult of desire within the gay community. It is much easier for us to be kind and helpful and cheerful with someone who attracts us physically, than with someone who does not fit our stereotype of the sexually desirable. If we somehow judge another person to be dumb or ugly or unpleasant, we are unlikely to give them much time or emotional attention. The American sexual marketplace (not just in the gay world) is very clear about who is attractive and who is not. The more we, as gay practitioners, buy into this fleshy consumerism, the more we violate the basic imperative to equanimity. He is not better than she. Blond is not better than brown. Young is not better than old. “Each one is best,” as the old Zen refrain goes. Hot day, cold day; each one is a buddha.

–Kobai Scott Whitney, “Vast Sky and White Clouds: Is There a Gay Buddhism?”

From this week’s New Yorker

April 25, 2010

I have to confess that I’ve never read anything by Saul Bellow, so I wasn’t the prime audience for the selection of his letters, but I was fascinated to perceive that most of them were apologies.

Also fascinating: in his Critic-at-Large piece on Tyler Perry, Hilton Als notes that 40-year-old Perry (the writer/director/creator of the Madea movies) is “the most financially successful black man the American film industry has ever known.”

And the usual funny stuff, including a Talk of the Town sidebar by Billy Kimball entitled “Least Common Complaints About the New iPad” (my favorites: “Strange odor coming from husband while using iPad,” “The iBookstore ichthyology section includes almost nothing on lampreys,” and “Insufficient media coverage”) and a great Roz Chast cartoon:

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