Friday, January 8, 2010

Space Review

Okay, let’s try this blogging thing again.

So, I don’t know if anybody’s reading this, but I got literary internship at EST and I’m very happy with it. Sure, I’m mostly doing the same shitty stuff that needs to get done around a theatre but is too tedious for anybody with a title, the stuff I didn't want to do for free now that I'm out of college and did that stuff for three years already, but that’s okay. I really like the people, good theater, good atmosphere, it’s good to have some place to go, and to be around people who make this whole crazy profession seem less impossible.

Anyway, the real reason I’m writing this is because my new internship provides me with lovely comp tickets and tonight I partook in this one and only perk of my unpaid job. I saw Space Panorama at the Public, as part of their Under the Radar festival. I know I’m going out on a limb here, I know this statement could be challenged far and wide and inspire rioting in the streets but here it goes: best half-hour mimed solo show about the Apollo 11 mission... ever. I am not kidding.

Seriously though, I really liked it. And it really is a half-hour solo show about the Apollo 11 mission, and it really is mimed, with prerecorded narration and music, but still... mime. And it really is amazing. Really. It’s just a man in a black mock turtleneck standing behind a black cloth-draped table, moving his hands around and making faces. But it’s smart and funny, and actually tells the story of the moon landing, a story which has been told and visually represented in countless incredibly boring ways, but who would have thought, mime wasn’t one of them.

I want to describe it, but it's hard, I know that feebly imitating his gestures at my computer will not get my point across but I'm having some trouble fighting that urge. However, when I type phrases like "he was all the astronauts, and he was Kennedy one time" or "sometimes his head was the moon but sometimes it was his left hand" or "and his fingers, they where people sometimes, except once they where a whale" or "he made weather on the table", not only do I sound like a four year old trying to explain how TV works, but I also don't really capture it. It was good, it was like nothing I'd ever seen before, I'm really glad that I braved the cold, got lost, called 411, risked being black-balled for future comps at the Public theater and made it to the just in time for this weird, charming performance.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Let's try this again

Well, this seems like as good a time as any to return to the mundane and self-aggrandizing world of my blog. I suspect of these “I’m sorry, I’m bad, I’ll try to do better” entries outnumber the more legitimate daily motions type that were the blog’s purported purpose. So, no promises. well, no elaborate promises, I will try to blog at least twice a week from now on, so watch out Mondays and Thursdays. Yes I know today is Friday but committing to Friday seems like a guarantee of failure.

Anyway it’s been about a month and here are the plays I remember reading:
1. Travesties by Tom Stoppard
2. Happy Days by Samuel Beckett
3. Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett
4. Some other short later plays by Beckett
5. No. 11 (Blue and White) by Alexandra Cunningham
6. Anton in Show Business by Jane Martin
7. Back Story A dramatic anthology by a whole slew of writers
8. The Divine Fallacy Tina Howe
9. Standard Time Naomi Wallace
10. The Phone Plays 2000
11. Flaming Guns of the Purple Sage by Jane Martin
12. The Phone Plays 2001

I also applied to several internships and solicited letters of recommendation from teachers for some others. I have an interview with Ensemble Studio Theatre next week and one with Lark Play Development Center for the following week ( I shamelessly name dropped one of my friends on that one).

I saw a truly dreadful play yesterday. I knew I would hate it, but the tickets were so free, and I was told that the tech and the performances would be really good, and it was an opportunity to see my friends, so I went. The actual technology was impressive but it was only really artfully used twice in the two and a half hour production. The actors were probably talented, but the script was so bad that there was no way to be sure they could act, and the sound system was so loud and the music so laden with over-embellishment that they were constantly blowing their mikes and there was no way to be sure that they could sing. The costuming was impressive, except for the occasional moments of improperly secured boob (no emergencies but a couple close calls) which were very obvious from the upper mezzanine. At this point I feel obligated to inform you that the show was Dream Girls, the friend who lured me there with free tickets only to abandon me was Aryana (she works at the Apollo), and the friend who suffered by my side was Amanda. I also feel the need to mention that we go caught in the tide of people leaving the theatre and were forced to spend twenty minutes wandering Harlem in search of a bathroom before taking the the train to Grand Central for relief. After we parted I was so sleepy and the A train was so messed up that it took me over two hours to get home. I was not happy, but it’s better that I got out... I guess.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So I went to this group thing,

the one I talked about yesterday. And I’m not sure. I’ll go again and talk to the woman who runs it, I don’t exactly know what I’ll say to her. I should have talked to her today, but I just didn’t or couldn’t, I don’t know. They have my contact info. I gave notes which I shouldn’t have done because I was a visitor and didn’t really have the right, but it was good to be back in a workshop, I’d missed it and I couldn’t help myself.

All the writers were considerably older, the actors where either older men or women my age, the woman who ran it assured us that there were often more people. The work was kind of old. I think that's what I'm not sure about. I'm so used to being with writers my own age and my playwriting teachers of the last two years were in their early thirties and both pretty new wave. This work felt stodgy. The critiques were on point, the guy whose scene was pretentious and didn't have anything at stake was told so, as was the guy whose play was endless and actionless, and the one with two many characters to keep straight. It's not that I think I'm so great, or so avant gaurde, or so free from the shackles of exposition, that's not what I'm saying... it just felt wrong. It was good to be in a workshop again, it felt good to hear cold readings and feel insightful, but it didn't feel right. Their whole aesthetic just felt wrong to me, too expository, or naturalistic, too demanding of full sets, people who look related, and psychiatrists without prolems of their own. I heard parts of five plays; exactly one character swore, and it was a big deal in the play that she did. Maybe they deserve another chance, but I couldn't imagine bringing my work into that room.

So, I don't know, I just don't know if I should go back.

Plans for the incredibly near future

I spent some time looking for playwrights' opportunities in the city. There were some decent leads, I’ll do more with them. Anyway, tomorrow I’m going to go to a meeting of the NYCPlaywrights group. They meet every week, you have to submit work and be accepted, then you have to pay $60 for a five month membership which gives you free tickets and some perks but mostly it means that you can get your work read. The meetings are open so tomorrow (today, I guess) I’m going to go as a visitor and I'll apply if I like like the atmosphere. usually I wouldn’t talk about this until tomorrow but, in light of terminal issues with motivation, I thought it would be best to post about it now so I’ll feel obligated to attend. More info to come.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ambivalent reading expirience: concluded

It seems I can’t get my act together until midnight these days and for that I apologize. I suspect that comes from the hope that more will be accomplished if I just wait, as if I’m not the one I’m waiting for.

I finished the Alexander Plays. I think that on the whole I liked them, or at least there were very few things that stuck out as problems and they made me think, which isn’t quite the same thing as liking something but it’s certainly not nothing. All four plays center around Suzanne Alexander who is fictional, at first I was determined not to look this up, to just view the plays as plays without getting bogged down in the historical stuff that usually makes me not like things. However, in one of the plays the main character referred to She Talks to Beethoven as her best known play, written about when her husband disappeared. I got incredibly, embarrassingly disoriented by this, I found myself talking (in my head) like every character at the climax a farce with identical twins, because, of course, that’s the name and subject of the fist play in this collection. So, the character was claiming to have written another play in the book, of which she was the lead, one in which she was not writing a play about herself and didn’t seem to be aware of the audience. I found it disorienting and started to wonder if she was a real person, or the author's name was a pseudonym, or what was going on, then I felt like I was being fucked with and then I felt stupid. So, I guess I’m not sure how I feel about that particular dramatic device, after all it did have an effect.

The other thing I want to talk about is how she used found text, or source material, or the public domain, or the classics or whatever you want to call it. This is one of those things you see sometimes, I guess it’s natural. Writers are intelligent, over-educated, romantically self involved people, of course they feel the need to draw literary and historical parallels that elevate and explain their characters. Kennedy does it well, in The Ohio State Murders she weaves Tess of the d'Urbervilles into the story of Suzanne Alexander as a young black student at the newly desecrated Ohio State who’s daughters are are murdered by the white professor who fathered them. In The Film Club, a monologue about her waiting for her husband after a second disappearance, during which it turns out that he was imprisoned and tortured, she incorporates Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Diop’s poetry. The Dramatic Circle covers the same time and adds the letters of Napoleon and Josephine to the mix. It’s a technique I’ve never been tempted to use, not because I don’t think it can be effective but because it’s not really in keeping with how I work or think. I’m not sure why I just made that personal but let’s move on. The effect is not heavy (it could easily have been heavy) but weighty, it gave this woman’s life a context, and a feeling of importance and belonging among the great tragic love stories. I think it worked mostly because we saw her looking to these texts consciously for comfort and guidance and the feeling that she wasn’t alone. I think it worked because it came from the character rather than being slapped on top by the writer.

All that said, I’m glad I read these plays but I just didn’t enjoy them. I guess enjoyment isn’t everything.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ambivalent about plays

I read half of Adrienne Kennedy’s The Alexander Plays today (I know, yesterday, but cut me some slack; I just got home) and I’m not sure how I feel about them. I certainly respect what she’s doing but I don’t know that I like it. I’m not sure whether this was Sally’s recommendation or Jordan’s but I know I heard about it at school and I don’t know what I’m going to do when when run out of names to remember when I see them on library shelves. Anyway, She Talks to Beethoven incorporated the often problematic historical-figure-brings-wisdom-to-another-time trope, which I’m not such a big fan of. However the fact that he was sent by the main character’s husband to be with her during his disappearance, and that he was bond between them who they had argued about the morning he left, gave it some legitimate emotional weight. The other play, The Ohio State Murders, I haven’t finished so I shouldn’t really write about it, but I do appreciate the ambition of a play in the past tense and although I don’t know if I like it I think it uses memory more skillfully than most. Also it makes me suspect that Jordan Harrison was the one who recommended it because his play Doris to Darlene was pretty obviously influenced by it (I liked his better though).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving forwards/backwards

I applied for an internship at Ensemble Studio Theater today. It’s unpaid and I said I could work 30-40 hours. I just want to get involved again at this point and stuff like this is what makes the most sense. It’s one of the most respected new works theaters around, they run a writers group I was recently rejected from but would like to have another crack at next year, if I get it (and I think I might finally be over-qualified for something) I’ll be reading new works and maybe have an active role in development. This would be good for me. Not financially of course but, you know... something. And if I do something like this then it’ll be a lot easier for me to stomach getting a mindless part time job. When I came here I said that I was sick of working for nothing but a pat on the head, that I would get a job that was actually a job, but here I am, applying for internships, same when I was in school.