This past weekend we put up Episode 10 of Bryan Enk and Matt Gray's Penny Dreadful serial at The Brick, which went just as well as all the other episodes, and played to another two huge houses (the first of which, as happens sometimes when you do this kind of serial work that veers wildly from the comic to tragic, and your audience is made up of a lot of friends, tended to laugh in inappropriate, sadly-emotional moments as well as at the actual jokes).
Berit was back co-designing the lights with me on this one, as well as running the board, which was good, as I had to reprise the part of George Westinghouse as a . . . dream? ghost? some other kind of supernatural spirit? . . . that appears to Nikola Tesla. Two more episodes to go, and a lot of plot to resolve -- we're all waiting to see how Matt & Bryan end this saga.
The episode summaries (through #9) and video recordings (through #8) are up at the page linked above. The next episode, I now see, has been given the title "The House Where Bad Things Happen," and I think that's actually a quote from me about the setting for the episode I directed (#5) which almost all took place in the house of a VERY dysfunctional family, where we look to be returning next time (my episode also came to be known as Penny Dreadful: Fire Walk With Me, which gives an idea of its mood, one I expect to come back next time as well).
Here, behind a cut, are my own usable photos from this episode -- if you're on Facebook, you can join the Penny Dreadful group for an even better collection from this episode (and all the others).
Wednesday, Frank Cwiklik and Michele Schlossberg of Danse Macabre Theatrics and Do What Now Media put up a special show, 0109, to celebrate ten years of making theatre in NYC. It was a collage of video and live excerpts from past shows, dance numbers, music, and a new extended comic sketch about how DMTheatrics makes theatre. There were several themed video presentations as well, focusing on aspects of the DMTheatrics style -- a collection of fight scenes, of girls dancing, and of lots and LOTS of cursing (how Frank could leave out my cry of "FOUL FUCKING WINDS!!!" from Bitch Macbeth in that montage however, I will never understand). I appeared in Bryan Enk's original part as "The Candy Butcher" in an excerpt from Who In the Hell Is the Real, Live Lorelei Lee?, which went quite well (it was supposed to be a big secret that I was appearing, but I think word got out a bit).
With the end of the evening came the onscreen announcement that Danse Macabre Theatrics (dead as a company since 2004) is once again back in business, with a list of upcoming productions. Bravo. More from them soon, I'm sure.
Yesterday was an overload of information, starting with an afternoon screening of Godard's Made in U.S.A. at Film Forum, which I had discovered was the last day this almost-never-screened film was playing in a new, restored 35mm print (I last saw this widescreen film in an atrocious, almost-unviewable, and quite incoherent and cropped 16mm print in 1988 or so). As often with Godard, whichever film of his I've seen most recently becomes not only my favorite Godard film, but one of my favorite films of all time, for a few weeks, so I'm still buzzing a bit from this one. I hope it gets a DVD release (Criterion? Please?) sometime fairly soon so I can see it again, preferably with its twin (shot, literally, at the same time), Two or Three Things I Know About Her (my FAVORITE Godard, and a film that changed EVERYTHING for me when I saw it at 17). At least as I saw it yesterday, Made in U.S.A. was a definite end to the crime-movie-loving Godard, a summary of everything he'd done in that style up to 1966 (though it almost has a sci-fi quality in being set two years in the future, in September, 1968), all mashed up and making very little sense except for cinematic sense. It is dedicated to Sam Fuller and Don Siegel, but no one, as far as I can tell, has ever noted the similarities to Siegel's 1964 remake of The Killers (here with Anna Karina in the Lee Marvin part), so I'll just say the Godard was certainly aware of the latter film.
As I said, Godard leaves me walking on air and open to all possibilities for a while after seeing his best films (especially if it's one I haven't seen in a long time), so today as I've been working and writing, I've had, once again, a mini Jean-Luc Fest in the background, with all of his films that I have a copy of (thus far, Contempt, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, and after a break to do the Random Ten below, I'm onto Masculin-Feminine -- I may not get to the last, Tout Va Bien/Letter to Jane until much later this evening).
The Godard was followed (after dinner) by the new show from Stolen Chair Theatre Company, Theatre Is Dead and So Are You, which, I want to state immediately, was TERRIFIC and you SHOULD SEE IT. You've got one more weekend; follow the links.
It's about death, and it's very very funny, though maybe you need to be able to find the various thoughts about death both very funny and very disturbing (often at the same time) to appreciate it -- I found myself laughing a lot, but also torn and slightly upset by remembrances of human deaths I have witnessed in person or been near to, memories of the funeral home run by my grandparents and the bodies I saw there (which generally gives me a cold, dispassionate eye to mortal remains and cremains), and the increased sense of mortality that has hit me the last few years. A good mix of emotions for a show to give you, though I got the feeling that some people in the audience weren't as pleased by some of what was brought up. Whatever.
One reviewer somewhat dismissed the show as having been done before, and better, by some famous names (a dicey reason for critically dismissing anything, really; at a certain point you can dismiss anything, including masterpieces, as treading ground covered by earlier masterpieces), but what this reviewer was focusing on was far more the "frame" of the work rather than the actual content -- we are presented with an onstage wake conducted by a vaudevillian acting troupe for their fallen leader, who lies in a coffin at stage center (a coffin with many wonderful magic properties, as it turns out); a wake which fairly quickly is somewhat of a wake for Theatre itself. but once the discussion of Theatre as a dead art form is run through, we are taken to a deeper, darker level that is the real meat of the show, our feelings about Death Itself.
The cast, performing this series of acts, scenes, comedy routines, and monologues, is excellent top to bottom -- I was especially taken with Liza Wade Green, who could leap from cute and adorable to deeply creepy with just a slight change of posture and expression, and David Berent, who I know and have worked with at The Brick in his position as leader of The Maestrosities, but whom I didn't recognize at ALL here until I read his bio after the show (big change of character). But the whole group is splendid in their ability to handle both the humor and the scary stuff.
If I had any criticisms, they are that occasionally projection was a problem, especially in songs, whenever people turned away from facing downstage even a bit (the Connelly sucks up sound pretty well), and the episodic nature of the show, as a collection of acts (and I say this as someone who likes to occasionally create shows in episodes and recognizes this as a structural problem whenever you do it), means that you begin wondering more and more how many more "bits" you have to go, even if all of them are splendid, Luckily, right around the time you feel like you've had almost enough, an extended tour-de-force Romeo and Juliet sequence (with the dead body as Romeo) comes up, and is pretty obviously the penultimate section of the show when it does, so you're ready for the ending when it comes, right when it should.
Again, terrific show. Wish I could see it again, but I won't be able to for the rest of the run.
Today I worked on the scripts of Spacemen from Space and George Bataille's Bathrobe, which are coming together. I also now have almost completely made out lists of who I want for almost all the parts, so I can start contacting people about interest and availability if I haven't already (and SFS has wound up with a World Gone Wrong-like 21 people in the company in order to pull it off right! Whee.).
Tonight we see Stephen Heskett -- our George Amberson Minifer in The Magnificent Ambersons -- in Mike Leigh's Ecstasy at The Red Room -- it's mostly gotten great reviews, and Stephen's been singled out for praise repeatedly. Good.
Tomorrow, it's the new opera by Robert Ashley at LaMama, Made Out of Concrete. I also have a rehearsal with David Finkelstein of Lake Ivan Performance Group, who has asked me to join him in creating some improvisatory duets that he will, as he's been doing for a while, videotape and transform into experimental video pieces. Doing this kind of work is new, exciting, and scary for me, and it's affecting my acting and other art work in positive ways (always staying connected to the source of what I'm creating rather than ever treading water by letting my skill just go without grounding).
Then, Berit and I are trying to get away to Maine to relax a bit and for me to complete the scripts as much as possible. Maybe a week or a bit more.
Whew. Today's Random Ten, from 26,125 tracks in the iPod:
1. "The Lonesome River" - Bob Dylan with Ralph Stanley - The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs
2. "Julia" - The Beatles - The Beatles
3. "Shoot That Girl" - Hopelessly Obscure - 7" single
4. "10:30 Train" - Ugly Ducklings - Too Much, Too Soon
5. "Let Latin Commerce" - Sydney Dale - Dolce Far Niente - 27 Suave Cocktail Classics
6. "Le Grind" - Prince - The Black Album
7. "Standin' Round Crying" - Eric Clapton - From The Cradle
8. "Blue Jean" - David Bowie - Tonight
9. "Turkish Song Of The Damned" - The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God
10. "Angel" - Iggy Pop - New Values
And two final images, one from the terrific Lost City blog, a Woolworth counter menu from 1960:
More soon . . .