collisionwork: (GCW Seal)
Well, back here for a moment from Facebook to post a promo for the new show... if you want to know more about this one in its past incarnations, click the "world gone wrong" tag and you'll get plenty about this show and noir in general...


World Gone Wrong/Worth Gun Willed

Gemini CollisionWorks

December 1 – 18, 2012

created by Ian W. Hill
assisted by Berit Johnson

performed by Gyda Arber, Olivia Baseman*, Gita Borovsky, Josephine Cashman*, TJ Clark, Melissa DeLancey, V. Orion Delwaterman, Samantha Dena, Adam Files, Stacia French, Matt Gray, Ian W. Hill, Gavin Starr Kendall, Roger Nasser, Nicholas Miles Newton, Amy Overman, Amy Beth Sherman*, Ken Simon*, Adam Swiderski, Debbie Troché, and Art Wallace.
*Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

A world where the leaders lie, cheat, steal and murder. A world where Art and Science and Beauty and Reason are no longer valued. A world where survival means selling out, and trying to do the “right thing” means failure as a human being. A familiar place? Yes, of course, it is the
fictional, 1940’s world of film noir, nothing like our own present world at all, right? Right? Or has noir come true, and we’re all living in a world gone wrong?


Combining a cast of 21 in precision choreography with slides and an entirely pre-recorded collage soundtrack to which the actors perform as if “dubbed,” World Gone Wrong is a celebration of the ability to stay true to, and fight for, one’s own convictions in a land where “moral values” is just a mask that hides greed, hatred, fear, backstabbing, and lies. World Gone Wrong is a film noir pastiche-play consisting of dialogue from over 150 noirs, as well as quotes from a recent U.S. Administration and other pertinent sources, combined into an original spellbinding, semiabstract, dreamlike tale of corruption, betrayal, and revenge as two men (who many be one man) travel through their own dreams in a city (which may be two cities) where day never comes, to avenge their own deaths in a landscape of iconic film noir figures.

“The sheer size, scope and ambition of Ian W. Hill’s vision in World Gone Wrong dazzles and boggles. . . . laugh-out-loud hilarious, the way the first episodes of Twin Peaks were . . . theatre that delights and challenges and jolts even as it prods and pokes at its audience . . . a theatrical experience as dense as it is unique.”—Martin Denton,

“Against the constantly changing backdrop of projected black-and-white stills, the cryptic mix of wisecracking wordplay, melodramatic excess and metaphysical world-weariness achieves a breathtaking effect, amplified by moments of recognition . . . stunning style and tour-de-force text . . .” —Jessica Branch, Time Out New York

“Excellent acting and intelligent pastiche.” — Jonathan Kalb, New York Times

1 hour 45 minutes

Sat Dec 1 @ 3pm
Wed Dec 5 @ 8pm
Fri Dec 7 @ 7:30pm
Sat Dec 8 @ 3pm
Wed Dec 12 @ 8pm
Fri Dec 14 @ 8pm
Tue Dec 18 @ 8pm




Oct. 23rd, 2010 08:12 pm
collisionwork: (music listening)
I missed my normal checkin post yesterday as Berit had commandeered Computer Prima (which IS, after all, HERS) for the day and night, so the Random ten was out. And in any case, rest turned out to be the order of the day following some cleanup of the storage cages downstairs.

And today was the first rehearsal (for me; Berit's been working on it for a few days) of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was a nice start. I don't have the biggest of roles in the show, but it's one I like a lot, so it's a nice gig. Just a little work today, playing a scene where I'll be visible off to the side, but with my back to the audience, facing upstage into a video camera, as my face is projected out for the audience to see while I talk to Deckard on a videophone. So today, I acted to a wall, which is fine by me.

More to come as more happens.

And here's a Random Ten from the unplayed songs on the iPod:

1. "Kama Sutra" - The Bonzo Dog Band - The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse
2. "Absolutely Positively" - The Music Machine - The Bonniwell Music Machine
3. "The Guns Of Brixton" - The Clash - London Calling
4. "Millions" - XTC - Drums And Wires
5. "Capri Pants" - Bikini Kill - Reject All American
6. "Roll With The Flow" - Michael Nesmith - And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'
7. "I Will Not Make Any Deals With You." - Original TV Soundtrack - Prisoner File Number One
8. "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" - Movie Trailer - Monster Rock 'N Roll Show
9. "Livin' For The Weekend" - The O'Jays - The Best Of The O'Jays
10. "Gittin' a Little Hipper" - James Brown - Soul Pride: The Instrumentals 1960 - 1969

And here's the playlist of all the above videos:

And now that I've been cleaning out the storage cages, I've come across mounds of photos and programs and posters and postcards I forgot I still had. I've posted them to Facebook, but for those who don't see me there, here's a few of my favorites from the old days.

Me in 1992 as director of photography (16mm film!) on an AIDS awareness PSA being done by Gorilla Rep:
PSA Shoot - basketball

The front of the late, lamented (by some) Todo con Nada on Ludlow Street (here in February, 2000):
NADA front early '00

The front of the postcard for my production of Mac Wellman's Harm's Way at The House of Candles, February, 1998:
HARM'S WAY card front

An unused publicity shot of me for one of the Richard Foreman NO STRINGS ATTACHED festivals:

The front of the ForemanFest year two postcard:
NO STRINGS 2 card front

A noir scene from my production of Foreman's Café Amerique, ,me with Melanie Martinez, Peter Brown, and Tim Cusack:
CAFE AMERIQUE - noir scene

The inside of the "fake" inner program for Ten Nights in a Bar-Room -- from the post-civilization theatre company putting on the play within the play (and fighting off the flesh-eating zombies attaching the show and audience):
TEN NIGHTS fake program inner

The flyer for everything going on at NADA in May-June, 1999:
NADA May-June '99

Me and Yuri Lowenthal as the coroner and tailer in Clive Barker's Frankenstein in Love:
FIL - Ian & Yuri

Moira Stone in Frankenstein in Love -- I think I was trying to make this a shot in my A L'Heure series of photos:
FIL - Moira

A publicity shot for a production of Sam Shepard's Action that I never got to do (couldn't afford the rights). Bryan Enk, Christiaan Koop, Wendy Walker and me, mid-2000:
ACTION that didn't happen

And me being attacked by "the monster" as Douglas Scott Sorenson looks on in horror in the stage adaptation of Edward D. Wood Jr.'s Bride of the Monster in the EdFest:
BOTM - Monster Attack!

More than enough for now . . . time to relax for the night with some SoCo & Lime and a blu-ray double bill of Forbidden Planet and the 1980 Flash Gordon.

collisionwork: (Default)
There's a piece in the Times this morning about Norbert Leo Butz's stepping in as Bobby Gould for Jeremy "Thermometer" Piven in Speed-the-Plow, concentrating on the difficulty he's having in learning ALL THOSE LINES in the couple of weeks he's had since graciously accepting the part and winding up onstage. The piece has already caused two vastly different (and as yet apparently unaware of each other) reactions in the Theatro-Blogging-Industrial Complex.

The Playgoer is very generous, as is the Times and almost everyone else, regarding Butz's problems jumping into the production so quickly -- he's had his script in hand for some of the show, and a prompter, though he's probably off-book by now -- and uses this as a starting place for a discussion of "Okay actors, how DO you learn all those lines?" (as he notes, the nauseatingly never-ending question we are all asked by everyone NOT an actor)

Mike Daisey is a helluva lot less forgiving on Butz, feeling that the time indicated in the article is MORE THAN ENOUGH for Butz to have gotten his act and lines together (Daisey has played this part himself a few years back, it should be noted, so he knows of which he speaks here), as it's not THAT long a part in a pretty short play, and he feels it's inexcusable for Butz to be holding a script onstage (let alone on Broadway).

I agree with one of these views a lot more than the other, but I'll get back to that at the end. First, an attempt at an answer to Playgoer's main question, based on my own experience and what I've seen in the many hundreds of actors I've directed and acted with, "How DO you learn all those lines?"

Um, wait, no. There's no ONE useful answer.

Okay, well, actually, there are as many different answers to this as there are actors and plays. Multiplied times each other. And for some answers, there are new problems.

For me (because I can only speak for myself), every play is different and requires different ways to learn lines. Some come easily, some don't. Sometimes you get almost the whole play down in a couple of days, and weeks later you're still shaky on one scene, which you've been working on non-stop, after opening night. Every play now requires me to find THE way THESE lines for THIS character are going to stay in my head. Sometimes I absolutely HAVE to be looking into the eyes of the other actors to remember my lines, and if you asked me to do them elsewhere I couldn't. Sometimes looking at the other actors will make me go up completely. Sometimes the monologues in a script pop right into my head and I can't get the dialogue. Sometimes the reverse.

I used to think that what made it different each time was the playwright's language - that some writers had rhythms and patterns that were easier to get stuck (and that verse was easiest of all). The easiest time I ever had learning a part in the last 15 years was in Kirk Bromley's verse play The Burnt Woman of Harvard in 2001, where I would show up to the first rehearsal of every scene completely on-book and by the time we'd have run the scene four or five times I would be completely off-book (to my amazement), for that section for the rest of the rehearsal/performance process! I thought it was Bromley's verse, but when I did another verse play by Bromley a few months later, I was completely at sea and struggling with lines for the entire run.

I'm beginning to think more and more that it's the character you are creating that dictates your relationship to your lines - if you and the character are in sync right away, maybe, the lines will be coming out of you properly . . . but this is a recent development.

The whole process changes as you get older - at least it did for me. From ages 15 to 25 I could learn an entire play (everyone's lines, not just my own) in a couple of days by reading it aloud a couple of times, and for years that's all I did to learn my lines, read my part aloud a couple of times (mumbling my cues as a lead-in), and show up to rehearsals knowing it. No problem -- I learned Marlowe's Faustus in a couple of days at age 24, word-perfect, this way (including the Latin, once I'd researched the pronunciation).

Then it started getting tougher, for whatever reason (sometimes I think my brain just plumb done got full), and they didn't just stick in my head like they used to. By the time I was 30, I had lost the ability to just know all my lines after a couple of repetitions, and, even worse, I had never learned any other technique to get them down.

For the last 10 years - ages 30 to 40 - line memorization has more and more become a torturous, terrifying process for me, most of the time. I can go through a script repeatedly, all day, for several days, each day working until I can do all of my lines for the whole play perfectly, and then wake up the next morning with over half of them gone. Terrifying. I am now almost always shaky, or worse, on opening nights, and I haven't found anything that improves matters consistently.

The closest thing to anything that works for me now, at least what works best, is to work alone in the actual theatre space -- since, more often than not, I'm acting at The Brick and I have access at many times when I can be there alone, I'm very lucky. I have to be on my feet, going through the actual blocking, over and over and over again, for many many hours. Preferably at least three 8-hour days. Doing the entire play. Over and over and over again. Alone, because if I get other voices in my head apart from the other actors' it'll screw me up. And that's BESIDES working on it at home, where I can sit down with the script and carefully think about interpretation and subtleties. The time on the feet in the space is just about DOING it, getting the lines into actual muscle memory, less than thinking about it.

It doesn't get me perfect, but it can get me close. When the time I have set aside to actually do this work gets taken away from me for various production reasons (which has happened on several occasions), I'll be lucky to get through the first two performances. After that, I'll be fine. Generally.

For some reason, when learning lines for audition monologues, writing the monologue out longhand is EXTREMELY good for getting them down. But it only works for monologues. Must be something about the short form and lack of dialogue.

As for others, there are actors I direct often who always show up for first rehearsal with their entire part learned (hiya Adam, Aaron) and often they know other actors' lines better than those actors (like I did when I was younger). They seem to have the "read it a couple of times and it sticks" method still going for them. I see more and more people listening to their lines and cues on iPods, and so far everyone I see doing that has been really good on their lines (okay - there's a method I haven't tried yet! maybe next time . . .), though apparently Mr. Butz has been doing that and still needed the script and prompter.

Working with dozens of actors constantly I see many ways of handling the job, and most people seem to have some consistent method for gradually getting the lines until they're all there by tech week. Actually, in regards to the people who get lines down early, I realize I have no idea how they do it -- it's only the people who, like me, have to work on it all the way through the process, who I wind up seeing backstage or in the dressing room or having a smoke or in some corner with their scripts or index cards or iPods or whatever.

Speed-thrus help a lot of actors, I guess, as they get requested often enough. For me as an actor, they are no help at all - unless I hear the rhythm of the lines around mine at proper performance speed and cadence, it's all just meaningless babble to me.

The ONLY consistent way I've EVER found for ALL actors to learn lines is through massive quantities of repetitive rehearsal, on your feet, with all the other actors, in the actual space where you'll be doing the show.

HOWEVER, there is a trade-off (besides the fact that you NEVER get anywhere NEAR that much rehearsal time) which is that the amount of time it takes to get to that level, linewise, begins to take its toll on many, many actors' performances. That is, there are plenty of actors (I work with more than a few, often) who get their performance early in the process (often before their lines) and it's a struggle to keep them working and interested in their correct performance, finding new things without them tearing apart what they already have perfect, while you also try to keep things balanced with the actors who will be discovering their performance all the way up through tech (of course, this is part of what a director's job is supposed to be anyway).

Also, you can be like me as a director (and actor) and find that - SOMETIMES! - a certain amount of uncertainty in a performance is often something to keep, that the slight quality of not being 100% on your lines actually brings a greater effect to a performance, a vibrancy and quality of real thought.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to do this on stage with any security, and one should never outright TRY to be uncertain on your lines onstage, but Marlon Brando's film-acting technique of NEVER learning his lines and reading them off cue cards always worked well for him -- Sheila O'Malley writes a lovely take-down of Peter Manso's silly bio of Brando HERE, where she challenges Manso's snide suggestions that Brando using cue cards all over the set was some kind of unprofessional "cheat" that makes him less of an actor; as she notes, if his "unprofessionalism" brought us Terry Malloy, Vito Corleone, and Paul from Last Tango, three of the finest pieces of film acting ever, maybe it's Manso and anyone who agrees with him who need to reexamine their definitions of "cheating" and "unprofessional."

That said, that's for FILM acting; stage is different. Very very different, almost a completely different craft. And you have to go out as best prepared as possible -- when Brando did stage, after all, he knew his damned lines, as one should -- though it turns out the actors in my play Everything Must Go had their difficult, repetitive dialogue hidden on many cheat sheets all over the paper-covered desks on the set, to a far greater extent than I realized for some time. Which must mean they generally pulled it off, I suppose.

Now, back to the specific case here of Butz taking over this part in two weeks and going out needing a script and prompter, Playgoer has some gentle words:

It's really, really tough for an actor to go out on stage like this. You think going out off-book is vulnerable already! But this, especially when your cast mates are long off book, must feel very exposing. But I must say I admire Butz' humility in letting his process show, if you will.

I appreciate Playgoer's empathy here, but it's actually the kind of thing that also gets my back up, talk about the "vulnerability" of actors (which can wind up extending to the treatment of actors as gentle, "gifted," almost childlike "simple" creatures). Sorry, no. It's not delicate work -- it can be the exceedingly difficult work of CREATING delicate, fragile things with blunt, large, heavy tools (because that's all you have available), but even under the best of circumstances it should not be work for the "vulnerable."

Yes, okay, there is deep, dark, often painful emotional work that has to go on in acting, often. Sometimes you DO have to be "vulnerable" in some way to connect with a part. But that's homework. That's between you and the play, alone, on your own, and has no business in the rehearsal room or at an actual performance. That doesn't mean you're not making it real when you do it onstage, that you're simply "imitating" something you've gone through for real before, but that you have learned to turn on the real feelings and focus them properly in the direction where the play needs to go when it needs you to because you've already worked it out for yourself. That's craft.

I can't imagine going onstage feeling "vulnerable," myself. The character may be vulnerable, and I may feel all of that completely as if it's my own, but there's always an actor in control of himself who makes every entrance onstage with the feeling of being superhumanly impervious, even when he is, in fact, not completely properly prepared to do it -- if there is an audience there waiting to see a show, it is my job to go out and do my part of it without fear (or, I would think, "humility"). No, I don't feel every actor can be (or needs to be) this ridiculously overconfident in doing their work (I need it), but there is a base level of competence I would expect of an actor that doesn't include feeling "vulnerable" as a craftsperson when doing their job.

Playgoer says that this must feel "exposing," what Butz's doing, but for me it would be the opposite -- like stripping down to do a nude scene that you HAVE to do for real to reveal instead a flesh-colored unitard with the naughty bits painted on.

Butz himself says, "I hate sitting around a table and talking about what a play might mean . . . I’m the person who’s always like, ‘Can we get up on our feet and just do it?’" While I DO think there is (with some plays) some virtue about table work, for the most part this is the right attitude. And would generally seem to me to be the attitude of someone who should be able to go out and play Bobby Gould off-book in two weeks. And if not completely off-book should be able to have something close enough in his mind to say that will get him to the next necessary plot point. If some of us (and yeah, I've had to do it, along with everyone else I know that's had more than a few classical parts) can pull some improvised blank verse out of our asses to get through going up on something, I think anyone playing Mamet on Broadway should be able to whip out a couple of lines to move on if they are in the same bag (and I say this as an actual BIG FAN of Mamet at his best - which Speed-the-Plow is not nearly, but whatever - who thinks you HAVE to get Mamet's language and cadences WORD-FOR-WORD correct, dammit! -- but in the real world of theatre production, practicality always trumps purity).

So, yeah, I'm a lot more of the same opinion as Mike Daisey: "The industry narrative going forward, as it is in the article, is that Norman [sic] Leo Butz is a saint for taking on a gargantuan task and should be applauded in any event, regardless of the results. But looking at the timeline and the facts, I think this kind of performance shouldn't be acceptable at any professional theater."

I'm not proud of the situations I sometimes put actors in my shows in, due to lack of rehearsal time or, in the case of this past Summer, still writing scripts up to three days before opening. I don't like doing things this way. But I AM proud of the fact that the actors I work with can handle it, and make the jumps they need to, and get the job done, beautifully -- one actor took over a part in my play Spell VERY close to opening, less than two weeks away, and had to speak large stretches of English and Spanish (neither of which were his first, native language), and pulled it off JUST FINE. Little shakiness in some things, noticeable to me as writer but not to the audience, generally, but no script in hand.

I REALLY would like to agree with what Daisey calls "the industry narrative" -- I mean "Yay, Theatre! Yay, Theatre Actors!" is always a cheer I'm happy to join -- but, speaking as someone myself who has made the same kind of dangerous leap, and both somewhat succeeded and massively failed at it in the past (and seen dozens of other actors in the same boat), I can't sympathize with someone who isn't making that leap, when Item #1 on the job description is "Dare. Jump now."

Now, excuse me while I go back to learning the substantial part I'm playing in one of my August shows (or rather, re-learning, as I played this same part in 2001 but have no memory of the lines at all). I'm hoping to be off-book before the first rehearsal. Ha. Ha. Ha.

collisionwork: (Laura's Angel)
More death.

Another friend of the family, this time a college friend of my late stepfather's, Lyle Guttu, who has been close to everyone on that side (mother/stepfather) for years - I believe he's performed all the marriages of my step-siblings, or if not all, then most, as well as Mom and Woody's marriage in '87. He's been with us for many holidays, and I spent hours and hours talking to him on a variety of subjects over the past 20 years. He was a fine mind, a kind heart, and a great conversationalist, and I am very upset about his leaving us due to a sudden accident.

My sympathies to his family.

I think Lyle would have been pleased that a Google search on his name turns up as many (if not more) references to his time as a star forward for the Harvard Crimsons ice hockey team as to his Lutheran Reverendship . . .


Death death death. On my mind a lot. Not that it's ever been far away. I never have really talked to my father and uncle about growing up in a funeral home as they did (my grandparents' trade and craft - and they were damned good at it), so I'm not sure what their point of view is on this (I'm sure Dad and I will talk about it sometime), but just spending the weekend/holiday time that I did at the Hill Funeral Home, 17 Purdy Avenue, Rye, NY (which has now been chopped up into several businesses that for some reason all amuse me), as I grew up, well aware of what the family business was, and occasionally seeing a body in the embalming room or on display, affected me in certain ways (my grandfather would show off particularly good embalming jobs of his on occasion - I particularly remember the young man who had cut across a church parking lot in Rye on his motorcycle not knowing a chain was drawn across the other exit - it caught him in the chest - I could just see into the casket - I remember the large ring on his hand, with a blue glinting stone - a high school ring? - he had a big moustache - he looked very peaceful; I could see even then why Grandpa was proud of his work, the man looked so so peaceful). I've noticed a certain acceptance and fatalism and matter-of-factness about the whole death business in myself that I've never seen in most of my friends and contemporaries.

I've twice now dealt with being the person there in the house, with what was formerly a loved one in the other room, calling the people you have to call, answering the questions, supervising the removal. I handle it well. On both occasions, when those who came for the removal remarked on my coolness and suggested that maybe I wanted to break down or something, I just mentioned that my family had been in the business, there was a look of recognition, and suddenly we were able to deal with the whole matter efficiently, like professionals. I've handled it well. When I am at open-casket funerals, even of loved ones, my main thoughts are generally about the quality of the embalming work - usually, "That's not a Fred Hill job."

But mid-way now through my 40th year, almost certainly over half-way through the years I'll probably wind up having, my matter-of-factness is changing. I'm not sad about death, I'm not angry about death. I feel cheated, just plain cheated by death. About a year ago, I lost the first two contemporaries I knew somewhat and liked quite a bit (Stephanie Mnookin) or knew and liked quite well once upon a time (Jason Bauer, whose death I only learned about in May), and each time I thought, with a deep breath, "Okay . . . here we go . . . it's starting . . ."

I read Joan Didion's terrific The Year of Magical Thinking recently, and, while enjoying it, was a bit stunned at her complete and total lack-of-preparedness in losing her husband. No, not something you want to consider for very long at any time at all, ever, but it seemed as if Didion had just never even thought about how to deal with an existence without John Gregory Dunne for even a moment of her life until then. I can't quite understand that mode of thought. Everything truly human is transient and ephemeral - we create and leave behind fragments that attempt to say something about what it is to be human, but they are necessarily limited. This is as comforting as it is disturbing, for at least it also means that the evil mankind does is also a blip in the grand scheme of things (though as my friend Sean Rockoff pointed out when I mentioned some similarities in US history between our own horrible Administration and that of William McKinley, to try and show how things can swing back for the good, or at least better, eventually, "this too shall pass" rings terribly hollow when you are in the middle of a horrible time). I would have thought that most couples in lifetime relationships would have faced the unpleasant idea of how the partnership is going to stop someday no matter what they want, but talk with friends and associates gives me the impression this isn't the case.

I've sometimes wondered why I've moved from once wanting with all my heart to spend my life making films - documents that would last and (in my ego-view) be revered forever - to devoting myself quite happily to a life of making ephemeral theatre in small boxes designed to flare briefly and vanish, leaving a trace behind in peoples' heads like a ghost you see on your retinas from a flash bulb. I have more and more become concerned with the purely human, those qualities that make us us, and theatre seems closer to me now to these qualities than film, which is about dreams and visions, not life (though whenever I put my eye behind a viewfinder, as I sometimes still do for people as a DP, "that old aesthetic kick" - as Rabbi Richard puts it - comes back, and all those old dreams and visions that want to come out begin yelling in my skull again . . . maybe someday . . .).

When I started making theatre, I was so devoted to the idea of ephemerality that I pointedly refused to document my shows - the show was the show and that was it; you missed it, too bad, it doesn't exist anymore except in memory. I kinda regret that now, though I haven't been able to videotape most of my recent shows anyway due to AEA Showcase Code rules. I'm more fond of still photos than videos in any case, for recalling stage work - videos always look lousy, and they're only useful for help in restaging revivals (and that's enough to make it essential, as I've found out in the long run). Still, photos are better.

So I've been happy to be impermanent - I feel like I have contributed a few original ideas to American Theatre that have actually had some influence, primarily through David LM Mcintyre's and my Even the Jungle and (to my chagrin) my original production of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room - I've seen other artists see these and take ideas from them and go forward with them, and then others keep going with them from there. Some of my (and David's) creative DNA is out there, in people who have no idea who we are or ever will. That's enough.

In the first full production I directed (Egyptology by Richard Foreman, 1997), I cast myself as a combination of God and my grandfather - a funeral director in a waiting room between this life and another, where souls had to let go of what still held them to mortality in order to pass on. My beliefs have altered quite a bit since then, but I still see myself in part of that position, in regards to my work - a funeral director. I'm still stuck dealing with the brilliant life of the 20th Century, which still hasn't, as far as I'm concerned, gotten a proper funeral yet. So I keep bringing out the body and trying to embalm it well, give it a proper and respectful viewing, a clean burial, so we can move on and get on with the next thing. I'm never going to be part of that next thing - I'm too stuck in the past - but I can damned well clear the ground properly for it.

I know some things about death by now, then, and humanity, humans as brief guests here. I had been fine with that, and with my own ultimate cessation for years - even when I believed in an afterlife, I didn't believe in the survival of personality there, just energy. And I was fine with that.

But now I have a life partner, and a home, and pets. And the idea that some of the living things under this roof are going to go before others seems like such a damned cheat now. I've been worried at times that maybe Berit isn't ready for that (hell, am I?). We've been very straight and reasonable with each other about the disposition of our bodies post-mortem, and wanting to be sure that each of us has control of that for the other (pretty much one of the few reasons for our eventual marriage - legal guarantees for one to enforce the other's desires in such a case). Berit, one of the most rational, realistic, level-headed people I know (apart from the irrational hatred of spiders and wind) has been perfectly reasonable and calm about all that.

But there are lines. B doesn't like me to mention that eventually we'll no longer have these amazing cats we have, let alone that, given the odds, the ages, health, I'll be leaving her alone someday. I've made it clear to her that I want nothing but raucous, earsplitting rock 'n' roll music at any memorial service for me - music of life . . . LIFE! - and I was horrified recently to discover that, as a result, she is now terribly saddened by the sound of "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen.

I, still, am not saddened by the idea of the end, angered by it. I feel instead like a small child having a tantrum, stamping my foot, screaming, "IT'S NOT FAIR!" Like I did playing tag with someone who wouldn't follow the rules and wouldn't stop when tagged. Cheats. Damned cheats. No fair, to be robbed of years we SHOULD be able to spend with each other.

And then . . . and then . . .

And then I think some more and it all evens out: We are not cheated of that time. Our whole existence here is such a random, improbable accident - life itself, let alone meeting, being in the right place the right time with the right feelings - that each moment we are allowed is winning the lottery. You can't be cheated out of something that wasn't really yours anyway, just something you came into lucky, temporary possession of.

And I am at peace.

For now.


It is a cold day in New York City. The wind is whipping and whistling around our home in Gravesend, Brooklyn. It comes in through the cracks around the poorly-insulated windows and chills me. Berit snores. It is time to wake her up so she can get to a stage management meeting for an upcoming show. I hug a cat. It is very warm.

collisionwork: (kwizatz hadarach)
Various writings by guitar virtuoso Robert Fripp have been much more of interest and inspiration to me than his music for about 20 years now (whenever it was I started picking up his "Guitar Craft Manifestos" at Manny Maris' late, lamented alt-music store on Prince near Mulberry (which was it? "Lunch For Your Ears" or "Rocks In Your Head?" Whichever one wasn't on Spring near West Broadway - Manny worked there first, then started his own place further east . . .).

When caught in the various binds of "what am I to do next?", "what should I be doing?", and the occasional "why am I even doing this?", Fripp's writings have been a gentle guide towards finding a direction when one is needed (like getting a slight push in a rowboat on a calm lake or blowing softly on a piece of floating tissue paper). More general than Eno and Schmidt's Oblique Strategies, which come in handy when blocked in specific working situations, Fripp helps answer the "whys" rather than the "what nows" - and once you have a few of the former answered the latter begin to take care of themselves.

Fripp, dealing with music rather than theatre, often deals with the "why" of performance in public as desirable or not, necessary or not, his concerns with Music being primarily (entirely?) between the musician/interpreter and Music itself. Theatre, being all about public performance, does not have many of these same concerns . . . should it? . . . but much of the thinking still travels from medium to medium . . .

from Robert Fripp's Diary, October 30, 2007:

Performance / presentation in public is a superb way of getting to know ourselves & our mechanics, with a primary aim: to become aware of our illusions. This line of education is strong stuff, and holds dangers:

if we are unpopular with members of the public, the advice they offer (not always attenuated by compassion & forms of refined expression) may do us damage;

if we become popular, our illusions & self-deception become reinforced & strengthened, that fans (who have the right to do so) may live vicariously the thrills & wonder of idealised celebrity;

if we are very popular, representatives of commerce & those who profit from our work, act to encourage our illusions that they may strengthen their hold upon us, and we become more susceptible to business control & direction.

So, for the novice: better to go carefully, preferably with those of greater experience; better to be well-practised; better to be sure of one’s larger aim.

For the more experienced: best to go carefully; best to be well-practised; best to be sure of one’s life-aim; best to know the poverty of our nature (so there is less in the way to prevent music moving out, and inappropriate reactions / repercussions getting in); best to remember Music creates the musician, and who serves the Muse; best to trust the inexpressible benevolence of the Creative Impulse; and best of all - have a really good agent.

Recently, I have been of a distracted and restless nature. I had wanted to rest myself for some time before starting up on "next year's shows" but have wound up making myself fidgety and scattered. Luckily, I have a tech gig and short-term directing-on-commission gig before 2008 to keep me occupied.

But I want to be working on my own things soon, even though I don't really know what those things are as yet (except for the return of Harry in Love). I have bits and pieces of Spell, which appears to be about an American Terrorist in America (a lot like my interpretation of Foreman's Miss Universal Happiness from 1999), and images in mind for another show of grey men in grey suits in grey rooms doing bad things to innocent people they never see (which might or might not be the primarily dance/movement piece I want to do) - lots of clocks and papers. Desks. Metal and glass. Fluorescent tubes.

Spell was being written with a specific actress's voice in mind for the main character (Ann), but the actress is quitting theatre for the time being, so I'd have to recast (at least mentally, it's not like I had or could have had any definite way of knowing this actress would play the part). Any writing I'll do for a while will continue to be in her voice to keep the tone consistent, but I'll probably rewrite it all if I use the fragments I have with another actress (being most interested right now in creating new work for specific actors, their voices, their persons, their emotional tones and timbres). The character has been splitting, anyway, into a male character as well, Andy, who might be Ann's brother (possibly dead, possibly not, possibly imaginary, possibly the "real," dominant figure), or lover, or they just might be the male and female sides of one person externalized. I don't know yet, but I suspect the last. I'll know when it's happening on stage. Ann talks more, though. Still.

While fidgeting around, I've been returning to a lot of old favorite, "comfort food" movies. It started with the horror films around Halloween, but kept going into pulling out and throwing on a lot more movies than have been running here for some time. We've gone through Candyman (Bernard Rose, music by Philip Glass), The Brood (David Cronenberg, photographed by Mark Irwin), Scream (Wes Craven, photographed by Mark Irwin), The Tomb of Ligeia (Roger Corman, written by Robert Towne), The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, photographed by Nicolas Roeg), Black Christmas (Bob Clark), 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick), Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, photographed by John Alcott), The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorcese), The Devils (Ken Russell, designed by Derek Jarman, photographed by David Watkin), How I Won the War (Richard Lester, photographed by David Watkin), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Richard Lester, photographed by Nicolas Roeg), THX-1138 (George Lucas), Videodrome (David Cronenberg, photographed by Mark Irwin), Crash (David Cronenberg), Halloween (John Carpenter, photographed by Dean Cundey, camera operated by Ray Stella), The Haunting (Robert Wise, photographed by Davis Boulton), and the 7-episode series On The Air, created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. Mostly horror, but slowly moving outward as connections were made or found.

I've got a page of my "favorite movies" on YMDb ("Your Movie Database") HERE. It changes. Fairly frequently. Lots of things drop off and on (especially Sherlock Jr., Sunrise, and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her).

I seem to be going through a lot of these old favorites trying to figure out what holds them all together in some way. Why these? What do I like? What am I interested in looking at right now? Is it the same damn things I've been looking at for 10 years now? How do I make this new for myself?

And I think I was wrong in what I said at the start here. Completely and utterly wrong. Fripp's words are an inspiration, but in the end nothing inspires as much as the tactile quality of the work . . . the Work is always what matters -- the guitar solo on "Baby's on Fire," or the lead line on "'Heroes'" have said and meant more to me for decades now than any words could, as has the quality of red captured by Nic Roeg in photographing the costumes of the Red Death and Zero Mostel, the firetrucks in Fahrenheit 451, and the splattered and sprayed paint in Performance. These are the inspirations I need more for myself right now . . .

Words are a trick. Words are a trap.

collisionwork: (narrator)
Gutenberg! the Musical!

written by Scott Brown and Anthony King

directed by Alex Timbers
performed by Jeremy Shamos and David Turner
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The Actors' Playhouse

I had extremely mixed feelings about seeing Gutenberg! the musical! as part of a "bloggers' night." I had heard great things about it from people I trust -- always the biggest factor in seeing any show -- and I'm a sucker for the "parody musical" genre, but at the same time, I wondered if there was anything really new or interesting that could be done in this style.

After Cannibal! The Musical (and Parker/Stone's brilliant South Park musical parodies, somehow both loving and vicious at the same time, Urinetown (the musical), three (!) different Elephant Man musical parodies (one NYC stage version, one in the film The Tall Guy, and one - the best - by Bruce Kimmel for cable TV, "starring Anthony Newley in the role of his career!"), and many more I've seen from various comedy groups and friends -- my favorites being two ideas from my friend Jim Baker, Philby! and Journey! -- I wasn't sure if there was another original joke in the form.

There may not be anything exactly original in Gutenberg! the Musical! -- I think I've seen a version of almost every joke in the show somewhere else -- but it is a shining example of how much execution counts for, as in, almost everything. I laugh somewhat easily, sure, but I don't lose myself helplessly in loud, unrestrained guffawing too often. I did, quite a bit, at this show.

Other bloggers, and websites, cover the concept well enough. And a very high concept it is. But so much could have gone wrong, and doesn't.

Brown and King's script is pitched at a just-believable level. Too often, in this kind of work, the "show-within-the-show" is so stupid and insipid that there's no way the characters who have to believe in it could unless they are far stupider people than they are presented as being -- somehow, the combination of the characters of Bud and Doug, creators of the eponymous musical, their charming cluelessness, the show they're presenting, and their misguided but infectious belief in the brilliance of what they're doing, is written, played, and directed just so, that it all, insane as it is, seems perfectly plausible.

And yes, besides the script, a lot of the credit goes to the two performers, who are appropriately broad without overplaying. I know other people have played the roles -- I assume beginning with the two authors -- but Shamos and Turner were perfect in the roles, for my money. Turner had a wonderfully wooden presence in the "outside the musical" sections -- his stiff-legged repeated attempt at a "casual" walk across the stage made me laugh every time he did it -- and was terrifically hammy in the musical ones. Shamos is endearingly sincere as Doug, with a great wide-eyed deadpan. Timbers' direction is good and solid while keeping the necessary looseness that the show needs to work at just the right level.

I was especially pleased at how the many running gags were never overdone or milked too far, as almost always happens. I was worried for a moment when the plot point comes up that Doug is gay and Bud is not, and there's just a hint for a moment that Doug has a crush on Bud -- I've seen this gag done before, and never well; it's always overplayed to an offensively obvious and unrealistic level. Here, it's just brought up slightly, enough to be funny, and pretty much dropped, as if Doug once had a crush on Bud, and, realistically, got over it. This holds throughout -- everything just goes the correct amount "too far," never too far "too far."

My one caveat was only important at the start of the show, and dissipated to nonexistent by the end: I loved the "book" (both the "authors' presentation" and the "book of the musical") from the start, but at first I thought the song parodies weren't up to the quality of the rest of the show. I don't know if the song parodies got better as the show went on, or if I was just won over more and more by the show as a whole (I suspect a bit of both), but by the end the parodies seemed so classically "correct" that I was brought to hysteria by the cliche of a key change.

I'm glad my worries were unfounded, and that Gutenberg! the musical! was not only not the disappointment I feared, but far better than I thought I'd have any right to expect. I haven't left a theatre feeling so light and cheered in a very long time. I hope you get a chance to see it.


collisionwork: (Default)

April 2017

1617 1819202122


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 09:41 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios