Sunday, March 29, 2009

World Theatre Day

In case you missed it, as I did (I was in Seattle for a couple of days, which you can read about later this evening at The Editing Room if you’re interested), Friday was World Theatre Day. This year in particular the occasion is a call to arms, and none other than global treasure Augusto Boal wrote the day’s keynote address:

All human societies are “spectacular” in their daily life and produce “spectacles” at special moments. They are “spectacular” as a form of social organization and produce “spectacles” like the one you have come to see.

Even if one is unaware of it, human relationships are structured in a theatrical way. The use of space, body language, choice of words and voice modulation, the confrontation of ideas and passions, everything that we demonstrate on the stage, we live in our lives. We are theatre!

Weddings and funerals are “spectacles,” but so, also, are daily rituals so familiar that we are not conscious of this. Occasions of pomp and circumstance, but also the morning coffee, the exchanged good-mornings, timid love and storms of passion, a senate session or a diplomatic meeting -- all is theatre.

One of the main functions of our art is to make people sensitive to the “spectacles” of daily life in which the actors are their own spectators, performances in which the stage and the stalls coincide. We are all artists. By doing theatre, we learn to see what is obvious but what we usually can’t see because we are only used to looking at it. What is familiar to us becomes unseen: doing theatre throws light on the stage of daily life.

Last September, we were surprised by a theatrical revelation: we, who thought that we were living in a safe world, despite wars, genocide, slaughter and torture which certainly exist, but far from us in remote and wild places. We, who were living in security with our money invested in some respectable bank or in some honest trader’s hands in the stock exchange were told that this money did not exist, that it was virtual, a fictitious invention by some economists who were not fictitious at all and neither reliable nor respectable. Everything was just bad theatre, a dark plot in which a few people won a lot and many people lost all. Some politicians from rich countries held secret meetings in which they found some magic solutions. And we, the victims of their decisions, have remained spectators in the last row of the balcony.

Twenty years ago, I staged Racine’s Phèdre in Rio de Janeiro. The stage setting was poor: cow skins on the ground, bamboos around. Before each presentation, I used to say to my actors: “The fiction we created day by day is over. When you cross those bamboos, none of you will have the right to lie. Theatre is the Hidden Truth”.

When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.

Participate in the “spectacle” which is about to begin and once you are back home, with your friends act your own plays and look at what you were never able to see: that which is obvious. Theatre is not just an event; it is a way of life!
We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.

No one says it like Boal. And Boal comes through clearly Even when his translators insist on an antique spelling of theater. (Sorry, Miss Thistlebottom couldn’t resist throwing that in.) And many thanks to the mysterious CynSeattle of Culture Shock fame for alterting me to existence of World Theatre [sic] Day.

Monday, March 23, 2009

> > > test pattern > > >

Like my friend Isaac Butler over at Parabasis, as of late I've been suffering from a lapse of linguistical fecundity. More like a lack of drive, actually, perhaps as a homeopathic response to the constant influx of shrieking input, or because Saturn's contacting my Sun, or maybe it's the flowering cherry trees pouring pollen into my sinuses to do the tarantella there.

Don't give up on me, I'll be back TOOT SWEET. Meanwhile, please amuse yourself with this groovy video I've snatched from The Angry Anthropoid. See you real soon!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Your weekend awaits you

This is good.

From the WK Radio website:

By mid-March, the United States will have been at war in Afghanistan and Iraq for seven years. To mark this important, if tragic, anniversary, over 150 of the Portland area's best classical, contemporary and world musicians are uniting to make a giant musical gift to the city and beyond. "24/7” is a series of 24 dramatic concerts, each starting upon the hour, from 7:00 p.m. Saturday, March 21, and continuing through to 7:00 p.m., Sunday, March 22, in the W+K Atrium. FREE. WK Radio will broadcast a portion of the event.

As curated by two of Portland’s most fabulous citizens, Bill Crane and Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale, a truly gobsmacking company of musicians have been tapped for this occasion. Consult this schedule for the full roster. Personally I intend to make it to Michelle Mariana’s hour, at 2am Sunday, when the divine Ms. M will sing jazz, accompanied by smooth-as-silk Reece Marshburn. And the finale, at 6pm on Sunday, when the company performs Beethoven’s 9th, is not to be missed. I’ll probably bawl like a baby.

PDX Pipeline reports:

Neither a protest nor a memorial, "24/7" nonetheless is a profound calling by its performers to their fellow citizens to remember that we are a nation at war. The musicians creating 24/7 hope to move their neighbors by their music to "do what must be done" as our city, region, and nation face many challenges. This will be music of encouragement as well as entertainment.

To add to the conviviality of this big occasion, the popular and award-winning restaurant Bluehour, next door to the concert venue, will be open all night and the following day. Restaurateur Bruce Carey and chef de cuisine Kenny Giambalvo are planning a special bar menu just for 24/7 performers and audience members.

So what’s not to love? The event lacks only you. And everybody is waiting. See you there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hoppy St Patrick's Day

I know! you'd think I'd have a snappy post for the wearing of the green. And actually I do, but I posted to The Editing Room instead.

Check it out and see why. Meanwhile I expended this most Irish of holidays on a contest between a Brit and a Yank: Frost/Nixon, which started rehearsals today. More about that soon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

ThumbNutz vs Hi-Tech of Olde

I don't know why I rooted for old-timey hi-tech in this contest, rather than going with my usual penchant for novelty. But I whooped when I saw who won, and I you will, too.

Thank you, Reynolds Potter, for sharing this.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Slow fade

For anyone who may be interested, the Portland Dramaturgy Cabal is going away, since the original six members are split asunder these days by divergent interests. I'll leave the blog up for another few whiles, then expunge it. I've listed some good referrals there for anyone who wants to continue the conversations in others corner of cyberspace.

Meanwhile, here's a great moment from the history of playwriting. Just because.

And a belated shout out to ghost light for making me aware that many of Who's Afraid of Viriginia Woolf's most incendiary moments are available for viewing on YouTube -- mit subtitles, no less.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fast fade

We've all thought about it. How easy it would be. To just step away. To go out to fetch some Chunky Monkey and just never go home again. Or to head off for work on a Monday morning like any other, but never actually arrive at the office. Or to go out with friends for a Friday night drink, and at some point go to the restroom, never to be seen again.

Naturally everyone's first thought will be that you've come to foul play. But more often than not, says playwright and Londoner Fin Kennedy, a lot of careful planning goes into a disappearing act. If you'd like to know you might go about it yourself -- hypothetically, of course -- of course! -- there's a dramatized primer available to you right now at PCS.

You've got a couple more weeks to see one of my favorite plays produced at PCS during my brief tenure there (i.e., since 9/02): How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, by the ultracool Mr. K, directed by the equally cool Rose Riordan, where you'll learn the fast fade is both harder and easier than you'd suspect.

To further whet your appetite, Patrick Weishampel has just aired an interview with Fin in which the playwright talks about the unsettling experience of researching the modi operandi of the ultimate self-effacers.

Interview with Fin Kennedy from Portland Center Stage on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Nina asks the eternal question

Many thanks to my friend Joe Zeccola for sharing Nina Simone's sumptuous version of one of my favorite songs, the searching, wistfully lonesome "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." There are countless covers of this song, including of course Sandy Denny's austere original, but Nina's rendition breaks my heart.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dangerous music

This week, in between bouts of dashing off angry letters to my political representatives about the theft of the Oregon Cultural Trust’s resources, I’ve been giving myself up to an orgy of self-love. First came the previous post, in which I cashed in on the MeMeMe meme; and now, challenged by yet another Facebook taunt, comes my response to a request for “15 records that changed your life.” Since I could never stop at 15, I’m just offering a handful, k?

Yeah. I know. But if you think I’m wearing out my welcome with this trope, consider yourself lucky I spared you my ongoing rant about the ruin of arts philanthropy here in the wild wild west.

All right. In order of my exposure to these albums:

Music To Have Fun By. I have not been able to find any trace of this wondrous album, which I checked out of the public library when I was about 10 years old because it sported a thrilling cover illustration of a woman seated atop a vinyl LP spinning off into space. She looked delighted, and so was I. This was all classic compositions possessed of a kind of delirious abandon: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Flight of the Bumblebee, Funeral March for a Marionette, The Age of Gold – you get the idea.

Love Is Blue, by Paul Mauriat and his orchestra. Ya – muzak, essentially. But for you kids who weren’t around in the 60s, muzak used to be a big band affair, very elaborate. You don’t know what vertigo is till you’ve heard “There’s a Kind of Hush” performed in cut time by an 40-piece band.

The Mamas & the Papas. So sweet. So California. So 1966. “You gotta go where you wanna go / Do what you wanna do / With whomever…..” That sounded pretty good to a callow high school freshman.

God Bless Tiny Tim. Released in 1968 and spurred to success by Tim’s greatest hit, "Tip-Toe Thru' The Tulips," this was widely supposed to be a novelty album. Yet it surprised people with its musical references to a more post-war sound – something The Beatles wouldn’t assay for another year.

Hair-- the original cast album. Talk about an education. Much to my parents’ disapproval, I studied this album carefully, mining every reference to sex, drugs and sedition. Conclusion: counterculture = fun!

Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord (1968). The start of my “psycho-pukey” period, according to my scornful friends. This stuff has not aged well, and even in my youth it was wiped from my consciousness by the belated discovery of the bands mentioned below. But like all teenagers, I was terribly, terribly earnest about my quest for a spirituality that Catholicism could not begin to address.

Magical Mystery Tour. The Beatles were all about celebration, and perhaps never more so than with this wonderful feat of George Martin’s producing genius. He was immortalized on the inside cover, where the liner notes began, “Once upon a time there were four or five wizards….”

Aoxomoxoa, by the Grateful Dead. I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. But man was it groovy.

Tommy. The Who. Surprise! You could do theater and be cool.

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, by The Incredible String Band. Still my favorite album of all time, recorded in 1968 but not discovered by me until 1972. Either this album gradually takes you over and seizes your imagination, or you find it completely unlistenable; more than one friend has asked me to take it off the record player. Forever. But 37 years after my first listen, it still speaks to me. The layered sound was very much a production of its day, but its multicultural approach to music was decades early; it used instruments from all over the world, including sitar, gimbri, shenai, oud, harpsichord, panpipes and kazoo. But the lyrics were like peat moss and dark woods and autumn mist – as clear an evocation of the so-called British Isles as you’ll ever hear.

Music for Airports. Brian Eno’s anti-commercial music, designed to counter "the products of the various purveyors of canned music.” Later efforts would be so minimal as to scarcely exist, but I still listen to this quietly moving album. Eventually it fulfilled its ostensible purpose through its installation at the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia.

Horses. Patti Smith. My first inkling that The Bee Gees had not spoiled music for all time. Plus who knew punk (or anyway one of its first descendants) could be so sexy?

Elvis Costello – his very first album, My Aim Is True (1977). Proof positive that being pissed off was a viable career choice.

Are We Not Men? and Duty Now for the Future. As with Tiny Tim, Devo was widely assumed to be a hoax at first. I loved their reckless energy – “the important sounds of things falling apart,” as the Spud Boys put it.

Okay. To paraphrase Dieter: "I grow tedious." To wrap things up, some honorable mentions: Bow Wow Wow, Malcolm MacLaren Talking Heads, U2, Procol Harum, Jesus Christ Superstar, Petula Clark, Cream, John Dowland, Vivaldi, Beastie Boys.

Plus current obsessions: Blonde Redhead, Monteverdi, Editors, Animal Collective.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

16 or so semi-interesting things about ME

Perhaps you too have been a victim of the current Facebook vogue for this exercise: you list some random stuff about yourself (25, supposedly, but I lost interest partway through), then you tag 25 others (!!) who perpetuate the process.

It was fun, actually. And since I wasted an hour of time yesterevening typing all this up, it seems only right to foist it upon unsuspecting readers at this site, too. Enjoy!


1. Not until I was nearly out of my teens did I realize that not all people hear voices.

2. You can divide people into two large groups by asking whether they loved Alice in Wonderland in childhood or thought it was freakishly grotesque. Guess which half I fell into.

3. Likewise with James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Some readers think Joyce’s writing perfectly reflects the flow of internal human thought; others reject this and think Woolf is the better reflection. Clearly not everybody sounds the same way to themselves. Me, I’m with Virginia.

4. In the late 20th century, my father turned up in New Orleans after a complete absence of 35 years. I haven’t "had time" to reestablish connections (nor has he).

5. At a very early age, I decided it was better to be spanked than to be ignored. Is that true of all kids?

6. Whenever I watch Mad Men, I find myself envying Betty Draper. Not her daily psychopathology, just her agoraphobia. Why can’t I stay at home all day and clean and cook?

7. This has been discussed on my blog already, but: biofeedback machines don’t respond to me. They sit there as though I’m brain dead. It has been suggested more than once that I may only be a visitor to this time-space continuum.

8. Since I was too young to be able to articulate it, I have had a terrible fear of death and of annihilation; this is my primary motivation for getting anything done on this miserable planet.

9. Years ago my Cousin Tabitha and I got so sick on rum and coke that to this day it nauseates me to smell either.

10. Believe it or not, I was alarmingly skinny until I turned 28.

11. A mania: I believe that if I don’t think about my loved ones before leaving home every day, something terrible may happen to them.

12. Recent development: after 14 years in L.A. with no problem, here in pacific Oregon I’ve acquired a fear of driving on the freeway.

13. Watch out, I can see your aura. Really. But unlike psychics, I have no idea what the colors signify.

Fun you can have with your aura: if you mentally imagine pulling it into your body, you’ll become all but unnoticeable to other people, for some reason.

15. Technically I’m hermaphroditic, in that I carry vestigial oviducts in my body. Before you cart me off to the circus, however, one man out of every six has this condition, according to my doctor.

16. My first clue that I was a tad light in the loafers came at the age of four or five, while watching Bonanza. Pernell Roberts showed up all dressed in black – in leather pants, yet, who dressed those boys, anyway? -- and I started feeling all shimmery.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Her Journey, Her Meaning

People like to tar blogaholics like me with the brush of voyeurism. But really that’s a big ole misnomer. There’s a bazillion of us fool enough to put aspects of our lives on display; it is still voyeuristic when the peepers are invited in to comment?

Preferable by far to think of it the blogosphere as a place to connect with others, or at the very least to feel an unacknowledged kinship with them. There are several people on the astral plane to whom I’ve never said as much as Доброе утро, but I enjoy being part of their lives, whether they know it or not.

Miranda Monroe is one such silent partner for me, or rather I am for her. This young lady caused a ripple in the force a few months ago on PostSecret, when her postcard announced that she – a 24-year-old “tattooed weirdo with a passion for animals” -- was forsaking life in Rochester, NY for a new life and an unknown fate in Portland, OR. Why Portland? “Google seems to think I belong there.”

Google and I concur. She’ll fit right in.

As an inked Mary Tyler Moore for the new millennium, the response to Miranda’s announcement was huge, and she responded in kind by creating a blog to chart her progress. For a while there was an anticlimactic series of weeks devoted to the young lady’s prep time – slimming down possessions, dealing with the reactions of friends. But we also learned more about her: her struggles with PCOS, her series of abusive boyfriends, and other patterns she hopes will not follow her to Portland.

Now the countdown to her departure is underway, and Miranda’s 304 followers are looking forward to welcoming here – perhaps in person, just think of that – to the land of a thousand coffee shops.