Friday, March 28, 2014

It's official!

Fell Swoop's new show, The Last Temptation of Paula Deen, is registered for the 2014 Hollywood Fringe! We're going to be at The Lounge Theatre on Santa Monica Blvd, and we're going to be a hoot! 

Here's a little description--
Hey y’all, it’s Fell Swoop here! Ten cooks from our kitchen have collaborated on The Last Temptation of Paula Deen, a satiric romp through the life of America’s favorite restaurateur, entrepreneur, and all around good ol' southern gal. Come set a spell and learn a few tips on keeping your family close and your fan base closer.
Written by Kayla Cagan, Jeremy Frazier, Samm Hill, J. Holtham, Lisa Kenner, Michelle Meyers, Emily Brauer Rogers, Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko, Jennie Webb, and Kyle T. Wilson.
We're doing a little crowdfunding, so please consider supporting our efforts with a tax-deductible donation. We're really excited about the show this year. If you could help, we'd be much obliged! Click here to check out our campaign on Rockethub.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I guess my new schtick

is getting excited about great actresses in one-scene roles in overpraised movies. Tilda Swinton is marvelous in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I actually admired the movie and could probably go on and on about it. In fact I think it might be the first time where I really got how Anderson's ornate style connected to the themes of the film. It seems like one of those movies I'll appreciate more the more I think about it. But I imagine if I had to choose I'd rather watch Moonrise Kingdom again instead.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I saw two movies this weekend

Finally got to 12 Years a Slave. My favorite part was Alfre Woodard's scene. I admired the movie, but her performance was the only part of it that brought tears to my eyes.

Also saw something called Blood Ties. The only thing I'll say about it is, if you plan on filming a scene involving buying or using heroin, you could score it with the Velvet Underground classic, "Heroin." But maybe there are other options.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

More on Cry, Trojans!

After my first point about The Wooster Group's new show (for the record, I'm generally a fan and admiring of their work and history), I was going to post in the comments of Bitter Lemons about Cry, Trojans!, and even started typing, but since this page has been so starved for content lately, I'm moving it over here. Sorry Colin.

Colin (who didn't see the production), writes in the comments of his most recent post on this issue--
would you say the show is intentionally racist or naively racist? Is the work an measured provocation or a wrongheaded embarrassment? There are other choices of course but you get the gist…
And here's my response--

There's definite intention in featuring Native American characters but not bothering to cast Native American actors. That said, I'd suggest, if there's racism, it's both intentional and naive. But then, Wooster's been accused of racism for various shows over the course of its 30-year history. Time Out New York published a good group interview about them for their 30th anniversary that delves into some of this history (among other things). Calling them naive is generous at this point.

Wooster's also quite clearly playing with racial caricature and considering Westerners' atrocities toward Native Americans here, so there's nuance in this conversation that can get lost in the outrage. I wouldn't call the show a measured provocation or a wrongheaded embarrassment, necessarily. It's just problematic, and not very strong as theater, frankly.

There seems a level of commitment to self- and group-exploration in the group's work that at times treats the audience as secondary, so I can't say I'm surprised that they could be caught off-guard by this sort of thing (if they were caught off-guard). I hesitate to use the word solipsistic, but it does come to mind. And I do believe that there are times one must be so tirelessly committed to the ideas of a project that it's detrimental to the work to become preoccupied by its social and political ramifications or potential for success with audiences.

But it's also not hard to bring a member of a minority group into your process for feedback at some point on your work if you intend to represent that group in some way. Most culturally sensitive artists I know do this on a regular basis. I know I do it.

Director Elizabeth LeCompte expressed resistance to that suggestion in a Q&A Don Shirley wrote about in LAObserved. Her reasoning is about as problematic as the show is.
LeCompte said a close friend - a playwright - had told her, "I wouldn't do a play like this without making sure I had a Native American in it." But, LeCompte added, "that is not where I live. I wouldn't do that. I couldn't do that." Then, though her language was vague, she appeared to indicate that she thought that adding Native Americans to the company would be seen as "who's at the party?" tokenism - "and that's horrible to me....Plus it's not about that. It's about everything bigger...We love the piece, we love the stories, we love the films, we love the people...We wanted to tell the story in this way and make it so big that this [lack of direct Native American input] wouldn't be a problem."
 God, where do I start? Honestly, her suggestion that her goals are "bigger" than such middling concerns as Native American representation, or ethnicity, is out-of-touch and belittling. She's comfortable using Native American caricature merely as a symbol to get at her company's loftier ideas about territory, nationhood, imperialism, etc., as if these loftier subjects don't often hinge on things like ethnic conflict? And as for tokenism, she decides not to cast the minority she's depicting in her play because she's offended by tokenism?

The more I consider the nuance the more outrageous it all seems.

I just wish they'd do Poor Theater again. I love that show.

UPDATE: I made a slight change to the above after publishing, as I don't want to be interpreted as calling The Wooster Group or its artists racist. While I'm happy using the term to describe various destructive individuals (and our society), I  wouldn't shove artists into that category who venture into challenging territory. Taking risks may result in offense taken, biases exposed. It's impressive to me that TWG is still taking these types of risks, and I continue to admire them for that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I saw Cry, Trojans!

shortly after it opened. I found its jokey Native American drag and flat, affected speech unsettling, but I didn't think much more about the show after. I've been a fan of Troilus and Cressida since seeing a hot RSC production of it in the late '90s while studying abroad in London. Since this was the first chance I've had since to see another staging, I jumped at the chance. Knowing that The Wooster Group was doing it piqued my interest even more.

Just as an aside, I googled that RSC production and found out that Ian Judge, one of my favorite LAOpera directors, staged it. No wonder I liked it so much.

While, I greatly admire Wooster Group's work and have adored at least two of their productions over the years (Vieux Carre and Poor Theater, to be exact), this one, with the exception of an engaging 20-30 minutes after the intermission, was not so adorable.

I could go on, but I'm going to just say that to this day I remember the way Pandarus hissed the devastating final couplet of the play in that RSC production--
Till then I'll sweat and shake about for eases;
And at that time bequeath you my diseases.
I don't know how you manage to neuter lines as fantastic as that, but Wooster did. Even with the obvious (if problematic) smallpox evocation, they felt limp. But then the whole Trojans-as-Native Americans conceit is problematic, really. As JW pointed out, didn't Paris start the whole thing?

So I was impressed by seeing on Bitter Lemons that accusations of redface were being hurled at the show.

My main reaction (aside from empathy for those who take offense) is that the show isn't substantial or potent enough to merit controversy. But hey, it is heartening to know that people still bother to get pissed off about theater at all. So go ahead and boo, I say! Good for you!

Ugh, it's been a month

since I updated this. I went to New York. Russia invaded Ukraine. Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar. The world moves too fast, you know.

Hopefully more soon.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fell Swoop is Back!

And we're throwing a party on March 5. Come join us as we step away from our devices for a night of telling Tales from the Internet!

Buy advance tickets at Brown Paper Tickets. Please join us!

Fell Swoop Playwrights Present Tales from the Internet

Help us fund-up our second season of theatrical awesomeness. We need YOU to make our Terrible Two as fun as Year One. Swoop in for 60 minutes of theater shorts, monologues, and comedy based on our best - and worst- internet experiences. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss your tinder account goodbye.

Time: Door open at 7pm; Show starts at 7:30pm

Door: $10 suggestion donation (or more, Big Spender!) or BUY YOUR TICKET IN ADVANCE FOR $7.00 at Brown Paper Tickets!

Table: $10 food and/or drink minimum per person (this goes to M Bar for hosting us!)

M Bar
1253 N. Vine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90038

RSVP on Facebook here.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

I saw The Master

twice in the theater. The first time was with great excitement and determination to get to the 70 millimeter, Cinerama Dome experience. I walked out of the movie baffled, frustrated, and a little underwhelmed. There were certainly stunning moments -- the sweep of the camera in the department store scene, the brittle intensity of Amy Adams' performance, the jarring, brilliant exaggeration of Joaquin Phoenix's -- but I didn't walk out of the movie satisfied, and I couldn't figure out why.

After some time I decided to give it another try. I went to see it later in one of the few theaters in town still showing it in 70 millimeter. It was a much smaller space and I sat on about the second row. And this was the movie-going experience I had been looking for. It's a gorgeous movie, and one that, grandiose as its title character is supposed to be, benefits from an intimate space and closer inspection. The movie is, for all its grandeur, an intimate love affair between these two clashing opposites: the damaged drifter needing a leader, and the desperate leader needing a follower.

The second viewing didn't exactly make me fall in love with it. Walking out of that screening, I found it ultimately unsatisfying. Still, I understood it better. I respected it more. It's an ambitious, beautiful, serious and mature work of art. It's aged remarkably well in my memory. And, although it's animated by Joaquin Phoenix's Freddy Quell, thrashing about like the waves that open and close the film, it's also anchored by the late, great master himself, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and his powerful gravitas as Lancaster Dodd. He is the master, the father, the protector. All us Freddie Quells of the world need him -- to ground us, to challenge us, and to ultimately leave us wanting, until rebellion and the lure of unknown failures unmoor us once again.

The last movie I saw him in might've been A Late Quartet, which is hardly The Master, but one of those movies made so much better by the talent involved. He's far from the towering Dodd as Robert Gelbart, cheating on his wife, tired of being second fiddle. He's definitely more Freddie Quell, and I remember him in certain scenes from A Late Quartet, looking defeated, truly making my heart ache. He is astonishing in that little movie, and of course I would've expected no less from him.

I've thought of those images of him in the past couple of days. His Robert, so shaggy, wasted, and angry -- a wounded, troubled, serious artist. But also his Lancaster, all calm, stoic, and resigned, full of love and sadness as he tells Freddie Quell, "if you figure out a way to live without a master, any master, be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world."