Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Susan Sontag RIP

I was lucky enough to see Sontag at a book-signing at Brazos Bookstore on Bissonnet (one of my favorite places in all of Houston, Texas) when she was promoting the novel which would later win the 2000 National Book Award for fiction, In America. Although, aside from a quick skim of "Notes On Camp" a couple of years earlier, I had never read a word of her, I did know well enough to take advantage of a free opportunity to hear a person of her magnitude speak. If my memory serves, she was generous, intense and eloquent, reading passages from her book and speaking mainly of her creative process and other writers she admired. I suppose we should all have picked her brain about the state of the world, but perhaps that was not an appropriate thing to do in a promotional appearance for a novelist's new book, even if she was so much more than just that. When I get back to Los Angeles I'll have to pull out my autographed copy of In America and look at the inscription; I've yet to read the book, mostly because I get leery of cracking the spines and roughing up the edges of the few autographed editions I've managed to collect. She'd probably advise against such extreme delicacy; I remember her advising a questioner who mentioned underlining favorite passages in books to continue to do so, just do it in pencil. Perhaps if I cradle the spine of my copy and put aside the dust jacket for safe-keeping until I'm finished, she wouldn't mind too much.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tuesday night

In Hot Springs Village and I've stooped to Law & Order reruns. You knew it was only a matter of time.

I did see The Incredibles last night though. I ask you, is there a better superhero than Elastigirl?

Had a slight change in plans and was unable to get to the Clinton Library today. I'll get there on Thursday, fingers crossed.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Happy holidays

from Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. I'm spending time with the parents here until New Year's Eve, so posting will be limited. I'm hoping to catch up on some reading and movie- and TV-watching this week; I finally saw an episode of Desperate Housewives last night; Felicity Huffman's great fun, isn't she? Can ABC just hurry up and finish the season and get the DVDs out so I can put it in my Netflix queue? I'm also hoping to finally see The Incredibles tonight with Dad.

I'm sure I'll have much to report about the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library, which is on Tuesday's agenda. Can't wait!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Man, the Disney Hall

Loves its Chanticleer. Or at least the patrons there on Tuesday night do. Thunderous applause, standing'd think they'd never heard a countertenor before. Man, those folks are into their countertenors. Any time those neo-castratos got high enough into their head voices, people went plain nuts. In all fairness, the countertenors in the group were pretty out-of-control; there were a couple of notes sounded in that hall that were so high I was surprised any of us could hear them. Dogs were probably howling in Echo Park somewhere.

All kidding aside, the whole evening was worth it for me for their tender arrangement of "In the Bleak Midwinter," one of my favorite carols. Everything else was tight and classy, but that song was much appreciated.

Oh, in case you were wondering, there were a couple of lookers, but overall, those fellas were mainly just rockin the whole music nerd thing. And while those guys can be fun for a bit at bars if there just happens to be a keyboard nearby (what, you think I go to piano bars???), it can all get a little wearisome after the Sondheim's exhausted and you have to move onto the Rent songbook.

Okay, you can all relax now...

I got tickets to The Paris Letter last night. Jon Robin Baitz's play is messy and complicated and verbose and I must've been craving something like that. The show made for a highly satisfying evening, if not an entirely satisfying play.

A quick recap: Sandy Sonnenberg is a moneyman for lots of rich people. He's also in the closet, and, through flashbacks and narration by Anton, a close friend and former lover of his, we learn of his early relationship with Anton, his conversion therapy, his courtship of his wife and Anton's dear friend, Katie, and his eventual downfall, all from entrusting much of his business to a charming swindler.

As for the production, it and the performances are uniformly impressive. The set is elegantly minimal and its design makes for smooth transitions across locations and decades. All actors are top-notch, but I was especially impressed by Josh Radnor, who plays the young Sandy in the past and Sandy's stepson, Sam, in the present. He's a joy to watch -- especially in an extended dinner party scene as Sam, warmly yet cynically playing his role in this money-obsessed gathering as the idealistic and gregarious high school teacher.

As for the play, although its dialogue is literate without being tiresome and the plot is engaging, I needed a bit of cajoling to buy everyone's continuing tolerance of Sandy's destructive closeted behaviors -- especially Anton's. And while I'm certain that Baitz is interested in both the pitfalls of capitalism and sexual repression, I'm not entirely getting the money part of it yet. I did love love LOVE that scene in Anton's gay restaurant between young Sandy and his mom -- Patricia Wettig's best scene, by the by -- until it started to meander and feel repetitive.

Still, The Paris Letter is big, demanding, and smart. And there were several open seats in my "sold out" show, so go wait around the box office. I bet you'll get in.

And I got a kick out of spotting a supporting actor from Alias in the audience...until I saw Al Pacino was there too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Who Has PARIS LETTER Tickets?

Or more specifically, who has extra ones. My hopes of scoring a couple of tickets this week are dashed for the moment. You might see me lurking around the Kirk Douglas box office on Wednesday or Thursday....

I'd be lurking tonight, too, but I'm going to see Chanticleer at the Disney Hall. I have no idea who these people are, but I hear they're a bunch of choirboys. And I was promised a cuteness factor.

I'll try to pretend I didn't see that handlebar moustache.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Oh, and check out

Thelonious Monster tonight at Spaceland in their third of four free Mondays there. I won't be able to be there, sadly, but somebody go and tell me about it. Post a comment or something.

Rehashing the Weekend

St. Nicholas - Friday, 12/17

I survived Mr. Britten's cantata, although I did learn that shoes from Payless don't serve me that well when I'm standing still for almost an hour. All seemed really pleased with the concert and it was even fun to sing. On Sunday our rector called us out to the front of the chancel area to acknowledge and congratulate us for our work. Weird, but sweet of her, I guess.

Messiah - Saturday, 12/18

I've sung this enough (Part One and the H-chorus, that is) to get a kick out of being in the audience for a change, and really enjoyed following the tenor lines on all the choral parts. The singing was especially precise in those areas, and the countertenor was about the best I've ever heard live, even if he did drop down to his baritone for a measure. He seemed to know what he was doing, so I went with it. The bass soloist had a couple of weird patches in Part Three, the biggest impression the soprano left on me was in the weird Pepto-colored satiny wrap she had slung round herself, and the tenor left little impression on me at all. Still, all very nice, bright and dancing and cheery like Handel should be.

Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! - Sunday, 12/19

My first Nutcracker, and loads of fun. I did prefer the darker, angular colors and sets in the first act to the pop confectionary of the second, with the end of the first act being especially effective, what with the set splitting open and all. Loads of gorgeous dancers and playful innuendo, and as cynical a theater-goer as I can be, and as passively as I was participating in the storytelling of Bourne's take on it, the final surprise moment was a delight. Cheap and predictable and contrived as it was, I probably gasped as loudly as half the little girls in attendance that afternoon.... It's at Royce Hall at UCLA until Jan. 2 and worth checking out.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Seven days before Christmas

And it's 80 degrees outside. Sometimes you can't help but like southern California.

I'm hoping to score tickets to The Paris Letter at the Kirk Douglas Theater next week. I might get in Wednesday or Thursday, fingers crossed. I hope to like it better than the last Jon Robin Baitz play the Taper did, Ten Unknowns, and from the looks of the L.A. Times review, I should. I'd link to it, but their dumb Calendar section is subscription only. Wish me luck; it's a hard ticket to get!

I just heard on 91.5 they're airing a live broadcast of the LA Phil's performance of The Messiah I'm seeing at Disney Hall at 8pm tonight. Listen if you're in LA and we'll compare notes.

I'm enjoying this blogging adventure so far. I think I've acquired readers that I've never even met before. And it's nice to be writing on a consistent basis again. Of course, instead of spending the afternoon working on one of my scripts, I'm typing this up. But maybe I'll finish this post and do a little work on "Christopher Smart's Cat." Or "Sheila Take A Bow." or Untitled Victorian Play. Or Untitled Southern Coming-of-Age Scribblings on Bits of Notepaper. Did I mention in a previous post I could use a little help with focus?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Catching up....

I've got a busy weekend ahead, with the concert tonight, The Messiah at Disney Hall tomorrow, and Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker on Sunday afternoon, but in the interim, I thought I'd spend a little time detailing other goings on during my pre-blog days this month.

Monday, 12/13 -- Thelonious Monster at Spaceland

I'm new to the TM bandwagon, but this was the best I've seen them yet. Bob Forrest was in rare form on his 2nd of four free Mondays in TM's Spaceland residency. His between-song storytelling was almost as good as the songs; he told a personal favorite during a section of the show devoted to the album Stormy Weather, basically admitting he didn't remember much about the former band members who came onstage to play those songs. Bob, I know you were a little out of it back then, but how can you possibly forget a guy named Smog Vomit? Aside from that, his Republi-bashing was fun at first, but got a little weird after a minute or two -- you know that moment in a show when you start hearing glasses clink and cutting your eyes at the person standing next to you? Still, it was sweet that he apologized for it later.

Go see them next week or the week after!

Thursday, 12/9 -- A John Waters Christmas

Was I the only one who was disappointed at the length given to Marga Gomez at the end of the first half of the show? Alright, none of the half-dozen readers I've accumulated so far were in attendance, that's fine, whatever, but she was highly un-funny, whereas drag-queen performance artist Vaginal Davis and Jewish lesbian folksinger Phranc were top-notch and weren't given nearly enough stage time. Waters was, of course, a real stitch -- droll and gleefully dirty, as you'd expect him to be. As funny as his stories of the good ol' days were (getting stoned with Divine and breaking into cars, things like that), the best moment was an unlikely description towards the end of the evening; he talked about a dive bar in a Baltimore trailer park where girls would get in fist-fights and still not get kicked out. "They'd just sit there, bleeding...and smoking."

Wednesday, 12/8 -- La Boheme at the Dottie Chandler

Damn, Mimi takes a long time to die.

Christmas with the Cannibals

I had a vigorous rehearsal last night for my choir's Christmas concert, but I survived, and I think it's going to be a nice one this year. Tonight, instead of the traditional MESSIAH, Benjamin Britten's St. Nicholas and its chronicle of Santa's precursor is accompanied by Britten's Ceremony of Carols at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills. St. Nicholas is a pretty exciting piece -- especially if you like your Christmas music a little modern and your holiday stories to involve the pickling and cannibalizing of small children (don't worry, it all works out in the end). Music starts at 7:30 at 504 Camden in the 90210. Tell your friends!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Ashlie Atkinson in FAT PIG

News of the day: an acquaintance of mine from my days at Hendrix College in Conway, AR, got an impressive review from Ben Brantley in the NEW YORK TIMES for her performance opposite Jeremy Piven in Neil LaBute's new play. I'm excited for my fellow Hendrix grad and Arkansan.

"Ms. Atkinson, in turn, is not just a good and pathetic victim. She lets you sense the aggressive neediness beneath Helen's hard-won bravado. A scene in which she tries on beachwear before going on a company picnic with Tom is heartbreaking because Ms. Atkinson and (director) Ms. Bonney make sure that Helen exposes as much inner doubt as ample flesh. That said, whatever their respective weights may be, Helen and Tom are truly attractive figures who emanate real made-for-each-other chemistry."

A great note from a tough critic.

Vanessa at the Dorothy Chandler

Saw Kiri Te and company in Samuel Barber's monstrosity last night. Woah, this thing rivals the L.A. Opera's CARMEN for biggest train-wreck of the year. Bad piece, silly production. Very little about this opera makes any sense, and aside from an interesting short fugue in the third act, the music sounds like a 50s film score.

All that said, Vanessa was a total RIOT. Well, at least Acts I and II. By Act III Erika had already tried to kill herself and had miscarried and had stopped being the completely irrational and petulant child that she was in the beginning, so there was no more tearing at her clothes or throwing herself off stairs. Too bad. Still, all the hammy metaphorical language in the libretto offered lots of laughs when she was off-stage or bleeding vaginally from behind the conveniently placed hospital curtains that just happened to turn up in the living room. As for the set, will someone please tell scenic designers that the all-white set is just a touch hackneyed? And the goofy little potted azaleas littering the stage floor in scene II? Did they run out of money after building that enormous winding staircase? Oh well, at least there was an enormous winding staircase in the center of the garden. And in every other location on this property, apparently. I wonder if one broke through the ice and ascended skyward on that lake Erika couldn't summon the strength to throw herself into. Too bad that set didn't get built.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Erik Ehn at the Ivy Substation

I saw Fireflow: Two Tales From Andersen on Saturday night. The second play of the two, "Blister" (The Story of a Mother), is the stronger, with an intense and searching narrative and a lovely performance by Julia Prud'homme. The show's admirable, has some great lighting effects (specifically in the casting of haunting shadows on the tall brick side walls of the Ivy Substation), and playful puppetry. Check it out if you're into adventurous, poetic language and papier-mache old ladies, dogs, and Death-with-a-capital-D. Link to the theater company below.

I've always been curious about this guy's writing, as he is a bit of an avant-garde hotshot/CALARTS hotshot (is that redundant?), and I remember reading a really enchanting play by him called Wolf at the Door that riffed on As I Lay Dying, among other things. Word's still out on whether he's quite my cup-uh-java, but I'm still looking forward to his new work at REDCAT next spring (how much do I LOVE REDCAT, by the way) involving Poe's William Wilson. Scroll to the bottom of the link for details.

Hey y'all

You're reading the first post of my blog. And your name is probably Brandy or Jenny. Thanks ladies. I'm an LA playwright in search of a theater company...or a savvy individual who has the confidence and wherewithal to start a theater company...or a teaching post...or a fellowship...or a writing residency...or a freelancing gig...and/or the tenacity and resources to make all these things happen for myself. Can we work on that please? Thanks.

I've contemplated starting a blog for some time now, if only to chronicle my goings-on and give myself a (hopefully) daily opportunity to do some writing that people might actually read. I see a lot of stuff in the City of Angels, from theater to opera to rock bands and movies, and I'll let you know about them and whether they're worth the time and money.

Alright, I've entered the blogosphere. Here goes....