Monday, December 26, 2005

Brokearm Mountain

Yeah, JW broke it. I set it up a few posts ago and I'm feeling obliged to pay it off.

It's not much of a story, really. Basically, he tripped.

And then we went to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Which is where, as you may recall, I was taught a most useful lesson by Officer Krueger of the UCLA Police Department. But I digress....

Oh, and did I mention that we saw Cat after we had gone to see (and hear, of course) John Adams' stunning oratorio, El Nino?

This was, mind you, the second time we attended a performance of El Nino...since the night before.

That's right. We saw (and heard) it on Saturday night and again on Sunday afternoon. It's that stunning. More on that later.

So, JW trips; he can't move his wrist as a result and it's swollen and rather lumpy. Instead of taking him to the emergency room, I take him to a matinee of a performance that we had already seen the night before, AND an evening performance of a three-hour Tennessee Williams melodrama. AND I made him sit through all three hours of the thing, even though I decided at the end of the first act that I didn't even like the play or the production.

Do you see how committed I am to the performing arts in Los Angeles?

In AR!

Hey, I owe many posts to this thing, but for now, happy holidays!

Kyle (from Hot Springs Village, AR)

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's about time I was harassed by a law enforcement officer!

I mean, I am 30 after all; what took them so long?

Before I tell my harrowing tale, I should begin with a confession.

I broke a law last night. Not once, but twice. That's right, dear readers; I am a repeat offender, a vicious perpetrator of a heinous traffic violation. I...jaywalked. More than once! And in front of traffic cops, no less! Have I no discretion whatsoever?

Allow me, if you would, to set the scene. It was an ominous Sunday night in front of the menacing Geffen Playhouse on the dark streets of that most terrifying of neighborhoods...Westwood. I had just endured two acts of what may be the worst canonical play by a major American playwright, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (more on that outrageous claim later), and my companion for the evening, the ubiquitous JW, having recently broken his arm (more on that later, as well), was dying for some aspirin and a bottle of water. Because the line was quite long for concessions, he suggested that I make a quick dash across the street to fetch him an unopened bottle I just happened to have in my car. You see, my car was conveniently parked directly in front of the theater, as we had hit the rare Los Angeles parking jackpot while rushing to grab a bite before the show.

A police car had just stopped someone on a traffic violation as I crossed the first time, with several others who were apparently fleeing the loud and sloppy Tennessee action with one act to go (again, more later). I crossed behind the police car on my first trip, not terribly concerned for the consequences of such a flagrant misstep. I grabbed JW's water from the car and darted back, this time in front of said police officers. IN FRONT OF THEM! Can you believe the lawlessness?

A boy in blue shouted something at me. "Excuse me?" I asked, a bit surprised.

"Do you realize what you just did?" he shouted. "You just jaywalked. I saw you do it behind the car on the way over, and now you've done it on the way back? Where are you from anyway? Where do you live?"

"Uhm, Los Angeles...." I replied, feeling like a busted schoolboy.

"So you know the laws of this state? You're aware that jaywalking is against the law?"

"Uhm, yes." By this point I was starting to wonder if I'd stumbled upon a very method actor and become prey to his ambitious "shadowing" research. The whole thing seemed too "unhinged cop drama" to actually be happening.

Do you see, do you see just how flippantly I was considering this serious misdemeanor I had just committed?

The cop continued. "So what do you expect to happen now? What do you think I should do about this?"

You can imagine that by now I've begun to notice that people were staring. I was clearly being verbally tarred-and-feathered in the town square by this guy. Oh, how I wish I had just gone to the crosswalk and spared the indignity of it all!

I realize I had no right to become upset by this treatment, so severe was my crime, but because I clearly have issues with authority, you'll note the slightest hint of impatience with this situation beginning to surface in my response to the officer. "Sir, I'm on an intermission for the play here and I have to go back inside for the third act. If you want to write me a ticket for jaywalking, why don't you do it and...."

"I don't have to write you any ticket! What, do you think I'm just looking to write people tickets? Do you think I have some kinda quota to fill? Is that what you think?"

The staring eyes of various theater-goers, the incredulous expression on JW's visage, they all bore down on me as if they belonged to the faces of my classmates on a small-town Arkansas playground, witnessing a public spanking by the righteous and somewhat maniacal school principal.

No longer able to endure such humiliation, deserved though it may have been, I said to the officer, "No sir. I'm just noticing a scene here and I want to get out of it."

And with that, Officer Krueger of the UCLA Police Department turned his back on me and let me go.

Thank you Officer Krueger; I have learned my lesson. Why, after leaving the performance, with nary a car in sight on La Conte Avenue, and with about a dozen of my fellow theater-goers content to brazenly break the very law for which I had just been dressed-down, I insisted that JW and I walk out of our way to the intersection and back up the block on the opposite street. A simple citation would never have taught me that lesson, Officer Krueger! It was that forceful, much-deserved reprimand that did the trick!

On behalf of all pedestrians, all theater-goers, all UCLA students, and all Westwood motorists, I would like to thank you, Officer Krueger of the UCLA Police Department, for doing such a fine job! THANK YOU!

Friday, December 16, 2005

More on Brokeback

So my friend in NYC and I were chatting about Brokeback Mountain and it felt blogworthy. The chat starts out rather reasonable and descends into utter silliness, but I found it amusing, regardless....

zenokb: I thought it was boring and I did not care about any of the characters.
kyletwilson: well, you liked it even less than I did, then
zenokb: OK, I cared a little but not enough.
zenokb: It was like they are just people I can't really place.
zenokb: It was all too tasteful for its own good I think
zenokb: My favorite part, was when Jack finally let him have it. It was like the only emotional moment in the whole movie for me.
kyletwilson: That scene felt necessary, but the problem is they have two completely internalized, introverted, repressed characters onscreen -- one of them doesn't change, and the one who does is punished for it. That irritates me just because of what it means, but it also makes for alienating characterization....
kyletwilson: So when they finally have a reasonably confrontational scene with each other I wanted really badly to get swept up in it but I just didn't feel I'd been carried along to that moment in such a way that I could.
zenokb: Yea. I agree totally.
zenokb: Like, I am supposed to wet my pants because these two are daring to make out on screen!
zenokb: Fuck that!
zenokb: Michael Caine and Chris Reeves did that years and years ago.
zenokb: And Ledger pretty much just reminded me of Billy Bob in Slingblade. "URRRRH? shit."
zenokb: And is he smoking with a plug in his mouth? Why does he look like his mouth is full all the time?
kyletwilson: I liked him in the role...but I wondered about his cheeks, too...it looks like he's pulling a Brando in GODFATHER.
zenokb: Yes!
zenokb: Yes!
kyletwilson: his make-up was really bad in the last scene, too...did you notice that?
kyletwilson: it's all caked up around his eyes.
zenokb: You mean when they replaced him with THomas Hayden Church? Oh, was that make-up?
kyletwilson: Oh no!

Ashlee Simpson Has Collapsed!

She's no Lana Turner, but still....

Thanks to Brandy for the tip, who rightly asks, "Why do all these girls collapse? I have never collapsed in my life!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Parsifal

I'm gonna be brief about this, as I have unfortunately discovered that I am not an ideal Wagner audience member and therefore, far from a reliable critic. Here are my thoughts:

1. Robert Wilson is gorgeous and elegant, as long as the set pieces move smoothly on their tracks and don't creak when stepped on. And as long as there are no cables cluttering the stage picture.

2. Act 2 is lovely. Especially when the maidens sing with their flowers and whatnot.

3. Not having Placido in the title role because he's ill isn't the worst thing in the world. His replacement (whose name I don't know because I couldn't decipher the announcement before the performance began) is quite good, and from my perch, he did a pretty good job of filling out the costume.

4. JW is seriously a good sport to put up with my napping, constant seat-shifting, yawning, and watch-checking!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wagner tonight.

Skeeeert.

At least it's Robert Wilson. That should keep me awake for some of it.

I'll give you the lowdown tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Customary Monsters -- Reading Post-Mortem

It went well, I think. I hope. I had some wonderful actors (such as this one, this one, and this one, among several delightful others), which always helps. The script is too long, and I was a bit of a wreck for much of the reading -- I was staring at my watch and counting page numbers a lot -- but people didn't seem to be as bored as I was afraid they might've been. At least they didn't say they were. I've actually gotten some very nice and helpful feedback, for which I am most grateful.

It's taken me about 5 drafts, but I do think I've finally figured out the basic structure of the thing. There is too much of Hamlet in it, and I might be cutting some of the smaller roles, but other than that, I hope I can accomplish most of want I want to with the next rewrite by more tightening and polishing than anything else.

Thanks to all who came and all who helped and all who've sent me nice notes and all who've inquired about how it went! If anyone who couldn't make it wants to read a draft, email me!

What kind of mountain was that?

Did anyone else hear KCRW's Karl Cassel incorrectly refer to the gay cowboy movie as Bareback Mountain? TWICE?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Brokeback Mountain

I feel so guilty for being disappointed by this movie. To be fair, I don't think I went into it with reasonable expectations. For some reason as the previews started on Friday night I was flash-forwarding to the credits and imagining myself sitting in my chair devastated, blubbering, unable to catch my breath for the mad sobbing I was sure to do at the tragic cowboy manlove I'd just witnessed. I don't know how I got the idea in my head that the mere experience of watching a gay love story with major stars directed by a major filmmaker produced by a major independent arm of a major movie studio was automatically going to be somehow trancendental.

Oh, that's because the movie's been sold to me as that kind of movie. For months.

All of the billboards read "Groundbreaking!" Stephen Holden calls it a "landmark" in his review for the NYTimes. Kenneth Turan re-iterates the "groundbreaking" label in his review for the LATimes.

So here I am, sitting in a dark theater filled to capacity with what appeared to be about 90% gay men, eager to witness this groundbreaking, landmark achievement in American cinema. I suppose that had to be why we were all there.

Upon watching the film I found myself engaged, interested, impressed by both Gyllenhaal's and Ledger's performances, and admiring the script's economy and understatement. Towards the end, however, I could feel it quietly moving towards its climax, and with every scene I thought to myself, "this is the moment that's really going to get me," or "Oh, here's the scene that's going to make me go all misty," and it just never happened.

The sad thing is, I don't think that's how the film is made to work on people. It is spare, quiet, and interior; it's about repression and internalizing and the closet and its consequences. It's quite good.

I just don't think it's a landmark gay film.

To suggest that a movie with an A-list director and A-list stars that contains gay content is a landmark merely because of the status the industry bestows on the talent involved seems to me elitist and self-congratulatory. Brokeback Mountain is a conventional love story, conventionally told, with terrified protagonists acting on their urges in secret, eventually punished for both their inability to overcome their shame AND their inability to fully repress their homosexuality. This is not bold new territory.

And to call it innovative because it's a gay take on a hetero-focused genre makes me want to respond, "can I get you passes to any gay and lesbian film festival in America? There you'll find no end of gay takes on conventional genre pictures. I promise you. There you'll find the gay horror flick, the gay teen sex comedy, the gay buddy action flick, the gay sci-fi, etc., etc." They may not be Hollywood films, but we've been doing that shit for years, folks. Granted, the quality may not be the most consistent, but this is not a new concept.

"Oh, but it's not just that it's genre; they're COWBOYS!" you might say. "And they're really MASCULINE! We never see gay characters like that in movies."

I know...that's a wild, outrageous concept...but there's also something a tad insulting about lauding a film because it bravely avoids gay archetypes that much of straight culture finds distasteful and/or fodder for either mockery or home-improvement shows.

Here's what I would like to find in the next gay movie I see.

1. A gay character navigating an existence in a culture that is not a dire threat to his or her life or well-being.
2. A gay character navigating an existence in a culture that is not exclusively gay with all of its homo-cliches.
3. A gay character engaging in a relationship in said culture that is not threatened by his or her own self-hatred, his or her desire or obligation to maintain a straight relationship that the dominant culture does not threaten, or his or her sexual conflicts or ambiguity.
4. A handful of characters for which gender identity is neither a preoccupation nor an exaggeration.

Of course, that would have to be entered in Outfest as a gay twist on the "fantasy" genre. Once I started working on a short play called "Homotopia" where the characters existed in a world that met some of the above requirements. I couldn't finish the damn thing. There was no story....

So, as the credits for Brokeback were rolling, I felt a little bad for not having to quickly wipe away the tears before the lights came up. I felt a little guilty for bearing no red, puffy, leaking eyes to the friends I came with. I felt guilty for going to a party afterwards and telling all the straight people I was talking to that I was "underwhelmed." I wanted this movie to be the gay movie for the ages. What I got was a solid, handsome, plaintive character picture with strong performances and lingering beauty. A tale well-told, but not unfamiliar.

Alright, now that I've expressed all that ambivalence about the movie, do go see it. You don't have to expect the moon. You will be entertained; I promise. Maybe you'll even be more moved by it than I was. Some certainly have been, by what I've read. Make this movie a big success; give those studio execs a reason to pat themselves on the back. Then maybe the next big gay-themed movie that gets green-lit will be that gay movie for the ages that I've been looking for!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Only two shopping days until my reading!

Check the details here. Or read them below!

"Arthur Munby and Frederick Furnivall, scholarly footnotes in the soot-covered stories of Victorian London, live lives fueled by progressive ideals and consuming compulsions. Customary Monsters is a history play about the limits of love, equality, and biography."

DATE:
Sunday, December 11, 2005

TIME:
2:00 PM

LOCATION:
Working Stage Theatre
1516 N. Gardner
West Hollywood, CA 90046-2808

PRICE:
Free

PLEASE RSVP:
info@fellswoop.net

Immediately following the reading you are invited to stay for a short, moderated response session and a reception.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The future of theater!

Great articles on the future of theater in Los Angeles and beyond in today's LA Weekly by Steven Leigh Morris. Read them here and here. Here's a sample which sounds kind of bleak....

[T]he sun is setting on America’s regional theaters, as they’ve existed for the past half century. There are also other reasons — cultural and technological, leading to the reality that putting on shows can no longer be the primary purpose of theater. Such a purpose — as a sole purpose — is unsustainable for either profit or nonprofit theaters in an era of funding cutbacks when the Internet, iPods, cell-phone cameras and flat-screen TVs have added to the already tempting distractions of California’s beaches, mountains and amusement parks. Even the film industry is struggling to get audiences into luxurious new movie houses.

And here's a sample that sounds, if nothing else, like a comfort....
The most fundamental transformation throughout the country will be a growing shift in notion, from “theater as product” to “theater as a process”: theater in prisons and hospices, serving its original function of uniting and validating communities. It’s not that shows will no longer be produced just for the art, or the entertainment, but that theater’s larger purpose will have to be redefined, or it simply can’t compete in a laissez-faire economy. In the next decade, the term “community theater” may no longer be disparaged as representing something at the bottom of a hierarchy of which Broadway is the pinnacle. Rather, you’ll have to go to Broadway or Vegas to see Broadway shows — the national touring circuits are slowly dissolving — while “community theater” may come to represent a considerably more noble activity than before. Theater’s funders will consist of fewer private investors, governments and foundations, and more colleges, film producers and restaurants that hire the artists in order that they can afford to do theater they love. That theater may not offer a living, but it will provide a calling.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bloody Mess

Got to UCLA Live again on Friday to see Forced Entertainment's apparent masterpiece, Bloody Mess. And it was just that. Metaphorically, structurally, literally...I feel sorry for their tech crew. Sweeping up popcorn, picking up facial tissues, mopping up water, sweat, and who knows what else ended up on that stage and then setting props for the next night would not be an easy task.

Because the show is so chaotic, I'm going to rely on the LATimes' rather odd review of the piece to give you a taste of what it's all about:

A woman in a dramatic gown (Cathy Naden) prostrates herself as though weak, vulnerable, perhaps near death. Another woman (Terry O'Connor) hovers nearby, wailing extravagantly and splashing herself with water. To the side, a woman in a gorilla suit (Claire Marshall) struts about, hurling fistfuls of popcorn at the audience when she feels overlooked.

A pair of rock 'n' roll roadies (Robin Arthur and Richard Lowdon) work the soundboard and try to extend the microphone cable to reach the other performers, often proving to be more intrusive than helpful. Thundering rock guitar explodes from the sound system, drowning out words. Colored lights pulse through a haze of manufactured fog.

Eventually, a clown (John Rowley) begins to relate the theory of the big bang while another clown (Bruno Roubicek) passes him notes, telling him to sex it up a bit. Conversely, a cheerleader (Wendy Houstoun) yells encouragement. A couple of guys (Davis Freeman and Jerry Killick) strip off their clothes and grab big, cardboard stars covered in aluminum foil, to be used as props in a sort of interpretive dance to accompany the cosmic tale.

Festering discord between the clowns finally erupts into a wrestling match, to be followed by one combatant vocalizing sound effects for various weapons, including a nuclear device.

It's an endurance test; Thursday's opening performance lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours, with no intermission. But by the end, the audience has witnessed nothing less than the history of the world.

In the quote I'm offering, the critic sounds as though he falls for the pretense of the show hook-line-and sinker, but here are his final lines:

[P]erhaps that messy gorilla will become, in your mind, the pile of laundry that you might more productively have attended to back at home, and the wailing woman will represent your frustration at being trapped in this mess.

That too is a perfectly legitimate response.

I find this review so strange because the critic seems to validate and dismiss the work at the same time. This is uncanny, frankly, because I have found myself having the same responses, occasionally alternating, occasionally simultaneous.

The piece tried my patience constantly as I was watching it and was at least a half-hour too long, but part of its comic sensibility involved the droning repetition of action and language, so I felt inclined to be forgiving; the performance's meaning was rather obvious and I've seen such thematic explorations executed with far more depth and involvement, but I found myself in hysterics on more than one occasion and while I was never overwhelmed by the proceedings, I was always engaged. While there was significance in much of the props and details, some of the elements of the evening didn't really connect to anything larger -- the roadies, the facial tissues, the popcorn, the candy -- but then when chaos is what you're all about....

There was something about performance in the context of all this comic existentialism, as well, that I'm still mulling over. Performance, communication, storytelling as a futile endeavor...perhaps that's where the roadies and clowns and whatnot come in. And then popcorn, candy, and tissues are all things you might consume at a movie or play, so there is that....

One thing I did learn, though, after seeing this production: gorilla suit=comic gold.

Monday, December 05, 2005

If this is true....

Kurt Cobain is spinning in his grave.
ROCK widow Courtney Love will net £70million by selling her late husband Kurt Cobain's songs.

The actress and rock singer is selling a quarter of the Nirvana frontman's back catalogue to disgraced US lifestyle guru Martha Stewart.


It came from The Mirror in the UK, which is pretty yellow, is it not? But still, I wouldn't put it past Courtney if she has the rights to do so.

The whole story is here.

Thanks to Brandy for the link.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I have my Furnivall!

The last role is cast for my reading next Sunday! Now I just have to finish the draft!

Check here for details about the reading! Come see it!

I'm such an exclamation point whore....