Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cat Power at the Ford Ampitheater

I want everyone to know that I have seen a Cat Power show. And I survived.

You'll be pleased to note that she did too. She even seemed in good (if not manic) spirits.

I have determined that I love her voice, but I love it best when she sings. Songs. All the way through. I love it least when she sits at the piano trying to remember lyrics to her favorite Mary J. Blige songs. After she's been on stage for over two hours. And spending a sizeable portion of that time NOT SINGING ACTUAL SONGS.

Charles Isherwood on Macbeth

Two things.

One:

Okay, give me a second to collect myself.





Thanks.

Two:

This is Isherwood's understanding of how the play should work on its audience:
The play's dark vision should colonize our imaginations with terrifying images of the havoc wrought when man's baser nature unleashes its darkness, making unnatural all that it touches.
I am all too aware that I read this guy just looking for one of his irritating or muddled sentiments to post on this blog. Regardless, is it just me, or does the above sound like really ornate bullshit to me? "Colonize our imaginations?" Are you kidding me?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm so sad about

the "indefinite hiatus" of Sleater-Kinney. Vinyl Edition, who listed S-K's The Woods as one of his "100 Greatest Albums of All Time Ever," informed me of it this morning; he has a great post with videos here. As tribute, here is an old post chronicling my occasional obsession with Corin, Janet, and Carrie.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

ETC is back

That is, my friend Ernessa is blogging again. Read her here.

and there are only two more days to vote on MySpace so she can get a series and lots of money and awards and etc, etc, etc. Check her post here for more details.

And just keep reading if you want to hear her talk about her adventures for the last six months. I like it best when she makes fun of white people; I'm quoting below:
Alcohol really does make the white people dance. We ended up at a bar/lounge/fine restaurant called the Meadowlands, counting down to New Years with a bunch of middle-aged white folks hopped up on really good wine and food. And get this, the cover band was also made up of middle-aged white people, who for some reason, insisted on only singing R&B hits. I am not kidding. They even did Tony Toni Tone's "No Loot" ya'll. Needless to say, I had a FANTASTIC time, but CH still won't talk about it. Poor guy, apparently black people aren't the only ones who get embarrassed when people from our race do things that we'd rather not have people from other races seeing us do.
Oh yes, Ernessa, it does. Remember the Go-Go's at that party before the cops showed up? Those were the days, huh?

Monday, June 26, 2006

I've joined the masses

I finally have an ipod. I was going to wait a little longer, but my friends Matt and Trista bought a Nano and promptly decided they'd rather have a video ipod, so they were looking to sell at a reduced rate.

The ownership of an ipod has proven helpful so far; because I spent that money on it, I now feel inclined to use it, and the only way I can think to use it and not, say, my laptop's itunes, or my stereo in my apartment, or my car stereo, is to take it for a jog or to the gym. So this morning, I made myself get up early and get some exercise.

For some reason my neighborhood's sidewalks were calling out to me this morning. I skipped the gym and went for a jog around my neighborhood. I had the ipod on shuffle and soon discovered I need less "Pink Moon" and more "Rebel Rebel." Or a workout playlist. Overall, though, aside from the cobwebs, the bug flying up my nose, and the bird shitting on me, it was quite a pleasant experience!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

When the Ice Melts

For the heck of it I sent this off to a certain southern lit magazine last year to see how it would do. No dice, but I'm still proud of it, so I thought I'd post it here.

When the Ice Melts
By Kyle T. Wilson

A few Christmases ago I got stuck in my grandmother’s house in Searcy for about seven days while we all waited out the now-legendary Arkansas Ice Storm 2000. I had just finished my first term in a very tough northeastern MFA playwriting program and I was worn-out and depressed. This trip home was supposed to be a rejuvenation, a chance to catch up with friends, and I was pretty miffed about being forced to sit indoors with very little to do except get a head-start on reading for the spring semester’s syllabus. Finally freed by the sun and the melting ice as New Year’s Eve approached, I commenced with plans to head down to Little Rock and celebrate.

As luck would have it, after a week of statewide ice-covered streets, power outages, and talk of the governor declaring the state a disaster area, the one day it looked like relief might be in sight, it decided to snow in central Arkansas. As several of my college classmates and I were gathering at a friend’s house near downtown, the stuff began to cover the roads. It stuck so quickly that the couple of parties we had considered attending were too far to drive and out of the question. We cut our losses and ended up at the much closer destination of the Capital Hotel Bar, where we found ourselves having quite the lovely evening – far better than the night we probably would’ve had at a beer party in some recent Hendrix grad’s apartment.

Six friends attended the impromptu gathering at the bar, two of whom were on a break from graduate studies. The others were all twentysomethings making it in the big L.R. Of the six of us, there were five men and one woman. All but one in the party were southern by birth; all but two were native Arkansans. And all of the men in the party were gay. At the time I was so confused about it that I. . .well, let's just say that I was in the closet. Deep. And there were two-by-fours nailed across the door. They’d been there for years.

We sat at a big table near the bar, eyeing the TV monitors tuned to “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” and enjoying a bottle of the most affordable sparkling wine the place had to offer. We feigned sophistication with a reasonable amount of success, taking great pains to impress each other with our post-college exploits. I was always comfortable around gay men (shocking, I know), and these were kind enough to put up with my ambiguity. Brittany, the token female, was playing the hag with great agility – her smartass Hot Springs voice still rings in my ears.

Eventually Mr. Clark led us all in the countdown and we squawked our noisemakers with the few others in the bar who had braved the uncertain weather. We were beginning to wind down when two rough-looking guys stumbled through the front door.

I heard mumbling. Then I heard grumbling. And then these guys were standing at our table. All conversation ceased. Our friend Kenneth – an art history PhD student who used words like “tautology” and began the evening by gleefully showing us pictures of Marcel Duchamp in drag – muttered a word of caution that one of the tough guys took as an opportunity to start something.

“What did you say to me?”

Kenneth responded with a mildly condescending, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Actually, just about everything Kenneth said was mildly condescending; even a “hello” contained a curt appraisal. Inexplicably, it was one of his most endearing qualities.

The stranger responded by repeating his question. “I said, ‘what did you say to me?’” This time it wasn’t a question, though. It was a threat.

It was at this point that I felt the need to stand and protest, to find the bartender or the manager, to do something to make these idiots leave us alone. I didn’t. It’s hard to know how to respond to that kind of behavior in public. And, all stereotypes aside, we were not a table of fighters. This was not good. Not good at all.

My instinct to take control of the situation and defend my queer brethren (I was such the one-man gay-straight-alliance, wasn’t I?) was rendered unnecessary by our brave Brittany, who, upon hearing the words that crossed the line from garden-variety harassment into hate speech, decided to take action.

“Such a shame. Pretty-looking girl like you with five faggots,” the guy said, positioning himself behind Brittany’s chair.

“EXCUSE ME?” Brittany demanded, turning to him.

He leaned down to repeat, almost whispering it in her ear. “I said it’s a shame a pretty girl like you’s gotta be wasted on five faggots.”

Let me just tell you that we five faggots were absolutely mortified at this. We watched Brittany, fearful. This could not possibly end well.

Brittany, our rock, would not be moved by this provocation. She wasted absolutely no more time on this fool, pushing him away from her. She gave him a good shove. “Would you please leave? You’re ruining our evening!”

Granted, the guy was obviously loaded, and wasn’t on the surest footing to begin with, but Brittany’s shove was such that he stumbled back, bumping into his sidekick. This fella did not cotton too well to being shoved by a woman. He responded with a gentlemanly offer that would make his momma proud. “Bitch, you touch me again I’ll slap the shit outa you!”

Brittany, God bless her, scoffed at this. I can still see her eyes roll and hear her scoff. “Oh, you will do no such thing. Go on now. Shoo!”

With more mumbling and grumbling, the fellas departed, leaving us all to breathe easy once again.

But we didn’t breathe easy. You don’t after something like that. Would we have gotten jumped when we walked out the front door? Surely they would’ve known better than to mess with five guys, even ones who were clearly better at discussing tautologies than defending themselves. Wouldn’t they? Luckily, we didn’t see them anymore that night. Maybe Brittany was the one who scared them off.

That seems like a long time ago now. Since Ice Storm 2000, I’ve come out, finished my MFA, and moved to the left-coast mecca that is Los Angeles. Unfortunately my California residency left me unable to vote in 2004 against the amendment to the Arkansas state constitution banning gay marriage. I do worry that the ten identical state constitutional amendments passed in this country could lead to more guys like my friends and me getting harassed for merely an excess of hand gestures and too much nancy in our voices. Of course even in Los Angeles, such things happen. A week after I moved to L.A., a gay actor was ambushed and beaten with a baseball bat in West Hollywood. That’s like a straight man getting bashed for being straight, well, anywhere.

Conversely, the last time I spent Christmas at my grandmother’s in Searcy, I was browsing in a local video store when I saw a perfectly domestic same-sex couple looking for a nice family movie to take home to the parents. I was heartened by overhearing their conversations, by watching them interact. They certainly didn’t need the state’s approval of their relationship. They didn’t even need a brave Brittany’s protection. And there were no rough guys threatening to disrupt their afternoon. I didn’t even see any lurking about in the parking lot as I left. I followed them out, actually, just to make sure. That’s not really true; I did follow them out, but quietly, distantly, and only to enjoy their presence a little longer. Their relationship was so public, so quotidian, so admirable. As it should be.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm seriously worried

about Natasha Lyonne.
All week, ever since
Brandy sent me the
gossipy reoprts of
her getting kicked out
of Michael Rappoport's
building and being
spotted on early morning
trips into pharmacies
to buy syringes
I've been concerned
for her well-being
and, although I
often feel a little
depressed I am so
thankful that I've
never turned to hard
drugs because I don't
ever want to be evicted
by some kind of
loudmouthed landlord
and I know for a fact
that Michael Rappoport
is seriously loudmouthed
because he's one of the
two or three celebritites
that I constantly spot
in L.A. and he is so
insufferably loud
I usually think to myself,
"Not him AGAIN,"
but there he is anyway,
at a storefront in Larchmont
benignly yelling at
an accompanying child
because he wants to point
out what's in the store window
and, God, all the stuff of
this life, the loudmouthed
Michael Rappoports and
disappointing celebrity
sightings and the
absent, neglectful landlords
make me so completely
empathetic with the fragile,
damaged soul that Natasha Lyonne
must have, but I swear,
if I ever see that girl
looking the mess
that Gawker is suggesting
she is, I will grab her
by the shoulders
and tell her to
SNAP OUT OF IT!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

If you're on MySpace

vote for Ernessa's promo "Who You Know!" Go here if you have an account; hers is the 1st promo on the 2nd row of clips.

For those of you who don't know Ernessa, she's the author of several plays and screenplays, as well as the lately dormant blog, Bloggin' on the ETC. When she posted regularly, it featured cute stories and pictures. And there was this weird time lag on the posts that eventually became endearing. Now, nothing for months, and I'm considering deleting from its coveted spot in the Playwrights' Pages on my sidebar. ETC, now's the time to update! GOTV on Who You Know!

Go vote for "Who You Know" ASAP!

Monday, June 19, 2006

It is official:

Require a character to sing the hymn "Softly and Tenderly" in a mediocre movie and I will get emotional.

If it's an unknown actor and a maudlin scene, I'll surely do it against my better judgment. For an example, here's a quote from my post on the movie Junebug (the whole post is here):
There's a scene at a church potluck that involves one of the characters singing "Softly And Tenderly," which kinda made me want to puke until it brought tears to my eyes.
If it's Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin harmonizing while singing the hymn, as in the equally mediocre but somehow more lovable A Prairie Home Companion, there will be no restraint. My lip will quiver, my eyes will well up, I will become wistful about the past and the ephemeral nature of time, my adoration of Streep and Tomlin will be reaffirmed, and I will be just about won over by a quaint and meandering Robert Altman movie.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I got a funny email from a certain online quarterly to which I submitted a short story.

I don't write short stories that often, but I wrote one recently, and I'm kinda proud of it, so I thought I'd send it a couple of places and see what happens. Well the aforementioned online quarterly has a policy of requiring inquiries with synopses before requesting stories of 5000 words or more. Of course, my story, after much agonizing cutting and rewriting, was 52-something words, so I sent the requisite request:
I would like to submit my short story, "To The Lakehouse", to be considered for publication with _______ ________. Because it is (just) over 5,000 words, I am writing with a request to submit the story for your consideration.
Several weeks later, I got the following response:
Did you get back to these people who keep querying about longer stories? It was, as I remember well, your idea that they submit a query first for longer stories, so I just want to be sure they’re taken care of…
Of course, I had to respond to that, right? Here's what I wrote:
Does that mean I should send it in?

Playfully,

KYLE
Needless to say, I haven't gotten a reply.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy birthday JW!

On this date last year, I was planning for an evening at a Stephen Malkmus concert, having bought the tickets before I remembered they were on my bf JW's birthday.

"Oh, but a good bf would skip the concert," you say, "and devote the entire day to his man!"

Well, I, apparently, am not a good bf. Or at least I wasn't on this date a year ago.

But then again, JW ain't no Malkmus, neither....

KIDDING.

Well, he's not.

JW's cuter!

Although Malkmus' keyboard/guitar guy...now THAT's my kinda Jick!

Anyway, no rock concerts tonight. Although I am ditching him and La Traviata on Friday to see Fiery Furnaces at the Henry Fonda, so I better make tonight count. So everybody who knows JW, send him an email and wish him a happy birthday! Or if you don't have his email, wish him one in the comments. Heck, even if you don't know him, greetings in the comments. And YOU BETTER DO IT. DON'T MAKE ME LOOK BAD HERE. Or worse than I already do....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Another lunch poem

11:30am on a Tuesday and I'm
off to Echo Park for a longshot
chance at free Sonic Youth tickets
at Sea Level Records.
Driving to the eastside
I lamented my boring clothes,
certain I'd be the geekiest geek
there, loitering in my
business casual.

As I drove I was reminded
of the first time I saw
SY live; it was in Memphis
at the New Daisy on
Beale Street. I dressed
in Sunday clothes, both
in defiance of prevailing trends
and acceptance of my certain
failure at attempting to
participate in them.
I was such a sad sack,
resigning myself to lameness
before I'd even tried
to be otherwise.

I took a girl named Sarah to
that concert. We drove
all the way from central Arkansas
to see the band. When the show
was over, we walked out
of the theater and Sarah said,
"I want to be Kim Gordon!"
and I played my part, saying,
"I want to be Thurston Moore!"
Of course, inside I was thinking,
"I want to be Kim Gordon, too!"

Walking up to Sea Level at
about 11:45 I saw a short
line and joined it.
Standing and waiting there
with the the messy facial hair,
the concert tees, and
the name-dropping of
obscure bands, I looked
down at my plaid button-down
and work pants and steeled
myself for the silent stares
of assumed hipster condescension.

At almost 12 noon a young woman
in bangs and a Malkmus t-shirt
stepped out of the baby-blue
anti-theft grated storefront
and said, "The first eight
people in line are in luck.
The rest of you might as well
go home."

Those of us beyond the
lucky first eight moaned
a collective "AWW!" and
at that moment we heard
the smack of metal in
the nearest intersection.
A red pick-up had plowed into
a black Honda. It looked bad.

The line of SY fans huddled
on the sidewalk and looked at
the wreck. One said to another,
"Man, looks like she got
messed up. Don't move her!"
Within minutes two fire engines
and a helicopter had arrived,
along with a guy in pin-stripes
and a necktie, who approached
us and asked, "Are they
out of tickets already?"

Monday, June 12, 2006

Am I allowed?

A friend sent me an editorial from Harper's that I feel inclined to share. Ben Metcalf ponders the question, "Am I allowed to write that I would like to hunt down George W. Bush, the president of the United States, and kill him with my bare hands?" The link is here.

Maud Newton (that's where the friend found it -- thanks Maud and Libby) compared it to Twain; I'm inclined to think of Swift, as well. Here's another question he ponders:
Am I allowed to write that I would like to kidnap George W. Bush and fly him to a prison in some faraway land where his ‘rights’ are no longer an issue, there to put a bag over his head and make him stand for hours on one leg while I defecate on his New Testament before chaining his arms to the ceiling until he dies of a heart attack, after which I will claim that he never existed? Here, though, taste, if not simple decency, again rears its delicate head: I doubt that I could bring myself to read such a thing, let alone write it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

LATimes calls Unknown Theater's Hothouse "unmissable!"

Here's Charlotte Stoudt's review.

Here's an excerpt:
[T]he fledgling Unknown Theater company has staged a stunning, spooky, hilarious production of the 2005 Nobel Prize winner [Harold Pinter]'s savage farce about psyches running amok at a British mental institution on Christmas Eve. In a grim-looking office, designed with industrial gloom by Chris Covics, deadpan assistant Gibbs (a sublime Art Oden) informs his blustering boss, Roote (a titanically oblivious Abner Genece), that one of the patients has just given birth. Roote is astonished. How could this happen? After all, male staff members are required to use protection during all sexual encounters with patients.

Meanwhile, Gibbs and the lascivious Cutts (Kirsten Beyer) begin a series of rather appalling experiments on the institute's lock-keeper, the hapless Lamb (Dam Kempen), and the disgruntled Lush (Jason Guess) tries repeatedly to turn off those infernal, overheating radiators. The revolving set turns faster and faster from one scene to the next, a kind of demonic narrative carousel, as the secrets and lies and electric shocks begin to bubble and stew into quite a nasty Christmas pudding.
This play's wild; I saw a production of it in Houston and I remember being completely baffled by it.

And doesn't it sound like Joe Orton? That's so fascinating to me....

Anyway, Unknown is my favorite L.A. theater, and not just because they let me in their little playwriting club. Okay, it's mostly for that reason. Regardless, after reading all the eulogizing of The Evidence Room, I seriously think it has what it takes to fill those shoes. Go see this show!

It's a day of Grendel

here at Frank's Wild Lunch. One of the things I neglected to mention in my previous post about the opera revolves around a post on my lovely fellow blogger and CMU alum Lydia's blog, The Kittensnake, who has created a list of things for American opera directors to avoid when they start emulating Eurotrash opera trends in the future. The link to the post is here; I'm excerpting pertinent passages below:

(FYI, in the world of the Kittensnake, there are a couple of generalizations to note, for better or worse: European opera = Eurotrash; American opera = Anachroshit. I'm assuming you can ascertain why.... God, just go back and find my post about LAOpera's Vanessa if you need further illumination.)
I feel the need to educate both potential purveyors of Eurotrash and Anachroshit on what I condider to be a few ground rules when it comes to staging an opera in either Europe or America. These are not only a reaction to what I saw tonight, but to what I have been seeing over the last seasons in Europe (in other words, what America might see in its regional opera houses in thirty years or so...)

Here it is. Lyd's deadly S's...

STROBES: Please do not substitute a strobe light for an actual visual idea that co-ordinates with a climactic moment. That includes scenes depicting war, storms, earthquakes, etc.

SEX: No matter how talented they are, a soprano and tenor trying to simulate penetrative sex while hitting high Cs will only end up looking silly. Also by and large, opera singers are not very sexy. Nobody would even really want to see it, even were the pair in question to make it even slightly believable.

SPLITTING: This is the practice by which two singers, embroiled in a particularly dramatic face-to-face moment at center stage, suddenly split out to mid-down-stage-right and mid-down-stage-left in order to blankly decry whatever emotion they're supposed to be expressing directly to the audience. Please try to prevent this, as it is unspeakably lame.

SLAPPING: Either convince your singers to actually slap each other to the full extent of their strength (which is actually possible, and uncannily satisfying), or make some ironic visual comment about the fact that they can't, or just aren't. Keep in mind that opera singers are constitutionally unable to master naps (faked whacks, claps and the like that accompany standard "stage" combat).

STABBING: If your props guy can crank out a sweet trick, you're golden. Otherwise, think of something else.

SWORDFIGHTING: Forget it.

STARING: Please do not, in the absence of any cleverer dramatic ideas for a particularly declamatory choral moment, instruct your chorus to stand as far downstage as possible, staring into the audience looking "forceful". This will always prove weak. Doubly so if you decide to raise the house lights at the same time.

STUFFED ANIMALS (also dolls, small 3D likenesses, etc.): Should be used either with intentional humor or extraordinary cruelty and crassness--and certainly with a great deal of technical precision. This can also be readily applied to the use of masks, prosthetic limbs, and comprimario tenors.
Now, in case you were wondering, Grendel had four of Lyd's eight deadly S's -- Strobes, Slapping Staring, and Stuffed toys (they were human figures, to be precise). I hesitate to include swordplay and sex, although there were definitely swords, and there was definitely simulated penetrative action; Taymor was thoughtful enough not to stage actual swordfights in favor of having the dancers just thrust them about powerfully. And as for the sex, it was silent and upstage while Grendel lamented his loneliness at the apron. I feel pretty positive that splitting did not occur, but JW, do you agree? Not sure.

Regardless, I had to stifle laughter at inappropriate moments because I was noticing the Eurotrash elements Lyd warned against as the opera progressed. For example....
1. Oh no! They're all coming to the front of the stage! And staring at us! And I wanted to like this moment, too!

2. Is that a doll? It's a doll! It's a female doll and Grendel's preparing to rip its legs apart! Why does it look silly? Oh right, thanks Kittensnake....

3. And there's the slap! Why did it just get a laugh?

4. The strobe -- it looks pretty good...but wasn't there something about strobes during battle scenes being hackneyed? Dammit....
Hey, the upside is, I didn't have to wait 30 years to see it on these shores.

Oh, Kittensnake, you've ruined me for America's trailblazing directors! Curses!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Opening night at Grendel

Our seats just happened to be on opening night, thanks to the last-minute computer glitches and rescheduling, so JW and I went to see the big world premiere of the Julie Taymor/Elliot Goldenthal behemoth tonight.

I have gone from excited to scared to doomsday about this production, and that was before I sat down in my seats. Hearing about all the problems and hearing no consensus whatsoever from those who saw it in previews, I just tried to be hopeful yet realistic. When it was all over I was mostly just frustrated.

There is so much skill involved here. There are gorgeous moments throughout, as one would expect, I assume, from Julie Taymor. My only familiarity with her work is through the movie Titus which, if memory serves, is high camp as much as anything.... But Grendel's supposed to be the real thing, right?

Well, yes and no. One of the main conceits of the show is that we are viewing the world through the lens of a monster, as he is our narrator. And yet, the world he comes from is so beyond grotesque it's just a plain eyesore. His mother is represented as this massive tree-puppet with pendulous breasts, along with two or three other unidentified tree-people puppets (seriously, who the hell were those guys?), and their scenes are such an assault on the senses I was always a bit relieved when the long-haired maidens came on to dance again. Is self-hatred what all this hideousness is about? Envy? Perhaps...but god, those puppets were ugly. I wondered what would've happened if the lens were focused a bit differently; if there was something odd-looking about the villagers, and Grendel's folks looked less cretinous. Would we have identified differently? Or at all?

Oh, but the world of the Grendel isn't supposed to be pretty, you say. I know, I know, and I told myself that constantly, whenever I'd have a moment of doubt about what was going on onstage...at least during the first act. During the first act I was on the verge of being won over. Eric Owens is a marvelous singer and he's got one of the hardest, biggest roles he will probably ever sing here. He does a splendid job. He's quite persuasive. And the first act is full of other persuasive moments as well. The choreography is most engaging here, and there are countless visual spectacles that dazzle...full of projections and sharp lighting and just plain old-fashioned great staging. Even the silly dragon scene with Denyce Graves got a chuckle out of me. Although by the time it was over I wasn't convinced she was diva enough for that role. Or singer enough.

JW suggested it was the music's fault, not hers. He's the expert there. I was never overwhelmed by the music, although I did enjoy passages. The writing for Grendel and his Shadows tended to make me prick up my ears the most. Goldenthal complemented Owens by giving him a bit of a chorus with a small group of "Shadows", who served as his dark side, his subconscious, his romantic self, etc. It's a conceit with a lot of potential -- potential I felt was unfulfilled....

But we'll get to that in a minute. I'm getting ahead of myself. So Act I ended and JW and I rushed for our ritual Diet Pepsis and brownie (we split one -- we're disciplined that way), and I could tell he was not happy. I was surprisingly feeling good about the whole experience. I had my misgivings, but there was enough razzle-dazzle and just the right suggestion of substance to make me think this might not be so bad after all. I told him it felt big, weighty, and ambitious -- and it did.

And then Act II started. It started with this clumsy, flat-footed comic scene that broke the narrative convention the show established. And Grendel acknowledged this break with a laugh line. That got laughs. But it wasn't funny. It was just confusing. Oh, well, actually, it was funny, but only because Grendel used the phrase "shit-ass" and the phrase "shit-ass" is funny, right? Of course it is; I just typed it twice and I'll bet you giggled, or at least smiled, both times you read it. But let me explain to you what happened in this scene. Grendel, our narrator, who has spent the whole show being the only person speaking/singing in modern English, plays a scene with a warrior who vows to fight him. The warrior is suddenly, inexplicably, also speaking in modern English. This is after we've spent the entire first act being told that NO ONE BUT GRENDEL speaks in modern English. Then, to explain it all, Grendel says "this shit-ass scene was his idea." WHAT??? DID YOU HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH HIM BEFORE IT STARTED? IF SO, WHY??? AND SINCE WHEN IS ACKNOWLEDGING THIS IS A PIECE OF THEATER A PART OF THIS SHOW? OKAY, FINE, SO THERE WAS THAT ONE LINE DENYCE GRAVES HAD IN ACT ONE BUT THAT WAS AN OBLIQUE REFERENCE AT BEST. YOU CAN'T DO THIS!! YOU CAN'T! AND THIS SCENE ISN'T FUNNY. NO MATTER HOW MANY PIECES OF FRUIT YOU THROW. IT'S NOT FUNNY. GO AHEAD! DO THAT LITTLE DANCE TO GET A FEW MORE EASY LAUGHS, BUT IT'S NOT FUNNY.

Okay, enough with the caps lock. Anyway, as you can tell, this is when it all started to go downhill for me. After that, I just remember a passage of Grendel's singing involving his repetition of the phrase "Something's Coming." And I'm sorry, but you just don't have a singer in a show sing that phrase unless it's followed by the words "come on in, don't be shy, meet a guy, pull up a chair!"

And then here comes Beowulf, finally, to save the day. WHY IS HE EGYPTIAN? AND WHY HAS HE BROUGHT AN ARMY OF EGYPTIAN SOLDIERS WITH HIM? THEY ARE IN ENGLAND (OR IS IT DENMARK? THANKS FOR THE BEOWULF RESEARCH, JW). WHY ARE THEY IN GLINTY BRONZE ARMOR AND BODY PAINT AND OBVIOUSLY INTENDED TO LOOK EGYPTIAN??

Sorry about the caps lock again. I promise I'll stop. Now, I meant to get back to the unfulfilled potential of the splitting of Grendel's voices, but I don't know what to say except that it was inconsistently applied and a wasted opportunity. Goldenthal doesn't really activate the voices to suggest any sort of internal conflict until late in the second act, and even then he doesn't do it strongly enough for it to matter. So as is they're neither entirely "shadows" nor developed, effective representations of a fragmented personality, which he seems to want to turn them into.

And then there's the big climax, with the chorus singing this big heavy poetic text that sounds like it wants to be in John Adams' El Nino (and God, did JW and I ever want to be in El Nino by then too). Except the whole time they were singing something like "the windy hill will fall" and I was wanting so badly to like the moment but I couldn't help thinking "how in the world is a hill windy?" (NOTE: see comments for more info here, but JW has said that if Chicago can be the Windy City, then Grendel's hill can be windy too; I never said I was the smart one in our relationship). Still, how do hills fall, exactly? Nit-picking aside, my point is that I just don't think this text is as weighty or rich as Taymor and J.D. McClatchy (her co-librettist) do.

It just felt like a mess to me. A big, inspired, beautifully performed, occasionally brilliant, definitely eye-catching, sprawling, frustrating mess. And Laura Claycomb sounded positively heavenly in her small role. Just wanted to get that in there.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fell Swoop Writers Group Reading

My friend Rob has put together a reading of his new play, Hollow, as the second reading in the Fell Swoop Reading Series. Come one come all! It's a wild script and it has Natalie Fields and Becky Metz in it, which is enough to recommend it right there. I'm sure the rest of the cast is great, too, but I don't think I know who they are. Do I? If I do and I'm just forgetful, so sorry....

The details are below; if you want a pretty website version, check here.

In the mountains of rural, central Pennsylvania, a brother and sister struggle with a terrible secret, an impoverished town eagerly awaits the arrival of fortune and the apocalypse is about to begin.

Hollow

written by R.B. Ripley
directed by Ryan Dixon

DATE:

Sunday, June 11, 2006

TIME:

2:00 PM

PLACE:

NoHo Actors Studio
5215 Lankershim Blvd
No. Hollywood, CA 91601

PRICE:

Free

Immediately following the reading you are invited to stay for a short moderated response session and reception.
PLEASE RSVP: info@fellswoop.net

With Mark Englehardt, Natalie Fields, Richard Greene, Zach Hanks, Becky Metz

Homos of Los Angeles Unite!

Thanks to Dunner's Stunners for pointing Guerrilla Gay Bar out to me. I've heard about this in other cities; gay folk organize and infiltrate a popular straight bar once a month. Here are a few answers from the FAQs, in case you're still curious.
1. What is Guerrilla Gay Bar?

GGB is a combination of flashmob and the French Revolution. Only gayer. (Fewer decapitations.) Once a month, we will take over the coolest straight bar we can find in the greater Los Angeles area. We won't tell em we're coming - we'll just show up - hopefully by the hundreds - and make ourselves at home.

2. When is Guerrilla Gay Bar?

Beginning June 9, 2006, GGB will be the second Friday of every month.

3. Where is Guerrilla Gay Bar?

It's a secret. Two weeks prior to each event, we'll send you an email so you can save the date and invite your friends, and we may (or may not) offer a clue as to the location. The actual location will not be announced until one day prior to each event, when we'll give you the full lowdown by email and on our website.

4. For whom is Guerrilla Gay Bar intended?

You, as long as you come along. Part of the reason we created GGB is due to an oft-expressed frustration with the existing gay scene in Los Angeles. We wanted to create an alternative scene for folks who crave something different from what West Hollywood or the club circuit have to offer. Our ideal crowd is more diverse than your average bar - punks and twinks, bears and guppies, students and seniors - and, best of all, folks without a convenient label.
There's an email list if you want to find out where folks are gathering on Friday, and you can also add them to Friendster and MySpace. Check the website if you want to find out more info.

I just did a

Google Photo search of the word "prince." Here is what I found:Aren't these princes cute? I know it's a little unusual, but I kinda dig Harry more with the redheaded rugger look and the constant flushed cheeks (is that rosacea? Not sure, but it's endearing). Here's another one, just for fun.


Of course the JW is convinced that this princeis not Harry's real father, which makes a certain sense, and makes me think just for a second that it's too bad that prince wasn't as cool as this princewho just married the woman he wanted to, but then I start to feel bad because history is history and we have two lovely princes and a gorgeously iconic late princess thanks to Charles' unfortunate propriety and then I think of this randy bachelor princewho, in his tomcatting, has given Princess Grace two granddchildren, the younger being the cutest teenager out in Palm Desert whose picture was just in the LATimes, so again, I chalk it all up to history and its occasional surprisingly joyful consequences and then I try to finish this blog post with a gorgeous picture of The Royal One whose birthday is today and who was going to be the charmingly visual punchline of this post and Blogger effs up on me and I can't figure out how to post any more pictures and I spend most of the rest of the day trying to do so but there are all these error messages and it's finally just down for maintenance and now it's back but I still can't post pictures so I'm going to wrap it up by saying that NONE of the above princes are PRINCE,
as in THE ARTIST,
as in HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRINCE!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

1981

Thanks to Feminary's links, I'm making my way through SFGate's great coverage of AIDS at 25. There is an abundance of information here, both current and historical, and it's amazingly informative. Especially interesting are Randy Shilts' articles, beginning in 1982 and moving forward from there, investigating the growing impact of the disease as it evolves and moves from gay epicenters into small-town America. Here's a sample from his 1987 article about AIDS in Aurora, Illinois:
Although gays in San Francisco and Manhattan get all the press, more of the nation's homosexuals are probably like [Mike] Schulz, living quietly in small towns and suburbs. It is here, on the edges of gay life, that shifts of America's attitudes toward gay people are first felt and the effect of AIDS is palpable.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, when gay liberation was a chic social cause, there was a gay bar downtown and a Fox Valley Gay Men's Chorus was organized.

"It seemed like it was going to be just a couple of years and everybody was going to change and there wouldn't be any more prejudice against gay people," Schulz said.

By 1983 and 1984, when the first news reports about AIDS were appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Schulz noticed his four brothers and sisters began asking more pressing questions about how he was feeling.

By the time actor Rock Hudson was diagnosed in 1985, it seemed that AIDS arose as a family discussion topic whenever Schulz walked in the room, and relatives got less comfortable around him.

"I don't hear from anybody unless I call them first," he said. "I have one sister I talk to regularly, but that's about all the contact I have with my family."

The gay bar is gone, the gay chorus folded, and Schulz does not run into the gay couples he once saw at the shopping center or riding along the bike paths along the Fox River.

"It's almost like you can hear closet doors slamming all over," he said. "You don't sense that straight people are opening up around you, the way they were a few years back. It has changed."

Gay people are not dogged by much overt harassment or stigma, but life is not as friendly here as it once was, he observed.
This seems especially prescient considering GWB's gay-panic-anti-marriage-anti-family-anti-freedom- constitutional-amendment-waste-of-time. At least Reagan kept his mouth shut for the first seven years of his presidency while thousands of gay Americans suffered and died. Although I guess he and Bush The First were too busy race-baiting to bother vilifying HIV-carrying gays in order to get votes. Every minority gets its turn eventually, huh?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Matt McGrath in The Black Rider

I was lucky enough to see him in this show for the 2nd time a couple of weekends ago at The Ahmanson, having made an impulsive trip to San Francisco to catch the show with the JW in 2004. It's unfortunate that the show is not connecting as well here as it did up north, because if people would give it a chance I think they might see one of the most wildly inspired, versatile performers I think I've ever seen onstage.

Let's put aside for a moment my penchant for grandiose statements and extreme, romantic bouts of enthusiasm such as the one above, and consider the almost possessed quality of his performance. There's a startling fluidity to his movement in his scenes; these are scenes that -- this being a Robert Wilson show -- require a kind of precision that makes so many of the other actors look (and I don't mean this as a criticism of anyone) frequently robotic, due to the extremely stylized nature of the show. McGrath matches this, but there's an added something -- a dreamstate, almost; he might as well be floating...and, if you've seen the show, you know he literally does.

I remember seeing the show in San Francisco and feeling a certain remoteness about the show -- this may have been our balcony seats, but I'm not so sure. This is one of the reasons why I wish audiences would try a little harder with this one; if anything, I think it might be tighter, more engaging, its rewards more immediate than when I saw it in 2004. I wish I could explain why; maybe I was just better prepared for it, or more alert. I'll have more to say on this later, I think....

Regardless, when Matt comes out with his big finish, shirtless, hair messy, his voice shifting from the squeaky high-pitched midwestern nasal to the gravely Tom Waits bass-baritone and back, I just want to call him back and have him do it all over again. It's a stunning non-sequitir of a climax to a fantastic and fantastical evening of theater.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Something to look forward to...

...besides Grendel of course. If it's possible to look forward to something and be completely terrified all at the same time, that is.

Not terrified by the below, just looking forward.

CORNERSTONE THEATER COMPANY

presents the world premiere of

DEMETER IN THE CITY

Written by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Shishir Kurup
JUNE 8 - 18, 2006
At REDCAT in Walt Disney Concert Hall

It's about time I got excited about something at REDCAT again! You know I love that place, but all the shows I wanted to see (ENDGAME. ENDGAME. ENDGAME. And that Craig Lucas thing) got canceled.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sorry for the light blogging

I've had so much I've wanted to share, too! Hopefully I'll be back in action soon. I'm just a bit swamped with my performance workshop's actual performances.