Friday, September 29, 2006

Sonic Youth at the Wiltern

Well, no run-ins with the band last night, but my friend Matt and I did see Steven Soderbergh.

The set list was exclusively from three albums: Rather Ripped, of course (every song but "Sleeping Around," which is too bad, because I love that song), Confusion Is Sex, of all things ("World Looks Red" and "Shaking Hell"), and Daydream Nation ("Candle," "Eric's Trip," and "Teen Age Riot," THANK YOU!).

I spent the whole concert putting in my earplugs and taking them out, which is what I tend to do nowadays at concerts. Every time they did a Daydream Nation song, I thought to myself, "screw my hearing!"

This is my fourth SY concert, and it was a nice bit of symmetry to end the first encore with "Teen Age Riot," since it was the first song they played the first time I saw them in concert, back in 1995 at the New Daisy in Memphis. I got a little sentimental.

Kim looked stunning in her 80s retro shiny gold belted mini-dress, and at the end of the main set, Thurston and Lee did a little feedbacky guitar tango followed by some full-on fret frottage (how's that for alliteration, Isherwood??) HOT.

I LOVE YOU SONIC YOUTH!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Heather Woodbury's Tale of 2 Cities

Ticketmaster is doing a promotion for part one of the two-part production of Woodbury's show at UCLALive! They're free plus handling charges. I just got four tickets for 7 bucks. The limit is 6. Get them before they sell out here. Password is TMHWPF. Is it bad that I'm posting this? Oh well.

LA Weekly about Fences protests

Okay, I'm throwing my hat in the ring for reals as an L.A. theater blogger, thanks to Violet Vixen and her mention at her blog. I like to think that I'm a theater blogger...and so much more, but whatever works! Thanks Violet!

Steven Mikulan writes about Pasadena Playhouse's bungling of their opening night of their star-studded production of Fences, as well as allegations that they've alienated southern California's African-American media. Interesting article. Here's a longish quote:

To a town that prides itself on racial sensitivity and cultural bridge building, it was a blunder of almost farcical proportions. On September 1, the Pasadena Playhouse — Southern California’s only major theater with a black artistic director — opened a revival of August Wilson’s African-American classic Fences. The play’s high-powered cast, led by movie heavyweights Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, guaranteed a huge premiere audience — the biggest, in fact, in the 600-seat Playhouse’s recent history. But there were two problems. The first was that opening night was overbooked and some theatergoers’ reservations were not honored, including those media members who allegedly RSVPed after the 50 pairs of tickets set aside for the press were exhausted. The second was that the most visible group bumped that night were members of Southern California’s African-American press.

The day before the premiere, attorney Joe C. Hopkins and his wife, Ruthie, who own Pasadena’s only African-American paper, the Pasadena Journal, attacked local cultural institutions in print for not advertising in their paper and, specifically, the Pasadena Playhouse for not buying space for Fences or for the Sheldon Epps Diversity Project, a youth-outreach program named for the Playhouse’s artistic director. The couple organized a small but highly visible opening-night demonstration in front of the theater. They stood next to a signboard asking, “Why does the Pasadena Playhouse discriminate in its advertising purchases against Pasadena’s only black newspaper?” The Hopkinses were joined by the black publishers who, to use their word, had been “disinvited,” receiving quick, curious glances by paparazzi taking pictures of Dennis Hopper and Tyra Banks....

Epps says he is “annoyed and dismayed” by the charges that have been made by the Hopkinses and others. It’s easy to see why. Fences, which he directed, is the Pasadena Playhouse’s biggest-selling show ever and should be a crowning achievement for both Epps and the Playhouse. And, against conventional wisdom, he has successfully transformed the theater, which, when he assumed control of it in 1997, had become an irrelevancy — a white-shoed, blue-haired venue adrift in a sea of demographic and artistic changes. He has accomplished this with a program that balances black plays and musicals with controversial “white” works such as John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt and David Hare’s The Blue Room. The effect has been to bring in more African-American audience members without provoking white flight from his theater.
I personally have not had the best luck with Pasadena Playhouse in the few times I've visited. Fences is easily the strongest production I've seen there. It's also the first I've seen directed by Epps, and the show's success is a testament to the man's talent and integrity. Attending the show was a lot of fun, too, in that it was easily the youngest and most diverse crowd I've seen in the big L.A. houses since I've been here. It's funny; later in the article there is discussion of the participatory nature of some of the black members of the audience in the preview performance and that it had some people at the theater "concerned." GOD, that was half the reason the night was so fun! The audience is INVOLVED, people! This is what we're trying to achieve!

In any case, I wonder how Epps' commitment to diversity is going to extend beyond racial lines and into theatrical offerings in upcoming programming decisions. When the next show on your season is Sister Act The Musical, I don't know how inclined to return I'm going to be, and I also wonder how young and diverse those audiences will remain. I mean, last season they did Private Lives; I love the play, but it doesn't necessarily scream "hip." In fact, it mainly screams "white privilege," doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I've been going through

a afternoon Perrier phase at my office (the fridge is STOCKED), and every time I grab one, I'm reminded of that line from The Smiths' "I Won't Share You."

"Has the Perrier gone straight to my head?"

It's lovely.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A friend of mine

alerted me to this article in last Sunday's NYTimes about Sofia Coppola in Paris. If you're not nauseated by the time you finish reading it, there's something wrong with you. Here's a quote:
The Cannes Film Festival was in a few days, and Sofia was looking for gowns. “I like that in Paris, you have to get it together,” she said. “It’s nice to see people dress up for dinner. After I interned at Chanel in the 80’s, I went back home to my little town in the Napa Valley, but I was changed forever. Everyone thought I was strange because I was getting French Vogue.”

Monday, September 25, 2006

Doubt at the Ahmanson

I finally saw a good production of Doubt on Saturday. It's basically THE production, actually -- it's the national tour -- and L.A. is lucky to be one of the three cities that Cherry Jones is performing in. If you'll remember my first encounter with the play, it was not terribly satisfying, to say the least.

This script and this production of Doubt are such well-oiled machines. The lights, the transitions, the performances, and the story all churn along with such rigor and momentum. It's polished to a sheen, frankly, and, as much as I admire the actors (all of whom do wonderful jobs) and the play (well-made, taut, efficient, pointed, intelligent, mature, nuanced), I think I might've liked it a little rougher around the edges. Maybe it's been so long since I've seen a straight play with these kinds of production values that it's a little jarring. Can a production be TOO good?

Regardless, I relished the opportunity to get to see Cherry Jones onstage, and she did not disappoint. She's just marvelous, isn't she? I keep hearing her in my head shouting, "and he PULLED his hand AWAY!" over and over. Just one of her many moments that brought tears to my eyes. As much as I respect the play, what got me truly teary-eyed was the strength and engagement of the performances from all four actors (Jones, Adriane Lenox, Chris McGarry, and Lisa Joyce). They're just great, and they do great work together.

Get your tickets soon before it sells out!

Isherwood nit-pick

A few quotes from Isherwood's NYTimes review of Bruce Norris's The Pain and the Itch at Playwrights Horizons:

Thanksgiving dinner is being served nightly at Playwrights Horizons, where a new comedy by Bruce Norris, “The Pain and the Itch,” opened yesterday. The menu is traditional, after a fashion.

During cocktails, crudités are on offer, accompanied by onion dip and assorted ill-disguised insults. The main course is turkey, basted in bile.... Side dishes include braised Brussels sprouts sprinkled with shaved almonds and hypocrisy, and cranberry sauce spiced with orange zest, racism and recrimination. Dessert is pumpkin pie of course, accompanied by lengthy discussions of pornography and disturbing hints of pedophilia....

Mr. Norris is also an actor, and writes tangy, literate dialogue that gives his actors ample scope to shine....

The bad behavior on view here verges on the absurd.... The unpleasantness is strictly earthbound, unzany and ultimately wearisome....

Carefully plotted (overplotted, actually) and marked by a savage comic flair, it is nevertheless seriously marred by overstatement, a familiar flaw in the work of writers still finding their aesthetic footing.
Should we add excessive alliteration to that list of familiar flaws? I'm just wondering.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Foreman / Gordon WHAT TO WEAR?

It's official. I have seen a Richard Foreman show.

And now I'd like to see ONE more. Just one. Just one more so that I can contextualize the Foreman aesthetic...see what he does, what's unusual, what's to be expected. Then I think I'll be just fine.

All that said, I thought I'd just post some of my thoughts on this one. I wouldn't necessarily give this show a rave, like the LATimes MUSIC critic, Mark Swed, did in his rather shallow love letter on Friday. And just to digress for a moment...WHY is Mark Swed, the lead music critic, reviewing a theater piece by Richard Foreman? Isn't that what they hired Charles McNulty for? I like Swed's music reviews, and he talks about Foreman's historical precedents and Michael Gordon's musical contribution to the piece with his usual thoughtfulness, but there's almost no substance to his take on the performance. He even flat-out refuses to say anything about it, other than he thinks it's a riot and it doesn't make much sense.

Well, he's wrong on both counts.

I'll address the latter part first. What To Wear makes clear from the get-go that it's going to be something of a theatrical pastiche, an assemblage of images, objects, and texts that the audience is challenged to process and make meaning out of. The performance begins with four singers describing a "Madeline X," who attempts to cope with the horrible world by collecting nice things and caring for her appearance. The singers take us through phases of her development...everything from her developing self-awareness to her eventual paralysis, announcing that she doesn't know what to wear, and that she needs help with her "stupids and her smarts."

Elements of play are woven throughout the evening: everything from playing cards to bulls-eyes to golf clubs. The double-meaning of the word "game" almost screams at the audience when the Ugly Duckling motif that's hinted at in the opening moment of the piece returns and hijacks the evening, comically "entering a restaurant" as the singers describe, while the dancers enter with roast ducks on silver platters.

Coasting on aesthetic only gets any theater piece so far with me, and this one did a fairly good job of keeping me involved. As long as Foreman introduced new ideas and imagery into the proceedings, I enjoyed watching and contemplating. The show does not wear well, though, and repeats itself in its last half in such a way that it was easy for me to check out. Unlike Mark Swed, I made quite a lot of sense of the show. In fact, I felt like I got it and was ready to go about 15-20 minutes before the thing was over. And just in a rhythmic way, the show felt overlong, as well. There is a gorgeous a capella moment towards the end -- the first a capella moment in an evening full of raucous music -- that is so effective the show feels like it's finishing up. And then it keeps going. And it doesn't do anything new or interesting.

Also, the ideas of the play hit me in an odd way. Maybe it's just where I am in life, but the show's contemplation of materialism and fashion as vain existential pursuits, or ways of coping with a "horrible world," seemed neither terribly profound nor such a bad idea. I kinda wanted to respond to the performers, "Yeah, and?"

Before I go on, I should comment that the music is this show's strongest and most captivating element. The sound is brash and lively, and the four singers engage in close rounds and dissonant chords; it sounded like it must've been a bitch to learn and perform. Congrats all around on pulling that off.

As for the show being a riot, well, it's only occasionally funny. There is a certain whimsy to the costumes and props, but the hyper-stylized, statically sinister countenances of the four singers becomes rather tiresome and feels a little overly familiar -- imagine four Brides of Frankenstein in Brownie uniforms and you'll get the idea -- perhaps it's because Foreman's such an innovator that he seems hackneyed because he's been so imitated, or his influence is so big. But hey, it's a new show. If that's the case, EVOLVE, already.

But what do I know? This is my first Foreman.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Love TALK OF THE TOWN

I forget. And then I remember that I forget. Thanks to Postmodernbarney for reminding me. Check this out. Sample's below:
American Airlines Flight 45—departing Charles de Gaulle at 10:40 A.M., arriving J.F.K. at one each afternoon—is a tourist’s delight: timed just right to avoid late checkout, leaving time for one last Kir Royale at Les Deux Magots. On August 22nd, the coach cabin was packed with vacationing New Yorkers. Ralph Jackson (21A) and David Leisner (21B) were returning from two weeks in France, while Huffa Frobes-Cross (21F) had stopped over in Paris on his way back from South Africa. Assigned to seats 20A and 20B were George Tsikhiseli, a television journalist, and his writer boyfriend, Stephan Varnier. “We’ve been together only four months,” Tsikhiseli said last week. “So it felt like a honeymoon.”

Twelve days earlier, British police had foiled a terrorist plot to blow up airliners. Heightened security had delayed the flight by about two hours, and passengers, by the time they boarded, were ready to relax. “I had a José Saramago book I was looking forward to reading,” Leisner said. “And then I was going to take some melatonin and have a little nap.”

Shortly after takeoff, Varnier nodded off, leaning his head on Tsikhiseli. A stewardess came over to their row. “The purser wants you to stop that,” she said.

“I opened my eyes and was, like, ‘Stop what?’ ” Varnier recalled the other day.

“The touching and the kissing,” the stewardess said, before walking away.
Read the rest of the article; the captain gets involved.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For the heck of it....

Last month I attended a workshop called "Plays as Cubes," led by Aaron Henne, a cool local playwright who's quite an inventive writer; his last play, King Cat Calico Finally Flies Free!, at Son of Semele Theater (where he's resident playwright) featured a love affair between a crazy cat lady and her favorite feline. Because of the fanciful plot and general adventurousness of that play, I thought it might be a good stretch of the muscles for me to check out his class.

Anyway, we wrote dream plays, among other things, and just for kicks, I've posted the last scene of my dream play below. I was going to post the whole draft of this and one other play on my Ourmedia page (the link to my short plays on the right side of this page), but it's having problems apparently. When that page is back up I'll put them there. I gave this one a quick and dirty title, "The Museum on the Hill." Enjoy!

(LIGHTS RISE on the interior of the MUSEUM. A TEACHER is surrounded by clay pots and shards of broken pottery. Some of the pottery is new, and there are lumps of fresh clay, as well. Prominently displayed is an empty pedestal. There are also a few STUDENTS. A STUNNING SOCIALITE joins this scene, observing. WILSON enters. He awkwardly holds his arms to his torso. He is in pain, covered in mud, and his clothes are torn.)
TEACHER
Glad you could join us, Mr. Wilson.

WILSON
My arms are broken.

TEACHER
So is your watch, apparently.

WILSON
I’m not kidding.

TEACHER
I have a class to teach. Don’t trouble me with your petty calamities.

WILSON
Someone call 9-1-1!

TEACHER
There’s a phone in the lobby. You may make personal calls on our break, which I believe you might’ve forfeited by coming in so late. That’s unfortunate.

WILSON
What’s unfortunate is that I can’t dial a phone because BOTH MY ARMS ARE BROKEN!

STUNNING SOCIALITE
(to audience)
I abhor conflict. Repetition as well. I communicate succinctly, wasting no time or energy. I don’t engage in power struggle. I admit when I’m wrong, and I don’t gloat when I’m right.

TEACHER
Young man, why are you troubling me with such distracting details? I have other students to consider, don’t I? You’re wasting everyone’s time.

WILSON
I’m in pain. I need help!

TEACHER
And we have pots to throw!

WILSON
Hideous brown mud that will be nothing but hideous brown stone and I would throw it out the goddamn window if I had the use of my arms COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE CALL A FUCKING AMBULANCE!

TEACHER
I will waste no further time on this.

WILSON
Is there somebody else here who will? Security? A nurse? An administrator?

TEACHER
There is no one else here.

WILSON
Of course not. It’s a museum. Why would there be?

TEACHER
What’s that supposed to mean?

WILSON
It means DEVOID OF LIFE. Which I will be too from internal bleeding if—-

TEACHER
Well then we could get on with our class, now, couldn’t we?

(WILSON stares at the TEACHER, who ignores him, tends to her students. He starts to exit. On his way out, he passes the STUNNING SOCIALITE. They appraise each other. He scowls. She stifles a giggle. He exits. She produces a perfect, sleek, glazed vase, places it on the empty stand, and exits behind him. LIGHTS OUT on all but the vase, which remains in spotlight for a moment.)

BLACKOUT

Congrats to Sarah Ruhl

for her MacArthur Genius Grant! I really liked that play where the girl turns into an almond. And I'm sorry for staring at you at Tacos Por Favor that time!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Overheard at the WeHo Veterinary Hospital

I HATE the veterinarian. I've mentioned that before, right?

That said, Saturday's trip to the vet was a little more entertaining than usual. Not only did I emerge with Beulah T. from our exam room to find some pudgy shirtless guy sitting in the lobby, I got to witness him being removed by paramedics and the police (from the street, unfortunately, since I had to go feed the meter). After all that went down is where the overheard part comes in....

Some Aging Queen comes in with a cat named Felix (inspired name choice, no?) and starts talking to a Veterinary Nurse while I'm settling up. I'm going to approximate the exchange below:

AQ: You have been telling me one thing and all of a sudden you're telling me something else and this is just not making any sense!

VN: What I said was--

AQ: I think I'm just going to have to wait and talk to a doctor about this.

VN: Fine, I'll see if one can see you today.

(VN disappears into the back while AQ cradles his tiny Felix, still inside its tiny Sherpa Bag. Pause.)

VN: I'm just going to have to make you an appointment for tomorrow because none of the doctors can see you today.

(KW smiles as he overhears, knowing that the clinic has a policy of working in walk-ins and it's only 10:30 in the morning. VN has basically just told AQ to fuck off.)

AQ: No! That will not work! I am not available tomorrow! I am just going to have to wait. My cat is sick and--

VN: I'm sorry, but I just spoke to the doctors and they cannot see you today.

(KW is REALLY enjoying this. She just talked to ALL SIX doctors? He wonders if it can possibly get any better.)

AQ: You are just not being very cooperative with me. I cannot come in tomorrow because I am too busy--

VN: I'm sorry, sir, but--

AQ: YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! I WORK IN SHOW BUSINESS!

(AWESOME. KW stifles laughter.)

I walked out of a performance

for the first time since grad school. I think. At intermission, mind you. I'm not completely rude.

Incidentally, can you believe I walked out of a school performance? It was one of the big faculty-directed mainstage things, though, and I found it really boring. Probably not fair, but there were never enough hours in the day back then, what with plays to read, happy hours to attend, chat rooms to cruise, etc.

The play I walked out on this weekend is one I will not name, in a tiny space, unaffiliated with a local theater company. The performance got an interesting review from none other than the LAWeekly's top critic, Steven Leigh Morris, and for my money he's easily the best theater critic the city has, so if he's encouraging about a show, then I'm encouraged about seeing it.

But wow. WOW. This thing was so wretched, so horribly acted, written, directed, lit, staged, even the sound design was stupid. It was excruciatingly bad. In fact, it was so amateurish as to undermine a gifted critic's high credibility. Why did he bother even to be supportive in his notes on this piece?

I seriously don't know what his motives might've been. With all due respect, on looking back at the review, it was not necessarily a rave, but he gave this show a credibility that no one in my party thought it came close to deserving. I've never found Morris to be soft on things in the past, but I do often wonder just what kind of policy the Weekly (and the Times, for that matter) has on reviewing small theater. Do they tend towards encouraging? Do they go soft? Is it all relative, and based on a median mediocrity so often considered the aesthetic baseline for much of the local 99-seat theater in Los Angeles? Do the papers treat the major, big houses with a different level of objectivity than the 99-seaters?

If the latter is the case, well, I don't necessarily have a problem with this policy. Most of these theaters are operating on no budget, working with people who aren't getting paid, and playing to small theaters that they still can't manage to fill. This kind of work deserves a supportive press, and probably depends on it. Still, an energetic, flawed performance with some good ideas and ambition is one thing (and frankly, that's the way I'd describe the majority of the small theater in L.A. -- perhaps everywhere, no?); what I saw on Saturday night was hardly that kind of work. Giving a pass to a flunky show is not going to help build or sustain a local audience, regardless of how well-intentioned the critic might be.

Why is it so hard

for me to find a copy of The Letters of James Schuyler to Frank O'Hara in town?

They're trying to order it for me at Dutton's Beverly Hills (I camp out in their coffee shop most Sundays after my choir duty at the Pisco early service; I figure I ought to buy stuff from them every so often) and the special orders guru in the back told me "there aren't a lot on the west coast." Strange, huh?

At A Different Light in WeHo (where I bought Schuyler's Selected Letters a few months back) there was no sign of it anywhere. I had to settle for Holleran's Dancer From the Dance.

I suppose I should just order it from Powell's. K, did you get a copy of it yet?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Alan Rich on La Traviata

It didn’t even matter that the production was the same clunky stagecraft that Momma Domingo had inflicted upon the Chandler Pavilion in two previous seasons, with its overpopulated floor and clotted action patterns.... This time around, with musical forces such as [James Conlon's, Renee Fleming's, and Rolando Villazon's] onstage and on the podium, Verdi conquered all.
Alan, thank you for validating my irritations with this production, and for giving my Rolando and our Renee (because she is The People's Diva, isn't she?) the praise they so deserve.... But oh how I wish I were the kind of opera-goer for whom an over-populated floor and clotted action patterns (not to mention an apparent inability to focus action in crowd scenes and fire-engine-red hoop skirts the size of small Volkswagens) didn't matter. Maybe one day?

Speaking of BLD

Jonathan Gold writes about it in this week's LAWeekly:
BLD is a curious mash-up of Eat Well, AOC and a chef-centered brasserie, one part vegan-friendly brunch place, one part deluxe wine bar, and one part dinner house with a kind of casual menu that reads as homey to people who spend most of their working hours elbow-deep in lamb carcasses.

In BLD’s function as a wine bar, you can choose from a decent selection of wines by the glass, a selection of charcuterie that includes both the well-aged Italian-style salamis from Paul Bertolli’s cult Fra’ Mani line and the pungent Spanish-style chorizos and hams from L.A.’s own La Española. An assortment of perfectly ripe cheeses could function as the cheese board of any of the best restaurants in town. (Even a single six-buck sliver of Humboldt Fog comes on a granite slab with a few different kinds of grilled bread, sliced apples, a handful of Spanish almonds and a sliver of almond-studded pressed fig cake big enough to serve as dessert.)
YUM!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I said I

never cook in that BLD post but I would like to, and I do enjoy it, and I can follow a recipe and even though I make a mess for JW to clean up when I do cook it never seems to turn out TOO bad, and we're trying to eat better so last night I found a recipe in an issue of Cooking Light (thanks ETC) and I actually cooked fish! It was tilapia with a light lemony dressing on a bed of greens. It was almost kind of elegant. JW lit candles, even. But he usually lights candles. Anyway, I was pleased to be cooking something that didn't involve eggs for a change.

It's a thrill a minute at the JW/KW household, huh?

Tonight we're off to the Bowl for Carmina Burana with fireworks. Our last Bowl of the season (sigh), unless I win tickets to that Massive Attack show. I don't even listen to them, but I entered some contest. I'm still curious about TV on the Radio, even though I never warmed up to their first CD. How's the second one? VE? Anyone?

I feel quite strongly that this is my best blogpost ever.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Last night at the opera

I got there early, squatting at one of the few available tables by the fountain at the Music Center until JW could make his drive across town to meet me for LAOpera's production of La Traviata.

The WeHo / Silver Lake set was out in full force -- I even saw a bald, goateed guy in leather pants -- but I assumed they were all there for the obvious diva delights of La Fleming as our doomed Violetta. I smiled and thought to myself, "just wait until you get a load of our Alfredo!"

And then I saw him. There he was, not 20 feet away from me, donning one of his trademark colorfully striped shirts, his black curls, his blocks of eyebrow. He was surrounded by about four cool types, but he eventually wandered off, followed only by a stylish young woman with a cute bag. Our Alfredo! MY ROLANDO.

JW finally arrived and I made him appropriately jealous. After a quick dinner, we wandered into the Dorothy Chandler. Abuzz on my adorable hotshot tenor sighting and the Diet Red Bull I'd chugged before leaving the office, I gleefully people-watched, enjoying the extra contingent of gay couples to liven up the proceedings. My favorite was this tall guy with the slightest of bellies in a white oxford and low-waisted pants. The ensemble was crowned with a close-cropped hairstyle at least a decade old and out of Greenwich Village or a synth-pop video. His beau was a shorter, close-cropped-redheaded-mohawk-wearing dude in a green plaid short-sleeved button down and white suspenders. Every time we ran into them they were either holding hands or walking with their arms around each other. And every time, I whispered to JW, "I LOVE THEM."

There is much I could say about this production; I could point out, for example, the horrendous directorial choices by Domingo's wife, Marta, the hideous set, apparently designed by her too (?), or the arbitrarily flying light fixture in Act II, Scene II (one of few scenic elements in the that bit that wasn't made of crushed red velvet or mirrors -- ugh, I'm queasy at the thought of it), but I won't go into further detail, other than to say this: thank you, Renee and Rolando, for slumming in this show. It's so beneath you, but it was still a joy to hear and watch you last night. With luck you'll get a better production to accentuate your great talents.

I'm going to post

about last night's La Traviata at some point, promise, but first I'm going to see if I can't make this Friday's New Dramatists and Jerome Fellowship deadlines, just for the hell of it. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Okay, so that's done. Back in a sec.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I am seeing

ROLANDO TONIGHT!


And our Renee, of course!


Interesting that their expressions in both of those pictures suggest an exasperation with a certain overenthusiastic blogging opera queen poseur. I don't blame you, my dears, but if I'm to stay awake for you tonight, I have to get revved up somehow!

Can't wait!

Monday, September 11, 2006

BLD

I don't usually do food posts, but I thought Meg might appreciate it.

JW and I went to BLD on Beverly for dinner after Don Carlo last night. It's like Grace (and run by the same folks, so I understand), but with burgers and salads and entrees that are under 25 bucks (sandwiches, salads, and pastas all start around $12). It's really handsome inside, full of clean lines and earth tones, and chairs which JW was convinced came from Cost Plus, which was fine with me because we're really into shopping there lately. They also have a big, welcoming bar that was close to empty when we were there; I would've loved to hang out at it while I waited for a table. Their menu has a great list of cheeses and wines, and they have Chimay Red on tap, which made the two of us happy. I had a burger made of ground pork, topped with bleu cheese. JW had the panini with serrano ham and manchego cheese. Mine was hearty and satisfying, but it was all about the bleu. JW liked his panini, as he's convinced no one in this city, except for Cafe Verona on La Brea, knows how to make them for real. We splurged and had dessert, which was a peach/nectarine cobbler with a dish of ice cream, and we finished that in record time. We're sure to go back, because, well, we don't cook. But aside from that, last night I was lobbying for cheese and maybe a glass of wine instead of the dessert, but that mess adds up, folks. Next time we go maybe we'll make that the whole meal!

To the theater company

who returned my monologue plays in my self-addressed stamped envelope:

I'm assuming assume that a cordial "thanks, but no thanks" letter to me is sitting on your desk, mistakenly omitted from the envelope for which you so generously provided an extra stamp so that you could fold my two 5-page monolgues into thirds and stuff into that aforementioned regular business-sized envelope. I'm assuming that, in your office, which must be the size of a large closet, and filled with too much paper and not enough volunteers, there is a letter which will identify you to me so that I don't have to dig through my files just to figure out who you are. I'm full of empathy, truly I am.

But just so we're clear; in the future, that envelope is FOR THE REJECTION LETTER. NOT THE PLAYS.

Thanks.

The Grand Inquisitor

is the real star of Don Carlo. Just so you know.

I have scoured the web looking for photos of Eric Halfvarson in this role; I wish you could see him so you could understand my excitement when he made an appearance in Act IV. The production design is all monochromatically black and red, and all the costumes are black and, well, black. Okay, some of the Flanders people have grays on, but that's about it. At intermission I said to JW, "If they want to go overboard with the whole black and red thing, fine, but it'd be nice to have some red dresses or something. This ain't reader's theater!"

Well, the costumer was a step ahead of me. The Grand Inquisitor comes out in a scarlet robe with a train that would put Princess Di's dress to shame. He's all blind and stooped and he has two altar boys in robes who appear whenever he gets up from his seat so that he can lean on them when he moves on and off the stage. I fell in love with the costume designer (Tim Goodchild), the director (Ian Judge), and the production at precisely the moment when The Grand Inquisitor slowly, feebly starts to stand after singing a powerful duet with the King (a tremendously-voiced Ferruccio Ferlanetto) and two little boys in red robes scurry out from the wings to take their places just in time for him to rest a hand on a shoulder of each child. Plus he sings the crap out of that role.

There aren't pics of The Grand Inquisitor online (that I can find, anyway), but you can check out other photos from the production here.

Love's Labor's Lost at Actor's Gang

I LOVE the postcard design. Seriously. And I'm not just saying this because I have nothing good to say about the production. I just want to make it clear; if I could get my hands on a color poster-sized version of their postcard I would frame it and hang it in my apartment. It's lovely. Check it out here.

As for the production itself, There's a kind of edgy elegance in the direction that is most effective in the play's most ethereal moments. The set's great, too, which provides strong support for a lot of sharp stage pictures.

The second half of the first act is most involving, and where I got hooked. Mary Eileen O'Donnell as the male pedant, Holofernes, makes an appearance about halfway through that completely won me over, and I coasted through the enchanting final moments of the first act with pleasure and ease.

I didn't fare as well in the second act, although I think the play itself wore on me as much as anything. The big Russian party followed by the big Greek dumbshow proved a bit exhausting. It's early Shakespeare, and it definitely feels like it; the language is really striking; it's full of intricate poetry, rhyming couplets shared by various characters, lots of cleverness. The majority of the lines feel meticulously constructed. I had fun with it for a while; my friend Andrew found it overwrought. He has a point. He kept saying, "I've had enough of this; let's move on to Midsummer Night's Dream!" If it were up to me, I'd skip that one too and move to Much Ado About Nothing, but I've seen that one plenty, so it's fun to try out one I don't know for a change.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Indie Rock Tastemakers of Heber Springs, Arkansas

Check out LAist's post on Thelonious Monster here.

High school in Heber Springs, Arkansas, was probably a bit unusual by certain teenage clique standards. There was a fair amount of overlap in archetypes; the popular kid/jock type could be the cooler-than-you music geek could be the brainy artistic type. And by senior year everybody knew and finally tolerated everyone else, for the most part. My graduating class was a whopping 92 seniors, after all.

But freshman year is not senior year, and for my freshman year (1990-91), I was new to town, my dad having taken over the pulpit at the Methodist Church there. I wanted desperately to make a smooth transition to high school with a completely new peer group. I think my dad was looking out for me when he aggressively encouraged me to continue in football. I had decided I was finished with sports at the end of 8th grade, spending much of my time on the sidelines and not having a very good time with it. I've never asked him, but I always wondered if Dad didn't just assume I'd have an easier time of it socially if I got befriended by the jocks.

As I detailed above, a lot of the freshman jocks (not that they were necessarily good athletes) were also the cooler-than-you music geeks. Sophomore year they knew the Sub Pop catalog from A to Z; they'd moved on to Screaming Trees and Mudhoney by the time Nirvana released Incesticide, rural Arkansas indie tastemakers that they were.

There was one jocky type -- we'll call him Luke, for our purposes -- he was a little more clever than the rest of them, a little more interested, a little funnier. Seriously cuter. He turned me on to Pavement, and for that I will forever be grateful. I remember wanting nothing more than to be his friend. His best friend -- we'll call him Dean -- was the ringleader of this crowd, and luckily he thought I was alright, even defending me when an enormous lineman country boy type had taken an inexplicable disliking to me. I appreciated Dean's favor, but I wanted Luke's.

None of this made any sense to me at the time. Luke was nice enough, and reasonably tolerant of me, but a little aloof, too, which made me all the more anxious about him. It wasn't until senior year that I felt friendly with him in earnest -- the year Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain came out -- and by that time I was over whatever confused crush I might've had, but freshman year I was insecure, the new kid, and I felt my acceptibility constantly in the balance.

That year I was approached by these guys to hang out on Halloween night. They basically did the egg/toilet paper/running around town thing. I was timid and a little too respectful for such matters, but earlier in the fall I had survived my tag-along with Dean against the girly boy with my perceived heterosexuality intact (I attribute my college/grad school repression/frustration in part to karmic payback for this event, fyi -- sorry Joey), so I guess I met their approval for wreaking havoc of a less homophobic sort.

We ran around my neighborhood, aimlessly goofing around, before ending up at the home of one of their middle school teachers. We all had backpacks full of stuff, and their plan was to give this old biddy what she deserved. Toilet paper rolls began to fly, along with biscuit dough, silly string, and whatever anyone had carried along. I was rather ashamed of my participation in this, given that I had no idea who this woman was (I would later find out she was a member of Dad's church), so I hung back a little, but Dean finally yelled at me to take my shot along with the rest. I half-heartedly flung a roll of TP into the air at the enormous oak in her front yard, which was already flapping with the white streamers. I threw it backwards, though, and rather than unrolling as it ascended, it just spun and hit the ground. I was quietly mortified, bracing for name-calling. Luke, in one of many behaviors that would endear him to me, said nothing, and instead just ran over and grabbed it and threw it again, beautifully, the paper fluttering as it made its way to a top branch. Then a light came on in the house and we all ran.

I don't remember how, but after that we all ended up in the covered bed of an upperclassman's pick-up, listening to a funky song that everyone was singing along to. Everyone but me. I loved Red Hot Chili Peppers' cover of "Higher Ground," and I assumed this was their new CD, but I hadn't heard it yet. It wouldn't be until after my brother got me Blood Sugar Sex Magik for Christmas that December that I would memorize "Give It Away" and sing it non-stop around the house, to my family's great annoyance. That night was the first time I heard it, and even if I couldn't sing along, just my being there, in that truck with frosh and upperclass alike, I felt like things were going to be alright.

Later that night we got dropped off somewhere and were goofing off some more when a patrol car pulled up. Why we didn't run is beyond me; I'm actually a little fuzzy on how this all proceeded, but we ended up at the police station, where we had to call our parents. I was literally trembling when I made the call, but Dad just said, "alright, we'll be there in a minute," like he'd been waiting for the call all evening. Luke's mom was the first to arrive.

She came bursting in the front door. And she was taking pictures.

"It's my son's FIRST visit to the police station! I am SO PROUD!"

She went on and on like this until she was out the door with Luke. I couldn't tell if he was amused or embarrassed. The rest of us loved it. Even his MOM was cool.

Dad was poker-faced when he picked me up, and to my great surprise, he didn't say another word about the matter. Still, he didn't need to worry; after a scare like that, I didn't have any plans for that sort of Halloween celebration in the near future.

What does all this have to do with Thelonious Monster? Well, I might be inventing this memory, but I swear Luke mentioned them. One day in the halls between classes, maybe...it must've been sophomore year by then, and he was probably wearing his Mudhoney t-shirt and talking about some new CD he'd just gotten. Unlike a few of his friends, Luke just seemed to like bands, regardless of whether we'd be impressed. I, in my still-evolving rock sensibility, was ignorant of TM, and at the time I think I was too into The Pixies to be distracted by anything new. Thinking back, I wonder if that CD he was talking about was Beautiful Mess. Life may not be fair, but I'm pretty sure Bob Forrest and company got the attention of the indie rock tastemakers of Heber Springs, Arkansas.

Bob's new CD is out in a week or two, but you can get it on itunes already -- just search for Bob Forrest. If you want the disc, you can pre-order it here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I've had a lot

to blog about, but I got sidetracked by that Barry Munitz business and then I got a little busy so I have to play some catch up.

FRIDAY: Half-Nelson
Interesting political/historical allegory posing as an inner-city drug movie. And how blessed have we been with adolescent female actors this summer? First Emily Rios from Quinceanera and now Shareeka Epps. Of course Ryan Gosling's buzz is most deserved, but Epps is remarkable, and she's still a kid!

SATURDAY: 15 Ways to Dump a Girl, Fences
So I played "Boyfriend #3" in the former, which is Ernessa T. Carter's just-wrapped short film. I had one line, a lasso, a cowboy hat, and hay coming out of my ears.

I almost skipped the latter, thanks to the pricey tickets and all, but Angela Bassett looked so pretty in the press photos I figured I had to go. I'm really glad I went, too. Bassett gave an unusual performance, but it did make a certain sense and I warmed up to it after a while. And by the second act she had some really great scorned woman moments that were most appreciated. I assumed Lawrence Fishburne would be excellent, and he certainly was, but Orlando Jones was a huge surprise as Gabe, the injured war veteran. He made me cry a little bit there at the end! And of course, the play's is quite rich. It seemed a bit off-balance with the various subplots, but I couldn't tell if that was a production or a script issue. If it was the latter, well I saw a preview, so maybe it's a little tighter. Still, worth seeing if you can get a ticket!

SUNDAY: Party at a friend's, laying low, etc.

MONDAY: All About My Mother
My favorite Almodovar! But does that nun have a death wish or what? If you were a nun would you have a sexual transgression that involves a junkie shemale? Wow.

TUESDAY: Back to work.

WEDNESDAY: Deerhoof!
Their set seemed constantly on the verge of falling apart (in a really great way). It actually did fall apart a little during "Flower," but the drummer kept a drum roll while the guitarist got his equipment under control so they could pound out the rest of the song. That drummer is out of control! I have to say, though, that I may be done with weekday club shows. Much as I like them, Ms. Matsuzaki and company didn't take the stage until 10:30pm. I'm not in my 20s anymore, kids.

Tonight's French music at the Bowl. I think Love's Labor's Lost either tomorrow or Saturday at The Actor's Gang. Sunday's Don Carlo at LAOpera, and then I'm going to collapse from exhaustion. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A couple of Munitz links:

This is an interesting LATimes article about Cal State LA faculty suing the trustees for hiring Munitz behind closed doors with a six-figure salary to teach one class and fundraise.

This is a NYTimes article containing Munitz's response to the weekend LATimes article [scroll past the Steve Irwin (RIP) item]. The gist is that Munitz said through his lawyer that "any suggestion “of inappropriate behavior would be deliberately inaccurate and purposely inflammatory.”