Sunday, October 29, 2006

Marie Antoinette

is a very pretty assemblage of moments trying to pass itself off as a movie. I didn't hate it as much as I thought I might, but I certainly didn't like it. On the whole, JW was disappointed, but he became briefly outraged at one of Sofia's choices: "The whole movie was so superficial, but the stupidest part was that ball scene she staged in the lobby of the Paris Opera House, which wasn't built until the 19th century!"

That's my JW!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Saw Shortbus last night

And I've had the funniest experience in my reaction to it. It's a pretty good time in the movie theater, and as graphic as it is, most of the sex is played for laughs, so even that's not too intense; for the most part, I found myself really involved and enjoying the style and sensibility of the movie. It's nicely textured, intelligent, brazen in a good-hearted way. I expected bad performances from amateurs not afraid to get off on film, but I found myself surprisingly impressed by some -- namely Sook-Yin Lee as the pre-orgasmic Sofia, Jay Brannan as sweet pretty boy Ceth (who is makes the most of a thin role...he's so captivating, and not just because he's a pretty boy), and the flat-out WONDERFUL Justin Bond out of his Kiki drag (sort of). And just to digress for a moment, I have never seen a performance that managed to be so effectively mannered and human in equal measure; there's a warmth about Bond that lingers far longer than all the flourishes of the semi-drag show he puts on as MC of the alt-sex party that shares the movie's title. Maybe that warmth and humanity is what makes Kiki work so well; I wish I could say from experience, having never seen Kiki and Herb live. Anyway, I perked up every time Justin came onscreen; I hope he has a long career and I get to be in the audience for most of it.

Okay, digression finished. Now, as you can tell, I found lots to like about John Cameron Mitchell's little sex movie. The final sequence, with Justin Bond in a flowy frock being hoisted into the air and singing through a bullhorn while a marching band stomped in, is just joyous; it's a perfectly celebratory way to end the film; similar, in fact, to the great rock number that closes Mitchell's first movie, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Both are good, inspired movies, expressive of a edgy and endearing worldview that is both wildly optimistic and wisely melancholy. I'm not sure how he pulls that off.

Okay, that's how I was thinking when the movie ended and the credits rolled. And then I got to my car and I started thinking about it. I knew something was bugging me, and my head started spinning a little, because I wanted to like it so badly, and yet I knew that everything was far too easy, there was only an illusion of depth to the characterizations (if that), there was very little richness to my understanding of what these characters' problems really were, relationship conflicts were resolved without my really understanding why or how. Mitchell has a weakness for resolving tension merely by having characters stare at each other; it works in Hedwig (well, I suppose it was accompanied by weepily singing in the instance I'm remembering) and it almost works in Shortbus...except that he does it at least twice, if memory serves.

Over a late dinner with JW I picked the movie apart, him nodding the whole time, finally concluding that I wish I hadn't bothered to think about it so much. It was so nice when I was watching it!

Then today I checked out Rotten Tomatoes and I found a few quotes:

From Todd McCarthy at Variety:
[D]espite the variable outcome, Mitchell earns major points for daring such a project, finding a cast willing and able to carry it off, developing the story with the thesps so the sex integrates with the general flow of events (while remaining dominant), achieving a smooth and nimble visual style, and suffusing everything with an intense curiosity and generous spirit.
From Keith Phipps at Onion A.V. Club:
[T]he characters don't always seem consistent from moment to moment, but a sharp sense of humor and comfortable performances by a committed and—it must be said—remarkably limber cast help smooth over the rough edges. So does the moving tone of warmth and forgiveness. Mitchell's infectious concern for his characters' wellbeing steers them toward an ending that's as much a fantasy as anything Nora Ephron ever dreamed up, but maybe that's okay. A right to one's own fantasies is the least of his film's demands.
From Jim Emerson at rogerebert.com:
[B]y the time Justin Bond's bullhorn baritone croons "Everybody Gets It In the End," the thin characterizations and soapy sitcom plot contrivances melt away in a cleansing, melancholy humor, and you notice that something quite magical and moving -- and healing -- is taking place, for real, right before your eyes.
These guys are right; of course it's flawed, but it is fantasy, and we could all do much worse than indulging in fantasy every so often. Especially one as ingratiating and sophisticated as this one.

Who says critical thinking has to negate completely a fun night out at the movies? I don't always like to admit being swayed by the critics, but in this case I'm happy to say that I have been.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I'm working on

a screen adaptation of this short play I wrote that's set in one of my favorite Little Rock bars. It's called "Leaving Little Rock." I'm getting close to figuring it out...I think...but it's getting weird.

It's been a fun experience, actually; I'm informally working with a director who's expressed a little interest. It's far from a sure thing, but I'm enjoying the opportunity to get things done in a timely manner and the prospect of something happening with one of these things I've been working on.

The script's been a tricky one from the get-go. At first I was concerned with trying to figure out how to capture the small-city frustrations of the place without appearing to be negative about it. I really like Little Rock as a city, but it's really small, and I have no idea how twentysomething gay men -- such as my story's main character -- deal with it. There seems to be such a volatile mixture of factors that must make it a challenge. The less socially progressive politics and culture, the heavily, conservatively religious elements of the city, the very smallness of it -- it's all so confounding to me.

I didn't live as an out gay man in Little Rock (or anywhere in Arkansas for that matter), but having come out in Pittsburgh, I did experience something akin, if slightly less extreme, to what Little Rock men must be like. There was the very Catholic, very family-oriented, very working-class quality to a lot of the men there. I knew semi-out guys there who read scripture in mass on Sunday and lived a kind of "open secret" lifestyle where everyone in their family knew but no one ever mentioned it. They tended to be baffled that I felt the need to come out to the people I went to school with. Some men there seemed very comfortable living very private lives. And the macho self-consciousness, that's definitely a factor there, too. All those sports, etc. Although some aren't self-consciously anything; they're just kinda butch and love their Pirates and their Steelers and whatnot, which is completely endearing. Like my Joe. Sigh. The Joe reference was for Matt and Trista. They'll get it. Rob might, too. Remember you met him at Church Brew Works that time, Rob? He was a sweetie. Still is, although we don't talk so much anymore. The occasional instant message, if that, these days.

But Little Rock, well, I imagine it must be difficult. Now if I were happily boyfriended and living there, that would be fine, but singlehood. Yikes.

Back to the script...actually, the more I've worked on it, the more it's started to feel specific to the character and his dilemmas and the less it's felt like a portrait of a certain kind of lifestyle in Little Rock, which is actually how I came to write the piece in the first place. It's funny; in my first meeting with the director I was concerned she might ask me to make the location less specific and I was relieved when she didn't. Now, the more I work on it, the more I want to tell her, "you know, I don't know if I want it set in Little Rock. I think it needs a new title."

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Fiery Furnaces on Morning Becomes Eclectic

I was bummed I had to miss them at last night's Arthur Nights festival downtown, but it's a nice consolation to see them online for their in-studio set with Nic Harcourt. Eleanor sounds great, and Matthew sounds like a smartass. Love them! Check the website here for audio or video.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I liked

The Queen, and it was nice talking about it after with JW, who's been to a lot of the places where they were filming and could spot the locales they were trying to pass off as Buckingham and what they really were. "When they're walking down the staircase at the end, that's in _____, and then the garden they enter into is on _____, which is in a completely different part of England." Fun stuff.

I've always been a baffled, detached observer to the whole cult of Diana and the worldwide grief at her death. I never really got it; maybe I'm too young, although I do remember getting up early to watch the wedding on TV with my mother when I was a kid. I think. Did I make that up? Dunno. Anyway, I remember the wedding happening. I mention all this because the thing I loved the most about The Queen was how moving it was, from the super-effective car chase montage early in the film to the conflicting emotions it expresses and elicits in the viewer about her.

And of course, there's the intelligent way Mirren humanizes Elizabeth. Even the Queen-as-hunted-stag metaphor, which when first introduced seemed to scream "LOOK AT ME! I'M A BIG METAPHOR!" still packed a whallop when it paid off, in all its lack of subtletly. I think the reason why some of those overtly filmic moments (like the stag imagery, and especially the car montage, which felt like something Gus Van Sant might've put together if he were working for the studios again) worked so well for me was that they provided just the right counterpoint to the classy understated British realism of the whole thing. After seeing the film, I can't say I'm convinced that Tony and Cherie Blair are just like every other middle class family in London, or that Elizabeth and Philip have picnics with no servants and lots of Tupperware, but I didn't mind going along with it for 1.5 hours; I suppose that's where the film expresses its thematic interests in its most textured, unfussy ways. Since The Queen is all about the relationship of the individual to the national and the global and the mass culture, insisting, without ornamentation, that these major historical figures are just folks, is an idea so successfully embedded in the script that I suppose the few story and directorial flourishes feel that much more radical by contrast.

I'm not sure any of that made any sense. I'm a little off my blog game and haven't finished my first cup of coffee of the morning. Still, it's nice to be back! More later.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Montgomery Clift!


I was doing a little googling for a Frank O'Hara connection and GET THIS: they died ON THE SAME DAY. WOW. I was just looking for a poem that Frank might've name-dropped him in and I discover that! July 25, 1966, took two amazing gay men from us, my friends. How sad.



But enough about death! Let's celebrate the life of the beautiful Monty Clift, friend to Liz

and Marilyn--

--who described Clift as "The only person I know who is in worse shape than I am."

But let's not dwell upon such unpleasantries.



And I know Center of Gravitas already posted this picture but I have to post it too because it's just too gorgeous:


Happy Birthday Monty! Thank you for the bizarrely wonderful A Place in the Sun and thanks also for your stunning performance in the otherwise mediocre The Misfits! And let's not forget the crazy Suddenly Last Summer! I need to bone up and see some of your other stuff like Raintree County and The Heiress, but give me time, I'll get to them. You're worth it!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My date with Rolando on National Coming Out Day

Yesterday I had a date with my Rolando, and it was as if the stars had aligned! National Coming Out Day and I get to spend it with my favorite Mexican tenor! It was everything a gay novice opera enthusiast could ask for!

Oh, JW was there too. He sat next to me. But never mind.

My Rolando was just magnificent in his role as Chevalier in LAOpera's Manon. I think he was in love with some girl. What was her name? I forget. She's kinda pretty, I guess.


Okay, so I didn't forget her name. It's Anna Netrebko, but she's no good for you, Rolando. You saw how she was up there! All MEMEME I'm the star look at me. I don't care if she's playing the title character, she is obviously NOT a team player and I think you need to reconsider this whole opera supercouple thing. I mean, I know she's adorable. And perky. And she's ridiculously gorgeous. And she has a great voice. And she seems so sweet and gracious during the curtain call that she makes me clap for her, even though I have been sitting on my hands determined to clap only for you!


I promised myself I wouldn't do this, because I don't want to come across as selfish, or like I don't have only your best interests at heart, which I do, but I'm just going to say one thing -- and a lot of people don't know this about me -- I have a wicked falsetto. Just think about it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Tale of 2 Cities

I saw Tale of 2 Cities yesterday. I was even in the audience with Violet Vixen at 2pm and didn't know it. You can read her impressions here.

Thanks to this show, Leo Marks is currently my favorite actor in all of Los Angeles. It used to be Shannon Holt, but I haven't seen her in a show for a while. Is she in anything right now? I must go to the Google. Oh, and I might've said the same about Melody Butiu after she played Jennifer Marcus in The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow (whom I may or may not have told I was her biggest fan when I saw her in the lobby of the Kirk Douglas after a performance of Charles Mee's A Perfect Wedding), but I haven't seen her in anything in a while either. To the Google times two!

(In truth, I don't think I actually did tell Melody that, although I wanted to, and I might've told a mutual friend I ran into a while back at Lucy's Laundromat in Echo Park to relay that to her. Or something to that effect.)

(Now of course, this makes me think of that friend we have in common, a very funny actor/dancer/singer named Annie. I wonder what she's up to. Google times three!)

Back to Leo. Leo was a delight in the show yesterday, as I usually find him to be. I've seen him in countless things in L.A., most memorably as the glue that held The Evidence Room's uneven Cherry Orchard together, and even things I didn't realize I saw him in, like Safe In Hell at the South Coast Rep. He's one of those great, reliable character actors you want to see in everything you watch, and getting to see him play multiple characters in this show was a great experience.

The show is definitely a roller-coaster ride, as the closing monologue and stage picture suggests. In short, it's an examination of L.A. and NYC through everything from the beating of a Jewish leftist grandmother by black teenage girls to her influence on the life of the Latino community in Los Angeles to 9/11 and more. I found it by turns rich and involving, repetitive, and occasionally a bit slack in its focus.

As for the rich and involving part, the way she investigates the role of history on individuals and communities is often quite moving, and the surprising ways cultures interweave to make that history are also well-expressed. All these are themes I tend to dig into, so that's all much appreciated. For example, the junkie DJ rummaging through his dead grandmother's record collection starts out as just a nice detail in the opening moments, until we learn much later and in passing that a lot of those records had probably belonged to the white schoolteacher from Brooklyn who'd had such a profound impact on his grandmother as a child. It's that kind of texture that gives the piece its most profound pleasures.

Most of my criticisms are with Part II (you saw the best part, Violet, just so you know), which is cluttered with gags and inessential characters; as much as I like Leo, I could do with a little less of his Dodger fan cabbie character. Ditto to Ed Vassallo's rabbi and gum-popping internet businessman. And unfortunately the best storylines seem to evaporate rather than climax, with the author preferring to end the show with an image of metaphysical, thematic contentment that is less satisfying that it wants to be.

Still, Woodbury's got the stuff. Cornerstone should nab her; she'll make the best show they've ever done. She's one of those writers I see and think, "this is good, but give her time; one day she'll knock it out of the park!"

Sorry for the baseball metaphor.

All this O'Neill mess

Makes me tired.

Seriously, I put my application in the mail the same day CHRISTOPHER DURANG AND MARSHA NORMAN send out an email saying not to apply because they want a percentage of all future subsidiary rights in perpetuity? Could my luck be any worse?

I finally just decided it was a compensation for all my great parking karma this weekend, but still....

Well happily, it all blew over. I had a suspicion that the email would cause an uproar, and by extension, it would cause the O'Neill to reassure everyone that everything was fine, etc., even if it wasn't specifically crafted to produce such a result (and I assume that it was).

Glad I don't have to cancel that check!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy Hour Hootenanny with Bob and Elijah Forrest

Every Saturday in October from 5 to 7pm is the Happy Hour Hootenanny with Bob and Elijah Forrest at Silverlake Lounge. JW and I are there tomorrow! Should be a good time, and tomorrow's a special "record release party" for Bob's new CD, Wednesday.


Word on the street is that there will be super secret special guests. And songs about booze and drugs and why George W. Bush sucks! And it's only 5 bucks. Maybe if we ask him nice he'll play "Sammy Hagar Weekend." See you then!


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another fun "Talk of the Town"

article is here. The first paragraph is below:
In 1999, as Del Close lay in a Chicago hospital with terminal emphysema, he was still troubleshooting his plan to outwit death. Close, the improv-comedy guru whose students included Bill Murray and Mike Myers, had made provisions in his will for his skull to go to the city’s Goodman Theatre, so that he could play Yorick in “Hamlet.” Now he took the hand of Charna Halpern, his longtime creative partner and executor, and said, “Promise me you’ll make that skull thing happen, no matter what.” She promised. After Close died, Halpern presented the Goodman with his cranium, and the former Merry Prankster’s second act—the skull has appeared onstage in “Arcadia,” “Pericles,” and “I Am My Own Wife”—soon became a Chicago legend.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Did you all get your free theater tickets?

There aren't a whole lot left, but if you go to LA Stage Alliance's website, you can still get free tickets to plays by Craig Wright, Constance Congdon, Murray Mednick, Mark Rigney, Caridad Svich, Wendy Graf, William Shakespeare, Ron Hutchinson, Lynn Redgrave, David Auburn, Beth Henley, John Guare, Jodi Long, and Leif Gantvoort, among others.

I chose Murray Mednick. There were so many good choices; it was hard! Of course, my social calendar fills up MONTHS in advance, so that helps me narrow things down. But still!

Here's my

take on the Mark Foley business. Okay, it's actually not my take, it's Gayest Neil's. Check it here and here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Jerker and Robert Chesley

On Friday night I saw what's been billed as the 20th anniversary production of Robert Chesley's play, Jerker or The Helping Hand, A Pornographic Elegy with Redeeming Social Value and A Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of them Dirty. I love that title.

This production has gotten a lot of attention in the local press, as it was directed by Michael Kearns, both the director of the original production at Celebration Theater in Hollywood in 1986, and one of the performers in its current (just closed) incarnation, having taken over the role of Bert. For those who don't know, the play is well known in part for its airing on KPFK Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles and being the cause of an FCC battle. When KPFK challenged the FCC's shaky claims that they were violating regulations, the FCC responded by making regulations about adult material more vague, and we've basically been going downhill ever since. Check here for the NYTimes take on the matter.

If anyone's looking for a plot synopsis, you need not look much further than the title. And if you were to assume that, because it was written in 1986, it doesn't end well, you'd be right. In short, it's a two-character tragic love story contained entirely in a series of phone calls.

Kearns staged the play basically as a variation on reader's theater, with both actors dressed in black and using stands for their scripts. It was a strong choice, at least in part because it muted the play's provocation and focused it squarely on the language, and frankly, in a play consisting entirely of phone calls, that makes a certain sense to me.

As a reading, it's almost like a gay, hot, Love Letters: erotic, perhaps, but very much a love story. Funny and tragic, fraught with thematic tension, and for me, resonating far past the specifics of the AIDS crisis that provided the play's setting and subject.

My mind went a lot of places while watching the play. The play is an immediate metaphor for the isolating effects of the disease, and there's also an immediate tension in the relationship. I noted briefly the lack of literal plot complications in the script, but only as a minor distraction from my sitting there wishing these guys would just put down the phones and be together. And knowing they never would.

But there's also a warm chronicle of an intimacy that grows in spite of this isolation. It's an intimacy I've felt countless times in countless ways, and it's a moving testament to our ability to conjure closeness, humor, and meaning in the most confounding of situations.

I was reminded of an episode of This American Life on NPR that aired last spring; it was a revisiting of a couple of earlier broadcasts about the beginnings of the internet called "How We Talked Back Then." The show was a look back at the curious novelty of the internet in the late 90s, but the most compelling segment of the broadcast was an interview with Earl Jackson, a professor of comparative literature who had been monitoring gay chat rooms and bulletin boards in San Francisco. He remarked on how the internet had combined with the AIDS crisis to create a kind of "eroticizing of distance" and a "metaphysics of sexuality," which contained degrees of sexual contact. In the AOL rooms he had visited, one could engage in cybersex, real sex (which back then meant phone sex), or ultra-real sex (which meant real-time). It's so fascinating to me that at that time, there were gay men in San Francisco who referred to phone sex as "real" sex. Especially in light of seeing this play.

Jackson continues the interview by describing a daily sharing of fantasy he had with another gay man who had a boyfriend. Soon the sexual chat became an excuse to tell other stories...stories about personal history, childhood, etc. Eventually Jackson's cyber-lover tested positive for HIV. He started sending him all of his pornography, referring to specific scenes that had informed his fantasizing. In the final box he received, just before an email came informing Jackson that the man with whom he'd been chatting had killed himself, he found a note which read "I will always love you."

As he completes the story he insists what I would hope any sympathetic listener would have no problem understanding:

"None of this was cold."

Robert Chesley didn't always process the fallout of AIDS' impact on the gay community in such careful ways as he did when he wrote Jerker. In And The Band Played On, Randy Shilts quotes a letter Chesley wrote to gay paper the New York Native, in which he attacked one of Larry Kramer's typically strident warnings to the gay community for its clinging to promiscuous behavior:
"Basically, Kramer is telling us that something we gay men are doing (drugs? kinky sex?) is causing Kaposi's sarcoma.... Being alarmist is dangerous. We've been told by such experts as there are that it's wrong and too soon to make any assumptions about the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma, but there's another issue here. It is always instructive to look closely at emotionalism, for it so often has a hidden message which is the real secret of its appeal. I think the concealed meaning of Kramer's emotionalism is the triumph of guilt: that gay men deserve to die for their promiscuity.... Read anything by Kramer closely. I think you'll find that the subtext is always: the wages of gay sin is death.... I am not downplaying the seriousness of Kaposi's sacroma. But something else is happening here, which is also serious: gay homophobia and anti-eroticism."
It's easy to dismiss this kind of sentiment as excuses for bad behavior, but its essence is rooted in Chesley's defense of his very existence. These men were fighting for their lives. Not just literally, but for the justification of their identities, their politics, their insistence on their freedoms. Another passage in And The Band Played On is one I can only paraphrase, but it involved a doctor telling a patient facing his last days with all the understandable moral questioning about what got him in that hospital bed, "You have caught a virus. This has nothing to do with morality." It was, of course, not exactly the philosophical answer the patient might've been searching for, but basically true. And accordingly, there's such a poignancy, a sad sweetness to Jerker, and its insistence that the gay liberation of the seventies was "basically good," as J.R. calls it. It's the insistence of a culture that is constantly fighting for its legitimacy, whether it's through the Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk, Matthew Shepard, same-sex unions, gay pride parades, or, most devastatingly, the AIDS crisis. And how badly they must've needed that reassurance during the AIDS crisis....

In Jerker Bert, the AIDS-stricken character, fights through his anger with the following:
[E]veryone's putting it down nowadays. "The party's over! The party's over!" Well, fuck it all, no! That wasn't just a party! It was more: a lot more, at least to some of us, and it was connected to other parts of our lives, deep parts, deep connections.... For me, for a lot of guys, it was...living; and it was loving.... And I don't regret a single moment of it: not one.... It was love. And...a virus can't change that; can't change that fact.
A blog called The Mark of Kane turned me on to a recent article in the New York Blade about a 30-something's odd experience of watching a documentary called Gay Sex in the 70s and having strange feelings of disgust at the excesses described in the movie. The article has generated something of a backlash, and Mark has a lot to say about the journalist's insensitivity. I find the article poorly written because of the ways in which the author seems to ignore the political and historical significance of the sexual excesses that he finds so distasteful. In a less moralistic society, a movement of gay sexual freedom might've been unnecessary, but our repressive culture required exactly that kind of movement. Our homophobic nation bred it, in fact. One could argue that the insidiousness with which homophobia exacerbated the spread of AIDS and the AIDS crisis extends decades before the virus even appeared in this country. Centuries. To the origins of Judeo-Christian civilization, even.

And yet, it's just a virus.

When I was in college, I attended a panel discussion with a cross-section of school leaders and community leaders about the AIDS crisis. There were people with HIV and members of the clergy, among others, and I remember being livid at the young religious conservative in the group who suggested that AIDS was different from other diseases in that it was a disease brought about by the choices of its sufferers. Back then I lacked both the specfic knowledge, confidence, and rhetorical savvy to expose this argument as specious, so I sat and steamed. I remember recounting it to my minister father, who just shrugged and said, "you should've told him that's about the same as saying the earth revolves around the sun."

The earth revolves. Viruses flourish. We fight for our lives.

There was a beautiful moment towards the end of Kearns' staging of Jerker in which the actor playing J.R. left his place at his music stand and came to a chair in the audience to deliver the following monologue -- part of a storybook fantasy he invents to comfort his ailing lover:
We take our seats across from each other, knowing we are to wait for the appearance of our host, and it turns out that he has been the music we have heard: the sweet, gentle music...coalesces, comes together and becomes visible at the head of the table, and there he stands, a beautiful man, without age, smiling. And when we see him, the last bit of fear we had in all our wonder just melts away, and we know we are safe at last, and that his magic is good. And as we take our supper we tell him of all the adventures and perils and...bitter sorrows we had journeying through the Forbidden Forest, to find his palace; and he questions us about each adventure, peril, and sorrow, and from the answers he brings forth from us we understand that each one, even the most terrible, was a lesson on our journey to the palace; and we understand that we ourselves were lessons for others whose paths crossed ours in the Forest.
It is all history. Nothing more, nothing less. Just as we are history. The connection. The culmination. The continuation.

I have a poster

on my wall that features the text of a Frank O'Hara poem; try to contain your surprise. My friend Michael gave the poster to me; it's from the LAMetro system, of all things. The poem contains almost everything I love about O'Hara, specifically, everything about his inclusive aesthetic that I admire and generally try to emulate. With all the talk in the theater blogosphere of aesthetic origins and bugs and whatnot, I thought it might be worthwhile to contribute to the convo. Frank, take it away!

My Heart

I'm not going to cry all the time
nor shall I laugh all the time,
I don't prefer one "strain" to another.
I'd have the immediacy of a bad movie,
not just a sleeper, but also the big,
overproduced first-run kind. I want to be
at least as alive as the vulgar. And if
some aficionado of my mess says "That's
not like Frank!", all to the good! I
don't wear brown and grey suits all the time,
do I? No. I wear workshirts to the opera,
often. I want my feet to be bare,
I want my face to be shaven, and my heart--
you can't plan on the heart, but
the better part of it, my poetry, is open.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Reasons to hate The Oprah Winfrey Show, first in an ongoing series

Here's an IM from my friend B, who's watching Oprah:

this kid on oprah has 2 gay parents and when oprah said are you gay, he said no i have a GF and the audience burst into applause.

I was scolded

by B for not updating, so here's an update. I'm actually working on a bigger post about a play I saw over the weekend, but it's gonna take a while and I'm too busy reading about the Tony Kushner documentary and the way the dancers whose stories are in A Chorus Line aren't getting a dime from the current revival. To quote my friend Marcia, "That is NOT right."

I'm doing other things, too, mind you. I saw part III of The Suzhou Kun Opera Theater's The Peony Pavillion last night at Royce Hall as part of UCLALive's International Theater Festival. And I sat next to LAWeekly music critic Alan Rich. I kid you not. I thought about introducing myself, since JW and I see him at concerts all the time, but I didn't want to bother him. It might've been for the best, too; he does not play around. A couple of audience members behind us started whispering a little in the middle of the first act and he turned around and gave a righteous "SHHHH!" During the final scene, a couple in front of us started whispering; I got nervous about what he might do. I could tell he was getting testy; I thought of patting him on the arm and saying, "The show's almost over, honey. Let it GO," but I didn't want him to turn on me.

As for the opera...great stage pictures, pretty overall, but a little long. Glad I didn't do the 9-hour marathon by seeing parts one and two as well. The audience was crazy for that mess, though; it was almost worth sitting through three hours of it just for that curtain call. Crazy!

Speaking of curtain calls, you should've been at the LAPhil Saturday night for Mahler's Third Symphony. JW came back that afternoon from a European business trip; when he was preparing for that trip I said, "aren't you going to exchange those symphony tickets?" and he responded with, "No! It's Mahler's Third!" as if I'd suggested the unthinkable.

Anyway, I picked him up at the airport, took him home, he unpacked, we got ready, went to have a quick bite to eat, and went to Disney Hall. JW stayed awake for something like 24 hours, endured an international flight, got minimal sleep the night before, and stayed awake for all 90+ minutes of the Mahler Third. I was quite impressed. I stayed awake too, and I understood why JW would sacrifice a jetlaggy collapse in order to hear the piece; it's a powerhouse of music...just stunning.

Particularly stunning was Michelle De Young was in her solo, but my favorite part of her performance was during the symphony's big finish. She was sitting in a chair in front of the orchestra as it churned away, and although she had been quite appropriately expressionless when she was not performing, she couldn't contain her excitement at the final strains. She broke into the same smile that just about everyone else in the concert hall must've had. It was a great moment, as great a moment as that which occurred immediately following, when the last notes sounded before conductor Essa-Pekka Salonen concluded, exhausted, and the audience erupted in cheers and bravos.

For a real review of the concert, try here. Or wait for Alan on Thursday in the LAWeekly. I'm sure he'll have much to say.