Wednesday, March 28, 2007

LACMA in the NYTimes and LATimes

Or Lacma, as journalist Edward Wyatt types it. We do pronounce it that way, but sorry, it just looks weird. The article is here.

There's a nice quote by new director Michael Govan that I like so much I thought I'd post it here:
“The thing about California is that it does have less of a sense of history and precedent,” Mr. Govan said. “So a new idea isn’t immediately measured against all the other examples of the way things are done. It’s taken as an idea in general. And I think if you talk to artists here, that openness is very present.”
I think you'd find that if you talked to a lot of the theater artists out here, too.

Incidentally, there's also a LACMA article worth noting in the LATimes; check out the image of the proposed Jeff Koons sculpture. It's not exactly Uberorgan, but we'll leave that one to the Getty, I suppose.

Good news for Arkansas

gay rights. Got this report from Valley of the Vapors about the state senate failure of a gay foster/adoption ban. Thanks P. Alan!

Monday, March 26, 2007

My play on the web!

For those of you who missed my 10-minute play at "Girl with the Pearl Ian Ziering" earlier this month, it's online! My director recorded it for posterity and it looks really sharp; she's posted it on her website, and I don't think she'll mind my directing traffic in her direction. Check it out here and click on "Watch Kristina's work..." at the top of the page. Enjoy "A Little Light Roleplay."

Oh, and NSFW in the language category. Keep the sound on low or plug in your earphones.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bloc Party: the shows

This was a grand experiment, my going to a rock show by myself. I don't believe I've actually been to a concert by myself since I was a freshman in college and I found out I was the only one of my friends who didn't scalp his Grateful Dead ticket for obscene amount of money when they played The Pyramid. And I didn't even listen to those guys! I was just going for novelty's sake. To a concert in a city THREE HOURS AWAY from my college town. I remember feeling like I was the only sober person in that venue. I left somewhere about halfway through what seemed at the time like an endless drum solo. Not my favorite concert-going memory.

On Monday I hopped a bus to the Wiltern from my place and got to the show about twenty minutes early. This was the UP ticket, which meant I had to sit in the balcony. This is the ticket I bought because I thought I was being scammed out of the Tuesday night floor ticket. I would've preferred to be on the floor, but at this point I was just willing to take what I could get (and afford). I lucked into a seat on the first row and had a perfect view. When the band took the stage and started playing, the seats and the floor began bouncing in time to the music. People were up on their feet or doing their little timid chair dancing (like me). The fact that it was impossible to sit still was a little alarming at first; the shaking gave me brief Great White-style catastrophe scenarios, but once I learned not to fight the movement, to give in to the bouncing seats, I was set.

Kele Okereke is a dream of a lead singer. He moves, he sings, he plays, he wears red pants. He's Nigerian and British, an arresting front for a band of great musicians. You definitely want to hear them play, but you want to watch Kele. In the first few songs I was thanking that annoying ebay seller for flaking on me until the last minute so I could have this opportunity, and get to do it all over again.

Some highlights were the double drumming on "Sunday" as Gordan Moakes left behind the bass for a song to play with the stellar Matt Tong. Tong was working so hard, incidentally. I took my eyes of Kele for a moment to check him out and had to double-take: "is he shirtless?" It seemed so unlikely -- so surprisingly rock-n-roll. There's a nice touch of ordinaryness about these guys; that's part of the band's charm, I suppose. Kele may stand out with his lanky frame and punky, spiky dredlocks, but the rest could blend in pretty well with this crowd that's paid to see them play.

Overall, Monday's show was a great rush. I was surrounded by good concertgoers -- totally polite, eager to rock out but careful to say "excuse me" if they might step on my toe. I wished I'd brought the earplugs, but the raw noise of the sound only added to the excitement of the evening. And I couldn't believe I was going to get to do it all over again!

I should've known Tuesday would be a bit of a letdown. This time I remembered the earplugs. I had to stand near the back of the floor because the place was so packed. I stood next to drunk dancing white girl and her handsy boyfriend while they alternately made out and he held her waist while she did her white girl dancing. I, of course, now standing, with no bouncing seat to compensate for, did my stiff white boy non-dance dance (also known as the "I'm not loose enough to properly queen out" dance). I had to strain to see Kele. My back started to hurt. They played the same set in a different order (minus "Sunday," which surprised me). They didn't play "On," which also suprised me; they didn't play that either night, unfortunately. Kele jumped into the audience at exactly the same point during the same song the second night as the first (the name of the song escapes me), hopping back onstage at pretty much the same place. My mind drifted a bit; the world seeped back in.

So I never would've had the superior Monday night experience if I hadn't thought I was being screwed out of the Tuesday night experience. But then again, if I'd just gone to the Tuesday show alone, I wouldn't have had the Monday night show to compare it to. Regardless, I'm so glad I got to go to that Monday show, even if I do feel a little dense and not terribly thrifty about how the ticket-buying turned out on ebay. It's not that I spent a fortune, believe me, but it did turn out to be a hassle.

So, all that said, I certainly won't rule out going to concerts solo in the future, but I think one's enough. And I won't be buying the tickets on ebay anymore. Too much storm and stress.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Two nights of Bloc Party, or

why I will never go shopping for concert tickets on ebay ever again (and why I'm kinda glad I did).

I was going to let this month's two nights of Bloc Party concerts pass me by. I was anticipating having to go by myself, and while I did have a great time when I saw them at The Palladium a year or two ago, I didn't know how desperate I was to see them again.

Then I got their new album, A Weekend in the City. I know I was measured in my response to it on these blog pages, but I am rather fond of it. I haven't tired of it either, which is always a good sign. On a lark, I decided to try and find a single ticket to one of the sold-out shows.

I decided to go it alone because, as you can imagine, my opera-loving, symphony-loving bf the JW is not the biggest fan of rock shows. And while a little reciprocity does go a long way in getting him to do a limited amount of stuff with me ("How many hours of Wagner have I sat through with you again?"), the typical concert is neither something that he wants to attend, nor something that I want him to attend.

I found a single floor ticket on ebay for 3/20. The price was right. I bid on it. I was the only bidder. I won! I did the whole Paypal thing. It dawned on me that the seller had no ebay history or ebay information. I didn't get the ticket in the mail. I didn't hear from the seller in any way, shape or form. I emailed her twice, and received no response. I stopped payment on the Paypal, certain I was being scammed and thankful she was slow enough to collect the funds so that I wouldn't lose them out.

Somewhere along this timeline, I got the new Arcade Fire CD, Neon Bible, which replaced Bloc Party's A Weekend in the City as my car's soundtrack. I like the song about Joe Simpson the best, but I digress.

After the mess that the sure-thing single floor ticket turned out to be, I decided my ebay concert-ticket-buying days were over. I don't really need to spend that money, and besides, how do I even know these things aren't counterfeits or something? Right?

Well then I got a little worried I was going to overplay Neon Bible and replaced it with A Weekend in the City. And before I knew it, I was cruising the ebay tickets all over again. Last minute, I placed a bid on a single ticket in the balcony on 3/19 from a guy who had a good seller's rating. Even cheaper than the first ticket, a few bucks cheaper than I would've paid Ticketmaster even. The ticket was mine. All seemed right with the world.

When I got home and told JW, he said, "What happens if the other ticket shows up in the mail?"

I said, "Oh well, worst case scenario is, I go to both."

Well guess what folks?

I'll get to the "why I'm glad I did" part later...I think my ears have stopped ringing just enough so I might actually be able to sleep....

Friday, March 16, 2007

Tannhauser at LAOpera

I think Ian Judge might be my favorite opera director. At least of the ones I've seen for LAOpera. I haven't seen that much outside of LAOpera, to be honest. A couple of things here and there, I guess. My friend Lydia would be a sentimental favorite director, for opera or otherwise, but never mind.

Anyway, Tannhauser is the second Ian Judge production of the season here. The first was Don Carlo, which won me over in spite of my initial skepticism. He had me from the first moments in this one. It doesn't hurt that he got to start the show with a hot 20-minute orgy sequence on rotating turntables, floors covered with red satin while all sorts of simulated rutting was going on all over the place.

The problem is, where do you go in a show after STARTING with an orgy scene? Still, it was all ably handled. Monochromaticism must be Judge's calling card (Don Carlo was all red and black). Judge split this one up rather neatly between red for dirty Venusberg, white for all the penitent stuff in the middle, and green for Act III, with the whole "eternal spring" idea in the staff sprouting leaves in the final moment. This almost worked for me, until Act III, when everything was cast in this green light, rather than using fabrics, accents, furniture, and costumes to contrast with his versatile black set, like he did in the first two acts. Seriously, that satin was sumptuous; there's a gorgeous moment that concludes the bacchanal where the dancers have to clear the floor of the satin fabric covering, and in a quick gesture, a couple of them drag it over the heads of the rest of the dancers, creating a rippling cascade that's as hot as all the T&A that comes before it.

Okay, ALMOST as hot.

During one of the intermissions, JW and I ran into our friend Tim, who's a serious opera enthusiast. He did mention something that crossed my mind during Act II -- for all the attention in the reviews and the scandalized letters to the LATimes editors, this is a relatively conservative production. Tim said he'd seen productions in the 70s that would put this thing to shame. I mean, the dancers were wearing T-backs, for crying out loud! Still, combine consistently elegant staging with sure-footed, clear storytelling, and throw in just the right amount of smut and you've got my full support.

The good news is, Judge is staging Tosca at LAOpera in 2008, so I have something to look forward to. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Playwrights Horizons'

new season looks really promising. The only playwright I'm unfamiliar with is Sarah Treem, but she's in good company with the rest of the lot (Sarah Ruhl, Adam Bock, Jordan Harrison, Kate Fodor). I even got to see Steppenwolf's workshop production of Kate Fodor's 100 Saints You Should Know last summer, a play I've admired for a little while.

Granted, I'll probably miss all of the productions, since I still live in L.A., last I checked. Still, it's nice to see a bunch of young, smart playwrights get their work done at places like this. Gives hope for the rest of us!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

JW and I saw it last night at the Ahmanson with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin. It's very good. I'd go on about the experience and the performance, except that I can't get over this 2004 rewrite they were using. Is it just me, or did Albee cut half the lines about the kid? At first I wondered if they just dropped a few of them, but now I don't think so, because two key early establishing beats were completely missing from last night's performance. I need to get to a bookstore and find the revision and confirm my suspicions, but can someone help me with why?

I'm consulting my used paperback edition from the 70s, and here are the two beats I'm talking about. There may have been more, but I'm certain at least two were gone, starting with this one:
Just don't start on the bit, that's all.

The bit? The bit? what kind of language is that? What are you talking about?

The bit. Just don't start in on the bit.

You imitating one of your students, for God's sake? What are you trying to do? WHAT BIT?

Just don't start in on the bit about the kid, that's all.
And so on. That's in Act One, right before Nick and Honey arrive. Here's the other one, also in Act One, as Martha's taking Honey to the bathroom:
Just don't shoot your mouth know what.

I'll talk about any goddamn thing I want to, George!
JW noticed these missing beats, too, so it wasn't just me. Does anyone know of any statements Albee might've made about this rewrite? Or Anthony Page? Maybe there's an explanation in the new printing. I guess I'll have to get to a bookstore this week.

In the meantime, any thoughts? Anyone?

Oh, and P.S., how long have we been living with cellphones now? An announcement before the curtain rises and after BOTH intermissions isn't enough? Are you kidding me? What's so hard to understand about this? And why, WHY does it ring more than once? How many rings does it take for you to shut the damn thing off when Kathleen Turner is heaving and on the verge of collapse because her imaginary baby just got killed by her husband? FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS DECENT IN THIS WORLD AT LEAST PUT IT ON VIBRATE!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Saw Zodiac

last night. And let me tell you how happy I am that Robert Downey, Jr. is working again. He's a joy to watch. I want to go back and watch all his movies, starting with the brat pack ones, just to see him all over again. I think the coked-up performances must be great fun, too, even if they're trainwrecky.

Can you believe I didn't start this post talking about how much I adore Mark Ruffalo? I can't. Well I still do, and he's wonderful. He's a combination of Brando and Columbo, I think. Most impressive. Plus he just looks great with the thick curly hair and the 70s costumes. Love him!

And it's nice to see Ione Skye in something! Keep an eye out for her, Say Anything fans. Her scene's kind of awful, though; I was sitting there thinking, "Oh no! What's gonna happen to Ione Skye?"

I was a little nervous going into Zodiac, but with that cast there was no way I wasn't going to see it. Don't listen to the nay-sayers; it doesn't feel too long and it's involving throughout. Looks great, well-acted, etc. Was the script perfect? Nah. Were there hiccups? A few. Still, it's smart and involving.

Oh, and we just happened to see it at the Arclight the same night as the opening of Chris Rock's new movie. Got to see Steve Bucemi and Seymour Cassel in the lobby! Didn't see Rock, although I was trying not to look too obvious as I scanned the crowds.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Brecht / Weil at LAOpera

I'm a great audience member for anything Brecht / Weil, so when I heard that LAOpera was doing The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, one I'd never seen before, with both Audra McDonald and Patti LuPone, directed by John Doyle, I was thrilled. I wish I could say that I was thrilled by the production once the curtain-call was in progress, but I wasn't completely unentertained. Was I? I don't think so. Hmm....

Early in the show I was ecstatic; just getting to hear Audra McDonald sing "Alabama Song" was enough to make my night. The sets, costumes, movement, and stage pictures were all sharp, professional, artful. About halfway through the first act, though, this became the production's Achille's heel. Everything was so utterly composed -- contrived, even -- rich tableaus were held so long I began watching performers to see how long they could hold poses without wiggling. I finally began to get irritated when a trio of Jimmy McIntyre's buddies sang a line that suggested they were "coming at him" and they all just sat there, in the same place they perched when the song began, and, if memory serves, in the same place they were when the song ended.

Speaking of, when a character pronounces that the protagonist is to be executed by "hanging," he should be HANGED (Thanks Meg!). He should not be executed by lethal injection just because that's how Americans do it these days, or because it's easier to stage, or for whatever reason you decided to make such a silly updating of the staging. Utterly nonsensical.

That wasn't the only bad theatrical idea in the show. A lot of things about Doyle's Mahagonny seemed either half-assed or just plain silly. That big silky red-and-black flag never really did anything for me at all, especially when a couple of chorus members were kinda holding it up to kinda shield Jimmy and Jenny while they kinda fooled around on a pool table. And I couldn't abide the Court TV take on the courtroom scene. Chorus members pointed cameras at the principles while they sang and their images were projected as a live feed on a big screen above the action. It was so annoying in the way it intruded on the stage action, not to mention the fact that the idea just seems tired. It's an obvious, uninspired, problematic idea, regardless of how "of the moment" it might be.

All that said, Doyle did manage to drop the bomb of that play's last scene effectively, even if I wondered how much of the budget was allotted to the LCD sign that dropped down and flashed piercing slogans about man's cruelty as the cast was bellowing about the terrible things man does for money. I'll admit to an immediate aversion to lavish productions of plays about the evils of money. As you can imagine, all the spectacle on stage, even if a lot of it was rather effective, irritated me. Perhaps this is an irrational criticism, but has this piece become so abstracted from its original intention that Doyle didn't even feel the need to bother to acknowledge the paradox in all his flashy sets, costumes, technical trickery, and big stars? And let's not forget how much the top tickets cost in that place.

Still, my Audra was stunning, sang beautifully, moved deliciously onstage, and was overall an utter delight, as I expected. And Patti LuPone has such amazing diction I was convinced people could hear her consonants in Orange County. I just wish they'd done the show on a bare stage with minimal props and furniture, or I wish Doyle had infused the show with more passion. And I wish he'd paid attention to the fact that Jimmy McIntyre was sentenced to death by HANGING. HANGING, like with a rope tied in a noose, you know? Such deaths are grisly and horrific, shocking, moving, powerful, like this show has the potential to be if it's truly respected in the dark textures of its music and the nasty ironies of its story. Give it a chance, next time, Mr. Doyle, before you go sterilizing it, be it with your giant stage-syringe or with so much static artfulness.

All musicals at the Ahmanson

The LATimes reports next season's schedule for Center Theatre Group's biggest theater, The Ahmanson. It's all musicals. A link to the story is here.

I wonder if this has something to do with an assessment about the kinds of shows that work best in the Ahmanson, which is quite large (Kathleen Turner called it an "airplane hangar" during press for the L.A. run of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf), or if it's just a reflection of what they can sell best. I'm pretty sure Curtains and Drowsy Chaperone were big hits for the theater -- DC must've been, since they're bringing it back for next season -- but then again, I hear Virginia Woolf is doing really well too. I know it wasn't easy for JW and me to get tickets. We're going this Saturday, though. Can't wait!

I thought Doubt was effective enough from way up in one of the balconies there, I have to say -- probably more so than either Bourne's Swan Lake or Light in the Piazza (the last three shows I recall seeing from the nosebleeds there), but that might be more of a reflection of my tastes than anything else. While I enjoyed both Swan Lake and Light in the Piazza, they were more attractive than moving to me. And as much as I like "attractive," I like Cherry Jones bellowing from underneath a nun's habit a little more.

I'm excited about some of the musicals they're bringing, I have to say. I've been dying to see John Doyle's Sweeney Todd, and I still am, even if I wasn't crazy about his Mahagonny at LAOpera -- more on that later, promise. Avenue Q will be on my must-see list, as I've yet to get to that one. And I might even get to Drowsy Chaperone this time around. I'd be all about A Chorus Line if I didn't see it in San Francisco last summer (and I don't care about the bad reviews, I thought it was great fun), and I have no desire to see My Fair Lady. What about Color Purple? Is it worth checking out?

Monday, March 05, 2007

I owe a post

about LAOpera's Mahagonny; don't think I haven't forgotten.

My 24-hour play

was a hit! I wrote a play for Girl with a Pearl Ian Ziering (see post below), and was lucky enough to have amazing actors and a super-smart director who knocked my dirty little trifle right out of the park. What a great night! Thanks again for coming, Henry!!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I'm doing this on Sunday. You should come!

Filly Film Cult and The Unspoken Theatre Group Present

girl with a pearl ian ziering

an evening of art, theater, and rug cutting

March 4th, 2007

(Seating in the theater is limited, so RSVP by February 28th!)

Featuring these brilliant creative talents:
David Agronov, Kalimba Bennett, Danielle Bisutti, Ernessa T. Carter, Steve Connell, Greg Crooks, Katie Day, Ryan Dixon, Claudia Duran, Mark Engelhardt, Sola Fasehun, Jaclyn Fjestad, Lucas Fleischer, Libby Flores, Ray Ford, Delia Hauser, Caden Hethorn, Merritt Hicks, Kristina Lloyd, Jyoti Mittal, Tyler Moore, Marty Papavian, Sallie Patrick, Clark Perry, Lisa Pitts, Tyler Poelle, Jesus Reyes, Demond Robertson, Kylee Rousselot, Brigid Ryan, Jonas Sansone, Ashley-Nicole Sherman, Michael Teh, Rob Thain, Roberta Valderrama, Brett Webster, Kyle T. Wilson, & DJ KC Paradise

Art Share LA
801 East 4th Place
Los Angeles, CA 90013

$20 at the door*
$18 with reservation (rsvp by 2/28)

free parking across the street
cash bar and kibble

6 pm
Gallery Doors Open
Delia vs. Jonas: An Installation of competitive art.
You decide who's best.

7 pm
Theater vs. The Ticking Clock: We have 24 hours to create 7 plays.
You have one chance to see them.

You vs. The Music: A reception, complete with DJ and dance floor.

*First 10 in the door will receive a free pair of Ziering earrings!
All proceeds from this even will support our future theater and film projects.

Please RSVP!

Mahagonny and Unnatural Acts of Opera

In honor of JW's and my attendance of the LA Opera's production of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, starring Patti LuPone and my Audra McDonald (which has been getting all kinds of attention, even in the Wall Street Journal and from Alex Ross in the New Yorker), I'm posting a link to Queer Opera Zine Parterre Box, and frankly, I'm surprised I never have before. Parterre's La Cieca posts the promotional trailer (they have those?) for the production here.

Parterre is one of those things that makes me happy by its very existence, even if its opera musings are so inside I only occasionally know what they're talking about.

As an added, unrelated bonus, check one of my recent favorite posts here. It's too sweet for words.

I'll try to give a recap of the show tomorrow. It's Brecht/Weil, so I'm bound to be satisfied, even if the reviews have been mixed. Hey, as long as Alan Rich is cheering for it (here, and here -- scroll down on this one), I'm not too concerned.

And my Audra's getting raves all around as Jenny, so I seriously can't wait for her!