Monday, April 30, 2007

Coachella 2007


I drove back today from the desert, where I spent three days splitting time between Joshua Tree and Indio for Coachella. JW came with me and hung out at the hotel, and when I wasn't wandering through sweaty people and contributing to early hearing loss, I was tooling around Yucca Valley, 29 Palms, and Joshua Tree with him. All in all a pleasant weekend. Some highlights:

Friday:

Amy Winehouse is tiny. So are her jean shorts.

The Jesus and Mary Chain still got it. So much so that having Scarlett Johansson come on stage to sing along on "Drown in Honey" really doesn't add much.

Interpol's schtick is so contrived I can barely stand it. Especially that Carlos D. I still love that first album, though.

Saturday:

I didn't take as many pictures as I did last year, but I do have a few for Saturday. Check it out--

That's The New Pornographers, of course. I was a little nervous I might be sad seeing them without Dan Bajar and Neko Case, but they put on a really great show in the middle of the blazing heat. That's A.C. Newman, along with his niece, Kathryn Calder. They're both precious and charming and I was quite happy to geek out with my white-boy-power-pop-lovin self for their entire set.

I couldn't get anywhere near Arcade Fire to get decent pictures, so instead I took some pictures of the big screen on the side of the stage. I think they're fun (both the band and the pics), so here you go. Here's Regine....

And here's Win....



Sunday:

In what became a non-Coachella weekend highlight, JW and I had a nice lunch at Pappy and Harriet's in Pioneertown, which has a well-stocked ipod or CD changer DJ-ing for them. I was giving JW the occasional pop music pop quiz. Sample:

ME: You have until the end of this song to tell me who's singing.

(Pause.)

JW: Journey?

ME: BOB. DYLAN.

As for the festival, I'm afraid I didn't get any good band pictures. I sampled a little bit of a lot of different acts, including Lily Allen (audience was crazy for her but I couldn't see and was bored by what I heard), Placebo (loved that they covered Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill"), and Kaiser Chiefs (reminded me why I sold that debut CD back to Amoeba). Saw all of Willie Nelson's act, which was lovely.

I wasn't stoked for Rage Against the Machine until they came out, and then I regretted that I sold those CDs to Amoeba. I don't care about the commodification-of-social-protest conundrum; that music is too intense to dismiss. Listening to Rage's lyrics in our political context (some of those songs date back to 1992) gave them a new, unsettling weight. It made me wonder where the hell Zack de la Rocha has been this whole decade. Of course, he made up for lost time when he suggested that our administration be hanged and shot as war criminals. Hanged AND shot! Damn!

I was having a fine time until I saw someone throwing what appeared to be a flaming t-shirt over his head in the crowd ahead of me. Did anyone else see this? What was that about? After that happened I started imagining nightmare stampede scenarios and just wanted to get out.

Overall, though, I didn't think I could top seeing The Pixies live in 2004 for great Coachella experiences, but this one seems to be the best yet. Relaxing, smooth, few hassles, good music.

UPDATE: I just dug in my closet and found Rage's debut. So I still have at least a little major-label-anti-capitalist-ranting in my CD collection. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Daiseygate and Theater Etiquette

I know there's been all kinds of crowing about the Mike Daisey walk-out on Friday (here's a link to Daisey's account and a video of the event, if you're unfamiliar). In short, a school group of 87 walked out on his show after an f-word-laced joke about Paris Hilton, and one of the adults walked onstage and poured water on Daisey's outline. I thought I'd share, just in case my small readership might not have encountered all this yet.

I don't have much to add, but one of the things I haven't read enough of was how TACKY all this was. I mean, could these school kids have had WORSE role models? Allow me to become Miss Theater Manners for a bit, and use this opportunity to point out what all went wrong here. Who knows? Maybe someone somewhere will Google "Theater Etiquette" and I'll be performing a public service. Here, I'll even spell it "Theatre etiquette," just to cover my bases.

1. How NOT to walk out of a theater.

It is occasionally necessary to leave a theater during a performance. We've all done it, either because we don't feel well or because the performance is unpleasant for whatever reason.

If you must leave, please consider the amount of disruption to the performers and the audience your leaving will make. You are not the only people in this room. There are lovely moments in plays like "intermissions," "blackouts," and "scene changes," that are great opportunities to take your leave.

Leading 87 young people out of a theater in the middle of a performance is not only terribly disruptive, it is teaching young people to treat their relationships with performers and other audience members casually. We share this world with others, people! Perhaps if these were grade-school children, a quick walk-out at the first sign of the f-word might've been understandable, but teenagers need not be treated with the same kind of protectiveness. It seems to me that an appropriate exit in this situation would've been at an intermission (if there was one) or at the end of the show. A conversation with the young people about the appropriateness of Mr. Daisey's language and commentary would be a far better learning experience for those kids than teaching them that it's okay to walk out of a show whenever they feel like it.

2. How not to be compared to Nazi youth in Triumph of the Will.

If you read Daisey's blog post, you read that he invokes Leni Riefenstahl while describing the misguided man who poured water on his notes. Walking onstage and pouring water on a performer or his props, while perhaps an effective act of protest, is a serious breach of the performer-audience relationship. Again, it's a reprehensible lesson to teach a group of students. You are demonstrating a shameless lack of respect for a performer's work, the artistic process, the rest of the audience, and the theatrical experience. Let's not forget, either, that if you do so, the performer might later publicly compare you to Hitler's Aryan masses.

3. Also, don't talk, and turn off your cell phones, and it's not a movie and there's no loud soundtrack to drown out your noisy snacking, so don't eat stuff, which means unwrapping loud paper or plastic is a bad idea too.

4. Oh, and try not to cough too much. If you've got a cold, save the coughing for the laugh lines. It's a good trick to remember.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Billy Porter

just about made me cry, y'all! I went to see the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles perform their tribute to Billy Strayhorn yesterday afternoon with a friend of mine; I have a couple of friends in the chorus and was there to support them as well, of course. I've only been to one other of their concerts, and, while while you wouldn't think that show's style and music would be a perfect fit for my tastes (my friend -- who's a subscriber and big GMC cheerleader, fyi -- affectionately refers to their shows as "Lawrence Welk for gay people"), I really had a really nice time, and the way was paved smoothly by fellow Carnegie alum Billy Porter, who sang a rendition of "Lush Life" early in the show that just about had me over the moon! Wonderful! The song's already gorgeous, and Porter made it even more so. It's hard to believe Strayhorn wrote that as a teenager. Congrats to GMCLA!

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Tristan Project at Disney Hall

I've been meaning to post about this all week, but I keep getting sidetracked. I saw Acts II and III last weekend (JW decided to keep Act I all to himself), and as we walked out of the final act on Saturday night, I said, "I think this is the way I need to hear Wagner from now on -- one act at a time -- because I know I wouldn't have appreciated that amazing climax in the same way if it had been at the end of an evening of opera that stretched past four hours.

I also might not have appreciated it without Bill Viola's video art, which was at its best in the final images of Act III, in transcendant sync with the music's final strains...just glorious.

Mark Swed wrote about it in the LATimes last Monday, calling it "the great Los Angeles artwork of our time." I don't know that I'm in the position to agree, but it was a lovely two nights at the symphony.

It's going to New York next, so keep an eye out for it. Too bad you'll have to hear/see it at Avery Fisher Hall. JW does not envy you.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Don't give up hope....

I got a request for a manuscript from a theater based on a mailing I sent out last June. All I sent them was a synopsis! The theater's in Austin, too, and I'd love to have a play done there. Besides just having a new excuse to go there, doesn't having a play done in Austin raise your "cool playwright" cred just a little?

My night of TV

I'm housesitting again, which means I have access to serious cable and DVR until Saturday morning. Last night was the first night I spent the whole evening channel-surfing. JW helped, when he wasn't falling asleep; we've learned that he does not care for reality TV. Some observations:

Did you see that Blake guy fixing LaKisha's eye make-up on American Idol last night? I know this question has been asked before, but is everyone on that show gay?

After watching the AbFab episode on DVR where Patsy and Edina try to have an orgy, I have reaffirmed my feeling that, while I love that show, small doses are better. Trying to move onto the episode about the door handle didn't meet with much success.

The New Adventures of Old Christine (also a DVR choice) is mainly watchable because of its great cast. I almost turned on an episode during a shameless extended bit of Home Depot product-placement. It was so over-the-top I thought the writers were making fun of the need for the endorsement. Except it wasn't really that funny. Still, how can you not love those three actors?

The ending of Sandra Bernhard's film adaptation of her one-woman-show, Without You I'm Nothing, makes absolutely no sense and is completely unsatisfying when edited for airing on Logo.

America's Next Top Model is...well...I just...I have no words....

Alright, that's about it. Perhaps tonight I'll catch up on some home improvement shows or watch a marathon of that new classic of historical drama, The Tudors! I can't wait to get signed up for cable and DVR! It's gonna be SO worth the 50 bucks a month!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Playgoer on this year's Pulitzer

I was going to link to Playgoer's good writing on Rabbit Hole's win since it came up in the comments, and it dawned on me that I've never added Playgoer to my blogroll. This is a terrible oversight, as I check him every day. So welcome to Playgoer from FWL on the left coast; your blog stats are sure to go up by at least a dozen!

New L.A. arts blog

Thanks to LAist for tipping me off on this one. FineArtsLA.com just started last week and in its second post scored a fun interview with LAWeekly music critic Alan Rich, featuring the following choice passage:

FALA: How does Los Angeles stack up internationally as a culture capital?

AR: It’s just beginning to happen, this whole metamorphosis of LA, and there are just a few people who are responsible, but it is happening — it’s not just bullshit. It’s happening at the same time that New York is moving in the opposite direction. What do they expect to accomplish with 80-year-old music director Lorin Maazel, for God’s sake? And that terrible hall that nobody seems able to correct. Somebody’s got to tell them to stop putting band-aids on Avery Fisher Hall and tear the fucking thing down and build a new concert hall there, no matter how much time and money it takes. Then they have to hand the orchestra over to someone less than my age....
I immediately sent this to JW because after his last visit to Avery Fisher he vowed never to attend that place again. Too bad the LAPhil's great Tristan Project (more on that later) is getting its NYC debut there.

JW just replied to my email. Hopefully he won't fuss at me for quoting him here:

I, of course, agree completely. How long have I been complaining about Avery Fisher Hall? Probably since the first time I went there and swore never to go back, then after the second time I went there and swore never to go back, then after the third time.... And, I agree about LA Opera - seriously thinking of putting our tickets for La Boheme next year up on ebay - ditto for the other two - if it weren't for That Lesbian singing in the third of the Puccini operas.
Yeah, sorry JW, if there's Lesbian singing, we're totally going.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Question

Does it make me a lazy playwright to create a beat transition at the end of a tense exchange by having a character say something like "Can we just talk about something else?"

Would it feel more natural if it were punctuated by a "God!" Like this: "Can we just talk about something else? GOD!"

Do the all-caps help? Maybe if I spelled it "GAWD?"

What if I italicized AND used all-caps? Like this: "Can we just talk about something else? GAWD!"

Thoughts?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tornadoes in Arkansas

Looks like FEMA fell short again. This time one of my old home towns is struggling. Check out this article from The Economist about Dumas, AR. An excerpt is below.

WHEN a series of tornadoes hit Dumas, Arkansas (pop. 5,000) on February 24th, not much of the town was left. The Mad Butcher grocery, Fred's discount store and the community centre vanished. The twisters wrecked 150 homes and knocked out an electricity substation, leaving thousands in the dark for six days. Twenty-seven people were injured, 25 businesses damaged or destroyed....

Straight after the tornado Mike Beebe, the governor of Arkansas, filed paperwork with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for direct federal and housing assistance and low-interest loans. The tornadoes' damage, only $1.5m, was low-cost as far as disasters go. The application seemed sure to get funding until, ten days later, FEMA declined Mr Beebe's request. It did not meet the threshold, $3.2m in damage, that would have let it qualify for federal disaster aid.

Local politicians complained loudly. Arkansas's junior senator, Mark Pryor, a Democrat, said that FEMA was being discriminatory and was not performing its mission. His words seemed all the truer when, less than a week after the Dumas disaster, tornadoes hit solidly Republican Georgia and Alabama. FEMA responded positively and quickly, and President George Bush went to see the storm damage. Arkansas officials quickly claimed that the administration was punishing the state for electing a Democratic governor last November.

FEMA, possibly ashamed, subsequently offered trailers and mobile homes for Dumas's homeless residents (though Arkansas still had to pay for their transport and setting up). The federal Small Business Administration has also offered low-interest disaster loans to victims. By accepting the offer, Arkansas gave up its right to appeal against FEMA's funding decision.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My favorite quote

from LAWeekly's theater issue comes from an article about Ethos Theatre Company:

Some of [founder Amanda Berube's] workshops stress the Viewpoints acting technique, a relatively obscure program that, unlike the Method, discovers an actor’s relationship to the past and present, and to other characters, through physical movement and spatial proportions. Although she will modify the technique, which in part grew out of director Anne Bogart’s teachings, it hasn’t always gone down well with some company members. Recently, one quit in despair after Berube announced a one-night-only performance of Twelfth Night. What would give this production its edge was that none of the cast members knew who would be playing the story’s other roles and, even more ambitiously, there would be no rehearsals.

“It’s so cool,” she enthuses. “The performance is either going to be a complete train wreck or it’s going to be amazing!”

Thursday, April 05, 2007

L.A. Weekly Theater 2007

Looks like this week has a lot of writing about local theater. Check it all out here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

L.A. Pride gets Joan Jett

Who'd have thought they could top last year's Bangles/Taylor Dane one-two punch? You won't hear me complaining about the high admission prices this year. Free haircare samples, lube, AND Joan Jett? That rocks!

Press release is here. Thanks to LAist for the tip.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My L.A. weekend

Okay, so every weekend's an L.A. weekend, unless I'm out of town, but this weekend was particularly L.A. Not just "I live in L.A." L.A., but "I live in the most bizarre, incendiary, amusing city in the world." And I haven't been to a lot of cities in the world, but how can you not agree?

FRIDAY:
Of course it all started with the fire in the Hollywood Hills, which, as you may know, was quite the diversion Friday afternoon. Smoke, reports from security, you name it. It also became a spectacular excuse to leave work early and take the long way to WeHo for drinks and dinner with JW before the TV on the Radio concert at the Henry Fonda. Denny's at the Gower Gulch with Ernessa and Christian topped the evening off nicely. And the towel guy at the Fonda sells GREAT ear plugs.

SATURDAY
was all about my taking up Ben Brantley's challenge to read Play it as it Lays in one sitting. And if you're going to spend an afternoon inside reading, I can't think of a more Hollywood way to do so. Unless you're reading Bob Evans, perhaps. I didn't quite read Didion's book in one sitting, but the only reason I stopped was because I was enjoying it so much I wasn't quite ready to finish yet.

SUNDAY
I waited in the car after dropping off JW outside La Brea Bakery so he could pick up a couple of things. My oblivious bf walked past someone who gave off "I may be dressed down, but I still look fierce, bitches!" vibes. I was far enough away that I wasn't sure, but when I saw a man make eye-contact with her and immediately look away, I KNEW my suspicions were correct. EVEN BETTER, his friend turned to him and, with a shocked look on his face, mouthed "TYRA BANKS?!"

Excerpt of my relating the above story to JW when he returned to the car:

ME: Did you realize you walked right past Tyra Banks on your way into La Brea Bakery?

JW: Who's Tyra Banks?

MONDAY
My L.A. weekend ended on a poignant note when, on the drive up Vine to get to the 101, I passed a sad-faced man in a Charlie Chaplain costume waiting for the bus. And with that, the gods lifted the Robert Altman lenses from my eyes, and everything seems to have returned to its typical, flourescent-lit normalcy. It's just another workaday Monday in the City of Dreams, my friends.

Maybe this week my L.A. weekend will start early. I'm taking my first ever yoga class! Wish me luck!

L.A. Playwright Makes Good!

Here's another nice profile from yesterday's LATimes. This one's about hotshot Julie Marie Myatt, who has four premieres happening in the next 12 months. It's a heartening story for all us strugglers out there. Check it out.

Unknown in LATimes

There's a really nice profile of Unknown Theater and artistic director Chris Covics in today's LATimes. Check it out here. Here's an excerpt:

"I'm trying to make intellectually challenging theater hip," explains Covics, who staged the company's current offering, "The Serpent," a revival of Jean-Claude Italie's trippy 1968 meditation on the price of knowledge. "High art and good times need not be mutually exclusive. The less people can categorize a piece of art, the more of themselves they will be forced to bring to it."

His lofty ambition is matched by a surprisingly bargain-basement sense of invention. The eerily revolving set in Unknown's production of Harold Pinter's "The Hothouse," for example, was designed around the spare tire of his jeep. That is, when he still owned the jeep. (It was recently sold at public auction.) This is a man who does not own a cellphone (can't pay the bill), is in perpetual danger of being evicted, and often forgets to eat.

"Chris is a bit of a mad scientist," acknowledges company member Kyle Ingleman.