Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Van Dykes

There's a great article in the latest New Yorker by Ariel Levy about a band of radical lesbian separatists called The Van Dykes, so named not just for their orientation but also their preferred mode of transportation. Unfortunately registration is required to read online, but there's also a nice audio interview with the author here.

Jezebel wrote about it a couple of days ago and excerpted some passages, so you can check out a little more there.

I'll excerpt a little more:
Heather Van Dyke, for example, had a knack for getting women to fall in love with her. Almost as impressive, she usually managed to keep them as her friends and sometime lovers even after she had moved on. Some of this loyalty had to do with Heather's seductive personal power. She expresses ideas that are technically insane with so much vigor that you find yourself thinking, Well, maybe....
There's this whole section devoted to how S&M made its way into the group, which is equally fascinating. It'd take up too much space to list it all here, so go buy the issue for the article, but here's a little more:
For Heather Van Dyke, who had been a kind of lesbian Joseph Smith, driving around the continent looking for the promised land with a band of wives and ex-wives and future wives in tow, the idea of being explicitly dominant -- a top, in the parlance of sadomasochism -- was particularly appealing.
Oh, and I can't resist one last bit:
"We were everywhere," Van Dyke says. "We found Women's Land in North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, a lot of Women's Land in California and Oregon. You could actually go all around the country from Women's Land to Women's Land and you met all these other women who were doing the same thing. You would run into people in New Mexico that you had seen in Texas.... It was a whole world." It was the Lesbian Nation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

L.A. theater-goers

go check out Battle Hymn at Circle X. It's fun, moving, attractively staged and well-acted. I think they've extended through March 7.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Elton and Betty White

I came back from Arkansas after New Year's with the Southern Music Issue of Oxford American, bought mainly so I could have the accompanying 2-disc collection for the stereo while I drove around in my parents' car. One of the best songs in the collection is called "A Jelly Behind Woman Blows My Mind," by Little Rock eccentrics Elton and Betty White. Just today I finally got around to reading the amazing article about them and looked to the internet for more info.

I found some Youtube clips of them from their L.A. years; they made their way out here in the 90s and were a hit on public access and Venice Beach.

Check out some of their songs here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

KCRW's Theatre Talk

I catch this segment on my commute home every so often and when I do, it invariably frustrates me to no end. It's written by a critic named James C. Taylor, who mostly alternates discussing one of a handful of local, flagshippy, regionals every week. On tonight's broadcast, Taylor let CTG have it for not staging more new work by local playwrights! A bold critique! Surprising too! Let's see how he goes about making it.

Seems like his main beef was with the fact that they let Passing Strange slip away. How's that for new and local?

And let's not forget that Stew, the show's writer and star, hates L.A. and has since he was 9-years-old. This is, if memory serves, a pretty big part of that show of his. LAWeekly went through all this in an interview with Stew and his collaborator, Heidi Rodewald, almost a year ago. That interview contained the following quote from Rodewald:
People say, ‘Why don’t you bring the play to Los Angeles?’ And we say, ‘How about if we don’t?’ ”
Listen, I loved Passing Strange when I saw it in New York, but it's a TONY NOMINEE. By a writer who HATES L.A. and calls BERLIN home. Why should we even expect it to show up here, much less get CTG some new local cred?

His segment continues with a negative review of Danny Hoch's show at the Kirk Douglas, Taking Over, which made all the obvious points about the show that McNulty covered right after it opened, and frankly, they were all sentiments I gathered from reading the LATimes preview piece about the show that told me it wouldn't really be my cup of tea. Taylor's right in questioning the reasoning behind bringing the piece here in the first place, but there isn't much in the way of fresh insights in that review.

AND, in some of the oddest segues ever, he uses the fact that Passing Strange and Taking Over share a relationship with the Public to suggest that a new Sondheim show make its way out to L.A. There's a novel way to help out new L.A. musicals. Advocate more exposure for Stephen Sondheim.

I've checked Theatre Talk's archives, and looking back over 2009 so far, the edgiest he gets is Long Beach Opera. In between he reviews a 16-year-old Peter Hall production of The Magic Flute at LAOpera, something at South Coast Rep, does a New Year's segment detailing upcoming shows at The Old Globe, Pasadena Playhouse, Donmar Warehouse, The Geffen Playhouse, CTG, some Shakespeare productions in New York, and various other stuff on Broadway.

But my favorite is his tribute to Harold Pinter, where he says this--
[S]ince winning the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 2005, there has not been a rush to stage Pinter's work here in LA.
Never mind the fact that there were two productions of Betrayal running in L.A. simultaneously last year. I also saw a production of The Caretaker in the recent past that ran for eons, and I know I'm probably forgetting about a half-dozen other recent productions in 99-seat theaters across the city.

Going back a little further I did find a couple of pieces on 99-seat shows. One was a piece on a show at The Blank that was a west coast premiere, and another on Louis and Keely Live at the Sahara about 6 months after all the local critics were raving about it at Sacred Fools. He waited until it moved to another theater and had won the Ovation for Best Musical.

Mr. Taylor, thanks for advocating for local premieres by local playwrights, but you might be a little bit more satisfied if you actually went to any one of the countless theaters in Los Angeles that are already doing just that. You can start by checking the new shows at Iama, Circle X, and Theatre of NOTE, try to see Good Bobby this weekend if you can get there before it closes, and keep an eye out for the next time Lucid-By-Proxy does a world premiere by someone local, since that's just about all they ever do. And those are just off the top of my head.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And I guess

this is big news, huh?
Culver City's Kirk Douglas Theatre will offer a new series of lower-priced, limited-run performances of work in varying stages of development in the spring, Center Theatre Group announced today.

The series, called DouglasPlus, will run March 14 through April 18 and will include both fully staged and minimally staged events, as well as workshops and readings. Productions will take place onstage as well as in rehearsal rooms, the lobby and other spaces within the theater building, with seating configurations designed to meet the needs of that production. Tickets to the productions will cost $20, with general-admission seating.

The lineup includes the work of solo artist Mike Daisey, Los Angeles playwright Michael Sargent and hip-hop theater artist Matt Sax. The first presentation of DouglasPlus (March 14-18) will be the youth theater piece "Darwin," a family show created by Corbin Popp and Ian Carney and featuring an electroluminescent dinosaur (the two March 14 performances will be offered free of charge to Culver City residents). Some shows will be presented in conjunction with round-table or post-show discussions.

Cornerstone at California Institution for Women

I liked this LAT article by Mike Boehm about Cornerstone Theater performing their new play, For All Time, behind bars. Here's a good quote:
In a monologue delivered through tears, actor Marcenus "M.C." Earl, himself an ex-convict who served time for a 1995 bank robbery, told of two long-separated brothers who were able to meet and embrace in a prison cell, thanks to a guard's act of mercy. Sarah Gonzales, a graying inmate with a long, Native American-style braid down her back, rose from her front-row seat and handed Earl some tissues. He grasped them and went on without interruption. When Earl and Joshua Lamont performed the embrace, the audience broke into sustained applause. In L.A. the scene always elicited quiet sniffles, Earl said.

"Our job with downtown audiences was for them to realize these are people," actor Lamont said after the show. "Here, it was to let them know there is life, and there is hope for you, no matter what. [Prison] doesn't define who you are, it's just a circumstance. Keep your head up and keep hoping."
The article is here.