Thursday, December 23, 2010

Make me stay

sharp and keen! Evergreen!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm reading

Just Kids by Patti Smith, her memoir of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It's been on my radar ever since it came out in hardback, but I bumped it up to the top of my reading list when it won the National Book Award for non-fiction. That said, I'm enough of a cynic that I approached the book with some wariness. I've always appreciated her for her music career but didn't know what to expect by her prose. I shouldn't have worried; her romanticism is beyond infectious. It's a lovely read and I'm looking forward to finishing on the plane home to Arkansas this weekend.

Here's a favorite passage (so far). I both admire and envy her assurance here.
[Robert] never seemed to question his artistic drives, and by his example, I learned to understand that what matters is the work: the string of words propelled by God becoming a poem, the weave of color and graphite scrawled upon the sheet that magnifies His motion. To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind comes a light, life-charged.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Elia Kazan in the New Yorker

I keep meaning to post about this profile of Kazan by John Lahr that I read last weekend. The whole thing is worth a read, but my favorite parts involved his relationship with Tennessee Williams. Here are a couple of fragments.
Kazan didn’t just set Williams’s boundaries; he pulled the playwright out of his creative sump and showed him the way. On the opening night of “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1959)—a play that Kazan had to fight to keep the spooked Williams from closing out of town—Williams wrote to Kazan, “Some day you will know how much I value the great things you did with my work, how you lifted it above its measure by your great gift.”

[...]

For all the ambition in his films, there is also a fair quotient of melodramatic sap: Jean Peters as Josefa Zapata clinging to the saddle as her husband (Brando) rides off to his doom in “Viva Zapata!” (1952); Andy Griffith as an exposed populist, abandoned by the bigwigs and screaming into the night, in “A Face in the Crowd” (1957); the wavering and weak-willed Chuck (Montgomery Clift) proposing to Carol (Lee Remick), the war widow who loves him, as they lie face down in the mud after being drubbed nearly senseless by a racist thug, in “Wild River” (1960). “All my pictures are corn,” Kazan said. “But the best of them, through it, come out deep.” Still, sometimes, as with “Baby Doll” (1956) and “A Face in the Crowd,” they just came out corny. “You say that whenever I am in trouble I go poetic,” Williams wrote to Kazan. “I say whenever you are in trouble, you start building up to a SMASH! finish.—As if you didn’t really trust the story.”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

In other anti-gay controversies

The LAT reports that The Westboro Baptist Church is L.A.-bound over a production of The Laramie Project. The show is donating some of the proceeds to one of my favorite non-profits, The Trevor Project. Maybe the added attention will make it sell out.

A Fire in my Belly at Downtown Art Walk

I'm hoping to go downtown tomorrow night for Art Walk so I can check out "A Fire in my Belly" at CB1 Gallery. Check out the LATimes article here for details. Stick around for the comments to read people screaming WHATABOUTISLAM?? WHATABOUTMOHAMMED??

Monday, December 06, 2010

LAT critic on Hide/Seek

Christopher Knight writes a couple of smart articles in the LATimes about the David Wojnarowicz video and its misrepresentations.

In the first one from a few days ago, he addresses the issue of misinterpretations of it as anti-Christian. Here's a good excerpt--
Objectively speaking, an artist bent on making an anti-Christian diatribe would not spend just 15 seconds of a 13-minute video making it. Those images instead serve another function: To rebuke the same self-righteous moralism of those who are attacking the Smithsonian now.

Ants and bugs are an age-old artistic symbol that laments the frailty of human beings and earthly existence. As Ecclesiastes puts it: Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas -- “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Ant-covered flora, bodies and animals turn up in everything from still life paintings in the largely Protestant 17th-century Netherlands to the silent Surrealist film, “An Andalusian Dog” (1929) by the Spanish director Luis Bunuel and artist Salvador Dali, a conservative Catholic.

In the Wojnarowicz video, the vanitas theme plays out on a crucifix not as a religious slur, but as a lament for earthly failures among those who should know better at a time of epic tragedy. Small wonder that some who failed then take offense at being reminded of it now.
And his article in today's paper calls out the anti-gay rhetoric about the video "bullying."
The anti-gay agenda is to pick bogus fights about art, free expression and federal funding, since those tactics were effective in the bruising culture war of the Reagan era. And it's being led by partisans who owe significant portions of their livelihoods to the money-raising power of homophobia.
I really appreciate that last quote, because I think it's crucial to understanding the extremity of most anti-gay rhetoric. It's all about money. Either that or poll numbers and getting out the vote.

The other thing that's interesting to me about these articles is their comments. It couldn't be clearer that the minions moaning about Islam and calling Knight a drama queen are being instructed to do by their demagogues. It all screams talking points, and it amazes me how quickly people sign up to peddle the message.

I can't even get outraged by these sorts of homophobic tirades anymore. What frustrates me is the insistence by our leaders, whether political, cultural or religious, on both perpetuating and pandering to this kind of strident, mindless BS for their own political and financial well-being.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

More on Wooster in L.A.

I already linked to Cindy Marie Jenkins' profile of the group at LAStageTimes, but I wanted to highlight a couple of nice quotes for those who might not click through and read. It begins with a quote by a Wooster Group veteran, Kate Valk, who says--

"REDCAT’s really great for us: the size, the sound, the space. The LA audience is very adventurous. They do not have a problem if you’re mixing some film and video elements into your theater.”

[REDCAT Director Mark] Murphy agrees with the appeal The Wooster Group has to LA audiences and REDCAT’s audiences specifically, who “exemplify an openness overall true of LA.” He recalls the Group’s trip to the West Coast after finishing a long run of Hamlet at The Public Theatre in New York City, where “the audience clearly wanted to experience Shakespeare.”

Los Angeles audiences, on the other hand, mixed traditional theater fans with visual and media arts fans, who “haven’t been trained in a rigid way of how a well-made play should be performed… They enjoy the highly visual, non-linear theatrical structures” The Wooster Group brings.
Also, I like McNulty's review in the LATimes, even if he doesn't know the difference between a thong and a jock.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Wooster Group’s Version of Tennessee Williams’ Vieux Carre

JW and I got down to REDCAT last night for the new Wooster Group show at REDCAT. After all this mess with Hide/Seek in D.C., it was a joy to wallow in the steamy, transgressive New Orleans that no one has ever captured so well as Tennessee Williams. I posted on my Facebook page that I would love to buy John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and John McCain tickets to this show. We could maybe work a little Clockwork Orange action on their eyelids, with the ghost of David Wojnarowicz haunting them with cries of "You can't make us disappear," while they wait for the lights to go down.

I know that's a little melodramatic, but so is the show, which is as it should be. It's presented with the typical Wooster chaotic multimedia and stylization, but I have to say, this show's take on the "memory play" idea of Williams is satisfying in a way that I didn't anticipate. The production -- particularly its first hour -- is so raw and unrepentantly homoerotic (often comically so) I wasn't even focusing so much on it as "Wooster doing Williams." I was too captivated by the atmosphere and carnality it presented. The warped audio and visual layer only enhances the feeling of being embedded deep in someone's Id.

As I mentioned above, it feels especially prescient in light of all the current culture war idiocy. Just to drive that point home, one of the main characters, Nightingale, is a tubercular character wandering the stage with a crippling cough, an erect phallus and a blood-soaked handkerchief, details both tragicomic in a way I think Williams would've admired and an uncomfortable visual connection to the AIDS epidemic. On the night after World AIDS Day and the censorship of Wojnarowicz, that hit a little harder than it might've otherwise.

I also have greater appreciation for this take on Williams in light of the the flawed, mildly "concept" version of Glass Menagerie at the Taper this year. I don't intend to dwell on (my mixed impressions of) that show, rather than to say that Judith Ivey made me cry, the lady next to me was eating candy way too loudly, and the literal "writer-as-narrator" conceit the show presented was, well, literal.

Wooster's Vieux Carre falls into that trap eventually as well, but it does so with great (and unsurprising) inventiveness, thanks largely to its trademark approach. And anyway I wonder if it's not an unavoidable trap for anyone taking on one of these Williams memory plays. Still, the first half of this show has all the muggy heat of 10 Streetcars, and double the jockstraps.

There have been a couple of notable pieces of writing in advance of the show, for anyone who's interested in seeing it (and FYI, there's a $25 rush ticket for Tuesday, 12/7 at the box office starting at 6:30). Here's Charles McNulty for the LATimes. And Cindy Marie Jenkins has a nice profile on LAStageTimes. Both of these articles are worth reading before you go.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

I'm getting caught up

on all the controversy surrounding the censoring of David Wojnarowicz's video elegy, "A Fire in my Belly," created for a lover who died of AIDS complications. The absurdity began because of that Catholic League jerk Bill Donahue and continued thanks to GOP Reps John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Welcome to the 80s, apparently.

Thanks to Joe.My.God and Tyler Green for their writing on the subject. The piece was in the exhibit, Hide/Seek, at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C., a show about GLBT themes in American art. I posted about it here.

The good news is it's being exhibited at the Transformer Gallery in D.C. now and there are protests organized. See the Tyler Green link for all the details (he's updating constantly, so worth bookmarking for this and other writing). My favorite points he makes (from this post) are below.
A key part of these events is the refusal of religious conservatives to acknowledge that gays and lesbians are Americans in full, as worthy of being studied and contextualized by historians as Catholics or Montanans. The religious right wants nothing less than for gays and lesbians to be made as invisible as possible, to be hidden or removed from our shared national history.

Why is the right-wing creating this story now? Last night the Pentagon released a report saying that the only reason for the military to maintain the so-called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is bigotry, and that ending bigotry is not a threat to America’s military or to our national security. The right is losing the DADT battle – and is happy to have this story pop up to distract its core, anti-gay base from this latest DADT setback.
Tyler is calling for online protest, wtih a little Twitter action around a David Wojnarowicz poster that the PPOW Gallery in New York is offering for free to print out and post. There's also a Facebook page to join. I'm posting the poster online below.


I found a portion of the video on youtube and am posting it here. It's definitely NSFW, and also disturbing. But then again, so is dying of AIDS.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Kittensnake

is back!

Spotted!

Notable playwright in restaurant in Toluca Lake. I think, anyway. I have fake celebrity sightings all the time. I'd name him but I don't want him to be mean to me in the comments.