Saturday, January 29, 2011

Went to see

Les Savy Fav at the Echoplex last night, which was worth the price of admission for their cover of "California Uber Alles." Now I'm on a Dead Kennedys youtube spiral.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tibor de Nagy

K at Jimson Weed Gazette sent me a nice review in the NYTimes of the 60th Anniversary art show going on at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York. The show is a collection of several of the major mid-century artists who intersected with (and painted) many of the city's poets. See below for an excerpt.

[Larry] Rivers...introduced Jane Freilicher, a recent convert from abstraction to still life and landscape painting, to the gallery, along with the magnetic [Frank] O’Hara, who had a menial job at the Museum of Modern Art but was clearly on the ascent. O’Hara, in turn, brought in the poets John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch — the three had overlapped at Harvard — and eventually attracted a legion of young disciples, including Bill Berkson, Barbara Guest and Ron Padgett, to the scene.

And a scene it was: amorous, rivalrous and incestuous; at once an avant-garde and — much like the New York art world at present — an avant-garde in reverse. Poetry was pushing into prickly new territory, while art was revisiting old ground, although with some new moves. What made the situation at Tibor de Nagy distinctive was that almost everyone was collaborating, artists and poets alike.

Remember the context. This was the high moment of Abstract Expressionism, with its image of the heroic artist battling his way alone toward some existential sublime. Set that image against another: O’Hara and Rivers, lovers at the time, sitting knee to knee as they worked on a series of jointly made lithographs, each adding drawings, jokes, notes to friends and poems like valentines.

Or consider the poetry books coming out under the Tibor de Nagy imprint, among them Mr. Ashbery’s first collection, with drawings by Ms. Freilicher, and O’Hara’s 1953 “Oranges,” with hand-painted covers by Hartigan. These weren’t weighty tomes. They were pretty pamphlets, so thin and fragile as to be all but invisible on a library shelf.
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I just read

John Lahr's review of Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities. It's available only to subscribers, so I can't link to it, but I have to share my favorite sentence.
Is there any living actress who pisses from a greater height than Stockard Channing?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Romulus Linney

died today. First playwright I ever met, way back freshman year at Hendrix College. He showed up for a playwriting workshop when we staged his play, Unchanging Love. I was a lowly freshman, so he didn't pay much attention to me. Still, I appreciated his seriousness, as well as his foul mouth. Rest in peace.

I love her.

Annie Baker in the LAT

There's a nice profile of Annie Baker in the Sunday Calendar section. Her play, Circle Mirror Transformation, opens this weekend at South Coast Rep. The article's online now. See below for some good excerpts.
Baker's writing needs to be performed — "I don't think my plays really work on the page" — but with a tricky balance of precision and spontaneity that helps imbue everyday language and gestures with deeper meaning. (It's no wonder she loves Chekhov.) Her characters have trouble expressing themselves — a common malady, insists Baker, who listens to what people really say and leave unsaid. "When I was 18, I hid a recorder under the table during conversations. It was revelatory." When she writes, she records herself reading lines and then refines, hoping to eliminate the "authorial hand."

"I'm very interested in silence," she says. "And, more importantly, in what happens when people aren't talking on stage. I'm interested in letting actors play and do things between the lines. And in slowing everything down. There's a moment in 'Circle Mirror' where the stage is empty for 30 seconds. It's one of my favorite parts."

[...]

"I'm not being modest when I say I really didn't believe 'Circle Mirror' would find an audience," she says. "Of all my plays, I thought it would be the least successful. It's an elliptical fragment play with a lot of offstage action and silence. While I find that exciting, I wasn't sure anyone else would. But I honestly think if you write what you want to write, people respond to it."
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A letter

Re: an interesting essay at LA Stage Times by a husband-and-wife producing team, John and Lynn Pleshette, discussing why they produce British plays. They seem to have stumbled into it "by accident," after their searches for compelling new plays led them back to British authors. See below for a pertinent quote.

But we really wanted to do something new for LA audiences. And American. We started searching for an American play. We soon learned, however, any play done successfully in New York is nearly impossible to option for a small theater in LA. The playwrights and their agents want to hold out for the Geffen, the Taper, the Douglas or South Coast Rep.
Dear John and Lynn,

I would like to offer you a list of names of ambitious local playwrights with hard drives full of unproduced work that I'm sure would love to collaborate with you, should you ever again take up that quest for an American play. I mean that in earnest. I most certainly am not holding out for any of the theaters that you name and I don't know many other playwrights who are. And believe me, I know a lot of playwrights.

Feel free to return to producing good British plays after you have read a sampling of our work and determined it wrong for your purposes. I'm all for producing good plays of any nationality. I just feel it important to address the timid provincialism that the whole of the American theater must be represented only by work that has been successfully tested on New York stages.

Yours truly,

FWL

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stage Raw Quiz

Steven Leigh Morris has a fun post up at Stage Raw regarding a "New Year Theater Quiz." The first subject is Sacred Fools' Marz Richards. Here's my favorite bit, mostly for the question, which has always stumped the hell out of me.
• Why is the Fountain Theatre always sold out when it just does plays about bitter musicians and graveyards?

Because the Fountain has consistently marketed their shows to an audience that doesn't simply travel from North Hollywood, to the Taper, and then back to Pasadena to await the early bird discount special at the Tallyrand.

Geography, geography, geography: Remember, San Francisco is a reef off Ventura County and the Tallyrand is in Burbank, not Pasadena. Five points off.
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, January 07, 2011

My souvenir

From Varla Jean Merman: The Loose Chanteuse tonight at the Cavern Club. Thank you Ms. Merman! I'll treasure it always!

Writers on Writers

Variety has a nice special feature in the Friday edition with writers commenting on notable screenplays from last year. Michael Cunningham, Adam Rapp, and Rajiv Joseph are represented. Here's a sample from Donald Margulies, writing about Winter's Bone.
"Winter's Bone" is astonishing for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was made at all. Films of such raw, unpretty beauty are supposedly not made in America anymore and yet here it is, defying our negativity. Debra Granik has done something remarkable: she has directed and written, with Anne Rosellini (from a novel by Daniel Woodrell), in a wholly American vernacular, a modern Greek tragedy. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that its 17-year-old heroine, Ree Dolly, has much of the grandeur of an Antigone, or an Electra. Ree is also one of the best roles for an actress of any age the cinema has seen in a very long time and, in Jennifer Lawrence's breathtakingly unaffected performance, is made unforgettable. The story of "Winter's Bone" may sound bleak in synopsis ("teenaged girl searches through the brutal Ozarks for her dastardly, crystal-meth-dealing dad") but the experience of watching it is nothing short of exhilarating.
Read the whole thing here.

Oh, and I saw

a lot of movies, theater and TV last year, but I think "The Suitcase" was the best of the lot. At least the most memorable.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

2010 Year in Review!

I probably should've done this post last week; we've all moved on from our best-of lists and year-end reflections and gone back to talking about Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. But there's so much that I really feel I must indulge. So I'm taking a stroll through last year's desk calendar; it's really pleasant. It has images of vintage wallpaper and is just darling.

January: I apparently saw The White Ribbon, which I remember liking. I went to the LAPhil too, but I don't remember what I saw (oh, here it is!). Also, bobrauschenbergamerica. A trip to San Francisco too. The wallpaper is for a nursery, with a Humpty Dumpty theme.

February: I saw a poor production of a L.A. premiere of a play. The critics loved it. I made myself sit through the 2nd act because they'd papered the house that night and I felt it my duty. Also saw that Orpheus Descending, which was lovely. Oh and The Subject was Roses, which was sweet, especially when the smell of waffles filled the house. The Green Umbrella was a highlight. I think this wallpaper is a kitchen motif, all blue-grays, yellows and pinks, with a tea kettle, a rooster and a fish.

March: Portrait of Jason! And a couple of world premieres I didn't much care for but all the critics loved. The wallpaper this month is bar-themed, as it has a bowl of lemons with some cocktail glasses and green olives.

April: I saw an opera! What was it? One of those Ring things? All my calendar says is "Opera." Plus Bengal Tiger at the Taper, and Thomas Ades at the Phil. Another kitchen motif, with a series of mobiles with salt and pepper shakers hanging from them on a beige color field. A little drab, this one.

May: I saw Sick, which I liked just fine. Something at Boston Court. Twentieth-Century Way, I think. Went home to Arkansas for Amanda's 100th birthday. A trippy calendar image -- an aquarium motif on a black background. No idea what room one would put this in!

June: I saw South Pacific and Merce Cunningham, and went to the Ojai Music Festival for JW's birthday. Just heard a single piece -- a 2 hour Messien piano thing. Very lovely with birds twittering and the sun through the trees. Deer and plants this month!

July: Ooh, busy month! Lieutenant of Inishmore, In the Heights, Lots of Outfest, something at Boston Court and/or REDCAT. I really should keep better records of all this. It's green and leafy print this month; I like the dragonfly in the upper left corner the best.

August: Milk Milk Lemonade, which was cute. Something else at Boston Court. Vintage cars on a cream background. Also the VW logo in red, for an odd bit of product-placement.

September: Another busy month! Three Bowl concerts: Candide, Diavolo and Pavement. Glass Menagerie. Irma Vep. Ruined. Something at REDCAT? A CTG world premiere. The Kids are All Right. And I even attended a reading of something that I WROTE! Then my car got nailed while parked in a residential area by a hit-and-run driver and still isn't running right. Very pretty blue floral motif this month; I'm sure it was a comfort.

October: Oh, Terre Haute at The Blank; that was interesting. Of Montreal. Overall a quiet month. Not much happening AT ALL. Another kitchen theme, a bland one at that.

November: Lohengrin and Lydia! Next to Normal too. My car, still unfixed, gets broken into! November features an idyllic country scene. Very brown.

December: Wooster Group Vieux Carre. I screamed at an insurance guy about my effed-up car. The rest is a blur. This month's calendar image is all booze. A great way to end the year, I say.

Onward! With snowmobiles!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Homage


Brandy sent me this link from This Recording, a website I need to bookmark. The post is from last month, and is a nice collection of excerpts from Homage to Frank O'Hara. I like Barbara Guest's; I'll paste below.

Frank and I happened to be in Paris at the same time in the summer of 1960. I was staying there with my family and had been very busy with the Guide Bleu looking at every placard on every building I could find. and I had located the"bateau lavoir" where Picasso and Max Jacob had first lived and where they had held all those studio parties with Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin. And across the street was a very good restaurant. I suggested that we have lunch there, our party included Grace Hartigan and her husband at the time, Robert Keene. We had a "marvelous" lunch, much wine and talk and we all congratulated ourselves on being in Paris and moreover being in Paris at the same time - a continuation of the Cedar St. Bar where we had formerly and consistently gathered. After lunch I suggested that we cross the street to the "bateau lavoir," a discovery of mine and one I thought would intrigue Frank. Not at all. He did go across the street, but he didn't bother to go into the building. "Barbara," he said, "that was their history and it doesn't interest me. What does interest me is ours, and we're making it now."

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy

New Year everyone. Internet was spotty in Arkansas. Not everywhere, just where I was bedded down. I met someone from New England in the late 90s who asked me if we had the internet in the Natural State yet. I told her yes, although I understood her need to confirm, since we just got shoes a couple decades ago.

And now birds and fish are dying by the thousands in the Natural State. I imagine it's divine retribution for something, but I'm not sure what. Electing Boozeman? Something do do with the Sugar Bowl? I'm at a loss.

Alright that's all I've got for this evening. Regular posting will resume shortly. Or as regular as I can pull off.