Friday, October 30, 2009

No Comment. Okay, maybe a metacomment.

Our production of Marat/Sade got three exuberant reviews, one from the mainstream newspaper, one from the trying-not-to-be-mainstream newspaper, and one from the local-theatre-review-website-that-no-one-really-looks-at (although I thought the last one had an unusually insightful review, from a theatre professor as it happens).

Good stuff. Ticket sales are hoppin'. But the other day someone posted a negative comment about the show on the mainstream paper's website (I hasten to point out that I heard about this from another cast member, rather than from obsessively rereading the reviews). Once upon a time I would have been completely unable to restrain myself from retorting to the comment right there on the website. I take it as proof of personal growth that I am now able to deflect such inclinations into wry remarks on my blog, rather than tendentious direct takedowns. It would be best, of course, to instantly forget about such trivial things, but clearly I'm not there yet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Marat/Glad

When I started doing theatre I had a fantasy that it would allow me to participate in complex, multilayered and didactic artwork. I also had a fantasy that it would allow me to get all emotionally exhibitionistic, untrammeled and unashamed.

It turned out, though, that a certain amount of rigor was required. Not only learning lines and blocking, but comprehending and intelligently communicating the playwright and director's overlapping visions. So on some productions that allowed for a blending of my two theatrical fantasies (Angels in America, various Shakespearian items) I was so busy trying to jerry-rig together enough thesping craft for the job that I wasn't able to find ways of infusing the performance with both Brechtian sophistication and Artaudian shamanistic wallowing.

Until now. Marat/Sade, in which I play a mental patient, allows me to let my actual emotional state to shape my performance while giving energy to a complex exploration of revolutionary failures. Plus I get to scare people like I'm Leatherface. Utter self-indulgence yoked to a compellingly multilayered intellectual work.

Brian Eno has stated that he prefers making frames to making pictures, metaphorically speaking, and I find that my ensemble role allows me to be part of a frame. It's a bit like those faux-frame boundaries on old Mad magazine covers, though... the ones with odd little figures running around and pratfalling. Dozens of little bonus gags surrounding the main gag in the picture.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A few to lay on ya.

It's allergy time for me, and all my energy has been poured into this show. Inspired by Noah Berlatsky of Hooded Utilitarian's weekly playlist downloads, I've decided to share a playlist with my readers from time to time (in lieu of actually writing anything). If you can brave an irksome popup or two and a bit of download time, you get to share some ditties I luv.
Roughly a CD worth of tunes I dig. Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWW

Today someone googled across my blog while searching for cow-then-start-touching-me.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Get Out. Go In.

EDIT, WEEKS LATER: I would like to point out that I have great respect/affection for the director, assistant director, and stage manager of the show discussed here, and my complaints in this post were made in context of a time, place and mindset that blah blah blah disclaimer disclaimer DISCLAIMER ETC.

Is there any value in making actors endure rude or abusive treatment in order to coax more genuine performances out of them? In my current production I play an inmate at an abusive mental hospital, and the various authorities in this production (director, assistant director, stage manager) have exercised a level of hostility that I have not previously experienced in the theatre. It's impossible to tell the extent to which they are being clinical or to which they are merely displacing frustrations onto us. For example, we weren't making our entrances and exits quickly enough, so the assistant director, in the midst of our rehearsal warmups, told us "I'm sick of you people. Get out." And we FLED out the exits. Ever since then we've made our entrances and exits with all the panicked speed our director wishes.

But the assistant director shouldn't be surprised if none of us comes to his birthday party.

It's evident that the hostility is being used to coax us to a deeper level of understanding, to guide us from our relatively pampered and cozy lives into the blinkered and paranoiac reality of the inmates. We sure as hell don't appreciate it, but I suppose we may as well make use of it.

In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (what, that again? Bear with me, it ties in) the cast suffered a pretty fierce level of discomfort, and director Tobe Hooper did play mind games with the actors to increase their mistrust and anxiety. He spread rumors that made the actors dislike one another. Not all of the blows and cuts on the film were faked... some were quite real. The meat that recurs throughout the film was real, and rotting in the Texas heat. It's a cruel way to work and I don't approve of it. And yet the results speak for themselves. The pain and terror is all there on the screen. Unlike most horror movies the film doesn't seem like pure artifice; it seems like a documentation of real terror. It has a shamanistic power that's like nothing else I've seen. We've endured little more than rudeness compared to that, but a little rudeness seems to go a long way towards making us fearful and resentful. I'm not sure what that reveals about us.