Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Going to Hell with Bread and Puppet

Greg Cook previews Bread and Puppet Theater's Divine Reality Comedy in this week's Boston Phoenix. The show, by coincidence, will be running the same weekend as my own show at Willoughby and Baltic. Cook conducted an interview with me regarding the controversies surrounding last year's show and Peter Schumann's exhibition of Independence Paintings: Inspired by Four Stories both here in Boston and in Burlington, Vermont after his deadline. The interview will appear elsewhere in the near future.

[N.B. Part One of the interview appears here on the NEJAR website, Part Two appears here.]

Given the word count limitations that editors must always impose upon their writers, Cook's preview is very thorough in that it covers both the current show and last year's controversies. Interestingly enough, Schumann stated to Cook that “[it] wasn’t my intent [to equate Israelis with Nazis]” as he was so interpreted at the last February, he continued to exhibit the work in question this past autumn despite realizing that he “may have unnecessarily hurt some people’s feelings.”

The stage show is said to be about the United States' "extraordinary rendition" and torture programs with allusions to Dante's Inferno (a promising concept) but the accompanying visual art exhibit is going to be about "one young Palestinian man who he believes was falsely imprisoned by the Israeli government." Given how last year's stage show was advertised to both the players and the public as being about the United States' war in Iraq, yet, once we we showed up for reherasals, turned out to be about Israel and Palestine, I am left to wonder what show will really be seen by audiences.

Cook interviewed Schumann once before for his New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Drinking Kool-Aid with Dead Artists

The Boston Foundation last month issued a report entitled "Vital Signs: Metro Boston’s Arts and Cultural Nonprofits 1999 and 2004" where it suggested that smaller arts organizations consider "[e]xiting the market" (page 9.) Curious, as while the Boston Foundation is a philanthropy, it only gives grants to largest of arts organizations-- indeed as Bill Marx reported this past August, to the Citi Performing Arts Center whose internal financial dealings appear to be quite suspect.

Ian Mackinnon, in response, sponsored an "Art Die Off" at Outpost 186 where those of us in the arts community could apologize for not becoming bigger arts organizations and simply die. Purple Kool-Aid and chili was provided. Big RED, and Shiny's Matthew Nash reported and Christian Holland took photographs.

In an entirely extemporaneous speech, I apologized for co-founding a mime troupe in the Boston area, when clearly, the art-form in question was ultimately unacceptable, as evidenced by the failures of Pocket Mime Theatre Company, Mirage Mime Theatre, and Cosmic Spelunker Theater to become major Boston institutions. I apologized for the fact that Cosmic Spelunker created Waltzing to War before criticism of the U.S. invasion of Iraq had become mainstream, I apologized for performing in just the sort of spaces that the Boston Foundation feels should "[exit] the market." I even apologized for confusing the audience by often performing mime while reciting poetry-- it's bad enough to work in a medium or genre that does not fit into the appropriate disciplinary pigeon-holes but to combine it with another genre in a manner that defies expectations?

Ultimately, as the purple Kool-Aid took effect, I did die, landing on my back with a nice loud thud by means of the most elegant prat-fall I have ever taken.

Markus Nechay, and Alisia L.L. Waller of And So No Sin and Mobius Artists Group (which should "exit" because despite recently opening a new space, they are simply not large enough to be seen as viable by the Boston Foundation) also presented. Eric Zinman provided musical accompaniment.

We're dead, and all of you dance companies, small presses, tiny art galleries, and small theatre troupes are next.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Circuit Assembled

Ben Woodard reports that a two hour cut of Circuit has been assembled, but that the intention will be to cut the film down to something between 90 to 105 minutes.

Ben and director Andrew Landauro were good enough to write in a part specifically for me after I auditioned for the film back in 2005.

I last mentioned Circuit here

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Starving Zanni

In preparation for next month's show at Willoughby and Baltic, I've been preparing some new pieces of repertoire. One draws upon the commedia dell'arte traditions that I have explored both with i Sebastiani and in I have taught at Open Air Circus. The scenario I have chosen is that of "The Starving Zanni" (La Fame dello Zanni) which I first encountered while reading Dario Fo's Tricks of the Trade (a translation of Manuale Minimo dell'Attore). Here is a video of the 1997 Nobel Laureate performing his own version (somewhat different than the one in the book):

(Grazie to Brian Foley who first brought my attention to the above video on his blog, Commedia dell'Arte Links. )

The rehearsal process has been to improvise upon this scenario,and like any commedia performer, liberally steal from the masters and then drawing upon my own strengths as an artist in the elaboration. As the piece has developed, I have somehow found myself including visits to both heaven and hell (which echos a chapter of the traditional Punch & Judy scenario) and a bit of satirical theology.

Now the only question is: Which Zanni should I play? I thought Arlecchino at first, but I'm wondering if I should not play it as Pulcinella. If so, I may need to make another mask.

N.B.: I have realized, thanks to Google, that I actually discovered the Dario Fo video, not through Commedia dell'Arte Links but through the also excellent blog which is maintained by Adam G. Gertsacov. There's even a comment from me attached to this article that proves it! Time is not linear in the blogosphere. Thankfully, Foley and Gertsacov have something of a mutual appreciation society as evidenced here and here.

Belated Follow-Up to Sarod & Kathak Concert

Happy New Year!

I have not updated my blog in a few weeks as I have been rather occupied with some other creative projects. I will write about the status of those projects shortly.

But first, a belated follow-up to the Sarod & Kathak concert I mentioned previously. Firstly, two corrections: 1.) Pandit Ramesh Misra had to cancel his appearance, 2.) I was mistaken in the identity of the tabla player: Nitin Mitta played tabla that evening.

As I have come to a greater understanding of the rhythms of kathak dance (even at my status as a beginner) I found that I could listen to George Ruckert's playing ragas on sarod and better grasp the structure of the melodies of Hindustani music which before I probably only appreciated for its timbral qualities and emotional content. Perhaps someday I will be able to hear it with the same understanding I have when I listen to jazz or rock.

Of course, I had come to see Gretchen Hayden, my teacher, dance. One highlight was a piece from the story-telling repertoire that is taught to kathak students at Chhandika: the tale of how Krishna, as a child, conquered the water-snake demon, Kalia Naag, while fetching his ball after it fell into the Yamuna river. When we practice the story in class or in workshops, the game is one of keep-away, but that evening Gretchenji improvised a game of baseball, miming the pitches, the swings, the spitting on the ground, and the arguing with the umpire. Georgeji began to improvise a melody based on "Take Me Out To the Ball Game".

The effect was such I had to watch The Cameraman when I got home and compare it with the scene in which Buster Keaton playing a news reel cameraman, discovers that the New York Yankees are playing out of town, so he mimes a game for the camera:

My expectation that Gretchenji would be so energized from the concert that she would push us extra hard in class the next day did not come to pass however, as class was canceled due to the nor'easter that came through our region that next day.