Thursday, February 23, 2012

Five Years of "From The Journals of Ian Thal"

Today marks the fifth anniversary of "From the Journals of Ian Thal" so named because I hadn't a name that could better summarize my diverse interests (I still have not.) The premiere entry being a response to a cartoon by George Tod Slone, editor and lead polemicist for The American Dissident:

It hadn't been my first foray into blogging: I had previously maintained one at Authors' Den but eventually realized that the platform was rapidly becoming technologically out of date and that the site was essentially an internet ghetto.

The Bread & Puppet Affair:

Though Slone and I tangled a few more times, I quickly moved on to more important targets. Only two months later, I posted the opening salvo of what would become the most sustained controversy to which I have ever been a party when I broke off relations with the Vermont-based "radical" puppetry troupe, Bread & Puppet theatre, when I noted that artistic director Peter Schumann's recent work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was flirting with Holocaust trivialization and antisemitism. The controversy would blow up again later that year at an arts festival in Burlington, Vermont. In subsequent years both Schumann and I would be interviewed on the controversy, and as if to eliminate any ambiguity, Schumann would use these interviews as an opportunity to openly espouse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and notions of post-WWII German victimhood that would demonstrate what at first seemed to me an odd confluence between his brand of leftism and European neo-fascism. Sadly, I discovered that such confluence was not odd at all. This controversy continues (sometimes in the pages of Wikipedia and in university class rooms)and I have addressed it as recently as last month in response to a piece in the Boston Herald.

As a friend of mine noted to me: "Peter's antisemitism has been something of an open secret in puppetry circles. You were just the first person to say it in public."


I would also frequently discuss my favorite playwright, William Shakespeare:

I blogged about the rehearsal process behind an aborted production of Macbeth, discussing that it was like to work with original pronunciation, playing multiple supporting characters, and even the "curse" that killed the production in mid-rehearsals.

I discussed the attempt by the local chapter of the Federalist Society to co-opt Henry V as justification for George W. Bush-era's torture policy.

My most sustained engagement with the Bard's works has been regarding The Merchant of Venice: addressing the racial, legal and theological themes, speculation regarding Launcelot Gobbo, and his father Old Gobbo. All of these matters have been reflected in my creative life both regarding what began as an off-the-cuff remark in my one-man-show Arlecchino Am Ravenous but more ambitiously in the play I am currently writing, The Conversos of Venice.

Criticism and Commentary:

From time to time, I've expounded on troubling themes in recent plays such as the odd World War II revisionism in Michael Frayn's Copenhagen or the deicide charge in Stephan Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. I've also become a contributor to the online arts magazine The Arts Fuse, most recently scribing an essay about Israeli playwright, Motti Lerner's At Night's End.

Sometimes my commentary is leveled not at plays but at what goes on behind the scenes, such as last year's IRNE awards in which a handful of theatre companies exerted pressure to remove a critic from the awards panel, or my enthusiasm for such developments as the New Play Map.

Artistic Career:

Of course, I began blogging in order to document my career as an artist. Discussing my explorations of commedia dell'arte (with specific emphasis on Arlecchino) with i Sebastiani, or with my current troupe Teatro delle Maschere:

I've also featured a short history of old mime troupe, Cosmic Spelunker Theatre, and my solo mime work:

Of course, I've been tracking the long process of development for my play, Total War a process that has taken far longer than I ever imagined possible!


I've also taken the time to document some of my work teaching mime, commedia dell'arte, and puppetry at the Somerville youth circus, Open Air Circus, Wheelock Family Theatre, and other such places.


While I am busy celebrating myself, I also want to thank some of my more sustained interlocutors who have helped make this blog a particularly rewarding endeavor. While there are many I could name, I must single out Thomas Garvey, Art Hennessey, and Bill Marx (my editor at The Arts Fuse) whose arguments and encouragement have helped keep this Quixotic project going for five years!

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