"The end of an era" is a phrased uttered way too flippantly, but one can't deny the momentous end of Michael Jackson's life. He was one of the greatest performers of all time, genre be damned, and, despite the jackal-like public and industry that criticized him at every turn.
Happily, I made it down to visit Papa Tweed this past weekend for Father's Day, and, as per family tradition, Father's Day involves eating incredibly unhealthy food and watching an incredibly bad movie that only my father (and usually I) will enjoy. The art-house choice this year was 2008's remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, with Keanu Reeves typecast as an emotionless alien being, but an emotionless alien being with pretty eyes.
In the premiere episode of Obscene Jester: The Podcast, Tweed sits down with members of the Axis Company and the Dyke Division of the Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf to discuss experimental performance and soap operas: comas, hallucinations, love, sex, double-crossing, gender-bending, and whales. Naturally. Enjoy, and please share your comments! We'd love to hear them.
After months of preparation and toil and frazzled screams at our computers, we here at OJ are so so proud to join a long line of others. Behold!
This quickie report in the Times today discusses "'Mediocre' Arts Skills for American Eight-Graders." The most precious thing about it is that the author attempts to represent journalistic integrity--that's my only guess--through an objective sense of puzzlement; why, indeed, in the wake of No Child Left Behind and hemorrhaging departments of education budget cuts, would students be lagging behind?
And in classic bureaucratic style, even the criteria for this worthwhile cause make me cringe: "only about half of eighth graders who listened to a passage of George Gershwin’s instrumental classic, 'Rhapsody in Blue,' were able to identify the solo instrument as a clarinet." With all due respect to musicians everywhere: who cares?! This is not the method to divine the value of arts in U.S. schools, and that's exactly why the arts may never get the credence they deserve.
The saddest part of all is the NEA's Patrice Walker Powell button at the end: “Why are we seeing lackluster levels of student achievement?”
The irony? Any eighth-grader could explain it to her.
The irony? Any eighth-grader could explain it to her.
How strange it seems: rainpan 43, the group behind the virtuosic All Wear Bowlers a few years back, a performance featuring some of the most immense and meticulous physical comedy I’ve ever seen, should follow up in New York with the crazed, kerfuffled machines machines machines machines machines machines machines at HERE. Both feature the darker, absurdist side of their subjects (mime and Rube Goldberg-ish machines, respectively), both employ a Sam Beckett-inspired undercurrent of confusion and inertia, and both are absolutely hysterical.
But machines departs from here, with our three anti-heroes, played by Quinn Bauriedel, Trey Lyford, and Geoff Sobelle, shut up within a gadget-stuffed home (think if Richard Foreman were to direct Pee-Wee Herman) talking the talk but clearly not walking the walk of some unnamed threat from the outside. Heightened military rhetoric about glory and victory, mourning over the loss of their comrade Patrick (at least most of him), and excitement and comfort felt from their wayward contraptions, contribute to the entertaining performance, as though the Marx Brothers had formed a militia.
The abstract text and narrative provide a simple skeleton for our three xenophobic guides to navigate their daily rituals—involving chains, pulleys, bowling balls, pipes, and cogs—and more importantly to jest when they go wrong (most of the time). There’s not even a problem in breaking the fourth wall—quite literally—when the Shakespearean Phineas (Sobelle) accidentally breaks a hand mirror from the coiffing contraption. (He quickly looked to the gentleman in the first row to say look out and are you okay.) The first row also helped in making breakfast when the eggs on an eight-foot-long spatula spilled off the stage.
The underlying theme could easily be read as the misplaced trust and overreliance of Americans on their daily whizgigs (hinted at by the pre-show music, the always delightful America by Mr. Neil Diamond). The overcomplication in our lives is far from a new topic; just go back to the transcendentalists. But the punch of this realization never really lands. The three have so much fun that, even when their nightmare of invasion comes true (or does it?), it’s still silly and entertaining, deferring further thought. One should also note that the idea of these insulating machines may even be outdated, as the new threat isn’t how these machines close us off, but rather how they throw the floodgates open—just think of the identity politics and rhetoric behind computers and the Internet. Facebook. Twitter. Youtube. To Catch a Predator, for Pete’s sake.
But although the gravitas is lacking from the absurdist tradition, machines still invites the audience in to the insanity that is the contemporary, “bucolic” life.
Over the past couple of weeks, it's been astounding and, yes, surprising to read about how consumers may actually have wised up: to gas-guzzling cars of crappy make, unnecessary luxuries, and an almost Buddhistic reckoning with the extraneous materials that plague us on a day-to-day basis. Even a cynic such as myself has been happily proven incorrect about the population's ability and willingness to actually watch and reconsider a global economy. So one can imagine my incredibly conflicted response to Broadway's seemingly recession-proof trends.