I reviewed Sara Warner’s wonderful new book, Acts of Gaiety for Modern Drama. Access the review here.
This semester marked the first time I used blogs in the classroom. I taught the Play Analysis course at Hunter, a required course for theatre majors, and asked students to respond to the many plays we read on WordPress sites they had set up.
The course blog is here. You can see the individual students’ blog in the blog roll on the right side of the page.
So, my January theatre-going extravaganza starts tonight, and I am excited! Here’s what I am planning to attend this month. Alas, I haven’t had the time to write blurbs about these shows and companies before hand as I usually do, but I am hoping to write some sort of mini-reviews of each as I see them . . .
Jan. 6th @ 8p – Julia Jarcho’s Grimly Handsome
Jan. 9th @ 8p – Kristen Kosmas’s There, There
Jan. 11th @ 10p – Peggy Shaw’s Ruff
Jan. 15th @ 5p and the 25th @ 8p – Half Straddle’s Seagull (Thinking of you)
Jan 17th @ 8p – Radiohole’s Inflatable Frankenstein
Jan. 11th @ 7p – Leev Theater Group’s Hamlet, Prince of Grief
Jan. 12th @ 1p – Elevator Repair Service’s Arguendo
Jan. 20th @ 8.30p – The Debate Society’s Blood Play
Jan. 16th @ 9.30p – Christina Anderson and Lileana Blain-Cruz’s Hollow Roots
Jan. 18th @ 7p Belarus Free Theatre’s Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker
Jan. 22nd @ 7.30p – Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s Life and Times Episode 1
Jan. 23rd @ 7.30p – Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s Life and Times Episode 2
Jan. 24th @ 7.30p – Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s Life and Times Episodes 3&4
When I first read Brecht’s Baal (1918), I was simultaneously disturbed and intrigued. Baal’s treatment of the women in the play is deplorable, but I was compelled by the idea of a station drama in which the (anti-) hero becomes increasingly depraved rather than enlightened throughout. John Willet writes that “Expressionism . . . showed [Brecht] the dangers against which to react,” suggesting that the playwright wrote Baal “out of disgust with” Hanns Johnst’s Der Einsame, and arguing that Expressionist productions “outraged [Brecht's] sense of humor” as well as his social consciousness (The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht 108- 109). So is Baal a sort of parody of Expressionist drama (and therefore are we meant to critique Baal’s treatment of women) or is it a romanticization of the male genius artist who thwarts the confines of traditional society (misogynistically represented in the text by its female characters)? Hoi Polloi has garnered much critical acclaim—their Three Pianos, presented at NYTW, won an Obie in 2010–and I am interested to see how they use humor in their production, and whether humor can ameliorate the play’s depictions of women. I am also very excited to visit the company’s new theatre space, Jack, particularly since it is in my Brooklyn ‘hood.
Thursday July 26th at 8p
Hoi Polloi presents BAAL, by Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Alec Duffy as part of the 2012 undergroundzero festival
505 1/2 Waverly Ave between Fulton and Atlantic, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. C or G train to Clinton-Washington.
Performances are pay-what-you-can at the door, with no advance reservations possible.
Saturday, May 12th 8p
My friend Drew is in this company, but even before I met him in grad school, I liked their work (as did Tony Kushner—he was at the performance of Switch Triptych E and I attended many years ago). The first part of their last piece, Freedom Club, was a chilling exploration of John Wilkes Booth in the months leading up to his assassination of Lincoln. The second part, which showed the inner workings of a loony militant pro-choice underground group of radical activists, was less successful, though the performances, as always, were quite good. This piece is set in a liberal arts college in the mid-1990s, so I hope it will allow me to descend further into my 90s nostalgia.
Incubator Art’s Project
131 E10th St.
New York, NY 10026
Elevator Repair Service’s Arguendo
Thursday, May 17th 9p followed by a talk-back with Jeffrey Toobin
As much as Gatz will remain one of top theatre going experiences of all time, I am glad to see that ERS is moving away from the “performing great American novels thing,” and I am excited about this work-in-progress showing. With Arguendo, they are staying true to their mission of performing seemingly unperformable texts, in this case staging the proceedings of Barnes v. Glen Theatre, a Supreme Court case that debated whether live erotic dancing is protected under the First Amendment right to free speech.
The Bushwick Starr
207 Starr Street
Brooklyn, NY 11237
Dynasty Handbag’s Eternal Quadrangle
Friday, May 18th 7p followed by a reception
I wrote about her multimedia “holiday special,” Brothers and Sisters and Motherfuckers for a conference last year, and her work will be a part of my dissertation. She is an incredibly versatile performer whose one-woman shows are hilarious and utterly queer. As madcap and grotesque as her performances are, however, I find them to be strangely beautiful and somehow affirming. I am not sure if this is a film or a combination of film and live performance, as Brothers and Sisters was, but I look forward to seeing what she has been up to between rehearsals for Troilus and Cressida with Wooster.
The New Museum
New York, NY 10002
Banana, Bag, and Bodice’s Space/Space
Thursday, June 21st 8p
Although I don’t think of this group as necessarily queer (they are probably best known for their rock opera Beowulf—A Thousand Years of Baggage, which I will forever kick myself for not seeing) I saw this piece at the Ice Factory Festival a few years ago, and it involves an interesting performance of masculinity. I would love to see how it has developed, and I am thinking of requiring my summer Intro to Theatre students to see and write about it.
146 Metropolitan Ave. (Berry St.)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211
Good Year For Hunters
By Jess Barbagallo and Chris Giarmo
Part of Ice Factory 2012
Saturday, June 30th 7p and drinks afterwards at Aria
Jess is a member of two of my favorite groups (and dissertation subjects), Half Straddle and the Dyke Division of the Theatre of a Two-Headed Calf. In addition to being an utterly captivating performer, she is a wonderful writer who is responsible for some of my favorite episodes of Room For Cream. Chris does music for Half Straddle and plays in the fabulous Dolly Parton cover band Doll Parts. In further evidence that 90s nostalgia is sweeping the city, this “darkly comedic” piece was inspired by Tori Amos’s 1992 Little Earthquakes. If all this wasn’t reason enough to go see it, the performance features Becca Blackwell, a fantastic actor who starred as my beloved butch Dire in Room for Cream, and who was one of the best parts of Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show in January.
154 Christopher Street
in the Archive Building
Greenwich Street and Washington Street
Drinks and Discussion:
Aria Wine Bar
117 Perry St
(between Hudson St & Greenwich St)
Cheek by Jowl’s production of John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore at BAM
Running: March 20th – March 31st
Attending: 3/22 at 7.30p
Eamonn served as assistant director to Declan Donnellan on Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, and I have wanted to see work by his company (with his partner, Nick Ormerod), Cheek by Jowl, since reading about their production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Alisa Solomon’s book, Re-Dressing the Canon. That production was all-male, and Solomon writes of her “heightened, almost giddy, awareness of gender’s provisionality” during the epilogue (26). This production features women, but if the trailer is any indication, it should be a sexy contemporary take on the Carolinian incest tragedy.
Target Margin’s Russian Futurist Lab at the Bushwick Starr
The 2012 puppet re-enactment of the 1920 Bolshevik re-enactment of the STORMING OF THE WINTER PALACE, October 1917
Attending: Friday March 23rd
Target Margin’s lab this year focuses on Russian historical avant-garde. In 1917, Lenin, the Bolshevik party, and armed workers stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and overthrew the Russian Provisional Government (established after the abdication of Czar Nicholas II). In 1920, Nikolai Evreinov staged a re-enactment of the historic event as a mass spectacle, performed in front of a hundred thousand people. This is a puppet re-enactment of that re-enactment. Sounds promising.
Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe, Love, Amour!
Running: Wednesday, March 28th – Sunday, April 1st at 7p
Attending: Thursday 3/29 at 7p – join me, and we can grab a drink and discuss the show afterwards!
If the workshop last month is any indication, Eamonn and company’s new show is going to be amazing. This interactive piece uses super cool green screen technology to construct the tale of Tall Hilda’s quest for love. (You’ll remember Tall Hilda as Jessica Weinstein’s amazing audience-scolding, faux-German MC character from The Best!) Mixing Erich Von Stroheim’s early twentieth century films, composer Will Antinou’s original score (The Return, A Wonderland), and audience-generated stories, the company explores the intersections of Hollywood romance and reality.
Theatre For A New Audience – Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew
Running: March 18th – April 21st
Attending: Thursday 4/19 at 8p
$27 tickets available on TDF
I assigned my World Theatre II students to see and review this show, so I have to attend, despite the fact that I really dislike the play. Of course, I find the notion of Petruchio taming Catherine to be disturbing, but also I find it simply to be—at least in the Quarto version that is generally considered authoritative—a poorly written play. I am very interested as to how Arin Arbus, a young new director, handles the meta-theatrical frame of the play; in my opinion the device might help to redeem the play in production. Scott and I saw TFANA’s production of The Broken Heart this month. Although it was not amazing, overall it was well-done, and I particularly enjoyed its use of music. Michael Friedman, composer for the doc-theatre group The Civilians and Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, is doing the music for Shrew, so I look forward to that aspect of the production.
Two-Headed Calf’s You, My Mother – Saturday February 11th at 7.30p at La MaMa
An exploration of adult children’s relationships with their mothers. See my article about it in my previous post.
John Fords’s The Broken Heart – Sunday February 12th at 3p at Theatre For a New Audience
This is a rarely produced Carolinian revenge tragedy by the playwright who brought us the incest drama, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore . . . It promises lots of brooding and dramatic onstage deaths! I have an extra *free* ticket, if anyone wants to join me!
Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe Love Amour! – Tuesday February 14th at 8p at the Montgomery Street Gardens
In their latest piece, Anonymous Ensemble: Eamonn, Jessica W., and Liz Davito, create a live film about love, using excerpts from Erich von Stroheim’s movies and stories from members of the audience. In order to attend this workshop showing, you need to Kickstart the project here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anonymousensemble/liebe-love-amour
And God Created Great Whales – Thursday February 16th at 8p at Culture Project
We missed this show the first time around in 2000, so we were sure to get tickets for its latest run! It is the story of a composer desperately trying to complete his opera version of Moby Dick as his mind deteriorates. We got $25 tickets with TDF.
The Agony and Ectasy of Steve Jobs – date TBD at the Public
Mike Daisey’s one man show based on his travels to the Chinese factory where many of our electronics are made. Will likely make us hate our Iphone and MacBooks, but I have never seen his work and hear it is excellent. TDF has $25 tickets for certain performances.