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The Fire This Time festival, now in its fourth year, features ten minute plays by young and emerging playwrights of color. (Check out my review for the 2010 season.) The founding producer Kelley Nicole Girod’s mission with The Fire This Time (the name of the festival is a play on the title of James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time) is to broaden the scope of the Theatre of Color to include not only African-Americans and the conventions of Baldwin’s generation of writers, but to “any play written by a black playwright . . . even if it is a play about two white people in love.” This is an expansive definition of what constitutes “black theatre,” and the playwrights whose works are featured this year explore many of its implications.
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Why do birds sing so gay? Because they’re fools. Besides, what else are you going to do? If the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven, then why not choose happiness over misery? Beane has been in a minimalist hell of his own creation his whole life. He owns one cup, one spoon, one jacket, one hoody, and an overcoat. He lives in a one room apartment with one lamp (bare bulb), one table, and one toilet. He works in a toll booth all day and has hallucinations induced by solitary confinement at night. He also has one sister, Joan, and one brother-in-law, Harry, who are cynical and world-weary, which is to say they don’t have much imagination, curiosity, or joie de vivre. They are his clueless caretakers, the sort who invite him over for dinner then give him a psychology test from the back of a magazine to show they care.
The first scene of Andrew Bovell’s 1996 play Speaking In Tongues features four characters — two men and two women — who share one dialogue about marital infidelity. All four, dissatisfied with their partners, pick up a stranger in a bar to consummate an adultery. It turns out that the four have randomly cheated on each other with each other, though the two couples are strangers to each other. The quartet share the same conversation, speaking the same speeches simultaneously. Chance — randomness, serendipity, long odds — only seemingly operates on these four; in fact, the rigid structure of the first act merely suggests coincidences that are relentlessly denied by the tight framework of dramatic irony.
What scares you the most? Vampires? Zombies? Hurricanes? Horror may have a face — a hockey mask, a visor made of human skin, or the horrible burn scars produced by the fires of Hell — or it may be a place, like the Overlook Hotel or the Bermuda Triangle. UglyRhino’s production of “Gowanus ‘73” gives you an interactive tour of the terrifying underworld around the Brooklyn Lyceum thirty years ago: party girls and gangsters, prostitutes and pimps, and the ghosts of human flotsam and jetsam that beat softly against the wooden pilings of the canal’s embankment.
Welcome guest reviewer Tom Jacobs!
We don’t really have a word for the ancient Greek arête — best translated as “virtue” — and it’s a damn shame. The humble, ceaseless, and impossible but necessary pursuit to achieve something like earthly perfection or at least self-improvement. This seems like a pre-modern term, but of course it isn’t. A movie like Broke* provides a case study for thinking about it. This is a story about the kind of virtue and grace necessary to avoid succumbing to the time-clocked, bottom-line, cut-to-the-quick efficiency that seems to be darkening the land at the moment.
It is the season of the witch. Pumpkins are on sale at the farmer’s market, the days are crisp and sunny, and the nights are chilled. Light thickens, and the crow makes wing to the rooky wood. It’s time to get thrilled and scream like a little girl. Of course it’s always better to watch someone else experience madness and murder than to experience it yourself, and that’s why we go to the theater! We play a game of “what if” when we sit in the dark and watch as a little girl goes to Hell – literally. And that is why The Tragedy of Maria Macabre is so much fun.
Welcome to the machine.
Cut by Crystal Skillman is a theatrical piece about TV, a play about the seriousness of the entertainment industry, a post-modern meditation on Post-modernism. If that sounds like a lot to chew on, it is. Cut is a theatrical essay on the socially constructed nature of “reality,” the brass ring to which all serious artists aspire. And Ms. Skillman has fostered a reputation as a downtown playwright who isn’t afraid to take on The Big Questions. Take, for instance, her play The Vigil or the Guided Cradle, a play about the universality and timelessness of torture in the human experience. The “cut” of the play’s title is its guiding metaphor. A “cut” is what an editor does to film to create a story; what your boss does to your job to save his own skin; and – the cruelest cut of all – what the critic does to put you in your place.
When asked who is the greatest poet in the English language, most people will say “Shakespeare.” When asked who is the second greatest poet they might say “Keats.” But would anyone say “Milton?” These days it’s hard to find a college graduate who has read Animal Farm from cover to cover, much less Paradise Lost, written by a man who was once thought to be a greater poet than Shax himself.
But it was not always thus. John Dryden, himself a onetime contender for the title of greatest poet in the English language, friend and younger colleague to Milton, supposedly said after reading Paradise Lost, “This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too.” Though Milton was an old republican revolutionary and Dryden a loyal monarchist, Dryden liked Milton’s epic so much he adapted it for the stage by rewriting it in rhymed couplets and setting it to music.
Paul Van Dyck has done Dryden one better by keeping Milton’s sublime poetry unrhymed and using all the modern theatrical arts to make Paradise Lost come to life at the FRIGID Festival. I can say without qualification that this is the best theater – the most relevant to our time, the most uplifting, the most artistic, simultaneously the most esoteric and exoteric, visually, aurally, and intellectually stimulating – that I have seen in a long time. And running under an hour, it makes getting some high culture as enjoyable as possible for those of us inflicted with ADD by the modern age.
Kids live in a world full of problems. Who can help? Mom and dad have their own problems. Heck, sometimes they are the problem. Best friends are fickle, especially in those crucial years between the halcyon innocence of deep childhood and the flowering of full adolescence. Tell your friend a shameful secret in confidence, and when school starts again after summer break, your best friend has a new best friend, and the whole class is sniggering about you behind your back. You might as well tell your troubles to Mr. Chips, your fat, black lab, the soul of patience, or a sock puppet. At least Mr. Chips won’t talk back.
Last Tuesday at the Knitting Factory in Williamsburg was the 4th annual Rock ‘n’ Roll auction to benefit the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls, hosted by our CC fave Mr Murray Hill.
The auction was also a showcase for a couple of rock camp bands, The Awkward Turtles and Sapphire. (Did I mention Kaki King performed too?) Keep your eyes out for the young graduates of the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls. The Awkward Turtles played with a lot of heart and a lot of charm, and Sapphire — whoa boy! — these young ladies (their lead singer is in seventh grade) are ready for the big time now. Check out their website here. If there is any justice in the world they’ll be the next Jonas Brothers, cuz they are CUUUUTEE!!! omg. It’s like The Indigo Girls meet The Jackson 5.
Murray rocked the auction, which was supposed to be silent, but ended up being out loud. As Murray said, “What’s the big deal? I’ve got the biggest mouth in the room!” But like all good causes they could probably use an extra dollar or two. If you want to contribute, do so through the Willie Mae Rock Camp For Girls website.
The best case for giving was given by Sapphire in their song “More Who Have Less”. It was written just this month, a couple of days before the earthquake in Haiti, and the girls sang it for them. Check it out…
The big bean known as Cloud Gate at Millennium Park in Chicago is so much fun to play with, espesh if you have a camera. It weighs 110 tons. One Hundred and Ten TONS. In other words, it is very heavy. It measures 66 feet long and 33 feet high. British artist Anish Kapoor created this awesome thing out of super highly polished stainless steel. It’s like seeing the Chicago skyline through a giant drop of water.
The Minsky Sisters have been on our radar for some time, so we asked them to tell us about themselves.
CC: We’re here with Jen and Kristen, the Minsky Sisters! Hello!
CC: When did you guys get your act together, so to speak?
Jen: We’ve been performing together for several years but Minsky sisters became a thing July 2008. Our friend Shien Lee, the producer of Dances of Vice, asked us if we would do a tap number. Both of us have been dancing for most of our lives. And we didn’t have a name, we were just ourselves. We didn’t have an identity, and we performed just thinking we were gonna do just one dance and that was going to be it. But people really liked us and we started getting asked to perform at other venues, not just Dances of Vice, and we thought, OK, I guess we’re a thing now — an act. So we got a name.
Last Saturday night was the latest installment of Nelson Lugo and Shaffer the Dark Lord’s series of entertainments predicated on puerile pleasures. Last time around it was “Video Game Vixens.” This time it’s “Cartoons!” The genre of entertainment is burlesque, and the conceit is “Saturday morning when we were kids.” The tagline for the show ran thusly: “the boys and girls celebrate cartoons and the brightly-colored foxes that star in them. Pour a bowl of Cap’N Crunch and gather ’round the boob tube, because this month, EPIC WIN is gonna party like it’s Saturday morning!” Yes indeedy. Six lovely ladies did burlesque routines as six fairly well known Saturday morning cartoon females: Miss Mary Cyn as Bugs Bunny (dressed as a chick — natch), Lefty Lucy as Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls, Victoria Privates as the chick who sang “Unpack Your Adjectives” on Schoolhouse Rock (Blossom Dearie), Bonnie Voy’age as She-Ra, BB Heart as Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop, Magdalena Fox as April O’Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
November 19, 2009
Oh the villainies of Facebook! It seems that when word gets out that you write for a blog as prestigious as Cultural Capitol you start getting invited to all kinds of parties. And so it was I was invited to the NCYFF film industry mixer at GStaad last night.
“Don’t call it a comeback!” ~ LL Cool J
LL was all of twenty-two (22) years-old when he wrote that line. But consider that he had his first hit when he was seventeen, and that in Showbiz! time you can be on top of the world one moment and two celebrity-seconds later, shallow, unscrupulous producers are trying to cast you in a D-list celebrity reality show.
Now consider the case of Mr. Jude Law, who was considered one of the “10 most bankable stars” of 2006 (along with Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks), and who in 2009 tells Sarah Lyall of the New York Times, “to be honest, I don’t know what I’ll do after this. I have no films planned. I haven’t been hugely inspired by what’s come my way in the film industry lately, and this has opened up my eyes to how great roles can be, and how great acting can be.” Do I smell a whiff of desperation? (Did I mention that St. Jude is the patron of lost causes?)
Celebrity sightings are fun, particularly when the celebrity in question is a World War II vet, bonafied Hollywood icon, and true hero of The Greatest Generation.
Tony Curtis, star of famous films like Sweet Smell of Success, Some Like It Hot, Sparticus, and The Great Race, was the Grand Marshal of today’s Veterans’ Day Parade in Manhattan. I snapped this picture of him just before shaking is hand — the same hand that shook Burt Lancaster and Stanley Kubrick’s hands. How’s that for six degrees of separation?
Curtis served in the Navy on the U. S. S. Proteus.
“Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses.” —Wittgenstein
For “The Lily’s Revenge,” Taylor Mac’s latest opus at HERE, he borrowed the 5-act structure of classical Noh theatre to construct this whopping five-hour piece—magical, intellectual, hysterical, and linguistically acrobatic. The audience is led—by the divine, effervescent, and perpetually bubbly World Famous *BOB*—from lobby to theatre and back for each “recess,” during which the audience is entertained by short, punchy acts meant to reference Japanese Kyogen. Now, forget about Noh because I won’t mention it again for another three hours.
Dragged into the 21st century kicking and screaming, these days I get invited to more events than I could possibly attend, and occasionally wonder how I got invited in the first place or even why I went. Take last Thursday’s book release party at Destination Bar in the East Village—celebrating the book the world has been waiting for, THIS IS WHY YOU’RE FAT.
Cue existential crisis, mad envy, clueless drunkenness, and, yes, fear for the culture of a dying planet. But before the chilluns deride my old-fashionedness—or just my oldness—let me first say: I love the website. The food alternately grosses me out and inspires cravings of the post-bong-hit variety, and above all, Richard Blakeley is a genius. And a nice guy, alleged crimes aside. Too bad the bar was packed with Twitterbots.
by J.D. Oxblood
I know, I know, we’ve been bad little bloggers. Between my out-of-country exploits in August and the proprietor’s impending nuptials, we’ve been a little slammed. And my “Back to School” story is SO late my editor is threatening to dock my wages—which, being nonexistent, provides little leverage as threat. So consider this notice: We’re coming back, and we’re coming back in force. Brace yourself for the New York Burlesque Festival. And before I rave over Isabella, one WAY belated thanks—Brian Newman, for having us at Duane Park to celebrate the bachelor party. Brian, you got class you ain’t even used yet. Thanks a million for taking care of us—that was a night to remember. (Too bad none of us do.)
So last night I went down to Tribeca to see the lovely, luscious, internet-lascivious Isabella Rosellini. I’ve been in love with her for 20 years, natch, so the chance to see her in person was a draw in and of itself. And yeah, she still looks fantastic. But her latest claim to fame—as if being Ingrid Bergman’s daughter wasn’t enough, or as if anyone could ever forget that scene in “Blue Velvet”—is the runaway internet hit “Green Porno,” now a book, complete with DVD of all the episodes so far. As Is put is so candidly, the internet has no business model, no way for the artists to get paid, “no way to bring the money back.” Seeing how the Redford rubles (Sundance) only foots the production bill, releasing a book is a way for everyone to cash in. And here I am in Tribeca watching “Green Porno” with a bunch of strangers.
In honor of Summer’s last hurrah I went biking down to the Rockaways to sample the newly famous Rockaway Tacos. We had fish tacos topped with the spiciest sauce in the sauce rack, Mexican style corn on the cob, roasted with cheese, and some delicious home made lemonade.
Playground in South Williamsburg. I think if you play long enough aliens talk to you out of a crackling cloud.
Do you advocate equal rights for everyone? Of course you do. Who would say (in public) that they don’t want equal rights, a level playing field, and equal protection under the law? OK, we both know who would say such things (ahem, Limbaugh). But there are more of us than them, and it’s important that they know it. That’s why the National Equality March has been organized to take place in Washington D. C. on October 11th. It is of the utmost importance that the most people march for equality as possible to remind our elected representatives that their constituents support basic human dignity and the right to life, liberty, and happiness for men, women, and children, people of all races and creeds, monetary ability, and sexual and gender orientation.
In order to make sure that all New Yorkers who lack transportation but want to attend the march can, Christine Elmo and Kim Braun are throwing a fundraiser at Jimmy’s 43 in Manhattan. The fun includes performances by burlesque star Red Sonja, musical acts by Shani E. Manor and Siobhan O’Malley, and a cabaret act featuring Jay Paranada, Laura Nell Dubuisson, Megan Buzzard, Calvin Thompson and Roderick Borden with accompanist Rachel Kaufman.
If this were in China one might call it “Chinglish.” But this sign is in a bathroom in Midtown Manhattan, in an upscale Indian deli. Those of us who claim English heritage can’t help but take a little pride in the fact that our oppressive, imperialist forebears spread our language and culture so far and wide that we don’t have to learn another language. English is the lingua franca of the world. Even though there are more than 1,500 languages spoken in India, I can travel the whole of the subcontinent without knowing a word of any of them. (Thank you T. B. Macaulay!) Sure, that means I can be a bit condescending and simultaneously ignorant, but what do you want? An ethno-linguistic anthropologist?
Summer’s almost gone — and where did it go? Seems like it didn’t even arrive until July, and starting next week it’s back-to-school, back-from-the-Hamptons, and back to the daily grind.
But let’s not dwell on the past. September marks the beginning of Autumn in New York, and Autumn in New York is always a magical time. When the air turns crisp, the leaves turn red and gold, and Bryant Park turns into a field of white tents housing an army of long, leggy ladies, parties, drinks and fashion flow together from the pent up stores of summer, and the great river of life rolls mightily on.
April is the cruelest month, but August is the slowest month. It seems everyone is out of town, which is probably for the best when the temperature hits 90 degrees (F), and the humidity is 90%.
Many of us took the month to travel. I returned to the homeland to visit with my roots. J. D. has been lost in the jungles of Central America for the last three weeks. But come Tuesday September will be here. Hopefully it will bring Indian Summer with it: mild temperatures, bright days, and balmy evenings. Hopefully it won’t bring any nasty surprises, like swine flu, terror attacks, stock market crashes and the like. It will definitely bring more writing, reporting, observation and analysis from us here at Culturalcapitol.
~ the Editor.
Addicted to TV?
Or TV on the Radio?
Marky Pierson sent this video to J. D. who asked me to post it. (He’s exploring the jungles of Central America until the beginning of August.) He said he got it in response to something he said about wanting to see Dirty Martini bowling in Vegas.
On the last Thursday of every month a group of young professionals get together to screen TED talks and share ideas. Last week I was informally invited via Facebook by Ryan Hagen, a founding member of the group (and a Facebook friend from the NYU days). The other founder, Kyle Jaster provided the space (pictured above) in the TriBeCa offices of Rayogram, Mr. Jaster’s design and consulting business.