Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Platonic Performance?

So, new developments. I am thinking of staging Socrates.

Why, you ask?

Well, I don't want to do it - boring style. I am not merely putting words to Plato's texts. I feel I need to try this sort of mad-directorness that Castorf is so good at and 'direct' the Dialogues to make something theatrical out of them. I will have to a) choose a dialogue, I wanted Phaedo for sheer dramatic capacity, but it's Phaedo talking the whole time and I'd have to transcribe the dialogue and that would take so long and I am too lazy. But the other stuff becomes very, how do you say...philosophical? No shit. I am trying to figure out a way to stage - or a vision with which to treat the texts that will completely subvert them. It's not so difficult - after all, if Plato's biggest problem is the dramatization that distracts from the real forms of the world, why dont we just dramatize the shit out of this play?

then again, this is work. I mean, serious - sit down with a text and have the director's cap on and a lot of close reading sort of work...goddamn it - why couldn't I have been a painter instead?

- J

Saturday, August 16, 2008

7 actors but 12 Ophelias?

First of all: it's wonderful to be back in the states because I get to see my friends and family, get to sleep in my bed, get to watch soccer teams on the television, get to practice piano and be with my books, get to use dollars instead of Euros, but NOT because of the theatre.

Theatre in this country is dying. Is in a dismal state.

Who will pull the plug on theatre in this country and wheel it out to the morgue?

That might be the most theatrical act we have seen staged here in a while.

And that it should be fascinating! I mean imagine- new plays every day, they must all be great right? Or at least pull the limits of our imagination, right? RIGHT??

No. Wrong. So wrong. I'm sure there are wonderful playwrights, but they're the ones not getting their plays done. I'm sure of this because i have met a few - and I have seen too much crap to even begin to say.

That being said, this is a hopeful entry, because 12 Ophelias is NOT one of those plays that make me want to catch the next flight back to Berlin, thank goodness.

If I had to summarize it in a word I would say - excellently written, theatrically creative, but directorially and production-wise lacking.

Why would I say this? Well, first of all, if you were given an entire, emptied out swimming pool to do a show in - a show that isn't too demanding in terms of trueness to the text. The playwright, Caridad Svich has a wonderful imagination - and a more capable director could have given us some strange Lorca-ish landscape with exaggerated heroines and chilling music...though the music was a high-point in this production.

The play, which I will quickly describe right now - is a sort of continuation of Hamlet, already I become immediately doubtful. But, it's a smart, funny, and quite beautifully written continuation, forcing the Shakespearean era characters into our time period and, thank goodness into a bit of good old fashioned pragmatic common sense. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern become R & G, androgynous clowns, while Hamlet becomes Rude Boy and Gertrude wins a bit of confidence on her road through Elysium. The plot is basically - Ophelia reappears, in the world of the dead (I can only guess) and has it out with Hamlet and life, and learns a lot about herself - enough to figure out to be herself and not some weird sort of obsessive harpie, and in doing so books the next walk out of the creepy alter-world of Hamlet. (surprisingly enough, Elysium looks and feels a lot like backwater Tennessee)

I'm not sure if it said in the script that everyone had to speak in a Southern accent - though it didn't hurt the production too much it was certainly a quirky choice. Some of the actors you could tell weren't too comfortable with the voicing, while some (Horatio, for example) wore it proudly and it actually enhanced their roughneck characteristics.

The acting was fine - well measured, dramatic in the right parts - but man, oh man, the directing. What can I say - it was a fine production, it was well measured and conveniently designed. We had a high rise and a low rise. There were tears there was a bit of fighting there was sex.

The lighting was well done, and it gave us the feeling that we weren't necessarily in a theatre or Tennessee, but somewhere in between.

The music by the Jones Street Boys was a mix of bluegrass and singer-songwriter My morning Jacket-ness which was actually quite beautiful and worked with the music.

It was fine - go see it, spend a lovely evening under the stars and enjoy some good music and lyrical language. jussst fine. (Aug. 20-22 and yes, no matter what rant follows, please go see it!)

But I am sick of 'fine' productions. I feel that's all I see here, and frankly I'm scared that that's all people here are capable of. Caridad's work, in my opinion, deserved better. A director who was willing to challenge and pull apart, while retainingteh aesthetic adornment - something that we haven't seen. We had a swimming pool for chrissakes and all you can manage is a moment where the lead actress walks off and we see her trail away - almost teasing us with what could have been.

The play is called 12 ophelias, there is a part where the playwright's words are - we are all Ophelia - oh my, it couldn't be easier. BAM 12 Ophelias, drowned or not, female or not, spread across the length of an olympic swimming pool. BAM that aesthetic image does not leave you. No way Jose.

My mother lamented the dear departed Reza Abdoh wasn't there to use this space - McCarren Park pool is a great space, for concerts and yes, for theatre. But this could have been done in a blackbox, just add a bit of outside ambience and maybe cool the theatre down and give a breeze.

I feel, that a director's job is quite simple. Be theatrical. Make something theatrical out of something that is inherently not. I.E. a bunch of writing. I feel this because I am too a playwright. When I write a play, sure I write for THEATRE, I direct my writing towards a stage, but that writing, as hard as it tries, cannot act. That writing is not the stage. The director is the one who writes theatre. Who uses the tools of drama to write the theatre onto the stage. The playwright supplies words and ideas and canvas tools that the director can slice into, but in teh end, the creation of the unbound image is what is the ultimate goal. Unbound because it moves, it breathes, it is living just as the audience is living. Bound images can be found in museums. bound images can be found in a limit that is a film. In a stage the only limit is the limit of life.

All in all Caridad Svich is a playwright whose text deserved better - though to be honest, the production was fine and a lovely work to see. But like I said, I'm tired of lovely works. Of things that are fine. The next time I see something fine I'm going to throw up.

I prefer a ramshackle absolute disaster that makes me so angry I have to write about than something fine. Please - someone! Now is the time to attack this theatre with all we have. Let us make the stage a dangerous place again! Let us make it a place where ideas are attacked, not fed chips and made to sit and watch television.

Onward, ho!

- J

to begin with...

"And now I am going to say something, which perhaps,
is going to stupify many people.
I am the enemy
of theatre.
I always have been.
As much as I love the theater,
I am, for this very reason, equally its enemy,"

- Antonin Artaud

...get it?