Archive for June, 2012

un certo conferenza teatrale (artlog #4)

June 22, 2012

Mes amis—

Greetings from the land of beans…where there are as many toots as there are legumes! Allora, it is rare for me to report on certain things but today I simple respond to the plaintive cries of fans asking for cutting edge reportage of the Teatrino Communicazione Gruppo Conferenza!

And so it began… with a Chatty Kathy on the Bolt Bus sitting next to moi Wednesday morning. Yes, my friends, this Kippy didn’t take a train—nor a horse drawn pavilion—but an 11 dollar bus driven by a sour puss named Deborah.

“Ah-right. I g-oughtta take care-ah this guy whose goin’ crazee!” Deborah cried out to terrified passengers as a customer, who resembled a geologist, made virulent complaints. He was being forced to stand at the end of the standby line even though he had a ticket. “I have a reservation!” he wailed, flapping his pale wings and stamping a Teva-clad foot. “Buddy you arrived after the depahrture time. I’m n-ought being unfair!” Deborah retorted.

And so we rolled, the Chatty Kathy next to me regaling her youth spent working in the far East.

And so it was with great delight I returned to my home city. One of many home cities I should say, for I am an incorrigible citzen of the world! In my salad days, I do believe I attended a prom in the Boston Park Plaza hotel, official hotel of the Red Sox, which is where this conferenza is conferencing!

more ubiquitous than beans

Wednesday night, after some drawn out administrative announcements, this Kippy found herself sipping an iced tea with pals and enjoying a gluten free feast at Legal Seafoods. It felt positively illeagle!

Speaking of eagles, I have spotted few fellow eagles of the Boston College persuasion. Then again I should just look for a conventionally dressed white person. Ooh wait, that’s most preppy people in the Bean!

unpop that collar!

A prickly-yet-at-times-palatable oration was delivered by a fellow from Woolly Monmouth. He opined on the need to innovate in the theatre and asked whose job that might be. Theatre is really good in Eastern Europe, he pointed out, and that is where the directors rule the school and innovate with each theatrical oevre. Yawn and snore. Tell me something I didn’t know! In America we have an Aristotelian playwright as ruler—though, as my scribe friends can tell me—this is hardly the case! Instead, playwrights in the U.S. are subjected to a nanny state of tyranny, forced to go through endless (and pointless) cycles of development (I prefer a bicycle, fyi) and submit to silly “best intention” decision making by artistic leaders. But I editorialize.

This fellow went on to posit that theatre folk should approach projects more holistically with designers and actors being involved from the get go. A fine idea…when it actually happens! He decried the 4 week rehearsal project—no surprise there. I wanted to offer, “Sometimes the 4 hour rehearsal process is best!” but opted to keep my pie hole shut. As I bit my tongue, sitting in the Imperial Room with its ornate rug and rapt audience, I wondered which artistic leaders would act on any of this speech’s advise.

It is good to have such a speech, which incidentally largely ignored scrappy and not-so-scrappy ensembles who develop and devise work together over short and long periods of time. No mention of Porcine Irondales, the Squad–I mean TEAM–the Wooster Street Gang, Elevator Operator Repair Service and countless unnamable others… Not a single mention!

It seemed perhaps there were many former actors in the audience, furrowing brows, nodding attentively and seeming to be taking in the advice to innovate and make proper ensemble work. Let’s see if any one actually does.

I’m off to day two now and have some hard boiled eggs in my midst.

A presto!
Kippy

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beaucoup des choses! (artlog #3)

June 18, 2012

my friends and fellow world citizens—

il y a beaucoup .. but really beaucoup to cover in this posting! too much garret apartment hunting has made this kippy into a lazy lass when it comes to le plume. allora, let us begin.

1. uncle vanya at soho rep

i took in chekhov’s uncle vanya, in a new translation by annie baker, directed by the halcyon (wink!) sam gold, at soho rep early last week. what a production. while i was wearing a rather tarty get up, it was a great relief to discover i had my tunisian scarf/blanket/towel in my midst. what a useful tool such a swath of cloth can be. since the production is an intimate affair, i was interested in flashing neither actors nor audience members! i swaddled myself, leaned back and took in the story. and what a tale it is!

chekhov sure knew how to write ‘em. and. ms baker seems like a perfect companion to this tragician and comic-ician’s work. the close-up staging, despite one audience member’s lack of yoga practice and a sleeping foot, worked quite perfectly, especially given the fine actors who played upon the off white carpet..

that michael shannon…hubba hubbah! he could be my doctor any day. is he married? not to mention that makes-me-dizzy maria dizzia. what a star. ooh and sonya—poor sonya!—played with an understated gentle purity by the fine merritt weaver. i wonder if the character/actress is a cancer on the zodiac? for she had the fine and tender devotion of one. the other players were all quite remarkable as well. paul thureen and matt maher what verve. those songs! that reed birney could rock himself into oblivion on a ratty arm chair any day and i’d be all the luckier to watch. hmph!

dr. i need a physical!

another etoille of the evening, pour moi, was of course the inimitable mr. hilton als. if the new yorker is my lodestar, then hilton is my pilot. he presented an essay on chekhov in the over-heated theatre post-show and a rapt audience sat cross-legged and on the edge of risers listening to him opine, recall and synthesize ideas. the unlikely personal tale of racist ruffians on a train twirled back to chekhov’s dispassionate eye for observation in a most unusual and potent manner. and the final image hilton described of people walking about a train station in the midst of his own quotidian tragedy will stay with me for some time yet. i cannot wait to read mr. als’s review of the baked gold vanya. let’s have a latte soon, hilt!

est ce que tu prends un cafe avec moi?

2. ntusa’s the golden veil at the kitchen

a whippersnapper i’m in cahoots with already conducted an interview with the playwright, normandy raven sherwood, here so i will offer only what it was that i saw. another day of house hunting had left this kippy depleted, so it was with some rejuvenating zest and vigor when i ran into friends outside of the kitchen.

this west side venue is one of my faves. though it is always more of schlep to get to than it should be (damned 10th ave!) the space is indeed quite nice and some of the coolness of the meatpacking and highline districts (impossibly) rubs off on the theatre.

plus, i love the press tickets they give me.

the hip folk with asymmetrical haircuts were gathered outside on the breezy almost-summer evening. catching up, sizing up and posturing abounded. a new york scene to behold, love and loathe all at once! making my way into the theatre, i was struck by the swirling fog smoke and decorous—not to mention decorative!—curtains that hung in late 1800s style. “i love it already,” i stage whispered to a companion.

i cannot tell much of the tale beyond that it was about a young shepherdess and her lover—played with hilarious lank by ean sheehy. maggie robinson took turns as a narrate-ress, reading with olde english abandon from a book and even taking a turn conducting a silent fruit puppet theatre play. this was a story told from many points of view and my point of view was that it was a fine spectacle of a most original nature calling into examination the “simple” past with tongues firmly in cheek. stupid—but genie—staging gags abounded. my favorite included tree branches held by actors which part for one character and then suddenly impede another (the long drink of water sheehy). this antic had me slapping my knee! the final stage picture with ribbons was arresting. the music, done by jesse hawley, was quite something as well—simple eerie harmonies and melodies floated in the air and—like the fog—entranced those who bore witness.

i will say i was a bit disappointed the musicians were not in costume. the stage hands, one of whom bore a striking resemblance to ms. sherwood—wink!—,were dressed in fitting edward gorey attire and garb, so why not les musiciennes?? a tiny detail to be sorted  when this piece bows again on what i’m sure will be the international touring circuit. 2014 zagreb!

croatia’s capital

3. something by you nakai and no collective

my friends, have you ever received an email from “you?” it is a most confucius-inducing  thing to see in one’s inbox. “did I send myself something?” you wonder. then you remember: “you isn’t me, or you, but a person named ‘you!’” (who’s on first??)

anyhoo (and who) .. ((not to mention how now brown cow…!)) .. my amante had convinced me to attend a showing of no collective and participate with him as some kind of volunteer. there were a number of emails sent with directions about how to greet the audience. naturellement, i didn’t read any of these. this kippy is too busy attending an office mondays through fridays and keeping up with personal correspondences to be bothered with such details!

i arrived at the incubator arts project—that building which boasts the most specific of smells—with my chicken enchiladas from san loco. mmm i’m loco for san loco. you (the person, not you the reader, mind you!) was holding court with a number of female volunteers. my man was no where to be seen. “you will have a conversation with the audience on a telephone and relay the information to your friends,” you told everyone. “you have to guess what is going on inside the theatre but at no point are you to improvise. please, don’t try to be funny.” i knew this direction would be most difficile for my beloved, who has been known to hijack performances—not to mention seders—on occasion!

you intoned at length going over a myriad of rules and regulations about how the performance would proceed. i was confucious to the extreme and salivated over my enchiladas. finally i could concentrate no more, plopped myself on a bench wielding fork and knife and dug in.

the resulting performance was a most strange one, wherein audience members were led into the theatre and seated by the “volunteers,” of which i was one. we folded up all the empty chairs and tucked them away. then, the volunteers exited the theatre and made phone calls to two of the audience members. (were these audiences plants? one cannot know.) we asked them a series of questions to find out what was happening inside, what kind of music was being played, etc.) then we entered, silenced the noise making instruments and switch boards and bowed. when some audience members left the volunteers replaced them, and more phone calls ensued. all the while two young boys (9-year-olds dressed as techies) marched around the theatre sushshing and hushing anyone on a phone or futzing with an instrument/switch board. the result created a kind of zany concept performance which devolved into an increasingly pointless anarchic event. perhaps it would have been more fun had i felt in on the joke or had a wall of fatigue not struck me down.

my main food group

4. what i wish i’d seen: pig pile and will eno’s title and deed

in my salad days of high school my amici and i would sojourn in cape cod. on these revelrous—and highly tame, not to mention nerdy—excursions we’d call out “pig pile!” and topple atop one of our unsuspecting friends. it was always a glorious belly laugh of a time that produced strong feelings of kinship and camaraderie. another pig pile is afoot of late, helmed by ms. sibyl kempson. i’ve had the good fortune of tooting about with ms. kempson and she is a playwright (and performer) to behold. the pig pile brings together such fine austin talents as jenny larson, rubber repertory folk and composer graham reynolds. had I not been ‘neath a golden veil, i’d have surely scooted north to new dramatists to catch the latest iteration in which I am told todd london himself performed! i look forward to catching pig pile’s full iteration at austin’s fusebox festival in the years to come.

also i am very sad i missed will eno’s title and deed. sigh, harrumph and quel dommage. with any luck, will and i will play tennis soon enough and over some small ball or a good old fashioned rally, he’ll tell me how it went.

only the best playwrights play tennis

c’est tout..ciao for now..!
kippy

ps go see space/space while you can.

a good year for gingers (artlog #2)

June 10, 2012

mes amis

i’ve scooted around with the likes of jess barbagallo and chris giarmo, starlets of new york city’s downtown theatre scene, for a number of years now. they are as cute and talented as they are smart-as-whips and funny to boot. naturellement, it’s with great excitement and curiosity that i look forward to their upcoming collaboration in 2012’s ice factory at the ohio theatre.

good year for hunters–and for gingers too, i might add!–plays june 27-30 and owes influence to tori amos’s 1992 album, “little earthquakes.” the show is described as “a queer horror play about a mysteriously orphaned brother and sister who fall in love with a closeted husband and wife in a world of fractured time and secrets.” quel horreur … and queer horror! this sounds like the stuff of memorable theatre making…

les petites earthquakes!

long time pals chris and jess are sure to leave audiences with big ideas to mull over (and carpets to munch on!) as well as belly aches from laughter over clever twists, turns and delightful players who alight the stage. yes, my friends, they have assembled an all star terrific team of collaboratorrés: including mike cacciatore, tina satter and becca blackwell: just look at this punim!

gingers always get the last laugh

i caught up with the dazzling duo over the interwebs recently for a brief q&a and here’s what they (mostly jess, i believe) said.

This is not your first time collaborating … is it? Can you talk about your artistic relationship? You two met in college, n’est pas?
Chris and I met when we were sophomores in college. A for real meeting. I think we got high and I came out to him. Over the course of the next three years, we made a lot of performance art together and did a Charles Busch bit for a scene study class. Highlights include a video piece called Haiku d’Etat and Chris dropping me (naked) repeatedly on a studio floor.

Let’s have a repeat performance of that! J/k. That sounds most painful…! Anyhoo, what proved to be so influential about Tori Amos’s “Little Earth Quakes” … does she bear any relation to Famous Amos of the cookie empire? Will Tori Amos come to see the play?
I wish I knew more about cookies. I like to eat them, especially Mrs. Fieldsat Penn Station. Tori was a big deal for me and Chris because he’s a fag and I had my first formative lesbian experiences listening to that album. I wish she would come. Do you have her e-mail address?

Bien sûr! I will see if Tori is in town and be sure to invite her. Tell fans a bit about the story of the play and the artistic process–Jess did you write this piece and Chris are you doing the music?
Chris and I wrote the first draft of the show together five years ago. Then I was asked to do an artist-in-residence at favorite downtown incubator, Dixon Place.

Suck up!
We spent three months earlier in the year at Dixon Place tackling the old script. After we broke, I re-wrote the second half of the play because I realized that we had done some serious growing up since the last incarnation. Chris has contributed sound ideas, but Mike Cacciatore is actually designing.

That sounds excellent…wish I could have seen the early stages at Dixon. I understand Half Straddle’s Tina Satter is acting in this production … ?! How did this come about?
Elizabeth Dement, an amazing dancer and frequent collaborator of Big Dance Theater, originated the role of Candace in the show. When we first began working on the piece, we had no idea we would be picked up by the Ice Factory Festival and unfortunately, Liz couldn’t continue because she had another summer gig. We auditioned several amazing actresses, but I wanted Tina because she resonates a kind of vulnerability so in keeping with the tone of the larger work.

Aye, that Teeny is a ruby in the rough. So, do you have any secret/guilty pleasure artistic influences?? Dish!
I like Robyn and the film Wave Babes.

I won’t pretend I know what those are…anything I’m leaving out??
Please come to our show!

Wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Good Year for Hunters runs June 27-30 at the new Ohio Theatre at 7pm. Tickets $18 for adults and $12 for students/seniors

Story by Jess Barbagallo & Chris Giarmo
Written by Jess Barbagallo
Additional Writing by Chris Giarmo
Directed by Jess Barbagallo & Chris Giarmo
Sound design by Mike Cacciatore

un peu de arts writing (artlog #1)

June 7, 2012

mes amis–

you may be alarmed by the capital letters i employ in the below posting. fret not! this is an example of what a postess with the mostess might look like were i to win an arts writing grant. let us keep our fingers crossed! or, as they say in il bel paese, “incrociamo le ditte!”

Kippy Composite #2

Omaha Stakes

The Great Plains Theatre Conference gets site-specific

By Kippy Winston

Mes amis

Travels, travails and le théâtre recently landed me in Nebraska. The bread basket of gli stati uniti is a dear place to me. As a girl I imagined an Atlantis—and antithesis!—to my East Coast upbringing.

I recall wailing to my parents, while fitfully filling out college applications, “Why don’t we live in Omaha? That way I’d only apply to Nebraska State and the University of Nebraska and stay with all my friends!” (Ten percent of my high school class attended Wesleyan—a fact that horrifies and fills me with pride.)

As Atlantis would have it, for the past three summers I’ve joyously attended the Great Plains Theatre Conference (emphasis on Great!). First I went as a giornalista (see American Theatre’s 2011 May/June issue), then as an attrice (I performed a monologue by Sibyl Kempsonc’est vrais!) and most recently I tooted about as a composite artista. Yes, my friends.  I moderated panels, led a post-show talk back, acted in a few readings and performed in a piece of my own terrifying writing.

2012 marked a new direction for the GPTC. It said farewell to traditional theatre halls and embarked on an ambitious site-specific component. The results were resoundingly successful with only one flopping flailure. (That’s a failure that flails!) Thank heavens, the flailure was not malevolent—just full of rookie mistakes. Each show gained momentum and verve and the Great Omaha Stakes.

1.

Kira Obolensky’s Raskol, a riff on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, bowed in Omaha’s Burlington Train Station—a cavernous, crumbling structure whose stage possibilities seemed limitless. The première problem pour moi, however, was the creation of a set. Why not use the abandoned station’s corners and crevasses? If it is site-specific embrace the site, do not build something else. We may as well have been in a black box with the bed and cubist set. In fact, a black box would have better suited this production whose articulateness and artfulness was lost in echoes of the spacious train station.

Quel dommage—for this was a production to be heard! (not just seen) and Obolensky’s vowels and consonants bounded around heads but not into ears. I cannot comment on the script since I couldn’t hear it—and what a Crime and Punishment that is!

Take heart. This year GPTC hosted its first ever Design Wing, helmed by such tech genies as Peter Ksander and Justin Townsend. One imagines this Design Wing will take flight (!) in future years and include sound designers (from which Raskol would have immensely benefited.)

Raskol was not without rapscallion elements to enjoy. Take, for example, the changing color palate behind the enormous once-ornate train station windows. The setting twilight tones became purple and blue before darkening into a most beautiful jade. I yearned for a tornado!

burlington train station of omaha

2.

Constance Congdon’s Tales of the Lost Formicans was slated to be performed on a prairie hill but driving rains moved the show indoors to Creighton University’s Lied Center for the Arts. C’est la vie… et la pluie!

What a marvelous and moving play. The actors were tip top—I particularly enjoyed Erika Hall’s crimped hair and hot pink 1985 jacket. I suspected such stylings were at the behest of the actress and when I caught up with Erika later that evening at a GPTC porch party, my intuitions were confirmed.

In a post-show talkback I learned that Congden wrote the tragicomic, alien-narrated Formicans (about life in the suburbs) in a swift two months. Listening to the playwright talk about her life and artistic process was most moving. Not an eye was dry! Director Cindy Melby Phaneuf also took a tearful turn discussing the play.

These days, with so many shows that wink and smile at audiences in self-aware insouciance of a post-dramatic nature, it was refreshing to experience a smart, narratively curious play that nevertheless managed to pull on heart strings despite non-traditional trappings like narration by aliens!

Apparently the prairie set had a Cadillac for the road trip scenes: le sigh! Audiences got to see the show bow the next night in prairie land…but this Kippy was on top of a parking garage. Quel horreur!

some drive, others are driven

3.

Before anyone saw it, Jeanette Plourde’s YOU’RE LOOKING GOOD (cabin pressure) inspired dread. Plourde had made a nervy showing at a lunchtime panel discussion the day before her show’s debut, proclaiming, “I have no idea what it is you will see!” with Elaine Benes herky jerky flair. Perhaps it was a foreshadowing of the dance show to come? Buzz indicated Plourde and her actors only managed eight rehearsals on a parking gararge roof in sweltering heat. Plus, there was nervousness that Plourde was filling in for the inimitable David Neumann, who had been pulled away to choreograph a Broadway-bound Sponge Bob Square Pants. [c’est vrais…!]

It was a brisk 55 degrees Fahrenheit the evening of YOU’RE LOOKING GOOD. Audiences sat in two groups facing one another atop the garage, including such VIPs as playwrights Kira Oblensky, Rebecca Gillman and Omaha-based playwright Ellen Stuve, who snuggled and huddled under a large comforter of an orange blossom pattern.

The performance began 30 minutes late. Hmph! This is irksome and most disrespectful to audiences, yet, a small part of me loves the ostentatious disregard for time, the sheer rudeness. Late starts always raise audience expectation and consternation.

Communque, Allora and Nevertheless, Plourde’s team of talented young movers and shakers proved that patience inspires virtue. First the actors—each more cute than the last—performed a bike parade with commedia like characters and animus. One girl, in harlot red lipstick, gave a bored expression while pushing up the incline. A sultry toss of her curls sent a ripple of laughter throughout the audience. Another young woman wore an exasperated expression and huff-hunched over her vehicle, the bun atop her head bobbing all the way. In a poetic turn of gleeful mishap, her skirt later got caught in the wheel of her bike. Watching this simple parade reminded me of how fine commedia and clowning can be when done with such precision and committment. Bravi!

Later a rolling luggage dance had actors moving, courting and caressing their bags. Plourde purred into the microphone, “Aaaaand blossom like a flower,” as the actors obeyed and their luggage trailed behind them. A shopping cart sequence produced the sounds of simpler times—new grocery store carts made of plastic don’t create the same cacophonous, tinny rattle on cement that older models do.

[Later, at another infamous porch party, I caught some iPhone footage of the show a wily onlooker had taken. In it, an elderly patron “walked out” by wheeling herself away on a rocker. It looked strikingly like the performance—as if her walker were a shopping cart. Ho!

A clown car bonanza face off was another highlight for this Kippy, but the final moment was the best. The actors lit a miniature hot air balloon made of magenta paper and sent it skyward. Not only was this image beautiful and arresting but—like the performance itself—it defied logic.

paper hot air balloon

the one i saw was hot pink

4.

2012’s honored playwright Rebecca Gilman—or Old Gillyboots as I like to call her!—rounded out the shows. The Crowd You’re in With is smart-as-a-whip funny with great one-liners and caustic jibes about bourgeois issues set in a backyard BBQ. In other hands, this play might have been a tired look at white people and their middle class problems. (yawn) [(Fears and anxieties over societal pressure/expectation to have children abound in le script.)] But potential triteness was cleverly subverted with a nearly all black cast. Under Denise Chapman’s sly direction, the ensemble elevated what might otherwise have been philistine sitcomish language into something subtly profound. By not talking about race, the play reached new depths, heights, and shades of meaning—even, perhaps, pointing to possibility.

I was also most charmed by the actors who delivered such lines as “A diaper cake isn’t something you eat,” and “You thought George Elliot was a man,” with dignity, zest and great aplomb.

i hankered for a burger!

The heartland comes with its own set of perils: tornadoes, gluten, and a penchant to talk about new plays in an Aristotelian—and increasingly outdated—model. (No offence to my fine Greek feathered friend!) Nevertheless, GPTC producing artistic director Kevin Lawler and his band of cohorts are moving in interesting directions. They are getting out of the black box and opening up stages for the community and its members.

At the first performance I attended an older gentleman with a monastic haircut asked me why so many people were wearing name badges. He didn’t know about the conference—he was just grateful to learn about free theatre performances from the local paper. “My daughter did a bunch of theatre in high school,” he recalled fondly. I spotted him in cheerful attendance at each subsequent show and we waived to each other each time.

a bientot!
kippy