Saturday, July 28, 2007

A rave for Commedia!

"[I]t's important that this newly written old-school hit be recognized. That rape could be funny, not tragic, who knew? The producers and writers of Stolen Chair, that's who. With swagger and grace and a man who's ribald, the show woos us and flatters us, we're never appalled...[T]his show's a must see...The only sad part about Commedia Dell' Artemisia is that it's condensed to stay under an hour."
Read more from PBS' New Theater Corps critic Aaron Riccio or BUY TICKETS!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pluggity plug plug

Two more chances to catch Commedia dell'Artemisia in NYC before we pile our masks, costumes, and props back into the repertory accumulate dust...alongside Hugo the nearly decomposed corpse (The Man Who Laughs) and Lyly the disemboweled stuffed reindeer (Stage Kiss).

Sad thought, huh? Need to be cheered up? Well, I have an idea: buy your ticket for this weekend's encore performances of Commedia dell'Artemisia right now and you'll take comfort knowing you have 45 minutes of nearly-nonstop rhyming raping delight awaiting you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Finger on the pulse...

"They are all part of an emerging downtown trend, as cabaret acts superimpose a risqué German style onto the performance art and theater scene below 14th Street. 'The Weimar aesthetic has taken over,' said Justin Bond..." (read more here)
Just before Commedia dell'Artemisia opened in 2005, the Great One Man Commedia Epic opened a few doors down and Commedia/Clown was suddenly everywhere.

Just before Stage Kiss opened, Measure for Pleasure, a pseudo-Elizabethan gender-bender opened at the Public, and everyone from "off-off" to "on" was dabbling in the Ridiculous aesthetic.

Just before Kill Me Like You Mean It opened, there were about half a dozen plays trafficking in noir themes and styles, and "film noir" had become practically synonymous with "parody."

Despite the best of our iconoclastic intentions, Stolen Chair always seems to get swirled up in the same zeitgeist that's sucked in everyone else. What does this mean? Well, I'd love to think that we here at Stolen Chair have our finger on the pulse on what's hip and happening in NYC theatre and that someday we'll find a way to be the first one out of the gate, setting trends instead of following them...More likely, however, is that in the midst of our obsession with our own current idee fixe, we see resonances of it everywhere we look. For me, this used to be a paranoid endeavor, constantly looking over my shoulder to protect our precious (intellectual) property. Once I started the blog last November, however, I realized that a much better way to process this energy was to launch an interview series with the people who have beat us to the punch, often with much higher-profile productions, allowing Stolen Chair to be in dialogue with their work instead of in (imagined) competition with it.

So, here's to Weimar taking over downtown! If you're an artist associated at all with one of these Weimar-inspired events or if you're dabbling with Weimar as a period and/or style in your work, please contact me and we'll set-up an interview...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Language of Play: Kids, Dada, Expressionists, etc.

"Her lips trembled, colon, quotation marks, Eleanore, dash, Eleanore, dash, quotation marks, quotation francs, quotation dollars--going, going, gone!"
-From Alfred Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, 1929

"The little girl comes. The mother comes. The daddy. The brother. A dog. They go to sleep. They wake up. They have breakfast. Then they eat lunch. Then they eat dinner. They brush their teeth. They go to sleep. They wake up. They eat breakfast."
-a 4-year old's story as transcribed by Vivian Paley for her book The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter

Dada doubts everything. Dada is an armadillo. Everything is Dada, too. Beware of Dada. Anti-dadaism is a disease...But the real dadas are against Dada.'
-Tristan Tzara, co-founder of Dadaism

"There's a no-helicopter in my story. A not-helicopter. It's a not airplane. My helicopter is in it. The helicopter goes up to the sky. Then crash! This helicopter. Crash! Then I fix it. A not-airplane story."
-Another 4 year-old in Paley's classroom
I've spent the past few days with my head alternately buried in 3 Kinderspiel-related books: Paley's The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter (hat tip to Liza for pointing me to her work!), Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Lucy Lippard's dadas on art. Musings on storytelling in the classroom, a Weimar-era expressionist novel, and an anthology of dadaist manifesti...While it's truly amazing how the mind naturally seeks to make coherent sense of stimuli it's fed (my favorite dream theory, activation-synthesis, posits that dreams are just the narratives our minds try to develop around the automated synapse firings that our brains perform as part of their nightly 100-point check-up inspections), I think, in this case, there's a strange and beautiful bond between these three source materials which have been commingling in my wee little brain of late.

The moments in which Doblin's masterpiece transcend formal modernist linguistic play and ease towards a glorious sort of post-modern jouissance send me immediately towards the often unintentional post-structuralist puns of the under-5-year-old set, each, in its own way, celebrating language's slippery nature. Children, not yet having gained mastery of their language, incorporate allusions, repetition, and poetic devices like assonance, alliteration, and rhyme in ways strangely reminiscent of such 20th century wordsmiths as Joyce and Nabokov and even Tom Robbins. Are these modernists cum post-modernists emulating kidspeak? Doubtful. Have these writers internalized and reprocessed the decades-long obsession with the "brilliant naivete of the child" that the dadas championed? Possibly. Do I need to come up with an answer to these whys and wherefores? Nope.

Because that's what Stolen Chair tries to do, right? We try to find these unholy hybrids (film noir and absurdism, commedia and rape, "Ridiculous" drag and Elizabethan boy-actors) in the hopes that mashing them together teaches us something about their commonalities and their divergences. In merging the worlds of dadaist Weimar cabaret and children's literature we are hoping to uncover parallels which can shed light on questions of art's role in times of distress (be they the terrifying uncertainties of childhood or post-war Berlin), capitalism's power to absorb and commercialize all transgression, and the ways in which nihilism always seems to give way to another -ism. On a formal level, we get to explore the relationship between chaos and control, between spontaneity and precision. And we get to play with language and in language and on language to the point at which the rules of language become as improvised and fluid as those of play.

The new news (July 7, 2007)

A new e-blast was just sent out to our newsletter subscribers. Have you signed up yet?

E-blast summary: plugs for Commedia's encore performances, a link to the production stills from Commedia @ the Brick, and the announcement that Stolen Chair's love affair with Layna Fisher has now been officially consumated.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Pretentious Accolades

Stolen Chair's Commedia Dell'Artemisia has officially won the Pretentious Award for Most Powerful Use of Cognitive Dissonance!

...and, if you don't know what that means, you are, as one of the festival's mottos claimed, simply unworthy.

Sadly, that last barb is likely the end of my pretentious posturing, or at least the expiration of my festival-bestowed license to alienate. From here on in we will be resolutely low-brow and appeal to the public's baser tastes.

And so:

If you want to see a SHORT play about GREED, LUST, RAPE, FAME, and TORTURE, featuring not one but TWO WOMEN WHOSE BOSOMS HAVE BEEN AUGMENTED BY DUCT TAPE, check out Commedia dell'Artemisia at the Underground Zero festival in late July.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Pretentious Pictures and Encore Performances!

Enjoy Joseph Belschner's stills from Friday's show...

...and if you haven't already picked this up off our website or from the press release that's been circling the blogosphere, Commedia dell'Artemisia will have 2 encore performances as part of the Underground Zero Festival in July at Collective: Unconscious. We're excited to be sharing the bill with the Flying Machine, a Lecoq-inspired group whose theatricalization of a French author's suicide should be very simpatico with our theatricalization of an Italian painter's rape trial. And our partners in pretension, Mssrs. Trav SD and Ian W. Hill, will be hosting an open mic night called The Moxie Show!

The whole shebang is being put together by Paul Bargetto, Artistic Director of East River Commedia and co-founder of the League of Independent Producers, the advocacy group trying to reform the equity code. The festival's mission is to bring productions back from (sorry James, gonna quote you again) that "Great Production in the Sky" and its intent is to put forth a model of repertory performance by which indie theatre shows might live past their initial runs and continue to build audience.

Incidentally [warning: pride bordering on boastfulness shall follow hereafter], this will mark the 5th incarnation/iteration/permutation of Commedia dell'Artemisia and I think that's something to pat ourselves on the back for. Along the same lines, I realized that by the end of our 2007 season, Stolen Chair's work will have been presented in at least 6 different theatres, none of which we rented!

The company is officially on vacation until the 3rd week of July. Between the 10 of us we have a pretty impressive travel roster for a bunch of starving artists; Kiran and I will be heading to Stolen Chair's Parisian HQ to rewrite Kinderspiel, popping over to Berlin for a few days for some research. Blogging for the next few weeks will be irregular, dependent entirely on the nature of our my internet connection...if you really miss me, feel free to check out my food blog, Three Little Truffle Pigs.