Showing posts from January 1, 2006

Poem by Delmore Schwartz

I just discovered these two poems, which I wanted to share -- there seems to me to be the spirit of the artist in them:


"I am cherry alive," the little girl sang,
"Each morning I am something new:
I am apple, I am plum, I am just as excited
As the boys who made the Hallowe'en bang:
I am tree, I am cat, I am blossom too:
When I like, if I like, I can be someone new,
Someone very old, a witch in a zoo:
I can be someone else whenever I think who,
And I want to be everything sometimes too:
But I don't tell the grown-ups: because it is sad,
And I want them to laugh just like I do
Because they grew up and forgot what they knew
And they are sure I will forget it some day too.
They are wrong. They are wrong. When I sang my song, I knew, I knew!
I am red, I am gold, I am green, I am blue,
I will always be me, I will always be new!"


Once, when I w…

Has Anything Changed Since the 1920s?

From Harold Clurman's inspirational book, The Fervent Years:

"I enjoyed seeing plays -- my flesh had a natural hankering for the atmosphere of the theatre, even when the plays were contemptible -- but my mind was left dissatisfied. At that time I might have put it this way: In the books I read, in the painting I see, in the music I hear, in all conversations, I am aware of the presence of the world itself, I detect a feeling for large issues of human concern. In the theatre, these are either absent or diluted, frequently cheapened. The composers and the painters are searching for new words, so to speak, new forms, shapes, meanings. Aaron Copland tellsme he wants to express the present day, he wants to find the musical equivalent for our contemporary tempo and activity. Where is the parallel to all this in the theatre? There are little avant-garde performances here and there; Copeau speaks seriously about the theatre. Of course, the greaest poets of the past wrote for the theat…

Table of Contents

I am starting to pack up my books for a move to a new office at the end of the month. I came across and anthology of plays from 1921 entitled Chief Contemporary Dramatists, which the introduction says is filled with "plays of the first order of excellence" from "the theatre of Europe and America." Here is the table of contents:

Milestones by Arnold Bennett and Edward Knoblock
Abraham Lincoln by John Drinkwater
Mixed Marriageby St. John G. Ervine
King Argimenes and the Unknown Warrior by Lord Dunsany
The Easiest Wayby Euguen Walter
The Piper by Josephine Preston Peabody
The Yellow Jacketby George C. Hazelton and Benrimo
The Loving Wife by George de Porto-Riche
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Eostand
Pateur by Sacha Guitry
"Moral" by Ludwig Thoma
Living Hours by Arthur Schnitzler
The Concert by Hermann Bahr
Giocandaby Gabrielle d'Annunzio
The Bonds of Interestby Jacinto Benavente
The Lower Depths by Maxim Gorki
The Tragedy of Love by Gunnar Heiberg

Made me look at my copi…

The Audience

Over on Parabasis, Isaac Butler quotes DF Wallace on the relationship between artist and audience, and I must admit that I am totally in agreement with Wallace, and am envious that he was able to put so succinctly what I have been writing about on this blog for well nigh 4 months! Check it out.

Crime Against Reality

In the midst of his review of the film The Chronicles of Narnia, Isaac at Parabasis (see sidebar) find himself musing on the effects of realism in film and theatre:

"The problem is, by literalizing all of this on film, the reader's immense imaginative capacity is replaced by that of the director and his (in this case, his, anyway) design team. As it must be in most film. The more literal an image becomes, the less the audience's imaginative capacity can be realized. This is not bad, it is simply the trade off. This is why some in the theater are getting very sick of realistic sets (see George's review of Celebration and The Room, Will Eno's interview in American Theater, or, well, my own directing work). The more realistic the set, the less complicity with the audience... the artist does too much work for them and their brains stop working on some level. It also becomes a much less wonderful experience for the audience, because watching someone else's complete …

Books I'm Currently Reading

A fascinating book that describes the techniques involved in facilitating "conversations that matter." Foreward by Meg Wheatley, afterward by Peter Senge. A new theatre project I am working on this semester will incorporate these ideas into the performance.

I picked up this book at the library on a whim a few days before New Year's Eve, and it was one of the most fortunate whims I've had for a while. Kay Redfield Jamison writes about the "passion for life" in an -- well -- exuberant fashion. The book begins with a chapter on Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir, then a chapter on exuberance in nature, and playing in animals. When I closed the chapter on Roosevelt and Muir, I thought, "I used to be exuberant. How did I let myself become so cranky and uninspiring?" This led to one of my resolutions for the new year: Be Exuberant. So far, so good!

After the Show

Over at Gasp!, Laura Axelrod posted a thoughtful response to the Frederick Turner manifesto that she called "Defining Art." Near the end, she responded to my own addendum: Artists should create opportunities for spectators to share ideas and emotions with each other and with the artist. Laura wrote:

"Speaking as someone who has written plays that have caused great reaction in people, I don’t find it helpful to present myself as a target for their emotional processes. If they need to talk amongst themselves, that’s fine. But I’ve been yelled at, raged about, sobbed on and have had a whole other range of emotions tossed at me after production of my work. When I given people an opportunity to discuss what they’ve seen with me, they’ve often put the focus on me rather than their own thoughts. “Why did you write that? How dare you write that! Did you experience that?” etc. I’ve found that it’s just not helpful or me to make myself available. I'm sure there are others out …

Jill Dolan and Film and Theatre

Over at The Feminist Spectator (see sidebar), Jill Dolan in "Holiday Films: Mainlining Popular Culture,"does a wonderful job responding to the films she spent part of her holiday watching. If you're wondering what to see, I recommend you check out what she has to say. Near the beginning of her essay, she has a wonderful description of the differences between the film experience and the theatre experience that I wanted to quote:

But first, this experience of spending so much time in movie theatres instead of
live theatres has made me think about the differences I feel consuming the two
forms. In a brief piece in last week’s Entertainment Weekly—which I read
religiously, since I enjoy the smart, literate film reviews by Lisa Schwarzbaum
and Owen Gleiberman—their “Ask the Critic” column answered a question from a
reader who wondered why it’s so much easier to tolerate plot confusions or
peculiarities on television shows (or films on tv) than it is when you go to see
a movie. Schwar…

On the Good, the True, and the Beautiful

Right before signing off, SpearBearer Down Left wrote:

And what's all this talk about truth? Recently Scott Walters posted a manifesto of Frederick Turner (which irritated more than a few) which contained this phrase: "The experience of truth is beautiful," a phrase which I think has incredible importance in the study of art. Art should put us in contact with what is true. Now immediately I can hear the reaction: "whose truth? who is to decide?" Well that's easy: mine, and me, of course.

Seriously though, each one of us decides, because art is not science—it's not exact, it's not description. It suggests something which rings true. People may be squeamish about the "t" word — worrying that fascism follows shortly behind—but I would argue that the experience of truth is what enables us to call a play "insightful." It's because something in it strikes a chord—we recognize something that's true, even if we can't always art…

Meme of Four

OK, I guess I'll do it, too...

Four jobs I've had in mylife...
Assistant to the Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Illinois State UniversityAssociate Artistic Director, Illinois Shakespeare FestivalDirector of the Illinois Summer School for the ArtsEditorial Assistant, Performing Arts Journal/PAJ Publications (same job that George Hunka had several years previous!)Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over...Laurel and Hardy's Way Out WestCon Air (I can't help it!)What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (for Leonard diCaprio's performance, which is incredible)Kenneth Branagh's HamletFour places I've lived...Minneapolis, MNNormal, ILNew York, NY (twice)Asheville, NCFour TV shows I love to watch...The Dick Van Dyke ShowI Love LucyHouseThe Bob Newhart ShowFour places I've been on vacation...Tangier IslandLake Huron in MichiganShenandoah Valley in VirginiaCape May, NJFour websites I visit daily...SuperfluitiesNFL.comArts JournalTheatre Matters'Four of my favorite fo…