Dali Up Close, Masterworks of the Beaverbook Gallery, & Sobey Prize Finalists @ WAG

I had a lovely afternoon at the WAG this week, upon my daughter's prompting that she wanted to see the Dali exhibition. She first discovered her love of both Surrealism and Pop Art during our many forays into the Tate Modern (I will admit, for a 10 year old she has reasonably refined taste in modern art). The Dali "up close" exhibition is coupled with two others -- Masterworks of The Beaverbrook Gallery, and the finalists for the Sobey Prize.

Entering the gallery, we first experience the Masterworks, which range in taste and vintage, however focused heavily on English painters (making sense, given their collector). That said, there were a few notable pieces for my taste, including a stunning Turner, and some Matisse sketches which I very much enjoyed. Walking through the gallery with a 10 year old girl, we made it a point to find the paintings by women - unfortunately only 4 in the full collection (including a stunning Emily Carr). While we are unable to turn back and change the facts of art history, much like those of literary history, we can promote in our youth an awareness of the conditions for making art, and for women in these historical periods.

Given the focus among the Masterworks in earlier periods of the 20th century (and before), the unashamed colour in Dali's work stood out starkly. Dali's work was, unsurprisingly, stunning. The richness of of colour coupled with the provocative themes was fantastic, as expected. Perhaps unexpectedly, however, was the pure gleeful joy of the Moustache series of photographs, which (hopefully) reminded us not only that serious art need not be so serious, but that even artists grappling with monstrous questions of physics and faith can be silly, and oh so human.

The final featured rooms were the Sobey Art Prize finalists. I was most struck by the pieces by Nadia Myre - the sewn canvases, showing both words and physical manifestations of decay were really beautiful and haunting. Similarly, the text-centred work of Neil Farber and Michael Dumontier was thought provoking.

On a related note, I must say that I'm really enjoying the arrangement in the permanent collection, which recently has begun to situate some of the oldest and newest pieces in the collection beside one another - what is striking is the parallels in shape and colour this brings out. Definitely worth having a look at!

Subway Stations of the Cross by Ins Choi

This might well have been the least publicized performance in Winnipeg this year. I learned about Ins Choi's performance of his one-man show in a footnote to an invitation to a lecture I received via the University, and jumped at the chance to see this. While Choi's more commercial piece, Kim's Convenience, plays at MTC Mainstage I'm always far more interested in the work the artist creates to feed their soul.

Inspired by an encounter Choi had with a homeless man in a park in Toronto, he creates a character who is a beggar, and a rich man; insane, but a prophet. Touching on themes of faith, consumerism, and pop culture, Choi weaves a non-traditional piece of theatre through the use of song and poem causing the audience to truly introspect as the words circle around them. Accompanying himself on ukelele, and with the odd foot stomp, we see the character weave in and out of lucidity, at once making much sense and none at all. Echoes came to mind of Nietzche's ubermensch, descended from the mountaintop to share the truth, and yet no one listens or believes - so he must hide, in this case behind the mask of poverty and insanity.

A stunning piece of theatre, and one I strongly recommend seeking out. Choi mentioned in the talkback that he is doing a handful of performances in each city Kim's Convenience tours to, so look it up!

Janet Cardiff - Forty Part Motet @ WAG (to 28 April 2013)

You can hear the voices from the next room in the gallery, and are drawn in by the sound. Normally an avid reader of the gallery cards explaining the piece and its creator, I pushed past this, around the corner to the darkened room. A perimeter of speakers in an oval shape greeted me, with a group of benches in the centre. People sat, eyes closed, absorbing the sound, or moved through the space. My 8 year old daughter wanted to explore, so we circled the room, sometimes following the sound, and sometimes felt we were causing the sound to occur.

What was really remarkable was precisely what Cardiff desired the experience to be, the sensation of climbing inside sound. I've sung in a circle before, and even listened in a circle to others singing, however the sensation caused here felt different somehow. Perhaps it was just that - the sensory deprivation of a darkened room with no other objects, no colours. Looking at photographs, there have been versions of this in beautifully ornate churches, or more livened rooms, which I'm sure created another slightly unique experience.

I strongly recommend taking this in - the piece will be at the WAG until 28 April under regular admission.

For more info, check here:,exhibition/125/janet-cardiff-forty-part-motet

Looking Backward to Impel us Forward

I thought now would be an appropriate time to review what has been utterly amazing year personally and artistically. A brief walk through the year's events mentally caused me to pause in wonder at just how much one can accomplish in as short a time as a year.

January - In the throes of the MA, I also took on projects outside the course. Performed with the hit You Me Bum Bum Train in the West End, an immersive theatre project which challenged my own conceptions of audience participation - something I had heretofore loathed - edging me toward a desire to unsettle the audience's cocooned experience of theatre.

February - ceaseless creation ensued, and I was busy writing my first play along with directing and interpreting the work of Jean Genet. Explorations in rehearsal for both impelled me to risk at a greater level in my creative endeavors.

March - a whirlwind, I directed a scene in response to Genet, and performed in 4 others for fellow students on the MA. Had a workshop performance of my own piece of writing Trying, a new sort of out-of-body experience, even more unnerving than directing. Created a performance art installation Autel which showed at RADA to great success. And finally, if that wasn't enough, co-directed Ludus Daniellis in full medieval Latin at King's College, London.

April & May - Dove into research and preparation for my dissertation, as well as rehearsals for the other pieces I was contributing to. Presented my work at a conference of art historians, sharing my creative response to The Duchess of Malfi called Forc'd To Woo.

June - performed in a piece of promenade one-on-one theatre called How We Met, written by colleagues at RADA Eleanor Massie and Holly Bragg. This piece fed into ideas I had already been having for pieces to create at home, and will crop up again in some work commissioned for 2013.

July - Performed and created my own dissertation piece No More Prayers, and also performed for two others - Nil by Mouth by Holly Sharp and Between Sand and Stars by Dena Rysdam-Miller. I have performed and created work under pressure many times in the past, however nothing was comparable to the intensity of this period, absurd attention to detail and aggressive pursuit of clarity in my artistic vision.

August - With the performances completed, I dove into the writing of my final dissertation paper - a 10,000 word artistic statement and critique of my performed work. The process for writing this was arduous, but rewarding overall, as I found it extremely useful to dig through my own creation and defend it in such a rigorous fashion.

September - Directed 4 staged readings for FemFest 2012, having returned to Winnipeg. Had a fabulous re-immersion to the Winnipeg theatre community, also beginning new contracts teaching at Prairie Theatre Exchange School.

October - my performance installation from earlier in the year at RADA, Autel, was selected to be part of a group installation at the Gas Station Arts Centre, running to the first week of January 2013. This was an amazing experience, the first time I had participated in a show in a non-performance based way.

November - finalizing the script for my latest play Dear Mama (which premieres on 17 January 2013) I began developmental work with my director Megan Andres to finalize the script. Also had the opportunity to re-ignite work on a show from 2011 Dionysus is Getting Impatient, which I was part of creating with I was part of creating with Theatre Incarnate.

December - as the best christmas present possible, learned mid-month that I have officially graduated RADA and the University of London with  Distinction. If this weren't enough, I had the fabulous opportunity to be part of a reading for Winnipeg's Theatre By the River for their annual holiday fundraiser.

And now for 2013, onward and upward! Dear Mama opens in mid-January, after which I expect to dive into a few other projects not yet mentioned here. I am eternally grateful for the year I have had, and look heartily forward to further opportunity in 2013!


Sunday was the opening of Girls! Girls! Girls! - a cabaret and gallery exhibition in support of the Gas Station Arts Centre. This marked my first inclusion as an artist rather than a performer in this sort of event (in a non school related setting), and was a truly new experience for me. Standing in the lobby/gallery while the audience came in, I found myself anxious, constantly looking over to my installation, checking to see if people were listening and if they were, what their reaction seemed to be.

Why? who knows. I'm paranoid I suppose. In the same way that my director-brain never quite turns off, so when I'm watching the same performance as the audience, all I see are the gaps, the over-long pauses, the missed timing. All I could see were the people NOT looking at my work. Nothing fleeted through my mind about the fact that only 1 person at a time can experience it, that it is about solitude by design.

This is a new perspective for me to learn.

Autel is available for your interactive enjoyment at the Gas Station Arts Centre (River & Osborne, Winnipeg) until early December. Entrance to the gallery is free.

My Winnipeg: There's No Place Like Home @ PlugIn Gallery

This was my first visit to PlugIn since their move to downtown, part of the University of Winnipeg buildings. Exhibition aside, the space itself is very exciting. Comprised of a cluster of oddly shaped rooms in part of the triangle shaped building, you get to weave from one room to the next as if exploring, each nook and cranny filled with installations, quotes, and light.

The first part of the My Winnipeg Project, There's No Place Like Home, focussed on the myths relating to this city. Those funny things about Winnipeg that to an outsider seem absurd; toboggan races turned awry, maps highlighting childhood homes, greasy spoons, and mythical beasts of the prairie. Some of the pieces (for me) failed to engage, however this may be due to the overwhelming enjoyment I got from the toboggan video, and the mythical map. Unfortunately, due to the layout in the furthermost room, I wasn't able to see who the artist was for each individual piece, which is unfortunate.

I look forward to checking out further installments of the My Winnipeg Project through the winter months.

Winnipeg Now @ WAG - to 30 December 2012

An exciting exhibition which showcases local artists of the younger generation who have been stirring things up not only in the Canadian Art scene, but internationally, Winnipeg Now at the WAG reminded me of all the reasons I am proud to say I am from this frigid and isolated island in the prairie. The imagination, curiosity and daring exhibited in these pieces is outstanding. Each piece I encountered while moving through the exhibition struck me differently, however the resounding commonality among them was the ability I feel each would have to find itself included in a major gallery of modern art, such as the Tate Modern or Hayward Gallery.

Some individual pieces stood out for me specifically.

Sarah Anne Johnson's (title unknown) made me want to sit underneath its stratosphere for hours. My eye danced around the sculpture as it loomed over my head, colours bursting.

Michael Dudeck's pieces from his Baculum Cosmology call into play ideas of liveness, nature, and human relationship to this; the body mummified but with pipes and cables emerging from its form was haunting, and called to mind similar ideas in Damien Hirst's work, challenging our perceived supremacy over nature and science, and ultimately our mortality. I am saddened that I missed his live performance with the pieces, and only hope I can catch this in the future.

Finally, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millian's Bedtime Stories for the End of the World intrigued, due to the idea of a comfortable, relaxing space in which pre-recorded stories are heard. Similar to my own work (Autel) this pushes us to see storytelling as art, and to truly audit what we are taking in, even in seemingly everyday scenarios.

I strongly recommend taking this exhibition in, for a sense of the intelligent and sophisticated work being created by fellow Winnipeg artists.

Photo: Michael Dudeck Religion project

Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye @ Tate Modern

It is funny how we become attached to the work of certain artists. I was in my 3rd year of undergrad, doing a 'painting project' for our honours acting class, in which we were to write a monologue as a character from a painting to 'come alive'. Most others selected paintings that were fairly naturalist and impressionist. Feeling edgy, I selected one of Munch's wood cuts; how edgy expressionism feels in an undergrad degree in the middle of Canada.

Anyway, I have spent more and more time over the years looking at various phases of his work. Obviously his famous work such as The Scream, Sick Child and Starry Night are beautiful and captivating in their own way, but it is Munch's fascination with photography that I find truly intriguing. I was extremely grateful to this exhibition for showcasing the photography alongside the painting, as it adds an opportunity to see how his experimentation with photographs, moving and unreliable images captured on film fed into the paintings. The movement in Galloping Horse was evident in a manner much more clear than it might have been otherwise.

His later photographs push this further, with images doubling, blurring, looking phantasmagoric. Curious that this led into his period dealing with fights, loss of the ability to see, and ultimately death; each of these is a mirror of our mortality, seen crisply in the photographs. The images that move, but are caught still, seem to capture that essence which is lost in death.

This is a beautiful exhibition, curated with extensive care, and one I strongly recommend.

Damien Hirst @ The Tate Modern

This is an exhibition which from its very start, pushes the viewer's boundaries, and slowly delves further and further into the mind of Hirst and his views on life and death. What is most remarkable is seeing the counterpoint between his early work and that which comes later, still focusing on the same themes almost to a point of obsession, but with a change in tone or material.

Some pieces, I found, don't evoke as much; the spot paintings, for example, with their order and perfection, I found unappealing. That said, when Hirst imposes order on the objects of every day life as he does in Still and Doubt - precisely displaying medicines and medical tools - that his work truly comes alive. He talks of wanting the shark in The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living to scare people. I find the frightening order and precision of the medicine cabinets, pills, and instruments for surgery far more frightening. That which occurs in nature may frighten us, but as Hirst highlights, is simply a part of life and death. These man-made implements are outside that cycle, an attempt to tamper with the cycle of life and death, to prolong the experience and cheat the inevitable.

The most profound of Hirst's works in this exhibition was The Acquired Inability to Escape, which features a human presence of desk, chair, cigarettes, in a case similar to those displaying the formaldehyde-preserved animals. It was a stark reminder that despite the medicines and advancements of science, we too are mortal.

This exhibition is on at the Tate Modern, Southbank London to 9 September 2012.

Photo: Damien Hirst - The Acquired Inability to Escape

The British 10k - 8 July

Time for me to ask something of you readers (and lurkers) - I am running the British 10k in London on July 8th in support of RADA scholarships, and am looking for donations. Any of you lurkers who are artists know how horribly expensive school can be, and how few scholarships there are for arts students. Fundraising from this will help with the Hardship fund at the school, and for creating future scholarships for students.

You can donate here:

Any amount is greatly appreciated, as it all adds up. Thank you in advance for any support you can offer!


So, as I approach my 30th birthday, growing ever further from the "emerging" 16-25 year old artist category, but certainly not yet "established" at least by my definition of the word, I am at a loss for how to describe my position. It is funny that we see such a need to rank and label everyone and everything - emerging director, young theatre practitioner, veteran actor - as if the label somehow justifies what we do. Can't I just be an artist? A moderately successful artist? Does that work? It is hardly a selling feature to write on my next grant proposal. I can see it now - "Kendra isn't quite young, nor is she old. She has done some work, but not a ton. Truthfully, she lives a life of artistic moderation." Not really going to rake in the cash.

I don't know whether I really have anything to say about this, beyond what is above....what do you think? What do you call yourselves?

Also related to the birthday, I'll be travelling to Paris in a couple weeks to celebrate my 30th. I thought that given my proximity now, and the elegance that is added to any task by doing it in French, I would turn 30 en francais. It is better that way. I have not been before, and am looking forward to taking in Montmartre, the Seine and all the public gardens, along with some French Gothic architecture at Notre Dame. I also plan to make a pilgrimage to Montparnasse cemetery. Unlike those who visit the graves of more popular figures (Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, etc at Pere Lachase) I plan to visit with Ionesco, Beckett, and Sartre, 3 minds with whom I have been engaging over the past 6 years or so. I do love cemeteries, but have never been one to visit "famous" grave sites (although my toy poodle once peed on Louis Riel's grave in St Boniface) so this will be an interesting and unique day out. Also, I love the idea of creeping out my daughter with an afternoon in the cemetery. I am a nice parent.

Perhaps I am odd

Still mentally reeling from the aftermath of 10 weeks intensely studying Jean Genet's work. I think it is the mark of a truly great writer that the further you get from the work, the more it seems to pop up in you, resonating across various areas of your life. One thing that is really interesting to me is the fascination many of my colleagues have had with Genet's own disregard for his writing, particularly his plays. He himself refers to them as "clumsy attempts", which many have voiced is frustrating, or difficult to encounter.

Perhaps I am odd. Somehow, in the midst of a world of people with limited talent taking themselves entirely too seriously, and even those with immense talent forcing a specific understanding of their work on others (The Beckett Police, anyone??) I find it refreshing to come across a writer who has had such immense influence, and yet disregards his own work in this way. It is important to note that he doesn't call out his work or tear it down, he simply acknowledges, with what I would argue is some modesty, that all we ever do is try. We never know all of the answers in our own work, or in how others will interpret it, and I find it rather inspiring that a man of such greatness can allow his work to be viewed with such simplicity. Certainly a lesson everyone can take from Genet, whether you like his work or not.

Genet is Clever

It is often said that male writers can't write for women, or can't write for women well. There are many reasons why this sort of statement is false, but rather than go on a tirade about gender, intelligence, and truths of the human condition, I will simply present a section of text by the brilliant Jean Genet in The Screens. This is right at the beginning of Scene 12.
KADIDJA: Without women what would you be? A spot of sperm on your father's pants that three flies would have drunk up.

THE DIGNITARY: Go away Kadidja. This isn't the day.

KADIDJA: It is! They accuse us and threaten us, and you want us to be prudent. And docile. And humble. And submissive. And ladylike. And honey-tongued. And sweet as pie. And silk veil. And fine cigarette. And nice kiss and soft-spoken. And gentle dust on their red pumps!

THE DIGNITARY: Kadidja, it's a matter of general security. Go away.

If this exchange doesn't clearly illustrate the long fought battle for escape from patriarchal power, i don't know what does.

and also...his beautiful and raw description of art functioning for society in scene 17 brings to mind volumes of conversation.
THE ACADEMICIAN: What will they build on? I observed them carefully throughout my stay. Their only memories are of poverty and humiliation . . . Yes, what will they do? Can an art be born for the purpose of enshrining so many facts which they themsleves would like to forget? And if there's no art, there's no culture. Are they therefore doomed to decay? And there they go nailing the cage . . .

What is fabulous about this is that it is used ironically; the Academician, and his colonialist compadres The Banker, Sir Harold, Mrs Blanensee, are all looking down upon the native Algerians from their position of power. And yet Genet's argument throughout the play, that this dirty mess is precisely what the matter of art must be, rings through.

Review - Hamlet, Schaubune Berlin @ Barbican

There is so much to say about this production. I had high hopes, having read at length about Thomas Ostermeier's work, and his penchant for tearing apart then sewing back together canonical texts. This afternoon was in no way a disappointment. His vision of the Danish castle as a gauche, messy, single room was pitch perfect; the set was at once beautiful and ugly, with gold chain curtains and flashy lights, actors in tuxedos juxtaposed against dirt covering the first quarter of the stage, and an increasing amount of mess (literally garbage!) littering the stage as the play went on. The actors, too, began beautiful and we saw them fall apart. Images of consumption were highlighted quite forcibly, with not only the actors being consumed (by guilt, by revenge, etc) but many scenes of actual consumption of water, beer, milk, liquid that looks like blood. The very first introduction to Horatio was with him sitting at the table, eating voraciously, with food all over his face. This symbolic representation of the characters' devolution was quite stunning.

The performances were remarkable: Hamlet (Lars Eidinger) was not the beautiful, brooding Danish prince we have come to expect, but rather a spoiled, overweight, moody brat, forcing his video camera into the faces of his family (and at times even the audience). Gertrude and Ophelia were played by the completely fabulous Judith Rosmair, who played the two women differently and yet the same, characterizing the echoes of these two women so central to Hamlet's life in one another. Her physical work both in the transitions from Gertrude to Ophelia and back, and more specifically in Ophelia's madness was completely transfixing; I couldn't stop watching her remarkable and specific movements and vocalizations. The other four (that's right, only 4) actors were fabulous as well, playing Laertes/Rosencrantz in the same actor and Horatio/Guildenstern as one, along with an actor for Polonius and one for Claudius.

What I found most fabulous was the self-awareness of the production, finding moments to highlight Hamlet's jester-like qualities, coming out to the audience, turning the play into a black comedy. And it did not feel in any way was all those things that flash through your mind reading the play, brought brilliantly to light.

Fabulous. I must try to visit Schaubune when I go to Berlin...and hopefully manage to catch their Measure for Measure in Paris. More!! I want more!!!!!


Classes Friday were good, and I got lots of essay-related work done, which is rather necessary at this point. Also rather necessary was some time of relief and relaxation; this was handily filled by a chance to see Plastikman Live 1.5 at the 02 Brixton Academy. Now this might just sound like a night of hedonism, however in fact it was in many ways an experience echoing the ideas we have been discussing in classes and outside about the performer/audience relationship, and the idea that in a mediated world audiences need stimulus or many stimuli to engage.

Richie Hawtin, the UK born, Canadian raised, Berlin-based techno pioneer who created Plastikman has always been one to push technology forward. From his early days challenging the limits of analog sound creation, to more recent forays into live performance and digital music creation, Hawtin is known to challenge the conceptions of what a DJ performance is. So when my husband told me of the SYNK app that Hawtin created for Plastikman live shows, I was immediately intrigued. SYNK allows iPhone users in the venue to interact with one another, and with the performer via a live chat, commenting on what is going on and the performance. In addition, and more forward-thinking, there are points in the performance where the SYNK users are able to impact the performance, sometimes through the lights on the enormous, semi-circle LED screen surrounding Hawtin in his mad-scientist lab, and sometimes through writing text which Hawtin then converts to sound via his equipment, and samples into the sounds he is creating. It was this in particular that really intrigued me. DJ and producers are notorious control-freaks, obsessed with the sound, the gear, the effect...not unlike many actors and theatre directors. So the idea of opening up parts of the performance to be moulded by the audience, and a large, alcohol-fuelled dance club audience, is at once terrifying, and liberating.

Granted not all audience members participated in this, or even knew was happening, but for those who wanted "more", wanted to be part of the action, this additional connection with the performer was offered.

The other thing I found uncanny was the "ghosting" going on in this space, echoing nearly 100 years of performance through the very walls. The Brixton Academy was first built in 1929 as a Theatre and Cinema, and physically the space hasn't changed significantly since this time. It still retains the proscenium arch with opera-style columns, and large playing spaces well above, eye-level with the Circle seating. The buildings comprising nearly a full set, including fake trees of what was likely once an attempt at naturalism, still appear surrounding the upper bits of wall. Juxtaposing this history with such forward-thinking dance music experiences as the one we were undergoing; I couldn't help but think of the historical significance of a dance music artist playing in such an historic space. At moments I imagined an opera production, or some Chekovian actors moodily walking about.

While dance music is often derided as hedonistic pleasure-seeking, it is moments such as this that remind me of the potential for greatness among dance music artists. Because the truly good ones are just that; artists.

The Point...

Reading Tynan reminds me of the beautiful dialogue that can occur when theatre is created thoughtfully, and when it is responded to in a thoughtful way by its auditor. The collection of essays and reviews contained in his Tynan on Theatre moves through various productions, and also reactions to questions and occurrences in the theatre world of the British, American, and European tradition. The overriding sense from Mr Tynan is that to be good, theatre must respond creatively to the world around it; famously in his debates with Mr Ionesco, he decried the idea that art is the source for future ideologies. In fact, I think the actual truth lies in a balance of the two. Truly great work responds to what is around it, but inspires that which comes after.

I found it fascinating to read Tynan's review of Waiting For Godot. Many of his descriptions articulate the way I felt upon reading this play....that it made me think about theatre and art and life in an entirely new and yet altogether familiar way. Beckett's genius is elloquently described by Tynan here. It makes me want to read this play again...and to see it performed!

- art, ethics, politics, and economics were inseperable from one another; i realized that theatre was a branch of sociology as well as a means of self-expression. (p13)
- to gain admission to drama, words must be used; they must put on flesh, throng the streets, and bellow through the buses. (p36)
- Ancient tragedy puts the question: "how are we to live?" Modern tragedy asks: "How am I to live?" That is the vital difference. (p151)

- (on Shakespeare) We stage the tragedies as if they were histories; instead of trying to make them timeless, we fix them in their own time and social setting. Tragedy, we now suspect, has no meaning apart from historical circumstance. (p98)

- (on a National theatre) Must we forever shrink from committing ourselves to a theatre which should enshrine our drama, cradle and nourish it, presenting eight times a week a performance of which we can say to our guests "This is English Acting. This is our style"? If it be argued
that there is no audience for such an experiment, I answer in the traditional maxim of the french actors; "The public always follows the crowd". And in any theatre, from Shakespeare's to our own, the intelligent public is ultimately the crowd. (p205)

Reading, Reading, Reading

I have been on a mission to read a ton, because....why the hell not, right?

So as a super-keener as I seem to be, rather than just reading the weekly assigned pages, I read all of Great Reckonings In Little Rooms: On The Phenomenology Of Theatre by Bert O. States. This is an interesting book. On the whole, I think it is useful, if only to give the audience and performer new ways of thinking about the theatrical experience, why we go, and what it does to us. I must say that some of the assertions had me a little uneasy...such as the one alluded to in a previous blog that when we see an actor, we also see all their previous roles peering out from inside this current performance, so Hamlet is Henry IV is Iago (for example). But other assertions and ideas got me thinking, and certainly made me want to read more.

Some ideas/phrases that got me thinking:
...altered our perception of reality. (p4)
...something of the realism of a sucession of dream images; it is an imagined actual experience that floats wherever the text leads. (p28)
...The actor is that unique creature who passes through a whole life in a few hours and in doing so carries the spectator vicariously with him. (p49)
...We know that human dramas do not unfold in one or two rooms. But when a play seduces us into believing that they do - that is, when the smoothness in the flow of events overtakes the artifice of the form - we have the spatial counterpart of the radical improbability that Fate performs in the temporal action. Space is Destiny, the visual proof that order lurks in human affairs. (p69)
...Once you have trapped your protagonist in one of these real rooms, leaving him (or her) in the posture of Munch's creature in The Cry, you take away the room - which is no longer real enough - and reconstruct it as the visible extension of his ravaged state of mind. (p84) almost atomic release of stylistic energy. (p86)
...In one way or another, the history of theatre can be viewed as a history of flirtation with the psychical distance between stage and audience. Styles are reborn in new conventional disguise and certain styles serve certain purposes better than others. (p96)
...what makes it so wrenching is that it contains no emotional reference to its own emotion. But the fact that it doesn't serve up our emotions for us does not mean that it isn't producing them. (p105)
...There is something about the imitation of another human being, about speaking in another's voice, that requires either a creatural naivete, a touch of madness, or an invited audience. (p158)
...we might think of the curtain call as a decompression chamber halfway between the depths of art and the think air of reality. (p198)

More reading...coming soon!
Tynan on Theatre - Kenneth Tynan
An Anatomy of Drama - Martin Esslin
Drama from Ibsen to Eliot - Raymond Williams
Birth of Tragedy - Frederich Nietzsche

My Little Girl Wants To Be a Platypus

Went to see the installation FeMUSEum presented as part of Trashing Performance by the group Split Britches. They are well known theatre artists here in London, for their gender-bending questions and performances. Like a good mom, I brought my 7 year old with me; it is never too early to learn to question feminine identity as society presents it to us. The installation had several stations related to women. The one she was most fascinated with was a table with many items for "putting oneself together" - false eyelashes, powder, deoderant, jewelry, etc. Sarah said to me "it feels like we are in the bathroom". A keen observation from the young mind.

We left shortly after, and as we walked talked about why those things were in the room, why the women were wearing what they were, etc.

Later on in the day's adventures, we were trying to sort out a last minute halloween costume for her. She really wants to be Perry the Platypus from the TV show Phineas and Ferb; Perry is a crime fighting Platypus who fights the evil bad guy. After an hour or so of unsuccessful searching for a teal sweat suit, I asked if she just wanted to wear her fancy dress and some wings and be a fairy. She looked me right in the eye and said "Mom, No Way. Platypuses are way cooler." So i've been told. And I guess we're doing a pretty good job with balancing gender identity in her young life.

Review - Decade - Headlong and National Theatre at Commodity Quay

Associate Director Robert Icke stated in this afternoon's talkback that Headlong wanted to create theatre that made the audience uncomfortable, that made them think. In that, they most certainly succeeded. With their space in Commodity Quay, a former trading floor turned into a purpose built performance space, created to feel like a restaurant "On The Top Of The World" and innovative staging that used the full room, from first entry to the space the audience was unsure what to expect next. The play, a composite of multiple scripts commissioned by Headlong Theatre, had a variety of perspectives and rather coming from a position with a clear indication of how we should feel about 9/11, its only real message was inquiry. The spirit of exploration was most present, as the various characters moved through scenes exploring their various interactions with 9/11 both as the event was occurring, and in the decade since.

Most interesting to me was the merger of music, dance, and theatre to create this piece. Each aspect contributed to the next, balancing a challenging, political monologue or scene with a softer, more intrinsic scene with physical reactions to the subject. Importantly, though, even the intellectual "Break" offered by the dance segments was political, bringing the people together, and pulling from modern dance, classical forms, and folk traditions. The cast moved seamlessly from one to the next, jumping into various characters effortlessly. Notably the cadence and accents of many New Yorkers were presented clearly, bringing the production a feel of authenticity that served an important role.

Also contributing to the overall aesthetic was the impeccable sound and light design, which could transport the audience from a bustling cafe, to a busy train, to a classroom, and many other locales with a flash. The sound design on more than one occasion had me questioning whether the sounds I heard were actually bleeding in from outdoors....a brilliant use of stereo sound in theatre to unnerve the audience.

These technical aspects played well together, allowing the idea of the play to ring through. I can't help but think that without the seamless production, the play's message would not have had the same force. One character stated that the best retaliation to an act of terror is an idea; and you can't bomb an idea or destroy an idea. This production did a brilliant job of helping that idea come to life, resonating within each of us.

This is the kind of theatre I feel strongly that we need to make more of. Inquiry into our interactions with current political events, including horrific and shocking events such as terrorist attacks, is what I consider to be one of the most important functions of the artist in society. We cannot sit quietly while things occur around us; it is the responsibility of the artist to delve into this difficult subject matter, and make it ok for people to talk about it. Only through discussion can we come to those ideas which will stand the test of time. And that theatre will, too.