Thursday, January 29, 2009

some (winter) reading

I trend toward addictions.

Luckily, they tend to be addictions of the healthy variety. Earlier this year the addiction was Stoppard, and now the obsession seems to focus on Naomi Iizuka. It often takes me some time to discover the real reasons for any particular obsession that strikes my fancy. In preparation for a grad audition last weekend (more on that later) I’ve been doing a lot of rumination on the value of theater to prepare for that inevitable question “why do you want to go to school?” That very grad school question may have encouraged me along with Iizuka. Her work examines myths from classical to contemporary and seeks to intertwine the mythologies separated by time and place. The plays, at least to me, often illustrate the commonality of human existence whether placed in antiquity or in present day Hawaii.

To me, theatre’s nobility stems from its attempts to demonstrate our myths back to us. To hold a mirror up and show that we are part of a larger experience that spans generations and centuries. That nobility only works if you successfully impact your audience – if you don’t obscure the mirror or refuse to share its contents, and if you’re willing to accept whatever that image might be. It can still work when the hallmarks of theatre are absent. Conversely, it can be obscured by the technicalities of what equal a good theatrical performance by traditional standards.

Although she might not be your cup of tea - I’d encourage everyone to give a few of her plays a read. So far I’ve taken a look at the following although I know she’s written many more:

Polaroid Stories,
Aloha Say the Pretty Girls,
Language of Angels

Until the next obsession takes over,


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


In a moment of shameless self promotion - this is the last weekend for Henley St.'s One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Come out and admire Andrew Bonniwell's brilliant lighting design, and my endearing cameo as a drunk hooker (a role I've been practicing for my whole adult life . . .).

- Kerry

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Script's The Thing . . .

I know that this is a topic that's probably been gone over time and again, but I've just finished work and my mind isn't as agile as it could be right now, so instead of breaking new ground, I'm going to content myself with rehashing some good old arguments from way back.
And speaking of good old things from way back, I just went and saw the opening of Arther Miller's All My Sons over at CAT last night. I don't want to comment about the performance itself (I'll leave that to the reviewers), but I did want to mention the play (the script, the text, etc.).
It doesn't take a brainiac to say "Hey, that Arthur Miller guy - he's not half bad." That's one of the facts written in stone. (I believe it's actually written right next to: "Whoo-ee, Brecht sure had some neato ideas . . . ") So, I'm not going to point out his particular genius - just that I am constantly amazed at how well really good play writing stands the test of time.
All My Sons is, technically, a very dated piece of work. It's all post-WWII shifting ideals, and family values, and standing up for your fellow man. And it all takes place in a neighborhood where everyone plays cards together and makes their own grape juice. What?! I can't even name any of my neighbors, much less would I ever serve them juice, homemade or otherwise.
Yet, despite this handicap, I was absolutey riveted by the characters and their problems. The situations might be different, but the way they responded to them was just as true as any modern character you'd see in Hollywood, TV land, or the stage today. Better than most of those, in fact. Arthur Miller was able to touch upon the truth of human beings and their actions, regardless of what era they were set in.
I can't even count the number of plays written in the past five, ten or twenty years that are completely dated already, and frankly it's a pain to have to suffer through those performances because, really who gives a damn? But then I can watch a Chekhov play and empathize with the heartache and hardships, even if I don't understand why what the big deal about Moscow is. And has anyone written anything that so completely encompasses the blinding passion of young love since that one guy wrote Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare . . .?)?
I become so involved in a well-written story, that I'll forgive many other sins in the production value or performances. And that's the really great beauty about it, it doesn't take amazing actors or realistic scenery to bring good plays to life ( I suppose that's my add-in to the recent Richmond "what makes a good show" buzz).
So, I guess this post is really a raise of the glass to good play writing. And to companies in town (occasionally) not being blindsided by new 'edgy' works that just really aren't as good.
Kudos, CAT. You made me want to sit down and drink up some Arthur Miller. And maybe I'll just have an O'Neill chaser too.

- Kerry

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

asking the right questions

My most recent theatrical revelation came from a combination of a conversation with a professor and the Bread and Puppet production “Dirt Cheap Opera” that I saw on Sunday night at gallery five.

I think I’ve been asking the wrong questions. I like to question things. I pride myself in asking not what theater is, but what it can be, what I would like it to be. I think nightlight has done a good job of confronting those questions, and I’m excited for it to continue to do so, but I think there may be harder, more important questions to tackle. I sat down to have a conversation with a professor at VCU and asked what I’ve begun to call the question with no answer “how do I become a director?” He proceeded to give me the answer that I’ve been getting from most people, “that’s a tough one” and then went on to talk about art in general. He said that the way that you begin to become a director is by creating your own projects, but it’s then that you have to answer the really hard questions. I expected the normal “what is theater, what kind of theater do you want to create, what is your process” but he started somewhere much more basic. “What do you want to say and how can you say it in a way that effects people?” before you start addressing the medium, address the central question, because theater, at its heart is about communication. It’s not about “making art” it’s about sharing a message, a story with the audience.
I saw Bread and Puppet Theater’s “Dirt cheap Opera” when it was at Gallery Five this Sunday. The puppets were made of cardboard, the actors laughed at each other onstage, and the pictures were crowded and muddled. But what they did right, what filled the seats and will make people come back for more is that they had a message, their message translated into a story, and they were passionate about telling that story. Their passion gave their performances lightness, a joy, a kinetic energy that the audience couldn’t help but get wrapped up in. I talked to theater folks after the show and it was frustrating how quickly the conversation turned to critique of style and methods. They were upset about the staging, about the puppets falling apart. I talked to nontheater folks; maybe theatergoers but not performers or directors or designers and they loved it. They paid no attention to the craftsmanship of the puppet or the use of plane, all that they knew is that they had fun, the work spoke to them, and they wanted more. So in that way, Bread and Puppet did something with no budget that a lot of theaters can’t do with millions of dollars, they spoke to people. And that is what theater is about (at least I hope). It’s so easy for us to get wrapped up in asking questions about art, when the real question is not about art at all; it’s about creative communication. It’s about talking to people in a way that makes them want to listen.

Lighter, Freer, More Joyful.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ode to Blue Gel

So we decided to take turns posting thoughts. It seems unfair to Kerry to post constantly, but I, unfortunately, never know what to say. There is a whole universe of theatre stuff to talk about. So I stupidly asked the question "What should I write, an Ode to Blue Gel?" and of course I got stuck (and by stuck I mean secretly excited to be) doing exactly that.

Here goes...

An Ode to Blue Gel

In Theatre:

When you see lovely lights
Of winter, cold and nights
You know its blue gel

Oh Blue Gel, you really are the best
You give designers flexibility
To create the look at which we rest
Directors and actors have an inability
To appreciate your blend-ability

When waiting for your cue
Take a look at the hue
Light is not allowed
If it’s not blue

You make my life better
You make the cold colder
And the water wetter
Lots of colors are bolder
But blue is the go getter

Red creates passion or rage
Green can be sickness or old age
Yellow denotes the sun
A symbol for everyone

But blue conveys so much
Time, place, mood and such
To the look upon the stage
Created by an old sage
Translating ideas from the written page

To some blue is boring
But its blue that I am adoring
An ode to blue gel

Hopefully, I will get an inspiration for my next post. Otherwise, you get stuck reading something like this!