Friday, May 26, 2017

Having an Appetite

This isn't a review. I'm not a reviewer, and even if I was, you could not read this and go see the show, because it happened for one night only. If you were not part of the 30 or so people who saw Appetite by Skewed Visions tonight, let's face it, you missed out.

The night started with a back alley entrance, a warm garden in spring blow, a cat called Potato wandering through like an especially furry host. A motley set of chairs, a table of wine and snacks. But that's not the appetite they meant.

Then, two different kinds of audio feedback. Ted Moore with a hyper-sensitive microphone with feedback that reacted to the smallest vibrations in the room, seeming improvised but actually highly scored. Kyle, who swallowed the notes from his saxophone, rather than playing them. At some points, I swear there was actual color coming out.

Then Charles Campbell, looking as he started the night like he was setting up a Spaulding Gray monologue in an area suit. Who then manipulated sound and light and projection and words to take you an incredible journey, half reminiscent of your youth and half a vision of an (apocalyptic?) future.

It was all about feedback, sending me into a kind of meditative state, but as I sit in the living room and write now small neurons of my mind light up like sparklers. Like most SV pieces, this will stay with me for a long time.

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Started the night with craft cocktails by at Cafe Alma, served by Adam, the best bartender in the Twin Cities. Incredible food, and espresso with just a hint of rum to put us in the perfect meditative state for the show.

Tried to end the evening with a drink at Young Joni, but I, alas, was ID-less so they would not let me in. So home too early and still thinking about the piece, which is not necessarily a bad place to be. I wish you had seen it so we could talk about it together.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On Assumptions

I've been thinking a lot about assumptions today.

I was thinking about them because this morning I had to drive back, park, and run back onto the house to send a file; as I was doing so a passer-by saw fit to passively-aggressively chastise me about parking too far from the curb.

I was thinking about them because, as my friend Mo commented on Twitter earlier this week:
There's a review of Refugia floating around whose assumptions about a scene skewering the dangers of assumptions are just too ironic 4 words.
I was thinking about them because I had to stop my car and sit by the side of the road for a few minutes while listening the the "74 Seconds" podcast about the shooting of Philando Castile.

There are all kinds of assumptions, and some dramatically different consequences.

But what if we actively fought against assumptions, rather than piecing them together into "what is the truth" like a low-budget Law and Order episode?

What if we assumed that people around us were doing the best they could, and sometimes made mistakes but maybe had a lot going on in their lives?

What if we assumed that they were trying to do something good instead of trying to do something bad?

What if we took the route of praise rather than blame?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Refugia

I'm starting to seem like one of the awesome Minnesota Theater Bloggers with my frequency of theater blogs (yeah, I only wish!), but I can't stop thinking about Refugia at the Guthrie last night. Thanks to my years at Jeune Lune I've known Dominique Serrand for over half my life, and it was clear to me last night that this was the play that he has wanted to create for at least that long a time. I'm stopping just short of calling it his magnum opus (because I hope there's a lot of great work left of his to see), and I don't want to take away from the other great work he's directed and co-created over the years, but this is the most significant and complete piece he's directed.

I need to start by saying that the Guthrie was the most lively and intense I had ever seen it last night. With three stages active (Refugia on the proscenium, The Bluest Eye in the thrust, and Mu's Charlie Chan in the Dowling studio, plus some prom photos being taken), the lobby was filled with excited, curious people of all ages and genders and colors and interests. I know that's been a goal of the Guthrie for a long time, but it was the first time I had really felt it, and it set the perfect tone for the evening — well, that and the beautiful grey mist over the river, that "endless bridge" still has one of the best views in town.

Refugia itself a multi-layered piece whose images flash by me every time I close my eyes, that sucked me in immediately and did not let me go until I was in full-blown tears by the end. Tales by Steve Epp, that take you on a journey that only he can do, where you follow along breathlessly and don't even realize how far you have come. Intense, poignant imagery made all the stronger by flashes of knee-slapping humor. Multi-dimensional stories that don't seem to relate at all, but you know they will, and you are not disappointed even while you are surprised. Incredible performances by people you expect — hat tip to Nathan and Christina — and by a cast of performers mainly new to the Guthrie whose performances are outstanding, including an outstanding young lady (I only wish I had seen Maia Hernandez's take on it). I would say more, I'm aching to discuss every detail, but I want YOU to see it and discuss it with me, and I don't want to pre-dispose you to a single minute of it.

We walked out through the fog to our car and I was at a loss for words at this beautiful, poignant exploration of being "the other" — while at the same time being a kind of love letter to humanity.

They have it all wrong, you know, those who fear immigrants coming to their countries. For some reason — maybe their own selfishness — they assume that people come here to take. But people come to America, and to other countries all over the world, mainly to give of themselves. Refugia is just one of those gifts, and all I could manage to say to Dominique as I left was "thank you."

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Vulnerability of an Open Rehearsal


Last night, I was lucky enough to get invited to an open rehearsal for 365 Days/365 Plays: A 2017 Remix, by Full Circle Theater Company. I've admired the brand new company, begun by Rick Shiomi, Martha Johnson, and several other of the top theatre creators in Minnesota, but I have only recently begun to work with them.

I'm also very affected by Suzan-Lori Parks' work, and remember being hit hard by 365 Days/365 Plays in 2006 when she conceived of it. That year seems like yesterday and today. It was the year I lost my mom, and the year I got married, and here was this odd piece of short, direct plays that were really hard hitting. It's a spiky piece, extremely issues-based, and that year I saw several performances of the pieces from many diverse theaters, as companies nationwide collaborated in producing it as one big cycle.

So I have to admit when I found out Full Circle was doing it, my first thought was "why?" As we talked more, I saw intellectually how it fit in with their mission of "artfully addressing human nature and social justice."

But last night, even just in rehearsal, I truly saw how fantastic performances could push this issues-based piece into a whole new realm. It pushed me into a new space — and not necessarily a comfortable one, but one that I felt compelled to navigate and explore. It's been a long time since a play has challenged me in that way both intellectually and emotionally. It might be a change in me, but I am more likely to think it was the power of this production.

This was enhanced by the feeling of access from an open rehearsal. there in the basement rehearsal room at Pillsbury House, with bright fluorescent lights and rehearsal props and uncomfortable chairs and a dingy carpet, was a raw sense of adventure. Of confidence in what the actors know and an eagerness to try out new things. Of confident directors (Rick and Martha and several directors doing a few plays each) who were also pushing their boundaries. Of curiosity and exploration and even a slight crackling of danger.

The show opens in two weeks. You won't be able to get that raw rehearsal sense, but I'm pretty sure that sense of intimacy and challenge will be inherent in the finished piece. Don't miss it. Come with me opening night.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's May Day!

If I were to look over past posts, I would likely see several about the Heart of the Beast Theater's annual May Day parade. We don't have Mardi Gras, but we have May Day, and especially in times like these, there's something magical about being with a group of people experiencing May Day together. This year, more than ever, its diversity and range of ages represented really struck me. Long live May Day!

It was also a weekend of other community-building. Beatrix's art is included in this year's ArtWalk in downtown Saint Paul, so there was a small reception at the Ordway for that (and I DO mean *small,* but it was fun.) Her art is up at the Starbucks across from Subtext on 5th Street through June 4, if you want to check it out.

After that, her Norwegian dance troop danced at the Festival of Nations. They did a great job, and as we walked through the displays and food hall afterwards, lots of people had questions about the dance and her bunad.

Last night I was able to attend the fantastic Wilson Webb show opening at IFP Minnesota. I know I'm biased, but our recent shows have been hitting it out of the park. You should definitely go see it. After that, we headed over to some friends for "slipper club," a night of loungewear and relaxation.

We fit in some other events, like a family photoshoot and a baby shower, and even a walk with the dogs. It's finally spring!


Friday, May 5, 2017

Your Values, Your Kid

Lately Beatrix and I have been having a lot of discussions around the term "Smash the Patriarchy!" It started with what "patriarchy" is, and then why you would want to smash it, and then into greater depth. Quite honestly, it's an easier thing to discuss in abstract than the specifics of why Congress would want to eliminate healthcare as we know it for all Americans.

She's not 100% on board, but she kind of likes the idea and we discuss why it's important to me. She's a thoughtful kid, and doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and so she doesn't want the patriarchy to feel bad. I can accept that — for now. But I want her to keep thinking about it.

I don't remember having these kinds of discussions with my parents. I certainly saw them live their values, and so I grew to them. To this day, I share my mother's view that hypocrisy is the worst possible sin. And I got a great supportive email from my dad today after he saw me featured in an editorial. But my fierceness about issues came early on (I know those reading this who knew me in high school would agree), and as far as I can recall, sprung fully formed like Athena from Zeus. I don't think of this as unusual — philosophy, as far as I knew it from my friends, was for Philosophy Club, not necessarily the dinner table. I'm not even sure my mother read my senior thesis, but I know that she and I did not debate the complexities of Helene Cixous vs. Luce Irigaray.

Which was all to say the I don't know how this will turn out. But I like debating these things with her, and I feel, now more than ever, it's an important thing to do.