Nice of me to let you know before I go on a damn near two week hiatus, wasn't it? Sorry 'bout that (if there's even anyone out there still checking this guy after two weeks of radio silence). It turns out, contrary to what I had assumed, that unemployment is not leaving me tooling around the internets to no end. As a result, the blog fell into a short lapse, that we (we being I) hope to turn back around quite shortly.
Of course, as it goes, the moment I have some free time, it quickly starts to fill (albeit with less profitable tasks). The Magician is still running, and I've also been charged with the task of going on as a replacement opposite Annette on Thanksgiving weekend. The show is (aside from one scene) a two-hander, so while Annette's the lead proper, I've been given a large part to learn in a very un-large amount of time. We'll see how it goes. I started NaPlWriMo, and then promptly gave up. That's a lie; I didn't give up so much as concede that I'll never finish in the allotted time, now that this replacement role has decided to eat up my free time. So instead I've gone back and taken a quick second look at Peculiar Way, which I'm now deeming is on draft 1 1/2. I have to have it done and copies available on the 19th for our next Per Diem meeting, so's I can offer it up as a potentiality in the first three shows, which we will be deciding upon that evening. I'm having trouble prioritizing my choices -- along with Peculiar Way, my own Consent is also fresh on my mind, but I'm also getting pulled in a million different directions by Beckett, Cocteau, Arrabal, Shakespeare (yes, Shakespeare -- and fuck you if you don't think I can bring it original-style), Bogosian, Jarry, Adamov, and more that I can't even remember right now. We'll see what happens.
Announcements are pending.
So is reflections on 500 Clown, which has now ended... sort of... (honest, Paul, it's coming)
Now I need to memorize lines. I'll be back. And soon. Promise.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Nice of me to let you know before I go on a damn near two week hiatus, wasn't it? Sorry 'bout that (if there's even anyone out there still checking this guy after two weeks of radio silence). It turns out, contrary to what I had assumed, that unemployment is not leaving me tooling around the internets to no end. As a result, the blog fell into a short lapse, that we (we being I) hope to turn back around quite shortly.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 3:53 PM
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Two days after I find my Gide quote, Joshua James vents his frustration with what he perceives as a lack of respect for the playwright in today's theatre world.
I agree with some, I disagree with some.
But the one thing I keep seeing come up in the comments as well is this wrath against people telling playwrights what their play is about. So Gide gets a repeat performance right quick:
“Before I explain my book to others, I expect them to explain it to me. To claim to explain it first is to immediately narrow down its reach; for if we know what we intended to say, we do not know whether we said only that. - One always says more than THAT. - And what interests me most is what I put in without knowing, - that unconscious share, which I would like to call God’s share.”
When working with one of my scripts, I either want complete control or no control at all. If the idea is to put up the show just as I intended it, I might as well direct it, too. Otherwise, I wanna see what others take from it. By all means, production team, let me know what you're doing. If there's anything you feel might be particularly contentious, sure, ask me for my input. But I don't do this to beat my message into other people. I've said what I wanted to say -- it's there on the paper. If people (audience and artists alike) take that out of it, awesome! If they take something else out of it, even better! If a director (or a "snot-nosed kid with an MFA") gets a feeling so strong out of my work that they want to put it up, who am I to say they're doing it wrong? I don't let people tell me I'm writing wrong.
So please, tell me what my play is about. Because I'm probably not going to tell you.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 9:48 AM
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I had been trying to find this quote for something blog-related a few weeks ago with no luck. And now that I'm looking for a different quote (something about God's touch, or breath, or share in poetry -- I believe it was by Gide, but I first read it as referenced by Cocteau -- can anyone help?), I stumbled back across this one. I have no idea what context I was planning on using it in, so mull and ponder to whatever end your heart desires...
"Listen carefully to first criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don't like - then cultivate it. That's the only part of your work that's individual and worth keeping." ~Jean Cocteau
EDIT: It was God's share, I found it. But feel free to ponder Cocteau anyway. Hell, since I found it, feel free to ponder Gide as well:
"Before I explain my book to others, I expect them to explain it to me. To claim to explain it first is to immediately narrow down its reach; for if we know what we intended to say, we do not know whether we said only that. - One always says more than THAT. - And what interests me most is what I put in without knowing, - that unconscious share, which I would like to call God's share." ~Andre Gide
Posted by Paul Rekk at 11:22 AM
Monday, October 29, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
In lieu of the recent "what constitutes art" discussion taking place around the Chicago theatrical blog-stituency, I feel that I should be putting something up here. After all, the discussion has pretty much defined itself as me and Bob pitted against Don and Tony, and I'm the only one yet to contribute on my blog proper.
But for once in my life, I don't have any manifesto to provide (Aside from perhaps that, no, elephants cannot create art, Don. Dolphins and higher primates are a little hazier and could provide for some interesting research. But I digress...) I've contributed plenty to the discussions elsewhere, and will continue to do so as long as those discussions continue, but it's all feeling blindly in the dark for the answer to an unanswerable question. I'm enjoying it, but I've got no interest in structuring the discussion myself.
So instead, I'm simply going to provide a tribute to the artists I take inspiration from, a list which sort of places my position in the argument into context. I'm sure that Don and Tony, as well as anyone else on their side of the fence, might very easily find artists they enjoy on this list. It isn't meant to be contrarian or to oppose their viewpoint. These are simply and truly the artists that place hope for the possibilities of their (respective) forms in me. Consider it Paul Rekk deconstructed.
- Marcel Duchamp: Here's the big guy himself, the go-to guy for all of these discussions. Fountain is the final destination of all 'what is art?' conversations. And there's a good reason I have "R.Mutt 1982" tattooed on my back.
- Rene Magritte: Continuing the tattoo thread -- "Ceci n'est pas un Bries." spans my side, to soon be joined by "Ceci n'est pas un Adam." and "Ceci n'est pas un Paul." The last time I was in the Art Institute, I was next to a elderly couple as they went, baffled, from Dali's Venus de Milo with Drawers to Magritte's On The Threshold Of Liberty. They saw me enjoying it and the lady asked why. Taken off guard, I muttered something about it being a picture of our world from the mindset that anything imagined can also exist. And, oddly enough, it apparently helped her approach the work tremendously. Dali, Miro, and Tanguy are great, but Magritte brings it out of our minds and into our homes.
- Jean-Luc Godard: The greatest of all filmmakers, not because of what he does but because of what he wants to do. I'm one of the rare types who enjoy early, mid, and late period Godard equally as much (what I've been able to see, at least). From Breathless to Weekend, from Prenom Carmen to L'Origine du XXleme siecle, Godard knows there's new ground to be broken at every turn and, more importantly, that breaking it is a lifelong process.
- Georges Perec: Continuing the 'greatest' thread: the greatest writer of the 20th century, in the short list for greatest ever. Yes, there's A Void, his most popular work, in which the constraint is by now unfortunately better known than the work itself. But the dealmaker is Life A User's Manual -- just reading the maze Perec placed in front of himself to write it is exhausting to me as a writer. The fact that he came through on top and dragged with him an epic of minutiae is nothing short of genius.
- Robert Rauschenberg: Rauschenberg's 'Combines' are fine and dandy, but the real brilliance comes when he steps into his role as the natural progression of Duchamp. His Portrait of Iris Clert and Erased De Kooning Drawing alone provide more insight into the trepidations of defining art than most artists could ever hope to even process.
- Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Christo and Jeanne-Claude have repeatedly done what few other abstract artists (hell, artists in general) can do -- get Joe Everyman to not only see their work, but to create an informed opinion of it. Seek out the Maysles Brothers' light-handed documentaries on Christo's work to see this in action. (The one on The Gates opens at the Music Box one week from today!) The masses may choose to watch reality TV and read US Weekly, but that doesn't mean they can't, won't, or don't want to consider other, more divisive, work. Remind me to blog someday about the time, less than a year ago, I discussed aesthetics with a class of small-town Iowa high school sophomores.
- John Cage: I mean, his "Organ²/ASLSP" began performance in a church in Halberstadt, Germany in 2001 and is scheduled to last 639 years! One performance! For serious? That's fucking amazing. And Halberstadt, Germany is actually quite high on my list of places to visit, solely because of Cage. The next musical event in the piece (a new chord) will be on July 5, 2008. Who wants to take in a little Cage with me next summer?
- Samuel Beckett: Yes, maybe it's an obvious one, but I'm not about to start name-dropping Godot and Endgame. Some of the best work Beckett ever did was some of his earliest. I'm not quite sure that he ever topped Murphy, Watt, or Molloy.
- Jean Cocteau: Don't be surprised by the inclusion of a little lyricism on this list. I'm not just a steaming ball of transgression. Cocteau seemed to live in that line between reality and dreams, between life and death. Even better, he was able to show it to us. To everyone's surprise, it turned out to be extraordinarily simple, yet no one has been able to recreate it since.
- Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal: The Panic Movement will explode your mind and then play with all of the dirty, naughty pieces that it finds among the wreckage. You should probably be a little afraid to trust yourself in these artists' hands.
- Alfred Jarry: The theatrical version of Duchamp. I don't understand why I like Jarry. I can't even follow Caeser Antichrist without the help of two or three translations to cross-reference. But goddamn if there ain't something marvelous there -- the man was possessed by an unnatural spirit, a spirit that has infused itself into the page.
Thoughts? Lists of your own? Comment that shit!
Posted by Paul Rekk at 10:58 AM
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
So I never blog-ficially shared the news: the Per Diem trinity is complete. Warmest welcomes to Lance Hall, the final piece of our puzzle. We had our first official meeting as a full company last night, and it was extremely productive. Look for all sorts of fun news and informations as things progress, and progress mightily!
Posted by Paul Rekk at 2:58 PM
Friday, October 19, 2007
On my most recent ('recent' being used quite loosely here) writing project, I decided to go back to longhand. Early this year I had been working on a prose piece, which has been backburnered, that had been extremely difficult to slog through. I loved the results, but most of the time I found myself only writing a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, before nodding off. Part of the problem was the style of the piece. It's got some similarities to the automatic writing of the Surrealists, and that's not an easy place to get to, much less sustain. There were a few times when I hit a streak and would go, go, go; most times, however, I'd slowly dip into a writer's coma. If you're still curious about the results, they're still up at Bries' myspace page; the link is to the right. I jumped over to another project (bad habit, I know, but I've always got four or five in a certain stage of germination) that became more pressing -- I'd like to have it available as a Per Diem possibility -- and also decided to jump to longhand, as the dim glow of the laptop also probably isn't very conducive to consciousness.
And it worked. I just finished the first draft of Peculiar Way. Well, I will have finished it soon. I've finished it in my head, but technically, I've got a bit of the final scene to actually put to paper yet. And of course, then I have to make the transfer to digital. But I consider it finished.
I never wrote the post about my writing process that I always meant to, so here's the truncated version: My writing process has no definition -- and I'm struggling (not struggling... ehhh... curious, maybe?) to decipher how much of that is me still finding what works for me versus me just not having a specific style. Because I know it is a mix -- formal reinvention and exploring new grounds are a big part of my process. Many of my ideas begin as formal conceits which then get a story built around them. And I've begun to notice thematic similarities that are emerging within these works, despite the varying styles. The most obvious (to me) example is a sense of the circular. Most of my work ends where it begins, sometimes (borderline often) quite literally, even to the point of repeated scenes. I haven't put effort into figuring out why I do this, and to tell the truth, I don't plan on putting much effort into it at present. But I digress: no defined style, partially due to a lack of refinement, partially due to a refusal to stay in one place. That's me right now.
And fitting with that, when I switched to longhand for Peculiar Way, I also naturally shifted my writing schedule ('schedule' being used quite loosely here). Portability is a blessing -- no longer did I do my writing at home in the evenings where my dim glow was awaiting. Nope, I always had that notebook with me, and the best time and place for a little inspiration seemed to be... on the train during rush hour coming home from work. Unlikely, perhaps, but 90% of this (albeit, short) play was written in a cramped, tired, and not particularly happy railway car. I hope it doesn't reflect.
But despite its unfortunate birthing conditions, I'm quite keen on Peculiar Way. At least I'm keen on what it is in my mind; we'll see how I feel when I type it out. It's been a process of discovery (which isn't all that remarkable, I know -- the writing process should always be one of discovery) -- this will be the first time I dedicate a work to someone. I was a little way into the work when I realized that this story, sparked by a very minor scene in a Tarkovsky film, had evolved into a reflection on my relationship with one of my best friends from high school. And I've already said too much -- I hate discussing deeper readings of my work with any but a few intimate friends. Chalk it up to the journal aspect of having a blog. So it's a work that is close to me in a very specific way -- that's the official summation.
A short play. Six scenes. Three radio, three intimately staged, about an astronaut and his loved ones during the days approaching his launch.
The current idea running through my head is an inclusion of Peculiar Way in a Per Diem evening of radio and radio-esque plays. All things providing. Keep an ear to the ground -- or this blog.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 7:57 AM
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
There are rules to be followed in art. As an artist, are they your own rules, or are you following someone else's? Neither is incorrect.
How often do you seek a change in rules? Some can live their lives on one set, others want a new game every time. Neither is incorrect.
"No rules" is a set of rules. Anarchy is still a form of government.
If someone is playing by a different set of rules than you expected, you can try to pick them up as you go and risk failing miserably or you can refuse to play and guarantee failure.
You can fail as an audience member. Which isn't necessarily bad.
A third option: You can try to change the rules. This is a place where things can get ugly or beautiful in a hurry. And the consequences are yours to deal with.
The artist and the audience are equally complicit in this relationship. A bad experience on either end can rarely be blamed solely on the other party. Give what you want to get.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 11:02 AM
Actually, I think it's been in a constant state of explosion for just over twelve hours now. And I don't exactly know what to do about it.
I'm enrolled in the 500 Clown class through Actor's Gymnasium, which has been both revelatory and cathartic. One of the things I quickly learned about myself in the first two weeks is that I have an ability to completely open up physically and put my body at risk as a performer. The deeper lesson in that realization is that I have honed that ability to compensate for the way I lock myself in emotionally. Last night was the third class, and that weakness took center stage. I had broken down all those walls by the end of the class. I was crying and laughing and furious all at once, and without an agenda other than release. It was a shining moment, and I think it's knocked something loose that has been waiting a long time to be knocked loose, because it's not going away.
Most of the class hit up Ghirardelli's for some post-mortem sundaes and then I rushed off to dress for a show we open on Thursday. This show, which will remain nameless but not difficult to figure out (hint: --->), has devoured my life as well as my soul. I know it's gauche to talk bad about a production you have a direct hand in, but I hate this show. And I'm not using the 'h' word lightly. The utter level of disorganization and miscommunication and ill (or un-) planning would have been enough to throw me off my game, but I also question the artistic instinct of many of the people involved in the production. (That's not fair or true. There are some great people involved. It's just that the people who should be in charge form a black hole that is sucking the artistic worth out of everyone else -- myself included, I'm sure.) I keep wanting to apologize for being so vicious towards a work that I am a part of, but when it comes down to it, I don't want this show to succeed. This is bad theatre. I am involved in bad theatre and I am dying inside because of it. To apologize for acknowledging that will only kill me a little faster.
And so, fresh off of a 500 Clown catharsis/show-from-the-devil's-asshole hollowness combination, I got home at the ridiculously late and vomited my heart, mind and soul out to my roommate, Lloyd (who is a beautiful person and a godsend for putting up with all of my shit). I had freshly locked my emotions back into their cage after class, but sharing that experience and going right into the trevails of rehearsal opened that place back up again. Yay, accepting one's feelings! Ah, but here's the rub: I haven't been able to get them back inside again since then. I was a ball of rage and tears last night up until I passed out sometime between 2:30 and 3:00. I wanted nothing more than to put my fist through something. And had I anything around that I didn't value or mind dealing with replacing, I would have. Repeatedly. As it is, I tore up some paper and went to sleep, assuming that things would be back to normal in the morning, as things usually are the rare and limited occasions that I get in a similar state of mind.
Things are not back to normal. I woke up, sat up, and was in tears within three minutes. The rage came back shortly thereafter. Some deodorant got chucked across to the bathroom -- I believe it was Lloyd's. That was a somewhat unfortunate choice, but it felt a little better. But it made me realize that something was different in this than in the 500 Clown breakdown. I had the sadness and the anger, but the joy was gone. It was an even mix in class, but ever since then, the happiness has been absent. That's when I decided some changes were in order.
The lack of joy was because I hadn't done anything that brought me pleasure since class. I hate the show I'm working on, I come home and pass out, only to get up in the morning and go to a job that isn't horrible enough for me to quit outright but is frustrating enough to keep me on a constant half-ass search for a new line of work. After work, I will go straight to a final dress in which we won't get shit done despite the fact that we've have a lot of shit that needs to get done despite the further fact that we have an audience tomorrow. By that time, it will have been over 24 hours since the class -- the last time I will have taken time apart to do something I derive pleasure from. I'm throwing bedtime to the wind tonight and going from rehearsal to run lines with Annette, another beautiful person and godsend who will be learning about this entire development and that she's been outed on my blog all at the same time, and then having to put up with my shit as well (I don't envy her) -- after we run lines, of course (I'm not a complete asshole). And I will be dead tired on Wednesday, but it will be worth it, because if I don't see Annette tonight, it will be a full 48 hours of joylessness. How did I get myself in this position?
I was seconds from quitting my job this morning. The odds are still better than 2:1 that I will give my two weeks notice by the end of the day. I have a job interview Thursday afternoon, but it's nothing I can bank on, and I don't have any other prospects on the front lines. It would be completely stupid to give two weeks without having a job in place. It would be throwing myself into a great unknown. It would also be liberating. And it would make me happy(-ier). I'll probably do it. And as I type that, I start wavering again. Please, anyone with any advice of any sort: comment. I need words. They don't have to make sense or have any answers or even relate to what I'm going through. I just need your words.
I've been on the brink of tears all morning. I want to tear the handset off the phone everytime it rings (and sure enough, it seems to have been ringing twice as much as usual this morning). And the part that scares me the most is how much I've internalized. I can feel the insane amounts of tension gathering in my neck, shoulders, and lower back. In the last twelve hours, I've released years of bottled emotion. How can I have tucked this much into my deep, dark corners as well?
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:18 AM
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It's much more difficult to find art that I hate than art that I find mediocre. But I will forever remember the art that I hate: it has the same passion and force as that which I love. And is created with the same skill.
Be unapologetic. Speak your truth. Acceptance needn't be the only goal. A chorus of boos isn't far removed from a standing ovation.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 2:00 PM
Friday, October 5, 2007
Mr./Mrs. "facetious witticism": Well, that was serendipitous! Welcome home.
Mr./Mrs. "halloween word that starts with a i": I believe you are looking for 'incubus'. However, there may be more options. Perhaps my regular readers can provide other suggestions; they're both quite knowledgeable.
To the throng of seekers of information on "the art of fucking" and its variants: Wow, you searched for 'the art of fucking' and then you clicked here? Talk about crushing disappointment. Seriously, guys, you may as well ask these fellas; they're probably getting more action than I am.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:41 AM
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
This is the followup. Welcome to the followup.
"So what, exactly, Mr. Paul "Everything is Peachy" Rekk -- what, exactly, was not so hot about your schoolin'?"
That's the question on everyone's mind. I actually received eleven e-mails with that question, letter for letter, ill-chosen punctuation mark for ill-chosen punctuation mark, after my last post. Well, maybe not eleven, but it was definitely just this side of zero.
And what was so wrong? The Man, I tell you. The Man was getting us down. For serious -- the administration at Wartburg College, at least as of two years ago (and I can't imagine it having changed much since) had little time and less support for its theatre department. Up through my junior year, the theatre offices (and that's a tenuous plural) were in the communication arts department, the bulk of the storage was in the music department and the theatre was in an old converted high school gymnasium (basketball court with a proscenium on one end -- the kind my mom played on when she was in school) that had shitty insulation and and even shittier lighting and sound options. Oh, did I mention we had to set up folding chairs for the audience to have somewhere to sit? And the building was completely blocked from the rest of the school by the chapel, of all places. The campus was set up like a 'u' with a few apartment-style dorms serving as an umlaut. We were the little tail on the 'u'. And this space was the location of every show the department put up.
My senior year was heralded by the breaking in of a new performance space! Wee-hoo! Not a new theatre, mind you... it was named the McCaskey Lyceum, lest the theatre department get the wrong impression that it was *gasp* their own space! No, we dealt with the hell that was scheduling around a very large and well-supported music department, who also wanted to play with the new toy. And since we no longer needed the old "theatre", the college started to hold some larger classes and eventually as makeshift offices for the athletic department while they got a new multi-multi-multi-million dollar athletic facility. Oh, but never you fear -- the theatre department did have a rehearsal space to call our own. A concrete basement under the Lyceum -- one not quite blackbox-sized room (but completely unfeasible for performance -- or at least anything but the most minimal performance), with a dressing-room, a closet pretending to be a dressing-room, and a storage room that to this day I am still not certain was ever completed, or ours, for that matter.
I've always had a bit of an underdog complex in me, so this environment didn't appear to me so much as a handicap as yet another reason to damn The Man. But looking back, while it was an experience that often solidified us as a department in our struggle, it was really detrimental to the growth or practice of our ability to create and initiate work on our own. When it was a fight just to get the department's shows up, the possibility of doing something on our own was never even a consideration. Unfortunately, I've only been back to the campus once since graduation and that was for about an hour this past graduation, so I don't know how things look now. I've heard that the department has been making leaps and bounds, but the true creative acts -- the ones in reaction to the status quo -- can't emerge if even the status quo holds no authority.
How does one go about solving a problem like that? Well, for the department, keeping their shoulder to the wheel may be working in the long run, but that doesn't do shit for the students there now. How many students' educations and experiences will have been sacrificed for the cause by the time the program achieves a fair amount of respectability from the powers that be? I think the situation calls for a decent amount of Ol' Reliable: revolution. The students currently in the program need to understand that learning by doing just as often means learning without being told what to do.
But this is going to require encouragement - hell, even I would have been (and was) reluctant to do anything to stir the waters too much. When you're 20 years old, a college education seems to be the most impenetrable thing in the 'real' world. You don't wanna fuck that up. Tom and Scott, in their serial posts, mentioned layin' down a few bucks and actually visiting the alma mater to sit and discuss with the students who are there. Maybe that's the sort of thing I should be doing to help kick the program (or at least those in it) in the ass. But then again, and I'm aware that this is just me making excuses, I'm fresh out myself. Part of me feels like I should have, oh, I dunno, actually done something that would make these students a whopping 3-7 years younger than me think I'm worth listening to. I've acted in a few shows, directed a few ten minute-esque shows, had a few ten minute-esque shows of my own put up, and that's really it. Yeah, I started a company, but we have a benefit and nothing else under our belt right now. Half of me says maybe I should wait and get a Per Diem season or two done to make it feel like I've got something of importance to share. And the other half is flashing back to the Anne Bogart advice that was the impetus for Per Diem in the first place. You know, the one with, like, seventy dozen tips that started with the words "Do not wait until..."?
The fact remains that my schedule doesn't allow for me to really even leave the city until mid-December and this is the sort of thing I wouldn't just want to do on a whim anyway, so prep time would also be involved. But if it's something I'm interested in doing, I need to tell myself 'yes', that I am actually going to follow through with it, and sooner rather than later. That's the spot on which I'm wavering right now. (William, I know I could just e-mail you and get your thoughts, but like I said, I'm wavering. So if you're reading this and have anything you wanna suggest/share, please e-mail me.)
I think I had more to say, but like usual, I got started and now my brain's awhirl and I'm gonna let it settle for a bit. A lot of this is also coming from the 500 Clown class that I started on Monday, which is already have a deep effect on many aspects of my life: the way I write, act, and direct; my attitude towards both a certain show I'm working on at the current time which has been endlessly frustrating and a certain 2nd audition I got called in for next week for a certain slam-bang company with the initials BMG; and even so far as my approach to a relationship that is in that uncertain formulation phase. I've also discovered that I apparently have a reckless abandon for my body that I substitute for an entirely absent sense of abandon for my emotions. But, hey, more on that next time.
God, these things never end up where I say they will, do they? Them's the perils of free-form blogging, I s'pose.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 1:56 PM
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Once again, if you haven't read Scott Walters and Tom Loughlin's excellent five-part series on the state of theatre education (nicely organized by the folks at Praxis Theatre here), do it now. This post was originally going to be a reaction, with my thoughts on their thoughts, and it still will to some extent, but I don't really have a wide knowledge of the theatre education system, at least not in the sort of programs that Walters and Loughlin are speaking of/working in. Instead, this will be a reflection on my experiences in hopes that I will discover something or two in the process. Coincidentally, I just directed the chair of my old theatre department to my blog a few days ago. Let's see how I juggle that knowledge with this post.
Basic info on my education: I graduated from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. The current incarnation of the theatre department is extremely young, now sneaking up on just under a decade or so. (If I remember correctly, there was a program at one point in time that was dropped long ago and needed to be restarted from scratch.) I was one of the first few graduating classes to come out of the program with a major, which is actually a Communication Studies major with a Theatre emphasis. I was one of three majors who graduated in 2005. Small school + new program = tiny numbers.
Basic info on my specific experience: I didn't have an inch of a clue what I wanted to do coming into school, but theatre wasn't on the list of interests despite a lot of involvement in high school. I ended up focusing on Radio and Television Production, but got bored after mastering the basics. I took an acting class spring of my sophomore year and ended up coming back that fall as a theatre major. I hit the ground running and did quite well for myself in the last two years, but the fact remains that I didn't even set an eye on the theatre department for almost half of my education.
There was a decent period of time not long after I moved to Chicago that I felt very unsatisfied with the education I had received. I was discovering all of these other techniques and movements and styles and endless possibilites that hadn't even crossed my ears in college and I was frustrated, because it seemed as though my education had been on a much more elementary level than that of the people I was encountering. And to a certain degree, it was. But I no longer blame the program for that nearly as much, for a number of reasons.
First of all, it was a relatively elementary program. Not only was the curriculum in its infancy when I arrived, it was also a BA (without the 'F') program at a small Midwestern Lutheran liberal arts-oriented school. The basics are exactly what we should have been learning. Plus, it certainly didn't help matters that I tore through the program in two years. What I got was the basics of the basics, taking in 100% of the information in 50% of the time, never a good learning environment. The discoveries I have made my first two years in Chicago are discoveries I should have been making my junior and senior years of college. And probably would have been, with a little foresight and/or patience.
Preparing to graduate, I was in a total lurch in the 'what next?' department. I did the whole grad school search, paid out for the URTAs, went completely unnoticed, and got really down on myself. I knew a few people who were in grad school, a few who were on their way to, and a few who were doing intern stints in places like Milwaukee and Louisville, but I didn't really know that many who had gone out and done their own damn thing. Not only was it frightening, it felt like the leftovers, the island of misfit theatre practitioners.
First pause for topical enlightenment: this is exactly the sort of status quo mentality that Scott and Tom are talking about: "Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Now I'm a real artist!" It seems ridiculous in hindsight, but not going for my MFA seemed to be a very real concern at the time. This was not something I was taught, either. I should be clear that my education did not actively instill these steps in me. It just seemed to be the way things work. And someone like myself, who very rarely buys into the "way things work" excuse and often fought it even at that point, still felt utterly inadequate for falling outside of the system. This says to me that it's not enough to passively skim over the Goliath effect of the system; educators must actively encourage students to take the David role and find unique ways around the big problems.
Regularly scheduled blog: I do lament the lack of, shall we say, variety presented to us. But this comes with a program whose chair is also the department's only dedicated faculty member. (Hi, William! Welcome to my blog!) When the same man who is teaching Acting is also teaching Stagecraft, Directing, Survey of Drama, etc., his opinions are bound to seem a little universal. He wasn't tyrannical in his views at all and I'm certain that he would have encouraged a little dissonance every now and again. But theses are 18-22 year olds we're talking about, an age with a great capacity to get uppity countered with an intense need to not be seen as foolish. We could've provided the dissonance, but some poking and prodding would have been necessary. And as a result of me not questioning as much as I otherwise would have, I had to come to certain realizations long after I should have. A specific example: I didn't gain an appreciation of Beckett until way late in the game. While Beckett wasn't ignored, nor was an anti-Beckett regime taught, it was obvious that our chair was not a fan. Which isn't a bad thing in itself -- in fact, in a traditional theatrical department, that would be the dissonance -- but without any other views to take into account, we generally paid little mind to Beckett, which is a shame.
Second pause for enlightenment: Students, especially in undergrad, are bound to adopt the views of their professors. Countering this must come from more than one direction. Yes, our chair could, and probably should, have more actively encouraged us to challenge him (or read more Beckett). However, I think that more essential (through leading by example) is a theatre department whose members hold a variety of opposing artistic beliefs and who are visibly productive both as individuals and as a community despite (and hopefully because of) that variety. Having professors who enjoyed Beckett as well as those who didn't would have been far more helpful than one who didn't or many who did (as I'm sure is the case in many departments). It's much in line with the anti-gated community that Scott talks about in his most recent post. More important than students being told to think for themselves is being able to closely observe experienced artists thinking for themselves and using that to further each other's (and their collaborative) work. Leading by example and all that.
Regulary scheduled summation: So this ended up being closer to a love letter to my education that I would have ever guessed. While I am coming to appreciate my earlier formative years (because they're still happening, of course) more by the day, there were definitely some problems, both major and minor, with Wartburg's program. But I'll save those, and maybe suggestions for possible solutions, for the next post.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:07 AM
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A Little Caesar's just opened three blocks from my house. I had brief consumer relations with the Caesar while living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a summer, but it was nowhere near the stone's throw away this one is. I predict much one dollar Crazy Bread in my future; this is either a very good or verrrrrry bad development.
Marisa and David have tagged me [edit: Ack! Rob got me, too!] with a 'lameness' blog that was actually started by Marisa. That's right, people, I'm important enough to be included in the first wave of a meme. Boo-yah.
Here's the meme:
I'm actually having a bit of trouble with this one, not because I'm not lame but because I'm gleefully unaware of just how lame I can really be. Here goes nuttin':
1. I was a spelling bee kid. A fair chunk of my junior high years were spent spelling. According to the Knights of Columbus, I was third best speller in the state of Iowa in 7th grade. (And I still hold a grudge against the moderator/judge: if you pronounce "accessible" like "assessable", my 7th grade self is going to spell "assessable") My shining moment was winning the South Dakota regional Scripps Howard spelling bee -- that's the one whose national competition is broadcast on ESPN. Unfortunately, because I was an Iowa resident, I wasn't allowed to move on to the state competition and the runner-up took my place. I did get to keep the three-foot-tall trophy, though.
2. I have a history of blood-related fainting. It used to be horribly embarrassing, but I'm coming around to it slowly. Seeing blood doesn't really bother me, but my imagination is what you might call active, so when I hear stories or only get snippets, I can visualize the rest and often much worse than the reality of the situation. (It is probably also a big contributing factor to my extreme phobia of accidentally slitting my wrists.) Among the inconvenient places I have (or have almost) passed out: my college cafeteria, a movie theatre (two, almost three, times!), the Red Line (almost), my childhood pastor's home, and Konak.
3. I spent a summer (that same one in Sioux Falls) as a door to door meat salesman. It was for a small company similar to Omaha Steaks, and every morning we'd toss cases of frozen meat into the back of our delivery trucks with a big chunk of dry ice and set out to random small towns in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and occasionally Nebraska and peddle our wares from one house to the next. Meat peddling can be surprisingly fruitful if you can make it past the first few weeks (working on 100% commission leads to a very high turnover rate), and I can also now say that I have been ticketed and fined for "soliciting" my meat.
4. I grew up in one of those small towns. Small like you can't understand type small. My high school graduating class was a whopping 37 people. I could still name everyone in my senior yearbook, first name and last -- the entire high school. And my hometown of George (Yes, George, which is right down the road from Edna. They were brother and sister. I shit you not.) is actually relatively normal in size for the area. As opposed to Ritter, about 20 miles away, with its entire population of six people last I had heard.
5. I use three different names. This baffles people, and I think it's probably the sort of baffle that swings towards the 'lame' side. Depending on when, where, and in what capacity you met me, you might think of me as Adam Van Briesen, Bries Vannon, or Paul Rekk. I really don't have a preference, nor am I concerned with the 'real' one. They're all real in my mind. Although, I'm quite certain that three is the limit.
Alright, who wants to play? I pick Tony, Joe, Adam, Rebecca, and the Devil Vet himself. Go!
Posted by Paul Rekk at 9:14 AM
Friday, September 21, 2007
It's here! The full schedule has been released, which means we can officially announce the arrival of the: (insert town crier voice)
CHICAGO FILM FESTIVAAAAAL!
Pardon me as a geek out for a second. Unfortunately, as I was last year, I will be in tech during the festival, proving that the gods of theatre and film jointly have it out for me. And, as last year, I am promising that next year I am going to completely blacken my calender for the first half of October, buy a full pass and have my very own two week filmic vacation. Swear to god, it's gonna happen this time. I will still have four days and two weekend evenings to fill this year, so's I'm picking up a ten film pass. And I will be doing it today, because I have an irrational fear that everyone will suddenly discover how freaking amazing the film festival is and shit's gonna sell out instantaneously. Hey, it keeps me on my toes.
Here's the probable Paul Rekk Viewing Experience so far -- much of the lunch hour will be spent in a daze over the film schedule and my planner.
Noise (Matthew Seville, Australia)
Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien, France)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, & 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, Romania)
Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, France/USA)
One Hundred Nails (Ermanno Olmi, Italy)
Scream of the Ants (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iran/France)
The Walker (Paul Schrader, USA/UK)
A Walk Into The Sea (Esther Robinson, USA)
and one of the following:
The Duchess of Langeais (Jacques Rivette, France/Italy)
The Man From London (Bela Tarr, Hungary/France/Germany)
It's going to be a tough choice.
I know this request will be met with the same unblinking response it is every year, but if anyone has any recommendations or disrecommendations, these ears are open for biz-nass.
Also, I probably shouldn't completely go without plugging Signal Ensemble Theatre's foray into S-LP's 365 Days/365 Plays project. It's going on tomorrah night at the Signal rehearsal space (the same place as Per Diem's slam bang) at 8 pm. Deets are to the right. What's my connection? Who knows? Maybe I'll be directing! Maybe Bries'll be acting! Maybe I'll be directing and Bries'll be acting!! But I will be there -- first sign of a good time -- and so will Signal -- second sign of a good time -- so make yourselves the third sign. Or the sign of the cross. It might be necessary.
I have also been tagged for the Five Strengths meme by scholar and gentleman extraordinaire, David Alan Moore. I'm in a much less conceited mood today, so I'll let the previous five resound rather than coming up with another five backpats.
Theatre lessons learned and reinforced in the past two weeks (without going into too much dirty laundry):
- You can learn a lot surrounded by artists better than you. You can also learn a lot surrounded by artists worse than you. The latter is far less enjoyable.
- If a director has a character-related question for an actor but only sees one answer as acceptable, it's best to forego the whole question process and just give the only answer that will be acceptable.
- Organization is not everything. Planning ahead is not everything. But god damn it if they aren't a lot of it.
- Paul's Priorities: Character, then stage picture.
- Paul's Priorities: Blocking, then off-book.
- Shit don't have to make sense in regards to the real world, but shit gotta make sense within the created world.
- Lesson still in progress: the effects of zero marketing (I have a hunch I know the outcome.)
- If you can't remember worth a good god damn, Write. It. Down.
- Rehearsals involve actors. If you're going to turn one into a glorified production meeting, call it a production meeting and release the actors.
Needless to say, I'm in a frustrating situation artistically. I'm almost a bit hesitant to post this, as it'd be easy enough for it to make it's way back around to the wrong parties. However, I'm baring much less teeth than I would like to and if I don't get it out I might just explode.
And, I'm sure you've seen them by now, but be sure to check out Scott Walters and Tom Loughlin's series on the state of theatre education. It's wrapping up and is an enlightening read. I'll put some of my thoughts (and experience) up next week.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 6:48 AM
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I attended The Nod With Don Hall And Joe Janes (henceforth: TNWDHAJJ, phonetically: TEHN-wuhd-hahzh) last night. There was much Noddage to be had, because all of these people kick ass (sorry, I planned that link-tence poorly). There was also much snacks to be had. There were no puppets to be had, but I place no blame. I had a great time menos puppetos, so all is forgiven.
- Pringles: highly appealing. Pringles with words printed on them: unappealing. Pringles with movie trivia printed on them: Better, but only slightly; might be read, will not be eaten.
- Joe Janes and Don Hall stumbled across a Dutch-esque cookie sampler pack that was not only edible but tasty. I stand in awe, but I imagine that Dutch people everywhere are recoiling as their culinary trickery is overthrown.
- I pay an inordinate amount of attention to free snacks. Funny that.
- Don Hall is real.
- The list of people who might possibly be a figment of my imagination is rapidly approaching extinction. Still remaining: Tony Blair, Picabo Street, Rob Lowe, the ticket lady at the Landmark Century Cinema with the really funny-ass accent, Chef Boyardee, and Gregory the 5'8" Invisible Lemur.
- Poop is funny. (Alright, this wasn't a discovery. More of a reinforced fact.)
- Most funny, personable bloggers translate into funny, personable persons.
- Except me.
I kinda sorta had that lingering back of the brain dread that I get in any situation in which I will be all by myself meeting all sorts of new people in a social environment. It's the junior high dance mindset: "Boy, it sure would be great to talk to those people on the other side of the gym. Girls, I believe they're called. I've heard the stories; sugar, spice, other nice things. But how, oh how, am I to begin a conversation with these maidens? Do we even speak the same language? I will have been to France by the time I reach college, and my awesome pubescent powers of foresight tell me that situation will prove that language barriers will be hard to cross. It might be best if I just stay over here in the comforting shade of this brick wall. And after another Fresca, weh-heh-ell, who knows what kind of shenanigans I'll get into? I may even walk over, stand a few feet outside of an already established conversation, smile awkwardly and occasionally nod! Paul Rekk's going nuts tonight! Woohoo!"
God, junior high is a weird place.
And yet, this is how I still act around new groups of people. But it's not just girls anymore. Oh, there were plenty of disarmingly attractive/witty/lots of other good qualities lady bloggers (is bloggerettes un-PC?) at The Nod, to be sure. (ed. note: You see, what I just did there is called the Post-Compliment. Ideally, Charming Lady Blogger will stumble across the Reve by association or linkage and be taken in by the endearing qualities that I am unable to imbue myself with in social settings. Then the Post-Compliment strikes, smiting [in the hearts-in-eyes manner, not the plague-of-boils manner] Charming Lady Blogger and increasing potential for further interaction. [ed. note within note: And what I just accomplished here was a sense of Self-Referential Ease. In the off-chance that the Post-Compliment is seen by Charming Lady Blogger as, for lack of a better word, creepy, a ridiculously lengthy, layered parenthetical will be sufficiently unexpected so as to diffuse the online awkwardness.]) However, in the years since J-High, I have discovered that I am not, it turns out, made of snakes, snails, or dog tails -- puppy or otherwise -- and that there is a slight possibility that other boys, who I've been told are made of such things, may speak in tongues as well. So, really, why chance it?
So congratulations Nodders, on a great event. And don't mind the tall, skinny, blonde kid in the corner. He's just looking for the Fresca.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:43 AM
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I went bowling on Sunday.
Of course, whenever anyone announces that they went bowling, the next thing out of their mouth is how much they suck at bowling. Sorry to be predictable, but I do too. Suck at bowling. Oh, I'm not the most hideous of hideous, as my downstairs housemate proved with her valiant attempt at staying in the single digits. But the last time she bowled was over a decade ago. In Bali. And who knows what kind of bowling rules they kept in Bali at the turn of the '90s. Me? I was last bowling three or four years ago. In Iowa. Where the rules are the same. Except for this automatic foul bullshit if you accidentally slide the teeniest fraction of a centimeter past the line. (I fouled three times my first game. No fukkin' mercy, I tell ya.)
Maybe I don't suck hard. But I am on the low end of mediocre. My all-time high score is somewhere in the 160s. But that was high school; I was at my athletic peak. Now I'm ecstatic to break three digits. Which I promptly did not do on Sunday. I missed the first game because I'm the sort of asshole that shows up late to birthday parties. That counts as a zero. The second game started with a spare and it was all denouement from there, though I managed to sneak in at the mid-50s, a marked improvement.
And as Olivia Newton-John crooned "Xanadu" [note: The video screen for the Rock n' Cosmic Crazy Times Look At The Pretty Colors Bowl was directly above our lane. Not only did I have the toothy maw at the end of the lane to contend with, but also the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson, and Madonna traipsing two feet above the straight line I was trying to telekinese my ball onto. No, Ricky, neither me nor my fourteen pound friend are in the proper headspace to live la vida loca. And put those hips away.], I burst into the final game balls a-blazin'. It was an erratic battle, but I started to pull it together towards the last. And as I got up to bowl my tenth frame, a mere three pins from the mythical 100, I was informed by the bowling computer gods (I think En Vogue had a hand in it as well) that our pre-paid allotted time had expired. Everything shut down: the scorekeeper, the ball return, the pin sweeper, my soul...
And here I am, stuck at 85 going into a ninth frame strike.
Thank god for Don Hall. He graced me with a Five Strengths meme today. It's a feel good meme, and Madonna's not allowed. Here's the scoop:
"Make a list of five strengths that you possess as a writer/artist. It's not really bragging, it's an honest assessment (forced upon you by this darn meme). Please resist the urge to enumerate your weaknesses, or even mention them in contrast to each strong point you list. Tag four other writers or artists whom you'd like to see share their strengths."
1. I don't often 'fess up to it, but I'm really fucking intelligent. The way I am able to analyze and process on my feet is almost abnormal.
2. I have a knack for seeing a different way to do things. I also have the bullheadedness to insist on doing it.
3. I am Fonz-cool and relaxed when in the early discovery stages of a production and single-track focused and decisive when crunch time hits and shit needs get done. It's a good balance.
4. I am able to recognize talents greater than mine (and that they are legion), and learn from them without defaulting to them.
5. I have a fuse like no other. You have to be actively going out of your way to destroy my being in order to get me to fly off the handle. And even then your chances are only 50-50.
Your turn! I pick Bil, Dan, Rob, and Mac. Go!
Posted by Paul Rekk at 1:26 PM
Monday, September 17, 2007
Hello friendly online friends! And welcome to Monday!
Well, Friday went off without a hitch. Per Diem's Hitchless Event, one might call it. Or HiTCHLeSS, in big red rubberstamp letters. Why? What a dumb question. Of course I don't know.
Pardon Paul, he's a punchy little bugger today.
Yes, yes, without a hitch indeed. We had a great turnout -- in the whereabouts of 30 or so -- and everyone was willing to play, whether that meant getting on their feet and jumping into a ten-minute play they had never seen hide nor hair of before or just kicking back and enjoying watching others put their neurons in overdrive. There was a surprising (in a very good way) mix of comic and dramatic performances and a lot of surprisingly (in a very amazing way) great performances, considering the zero hour prep time. It was a credit to the level of talent we have to work with in the city. People milled a little afterwards and a few of the more familiar faces hopped down to Goldie's for some cheap PBR and loose post mortem. I had a great time, and it sounds like everyone else did as well, which is all I can really ask for.
Plus, we now have a few interested candidates for that exclusive third ensemble spot. Hopefully we'll be able to meet up with them and have an official ensemble within a matter of weeks. I'll keep you posted, Interweb.
I also caught Sunday's industry matinee of the highly acclaimed Soiree DADA -- and I know you've all been hanging onto the edges of your seats for Senor Rekk to give his thoughts on the show, right? Alrighty then. I don't think you can really spoil the experience of the show by simply talking about it (Don, Joe, Bob, anyone else involved, would you (dis)agree?), but if you are especially adverse to spoilers, you may want to turn away, as I will be going into detail.
It was like nothing I have seen before. Which is a good chunk of the point. After hurting DADA Flutter's feelings and falling prey to DADA Rusty Cluster's misleading ways, I found my stride, impressing DADA DomDeluise with a card trick and eventually being brought into the DADA Brova fold with my keen eyesight, soft hands and ID card declaring my post-21ness. I kicked back at the Brova bistro tables and had a glass of wine. He slid a handwritten Non-Aggression Pact my way, which I happily signed. The guy to my left signed away his Power Of Attorney to Brova, also on a handwritten note. I question that decision.
Then the whirlwind began. And Don was right -- I was never bored. I was challenged at every bend, but always in different ways. Physically, as we were encouraged to (and did) fondle another audience member's ass in order to bring him to a proper level of offense or as DADA Boxcar began to profess her feelings for me before being interrupted by Rusty. Morally, watching the another audience member mercilessly shoot the freak and watching yet another audience member -- this one a friend of mine -- refuse to stop DADA Dabo's burning of an innocent tissue. I urgently wanted to stride across the room and take the tissue away from Dabo's sadistic flame. And had I fully allowed myself to get into the spirit of the show, I probably should have. I suck. And emotionally -- which was the least expected -- inexplicably from DADA Nip's paen to her half-devoured baby and from Dabo's ultra-climactic "One Of Me" a moment of catharsis that hung heavy on an audience aware but unable to meet it.
The show ran about an hour and 15 minutes, felt like 45 minutes, and left me as exhausted as if it were three hours. And magically, after it was all over, Joe Janes was there. I hadn't seen him come in, but I could've been too distracted to notice. Either way it was good to finally meet him and affirm that he is an actual person. There was no Don Hall. The alibi was Work(shop) in Progess, but my suspicion, as from the start, is that he's a figment of my imagination. However, I'm going again on Friday (consider the gauntlet dropped, Don!), determined to honor my heritage by being accepted by the Germans (consider the gauntlet dropped, DADA Mondo Yippeeeeeeeee!), and with a friend in tow. A friend who knows nothing of Dada and who I have instructed to learn nothing of Dada in the coming week. And that's a big gauntlet. Excitement abounds!
By the way, Don -- not only was I not bored, I absolutely liked it and had a great time. Sincere thanks. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a project to work on: "Make a mobile: Influence: Ch-" The DADA box has spoken.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 11:00 AM
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Of course there's spoilers.
I finally made it to Rob Zombie's Halloween 'reimagining' this week, and I'm going to have to be that guy: I loved it. This is a great horror film. It beats most any of the recent horror remake class with a big, ugly stick. To be honest, it's one of the better horror films of any variety that I've seen in a good few years. Is it better than the original? Of course not. But as has been said by every other horror fan and critic with a sense of the rational -- Zombie never intended to chase that impossible task. What he has done, however, is create a film that owes its lifeblood to its namesake, but isn't afraid to forge its own way.
Much has been made of the two-part structure of the film, but in case you're still unfamiliar, the film has a two-part structure. Part One: Little Mikey. Part Two: Halloween Redux
Part One: Little Mikey
The first part is a vast expansion of the opening scene of the original and lays a little groundwork for the Michael Myers to come. Young Michael (played by an intense little fucker in Daeg Faerch) lives smack in the middle of dysfunction central -- hell, William Forsythe is his live-in father figure; that's enough to mess a kid up right there. Bullied at school, life in hell at home, Michael is one disturbed little fella, already slicing up pets and collecting roadkill at age 10. Of course, as the story goes, slicing up pets is only a gateway to slicing up William Forsythe (among others), and Michael gets sent away to be psychiatrically observed and reobserved for life or until he breaks out in 15 years, whichever comes first.
Zombie's taking a lot of flack for Part One for giving an explanation as to why Michael is as Michael does and thus taking away a lot of what makes him so frightening. Michael has been humanized in a manner that the original never attempts or concerns itself with. But to say that Michael becomes a cold-blooded killer because of his dysfunctional upbringing alone is to say that Zombie is ascribing this sort of psycho/sociopathic behavior to nurture rather than nature. I don't buy it. Dr. Loomis, the psychiatrist who studies Michael for 15 years has a line towards the end of the first half where he says that Michael was the perfect combination of interior and exterior forces required to create this sort of behavior. It seems to me this line is the key to the entire first half of the film.
Zombie has humanized Michael only in the manner of taking away the supernatural element of the original film. None of the killing in the first half is done in a quick, bloodless manner, making it really hard to continue the sympathy intially set up for this kid once he snaps. The violence has an insistent and graphic nature that goes beyond revenge and straight through to instinct. (The gore is a fascinating part of the film -- Zombie doesn't shy away from it, but at the same time, he is very careful as to when it is used. The level of bloodshed and the moment and style in which it is shown has a very specific emotional effect. Zombie seems to have a keen understanding of this -- this may be an entire discussion for another day... or the comments section.) This Michael isn't the shadowed enigma of the original; we know why he kills, even as we don't understand it. Does that make him more or less frightening? No, not necessarily. But it does root him further in reality, and that's a very different kind of frightening.
Part Two: Halloween Redux
And.... gear shift! If there is a 'remake' hiding in this film, it's part two, which is (more or less) the events of the original played out. And it's good! It's good because it's a no-nonsense return to form slasher film. Tension and surprise, jump scares and atmosphere and a (somewhat) omnipotent audience: it's all here and in a good blend. As a horror film standing alone from the original, it works and works well. The meager Tuesday night crowd I saw it with were definitely audible from time to time, and most of it was reaction that had little to do with the original.
The thing that really impressed me, though, was Zombie's ability to make an entertaining and suspenseful experience for those who are familiar with the original. This came from a fearlessness of playing with the source material. Very early on in the second half, the film closely mimics a few shots from the original, settling the horror hounds in for a comfortable ride. And then all hell breaks loose, as Zombie starts to stray farther and farther from the context of the original while still playing from a very visible guideline. We know what's supposed to happen next, but we start to realize that we might not necessarily get it.
The first shift (which seems minor at the time) is the ghost costume scene. We see a figure walking down the hall in a ghost costume with glasses and anyone remotely familiar with the original makes the mental leap to Michael under the sheet. Just as we're hunkering down for a little teenage death and destruction, the ghost is attacked... by Michael Myers! It's ten seconds more information than we were expecting, but it sets the attitude for the rest of the film: "Yes, you might know where this is headed, but don't think for a second you're ahead of the game." This continues to grow until it culminates in the revisionist version of the infamous closet scene -- which now takes place within a stone's throw of Dr. Loomis' dead body. One repetition, to allow that to sink in -- Dr. Loomis' dead freaking body! By this point newcomers and old fans alike are on a level playing field. Zombie is still playing within the basic structure of the original, but by this point we not only expect him to stray, he's made it blatantly impossible to do anything but stray. And, which I'm sure Zombie was acutely aware, the fear an audience feels when thrown from what they assumed was a safe place is much more terrifying that that of an audience who is wary from the start.
But all in all this is Zombie's film and as a director (in general, I'm even going to traverse the horror qualifier), he's a very promising face on the horizon. Zombie's exploitation influence perfectly rides that line where cheesy becomes deadly serious. Using "Love Hurts" as a featured music cue should have left me groaning -- it was perfect. The Zombie perfected nudge-and-a-wink casting: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Brad Dourif, Forsythe, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Danny Trejo, the list goes on and on -- is great fun played straight as an arrow, effectively avoiding derailing the tone of the film. And to stay specific to the horror genre -- in an age of "how disgusting can we get?" horror, Zombie maintains a balance. Blood, guts, and violence as is necessary (because sometimes it is, but rarely is it always.)
The post-caveat is that, despite the glowing, glowing review, it wasn't a perfect film by any means and Zombie did lose my interest from time to time, especially right towards the end (albeit gaining it right back in the last minute or so). But nevertheless, it was a great film that is being unfairly treated by both sides; the anti-horrror regulars and the purists. Were this film made without the original having ever existed, the reaction would be more positive by tenfold. And to a certain degree that's how it should be viewed -- alongside the original, not against it.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:09 AM
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Or: How visceral is too visceral?
Or: What happened to immediacy?
Or: How many titles can he give one post?
Over on AWG, Don to the Hall relates some frustration with an audience member refusing to play along with the anti-rules set in Soiree DADA. It's interesting, but I basically agree with Don: the audience member can certainly choose not to play along, but on the same basis, Don can certainly choose to escort him out. I don't know that I would -- it does seem to provide a challenging obstacle for the DADAs -- but that's Don's prerogative.
But the part of the whole thing that struck me with the need to return to thoughtful blogging after the recent dearth thanks to shameless self-promotion is in Don's instruction to his DADAs for future (non-?)troublemakers:
The emphasis is mine. Later, in the comments section, Regan touches on this point (pun only slightly intended):
That's an unfortunate occurrence, and, while I'm curious as to what show it was (and thus the reasoning), it sounds like the cast were entirely unprofessional about the audience contact. Which is no different than being unprofessional about stage combat. At the same time, are we really to a point where audience touching is disallowed from the perspective of the theatre artists as well? And if so, isn't that a signal that it's time for that stigma to be broken back down?
I was recently discussing the problems and possibilities of staging Fernando Arrabal's ...and They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers in today's environment. For those unfamiliar, the script calls for a completely dark room separating the lobby and the theatre. At the door to the room, the stage manager hands off each audience member (separately, splitting up any groups) to a cast member of the opposite sex who leads them into the theatre in a brusque hands-on manner. Arrabal goes so far as to suggest some audience members be carried over the cast member's shoulder. He also notes that if any audience members get nervous or upset that the cast member should be a calming force as well -- it's not all violence and scary; it's about getting the audience into a mindset without causing them to completely disassociate. Regan, Don -- are you saying in essence that this play is no longer feasibly produceable, albeit for different reasons?
As to Regan, protection of the audience is a tricky line to ride. There's a difference between being in harm's way and losing a line of defense by not being in control. An audience member who just got shoved with no warning is in harm's way. An audience member slung over a cast member's shoulder (a cast member who is intimately familiar with the space and has walked it with someone over his shoulder before) has little control and is probably uncomfortable and to a certain degree unprotected. If the latter is a place we're no longer willing to take our audience from time to time, there's a problem. I don't see "protection of the audience" (or "protection of ourselves", for that matter) as primary or even secondary goal of theatre. I know I'm distilling a different meaning than Regan intended, and I do understand the sentiment, but it's a word choice I can't pass up. Little risk results in little discovery.
Don's reasoning is harder to argue. Touching people who are unprepared to be touched can on occasion get ugly, and in today's court-saturated society things getting ugly often equals things getting expensive. My Arrabal-discussing friend mentioned having the audience sign a waiver, which is not a bad idea, but I hate the possibility that we've come to that. It's bad enough that nudity and foul language require a warning -- do we really have to say "Hey everybody, we might touch you during this performance, so don't freak out or anything!" Is physical contact now as taboo as the word 'fuck'? Or as simulated fucking? But I can't argue that to certain people the answer is yes, and physical contact in the theatre is opening a door to a potential (even if ludicrous) lawsuit.
But as an artist, I can't just roll over and say uncle. And I'm in a similar bind myself; I have a play I have written called Consent that I couldn't get produced to save my life. The second act revolves around an interaction with an audience member that most would consider violating. It is in response to the first act, in which an actor is put in a position most would consider violating at the hands of the audience. I don't give details because the Webbernets is a big place and these are details that work best if not known ahead of time -- an impossible task after a while, but no need for me to make it any more impossible. If you're interested, e-mail me for a copy -- it's a very short read. My big challenge in figuring out exactly how (or if) to produce this myself has revolved around this aspect of avoiding legal worries.
From time to time, Don sends a call out on his blog asking where the revolutionaries are. I echo the sentiment. And it seems to fit here. If we make concessions because we might run across idiots and fearmongers, we run risk of playing to idiots and fearmongers. Sometimes we have to have hope in humanity, wish for the best, and just say fuck all and do it.
Also: Who searched for "erotic stories Fran Drescher" this weekend? It's too perfect to be random, but whoever it was, you made me smile...
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:36 AM
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
To the recent wave of New Yorkers (and Brooklynites in 'ticular) who've stumbled cross The Reve:
Welcome! If it hasn't already been made plain, I do not regularly discuss George Hunka on my blog. I'm terribly sorry to disappoint those searching for the intricate details on the matter, but Google has lead you astray. It's a tacit agreement we've come to: on only rare occasion do I impart my two cents on whatever hot bloggy mess is surrounding him at the time and, in return, he continues to be unaware of my existence.
For reals, kids, my piece on the subject is down there below Zigs for your perusal and that's about the last of it as far as I'm concerned. But I do hope you'll come back and play. From time to time I'm actually relevant. And the rest of the time I like to at least pretend to have wit. That and my sense of self-importance is hard to sate and web hits are but the latest on a long line of inconsequential things to make me puff out my chest.
Do it for my chest. I'd do it for yours.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:08 AM
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Ev'rybody wanna meet Per Diem!
Well, ev'rybody, here's your chance... The first ever Per Diem sanctioned event (Yeah, I used sanction -- it makes us sound important. Per Diem is bigger than Jesus!) is a-rollin' your way.
On Friday, September 14th, Per Diem will be hosting an evening of unrehearsed, undirected, book in hand instinct-driven performances of short work (some very potentially brand new) to be decided that e'en. Sound a little chaotic? A little anarchical? What are you whining about, it can't be much wackier than the theatrosphere!
No really, it'll be fun. And you can meet me and Bil and who knows, maybe even that mystical third member we're still looking for! And it's a no stakes chance to play with us if you want to play! And it's a no stakes chance to watch others play with us if you want to watch others play! And there's probably plenty of other permutations by which you can get play from Per Diem! And permutation is not a good word to use when trying to get play! And it's free! That's a lot of 'ands' -- and(!) of course we all know that each 'and' increases your odds of enjoying the evening exponentially. (Which equals a lot of pleasure -- it's simple algebra, you slackers.)
In fact, the event is so rockstar that we have yet to put an official name to it. Go it well and we hope to make it a recurring event -- perhaps the eventual name will come from a particularly inspired bit of universe-aligning wit that happens on the 14th. Perhaps it will come from your mouth! Perhaps we're just lazy -- but I doubt it!
So Chicagolanders (or any other landers that will be in Chicago on the 14th or are really fucking dedicated to securing my happiness): Come on down on Friday the 14th to the Signal Ensemble Theatre rehearsal space (the old Breadline Theatre for you veterans) at 1802 W. Berenice Ave. For the unfamiliar, that's just south of Irving Park and Ravenswood -- easily navigated from the Irving Park bus or Brown Line stop. The shindig starteth at 8 o' the pm on (say it with me now) Friday, September 14th. And how much does it cost? Good question, albeit already answered. Free, of course!
Ok, I think my enthusiasm quota for the day has been spent. I hope it got the message across. Got questions? Do the comment or e-mail thing; I don't bite. And we look forward to seeing you on the 14th!
Posted by Paul Rekk at 12:25 PM
Friday, August 31, 2007
I was going to put up something about process -- I had been struggling with becoming aware of mine and have made some great breakthroughs recently -- but it's Friday on a holiday weekend, and also, unwittingly, a Rock Star Day.
My latest GQ came in yesterday and had the annual Fashion Rocks accompanying mini-zine. It's total fashion porn and the articles aren't for shit, but it's total fashion porn and I'm all 'bout it. That of course means there's the dedicated requisite snippet to the fashion/music deus comprehensi himself. (This time it focused on The Man Who Fell To Earth.) I read it this morning on the train and have been in Bowie mode ever since. Which reminds me that I need to start working on my Halloween costume.
And I just found out that we're getting off work early for Labor Day weekend. Rock Star Day continues! Maybe I'll head downtown and pick up a pair of skinny skinny jeans. 'Cause I'm 6'3", 140 lbs. and can pull that shit off like a motherfucker. Have a happy and safe holiday weekend, all!
Edit: Reread post. (That sentence was declarative, not imperative. [I did] reread post, not [you should] reread post. But maybe you should.) Isolated following passage: "Last year I defaulted to a last minute geisha. This year I'm at least gonna get Ziggy in some capacity. The plan is to head down to Chinatown and see if I can't recreate the white hot pants/kimono combo." Passage now proudly holds title for most ambiguously lurid collection of words on this blog. "Fran Drescher erotic stories" currently sulking in second place.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 7:51 AM
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Look at all this activity!
Goodness gracious, a recap! Everyone wants Chris Jones to review workshops and no one wants George Hunka to review previews. Sorry, was that unnecessarily glib?
I'm trying to settle my ethical compass long enough to figure out exactly where I sit. Rob's vision of Jones as a promoter of Chicago is dead-on; after all, the man's fighting to review a Chicago show before Final Destination: New York. Whether the review is good or bad, it's all gravy for the locals (in general, that is -- Marisa's got the inside scoop on what this situation can mean, good and bad, for the individuals involved). On the other hand, as El Vet Diablo mentions in the comments at Casa de Don, the producers of a show should be able to give reviewers a no-go if it's their prerogative. And a part of me agrees completely that it is fun to see the show give the critic a pass for once instead of the other way around. And the ground is only muddied with Rob's point that the blogosphere is on its way to becoming the alternate (replacement?) for the newsprint critics. But for the most part we're just a bunch of shmucks posting our opinions (which is to say that it ain't our line of biznass, not that those opinions aren't informed). What sort of ethical standard are we to comply to? After all, a show can say no critics, but it can hardly say no posting your opinions online, gentle viewer.
Which brings us to Mr. Hunka, ever the eye of some hurricane or other. George has reviewed Kate Fodor's 100 Saints You Should Know, one of the shows in New York that Chris Jones fought so hard to review in Chicago. George didn't like it so much. George didn't like it so much that he also didn't finish it. It being the preview that George was at. And there's the gasp gasp right there -- is a critique of a show based on the first half of a preview valid? Matt Freeman doesn't think so. Neither does Rob. Ditto Tony.
I'm less adamant. As I somewhat posted in Tony's comments, seeing as how George is still flying under nebulous blogger review rules, why not hit a preview and why not leave at intermission? That's the word of mouth side of the blogosphere -- the part that's no different than chatting the weekend's entertainment up with your friends. But George... George, George, George... you saw a preview and left at intermission. Those are important details and the world wide opinion part of the blogosphere, the part with some more delicate ethical concerns, demands that you make them known. And by make them known, I mean before the last paragraph. Just a simple disclaimer or by and by or hey, psst, you should know this, that's all it really needed. I don't fall in the Freeman camp on the issue of respect in terms of walking out and applause (an interesting discussion, p.s., go check it out); if I don't like a show, that's that and it's my decision to act accordingly. But I'm not getting my time or money back by undercutting the artists. Be honest, absolutely. Pan bad shows, absolutely. Let future audiences know what you think they may be getting themselves into, absolutely. But we're all on the same team in the long run; at least give the show the fair breaks it deserves. And I consider an opening and a second act pretty damn fair.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 8:05 AM
Monday, August 27, 2007
Remember when artists did this shit and no one minded? When people even recognized the subversive sense of appeal in it? If society works in cycles, isn't it about time for that one to swing back around to a time when it was ok for self-destruction to be sexy?
Note: This post has been edited. Personal details have been removed, not to protect the innocent, the guilty, or me, but because for once something really isn't all that much about me.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 9:11 AM
Friday, August 24, 2007
I stumbled across UbuWeb a couple of years back while trying to track down some obscure experimental films (still fruitless on a few of them... *le sigh*). A 100% free, non-commercial web collection of avant-garde whatever you want, I've visited it intermittently since then. Despite being the compendium of my dreams, the vast -- and oh god, is it ever vast -- amount of material available combined with (what was) a slightly scattershot design was a little overwhelming and kept me at arm's length. I checked it for the first time in quite a while today, and shit done gone and got streamlined -- the film and sound sections are especially improved. Any wisp of an excuse I had to avoid an Ubu addiction is gone. Things is about to get heavy.
I also partially bring it up because I am completely endeared to the site's philosophy. Read their manifesto. From it:
In the FAQ, the site responds in the negative to a question the possibility of e-mail updates, because they "refuse to advertise or promote" themselves. Ubu recognizes itself as a nothing but a resource, a collection of art otherwise not readily available. This is, of course, beneficial to both the artists and the audience, but UbuWeb doesn't seem to function for either the artist (the site dismisses the idea of copyright entirely, only removing work that is in-print and easily acquired or when they receive a cease and desist request from the artist) or the audience (a refusal to advertise or promote implies that they don't give a fuck who else comes to the site). No, it would seem that Ubu is simply around to collect thoughts and minds otherwise out of reach. If art exists, it should be available for the taking. And nothing provides existence quite like the Internet. It's a bold site, and I applaud them for making this work available and for recognizing the necessity of free trade for marginalized art. But I applaud them much, much, much more for doing so entirely by and for themselves. Despite the fact that UbuWeb isn't exactly an artistic endeavor, there's a lesson way deep down in there that we can and should be mining. I'm still trying to hone it to a concise statement -- thoughts?
And the fine folks over at the London-based avant-gardist Atlas Press have announced some new and forthcoming titles, which is pretty big news: it's a very small publisher with a shall we say 'relaxed' release schedule. I own a few of their books and have many, many more on my wishlist (wishlist as in wishing for a stronger dollar). Check them out; it's one of the only places you're going to find dedicated volumes to artists such as the Vienna Aktionists, Oulipo, 'Pataphysics, Fluxus, Decadents and some of the more obscure Dadaists and Surrealists. And they're good people to boot.
Posted by Paul Rekk at 7:32 AM
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Sounds like a bad USA Up All Night horror movie, donnit? That may not be a bad analogy. But we'll get to that in a second.
I've tested my Google search decoys from the last post. I'm in the first page of hits for all of them and am the very first hit for all but "Buddhist death metal". Who knew? I'm actually the only hit for a few, although "Fran Drescher erotic stories" is not one of them, and that makes me shiver a little bit. But the trap has been set. Now we play the waiting game...
What inception, you ask? That's a silly question. Per Diem, of course, ya goof.
I had a sit-down and hash-out meeting with Mr. Bil Gaines, the other current dedicated member/founder of the company, and as they should, things are evolving. The bulk of what we're dealing with right now is the administrative bullshit and the defining and honing of what exactly Per Diem is and is about. The most encouraging part is also, surprise!, the most frightening: as me and Bil talk about our ideas and hopes for the company, I hear him saying things that are great ideas, but also that differ some from my initial thoughts and plans. We agreed from the start that the company would be more ensemble-based than hierarchical (feel free to use my ongoing discoveries as fuel for further tribal arguments), and we took a further step in defining what that means for us over coffee this weekend.
We are an ensemble-based company. Although, two hardly an ensemble makes. We are actively seeking a third, and possibly fourth or, hell, even fifth?, member, so if you are reading this and would be or have any friends who would be interested in getting together with the two of us and discussing what exactly we and you or your friend are looking for and how those match up, please please let me know. However, where many ensembles come together and meld all of the minds to find a common voice that all can agree on, we are entering the fray fully realizing that the ensemble members are coming from a variety of different backgrounds and attitudes/tastes towards art. Instead of forcing everyone to compromise their beliefs to come to the middle ground, we allow ourselves in turn (and at times together) to knock what we know and love out of the park with the support of all of the rest, regardless of any differences of opinion. In my mind, it feels like a little bit of 'collective' is mixed in with our 'company'.
Personally, I love the idea. My anti-anticipation jargon is lessening, although not the ideas. I'm becoming less prententious and adamant about it not because I'm giving up on it, but because I think what we have created is both a distillation of it and a springboard for it. This form of ensemble is going to naturally bring about a wide variety of shows -- Per Diem will never be able to be placed into a niche or defined by the 'style' of theatre we do (which I admit is both a blessing and a curse -- but what isn't?). That alone breaks down the audience's ability to anticipate the course of a Per Diem show. And if in stretching my voice I choose to hone this point further, I know that I will be able to with the support of my theatremates.
And, probably the greatest benefit of the approach is how immensely it will help each of us grow as artists. Rather than asking everyone to rein in their creatively, we are allowing everyone to embrace every inch of their imagination with the caveat that this means they must be willing to embrace every inch of others' imaginations as well. There's no being a part of Per Diem without a willingness to be challenged on a regular basis. And this keeping the artists on their toes will only assist in allowing our audience to do the same.
We hope to have a website up and running relatively soon, but in the meantime we are going to be scheduling our first event in mid/late September (official info will be provided tout suite). We're going to be sponsoring a free evening for theatre artists and other interested folk in which we are going to have multiple copies of multiple one-acts/10 minute plays ready. We will be randomly picking some of the plays, splitting up the roles, giving whoever's playing a script and setting them free in an unrehearsed, undirected, book-in-hand, instinct-driven performance. If people want to play, they'll be able to play. If people just want to watch, that's cool, too. There's also some talk of a writer-based company providing us with all-new work to double the freshness, double the fun, but that's not set in stone yet. And if this sounds like a good time to any writers out there and you'd be interested in seeing your work literally tossed on its feet, by all means let me know.
Also, for repetition's sake -- please e-mail me with any questions, advice, interest or god knows what else as we go through this process. Not only are we looking for bodies and minds -- and boy howdy, are we -- we're looking for opinions. Whether or not we take the opinions is open-ended, but there's only one way to find out.
And Bil, if any of this runs counter to what you thought was goin' on, call me on it. Weez a company, baybee, that's how we works!
Posted by Paul Rekk at 10:55 AM