Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I found it!

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


Monday, October 29, 2007

Overhead on the Morning Commute

"...and blood magic is, y'know, prohibitive."
"Well, yeah, that's what it is. Plus, it's usually considered a little questionable. Ethically."
"It is?"
"Blood magic? Oh yeah..."


Friday, October 26, 2007

This is just a Tribute...

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.

    • 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.
    This is is by no means complete, and I may feel fit to add a second list (possibly one not of artists but of one-off works that give me the same inspiration). However, this is a pretty good start. And this list does a better job of describing my feelings towards art than any long and verbose credo that I could have come up with.

    Thoughts? Lists of your own? Comment that shit!


    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    As easy as one, two, three.

    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!


    Friday, October 19, 2007

    A Play on a Train

    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.


    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    I remember when...

    ...I wrote on here about theatre and art and ideology and new ideas and all that fun intelligent-seeming stuff rathering than blathering therapeutically.

    Maybe I should try that again soon.


    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Thoughts of the Moment: A Diversionary Tactic

    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.


    My head is about to explode

    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?


    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Thought of the Moment

    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.


    Friday, October 5, 2007

    To my Google Search friends

    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.


    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Schoolin' 2: Some sorta boogaloo

    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.