Welcome One and All

Welcome new vistors and thank you for returning dedicated fans. For more information about me please dig into my "About me section" or look at my G+. This was my first blog. I have rebuilt and specialized since this blog's inception. It now serves as a "hub" for the three blogs I write. Below this banner is "Welcome to the Club" which is my comics blog, "The Silver Screen" which is my Cinema blog, and "All the World's a Stage" which is my theatre blog. Read at your leisure!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

24 Hour Creation Reflection

This is probably only relavent to people in or involved with the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities. You have been warned.

This past weekend I participated in an event called "24 hour Creations" the concept is very similar to the 24 Hour film festivals or 24 hour theatre festivals. Basically within one day a play or dance piece was written (choreographed), directed, cast and then performed all within one day. This event was put on by the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance Peers. This event was meant to accomplish several things; I will list some of the goals of this project and then discuss what worked and what didn't and go into why things didn't work.

Goals of 24 Hour Creations

  • Have the different disciplines of the department come together and break down some of the walls we have build between the BFA  and BA theater majors and the Dance department. 
  • Allow for a creative space where people not trained in a specific aspect of performance have a  low stakes environment to try something new. Dancer become playwright. Actors become dancers. Directors try acting... etc. 
  • Give an opportunity for freshman and people new to the department a chance to workshop with people in their department and make some new connections or friendships. 
  • Give a place for performance focused students a chance to perform. 

Now that I have laid out my understanding of the goals of this project I will dig into each goal and see if these goals were achieved and if they weren't give some opinions of why they weren't achieved. I am not writing this to be the authoritative voice on the matter nor do I hold that my opinion is the correct one. This is just me sharing my perspective and hopefully the first step of a longer conversation within the department. At Frameworks this fall Will Daddario talked about the concept of dissensus. The need for students in the department frustrated with aspects of the department to come together and share their opinions of why things are the way they are and discuss their opinions on how things can change. This is my attempt at starting a conversation in that vein. 

  • Bringing the overall community of the theatre department together. I think this goal was achieved as much as it could be. In my piece specifically we had two BFA freshman a BA sophomore and a BA senior. Before I started collaborating with them I had never seen any of them. It was challenging and interesting to be in a position where I had to create a piece of theatre with three other people who didn't have the same background or vocabulary I did. I  found I had to find more precise ways to communicate what I was thinking which forced me to think about my choices more. 
    • The place where this goal wasn't as successful was not all of the three groups had equal representation. We had one group of dance major who came in  and performed an awesome piece and a few scatterings of BFA's (I don't know everyone nor did I meet everyone), but my perception of the event leads me to think that vast majority of the participants were BA theatre majors. There might be some value in going to the BFA and the Dance departments and asking what is was about the event that disinhibited them from participating: the way it was presented, communicated, or framed. What made it harder for them to get excited about this event? This can inform how we frame the piece of theater in the future and therefore succeed in this goal even more. 

  •  This next point I would say falls more on the individual more than the Peers/ organizers of the event. The peers provide all the tools possible to allow anyone to do anything they wanted. The initiative was placed on the individual to force themselves to try something out of their comfort zone. We live in a very competitive industry and college is one of the last opportunities you might have where you can try something new and fail and have it not effect anything. The show was the perfect opportunity to fail brilliantly. Sitting in the audience and watching all of the pieces informed my work as an artist tremendously. When there were parts of pieces I didn't like whether it was acting, directing, dancing or writing I still learned. Watching people try something and fail is tremendously more informative that sitting in a class and talking about things in hypotheticals or conceptually. When something didn't work I was able to stop and think: "Why didn't this choice work for me?" and then later when I try something I have learned that lesson and I don't make the same  mistake. 
    • The major failure in this section was the lack of respect for the people who tried writing. It was really unfair to have someone commit to a stressful evening of work, birth something from their soul and then not even give it the opportunity to fail onstage. If you are going commit to something commit to it. Signing up and then not showing up doesn't just reflect badly on you, it disrespects a writer who put a lot of time and effort into a script. I am very interested in writing plays. I chose not to write a piece because I was afraid I was going to put all this time and effort into the project and then not even see my baby birthed. My fears were right as two plays did not get performed.

  • Freshman. I think this was the perfect setting to give the freshman an opportunity a chance to meet people in the department and create something. The freshman seem very represented and hopefully a lot of their friends came and saw how cool this event was and will want to do it in the spring (If that happens...). 

  • An opportunity to perform. Most of this is a BA issue and a BA perspective.  This is my last point and it will probably be my harshest criticism. I have a lot of peers in the department who are frustrated by the lack of opportunity to perform this year. Last year there was the student-run organization, The Experimental Theatre, where students who didn't make it into the main stage shows had an opportunity to perform and grow their craft. It must be frustrating as hell for the peers and department administration to hear this complaining about the lack of opportunity in the department and then offer an event that has the lowest stakes possible and the smallest time commitment possible and then have not a lot of people show up. If you want to communicate to the department that there needs to be more chances to perform, then having a massive turnout for this event would be a real way to prove there is real passion behind that. Why would the department spend time, effort and money into making more opportunities if people aren't going to be grateful and passionate about the chances they do get? 

This leads me to my last point. An event like 24 Hour Creations is the most bottom-up control over our education we have. The onus lies completely on us to make this event a success or a failure. I asked several people last week if they were going to do 24-hour Creations and most people said, "No, it sounds like its going to be kind of lame." By approaching it with that mentality that guarantees that result. If everyone was excited about it and appreciated it for the value it provides then the event will be a success. When something is challenging, different, or weird it is easy to just passively say this is dumb and give up before trying. We are active agents in our own education, and we must try that much harder to work past our reservations.

Overall I think the event was a tremendous success. I learned a lot, both from the piece I was in and watching the other pieces performed. I hope that enough people had similar positive experiences (whether audience members or participants) that next time we do the event even more people participate and we all have even a better experience. I invite criticism to my criticism. I want an open dialogue started so we can talk about what worked and what didn't therefore it is that much of a better experience next time. 

Peace Will

PS.  Come see Courting Harry Saturday please. It is an amazing play and incredible relevant to the conversation about woman's reproductive rights in this country. Also I am in it. We perform this Saturday at 2PM in the Thrust in Rarig (Oct. 13).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Batman Live!

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So last month I had probably one of the most unique live performance experiences of my life. I saw the arena show "Batman Live! The World Tour." Now going into an event that promises Batman live and in the flesh I didn't know exactly what to expect. I basically hope it was over-the-top, ridiculous, and something that I can never experience in any other Batman media (film, video games, comics, novels?, Radio serials?)

Suffice to say I was not disappointed at all. This was either the most horrible or the most genius performance I have seen in a really long time.

What I liked

  • The circus aspect of this show was incredible. I am not an actor who is literate in circus (even though I come form a theatre department that has a lot of circus master) but to a simpleton such as myself the trapeze, silks, and stills were great.
  • The media for this show was also fantastic. The entire back wall of the space was a screen and it served as a very inexpensive way to house many a back drops. This alone I thought was pretty clever, but the thing that really surprised me was in scene transitions we zoomed out and were in a comic book spread and pages would flip to the next "panel." The art was all done in a very silver age Batman look and with most characters emerging from the back drop it have the effect of characters literally breaking through the 2-D universe and emerging onstage. 
  • A lot of the performers were fantastic (and some were the opposite of fantastic, but more on that in a minute), but I have to single out one performer. The girl who Played Harley Quinn was amazing. I actually might say she is my definitive Harley Quinn (yes better than Batman the Animated Series or the Arkham video games). She was funny, insane, and unpredictable. Not to mention she had a giant hammer and a bazooka (see next point)

  • THIS ENTIRE NEXT BULLET POINT NEEDS TO BE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT WAS SO AWESOME!!! IN THE FINALE HARLEY QUINN SHOT A BAZOOKA AT THE JOKER IN A HOT AIR BALLOON AND IT BURNED DOWN AND CRASHED ON STAGE. Ok enough of that gimmick. This effect was incredible and looked absolutely real. The western theatre tradition from Ajax to Hamlet, Medea to Our Town, or The Birds to Rent was all missing one specific element of the human experience. Thank you Batman Live for finally filling the void. I have now seen a Bazooka fired live onstage. Let's just say I am now working on Click Click BOOM!: The Musical. Not to spoil any major plot points lets just say there is a grenade juggling sequence. 

  • Before the final big fight scene The Joker put on a magic show that was actually quite impressive. No Bazookas sadly. 
  • The Joker has a jet pack. 'Nuff Said? Well I do need to provide Dialogue context. Batman: Joker are you just going to run away? Joker: Why run away when Jetting away is so much more fun!

Normally I would put in this next section what didn't work for me. However, this seems silly since this entire production was designed for 8 year olds. Instead I will include the top 10 most insane/amazing things that occur in this performance.

10. The Scarecrow was on stilts....because.... ITS A CIRCUS....kinda... In the final fight Scarecrow kinda just walked around and waved around his 3-5 foot fingers. 

9. Slow motion fighting. In a fight scene where Joker's henchman are attempting to capture Dick all  punches throw were Matrixed the fuck out. It was so weird. The peak of insanity was when the clowns had surrounded Dick and where very clearly pounding the ground and Dick slipped out of the pile and yet.... the ground pounding continued for approximately 30 more seconds. 

8.  Harley Quinn and Catwoman's tender moment. All of the action stopped just as we were building towards the climax so Harley and Selina could talk relationships. That's right Batman fails The Bechdel Test.

7. Arkham Asylum. This show was very kid friendly. The fighting onstage was clearly fake, Catwoman's costume was the most practical I had ever seen it. For some reason the set for Arkham Asylum came right out of a Saw film. There were floor to ceiling chains of moaning mummified bodies. I cut to the Nostalgic Critic for my comments:

"You Know, for Kids!"

6. Catwoman in Arkham. After Catwoman gets locked up she is rolled out on a small block styled  as a mini Arkham Asylum. She is standing inside the model with only her head and shoulders popping out. Representing her imprisonment.... maybe?

5. Wayne Manor's Table. Remember that scene in  Burton's Batman where they make fun of the dinning room table about how comedically large it is? Well in this show a chair is rolled out that is no smaller that fifteen feet tall with a table that is 20 feet long. The table is also angled so one end is on the ground and the other comes to meet the chair.

4. Batman  and Catwomen fight. So the entire Catwoman and Batman fight scene was done in the air with the actors on wires. Because of the rigging it was impossible for the actors to move their arms or legs. The fight was ridiculous. 

3. In the final battle Batman Robin and Catwoman all get katanas and beat all of Joker's henchman with swords. Also they only choreographed two of the three fighting at the same time. So one of the good guys would just stand in the corner and pose while the other fought the bad guys.

2. Giant Joker head. For the final scene a giant Joker head is rolled onto stage and an endless wave of henchman come out of it. IF that wasn't enough, the heads tongue and teeth are actually hanging people. WTF?

1. Batmobile. I am speechless attempting to describe this Batmobile. It is environmentally sustainable as it has a hydrogen engine and its only exhaust is water. Better it has virtual wheel. Wheels that employ anti-gravity and don't actually need to spin. They still light up and spin anyways but are also square shaped. The best however was the animated car chase. The Batmobile chases down the joker in this virtual car. After awhile streetlight and builds start to fall on the car unexplainably. Finally boulder fall from the sky and the car shoots lasers to blow them up. LASERS.

Well that is Batman live. I have a lot more stuff to write about so I'll give you a little preview of what is to come in the future someday:

  • Open Eye Theatre's Alice in Wonderland adaptation "A-hole"
  • Ten Thousand Things Theatre's "Measure for Measure"
  • Pillsbury House's "The Brothers Size"
  • History Theatre's "Lombardi"

I might write something political too who knows.

Peace and please click an ad or two!