Monthly Archives: May 2006

assisting

So I’m assisting Sean Daniels on The Merry Wives of Windsor at CalShakes. They’re doing the show with puppets–only the two couples (Masters and Mistresses Ford and Page) as humans.

It’s a wham-bang good time show–pure, straight-to-the-veins comedy. I didn’t think it could be–the play is really one of Shakespeare’s least important–an Elizabethan-era episode of South Park–and how can you get farce and all those outdated references across, without human bodies? Answer: text cuts, Master Puppet Badass John Ludwig‘s astonishingly expressive puppets, and an incredible cast (humans and puppeteers alike).

I’ve watched them do certain bits at least 100 times, and it’s still funny. One bit made me laugh so hard when they staged it, I cried–Sean was thinking of cutting it, because it’s a bit crude, shall we say–and then, in tech, he laughed so hard he fell backwards off the wall he was perched on. It’s staying in.

The cast (Lorna Howley, Max Moore, George “Googie” Uterhardt, Spencer Stephens, Danny Schiele, Ron Campbell as Falstaff, Big-Bird-like, in an eight-foot body-puppet suit, and the humans: Anthony Fusco, Catherine Castellanos, Delia MacDougall, and Liam Vincent) are total pros: talented, trained, consistent, hard-working–they do their homework carefully, are generous with each other on- and offstage. The design looks terrific. CalShakes production and management is a small busy army of hyper-competent folks.

Tech was four full nights in the freezing outdoor cold until 12:30am (then, production meetings)–the great Dave Malloy did the sound design, and as the show is a sort of live cartoon, there are 450 sound cues in the show that had to be teched. It took for fucking ever.

I know the show’s going to be great. So go see it, you’ll enjoy it.

tel aviv: good

Not all was lost, of course.

1. Bauhaus Center of Tel Aviv. During the 1930s and 1940s, Tel Aviv’s population exploded with immigrants and became a city; the most prominent architects at the time were students of European functional modernism, and over 4,000 buildings designed in the Bauhaus-inspired International Style went up over 20 years, most of which are still standing. In 2003, Tel Aviv received UNESCO status for its local architecture, and people are beginning to renovate, and appreciate, some of the very run-down buildings–though run down or not, the bones are beautiful. Ben and I took a tour of the architecture, and it was amazing.

2. Tel Aviv Museum of Art:
Michal Rovner’s video art is OUTSTANDING. I’ve never seen video manipulated and integrated so nimbly into sculpture. She had all of these “ancient” objects–slabs of rock, stone bowls, crumbled pottery; they appear to have complex circles of ancient human figures painted on them–you come close and see that the figures are moving, dancing, posing in place, coagulating, separating. So delicious, so perfect a way to end our visit in a country where the ancient and modern live in such stark relief.

Very provocative photo/video exhibit on the Disengagement from Gaza as well.

Also:
3. Israel Museum. Solid Contemporary Japanese Art exhibit–nothing earth-shattering in the curation, but a strong general overview. Motoi Yamamoto used salt for a sculpture that took up a whole room–a meditation on death where the salt was used to draw labyrinths and ended in snowy mountains. Beautiful.

tel aviv: bad

Just spent the past two weeks in Israel with Ben and family. My cousin, Vered Tom, with whom I co-translated Be My Knife and Someone To Run With, is back in Tel Aviv–juggling a bunch of balls (creating a show, some dramaturgy, lit management, research for a documentary TV station, pretty extensive editing for a book Shimon Peres is writing.)

Of course, given our great success seeing performance in Hong Kong, I asked her to find us some dance–it’s the home of Bat Sheva and an exciting little scene of small companies. But it was a bad week–the Suzanne Dallal Center, otherwise THE venue for dance, had a one-acts festival occupying the space, people (incl. Vered) are gearing up for the Israel Festival in Jerusalem.

So we went to Tmuna Theatre, a small complex that’s pretty much like HERE in New York–for some dance and video art. Which sucked.

What’s funny is that the way in which it sucked made it clear that shitty art that thinks itself “avant garde” is the same the world over–humorless artists in black pursuing meaningless and lame abstraction lacking any narrative or thematic purpose. The first piece? Generated with bad contact improv and unfiltered theater games, natch, with a touch of kink. 12 minutes of poorly post-produced video (hey, friend, a quick tip: if it’s shot horribly, no amount of Adobe Premiere will save it) of people submersing themselves in the sea at night.

Vered took me to see some bad community storytelling a couple of days later. Yawn.