Monthly Archives: December 2008

Takarazuka Review / Gender Gap

Just stumbled through the last of Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan, by Jennifer Robertson. The book isn’t great (see below), but a lot of Robertson’s ideas are interesting, and the phenomenon of Takarazuka is amazing.

Takarazuka Revue is the only theater I even considered seeing while we were in Japan, and I’m sorry we couldn’t fit it into our schedule. It’s just my kind of study, like watching outdoor dramas: a cult phenomenon, populist to the core, chock full of reactionary politics, in no way high art, and deeply beloved by a committed fan base. Given the choice, I would have taken it over kabuki or noh or butoh or even bunraku any day of the week.

Founded in 1916, Takarazuka Revue is an all-female musical theater troupe that performs in their home town of Takarazuka (north of Osaka) and in a satellite Tokyo theater.

The shows run the gamut from A to B (as per Dorothy Parker): original musical revues, or musicals, classic or modern texts adapted into musical revues (everything from Japanese folk tales to Edith Wharton novels to Oliver Stone’s JFK (um, wtf!?)). Descriptions of the shows remind me of descriptions of turn of the century American theater: an overstuffed sandwich of sentimental and sensational, with lavish production values, high melodrama, lots of romance and heartbreak, presented more as montage than narrative.

The all-female cast that performs in Takarazuka (Takarisiennes) come from the theater’s training school. After the first year of rigorous dance and musical training, actors are divided into male and female performers: otokoyaku and musumeyaku. The women are never referred to as actors by the Takarazuka administration: they are “students.” This status: a) allows their bosses to feel justified in paying them lower wages and b) keeps them from seeming threatening as professional women.

Becasue the shows are threatening in many ways, and this seems to be the tension that has kept Takarazuka a live wire for over 90 years.

On the One Hand
The Revue was founded by a Ichizo Kobayashi, a Japanese train industrialist and briefly Japan’s Secretary of Commerce. He wanted to bring more tourism (sell more train tickets) to the hot springs town of Takarazuka, and saw an opportunity for something Japan hadn’t seen since women were banished from Kabuki: females on stage. And he also wanted to create a consumer class among women.

In doing so, he was an early progenitor of Japan’s consumer culture, and reading about his vision for women as agents of commerce reminds me strongly of an idea that Ingrid floated to me a few months back, specifically talking about what’s happening in Beijing: more and more, people are trading their human rights for consumer rights. Which more on later.

Kobayashi was interested in more than commerce, however: he believed that Takarazuka could train both its “students” and audiences on the proper way of being a female in Japanese society: Good Wives, Wise Mothers, the Meiji era idea of women’s role in society written into public civic code.

Women who otherwise didn’t fit into this role, could train for it at the Revue. Other women, in watching the Revue, could have their offstage roles illuminated for them, by females and not only onnagata (Kabuki actors who play women, and apparently embody the Female Ideal.) The administrative hierarchy of Takarazuka still reinforces this ideal gender hierarchy: all the high level administrators, and the writers and directors of the shows themselves, are men.

So training and teaching the finest expression of Japanese gender roles: this was Kobayashi’s dream of Takarazuka.

On the Other Hand
Something happened which Kobayashi couldn’t control, that thing that we, as modern queer-friendly readers expect to happen when you create an all-women’s theater troup in a country where the word for “wife” comes from the same word as “in.” Meaning “inside,” as in, “inside the house.” In a country where the same worldwide anti-homosexual panic of the early 20th century swept national publications and airwaves, with the same messages that homosexuality was “perverse” and the practice of “social degenerates”–but where over 90% of said hysteria was over female same-sex relations, while male-male sex was (and continues to be) shrugged off.

Takarazuka became a huge site for female-female desire–onstage and off.

The school attracted women who wanted an independent stake in life–and ended up including a lot of dykes who would get into notorious public affairs, keeping Takarazuka on their toes with suffocating PR sweeps.

The Revue very quickly very quickly developed a passionate fan base who were (and continue to be) explicitly in the audience not the stated reactionary gender messages of the shows–but for the heat and excitement of live performance and dance numbers and for highly charismatic butches and femmes in romatic situations onstage, hot sexy androgyny.

And the stars of Takarazuka (not surprisingly) became the otokoyaku, the “male” actors, fly singing-dancing butches (or more androgynous hotties) who developed their own hordes of love-letter writing, backstage-mooning, rabid female fans. Some of these fans create their own amateur Takarazuka shows. Some of them will actually act as unpaid servants to their beloved stars.

And it seems that this tension–between the stated mission of Takarazuka in promoting gender stability–and the “unstable” slippery female desires that the shows seem to unleash–which provides the appeal for these hokey old shows.

Now, the book.

It’s been awhile since I’ve slogged through academic-speak identity politics–and boy, it is a slog. Is it just that I no longer read these books or do they no longer publish them? Has this moment of “theory” passed? I hope so.

She insists the book isn’t a history of Takarazuka, Takarazuka is just a framework through which she explores gender and sexual politics in Japan. Some of her s ideas / theories of how to read Takarazuka, and how she places the emergence of theater in the context of a discourse of gender and sexuality in Japan, that’s all quite fine. But her presentation of research feels pretty sloppy. The book (and her few incisive insights) would have probably better been served with more historical and performance detail.

Unfortunately, it’s the only book like that out there.

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reframing

Currently, I’m figuring out how to describe my work in a “Studio Art” context. Any recommendations as to performance artists and performing artists and fine artists that I should be looking up as my forebears are welcome.

Briefly:

Man on Wire / The story of performer Philippe Petit’s famous tightrope walk between the World Trade Center twin towers in 1974. We know at the beginning of the movie that the walk succeeded; we know that Petit lived to tell the tale. It could so easily be reduced to a VH1 special narrative. But director James Marsh expertly manipulates archival footage, interviews and re-enactment to create the tension leading up to the event, through the community of friends and hangers-on who committed with Petit to making this gorgeous, insane dream possible.

It is really so well constructed that when we finally reach that tightrope walk, which remains Petit’s magnum opus, we are left as dazzled as the WTC cop (my favorite footage in the entire film) who, at the press conference, calls Petit a “dancer” because you couldn’t just call what he was doing walking, exactly, and says that he decided to just really watch and appreciate what was going on, because he knew he’d never see anything like that again.

We have also been set up to appreciate the more sophisticated story Marsh created–by turns heroic, ecstatic and melancholy–about making art, the nature of friendship and collaboration, and the corruptions of success and genius. Beautiful, beautiful movie.

deep thought

I imagine myself reading at a reading. And the last thing I imagine reading is something I wrote. Perhaps that has to change.

recent op-ed in the Chicago Trib

The realization—or rather, the belief—that at so many points in our lives the world wants us to be different—older and sexier, or younger and fresher—comes at a social cost. Girls and then women become so busy self-modifying or improving that little time is left over for learning or doing. We have the power to change the world, but it’s too often subjugated to the culturally constructed need to change ourselves.” Anna K. Ream

twilight: neutered vampires

God, it’s been so hard to figure out how to start this, but let’s try. Ok, how about this?

Reading the Twilight series has been like slowing down to gawk at a string of car wrecks, only–like thispo/pro-ana websites, like the skeletal thinning down of the “new” 90210 and Sweet Valley High–the wreck is American girlhood.

Sometimes I think I only stay sane by avoiding 90% of American popular culture. I accept that the world is full of hackmo schmackmo bad fiction, bad young adult lit, and bad young adult lit that gets sold and made into movies, I just don’t need to know about it.

The Twilight series sets itself apart because it has developed a massive cult following of teen girls—plus their moms. Millions and millions of books sold. Harry Potter-like levels of obsessive fans.

The movie, which opened a few weeks ago, marked the first time a female director (Catherine Hardwicke) has ever been #1 on Opening Weekend at the Box Office (of course they axed her for the sequels).

And yet the books themselves are utterly undistinguished in terms of plot, character, concept and execution—notable only as a beacon-like example of the mediocre being the enemy of the good. So why are they so popular?

What makes Twilight so painful to me, so disturbing and so notable, is that the overwhelming success of these books, the lame desires it celebrates, holds a mirror up to both a yearning currently alive in young women—and the dreary, damaging time in American sexual culture that creates and feeds this yearning.

I.

For a terrific summary of the series, Laura Miller’s Salon article.

But the basics: high school junior Bella Swan moves in with her dad in the rural town of Forks. At school, she meets Edward Cullen, a gorgeous vampire who lives with a coven of “moral” vampires: they have trained themselves to sustain their needs on animals, not human blood. Despite her ordinariness, Bella’s blood possesses something magical for Edward. She smells utterly amazing to him—a once in a lifetime smell!—like the finest bouquet of the finest bottle of wine!–he desires desperately to eat her. But as a resolutely moral vampire, he won’t.

Bella finds herself dazzled by his beauty and morality (note: in this world, “beauty” = “pretty.” “Morality”‘s equation is similarly obvious.). But more than his beauty, Edward’s desire for Bella makes him unutterably desirable to her, as a carnivorous plant smells like sugar to its prey.

Out of this mutual hunger, they fall in love. Eternal lasting forever-type totally cliché love.

Things can’t ever get too sexy between them, because he’ll either lose control and eat her, or fuck her to death (her human body can’t handle vampire sex). She wants him to transform her into a vampire right away (so she won’t be eternally “older looking” than him, given that he had been “changed” at 17). Also, she wants to be a vampire so they can have vampire sex and also be forever eternally linked and in love blah blah blah.

This, essentially, drives the entire four book series.

II.

For months, director and friend Ellen Sebastian Chang has been trying to hip me to this girl phenomenon. Her mother, who lives in the part of Washington State in which the novels are set, had sent her the books. As Ellen read them for the first time, trying to understand their pulse, she sensed something odd…

“Were these written by a Christian fundamentalist?” Ellen asked her mother, to which mom replied:

“Oh no. Much worse. A Mormon.”

Oh yes. And you want to know what’s even worse? A 34-year old Mormon mother of 3 who says these books are like foreplay for her.

The Puritan quality of American fundamentalism courses through the book. The “good” vampires with their heroic self-denial. The vampire body as a paeans to the Mormon obsession with whiteness–gloriously, perfectly marble-like sculpted beings who need to live in grey cloudy places because sunshine makes them glitter like beautiful dazzly diamonds.

Eternal sealing and bonding (as a marriage metaphor). Masturbation and real wet sexual desire and drinking among teenagers? Doesn’t exist. Sex is never explicitly referred to, which is rather Victorian. The series even makes excruciating, self-important references to Wuthering Heights, where Bella compares herself to Catherine (AS! IF!).

III.

This “Victorian” quality leads to the one element of the writing in which I actually take some pleasure. Author Stephanie Meyer does manage to capture the breathless, potent dizziness of initial teenage sexual experiences.

The “oh my God he’s kissing my neck I’m going to die” moment. The first time you feel that the entire outside world has completely disappeared, and the points of contact–lips, hands, breath–are all that exist. The intoxicating new power when you don’t just feel desire, you feel desirable. The pleasure that exists when you don’t even know what to want next, even though your body is telling you it wants something.

Caitlin Flanigan writes persuasively about just this element of Twilight—she believes the books capture the complexity of adolescent female desire in that juicy, frightening moment in between girlhood and womanhood; she also, quite movingly, describes how it felt to have those particular memories stirred in her, her yearning for the “romantic charge” of her teen years that the series triggered within her.

But Flanigan writes about such things more beautifully and provocatively than the source material she’s quoting, which is why I’m afraid I have to respectfully disagree with her. Flanigan breathlessly compares elements of the book to Jane Eyre and Rebecca, describing Bella as a heroine of the old fashioned Victorian mold: she reads and is good in school and is a brave, nice person and a model of domestic housewifeliness.

Yes, the glamour and romance of first love abounds in Twilight. But the hack rollercoaster of Twilight is closer in quality to the film treatment summary writing style of The Da Vinci Code than Jane Eyre; and Bella, our narrator, has none of the complexity, pluck, insight or intelligence of a good old-fashioned Victorian or Edwardian heroine.

Bella isn’t especially strong, observant, witty, brave, independent or adventurous. She’s a bland American smart girl. She doesn’t seem to learn, or see, or yearn for self-improvement. Her feelings aren’t complex. She falls in love. Bang. Done. Eternal. Nothing more.

If anything, though the book captures some of the raw emotion of teenage girlhood, it only captures the blandest, lamest, most tedious and most ignorant of the teen girl mentality. And extols the most shallow, infantilizing view of love there is.

Bella’s relationship with Edward, this “eternal love” that acts as the engine of the series, lacks anything notable, admirable, sexy, or interesting. He’s smug and superior and does what’s best for her, she gets all pissed about it but then accepts that he only wants what’s best for her. Their conflicts have all the banality of made-up teenage interpersonal drama.

Her relationship with Jacob, a best friend who turns out to be (whoopsie!) a werewolf, has far more depth and heat and humanity. But of course, at the end, even though she loves Jacob, it isn’t like the way she feels for her pretty vampire.

Which would be ok, I guess, if it was coming from a teenage writer. But it isn’t. It’s coming from a grown woman. And this is her fantasy. And it is the fantasy of not only teenage girls reading it, but their mothers, who make up a big percentage of the fan base.

IV.

If I haven’t made myself clear, the books are an excruciating read, like biting on a cold sore.

There’s a scene where Edward and Bella are arguing over whether it would be in her best interest to become a vampire. She goes to his house and gets his coven sitting around the dining table and says something like, “ok, like, I want to become a vampire and Edward thinks I’ll be missing out on like, human life and stuff, so, we’re going to have a vote, and if you all want me to be a vampire, then Edward has to make me one, k?” She turns what could potentially be a momentous decision that ripples with consequences into her very own student body president elections.

In Twilight, the most complex feelings of adolescence are rendered safe and obvious. We know it’s going to be a happy ending! All close shaves end up well. Edward and his coven pose utterly no danger. The entire series renders the vampire itself neuter.

V.

But the vampire is a Victorian artifact—the mythic embodiment of people’s deepest fears and darkest inner demons (meaning, desires)–it has been reinvented hundreds of times over the past 150 years to reflect the monster of the moment, from a rainbow of deviant sexualities—to ferocious bloodthirsty viciousness—to rampant diseases—to bestial lack of control.

Never has the monster been rendered so utterly safe—hence pointless—as in Twilight. Yes, there are evil bloodthirsty vampires in the world of the series, but our knowledge of the vampires is as a coven of beautiful beings with somewhat questionable desires they keep under control so they can live a happy peaceful life. Like Christians. Utterly neutered, like the 1970s Castro of the movie Milk.

The danger of Twilight’s vampires are never real enough—the desire never means enough. So the stakes never feel important.

The entire series never feels like anything more than a teenage girl making a big deal out of nothing. When something feels like a big deal vs. when it is a big deal vs. when it actually isn’t a big deal–when something is a rule or limit vs. when it isn’t really that important–switches around so easily, so conveniently, so capriciously, that it quickly becomes the little boy who cried wolf and I have a hard time believing in the stakes of any of it.

VI.

So. We are left with shallow, cliched ideas of love, a mediocre heroine and a neutered vampire, in a world which lacks true stakes.

I believe all of it is responsible for the book’s huge appeal.

The appeal seems to be that there’s this girl who is nothing special. Not her looks, not her personality, not her brain. She’s ok, she’s not a zero, boys like her fine, she’s really good in school, but she’s nothing special at all. And yet, she just innately has something about her that makes her utterly, utterly, desirable to this impossibly dreamy boy, who desires her more than he’s ever desired anything in his long, eternal life.

She wants him too, now, and even though she wants him badly, no matter what, he respects her too much to want to corrupt her in any way. So they don’t have sex, because he’s too much of a gentleman to possibly risk her in any way, even though, no worries ladies! He totally totally desires her.

As Miller’s Salon article perceptively notes, Bella is more of a bland placeholder for the reader than a character. And the experience the reader gets to have, is a girl who is nothing special living a totally cliched easy non-confrontational vision of true eternal love.

It’s the world’s reward for what women should want, with all the dangerous parts removed.

The Twilight world is a world where you will avoid nasty sexual exploitation–by beings saved. You will still base your life and happiness around male approval and desire–but at least, without being barraged by totally unrealistic and damaging ideas of what the female body and the sexy female body should be. You get to abandon yourself to sexual desire and being adored, desired, loved and worshipped–but the man will protect you not only from him, but from yourself! And none of it requires work or practice or training.

Where is the independence? Where is the curiosity? Where is the woman as adventurer? What kind of a heroine is this, what kind of a message, what kind of satisfaction?

But also, where is sex as something exciting and beautiful and healthy, something to learn about negotiating? Or where is the real risk about sex, emotionally and physically?

All I see in the appeal of the Twilight books is exhaustion, an escape from the wretched expectations, the shallow pool that women are expected to float in these days. But it does so in a lazy way, not a heroic way.

And I guess girls just finish these books, sigh, and go back to fantasizing about it in between their tween bikini waxes and Pilates classes.

being honest in the bay: a decision

So in ’05, when I was still pretty new to the Yay Area, I saw a play that left me grumpy. Some nice work onstage, but I couldn’t be down with why they even wasted the time for a real museum piece of a script, produced in an irrelevant, imitative fashion (when it could have used some active adaptation).

I reviewed it here on the blog. Then, I met and became quite friendly with one of the women who produced the play–it seemed like she might be connected to potential teaching gigs. Plus I really liked her as a person. So I went back to my blog and deleted the entry. Because I don’t like to hurt my friends’ feelings.

This has happened many times. Not that I delete an entry, but that I choose not to write it. If someone doesn’t ask my opinion, I don’t give it, which I believe to be meet and seemly. But my blog is for me, and for my readers who are interested in what I have to say, and I stay pretty shy of reviews when a play is mediocre, or bad, or makes me angry.

This points to a bigger problem, I think, which is the lack of honest criticality here in the Bay Area performing arts community. Perhaps its the loosey-goosey Bay Area, “oh yeah man, I totally see what you were trying to do” thing. Perhaps performing arts folks are too sensitive. Perhaps so much of the work is mediocre that it’s hard to even argue about the ideas. Perhaps people don’t trust each other enough to not be polite.

The latter two seem to be it, more. I feel far more comfortable engaging in a crackling debate with someone whose work and person I like, or at least, respect. But I also don’t feel like challenging the work is welcome. And challenging the work is what needs to happen here.

This doesn’t mean bashing the work. It means challenging. interrogating, pushing other artists (and ourselves) to really get to the core of we’re trying to do as artists and get to the next level as a community.

Of course, perhaps we all need to take lessons in giving constructive feedback.

Oh, to hell with these caveats. My critique does come from a constructive place. So I’m going to start being really honest with people, because fuck it, I’m done with theater anyway.

Also: I am a big believer that a critique, or a review, is not a final word. It’s part of a conversation. I write reviewers back to keep the conversation going. And people are welcome to keep the conversation going with me.

finally being honest

Yesterday, I attended a “Continuing the Conversation: Bay Area Cultural Participation” meeting.

Since May, I have gone to no fewer than three (3) of these meetings of Bay Area artists talking about making art in the Bay Area. Not informal meets at bars. No, these are formal conferences that last many hours, with slideshows in large halls, funded by the major grantors of our fair region.

They all have a few things in common:

  • The conferences, as I said, are funded by the big grantors. You get the sense that said grantors would rather give money to an arts conference (so they can report that they reached 300 artists! who then can reach thousands of people!) than give money to artists.
  • Perhaps this is why, every time, the funders congratulate themselves on bringing us together. And then have the audacity to tell us that the tools we will learn from each other are more important than money, when we all know that at the end of the day, nothing is more helpful or important or necessary than money.
  • You also get the sense that this conference thing is sort of a scam for some of the people involved in throwing it…
  • For instance, the people they hire to “talk trends.” Usually, these people are crap (oy, you should have heard the Faith Popcorn-wanna-be with her theory of everything based around generational differences at TCG). (Although, to be fair, yesterday’s speaker, Holly Sidford actually gave a sensible and illuminating run-down of the specific economic, generational and cultural shifts that are our given circumstances, that I think most artists would prefer to avoid or find too impossible to deal with.)
  • Also, the artists who are “commissioned” to “contribute art” to “the process.” Today was especially rough. (1) Paul Flores, spoken word artist, doing clearly quickly written and woefully under-rehearsed spoken word poetry of the “I’m not even aspiring to be Sarah Jones” school. There was so much to dislike–from the total lack of perspective to the lack of performance ability to the slipshod nature of it to its tired, tired, tired identity . And this was a “commission”! He got paid! (2) A woman got paid, actually “commissioned” to liveblog and set it up so that folks would twitter the conference as it was happening. If that’s not a scam, I don’t know what is, when liveblogger and twittering conferences is, at this point, de rigeur for the Bay Area.

Other things they always have?

  • Free coffee, tea and soft drinks which all the starving artists fall upon as if they haven’t spent $3 on a latte ever.
  • Some kind of facilitated session where we share with other artists.

And? What else, Maya? SAY IT!!

  • I always meet and run into artists and administrators for whom I have actual regard and respect.
  • I’m always reminded of all this shit I have to do.
  • I always have a list of folks who I need to email and call (man, I need to email that guy!), but rarely do.
  • And. Well…this is tough to admit, but I always feel better at the end of it. I feel like I’m not alone, I always sort of get my paradigm shifted or pulled out of my drudgery enough to have ideas and feel inspired and kind of ready to go.

There were many useful insights from the day. From our public discussion

  • “self-curating” as a lovely metaphor for Youtubing, iPod-ding / explosion of social dancing everywhere / the aggressively increasingly multiracial and multilingual California that is already here / getting people invested in what they’re about to see allows them to have a more engaged experience / how do we do that in advance more? / the idea of neighborhood based organizations that still need to be conversing in a regional context / increased access can sometimes lead to less willingness to take chances / collaborating with artists means sharing their audiences / why don’t we do “board exchanges”? why don’t we do artist company exchanges where I agree to go see your shit for a year if you come see mine and then we’ll talk really frankly about it? (back more to this in a second) / return to the art of storytelling / people would rather participate / constant audience renewal / the arts are going to have to look different because things are changing very, very quickly

And in my own head:

  • Bay Area artists, especially in the performing arts or of a certain age talk about “technology” like its a far away foreign planet to which they have no spaceship.
  • The question of HONESTY, and the profound lack of it in the Bay Area. Honesty meaning, open criticality. And here I have an even more honest confession to make: as this is a public forum, I have a difficult time being totally honest on this blog. I’m going to take this to a new entry.

milk

The movie Milk was moving more for what it evoked than as a film itself. And not even for what it evoked as a film, but for what it triggered within my own set of meaningful cultural associations.

(Especially as we were watching it IN THE CASTRO THEATER. When the organ player (what is it with being at old movie houses with organ players these days?) finished and descended, they projected Milk’s name against the red velvet curtains. Being in a typical Castro packed house–hissing at Anita Bryant, sobbing at the end, Prop 8 still so fresh for everyone there.)

But so.

The emergence of lesbian culture in the 50s, 60s and 70s captured my imagination and work at a critical point during my college years. The opening documentary footage–of men from gay bars being arrested, hiding their faces from the cameras as they’re shoved into paddy wagons–hit harder than most of the film for me.

And also–the 1970s in the Bay Area was one of the most fascinating times and places in 20th century history. The flowering of all of the post-60s civil rights movements–feminism, gay rights, disability rights–Milk and Moscone–Jonestown and Patty Hearst. My parents immigrated to Berkeley in ’73 for grad school, I was born in Oakland in ’77: all my family’s myths surrounding my birth and my parents’ early marriage and life together happen in that land, in that moment.

I avidly read and re-read Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, originally serialized at the
time in the almost dead San Francisco Examiner. These stories, and both “Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple” and the (much more satisfying and illuminating) “Times of Harvey Milk” capture the era with all its turmoil and possibility, anxieties and opportunities. The tragedies which seem to capture the moment.

So while the cast (including, of course, Sean Penn) was terrific and watchable, it lacked depth, it lacked the jagged edges of the time. At the end, when I was weeping, it was because I was thinking about all the things the movie didn’t evoke:

  • Like, thinking that it would have killed Harvey to have seen AIDS decimate the community he poured himself into.
  • Like, the very real, deep wells of both pain and joy that created the Castro’s gay cultural explosion,
  • meaning: how, at its best, the Castro of the 70s is painted as a very hard-core sexual wonderland with real streaks of trauma and damage and ecstasy and freedom and creativity and bullshit and pleasure running through. The movie glanced at it, but it didn’t really land for me, swept up as it was in the heroic biopic martyr narrative.
  • though: I thought it was best captured in the uneasy tension of Milk’s first conversation with Cleve Jones on the street: a sloppy hippy in his 40s offering a teenage in tight jeans potential sexual/political mentorship. The few skittered fragments of a shitty childhood in Phoenix dispersed among the young hustler’s frivolous bitchery. But other than that I just didn’t feel it.
  • Like: the reality of cultural oppression. Twin Peaks Tavern, the bar on the corner of 17th and Castro, is important because it was the first gay bar that had big picture windows, so people on the outside could see who was drinking inside. At one point, that was a big deal.

The movie wasn’t rich with that. And perhaps the form is to blame–perhaps the great biopic is impossible. Who’s going to renew that form?

so beyonce ripped bob fosse

Everybody rips Fosse. So what if this (or if you’d prefer, the version set to “Walk It Out” which rescued it from obscurity via YouTube)

http://www.youtube.com/v/CUXRdqn8LOM&hl=en&fs=1

became that?

“Single Ladies” is awesome and Beyonce is a national treasure and she can do whatever she wants (except, perhaps, run a clothing line) and we are all the better for it. She gives Gwen Verdon more than a run for her money.

tcg new generations

A couple of months ago, at the suggestion of Jessica Robinson, I went to the “New Generations” conference co-sponsored by Theater Bay Area and TCG.

It was surprisingly a very enjoyable experience, and a very useful one–validating and illuminating.

1) So you know how I’ve been talking about how the funding streams of American regional theater leads to mediocre theater? Now the regional theaters are starting to acknowledge that fact. Of course, it will take their boards another 10 years before they acknowledge it, but still.

2) I would say that most folks present were “ahead” of me, w/r/t a “career.” And you know what? They’re all broke and discontented. When Emilya Cachapero of TCG asked the room, “who here thinks about leaving the profession?” 80% of the room stood up.

3) I never knew that part of winning a Creative Capital grant was becoming all empowered and a motivational speaker and shit. Daniel Alexander Jones, who won a CC grant in the first year, gave basically the artist’s version of a self-help talk, with worksheets, with facilitated dialogue around tables. and you know what? It was totally empowering and invigorating.

So what did I learn?

A) As D.A. Jones told us, “No one cares more about your work than you. And no one’s coming.”

B) At least I really love my work.

C) There are some fabulous folks out there who I’ve got to keep in touch with.

D) I’m going to keep making art, but I think I’m going to stop thinking about theater. I kind of even, well, think I’m done with theater.