Late April holds a major anniversary date for South Africa: Freedom Day, celebrated on April 27th, memorializes the country’s first democratic elections, and 2009 marks the fifteenth anniversary of Freedom Day. This year, the South African holiday was all the more significant as it coincided with the country’s fourth general election.
Peak Performances celebrates this milestone in South Africa’s history by hosting Via Katlehong Dance, formed in 1992 in the “old” South Africa and named for the Katlehong township near Johannesburg. The company’s piece, Woza (translated as the invitation “come”), will be given its U.S. premiere as the final work in the Peak Performances 2008-2009 season.
In Woza, twelve performers present a combination of dance forms, the most contemporary of which, Pantsula, is a South African township urban dance similar to the American hip-hop tradition. Pantsula is mixed with the older Gumboot dancing that originated as a workingman’s dance in the 1950s. These two distinct styles are then filtered through tap dance, which should give some idea of the aggressive and vibrant quality of the movement. This hybrid dance form, which Via Katlehong calls “mogaba,” uses the dancers’ entire bodies: stamping feet, hand clapping, and rhythmic shouts.
On first watching Four Short Musicals—Sled Ride, From a Childhood, The Highwayman, and Blood Drive—it’s hard to see a connection. The musicals are as diverse in subject matter as they are in musical style, their characters range in age and type, and the settings cover a hundred-year span. Sled Ride is a modern re-imagining of Edith Wharton’s 1911 novel Ethan Frome. From a Childhood is a haunting piece based on a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. The Highwayman is a funky, hip-hop version of a 1906 Alfred Noyes poem. And Blood Drive is an original piece that takes place in the present day.
So what draws these pieces together into one cohesive evening of theater? According to director Scott Davenport Richards, it is the simple fact that all the characters, throughout each of the four pieces, are fundamentally people in need. Pair this great need with a limited time of (at most) twenty minutes to resolve one’s conflict, and the stakes become extremely high. Read more »
MSU students wrote responses to the Department of Theatre and Dance’s recent production of the Meadowlands Project. Below is a random sampling of the students’ reactions. Read their take-aways and then add your own. We’d love to hear from you!
“Whether you hate it while you are stuck there or not, when it comes down to it everybody loves their home town. No matter how disgusting or smelly it is, or full of snotty people, you just can’t resist it sometimes. Loving where you are from is a key point to Rogelio Martinez’s tale of an area destroying its inhabitants. Martinez provides very good insight into how a simple act of carelessness can affect a large amount of people…. Debbie Saivetz’s direction focuses on the fact that sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands to secure the safety of our loved ones and others. All the characters tie into the same topic and bring a sense of urgency to the matter at hand. With no true ending to the story, it really shows that it is left up to us to make the outcome a happy one.” Read more »
Modern theater is not the ideal way to tell a story. With the ease and ability to travel through time and space offered by film, the traditional narrative isn’t served by the limitations of performing live. So why bother with the medium? If theater’s audience capacity and practical storytelling ability is so hindered, what’s the point?
Lolita: An Imagined Opera indirectly answers that question. Joji Inc., the company behind Lolita, clearly has little interest in narrative. Their concern is largely aesthetic and psychological, combining video, a live actor, two dancers, and a chamber ensemble to engulf the audience in its disturbed protagonist’s mind.
I don’t know what the experience of Lolita was like for those poor souls in the audience unfamiliar with the source material, but it must not have been easy. Composer Joshua Fineberg and director/designer Jim Clayburgh seem to have little interest in telling a linear, coherent story. And honestly, that’s fine by me. Anyone who wants to know the story can seek out Nabokov’s original text or see the Stanley Kubrick or Adrian Lyne film versions.
Lolita is intense. It never lets go. Protagonist/pedophile Humbert Humbert surrounds the audience. He picks at us, at our assumptions. Articulating my thoughts on Lolita is difficult, since it’s less an intellectual pursuit then an emotional experience. Sure, an understanding of Nabokov’s prose deepens the experience, but nothing I say can translate the way I felt, watching Humbert’s face in close-up, the musicians plugging away at conflicting tones, two dancers silhouetting the titular nymphet literally inside Humbert’s head.
Technically, the piece was an accomplishment. Taking theater/opera to another level, videographer Kurt D’Haeseleer, Fineberg, and Clayburgh deserve credit for pulling it off. Johanne Saunier’s choreography was well suited to the performance and absolutely essential. And François Beukelaers, the lone actor, took us deep into the recesses of a place I certainly didn’t think I’d want to go.
Kubrick made Lolita a sort-of comedy. Lyne went the route of a straight-up romantic drama. By tossing aside almost everything but a faint outline from the source material, this production seems to have gotten to the heart of Lolita. I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit Humbert’s consciousness for a night, even though it’s a place I never want to visit again.
David Clarke is an undergraduate in MSU’s English department.
High up in the Austrian Cultural Forum (ACF) in Manhattan, composer Joshua Fineberg gazed over a laptop near the glass wall. Argento Chamber Ensemble took their seats: five string players, two flutists, and clarinet. With Joanna Chao’s piano alongside Fineberg, conductor Michel Galante called this first rehearsal of Lolita to order. There was space in the white chamber for a couple of visitors, but only just—an intimacy appropriate to Fineberg’s “imagined opera,” in which Nabokov’s most familiar creation, pedophile Humbert Humbert, makes fresh tracks amidst spectral orchestration and startlingly generative voice electronics. After warming up in the rhythmic minefield of Lolita’s final passage, Argento readied for an initial run-through of Fineberg’s 70-minute opus.
It seemed an accurate setting, as the sleek, spine-width ACF building became a rare icon of progressive architecture at its opening in midtown in 2002, while over the past decade Argento has been establishing a lauded position in new music. Their mission is to play composers who advance compositional knowledge and test new forms (the New York Times glowingly reviewed their recent concert of Georg Friedrich Haas’s music). With Joshua Fineberg, specifically with Lolita, his first evening-length work, Argento has their eager, able hands full. Read more »
Minor recollection from personal history: Something weird happened to me when I first read Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita years ago. I found myself identifying wholeheartedly with the novel’s flamboyant, honey-tongued narrator, Humbert Humbert. So persuasive and vivid was the worldview he elaborated, in such witty, high-flown language, I began to see the world through his eyes. And it was exhilarating. No, I didn’t set off in search of some pliable, underage “nymphet” to enthrall and transport across state lines. But so ardently did Humbert state his case, I became a temporary convert. His mesh of lyrical prose ensnared my reason; everywhere society seemed a fleshly wasteland of morality-annihilating temptations, where the man who fancied himself a worldly aesthete could justify lurid pursuits, as long as he used “a fancy prose style.” It wasn’t perversion, you see; it was poetry.
Soon after, of course, I felt pretty foolish. It’s just a novel, after all. Read more »
March 26-29 saw the world premiere of Adamantine, Susan Marshall & Company’s newest evening-length dance. For someone like myself—a writer-type sometimes mystified by dance—the performance came across with all the clarity and radiance suggested by its title. Adamantine’s strengths certainly included the originality and confidence of its performers, yet they also extended to Marshall’s discriminating use of stage elements and lighting effects. The spotlights, scrims, and strobes created myriad opportunities for both striking illusions and expressive commentary. At times, the presence of the individuals onstage was palpable, solid; at others, their bodies appeared discontinuous and ephemeral. One particularly memorable scene, which the choreographer called the work’s “center of gravity,” featured a female dancer who, peering down into a combination fan and spotlight, allowed her magically lightweight plastic jacket to fly off her arms and up into the yawning vertical space of the stage. To me, it was an image of narcissism, endearing in its innocence, showing one way in which we shed and retrieve everyday objects as parts of our self-image.
During a post-show discussion on Saturday night, Marshall made an intriguing reference to her own fascination with the way her dancers work together, how their years of collaboration have developed certain patterns and pathways in the creation of each new piece. I found myself wondering what exactly she meant and whether people who have spent years in the world of dance saw what she was describing taking place in Adamantine.
For me, Adamantine evoked the struggle to get and to keep what we value. In particular, the dance seemed to address our constant vulnerability and to imply that strength mostly means picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off, more or less literally, over and over again.
Alyssa Timin is a freelance writer living in New York. Her art and music writing has appeared in the annual magazine of the Philadelphia Music Project, Finnish Music Quarterly, New Music Box, Visual Arts Journal, Artsline, and Sequenza 21.
You may not know it, but you may already own a Whitehead. The composer of the music accompanying Susan Marshall & Company’s Adamantine and frameDances doubles as a textile designer. Major companies such as Target, West Elm, and Kenneth Cole have used his patterns for clothing and home furnishings.
In fact, it would be more appropriate to say that Peter Whitehead quintuples as a designer—he also paints, performs both as a musician and actor, and invents instruments. More than just a man of many talents, he is a perfect example of the kind of person best, and most simply, called an artist. There is something classic, even timeless, in his fluid transitions among media, as though his creativity flows from a source that precedes material distinctions, that is fundamentally undifferentiated. Read more »
Jorge Cacheiro, in adapting Heinrich von Kleist’s The Prince of Homburg with his MSU theater students, reimagines the piece with Kleist as an onstage character. Off to the sides of this sober, lichen-colored set, we see a young man pacing and mimicking the play as it progresses. He mutters interjections (lines from Kleist’s other writings and not part of the original play) and interacts with the lead characters. Downstage there are model soldiers, as if the set itself is a giant dollhouse, a toy box for the fevered imagination of Kleist himself. This addition is an interesting parallel to the main character, the eponymous Prince of the title. The Prince is tortured: should he obey his army superiors’ commands in battle, or should he pursue the other side’s troupes as he was expressly forbidden? There’s battle on one hand and love on the other, for the Prince continually dreams about the Princess, while he is in battle and after he is in jail for disobeying orders. He is plagued by tactical choices and romantic issues that cloud his judgment and his mind’s eye. Kleist is comparable to the Prince himself—both are dreamers and fear the future; Kleist ultimately took his own life, which is why it makes such sense for Cacheiro to juxtapose the two.
The big issues to look for in this production are group obeisance versus freewill, the present moment versus how one sees oneself and is perceived, and the act of artistic manipulation. Kleist rips his writing off the walls of the set, and the room deteriorates in the second half. Both are visual manifestations of the themes that Kleist and Cacheiro—even the Prince himself—explore together.
Raphael Martin has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court Theatre, Gate Theatre, and Bush Theatre, all in London. Most recently, he was Literary Manager at New York City’s Manhattan Theatre Club.
When I interviewed director Jorge Cacheiro almost two months ago regarding his take on the then-upcoming production of Homburg, he told me, “I hope [the audience] leave[s] thinking about what they are seeing…and [are] intrigued.” Clearly, he achieved this goal—leaving the theater on opening night, I witnessed throngs of people discussing what they had just seen and debating what it all meant—all clearly moved by what they had just experienced.
And it is an experience—a gripping, dramatic, intense experience with an eeriness that pervades the entire piece. Even before the show begins, the scene is instantly set by a mysterious figure moving across the stage and appearing to quite literally write on the walls. We eventually learn that this man represents the play’s author, and it is through his eyes—and his words, as expressed in his real-life letters, which are read throughout the show—that we view the rest of the action in the play.
As if the interweaving of texts weren’t compelling enough on its own, the show utilizes a combination of technical elements that draws the audience right in, casting a dreamlike haze over the entire production. The sweeping stage, dreamy lighting, echoing sounds, and incredibly effective use of music combine with the actors to create a breathtaking visual. What you will witness is a true work of art that encompasses so many different elements—but at its heart tells a beautiful, thought-provoking story with a profound message concerning order, individualism, and the conflict that lies therein.
Kelly Karcher is an MSU undergraduate in her third year of the B.F.A. Musical Theatre program. While at MSU, she has performed in several productions and most recently served as dramaturg for MSU’s Fall ‘08 production of Crazy for You.
On the eve of Homburg’s opening, production dramaturg Neil Baldwin shares journal excerpts from the final week of rehearsals.
Mar. 3: One week to go. I noticed afresh the motif of freedom. So many times through the play this thread appears, as it does throughout the aesthetic of Romanticism. We are only as “free” as we think we are—or as others with (ostensibly) more power decide we are. Freedom, in this Kleist-world, is relative and interdependent; one person’s freedom is another’s consternation/inhibition.
As when, in Act IV, Princess Natalie goes to see her uncle, the Elector, to plead for the release of her lover, Homburg… Tonight was about the contesting nature of the dialogue, the fact that Natalie comes to present a case and therefore needs to maintain her composure within a certain range, whereas the Elector, because of his finely tuned consciousness of his station, has likewise to keep some reserve even as he struggles with empathy for his beloved niece. “Heart” battles with “mind” within both characters—”Fatherland” vs. “blood,” leaping back and forth as the advantage is seized then relinquished, by one and then the other. Read more »
In this third installment of excerpts from his Homburg production journal, dramaturg Neil Baldwin gives a taste of the first month of rehearsals.
Jan. 14: Today in my inbox received set sketches from Erhard [set designer Erhard Rom]. The first impression was as if they had emanated from inside the brain of Heinrich von Kleist—as if the set was a manifestation of what someone else was thinking: “walls” evocative of manuscript pages ripped open to reveal the actual brick wall of the theater and, on the floor, magnified sheets of paper strewn about, the rejects of the author’s fevered brain. In another view, Erhard had placed a strip of script handwriting around the walls at molding level, with Kleist positioned in front of the writing as if he had walked out from the words, been made flesh by them…. These are supremely literate visual interpretations wherein the stage is a text to be read.
Jan. 20: First rehearsal. Jorge [director Jorge Cacheiro] started by delineating the course of the journey and the main themes as he envisioned them: that The Prince of Homburg is one of the great plays of theatrical literature; that it is a really difficult piece (he said it as a challenge, not a threat); that it is the classic story of one man’s struggle between the exercise of his free will and the pressures to fall in line with the rest; that it is equally going to be (in our production) a meditation on the dynamics of making a work of art, following the artist’s way instead of the proscribed mores of one’s society. In Jorge’s adaptation/rendition, the author Kleist has been added as a character within the drama. Thus, the audience will become privy to Kleist’s inner world grafted upon the dramatic construct of the preexisting play…. Read more »
The hubbub in Kasser Theater before the Shanghai Quartet’s recital this past Saturday was clearly a layering of individual voices. That’s a very good sign when chamber music is about to be played. It’s no given that an auditorium will accurately weigh and project the conversation of a powerful string quartet. Kasser does it, and how.
Chamber music, made for the company—and the skills—of friends, is best met with eager anticipation. In residency at Montclair State University, the Shanghai Quartet is in effect the local band. With Peak Performances being the lead commissioner of Krzysztof Penderecki’s String Quartet no. 3 (Leaves from an Unwritten Diary), the Kasser house was about to be the second audience to hear the piece, which Shanghai premiered in November at a Warsaw festival for the composer’s 75th birthday.
Mozart’s Quartet in D minor opened, burnished with Shanghai’s refined, darkened edge, generating a cumulative giddiness, with “giddy” as energizing, not frivolous. Back on stage, the quartet leapt into the Penderecki. Honggang Li’s viola carried an opening theme, gloved by Nicholas Tzavaras on cello, with violins accompanying—in effect, a reversal of string quartet protocols.
Within minutes, the vivace passage in G minor put things at a hurtling pace (thank heavens for the Mozart warm-up). Subsequent musical materials—of stasis, of melodies firmly stated then acutely dissipating—bore the underriding urgency of the recurring vivace, like a ravishing life warning from a master: pay close mind, while there’s time, because whatever your state of mind, there’s never enough time left.
By May, Shanghai will have played String Quartet no. 3 ten more times and are in discussions for recording it. Asked about Maestro Penderecki’s Sextet (on a March 7 program at Cooper Union in New York, by Ensemble Pi), Honggang Li and his brother, first violinist Weigang, smilingly used the same word: “hard.” They want to play it, having heard it at the Warsaw festival. There, Maestro Penderecki had them play the new quartet a second time, as an encore to their recital. Would that the enthusiastic Kasser house had had that added good fortune.
Alan Lockwood lives and writes in Brooklyn. His pieces on classical music have appeared in Time Out New York, Musical America, the New York Sun, and other publications.
Homburg dramaturg Neil Baldwin chronicles his inquiry into the life and writings of Heinrich von Kleist, in this second installment of excerpts from Neil’s production journal.
Nov. 13: Jorge [director Jorge Cacheiro] asked me to find “texts” from the Kleist play [The Prince of Homburg] and from his letters, as well as from Christa Wolf’s novel No Place on Earth. We spent a hurried fifteen minutes in my office talking about Kafka (The Trial), Kant (dialectic), Wagner (bombastic music), and other German cultural matters of mutual interest.
p>Nov. 15: Woke up today thinking about the endless “journeying” of Kleist—his peripatetic, obligatory, Romantic wanderjahr throughout continental Europe, all while resolving to be a writer; yet, when you get down to it, his productive period really only spans five years. Everywhere he went, Kleist found it difficult to remain focused, and there is still debate to this day about what he actually did do in some of the places he went (i.e., was he a spy…or some such). Read more »
In The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, the great sociologist Emile Durkheim distinguishes between two versions of the sacred: he terms angelic, ordering, and pure concepts the “right” sacred; the “left” sacred comprises all that is demonic, chaotic, and transgressive.
Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki captures these religious polarities more vividly than perhaps any other living composer, and he has a particular talent for the “left,” the creeping and hair-raising. As one scholar remarks, “above all, there is [in Penderecki’s music] the splendid, enrapturing, nonpareil category of the high-energy ‘demonic scherzo.’” Indeed, many directors have used his works to help conjure cinematic demons—his compositions have been adapted for soundtracks to The Shining, The Exorcist, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, and Inland Empire, among others.
It therefore is not entirely a surprise that his newest work, String Quartet no. 3 (Leaves from an Unwritten Diary), opens with what cellist Nicholas Tzavaras describes in a program note as “an almost grave introduction with a dark and screaming melody by the viola.” The Shanghai Quartet, of which Tzavaras is a member, will give the American premiere of Leaves at the Kasser Theater on February 21st. Peak Performances and the Modlin Center for the Arts in Richmond co-commissioned the work in honor of Penderecki’s 75th birthday. He wrote the work especially for the Shanghai Quartet, which also celebrates a major milestone this year—their 25th anniversary—and gave Leaves its world premiere performance in Warsaw in November 2008. Read more »
“Hi, I’m David Roussève.” A lithe black man with salt-and-pepper dreadlocks appears onstage and welcomes us.
He begins to tell a tale of contradiction—full of joy and pain, truth and fiction, hope and despair, abandon and inclusion. His dance teeters on the seam where these many elements merge. The dancers themselves are culled from a spectrum of ethnicities; they are tough, energized, and athletic and assist David in his journey of discovery. As he slowly navigates across the stage, David becomes characters from a past that is real and imagined, both deeply personal and more broadly drawing from the wider African American tradition. He is an old grandmother who remembers when she was a slave in the South and a middle-aged black man dying in the hospital. He becomes an old man describing a gnarled alley cat and a victim of Hurricane Katrina who dances out her rage and pain using guttural gestures. These characters intertwine with the dancers. The movement is kinetic, rough, vivacious, and bravura. BBC radio static fills the air with talk of genocide. Sickness suffuses the work, but there are lashings of silly humor. His dancers flit around the stage choking, gurgling, and tickling. An Indonesian dancer taunts the others to eat a raw chili pepper. Video is projected against a back wall. All the while, David traverses the stage—the line of his life—to gorgeous and sad Portuguese fado music. When he gets to the end of the journey, we learn that all the characters are imagined extensions of himself. We become Roussève just as Roussève reflects the history of African Americans in the United States. I was drawn to the work’s chaos, humor, and specificity—the many different faces and bodies onstage knitting together to make Saudade personal and broad all at once.
Raphael Martin has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Court Theatre, Gate Theatre, and Bush Theatre, all in London. Most recently, he was Literary Manager at New York City’s Manhattan Theatre Club.
From March 10–14, MSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance will present Homburg, a world premiere production created by faculty and students. Over the next three weeks, Insite will feature excerpts from the journal of production dramaturg Neil Baldwin. These notes provide an insider’s view of the collaborative process involved in creating a newly devised theatrical experience. We begin with an introduction of what Neil calls the “mise en scene”.
This “born-digital” journal is a work in progress and a work in (and about) process. It was inspired by the request of my colleague, director Jorge Cacheiro, that I serve as the dramaturg for Homburg, Cacheiro’s new adaptation of The Prince of Homburg by German author Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811). I decided to keep track of the show from the moment it entered my life as a responsibility and challenge on October 8, 2008, through its world premiere opening and run at the MSU’s Kasser Theater, March 10-14, 2009. Read more »
In the midst of rehearsals for his play Marat/Sade, Peter Weiss went to Frankfurt to sit in on sessions of the Frankfurt-Auschwitz trial. It was March 1964. The trial was a landmark event: although preceded by the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, the Federal Republic’s case against 22 former SS officers stationed at the concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau was the first German accounting on German soil for Nazi war crimes.
Over the course of 183 days, hundreds of witnesses offered detailed, exhaustive, and devastating testimony about the camp at Auschwitz. Working from his own notes and journalist Bernd Naumann’s daily dispatches for the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung, Weiss first created and published a short sketch, titled Frankfurter Auszuge (Frankfurt Excerpts), a collaged text based on the trial testimony. The short sketch featured and satirized the defendants’ behavior in court, highlighting the perverse theatricality of their histrionic denials, courtroom obsequiousnes, and self-representation as victims of the trial.
For Weiss, the defendents’ courtroom theatrics were reflective of a larger attitude, a general culture of denial. In the 20 years between Hitler’s defeat and the Auschwitz trial, the Federal Republic had busied itself with economic recovery and forgetting. Public reception of the trial revealed a certain fatigue on the part of most Germans—they were tired of the past. In a poll conducted at the time of the trial, almost 60 percent of respondents stated that they thought further investigations into the Nazi past were “unncesssary.” Like many of the defendants, they wanted to get on with the business of their lives, to live in peace for whatever time they had left. But for Weiss, the need for Vergangenheitsbewaltigung—a reckoning with the past—had only become more pressing. In December of 1964, he visited Auschwitz. Soon after, he began work on The Investigation, expanding the documentary format of the Frankfurt Excerpts. Read more »
At first glance, classical music and improvisation may seem to make strange bedfellows. Indeed, in the 1960s, composers brought them together almost by force. Earle Brown, for one, describes his work from that time as “secretly” exploring why classical musicians could not improvise.
This weekend at Peak Peformances, Minamo brilliantly demonstrates how much has changed since the days of Brown’s guerilla tactics. Violinist Carla Kihlstedt and pianist Satoko Fujii, both trained as classical musicians, team up to play a fully improvised concert on January 31st. There are no plans, no parameters—there is simply a connection. Read more »
When one imagines an orgy (and who doesn’t), one sees a mass of writhing bodies engaged (engorged) in a communal project of carnal satisfaction. The orgy is a provisional, anarchic society bent toward orgasmic self-immolation. Such quaint archetypes are promptly banished by the opening gambit of Jan Fabre’s new provocation, Orgy of Tolerance. Here, the Belgian auteur’s intensely disciplined performers compete in what could only be called a wack-off: four well-toned athletic types, dressed in crisp tightie-whiteys and wife-beaters, violently masturbate (hands spasmodically buried in underwear) as other people we can only assume are coaches urge them on with gruff encouragement.
Thus begins a series of surreal, blackly comic, unabashedly puerile sketches around themes of materialism, the body, and terrorism. Fabre and his crew don’t seem to have much of a thesis, besides the observation that we live in a world that is both hyperconsumerist and paranoid about security and pleasure. Thus the repeated images of women giving gun-toting men handjobs. The men (also women) wear berets and smoke cigars, conjuring images of Che Guevara. Are they revolutionaries, terrorists, or sexy models for some chic new freedom-fighter couture? Read more »
Thoughts in advance of Jan Fabre’s Orgy of Tolerance.
Do you remember the Mr. Creosote scene from Monty Python’s 1983 film The Meaning of Life? It is incredibly funny—or disgusting, depending on your point of view. The tuxedoed, morbidly obese Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones) waddles into his favorite fancy French restaurant. After settling down at his table and repeatedly projectile-vomiting into a bucket (and on a cleaning lady), our gourmand tucks into a ridiculously vast spread. The punch line comes when an unctuous waiter (John Cleese) cajoles Creosote into finishing his orgiastic repast with a “wafer-thin” mint, after which Creosote explodes, gallons of guts and blubber showering fellow patrons. Still alive and visibly shocked, he’s left as nothing but a flesh-shorn skeleton and an engorged heart thumping away. Watch the scene here to be both nauseated and amused:
Production notes for Belgian auteur Jan Fabre’s new piece, Orgy of Tolerance, cite Monty Python’s “painful comedy” as inspiration. “Their hilariously absurd sketches rub salt into our wounds,” writes Luk Van den Dries, Fabre’s premier scholar and dramaturg. “They expose the mechanisms of our collective illusion and undermine it with unparalleled comedic skill.”
Does this mean that Orgy of Tolerance is going to be a laugh riot? Not bloody likely. While gallows humor wriggles under the surface of Fabre’s visceral, discomfiting tableaux, the reactions he provokes aren’t easily codified as funny or satirical. In his previous visits to Peak Performances @ Montclair, Fabre’s visions included a naked dancer slathered in olive oil juggling gender signifiers (Quando l’uomo principale e una donna, or When the Leading Man Is a Woman). A few months later he returned with the epic Je Suis Sang (I Am Blood), an industrial-Boschian vision of men and women in medieval knights’ armor, doctors performing bizarre experiments on agonized nudes, and plenty of stage blood. This remarkable performance ended with a series of large metal tables tipped over and lined up, so the gleaming tops formed a massive, imposing wall; smoke wafted about and blood seeped from under the wall. Fabre and his fearless corps of actor-dancers created a world of metal, blood, flesh, and fire that suggested the end of the world or the beginning of a new one.
Brooklyn-based They Might Be Giants played two shows at Montclair’s Kasser Theater on Saturday. The afternoon kids’ show featured songs from their Grammy-winning Here Come the 123s, as well as No! and Here Come the ABCs. At night, though, John Linnell and John Flansburgh went from G to PG, giving a classic TMBG show for the out-of-diapers set.
I first saw TMBG in 1998 in Atlantic City and have been to seven or eight shows since, but this is the first of the venues that had real, classy-like seating and no bar. Any self-respecting band knows that a great show can’t be hindered by the audience’s desire to sit down and rest. The Giants, I assume, have self respect, because they promptly got the audience out of their seats and to the front of the stage, turning down the classiness while pumping up the rock, if you will. Read more »
When it comes to reaching the truth, the adversary is more valuable than whoever voices one’s agreement.
—Karl Jaspers, “La Culpabilité allemande” [The German Guilt]
As in all legal proceedings, the speakers have a right to speak so that, through their statements, the truth can spring and light up the court, the jury, and history. Just as in any other trial, there is more than one version of what happened, since each person has their own version. In 1964, nineteen years after the [Auschwitz] camp liberation, a trial started in Frankfurt.
Why this dressing-up? Why have these Rwandan artists, rather than telling the story of their own genocide, which is still hardly known worldwide, prefer to work on the genocide of the Jews, which has been featured in plays and on the screen time and again? Maybe because dressing-up belongs to the essence of theater and perhaps it allows a special way of telling the truth. Read more »
Orgy of Tolerance is, in part, Belgian director Jan Fabre’s response to what he sees as an alarming increase in the presence and tolerance of neo-Fascist attitudes in Europe. In a culture that claims to value inclusivity, are there limits to tolerance? In a tolerant society, how do we cope with extremes? Has a climate of fear and crisis led to a greater acceptance of certain attitudes and behavior that otherwise would not be considered acceptable?
Tell us what you think!