I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Thursday, January 06, 2011

best live performances 2010, music and theater

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For live music, the 2010 highlights were Sufjan Stevens, of course, and Richard Thompson at the Philly Folk Fest. I wished Richard Thompson had played twice as long. It was also a thrill to see the Cowboy Junkies at the Scottish Rite auditorium (that's the ceiling above). I've been a Junkies fan for a long time--I always liked their bassist, so it was magical to watch him live, and no one can quite do what Margo Timmons does with a song. I caught Roseanne Cash at the Folk Fest one year and wasn't moved, but thought the recent "List" album was great, so we saw her too.

It was an OK year for concerts, though not as good as 2009.

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As for theater, we saw stunning stuff. New York's Elevator Repair Company and our own Philadelphia Artists' Collective were my favorites.

Elevator Repair Company did an adaptation of Hemingway's Sun Also Rises called The Select, using all or most of the text from the novel. We saw this as part of the Philly Fringe. The production was exhilarating and I felt as though Elevator Repair Company had put not just all of the novel but all of life on the stage in three hours. Lucy Taylor's performance as the ur-flapper Brett Ashley was uncanny. She didn't look exactly like I would picture this character, and her wardrobe was random thrift shop gleanings, but relying on her voice and movement she made a character that was unfailingly convincing. Is she a jazz-age party girl in real life? The evocation of Carnival was also viscerally convincing--I was overwhelmed by the sudden violence of the entire company jumping up in the middle of a scene, possessed by dance. The bravura of Elevator Repair Company is impressive; they make some left-field choices on a slight budget and pull it off. This kind of confidence and vision makes the theater of huge casts and large mechanical sets look antediluvian, or just unnecessary. I could see these guys doing a Les Miserables in a phone booth that would rival the one you saw with your mom.

Philadelphia Theater Collective is a new company I caught on to this year. Their Life is a Dream was my other favorite production of 2010 and it wasn't even a production, but a reading that took place in the haunted spaces of an old church that now houses the Broad Street Ministry. This was also part of the Philly Fringe. PTC knows how to host an evening. The reading was accompanied by period music by Piffaro. After the first act we all got pomegranate juice with fresh mint (or flower petals? I can't remember). The actors led us to a different space in the church for a candlelit second act that closed with a monologue brilliantly delivered by Sean Lally, sans book. When the play ended, two of PTC's cofounders carried out a table spread with a feast--for the audience! But I was too overwhelmed by the piece to stay and mingle much. Even now I don't know that I can do justice to my feelings about hearing Calderon's play for the first time, except to say that I'm grateful that my first meeting with it was a reading done with smarts, soul, and humor. Life is a Dream expresses everything that I might say about this mortal coil were I, say, a genius dramatist of the Spanish Golden Age.

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I also saw the PAC reading of Troilus and Cressida at the Constitution Center in the spring. This was a great opportunity to hear some of our favorite actors give an intelligent and lively reading to a rarely-performed Shakespeare play (that I hadn't read). Thematically I thought Troilus was darker than any of the major tragedies, even Lear. Focusing on a world more than on individual characters, it was like a thoroughly curdled Measure for Measure. In Troilus Shakespeare presents two armies of talky, charismatic bastards who can be commended only for wit and drive. Evil, depressing fun.

After hearing two terrific PAC readings I was a fan, and was pleased and lucky to get the last available seat for the last night of their first full production, Duchess of Malfi. But I was reminded that I dislike John Webster's play, in which we watch the titular Duchess suffer, and suffer, and suffer, and die (though she gets a beautiful scene where she haunts her widower in the form of an echo). Still, as is always the case with this company, the cast was great--I particularly liked the actor who played Bosola, the philosophical but unrepentant and ultimately unredeemed hitman. Damon Bonetti as the chief villain, Ferdinand, provided my favorite theatrical moment of the year during one of his mad scenes, when he accuses his brother, a cardinal, of lechery. Blazing with mania, Bonetti's look was a dissonant chord, mingling contempt, horror, and prurience. Thinking of this moment, I understand why mad scenes were so compelling for Renaissance audiences, and am reminded of how rare it is for a filmed performance to get into your marrow in this way.

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It's a measure of how much great theater we saw this year that I am too sleepy to finish this post! So the great queer theater we saw in 2010 will have to wait--I was saving it for last but will have to make it a post of its own.

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