22 December 2008
19 December 2008
- One-hundred thirty five entries thus far, including our 300th.
- Visitor traffic has increased by about 50% over 2007. W00T!
- 5/22/07 remains the most-visited entry, proving that quoting pop music has virtue, and perhaps that sharing a question is more common than sharing an answer. But in 2008, thanks to Reader GeorgeW, we got our answer to this question! This means I can no longer count this entry as popular for its own reasons -- it got posted here. Perhaps I should advertise on this entry . . .
- In second and third places for popularity (in hits): 2/6/08 and 2/20/07. It would seem perhaps that people read me more when they're trapped by snow. Which I choose to take as a non-specific compliment.
- October was far and away the liveliest month here for visitors, owing perhaps to the Aviary being used as a kind of report for review by the powers that be at North Pocono High whilst I was teaching there.
- Virtually all of my referred traffic comes from people doing searches on Google Image. 'Bloggers, take note: use pictures. Me, take note: start citing photographers.
- Outside the US, we're biggest in Canada, but in recent weeks there's been a surge of interest in the UK (thanks Dave) and Germany (thanks...uh...wait, what?).
- We had the launch of a sister (er: brother?) site this year: Loki's Apiary. His star is on the rise as I refer to him as continuously as I can possibly justify (Loki's Apiary).
- Loki's Apiary offers you a concise view of what I've been up to when not typing here, of course, but for a novella view of my working-year 2008, here are my highlighted entries for each month: January [Losing Work], February [Reading Loud and Clear], March [Recovery], April [I'm Not a'Scared of You], May [Ta-Da], June [Viva Italia - 1&2], July [Friendly Neighborhood], August [Writing Wild], September [Health, Wealth & Wisdom], October [Open Up], November [The Rest is Finally Silence] and (on estimate) December.
It's been a hell of a second year, Dear Reader, and I thank you for whenever you may have tuned in. The entries usually slow down here when I'm traveling, and I'll be all over the place in the coming weeks, in many cases nowhere near a glowing box of interweby goodness. As you warm your hands by the dying embers of your monitors, think of me, and be merry. Eat and drink, too, or you'll die. I'm not a medical doctor, but I have it on good authority.
18 December 2008
15 December 2008
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
10 December 2008
09 December 2008
05 December 2008
04 December 2008
It's pretty accurate to say that I am a huge fan of installation art, and an even huger fanatic about public installation art (i.e., installed in a largely uncontrolled, outdoor environment). I am lucky enough now to actually know an installation artist, and I hope she'll forgive me if that description limits her craft. Friend Natalia installed Luminous Accumulation on the corner of Columbia and Sackett a few weeks ago. I had intended to go to the opening, but it was rescheduled on account of weather to just out of my schedule's reach. Hence my solo journey to a dark corner of Kings on a Wednesday night.
I was disappointed, yet not surprised, to find the display fenced off but my mood was already pretty contemplative and buoyant due to the walk over. As is my wont, I read Natalia's description right away. As you can see, I brought my camera with me, and these two choices are related. Some appreciate art and, in particular, contemporary art, best through raw experience and an immediate moment. I envy this approach. It rarely works for me, outside of perhaps architecture and murals. No, I get the most out of these experiences when I'm working to synthesize my experience with the artist's intention. I find it similar to my impatience with classical music -- I loathe misinterpretation, even when an artist tells me such a thing is impossible. (And how much more impossible can it be to "misinterpret" than with the personal experience of music?) So I ask for answers straight off, and interpret the work through my own lens however I can thereafter.
Luminous Accumulation is interactive with the weather. There are a serious of pipes that ever-so-gradually draw precipitation and condensation into a roofed basin. The pipes, though you can;t tell it from my photos, extend their open ends out just past the borders of the chain-link fence, integrating it into their structure. They also reach back about fifteen yards to form rectangular arches of varying height that occupy the rest of the otherwise empty lot. The basin is lit around its rim and from two sources above it, and it is sheltered to ensure that the accumulation of moisture comes largely from the pipes. (Although the basin is also made of clear plastic, so I was immediately reminded of a wilderness survival contraption for gathering dew as drinkable water.) The more moisture that gathers, the more light that is reflected from it. (Rather ironic, then, that the original opening was postponed on account of rain.*) Natalia cites an Eskimo practice of holding reading material, or any object that requires scrutiny, close to the snow fall, the better to light one's discoveries.
It was frustrating not to be able to walk beneath the pipe arches, but only a little more frustrating than not being able to climb them -- they inspired that strong urge for me immediately, but never could have taken my weight, even if I could get to them. I have to imagine the ideal time at which to experience the exhibit would be a lightly rainy evening, just before dusk. You could (theoretically) walk beneath the pipes as they worked their gradual, inevitable work, toward the incrementally expanding pool, dipping your book/stone/lithograph into its light once there. It's a bit of a trip for me, but I may just do this some rainy night. I envy the people who get to experience this work on a semi-daily basis. Somebody has quietly transformed their environment for a few months, and it's an ongoing transformation. I think that's very valuable work, no matter how little monetary or pragmatic gain it results in. I want very much to be awakened to new perspectives on the every-day, and I can easily forget how much I want this. Thank goodness there are people interested in doing this for us. No one can sufficiently describe their interior experience of art. It's too personal. I hope it's enough to say that I spent some quiet moments with Luminous Accumulations, and felt pleasantly changed by the experience.
Well . . . maybe I'll just say one thing more. One of the best effects, in my humble opinion, a work of art can have is to invite us to carry its perspective with us into the world. We learn from it, in a sense, and carry it forward if not into our actions, then at least into our perceptions of everything else. This is part of the explanation for the genre of "performance art"; as with art, and unlike theatre, there is no definite end, no fallen curtain, to the experience, and it forces you to contemplate the possibility that the experience is simply continuing into the rest of your life. In this way, these things have a very far-reaching influence indeed. As I walked the good walk back to a subway station, I enjoyed immensely the details of illumination all along the way. Effects produced by headlights, streetlamps, windows, grates and foliage were all accentuated for me, and seemed somehow new. It was akin to the feeling I new best on my first trip to Italy, or my first to New York, and a feeling that I find has diminished slightly every time I add another visit and the longer I live here, like I lose it one slow drip at a time. It's a wonderful feeling.
*Perhaps it was apt, though; it must have filled the basin somewhat for the next day's appreciation.
02 December 2008
26 November 2008
25 November 2008
24 November 2008
- The themes and tropes of silent film clowning I want to utilize in Red Signal, including transformation; and
- The use of the surreal in relationship to comedy and our recent (current) history.
22 November 2008
I know that you've been fervently checking in on Odin's Aviary to find out how this week's adventure in last-minute original work turned out for our intrepid hero. Hourly, nay -- minute-ly, you direct your browser this way, hoping for some whiff of report on last night's show, the final follow-up to this week's chain of entries charting the development of my earth-shattering new work: Whoopsie Daisy. Well, I've news indeed, and thanks for tuning in: I'm not going to write about Blueprint yet. It consists of two performances, we've had one, and I'll tell all after the last opportunity everyone has to see it for themselves, this Sunday evening. It's my Aviary. I can do whatever the hell I want.
Plus, I'd be surprised if anyone reads any 'blogs on purpose over the weekend. Apart from yours truly, that is.
I do hope my readership will return to this entry on Monday, however, because I'm here to finally write a bit about another big event in my work this week; specifically, the closing performance of my second staged reading of Burning Leaves. I wrote briefly about having the first of two readings of this play on Monday, before the incipient madness of my creative process for Whoopsie Daisy had taken root. Thereafter, I've been understandably preoccupied, but that isn't indicative of any shortage of effect that Burning Leaves had on me. Rather, I wanted to get the other piece of work on its feet so I could turn my full energy to evaluating my latest experience with Tom Rowan's play; may it not be the last.
The second and final presentation took place under strenuous conditions for me, and I don't just mean its coincidence with my other process this week. It wasn't until 9:00 pm Wednesday, which was an altogether long day anyway, with a full day of work, then a rapid introductory rehearsal for Blueprint on the upper west, a dinner with friends, and finally the night was freezing and the theatre wasn't all that much better. So there felt like a lot to overcome; which isn't necessarily a bad thing for us actors, but there's always some question about whether that obstacle will add to the performance, or override it. All-in-all, I was actually more satisfied with the climax in the second performance, but prior to that I felt a bit flat. It piqued my desire to work on the play under a longer rehearsal process. My character, Matt, has a such a complex inner landscape at the point in his life with which the play concerns itself, there was very little chance of my getting a credible handle on it for a reading. Unless, I suppose, we do six or seven more of them.
There was a very interesting range of ages and experience in our cast, and I was a bit preoccupied by it throughout the process. I suppose that has as much to do with my recent rites of passage as with my comrades-in-arms. In addition to Tom and Gaye-Taylor Upchurch, my fellow collaborators for this process included Kevin Confoy, Abigail Gampel, Allison Goldberg,
Hana Kalinski, and Alexander Paul Nifong. I was a little thrown at first, to be honest, by the sheer impression of youth Alex gave as the high school boy with whom Matt becomes involved. It's completely appropriate to the age of the character, but it also made me rather automatically a little more defensive in performance. In my previous experience, the actor playing his character, Jesse, brought a sense of control and intention to it that allowed me to accept with more ease the depth of affection Matt might develop for him. With Alex's Jesse, at first, I worried about what was to be made of my character falling for someone so obviously naive. We found a balance through rehearsal, but that balance really paid, off, I thought, in Wednesday night's performance. I can't say what caused it (which is a little frustrating) but I thought Alex gave a very grounded, nuanced and intentional performance of Jesse that night, one which pulled the whole thing together for me in a lovely way. His work was good throughout, but Wednesday it was great.
There was much discussion of acting "technique" during this process, and more than a little breathless excitement over this and that from the younger actors of our cozy tribe, all of which I found to be very interesting and, speaking frankly, a little funny. Not to say anything against these actors! Indeed, they were an inspiring reminder of how great it is to do what we do. What was funny to me was how distant from such discussions I have become; I don't think of it that way anymore. (I'll leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to determine if that's progress, or simply laziness.) Funny, too, was this kind of subtext or suggestion beneath the questions that there was some kind of answer to the question: Just what process makes for the best performance? When asked by the woman reading stage directions (she asked me twice, for unknown reasons) what technique I used, I answered that I use whatever works best moment-to-moment in the story, then mentioned that I found a lot of usefulness in Meisner work. I couldn't be sure how satisfied she was with this answer. There is, in my opinion, no concrete answer to the question. There is only good craft, well-applied -- a thousand paths to the same summit.
Plus, we're not all that freaking important. Actors are often, at their greatest moments, cyphers. It may seem like a somewhat hollow occupation, but I don't think so. I feel it's one of the most transcendent roles a human being can fulfill.
Tom has written a great line for Jesse, who is just starting a study of acting: "The words hurt, if you really say them." It's a moment of discovery for the character that we not only get to witness, but participate in, as we've just watched him connect emotionally with a text he's performing. This is what Burning Leaves is for me, one of those stories that I connect with, wherein the words hurt (and make me laugh, and make me think). I'm not remembering a long-lost love when I fight through the tears, nor am I imagining some other scenario, nor am I using psychological gesture. When I'm doing it well (not "right": well), I'm saying the words, and letting them work on me. I'm also feeling my audience's presence and allowing that to work on me, and I'm listening to my body, and my fellow actors, and my imagination, and its all just funneling through me. Is that easy? Hell no. Do you need to train for it, and use technique? Hell yes. But leave Stanislavski and Meisner and Hagen in the rehearsal room. On stage, you're not there for them, nor even for your craft, but for everyone who happens to be in that room, in that willing community of surrender and imagination.
Bleyargh. What am I doing up here? Where'd this soapbox come from?
So obviously I'm a little biased, but I think Tom Rowan's play deserves to have a hell of a long life. I hope he gets it produced soon, and have some ideas about spreading the word of it in my little way. Is this simply because I identify with it personally? Sure, but what other criteria shall we use for theatre? I'll leave the promotion of existential drama and Shepard plays to others (there are certainly enough of them to support it all). For my money, a heartfelt story that's clearly expressed is worth a dozen Bogart deconstructions. (At least.) This was a tremendous experience, and I hope to work on it again with the same people, theoretical discussions and all.
Give us a grant. A big one. That is all.
21 November 2008
20 November 2008
- Buy, then rig to behave the way I need it to, an artificial daisy.
- Collect string lights.
- Finalize costume.
- Rig props.
- Finalize, download and burn a disc of all sound and music cues.
- Practice all tricks and acro as much as possible (already using elevator rides for hat-trick practice).
- Run entire sequence several times.
- Stretch (some more).
All of this from (or in-and-around) the comfort of my apartment, 'cause I'm not shelling out for another rehearsal space the day before tech and, frankly, I need the comforts of home at this point. I sacrifice space needs for psychic ones. Fortunately for me, I have no other commitments tonight, and the place to myself for a few hours. Lots is still only going to be done in the space, during tech (the day of the performance), for me. Which is all to say: No longer eyeing oncoming traffic as a method of escape from this assignment; still experiencing pangs of sheer terror.
Keeps me sharp!