Sunday, December 10, 2017

Freedome from Harrassment Ultimately Depends on Due Process

In this moment of revolution I believe we need and want to affirm both the right of women (and men) to live and work free from the harassment of powerful people—usually men—AND the role of other democratic principles that, in the long run, reenforce that right, though in the short run may complicate the search for justice in individual cases. We can NOT abandon due process, rule of law, and the need for credible evidence. I do NOT believe OR disbelieve ‘every’ accusation just because it’s been made. I take every accusation seriously and expect due process to best determine what course of action best leads to justice in responding to it.
Law is not a tangle of technical niceties. It’s the bedrock of civil rights and the condition of the possibility of building an ever more just society.
I support due process for both accusers and the accused and cheer when it justly brings down perpetrators and disempowers predators.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Kevin Spacey

I wrote the below post before both news reports and peope I know in the industry, who have first hand knowledge of Spacey's proclivities, have made it clear that he's a sexual predator and pedophile. It always breaks my heart to learn something so vile about someone I respect for other reasons. Unfortunately, it's time to withdraw any sympathy from Spacey, and turn him over to the justice system. Perhaps in time he will do the work that makes it not self-victimizing to extend him sympathy. But that time's not now.

I’m not ready to crucify Kevin Spacey just yet. He is guilty of narcissism in thinking that a statement about his sexuality was relevant to a statement of regret for making an aggressive drunken sexual advance on a young teenager, but I would leave it up to Mr. Rapp to say whether Mr. Spacey’s actions remain unforgivable or not, and I hope that Mr. Spacey will be able to, in the calm of reflection rather than in the immediate moral panic of the revelation of his wrong doing, better articulate his remorse. I doubt that HE processes his own words as excusing his actions by adducing his sexuality, and in hindsight realizes he created the appearance of doing just that. My sympathies go entirely to Mr. Rapp, of course, and Mr. Spacey has work to do, but as of yet he appears to be no monster.

I'm grateful to all those who have been sexually molested or harassed continue to speak out; this appears to be a genuine turning point for all of us. Mr. Rapp, and those who's shoulders he stands upon, require our thanks.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Props and Shoes Need Choreography on Stage

Handle props on stage the way you'd handle a line of dialogue or bit of stage combat, with intention and awareness of the four dimensional stage picture; the audience is tracking that prop; where it ends up and how it gets there is as important as how it was revealed and used. If a prop is dropped in a rush, or without intention, we in the audience smell b.s. In general, I think props are most effective when they're handled 'with ceremony,' a bit more slowly and self-consciously than in 'real' life--just as you slow down stage combat a bit--so that it reads; I don't mean go overboard--slow motion is silly--but the moves matter. This is easiest to see, for me, when handling drinking alcohol on stage; alcohol is always a story.
The same care with props goes also for managing the sound of footfalls on a stage when actors' shoes make a noise, either by design or (more commonly) accidentally (usually in a small or black box theater with cheap or loose stage flooring). If the sound is unavoidable, it has to be choreographed, at least to some extent, otherwise actors literally step on their own lines.
Thanks. I needed to get that off of my chest--bad prop and shoe choreography has been on my mind for a couple of years

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Shakespeare and the Modern Mind

My reply to a question on The Shakespeare Forum:
"Shakespeare discovers and articulates the modern mind before, and often more startlingly and with more unexpected insight, than any other dramatist, in language that remains fresh because the verse he wrote in does not let the imagery and ideas settle into any one unequivocal and fixed meaning; his verse asks for ever renewed interrogation of ideas that both underpin our understanding of ourselves as moderns and hold the clues to nuances of understanding the modern mind that we may have FORGOTTEN, as our discourse as grown steadily more prosaic, more rationalistically ‘defined’ through the sciences, social sciences, political discourse, and overly didactic literature (e.g., novels are way more didactic than early modern plays, it seems to me, even when early modern plays are emphasizing ‘poetic justice.’) 
In brief: Shakespeare reacquaints us with the forgotten magnitude of ideas we have fallen into the habit of making small."
(Lightly edited for clarity; bookmarking here for later self-plagiarizing; when I get around to reusing it, I'll make it sound less self important.)

Notes on AYLI at CSC

A few thoughts about AYLI after watching it last night (I've been in two productions.)
1. Rosalind has to be played as an emotional 'chord,' not merely in one note. If she's just hurt, she sours the fun. She really needs to enjoy her own wit, unleashed as if it were a flock of wild birds, by exile in the forest of Arden.
2. I didn't realize until now how important Celia is to lifting the mood and reminding the audience of the basic comic set up; she's the audience avatar, rolling her eyes at Rosalind's antics.
3. I've seen Orlando as lovable dummy and just a clod. I like him as a lovable dummy.
4. The best Audrey I've seen yet was Traci Lavois Thiebaud's in 2009 at UH. She nailed it (the rest of that cast was also great.)
5. AYLI isn't my favorite Shakespeare play or even Shakespeare comedy; there's something about it that makes it difficult to play. My favorite production, so far, was the 2009 UH production--directed by Jonathan Gonzalez--which was helped immensely by the youthful and unruly energy of both the grad and undergrad actors in the cast; that the cast was having so much FUN made the play more fun than I've seen it elsewhere.
6. Ellen Burstyn in last night performance as Jacques WAS very moving in the Seven Ages of Man speech, especially near the end, when we felt how close she is herself, in her lean and slippered pantaloon, to the last stage. Most touching, dread-filled moment in the show.
7. As I learned at ASC, if actors are going to address the audience directly, they must do it 'for real,' engaging ONE audience member at a time, and for at least a full phrase, otherwise we smell b.s. Thank you, Jim Warren, for this enduring lesson.
8. In the epilogue, Shakespeare tells us not only what his modus operandi is for THIS play, but for all of them, especially the 'Romances.' He's telling us not to get stuck in our head.
9. For any Shakespeare: it's not necessary to 'frame' the story with an artifice meant to explain away why characters who are related to one another are played by actors of different ethnicity. Just let it go. We get it. I experienced that trick in last night's production as condescending and out of tune with the times we're in.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Stories I Want to Tell

Not getting everything I thought I want out of this 'business' has taught me to separate what I can live without from what would satisfy my urge to perform. I don't need to do that much, it turns out: give me a few stories that speak to the most throbbing unresolved social and political issues that effect us both individually and collectively to which I can contribute and I'll be ok, e.g. The Wire, The Deuce, Confederate, Black America, or any Shakespeare; I know those stories when I see them. One of them and I will eventually find each other (the Havel play we did last year satisfied this itch.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Houston Workshop Postponed

Unhappily due to Hurricane Harvey our workshop in Houston has been postponed indefinitely. On the other hand, none of my Houston friends or colleagues have suffered personal injury, despite some heavy property losses. They're all brave people and will come out well in the end.

We'll reschedule as we can.

Horror of Group Think: My Strength and Blind Spot

For good and ill I'm animated by a visceral horror of 'group think,' which I find oppressive and nearly always void of clear thinking. Discoveries quickly turn into cant; e.g., the latest spread of the possibly useful term "intersectionality," which in the hands of rhetorical bomb throwers and well-meaning hangers-on is racially reactionary. Before that, there was "multiculturalism," which sounded good until it was almost instantaneously turned into a lefty version of 'alternative facts' and an excuse for not learning how to do research. Before that, there was Germany, enthralled to Hitler.
Much of the time, my revulsion of the herd's bleating serves me well; but many other times, it does not. A good analytical tool for parsing some of my opinions is my antipathy to group think; rarely is that enough to understand what may seem to be the contrariness of my view, but if you start there, you'll have a good idea of what I'm reacting to, e.g., my defense of the upcoming HBO show, CONFEDERATE, which is in part animated by my distrust of the instantaneous, almost joyfully-shared group rage against it; or more recently, my unwillingness to join the FB lynch mob calling for the head of Joel Osteen, who I believe really does deserve severe criticism for the long con perpetrated by 'Abundance' gospel (I'm forgetting what it's actually called), but who didn't appear to have done anything wrong during Hurricane Harvey. 
If I don't call out 'group think' on the right of the cultural and political spectrum as often it's because I almost never take the right seriously; I usually don't care what they're saying within their own bubble. Though, of course, those of us to the left could stand to listen better to the more thoughtful and iconoclastic--when not morally vile--voices on the right.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Houston Workshop

Houston: I'm gonna be in town during the last week of August to do a workshop and staged reading that we'll perform on the evening of Monday, September 5th. It's a play that's been around a long time, that I once understudied and have always wanted to do, and which a wonderfully talented faculty member at the UH Dept. of Theatre and Dance thought would be worth working on in her 'copious free time' at the top of the semester. We're gonna do it in a classroom space at UH. I'll name names and say more when we get closer.

Father's Day (fb posts)

Father's Day was a protection racket in my home. If you made an offering to the king he didn't hit you, that day. Domestic violence is real. When I see a child staring darkly from behind the looming bulk of an angry adult I sicken at the sight of the inevitable repetition of a cycle that harms not only that individual child, but all of us, because that child grows into the angry adult. That child develops means of displacing the rage. That child will later scream, hit, shun other races, grow obsessed over religion, or sex, or guns, or vote for someone like Trump, or shoot up a playground full of children or elected representatives doing their best to serve the public good. Don't hit your child.
Domestic violence--physical, verbal, sexual--is more common than we know. I hear or see it nearly every day, not infrequently in the implicit violence of how couples communicate; I hear it in the impatience; in the casual slights; in the little demands made without 'please' or 'thank you' that create undertows of resentment. I hear it in the current low appreciation we have for social etiquette, the lack of which often sounds sociopathic, to my ears. We forget the role that every day social ritual plays in our lives by disarming the thousand little misdirections we are prone to indulge; the ritual--the "please" and "thank you"--creates a 'safe' social space we can rely on (which is one reason I like to say that 'meaningless ritual' is an oxymoron) and take refuge in. The stranger who says "please" and "thank you" is the stranger who will have your back in a crisis; who will run toward rather than away from you in a natural disaster; who will come to the aid of a child.
Don't hit your child. Notice each other. Let yourself be seen. Say "thank you." That's a start.

Father's Day Reflections, Cont. - Growing up, I would have given an arm to have an 'absent father,' but he kept coming back. He could also be a charming and lovely man who taught his children not to judge others by wealth or status and could be as unpredictably kind as he was predictably, unpredictably violent, and thus, a 'trauma bond' was born. I loved that man, and in (too) many of my adult relationships--in both work and love--I've sought to be with him, again, finding myself attracted to a certain breed of 'authoritarian' personality, until, at last, one day, I didn't.
I don't necessarily recommend the language of psychology for understanding and learning to surf the internal forces that move us. I don't use it much myself, anymore, but it was a useful transitional tool. Shakespeare works too. As can philosophy. As does art in general, and developing a craft, being curious about the world, giving back where one can, practicing humility (not self abasement), and standing up for one's self without denigrating or oppressing others.
Maybe the most troubling inheritance for me of having had an emotionally and physically violent father is that it often made community difficult to find and sustain, and community is sometimes ALL. Without 'community,' we suffer the illusion of being here alone, and we're NEVER alone, even at our loneliest. We commune with others through the language in which we think--language we were taught by others--and we never cease talking back and forth with the 'introjects'--the internalized voice of those who reared us--that live now within our own heads. (FB and other social media often go wrong for us, perhaps, because the 'disinhibition' we feel behind a computer is often a sign that we're talking not to others on the internet, but to those voices in our head.)
I know some fine fathers out there so this post does not belong to you. On Father's Day itself, I wish the many fine and 'good enough' (to borrow from Winnicott) father's and their loved ones a fine and celebratory day.