Do you want to write for Ink 19?

Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for February, 2009

txt

Friday, February 27th, 2009

txt
Performed by Brian Feldman
Kerouac House, Orlando FL
2-26-09

In a 1920’s College Park bungalow, people quietly chatted and texted each other. Some IT guys attempted to get a wireless network working. Various Feldmen slunk around, preparing to be arty. What would have Jack Kerouac thought? Here we were, a room full of his grandchildren typing away just as he did on that Benzedrine fired week of creating “Dharma Bums.” Perhaps he would have chatted a bit, passed out some black beauties, and driven us all to Tijuana for burritos and tequila. Or not. His picture and spirit hung over the room, but the crowd was calm, we behaved, and aspiring to some sort of middle class stability. Rather than filling a roll of paper towel with the screaming of synapses, we filled up some morally equivalent server space in Cupertino with the random chatter of our lives, the equivalent of intellectual white noise.

Mr. Feldman, master of the Time Constrained Performance Art event, read in real time random texts and Twitters from the audience. This is a continuation of the trend toward connectivity addiction – we are in a theater that requires typing on our electronic leashes to create a story arc from our hive mind. No hopeless curtain speech about silencing and turning them off – here we are required to sign up, sign on, and tune in. It’s the art of the modern medium – instant gratification in knowing our friends are finally petting the cat or filing their nails. How did we ever settle the continent without this?

The show opens, and Tweets immediate overwhelmed The Feldman Bandwidth. A pause, he recovers, and themes appear. A thread on kittens, a thread on Star Wars, and a thread on constipation swell up until The Feldman emits a plaintive “stop! Stop! STOP!” The system obeyed – some obscure Twitter failsafe limits kicked in. A pause. I do the mental math: 140 characters time 8 bits per letter – a kiloBIT. Thirty two bits the byte, 32 bytes a second and The Feldman is overwhelmed. He can’t keep up. And you complain if you’re on dial up at 56,000 bytes per second. We’ve made a genie, and it’s out of the bottle. It attacks! He struggles to stay on his feet …”My vagina is itchy from looking at your beard”…Think how we would drown if…”meow meow meow meow ShamWOW!”… somehow we had to deal with the stream of raw data that …”And the colored girls do sing doo, dit doo, dit dit doo doo”… we create incidentally every time we log in to our email account… “I am Queen of the Jews!”…were to assault us. Then – stark silence. The Feldman loses all data. He’s stopped. Cold. The silence was creepy, with nervous advice from the tech savvy reflecting the tHe thE tHE THe THE loss of our our our connec-nec-nec-iv-iv-iv-itty. It hurts.

It’s a complex, delicately balanced system that keeps us alive in the 21st century. The smallest disruption can bring a city to darkness and a society to the brink of anarchy, then over the brink. We live no more than 36 hours from the end of the world, 36 hours from the crossing the event horizon into hell. I don’t know what The Feldman set out to do, but the result is a metaphor for both the information infused lives we live, and how easily everything can be stripped away from us. No email? Can’t post to this site your reading now? My life is a shamble. txt held up a mirror, and in it we see the promise of instant total communications, and how it will kill us all, unexpectedly.

And then the connection returned, and disaster was averted. For today.

For more information on txt and all the other Feldman projects, please visit these websites:
Http://Twitter.com/txt_show;
http://kerouacproject.org/
http://twitter.com/brianfeldman
http://brianfeldman.com

The Tempest

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

The Tempest
By William Shakespeare
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Roger Floyd, Robert Wright, Samantha O’Hare, Rebecca Galarza
Valencia Character Company, Orlando FL

If you were disappointed by the recent big name Tempest reading, drop by this nifty little show. The staging is far superior; the actors know their lines, and you’re not counting on the comic relief character to pull the show though. You’ve seen The Tempest somewhere, I’m sure – a ship full of Milanese nobles wash up on the shore of banished Prospero’s (Floyd) Uncharted Island. It’s no accident, he drew them in magically to get revenge, and maybe get off this godforsaken three day cruise. His daughter Miranda (Galarza) has never seen another human, as all their servant are spirits and demons. Earthy Caliban (Wright) hauls firewood and looks like a deranged Muppet speaking Klingon, and wispy Ariel (O’Hare) makes herself invisible and herds the castaways into whatever plot chute they need to visit. Not bad for bamboo technology.

Director DiDonna takes this perennial favorite and decorates it with a mystical, satanic island vibe. Drummers lurk in the dark corners of the theater as Ariel and her flirty companions restrain and compel the reluctant Milanese into sort of complications Elizabethans thought hilarious. The impenetrable humor of half a millennia ago fades into new age mysticism, and we experience a magical transformation as the cast sheds bits of poorly sewn on costume trim.

Floyd’s Prospero is fully in control of the story at all times, even off stage. He and Ariel might well be astral plane lovers, while Galarza’s Miranda fawn hopelessly over Ferdanand (Freddy Ruiz). Prospero’s brother Alonso is recast as a female (Marcie Schwalm), and John Kelly plays himself as the Pangloss-ish Gonzalo. The best roles, of course, go to Stephano (Moe Fowler) and Trinculo (Eric Fagn) whose drunken escapades with Caliban liven up the second act.

Combine mysterious language, awkward sexual situations, and big name public domain author, and you get the modern cannon of mutable Shakespeare. Sometimes the settings are shifted from Verona to New Orleans or Bohemia to outer space, and sometimes you wonder “What they where thinking?” and sometimes you experience magic. This low budget part student, part pro waves a wand on the source material and takes your breath away.

For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://valenciacc.edu/theater/

Blackbird

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Blackbird
By David Harrower
Directed by Richard Width
Orlando Theatre Project at Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL

Perhaps you didn’t know they have a Pedophiles Handbook. Apparently you check off questions and decide if you simply like 12 year olds, or if you’re willing to pack one up and take her to a cheap hotel in Kingman, Arizona for a deep, meaningful hour or two. Ray, or Peter (Jim Howard) depending on when you catch him, leads a Productivity Team in the anonymous medical products division of an unknown corporation. He wears trousers, not pants, can’t keep the break room clean, and nearly buried his past until Una (Krista Pigott) shows up. A life time ago, when she was 12 and he was forty, they fell in love or lust, did the deed, and now he’s done his time and moved on. Perhaps she has as well, but a chance encounter brings them together to relive the horror and hilarity of their inappropriate past.

There’s nothing easy about viewing this piece, despite the excellent acting, writing and directing. Howard’s Ray can rationalize his actions, but the more he reveals about himself, the creepier he feels. Una fell in love with an older man, and never questioned anything until he left her broke and bleeding and turned himself in, although she MIGHT give him a second chance. Unlike the cautious stalker type, he didn’t think his way through the inevitable, and paid the price. The story apparently predates today’s strict sexual predator laws; Ray was able to rebuild a life after his conviction, something few are now able to do. “Blackbird” takes us into a world we hopefully don’t know much about, and when we remerge, it’s apparent that it’s not impossible for any of us to fall into the abyss.

For more information on Orlando Theater Project, please visit http://www.otp.cc

An Evening of Theatre

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

An Evening of Theatre
By Christopher Durang
Directed by Lani Harris
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando, FL

Sometimes you need to stare at your navel, and this parody of the pillars of modern drama gives us a good look at our lint. Durang assembles three One Act plays that are loosely linked by the theme of “Don’t be so pretentious – its only art!” As the lights go down, ethereal Mrs. Sorken (Nicole Niefeld) rises and gives us a curtain speech combined with an etymology lesson on the words “drama” and “theater”, and demonstrates how an evening of bad theater might be spiffed up with Dramamine. While the rest of the evening wasn’t that bad, the idea hung over the show like poorly ventilated smoke effects.

“For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” takes that Tennessee Williams classic of family collapse and slaps it around for a while. Durang expressed frustration with Laura’ inability to get a grip on herself in the original text. That’s a stiff judgment to pass on a fictional character, but by recasting her as Lawrence (Kraig Kelsey), her internal demons become much funnier. Lawrence collects swizzle sticks while his mom Amanda (Sheli Nathan Smith) tries to marry him off to a woman who can support his neuroses. Barely closeted Tom (Brendan Rogers) brings home deaf Ginny (Angela Damato), but she’s got other obligations. Kelsey worked well as the agoraphobic Lawrence, and Roger’s Tom was nicely underplayed, but there were times I could have slapped Ginny. Still, the fundamental flaw here is the piece goes on too long. When Tom walks off into the dark, the show feels over, but Durang brings everyone back for another 10 minutes of breast beating, dulling his comic edge badly.

The second act takes us into “The Actor’s Nightmare.” Mild mannered accountant George Spelvin (Kurt Muilenburg) steps on stage to the bad news the male lead was in a wreck, and stage manager Meg (Khristy Chamberlain) tells him to suit up, he’s going on in 15 minutes. Too bad he doesn’t know what the show is, but like a trouper he reappears in a spiffy black and red doublet and stumbles through Hamlet, Private Lives, A Man For All Seasons, and some Beckett thing that involves trash cans. (I can never keep my Beckett straight.) Again, this number goes on at length as George recalls what stock Shakespeare he can, begs lines off the stage manager, endures physical abuse from his female leads, and eventually loses his head to Orlando’s favorite executioner, Sam Waters. “Nightmare” engages, but is more of a skit than a story. The actors do have fun with it, oily Henry Irving (Michael Cox) stole what show there was. These are all cute, self referential pieces that are funny if you spend most of your time dressed in black and passing out head shots, but need some editing.

For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit

The Iliad, The Odyssey and ALL of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

The Iliad, The Odyssey and ALL of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less
By Jay Hopkins and John Hunter
Directed by Jay Hopkins
Jester Theater at The Garden Theatre
Winter Garden, Fl

Pick a non-specific location, say Ancient Greece. Turn loose a troupe of long form improv artists from SAK Comedy, and then let them rehearse a few weeks. That’s the vibe of this zippy, silly, and secretly educational Cliff’s Notes production about the bedrock of Western Civilization. Perhaps you’ve perused Homer, or leafed through Bullfinch’s “Mythology,” or even seen “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” If you have, then you’re well versed to get the inside jokes, and if your not, you’ll still fall for the pie in the face comedy and rapid fire jokes. Jay Hopkins gets the most out of this seasoned troupe of think on your feet actors. At the open we get a quickie introduction to the Top Twelve Greek Gods, from bull faced Hera (Jamie Cline), full of himself Zeus (Ryan Gighotti), flirty Athena (Gina DiRoma), butch Artemis (Jamie Bridwell) and hip Hermes (Chase Padgett). These five play about 20 other roles each, with quick changes of head gear or hand prop to keep them separated. Amazingly, we never get lost and the only times things slow down is during the lengthy battle scenes in the Iliad. While battles and spearing and some fairly kinky deity sex propels the story, this tale sticks to another SAK tradition – G-rated comedy. There were more than a few children in the audience, and they never seemed bored or antsy. You might have seem other brands of “…in 99 Minutes or Less” plays out there, but after you’ve seen this romp, you’ve never go back.

For more information on Jester Theater Company, please visit http://www.jestertheater.com

For more information on The Garden Theatre in Winter garden, please visit http://wgtheater.org

Why Would They Do That?

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Why Would They Do That?
With Brian Feldman and Jessica Earley
Brian Feldman Projects
The Gazebo at Mayor Carl T. Langford Park, Orlando, FL
February 14, 2009

What’s love got to do with weddings? Sure, the lucky couple cares about each other and wants to prove it to the friends and family, along with how much money and how little taste they have. That’s what this low budget anti-wedding explores in another one of Mr. Feldman’s on-the-fly performance art pieces. A few close friends dropped by the Gazebo in azalea-studded Langford Park on a perfect Florida day to celebrate the antithesis of the Bridezilla Extravaganza. Mister Brian wore a country scrap book-style appliqué shirt and trousers while Madam Earley wore a “Times Square” style faux punk lace wrap around with a tiger tail accent. There was no clergy presiding, but the acquainted couple simultaneous read from Scott Shaw’s classic “Let’s Elope,” courtesy of the Orange County Public Library. Music came from Omar Delarosa, his semi functional drum machine and a vintage Casio MT-250. Vegan and non Vegan cupcakes fed the swarm-free micro crowd, and we all brought our own water.
The wedding industry is nearly as large as the Department of Defense, and is much less fun to be around. Young couples can spend more money than Chase lost last quarter unless they keep their guest lists under 500, and the entire experience is generally miserable for everyone involved, except for the mother who can FINALLY show those biddies at the bridge club who can spend the most money. I’m not clear on Mr. Feldman’s personal relations, and it’s none of my business, but this was much more entertaining than the wedding I’ll be attending Jacksonville next month for a second cousin I only met once. I agree with the Feldman premise – run off to Reno and get an Elvis impersonator to do it, and then tell your friends after the fact. If they still want to throw a party for you, let them, and let them contract with Halliburton to handle he details.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit http://www.brianfeldman.com/

For more information on Jessica Earley, please visit http://jessicaearley.wordpress.com/

Proof

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Proof
By David Auburn
Directed by Leesa Halstead
Starring Sarah Lockhard, Rick Sotis
G.O.A.T., Orlando FL

Teaching a paying theater audience about prime numbers and Lie Algebra skates on dangerous ice, but David Auburn only gives enough math to get the idea there are certain proofs that are harder than running a one minute mile. Once that’s nailed, we can proceed to his mediation on depression, ownership of ideas, and whether a partially trained woman can mathematically prove something that’s stumped the experts for generations.

Before math wiz Robert (Sotis) flamed out at 23, he did earth shattering work but it’s been a down hill slide ever since. Mental illness wear away at self respect but at least he’s never suffered the indignity of teaching under grads. Younger daughter Catherine (Lockhard) stands in his shadow but might just crawl upon his shoulders. Unlike her sane and successful sister Claire (Tara Corliss) she realizes math is much more than accounting and currency trading, and she has a few ideas she’s been working on quietly. In this play infused with subtle symmetries and dangerous flashbacks, we alternate between Robert and Catherine’s worlds via Hal (Ashland Thomas). Hal was one of Roberts’s doctoral candidates, and in the later world he alternates between desperately seeking success in Robert’s gibbering writing, and a half believable romance with Catherine. Ideas are good, but it takes publications to make tenure.

On a stage of carefully deployed autumn leaves and branches, the lives of Catherine and Robert reveal layers of subtle mirroring. Lochhart leaves behind any shrinking charm she may have in real life to portray the tortured Catherine. She rotates between nice, nasty, and “glad she can’t afford a broadsword.” If you have to go nuts, Sotis is a role model – he’s mostly happy, can dress himself in the morning, writes faster than Luther, and while he shouldn’t be left alone, you know he’ll never forget to turn off the stove. Supporting this insanity are two very grounded actors. Thomas’s Hal might actually love Catherine, or just the idea she’s a potential safety net under his career, while Corless’s bitchy passive-aggressive bossiness says “Wall street. Make someone from JP Morgan miserable.”

This is my third pass at Proof, and I’ll give director Halstead credit – I saw stuff in this production I’ve missed in the past. Every action has a reaction, every prop a counter prop. But I still wonder about the 4 scenes in the first act and 5 in the second, that’s the only asymmetry Auburn gave us to work with. Hmmm…Need to think about that a bit….

For more information, please visit http://www.goatgroup.com

The Year of Magical Thinking

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

The Year of Magical Thinking
By Joan Didion
Directed by Bobby Bell
Starring Peg O’Keefe
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

You won’t have to spend much time searching for subtext in “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Hard-as-nails Joan Didion (O’Keefe) has just lost the two closest people she has, and she’s struggling to make sense of it. Call it grieving, call it closure, or call it unexpected widowhood, we open with a warning that this will come to all of us, although the details will differ. Didion obsessively attempts to control the world. She takes notes, does research, and buy neurological texts to try and speak the same language as the doctors. All is to no avail; she invests all her energy and hope in the return of one part of her life and the survival of the other, and is left alone in the end. All she can do is navigate her life around these two great, deep holes that will never be filled.

O’Keefe’s rendering of this very personal one woman autobiography sucks you in. She passes from the wacky Aunty Peg we know into the soul of this woman we’ve never met but wish was on our side. Didion controls her world and swear to always protect her daughter, but in the key moment, she falters. The falter is only in her mind; in reality she has no control over the synapses in another’s brain. With its candy colored lighting and occasion impromptu use of outside street noise, “The Year of Magical Thinking” may be the best course on grief management you’ll ever experience.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com

iMove

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

iMove
Voci Dance
Choreography by Genevieve Bernard and Anna DeMers
Big Orange Studio 1121 N Mills Orlando, FL

At last – theater for the 21st Century! No dour John DiDonna telling you to “Turn off the phone”, but a place where your twitters are projected on a large screen while Wii bowling and Atari 2600 Pac Man occupy those not involved in texting as furiously as possible. This Art Happening takes place in the Big Orange Theater, a garish yet mysterious building in the ViMi district of Orlando. Recently a galley, it’s now a giant performance space that looks like a film set with bad acoustics. A white infinity wall occupies one corner while a DJ mixes from a scary looking loft and the Arteratti drink white wine and mingle.

As dance time approaches, local performance artist Brian Feldman wordlessly draws the crowd’s focus with a spinning Minnie Mouse LED flasher. Impossibly thin women with miner’s lamps come out and dance mysterious choreography as we jostle to see. The floor is cast concrete, which can’t feel good in ballet slippers, nor to those of us sitting cross-legged to get a better view. Dance numbers moved around the space – a good vantage came to everyone eventually, but as soon as you think you’ve nailed a primo location, the dancers flitter away like last years mortgages.

Electronics dominated the performance. One number projected a dancer on a screen right next to her and applied video effects to her motion on the fly. Another piece projected a film on the infinity wall featuring 4 dancers and their laptops rotating in an elaborate Busby Berkeley routine backed by Xavier Cugat-style music. This was a room dominated by iPhones and iBooks and iPods and iWine.

As part of the larger ArtsFest event occurring this week, a block of free tickets went to the general public. I’m glad they showed up, it proves that this sort of hipness can attract a broader audience, and there’s more to area entertainment than theme parks and cast concrete monuments.

For more information of Voci Dance, visit http://www.vocidance.org or http://twitter.com/VociDance

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
By August Wilson
Directed by Joe Pinckney
Starring Michael Sapp, Dwayne Allen
SCC Theatre, Lake Mary, FL

Adrift in a world with no roots, the first post-slavery generation wandered the back roads of America looking for something, but was never sure what they sought. Love, stability, success, escape from the past, escape from the present, even escape from the future – can any of these make a people happy? A handful of these seekers pass through the respectable Pittsburgh boarding house run by Seth Holly (Stephan Jefferson) and his wife Bertha (Cyria Underwood). Pimp walking Jeremy (Valensky Sylvain) labors on a new road and womanizes, first kindly Mattie Campbell (Caffie Mincey-Scott) and then erotically arrogant Molly (Shellita Boxie). Mystic Bynum (Allen) cast herbal spells, Seth makes dust pans on the side, and Bertha makes the best fried chicken in Christendom. All this domesticity falls apart when creepy Herald Loomis (Sapp) arrives, seeking his long lost wife Martha (Michelle Nicole Falana). Both Herald and Bynum suffer from apocalyptic visions, and Seth is getting fed up with the nightly floor show. After all, he and Bertha go to a respectable church, and they are as close to any American Dream these characters will ever find. Travelling peddler Selig (Eric Kuritzky) connect Seth to the white world, and offers to look for Martha for a dollar. She’s out there somewhere, another victim of the shattering of black families. That stuff was supposed to end with slavery, but societal concussions that big can take generations to damp out.

While there’s a rough edge or two on this production, a few people stand out. Michael Sapp seemed almost psychotic as a wronged man out to reconnect his daughter to her mother. Equally compelling was Dwayne Allen as the country mystic. Good natured and well balanced; he saw the shaman’s world and attempted to bring that balance into Seth’s one-sided search for respectability. Valensky did what he does best – supply the supporting role comedy and flirt with the women until he meets his match in the proto-feminist Ms Boxie. Ms Falana was the sincere mother missing but not actively seeking her child, and Kuritzky gave white society a smiling face even if he looked more like an Austrian drover than a Jewish peddler.

Racism is less a part of “Joe Turner” than any other black play I can recall. The topic always lurks somewhere, but it’s subsumed by the story of shattered lives seeking restoration. It surfaces in the deeply symbolic hallucinations of Herald and Bynum, and in Selig’s second profession as a Finder. His Grandfather found slaves in Africa, his father excelled at returning runways before the war, and he still has a gift for finding missing people and produces Martha as promised. This Pittsburgh is a semi-promised land of work and opportunity where the demand for labor suppresses many of the harsher realities of societal acceptance. Nobody gets exactly what they want, but no one goes away unhappy. Not a bad ending.

For more information on the Seminole Community College Theater program, please visit http://www.scc-fl.edu/arts/theatre/>