Friday, August 31, 2007

The Valiant Fool in a Middling Crisis

Barbara Vitello's thoughtful review

Web's support the neos review:

These are the reviews that have most affected me, caused me to think about my creations instead of protect them proudly or outright laugh at the complete misunderstandings.

And why is this? These reviews are middling, their feelings are lukewarm. Why does it bother me when I contrast that with audience and cast comments about its uniqueness, magic, its experimentation asking or even demanding change in neo futurist outlooks?

So on and on again, Why?

To begin with, these reviews, I respect, they actually are thoughtful, they do search, instead of just criticize. They tried to understand what they saw. They didn’t dismiss it. And I thank them for that. But I scratch my head in bewilderment as to why they walk away with statements like: “A pleasant diversion – entertaining diversion”, “excuse to fool around – that has to suffice”, “not as good as…”

Middling, right? Yes middling. A thoughtful middling review.

Why then is the fool ensemble and the neo futurist company so POSITIVE? I’ve been in middling shows before and they’ve never been this positive, this so convinced that what they are doing is “meaningful” and “important.” Why does Anthony get so upset at these misunderstandings attributed to a popular sensibilities inability to separate theater from film or TV? Why does he believe that his studying of the transformation fool allows him in life and in performance to support and both disappears? Why does the show make Ryan think about his relationship to his father and grandfather, in shape, in attitude, why does this kick him into grasping for the spontaneity in the show? Why am I obsessed with the Holy Fool who tries to guide by confusing and being contrary, who is not discovered till he is dead or until he is gone? Why is Chloe’s Fool for love bloody, wet, violent, yet contained, exotic,hopeful and isolated? Why is this experience so damn meaningful?

So again pops into my head, WHY? Why middling?
Lack of director? Maybe. Fragmentation confusing? Sure.

But Not Middling! My sensibility cannot be dismissive of this “middling”, this being “content” perhaps.

So I try to find the statements where I believe these gaps originate. And here is what I find:

“Once I stopped trying to uncover some profound meaning – I had a better time.”
“loosely connected vignettes”
“lacks narrative coherence”
“pleasant diversion.”
“plotless - evocation of the titular archetype”

Now “middling” makes sense. This is a Neo-Futurist production. If you try to enjoy our shows on purely a spectacle or as entertainment, of course it’s going to be middling. We show the strings. We attempt physical acts we are not good at and haven’t been trained to do. We take risks only when there is risk involved. We don’t show risk if there isn’t any to be had. We do things pedestrian – on the cheap. We glory in our low budgets and the necessary levels of lameness in our props, costumes, and less often lighting.
What raises the aforementioned elements to brilliance is: thought, spontaneity, meta-theatrics (the ability to comment and still be engaged), our abilities as diverse intelligent writers, our real emotion – our character/raw selves.

So is our Neo Futurist Fool’s illusions, or magic, middling? YES. Yes, because they are not illusions.

So by dismissing the above, by dismissing meaning, one is dismissing our Foolish show. Is our meaning too inaccessible? Yes and No.

This is what one audience member had to say, that hadn’t seen any rehearsals or previews prior to the opening night. I’ll admit that he is on our office staff, but he is a rough critic, and was definitely not given any inside information:

It had everything ¬ peril, tenderness, idiocy, menace, a scosh
(sp?) of pop culture-skewering, arresting stage pictures, enigmatic (vs.
unclear or confusing) action, dynamic & surprising relationships, crushing
loneliness, spectacle, humility, large-heartedness, generosity of spirit,
and on and on.

One can say he had to say something good. It’s his job. But his word choices are so damn accurate, they are words I had in my head while constructing images and sounds. Could it be inaccessible if someone has come up with the same abstract descriptions that I had while conceiving the piece? I really don’t think so. It may make the experience more individual, more empirical.

Is it History, is that where we went wrong. Is it history? Yes, but not a history lesson. It is not a documentary of Fools; it is not an encyclopedia Britannica paragraph about Holy Fools or the Bindle. It is history itself, put before you in images, sound, actions, misunderstood and simple words layered with weight and oddly appearing dark yet jovial. This is Foolish History.

It is a history of emotions, contrary images, combinations of these images. It is violent interruption. It is asking one to be on the inside and on the outside simultaneously, and it asks in an assaulting manner, “How does that feel? How does it feel to be a living breathing chaotic contradiction in a world of checks and balances, of interruptions of an irony that is humiliating and desensitizing?”
“How does it feel to be a fool?”

Why is there violence one moment and compassion the next. Why is Kurt suspended in the air suffocating with elegance and beauty while tied to a stick being pulled by Dean who is walking in place, skipping and whistling while pulling the wait? Why is this overlapped with Eliza popping out of a bag in a beautiful princess dress while talking about her relations to pop stars and coffee and tears and the unbearable?

These are they whys that gives it meaning. These are the whys that link these images. These are the whys that creates our own fucked up history in our own Crateville. There are no simple answers. There are no simple defenses. A fool doesn’t have answers that are acceptable to any majority. THAT is up to the society in which we create.

It is possible that we failed as performers to give this to you. But please contemplate the meaningfulness of this failure.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Keep Resilient

I felt like reiterating this very early quote from the BLOG, as we all maintain our pains and illnesses and coughs and aches; seems appropriate as we start into the long run. Here it is:

"There is in the jester a quality of resilience that means that even when he is beaten it does not seem to injure him. It is a resilience of the spirit that might either complement the physical litheness often associated with the jester or offer a contrast to a deformity. He never seems particularly perturbed by a whip descending on him, never inveighing against the injustice or cruelty of his punishment or begging for mercy: 'Like the comic characters in the film cartoons who may be cut to shreds, smashed flat, riddled with holes, or stretched into a thin line, yet which suddenly spring back into their original form or are miraculously put back together, the clown always seems to survive.'" (pg. 135)

I think Ryan said after the show that this show is about surviving? THE RESEARCH APPLIES!!


Monday, August 27, 2007

John Pierson is famous

Which you probably already knew.
Anyway, here's a link to a nice article about him in the Daily Herald last week:

Also, come see this show. Really. Even cranky people like it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Fool (returns to his blur): A photo attempt of Opening Night

Congrats to the cast on a stellar opening night performance. For those who missed it, here's what some of the show looked like through a shaky camera on a too slow shutter speed.

Crate Avalanche

A Fool's Date

Taking it in the Courser

Ummmm. A crate inferno?

Anthony fields the congratulatory call from the President

For you Fools photography fans, the plan is to actually set my camera up properly at one of the next few performances and take pics for real. However, looking at photos on the blog is no substitute for the real thing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

tattoos of an anchor on my arm

I will be there on saturday. to see you.

in the chair i usually sit in.

you know. the one third from the slit in the stairs on the front row on the stage left side. thats my chair. i always sit in that chair. that chair is for me.
especially on saturday. no one sits in that chair like i do.

cant wait to see you folks

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Birth of a Timeline

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Folly of One

A Hastily Composed Teaser Behind the Scenes at the Nonlinear Timeline of Foolery

In the State Park, see...

Creepy paintings of Fools!

Ships of Fools plunging into the void/onto the floor!

The Timeline that Barfed Up Foolish History!

And so much more.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Feast Of Fools

Im not sure if someone has already posted about this , but here goes:

In context to the medieval secular theatrical events:
" During the Feast of Fools, young clergymen chose a bishop or pope of fools who was allowed to misuse his religious power; they sang and danced indecently, burlesqued sermons and services, and stage plays satirizing the church. The Festival of the Boy Bishop was a similar but more tame event"

Are pants really foolish ?
Italian theatre is sold on it.

pantalone- the foolish pedant who was always involved in his neighbors affairs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Perhaps you hadnt heard

that i am flying up to see fools. crossing the mason/dixon. leaving the confederacy.
away from the apple pies and tennessee volunteers. away from community theatre productions of steel magnolias. to chicago.


but only for a weekend.

to see you folks.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Cynic

Diogenes’ talent for undercutting social and religious conventions and subverting political power can tempt readers into viewing his position as merely negative. This would, however, be a mistake. Diogenes is clearly contentious, but he is so for the sake of promoting reason and virtue. In the end, for a human to be in accord with nature is to be rational, for it is in the nature of a human being to act in accord with reason. Diogenes has trouble finding such humans, and expresses his sentiments regarding his difficulty theatrically. Diogenes is reported to have “lit a lamp in broad daylight and said, as he went about, ‘I am searching for a human being’”

Foolish Timeline

So, I'm working on the visual display for the State Park, which is to be a timeline of fools and foolishness throughout the ages.

As I said to John and Evan, my general vision for the installation is "Oh, look. A timeline barfed."

In more elegant terms, it will be a 2D single-strand timeline (on the wall) that then explodes into a 3D multi-strand chaos. Viewers will be still able to follow single strands of the timeline if they wish or just take it in as a whole. I suspect it will look like part-timeline, part-spiderweb.

The criscrossing strands of the timeline will eventually coalesce again into a sculptural form I'm referring to as the Tower of Babel (an event/object included in the paper timeline created by Evan, which is being used as inspiration for the visual counterpart). Here is a sketch of it (keep in mind the physical timeline is made out of black nylon rope):

The strands of the tower itself will be covered with posterboard-mounted cards on which there will be quotes, facts, and pictures (each strand in timeline chronological order); also 3D objects with similar text labels that stand in for paper description. For example, instead of having a timeline quote/date label pertaining to a specific court jester, there might be an actual jester's cap hanging on the line with a label. Instead of a person's death date, there might be a skull with the death date penciled on it. Get me?

Okay, here's another (bad) sketch with just cards:


Get me now?


Well, to make it worse, in addition there will be some smaller subinstallations for each 3D thread of the timeline. One in particular that I have nailed down is the Ship of Fools, which will be a timeline-rope sculpted into a wave shape on which will be sailing little boats made out of the actual pictures in the Ship of Fools series:

It will most definitely look better than my careless rendering of the fleet of boats above.

Anyone who can picture this in their head wins a prize. Anyone who wants to pitch in at the build on Saturday (2pm-8pm) or Sunday (10am-5pm) wins a tongue-kiss.

And for good measure here's a picture of the biggest fool of all, who decided that the perfect place to repose was on my sketches:


Friday, August 10, 2007

So we are moving into our tech week and I find myself with no time to research or post. Right now I am in the office of the neo futurarium and I thought, "My brain is melting." Which is a quote from Symeon The Fool, I have used in the show. I looked up images on the web and for some reason these people's faces showed up. I don't feel like finding out why, I don't think I want to know why. I just think it's a bit funny right now.....

"Fellows in round jackets are not always fools."

"Dear 'Floy':

"My dog Fido is dead. He was a splendid Newfoundland, black and shaggy; father gave $10 for him when he was a pup. We all loved him dearly. He was a prime dog, could swim like a fish. The other morning we found him lying motionless on the door-step. Somebody had poisoned poor Fido. I cried all the day, and didn't play marbles for a whole week. He is buried in the garden, and I want you to write a epithalamium about him. My brother John, who is looking over my shoulder, is laughing like everything; he says 'tis an epitaph, not an epithalamium that I want, just as if I don't know what I want? John is just home from college, and he thinks he knows everything. It is my dog, and I'll fix his tombstone just as I like. Fellows in round jackets are not always fools. Send it along quick, please, 'Floy'; the stone-cutter is at work now. What a funny way they cut marble, don't they? (with sand and water.) Johnny Weld and I go there every recess, to see how they get on with the tombstone. Don't stick in any Latin or Greek, now, in your epithalamium. Our John cannot call for a glass of water without lugging in one or the other of them; I'm sick as death of it. I wonder if I shall be such a fool when I go to college. You ought to be glad you are a woman, and don't have to go. Don't forget Fido, now. Remember, he was six years old, black, shaggy, with a white spot on his forehead, and rather a short-ish tail--a prime dog, I tell you.

Billy Sands"

From Ruth Hall, by Fanny Fern, published 1854.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I'll Be Your Bad Magician If You'll Be My Source of Income

“Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it because you're not really looking. You don't really want to know the secret... You want to be fooled.”

Not to bring Hollywood into the picture, but the quote is from that movie “The Prestige,” featuring Wolverine and Batman and his butler.

I’ve always had the idea of a magic trick in my head while watching and working on this show. In the piece I’m working on, I conceived of it having elements of a magic trick. I wanted to elicit that specific “Ta-DAA!” response from an audience. Of course, I’m not a magician, so any trick I may have tried to pull ended up being a bad magic trick, which has it’s own flavor of wow-dom. Hopefully.

My favorite parts in this movie were when the tricks went horribly wrong. Right when the moment happens, when the birdcage collapses on the dove and the bullet blows off a piece of his hand, when the hat falls flatly and dissatisfying-ly to the ground because the look-a-like magician is slow on his cue, it’s that moment where the magician is so so wonderfully foolish.

Even more so when the trick goes correctly. All the bells and whistles, the coat-tails and hats and gorgeous models, and then a real-life elephant disappears (not in “The Prestige”), simply because a black drop is placed in front of it while the red curtain hides the action for a half-second (you’re watching it on a proscenium stage, you’d forgotten to take into account depth). *SPOILER WARNING: skip these last sentences in the paragraph if you care about seeing the movie.* Wolverine simply kills himself over and over again in order to sufficiently disappear. And you thought David Bowie had made a bonafide teleporter. Tsk tsk.

No, the simplicity of the solution is what makes it so jaw dropping and makes me feel so foolish.

The quote at the top, the one said by Austin Powers’ dad in “The Prestige,” regards the magician's audience. The theatre's audience equivalent is that “suspend your disbelief” stuff, right? I’m thinking about the difference between magic and theatre, what’s hidden and what’s shown. Two different perspective’s of a foolish audience, they sign a contract regarding what they’re going to look at, and what they’re going to ignore. Which one do I prefer to be?

Yeah, rent it. It’s a good movie. Jessica says there are too many guys, though, which I agree with. Maybe Catwoman will be in the sequel. They'll saw her in half.