Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm Ready for My Close-Up

I'm currently researching for an article on theater trailers for "American Theater." And somehow, in my research, it's turned into an exercise in how to properly film theater. I won't tell you what my findings are until the article runs in the magazine (at some point). But I will say this: close-ups are key. Some plays lend itself better to being filmed than others. For a momentous piece (say "Sunday in the Park with George"), rendering the scale of the set is slightly problematic because the size of the stage and set is minimized on the television screen, everything looks smaller.

But for smaller plays, it seems that a good close-up can make the play more effective. Case in point, a play by the Civilians (a New York-based documentary theater company) called "You Better Sit Down: Tales From My Parents' Divorce."

It's four actors, recounting the stories of how their parents met, fell in love, divorced and what they fought over. The actors play their parents (very convincingly). Seeing the work in the Flea Theatre's small black-box space in Soho, the nuances and humor didn't quite hit me as I was sitting towards the back. But seeing the filmed footage of the play, from the comfort of my couch...that was something different. And for me, the piece was funnier and more biting, and it seemed they were speaking to me. 

Or it may be because when I saw the play, it was towards the end of a long workday and humor doesn't always hit you when you're tired. But take a look for yourself.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

White Girls

Wow, that's a totally non-PC headline. But that was my first reaction on seeing the "New York" magazine article about HBO's newest show "Girls," written by the very talented Emily Nussbaum. I thought, "The show should be called 'White Girls.'" Because that's the demographic that it seems to be catering to.

In case you don't have HBO, or have not been reading the arts section lately, "Girls" is about four 20something, white women living in New York City. It's like a grittier, more awkward "Sex and the City," set in Brooklyn. The pilot is available on Youtube, having only premiered this past Sunday. I somehow feel like it's been around forever, considering all that's been written about it. Including this blog post (hah!).

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Fantastical Past

Thomas Kinkade's "Cobblestone Bridge"
Thomas Kinkade died last week at the ripe young age of 54. His family claimed it was natural causes, though I'm not going to go into speculation on what kind of natural causes would kill a middle-aged man with no history of diseases. That's the coroner's job. I never thought much of Mr. Kinkade or his art, mainly because I associated the Kinkade brand with those pretentiously-lit galleries at the mall, sugary sweet paintings that seemed to lifted from a preteen girl's sentimental brain, and how he stole the phrase "painter of light" from the Impressionists. That last one was the product of an art history degree, but the other two were just a sign that my tastes in paintings did not run the sweet gamet. In short, like many in the professional art world, I found his paintings kitschy and designed to appeal to the masses.

Monet's "Boulevards des Capucines"
But then, looking at those images again, I thought, 'What is it about them?' What did he do that Monet, Renoir, Degas didn't do better and more vividly. Why are people paying more than $800 for a Kinkade that is mass produced, sometimes retouched, and often times not even painted by the man? Wouldn't it just be cheaper to buy a framed and matted print of a rain-drenched Paris? At least then you know that you're looking at a real place that exists.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I was at the 2012 Humana Festival of New Plays in Louisville, KY this past weekend. Aside from fighting a cold and thus having to control my alcohol intake (which meant a lot less bourbon than I had planned to have), I saw 8 plays and sat on a panel called "Critiquing Criticism: (re)imagining the future." Though I was lucky enough to be sitting beside Polly Carl, moderator and HowlRound editor, Bill Hirschman of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Gordon Cox of Variety, I also felt a tad uneasy. If only because I had only been doing this professionally (eg: getting paid to write) for less than a year, and this was my first Humana outing. And I'm still working on the art of holding back pithy remarks...

"But that is why I asked you!" said Kirsty Gaukel, who works at the press office at Actors Theatre of Louisville, who hosted the festival. Apparently at this stage of my career, being young is an asset (especially in a field that is dominated by writers and head honcho artists in their 40's and 50's). It must have been my Twitter account...

In short, it was a conversation that I had an endless amount of time at Syracuse. And surprisingly, almost everyone enjoyed my comments. Maybe it is easy being green... Here's the video below (with me in the preview image). And look for my Humana retrospective in the July/August issue of American Theatre.

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