23 March 2007

I'm randomly giddy and want to title this post "Volume of Your Mom"

Everyone got your tickets for BlogCon 2007? The Summer Play Festival's Salon Series hits close to home again (though I missed the previous very-pertinent panel on new play development) with "Blogging The Show: Theatre, the Media, and Blogs," featuring Isaac Butler of Parabasis, Cara Joy David (Full Force Theatre Musings), Garret Eisler (The Playgoer) and George Hunka (Superfluities), moderated by Time Out critic and blogger himself David Cote. (I'm planning an anonymous theatre bloggers panel starring Rocco and Moxie, where all the panelists wear brown paper bags on their heads, or maybe it's just conducted in the dark.) I'm looking forward to this panel (the real one, not the anonymous one I made up), and a thorough discussion of how theatre bloggers differ from other bloggers. (They don't blog in pajamas because everyone's writing from their temp job.) This Monday the 26th, 7:30pm at the Studio Theatre in Theatre Row (410 W42nd St). Refreshments are promised. Tickets are free, but you should make a reservation - email events@spfnyc.com.

I got a jump-start on the meeting-people-I-know-from-the-internet thing at volume of smoke last night. (Soo much more fun than internet dating.) I got to meet Isaac, by whom the piece was beautifully directed, and re-met Mark. Rather than wear big THEATRE BLOGGER signs, we just spent the ten minutes before the show conversing across an aisle about the merits & evils of new play development. Because apparently, theatre bloggers think about NOTHING ELSE. You know, other bloggers meet up and, like, drink beer or something. This is at least the impression I've gotten from Cole Slaw Blog and Jason Mulgrew. Theatre bloggers? We just turn into big dorks. (There was apparently beer afterwards, but I couldn't partake because of conflicting plans. Maybe CrimeNotes was there, and now I'll never know.)

volume of smoke is a really beautiful production, and it's good to know that after reading about Isaac's work and philosophies for these many months, he really knows what he's doing. (The internet is so weird.) There's a very strong aesthetic to the show that goes beyond nice design elements - it reminded me of Les Waters' work in that way - a visual richness and inventiveness that I really loved. The creation of a whole space, a visual and spatial world, rather than just a set. The lighting was also gorgeous - I love when people (see: Journey's End) let scenes be really, truly dimly lit. In the case of Journey's End it's candles; for volume of smoke it was a ghost light. Lighting designers and directors - don't be afraid of the dark.

Unfortunately, volume of smoke isn't really my sort of play. Its subject matter should be good material - the Richmond theatre fire of 1811 - but it felt like little more than several perspectives on getting out of a burning building (or not). Some gestures are made towards drawing connecting threads - thematic and metaphorical - between this story and larger ideas, like theatricality and, somehow effectively, the slave trade, but for the most part the monologues are just about the fire. It's not not sad that 70 people, many of them children, died. It's not not interesting. But it didn't always make engaging theatre. Maybe it was just the ghost light's bare bulb, but I was reminded of Deb Stein's Bone Portraits - a much more formally experimental piece, but similarly an exploration of and meditation on a historical moment, and similarly aesthetically charged. I guess for me, Deb's non-linear collage (director Lear deBessonet deserves credit as well) worked better than Clay MacLeod Chapman's telling. I also just wanted there to be dialogue, for the actors to talk to each other. It didn't feel like a monologue play - actors interacted in the choreography of the staging, and knit a sort of living scenery - but it was all just relating stories and monologuing.

And now when I see Isaac at the panel on Monday, he's gonna totally hate me. I'm that bitch who likes new play development and talks trash about people's shows. Or just projecting my own habitual oversensitivity. But just in case:


parabasis said...

aw.... how can I hate anywun who would post such pwetty wittle pictuws of a wittle pwetty kitten?

Seriously, tho, for a moment. Not everyone keys in to Clay's writing. That's actually part of the appeal of it for me. I'm not going to try to justify it as somehow "hard" or whatever, just in my experience anyway, it's a taste thing and sometimes people really go for it and sometimes people don't.

Which is why I don't get offended (or surprised) when people don't quite go there with him. He has a following and an audience and finding those people (who are not always regular theatre goers) is tricky, but part of the job of producing one of his shows. I think we had a crowd that keyed into the text more on friday night (we actually had one person who wept noisily through the whole show). So, it can also be a room vibe type of thing...

As I think Wayne from Wayne's World said... if everyone liked our music...we'd be the bee gees.

My question, as you know, is if there's something in our production that somehow makes the text less appealing. God I hope not...

Aaron Riccio said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Riccio said...

For a moment, I thought you'd seen the show on 3/23, and I regretted missing an opportunity to pre-meet other bloggers, too (before Monday's extravaganza, to which I think I'll wear a name tag or something...). I met Isaac for the first time last night, and although I'd covered another of Isaac's shows ("The Amulet") last year, I liked the script he used this time a lot. ("The Amulet" used some dim lighting too, and a lot of smoke... I'm sensing a theme.)

I'm so glad to read another take on the show; I agree with most of what you've said, I just enjoyed squeamishly dark narratives (and man, Abe Goldfarb and Daryl Lathon really seems to enjoy their work).

Moxie said...

I think we should make the anonymous bloggers panel via video, and have those confessional silhouette shots. Then we would be cool.

Seriously, I was so upset to miss the bloggers panel last night - had to go to a friend's one-night-only showcase. Are you going to post about the evening? Would really love to hear about it.