Posts Tagged ‘Patterns’


May 5th, 2011 No comments

So, I’ve fallen down in terms of updating this blog, but I’ve yet been busy seeing shows and thought I’d just summarize what’s been going on.

Went and saw Valparaiso at convergence. It was great. I was talking with Clyde about the show and he remarked how much the main character’s identity was defined by those around him and the malleable nature of this particular character (as a sort of ‘new’ Everyman).  With this in mind I watched the show carefully and indeed picked up on the commentary that Delillo was making on how empty and soulless some people nowadays can be with their lust for fame and desire for sycophants to cuddle their knees.  In this show the main character becomes famous after getting on a flight for Valparaiso, Indiana and ending up in Valparaiso, Chile.  The fame is unearned. Through endless re-telling of a vapid tale, the character mythologizes himself (in an empty myth).  The character becomes whatever those around him want him to be. His wife cheats on him. And in the end we learn that he was actually attempting to kill himself in the airplane bathroom on the flight to Valparaiso. (An act which can variously be seen as the ultimate narcissistic action or the greatest act of self-nullification.)  There was section of talkshow and audience interaction which I enjoyed, especially as my own show Patterns at CPT used the talkshow as a vehicle for both character and audience engagement.

Next I saw Fever Dream at CPT.  I wasn’t that crazy about the script that Sheila Callaghan put out there and was much more impressed with Crumble (Lay me down Justin Timberlake).  I think it was likely a very difficult play to adapt from the original, with which I am only familiar by having read about.  There were moments in the play that were truly absurd and with a high-potential for strangeness; and then there were other sections where the impulse to create this naturalistic, highly elaborate plot-driven  hulking thing took over that bogged the rest of the strangeness down.  I thought Beth Wood did a fantastic job mixing the tempo, especially with the sections of Callaghan’s script that sort of lumbered along. The choreographed sections were wonderful and the design of the set was stunning and something to see.  Beth clearly encouraged the actors to play with what was possible in the space and move freely, actively, and daringly around it (given some of the things that individuals did).  Despite the periodic clunkiness of the script, I had a fine time at the show.

The Excavation at Theatre Ninjas was the highlight of the shows that I saw.  All around this show I heard from other playwrights, and even my wife who infrequently gets to theatre, that The Excavation is what theater should be.  It was the vanguard of non-linear storytelling, with each “scene” offering up 1) 3 individual scenes from which you could select and 2) having time enough to see two of the individual scenes before the “scene” shifted and the play moved forward.  This fact alone created a possibility for seeing the same play but experiencing it in dozens of different combinations each time.  The play, additionally, highly encouraged inquiry and self-directed engagement (a la museum). I regret, of course, only seeing it one time as clearly there were many, many different ways of seeing this play and many, many different experiences that could be had.  The play was highly interactive, on all fronts.  From the obvious breaking of the fourth wall and potential for direct engagement with the audience/actor; to very direct engagement during the Roman orgy, in which everyone in the space is encouraged to join in and dance, raise hell, drink beer, and so on; to various experiments and “excavations” that are occurring throughout.  In one sequence a “little girl” took myself and another theater-goer to a strange, small space where we had to hide from giants, eat snacks, draw with crayons, and generally “pretend.”  This is something I’m used to, having kids at home, but for those who do not this side trip had to be a blast back to a time when we used our own mind for entertainment and relied much less on the gadgets and devices that seem to clutter our lives nowadays.  Hats off to Jeremy Paul on this piece, because it was fantastic.

After The Excavation my wife and I went to the Vaudevillian Throwdown at Speakeasy, which was another piece of glory in a wonderful Cleveland night.  The two performances were by Pinch and Squeal, doing their very droll burlesque skits and routines (see photo above); followed by Sabrina Chap, who is a magnificent talent and whose music I immediately purchased of iTunes and have been enjoying since.

I even got to meet her and buy her a drink, which was quite an honor as far as I’m concerned.  I also picked up her book, Live Through This: on Creativity and Self-Destruction, which I’m looking forward to digging into soon.

In the mean time, I’ve started writing again and have a few pieces in the hopper. I’ve started helping out with the CPT slush pile. And finally I’ve got a meeting coming up next week to explore a new direction that I hope to go with some others that should be quite exciting!

Patterns, Mock-ups, and Identity

March 15th, 2011 No comments

View of the Patterns set from the Front

Wanted to quickly throw up some mock-ups that Michael Roesch, CPT’s designer, created using Google Sketch-up for Patterns. These are pretty much spot on for what you would have seen had you been in the space (for those of you who were not). I thought Roesch did a fantastic job, even staying one day for 14 hours to get the lights correct–using myself, Jarod, and Beth Wood as the cast had gotten antsy and left hours before.


There are slight differences, of course. Looking at the slightly elevated view below: there were four chairs upstage on either side.

Slight eleveation of viewpoint

These were for the cast members who were inactive at any given moment; or the chairs were moved down center when a scene required. Up left there was an additional clothing rack which held the costumes for the women actors, while the men used the up right rack. The dress form or figure was down left and, of course, had a dress that was being constructed on it. There were three cameras on tripods at left, up-center, and right which were displayed on the TVs at right (there were three).

Ground Plan


The use of the cyc for silhouettes was the solution used given that the triptych called for in the script was not constructed, but it was yet highly effective to the same purpose and Michael did some fantastic lighting at the back which added a certain something to the overall effect. The pictures painted against the cyc were those of the king/queen and Frau Holda as well as those of the Mom/Ed characters, and used by the “model” when Harry Collins was on stage. That is to say, they weren’t quite as ‘disco’ as portrayed in the sketches. I’m also including Michael’s ground plan for the set as well.


Earlier today I was asked by Gilbert Doho to come and talk with his theater class. That was a first for me. Doho is teaching a course on Theater and Identity and wanted me to speak to my identity in theater and in this particular play. I was quite surprised by how much I could speak to that topic, having not quite considered the play in that way. For instance, the main character Aisa, who is, throughout, constructing or reconstructing, her identity: with the dress and play aspects serving as a metaphor for that process. Throughout she is resistant to the past that she has been dealt: alcoholics, dysfunctionals, etc. So, besides actively resisting on the one hand, she is actively constructing on the other.


I talked quite a bit about my own family background, which, interestingly, I have not explicitly explored in theater. It was curious to listen to the students in the class who understood my conundrum and articulated it clearly themselves: that as an x # of generations in American the ethnic and cultural identity that we possess is American and not anything else. I framed this against possibilities, for instance, my father’s side of the family came over from Ireland in the late 1800’s. It would be easy for me to be a Catholic who joins the Ancient Order of Hibernians and insists that my children learn to dance and speak Gaelic. Yet I have avoided that path as being something that, to my mind, is “put on” and not an organic extension of my own true American identity. I also explored the well-publicized tiff that occurred several years ago between August Wilson and Robert Brustein. This was used to frame the conversation, as Wilson was very entrenched in his opinions regarding his own ethnicity, race, and identity; something that I don’t share. To what extent this is because I represent the “dominant” culture and race in this country (for now) I do not know, but assume that this has something to do with it.

A very interesting day that has lent itself to some possible routes for new play creation.

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