Dover Beach – Sarah Michelson


A cinematic exercise in distractions from dance? I though the piece was wondrously cinematic. The lighting design and the set and the amazing score came together for something baroque and grand. But I had a hard time focusing on the movement so much of the other stuff was vying for my attention.

Starting with the giant green neon casting a sickly light on everything, and the lattice work both blocking my view and casting strong shadows so much so that I knew very little of what was happening behind there. What about the X of lights and the center piece of the left half of the stage – a pair of squeaky pin wheels endlessly turning with some par cans attached to them, going round and round and round and round. Was there dancing oh yes, but I was admiring the whole and not focusing on the movement in particular.

A horse-head clad dancer appeared and disappeared and sent some laughter through the audience. The lighting kept shifting and the sound kept morphing from lyrical to pure noise even to moments that made the walls shake, a lot of the score created by live musicians within the space.

Eventually Sarah’s trademark make the audience annoyed/uncomfortable lights came on, this time from behind, and a few moments later silence ensued. I could finally focus on the dance. I found Michelson’s movement vocabulary exciting to watch, and was thrilled to be able to finally focus on it so clearly, though the silence and harsh lighting made more than one audience member squirm a little in their seats. Eventually the score and the more normal lighting returned and the cinematic grand qualities took over again.

The piece ended with another element I would call a Michelson trademark, the is this over, or will there be a second act after more than half of the audience manages to leave? Oh, and is that unattended running smart car parked outside part of the piece? no, not this time. I don’t think.

This piece seemed less experimental, more polished, formal and grand. It didn’t feel immediate to me but fully finished and presentational. So much so that I am afraid it might be mistaken by some people as high art pretentiousness instead of the genuine inquiry and experimentation that it is.

June 9 – June 13
The Kitchen
New York, NY

Rambo Solo – Nature Theater of Oklahoma


Yes Yes yes! Do I even need to say anything? Obviously they must be doing something right, the original run completely sold out and they have now extended it through April 19th.

I have to warn you, Rambo Solo is not for everyone, not the least of which is having to sit on the floor on shaggy carpeting for 90 minutes. There were times when I was spacing out while trying to manage my pain/comfort/leg falling asleep ratio. Also, sometimes I gauge a performance by how many people fall asleep, and I saw a few victims at Nature Theater’s latest creation.

No matter!

On the face of it Rambo Solo sounds awful, a 90 minute monologue? of one guy’s obsession with Rambo? The evening starts out oddly enough, a crowded lobby, an extended tour of the theater’s basement, a profound lack of chairs, deep deep shag carpeting, and a distinct lack of space for a comfortable personal bubble.

Then a guy in an orange shirt starts wandering in and out acting a bit strange. Oh yeah, that’s Zachary Oberzan, shouldn’t he be back stage preparing for his role, instead of asking me if I need anything? I wonder what kind of requests he might indulge.

Is this the performance already? (something Claude Wamper-esque?) Eventually he makes his way to the raised platform in the front and the lights dim. Is this still pre-show chatter or the start of the monologue? It’s all so conversational it’s hard to tell.

Wait a minute, the three videos being projected behind him, all feature Zachary, in the same “costume” and are all synced up to his speech? The video was shot at three distinct points of time in the past (this fact betrayed by the progression of Oberzan’s facial hair in each one). How long ago did they start this project? Hold on! Everything is synced, even down to tiny movements such as scratching his beard or forearm, these actions ordinarily done absentmindedly, now it is clear they are choreographed.

Thus begins the delicate interplay between the live actor and the pre-recorded video. This interplay was fascinating to watch. For one, suddenly this was not entirely a LIVE event. For another, there were many times when I couldn’t even see the actor but I would be watching the video instead.

Most of the time the narration was provided by his live voice but occasionally sound effects from the video would fill in for events happening in the monologue, but it worked both ways. There were times when Zachary was only miming a certain prop live, but the video would show an actual prop, and my mind would almost interchange the two. Further complicating the live/video divide is that in both cases he is re-telling a story, at times referencing the original book, and at times reenacting scenes from the movie (and sometimes going into a intellectual discussion of the differences between those two source materials).

Towards the end he even used some members from the audience (so don’t sit in the front if you don’t want to participate) to mimic some extras he used in the video version of retelling the story. Even when the lights eventually went down, a little bit after an odd disrobing though without nudity incident, team NTOK was still playing with us and our expectations for what a theatrical event entails.

At the end of the night, my mind felt suitably massaged, even if my lower back ached, and I even got a hankering to go and try and find a copy of the original book of Rambo. I kind of want to read it now.

Nature Theater is one of the few groups that really engages me intellectually. They are really good at examining, expanding, experimenting with, and including me in their exploration of performance and LIVE art.

march 19th – april 19th
Soho Rep.
46 Walker Street
New York, NY 10013

photo by Simon Friedmann found on kül

Yessified! – Sally Silvers


<! — No Comment –>  Maybe later, but for now I’m speechless and not in a good way.  As usual, maybe I just didn’t get it?  I’m not a dancer after all, I don’t even know that much about dance, I come from perfomnace art, but art is art isn’t it? 

Anyway, The New York Times liked it. Maybe you will too? LMK, what you thought.

March 22-29, 2009

P.S. 122
150 First Ave.
New York, NY 10009

La Didone – The Wooster Group


Maybe it was just where I was sitting, I finally had a clear view of the source video, that is part of every Wooster group show, as it was playing in the tech booth, or maybe it’s just that I’m not a big fan of opera, but I felt extremely detached from this production. It felt like the whole thing was going on autopilot and it made no difference to the people on stage whether there was an audience there or not.

I felt the opera half of the cast connected with the audience slightly more, but they, and the story they were telling were constantly fighting the set, costumes, and the myriad of set gadgetry, which, because of their typical Wooster high tech, really seemed to all support the sci-fi half of the story. Nothing about these elements seemed there to support La Didone, which after all the whole production is named after.

After a while I found myself drawn to following the sci-fi story, which was more immediately accessible to me, it was in English and the set seemed to be made for it, while the opera part of the production was wandering around lost, running on it’s own track in the background, and distracting me (from finding out how the sci-fi story would end!).

Sure the Wooster group took great pains to intertwine the action of 1960’s sci-fi film Terrore nello spazio (Planet of the Vampires) with the baroque 17th-Century opera La Didone. They tried very hard to switch it up, to alternate focus between the two stories, and to intertwine them, and they managed to make something, in true Wooster fashion, very complex.

But, once you figured out the key, once you unpacked it, once you started to see glimpses of how the different elements on stage, including crew and orchestra, worked together, was it still complex or just very complicated?

Usually, the Wooster group formula of taking, two or more, seemingly disparate elements and stirring them together, creates something new. This time, though, I think the ingredients didn’t synergize, nothing happened, and nothing new emerged from this experiment.

MAR 17 – APR 26
38 Water Street
DUMBO Brooklyn
p.s. if you’ve never seen the wooster group at all, you should really check them out. They do some amazing things that will leave you bewildered, and should be experienced by anyone who is a theater and performance fan, just so you can see the possibilities. I think they fit the definition of experimental quite well.

p.p.s. the image is from this papermag writeup

SOS – Big Art Group

Seizure inducing (in a good way). The finale had the best costumes I have ever seen in a live production. Amazing bold video art and creative videography. I would highly recommend it. Although all of the calls for Realness by the ultra hyper techno lusting product placement in hypercolor overdrive characters, made me wish for some more of the realness myself. So much of what we see as the performance is mediated, physically and psychologically by a wall of cameras that the liveness of the whole thing is almost lost.

March 19-21 &
March 26-28, 2009 at 8pm

The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

Reggie Watts


Saw Reggie’s latest show Transition last week at the public.

Wow. I think “sasquatch in the night” my be my new fav though it’s hard to beat “F*$K,S#%T,STACK”. I gotta hand it to him, this guy really knows what he’s doing. He wraps an intellectual foray into deconstructing contemporary performance and culture into an entertaining, accessible, easily swallowable, package for the masses. It’s hard not to be entertained, but as far as I am concerned there is also a lot of depth to what he is doing. I felt there was more of a through line holding everything together and more improv in his last show disinformation, but nonetheless Transition was a very polished assault on our minds. Reggie Watts is a very compelling stage presence no matter what he is doing.

And don’t forget he is also an amazing beat boxer:

Reggie Watts: Out Of Control from Jakob Lodwick on Vimeo.

The Public
January 7-17th 2009
a really nice and more eloquent write up of disinformation here
also reggie’s website

img above from flickr, pica’s stream

The Shipment

Attention White People* you must see this show!
It will make you uncomfortable. There are token white people in it and Young Jean Lee secretly hates you. In fact all minorities secretly hate white people. You may think you are a special white person, who is immune to issues of race, you don’t see color. Well you will if you go see this show and you will also be uncomfortable. A little minstrel? Maybe some incest or fecal jokes will make you cringe, then. No? How about being called out on your color-blindness?

If you happen to not be white, you should also go, you will get a good laugh! Lee is simply one of the most brilliant people in this field to deal with race, and although the show seems a little unbalanced and composed of two distinct halves, in the end, hopefully you will all have learned something about yourselves and how you react when confronted with race issues head on.

* I am one. If you need help figuring out if you are one this might help.

The Kitchen
New York, NY
January 8-24, 2009.
more even more

The Lastmaker

The Lastmaker was Goat Island’s last performance ever.  It had a few really really great moments but (once again) there were members of the audience falling asleep.  Ordinarily that is the last thing I would use as a marker of how good something is, but I was ready to doze off, myself.  There have been plenty performances that with their methodical slowness have tried to lull me to sleep but I still loved them, sadly, this was not one of these performances.

Maybe the goats are tired, or sometimes the stars just don’t align.  Even though this is your final performance and you would like to go out with a bang, things weren’t meant to be?  I could tell they are seasoned performers, they deconstruct what a performance is, they are studied and methodical in their actions but the whole thing did not come together.  They failed to construct the Haga Sophia for me, even if, they managed to put together a model of it.

Highlights:  a short snippet of (the lengthy) intricate dance; an odd repeated phrase (in a foreign language?); repeating a moment in it’s mirror image; an “old” man hunched over speaking in a horse voice; constructing something so that you litertally place the support underneath yourself while you are (sort of) levitating above it [the kind of thing that only happens in cartoons and dreams].

Goat Island
Performance Space 122
New York City
Nov 6-16 2008
venue or group

Quartet for the End of Time

Perhaps it was said best by the New york times – “more exciting than watching paint dry, but not by a wide margin.”  Very very juvenile, underdeveloped, and boring.  Not somber, cohesive, able to convey a shred of meaning.  Maybe I just didn’t get it. But art is about communicating your ideas, and a lot of the audience was audibly groaning and/or leaving, so they weren’t even in a position to receive anything after sitting in the dark watching blurry photos in a slideshow.

Trajal Harrell
Dance Theater Workshop
October 16 2008