Tag Archives: nyc theater

Public Action/Performance: Reading The #VaginaBlogs in Union Square Monday Night

It’s been a week since I first heard about Vaginagate; just four days days since one of my personal heroes performed her groundbreaking and award-winning play The Vagina Monologues in Michigan, in theatrical protest of the censure of two women representatives on the floor of the State House.

Over the weekend and through the day on Monday, I organized a solidarity action with a group of women in New York City; internet participants contributed links to their own #VaginaBlogs, speaking out about what had happened and how it related to women’s health and women’s issues in America today.

I arrived in Union Square with a colleague who had volunteered to come along, though she didn’t intend to read. There, we eventually found @ItsMeMarisol and her daughter, as well as @gavechase, @storygirlsarah, and one of the editors of The Veillee Blog. It was about twenty minutes past six on Monday night in Union Square – a bustling, busy time – and we didn’t have signs and we didn’t have an amplifier. Plenty of people had shown interest in the event, and we weren’t sure how to find them. There was one woman standing and looking around near the corner I’d tweeted we’d be waiting at, and the group sent me over to see if she was looking for us.

About five steps away from her, I suddenly jerked to a stop when I heard:

“VAGINA! VAGINA! VAGINA!”

The girl looked up – but she wasn’t the only one. Heading back to the group, we quickly decided the shout made for the perfect punctuation; we’d shout the chant three times, then we’d head into the first blog entry. Then we’d shout again. Then we’d read some more.

We stood in Union Square and read out the blogs that had been written: blogs by mothers, by clergy, by straight white guys, by poets, and by other – well, Ensler called them “Sheroes” during her speech on the State steps (thanks to the commenter who left a link on my previous VaginaBlogs post).

As we read, a crowd gathered. As one woman observed to me afterwards, it was mostly men who were stopping and listening – but they were listening, not leering or heckling. And the women who stopped were smiling and nodding and staying, too. From the crowd, a young woman walked up to us wearing a white t-shirt that read: “I <3 MICHIGAN VAGINAS!” She looked thrilled. I asked her if she’d like to join us; she accepted immediately, grabbed a blog entry, and jumped into line.

Once I finished reading Vagina Vagina Vagina, we shouted our chant again and moved on to  @ItsMeMarisol’s daughter. Then @ItsMeMarisol herself; this was when something amazing happened: another woman in the audience walked up to me and asked what we were doing. I explained, mentioning Eve Ensler’s performance. At the mention of Ensler’s name, the woman looked shocked. They knew each other. I was shocked; talk about a sign. (And yes, before you ask, when I got home I did my homework – she was legit.)

As we read, a crowd gathered. People approached us, asked questions. One man stood seriously for several minutes, reading to himself from Sare Liz Gordy’s blog on the idea of the Universal Feminine Painbody.

We read for about 45 minutes. It was an amazing experience. Due to noise issues, recording video didn’t work too well – but I’ll try to grab some captures from the one video that did survive and post them some time soon.

@ItsMeMarisol and I have discussed having another action in NYC, and several more bloggers have posted #vaginablogs in response to the call for work. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to check out the blogs that have already posted, and if you wish, to contribute yourself.

Thank you to everyone who contributed, everyone who’s read, and everyone still to post #vaginablogs. Let’s keep this conversation going.

Photos of the event from @gavechase: bit.ly/11LVtiI

THEATER REVIEW: “The Beautiful Laugh” at La Mama

Clowning is a respected art with a long history, distinct from other forms of theater. My understanding of clowning comes out of familiarity with more classical European traditions, such as Marcel Marceau and the Commedia Del Arte style captured so excellently in The Corn Exchange’s production of Dublin by Lamplight, or the Harlequin story as viewed through the memory of a production I saw at Tivoli, in Cophenhagen, when I was about seven years old. In these forms, it’s often the precision of physical movement that distinguishes the skilled from the unskilled performer.

The style of clowning used in That Beautiful Laugh is different. It is a physical kind of comedy, related – particularly in the case of performer Carlton Ward – to circus acts and Coney Island contortionists, but it is also a comedy of noises and expression.

At the top of the show, a narrator (Alan Tudyk of Firefly, Dollhouse, Suburgatory and more) explains that there are multiple kinds of laughs, and lists some – as we wind through the cyclical routines presented by Flan (Tudyk), Ian (Ward) and Darla Waffles Something (Julia Ogilvie), the audience is no doubt meant to experience some of these different kinds of laughs. Whether or not the ultimate laugh – that beautiful laugh – is attained is, I suspect, largely in the hands of the audience on any given night.

Theater Review: “Eternal Equinox” by Joyce Sachs, 59E59

Playing through March 31st, Eternal Equinox compares politics in relationships both creative and sexual. Vanessa Bell (Hollis McCarthy) and Duncan Grant (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), two painters from the Bloomsbury groupr, spend the bulk of this full-length play trying to understand and negotiate their relationships with one another – particularly when others become involved.
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THEATER REVIEW: “Samuel & Alasdair” at the New Ohio Theater

Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War received an extension for its run at the New Ohio Theater, and their artistic director Robert Lyon cites it as their “first bona fide hit” in his program note.

Here are my thoughts on this strange, lovely, nostalgic, shaking production.

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Theater Review: MANGELLA by Ken Ferrigni at The Drilling Company

To those who know me off this blog (and probably a number of you on it), the news that I’ve been a geek since before it was cool isn’t going to come as any big surprise. Partly because of that, and partly because of a project I’m working on that uses disruptive technology as the axel for its narrative, I went to see Mangella by Ken Ferrigni – a cyber thriller about a man (Anthony Manna) trapped in a logic loop with his computer Gabriella (Ali Perlwitz), his aging, dementia-ridden father (Bob Austin McDonald), and Lilly (Hannah Wilson), the hooker who’s come to save him from it all.

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THEATER REVIEW: The Body Politic at 59E59 #nyc #theater

What a fantastic little fable about American politics. In THE BODY POLITIC, writers Richard Abrons and Margarett Perry (the latter of whom also directs this production) have crafted a whip-cracker of a tale about a Republican who falls for a Democrat on the campaign trail. As their relationship – and the campaign – progresses, the young party-liners find themselves negotiating and renegotiating their plans to win the presidency for their candidates.

Abrons and Perry have crafted a world where the superficial trappings of the political machinery are present, creating a backdrop against which the action unfurls, but at the same time they’ve kept the spotlight on the characters in this play – their intrigues and double-crosses, their strategizing and bending of moral certitude – instead of getting bogged down in, you know, actual politics.

At its opening, the six characters of THE BODY POLITIC are waiting for their town cars after a debate. Alternately charming and scathing, the two youngest members of the campaign trade barbs – with young WASP Spencer Davis (Matthew Boston) getting in a few cheeky zings at his democratic counterpart, Trish Rubenstein (Eve Danzeisen). The scenes move quickly – at times the pace of the production feels more filmic than theatrical, with audiences often having only a few pages’ worth of rapid-fire dialogue to establish a setting and connect with the characters’ intentions. It’s a gambit that could make the piece feel choppy, but instead – to an audience member familiar with political drama like THE WEST WING and IN THE LOOP – it’s easy to quickly decide where each scene fits with the one before it. The result is that the pace of the piece is kept moving at a steady clip, and at no point in the production does one feel that horrible sense of time’s immovable plodding. The show might run two hours long (including an intermission), but is tightly constructed and never feels like a drag.

The chemistry between the two protagonists is sometimes lacking, but both Boston and Danzeisen are a pleasure to watch as they’re played off and against one another by their fellow campaigners, and it is the likeability of both these actors that keeps their characters sympathetic despite the tricks they play; we can admire their tenacity and commitment to their own ideals because on sensitive issues, the playwrights have found ways to legitimately express the frustrations, hopes, fears and motivations of both the religious right and the radical lefties – while at the same time reminding us that actually, both Democrats and (to a lesser degree now that the Tea Party has arrived) Republicans benefit from a polarized system.

The rest of the cast is entertaining and enjoyable – particularly Leslie Hendrix, whose turn as Political Warrior Goddess Brunhilda Logan transports this play into high satire; her blunt, direct and mannish delivery is an absolute delight. From brutal profanities to a direct delivery of threatened emasculation, Brunhilda is a fizzing, spitting Fury – and Hendrix is utterly delightful in the role.

If you’re looking for affordable (for NYC) theater at a terrific venue (59E59 is a personal favorite of mine), then you can’t go wrong with THE BODY POLITIC.

THEATER REVIEW: The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller at the ArcLight Theater

"The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller"

Daniel Morgan Shelley as Designing Man, as the audience enters.

First, a brief, contextualizing history lesson. Feel free to skip ahead, but I highly recommend you take a moment to read the Wikipedia entry on Michael Rockefeller, the son of the American billionaire. Even without knowing the history you’ll enjoy this production, but an appreciation of Rockefeller’s story will increase your appreciation of the show.

Cool, creepy, and kind of like one of those stories of Roanoake, or Amelia Earheart, right?

At the opening of THE MAN WHO ATE MICHAEL ROCKEFELLER (written by Jeff Cohen and based on the short story by Christopher Stokes), the audience has been entering as a lone man appears to sleep – though it’s hard to see the motion of his chest that would imply he was breathing. In an opening scene that plays with language and quickly sets up a device by which the audience understands when the characters on stage are speaking the Asmat language and when they speak English, Designing Man and his friend (with whom he shares an oath of brotherhood), Half Moon Terror (David King), greet Michael Rockefeller (Aaron Strand), who has come from the kingdom of New York to meet the man who carved the beautiful pieces that have captured his imagination.

One of the themes that spoke to me in Cohen’s play was the way that even though Rockefeller expressed negative feelings in regards to globalization (“Much more ominous is the economic and spiritual future of the Asmat. The Asmat like every other corner of the world is being sucked into a world economy and a world culture which insists on economic plenty in the western sense as a primary ideal.”), his desire to bring Designing Man’s work to a wider audience was the thing that brought enough wealth to the village to make a commodity of Designing Man’s talent. There are some gaps in the tale, but in my mind it was Half Moon who was responsible for the events that damn Rockefeller (that’s not a spoiler, the title gives it away), and as for Designing Man’s child…

The way Cohen juxtaposes and contrasts the vocabularies of his characters (actually, potentially Stokes – I’d need to read the short story to be sure) shows a deft understanding of the limitations of speaking in ones own native language. It reminds me of a novel I read as part of an English (as in, in England) class on Postmodern Literature which has designated itself as “THE CAY but from Timothy’s POV” in my mind. Actually, not positive the guy’s name was Timothy. The reason the book was part of the syllabus was because it introduced the idea of speaking in the language of one’s oppressors. There was something in the novel about one or the other of the two of them not having a tongue – physically being unable to make the sounds that would allow them to communicate, I think – or maybe that was just a topic of discussion one day? At any rate, the idea of speaking in the language of one’s oppressors is what stuck with me, and I think Cohen has artfully illustrated an attention to and respect for language in this play – one that the talented cast and director carry into the production.

(Incidentally, linguistics is a passing side interest – the kind of thing I’d like to read more about, or gain a better appreciation for it, because it seems like the structures and etymologies of words, and the connotations that attach themselves to words because of those structures/etymologies), often wind up playing a role in the narrative connections contained in my own writing…)

Definitely recommended; there are plenty of other things I could say about this show but hey, that’s what discussions in the comments are for.