The fall befalls us

(If you can call November “fall,” which perhaps you cannot.) Two updates:

1) I’m in Baltimore/DC now for the final rehearsals and the premiere, on Monday, November 19th, at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre, of the one-act opera “A Game of Hearts,” with music by Douglas Pew and words by your correspondent.

Longtime SOSers know this piece to be one of three twenty-minute operas commissioned by the Kennedy Center / Washington National Opera as part of the first year of the American Opera Initiative.

In the WNO’s rehearsal room for a day of rewrites; photo by Mr. Pew.

Monday’s reading is Sold to the Out, but if you missed it this round, it has also been programmed by Cincinnati’s NANOWorks for the spring of 2013.

Myself and Mr. Pew. Not for nothing do they call it “opera”–it often takes place near big shiny mirrors!

2) Shortly after said operaticness, upon returning to Polska, a very unfinished “pokaz” (showing) of everybody’s favorite Ancient Greek Mash-Up That Wouldn’t Die, To Die In Athens//Umrzeć w Atenach, will be presented (passive voice!) at Fabryka Sztuki (ul. Tymienieckiego 3) in Łódź on Sunday, December 2nd at 5 pm. Free admission. Details and Facebook event here.

If you want to join the Greek chorus, show up from 12-4 to rehearse with us. Chór jest (as always) otwarty dla wszystkich.

Picture from a reading of TDIA/UWA last June at Komuna//Warszawa.


New Polish theatre article: post-Grotowski in Wrocław

I have a new article online now in Biweekly.pl. It’s about the 2012 Summer Seminars at the Grotowski Institute and Teatr Pieśn Kozła (Song of the Goat Theatre)’s new piece, “Songs of Lear” (Pieśni Leara).

Late September in Wrocław. The old tree in the courtyard of the White Stork Synagogue still has its leaves, but they are turning brown. I’m back in town for the second year of the Summer Seminars, a series of English-language lectures on performance organised by the Open University of Research of the Grotowski Institute. O.U.R. director and Jagiellonian University Professor Dariusz Kosiński will be delivering one week of the lectures. His focus this year is the maverick theatre director Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999) himself.

Grotowski’s “poor theatre” ideology called for performances without unnecessary trappings; in his later work, some of those trappings included the audience and the theatre itself. In the beginning, he reimagined Polish dramas in conjunction with recent history, such as Wyspiański’s Akropolis set in a concentration camp, through almost nothing but the actors’ bodies. His performers were his instruments, and he manipulated them, through rigorous training and prolonged ensemble work, to his – and their – fame. Later in life, Grotowski’s self-proclaimed departure from theatre and his turn towards ritualistic explorations of song and movement only increased his mystique.

You can read the whole thing here.


New Polish theatre article: Studium Teatralne

I have a new article in CultureSpot LA about the post-Grotowski Polish theatre Studium Teatralne and their current tour in Los Angeles.

Between Oct. 5 and 14, Angelenos interested in the most impressive manifestations of the human body in action should clear their calendars of weightlifting competitions and roller-derby matches and head to the Odyssey Theatre for Studium Teatralne’s Król kier znów na wylocie [The King of Hearts Is Off Again], a visiting spektakl from Warsaw featuring a vigorous physical style of performance.

The King of Hearts… is a metaphoric reenactment of the traumas endured within Poland during WWII. It is adapted from a novel by Hanna Krall, about a Jewish woman in Poland who hides her identity and passes as a German in order to survive the occupation and rescue her husband from a concentration camp. (Krall, who was born in 1937, survived the war in hiding with Polish families; her own family died in Majdanek.) Studium Teatralne’s adaptation combines a time of historic agonies with a performance style that excels in — revels in — displaying physical agony.

You can read the whole thing here, and you can see ST at the Odyssey through Oct. 14.


Recap of Retro//Per//Spektywy festival blog; and state-of-the blog, part uncountable

One reason that Style Over Substance has been a bit silent is that I’ve been blogging a theatre festival (Teatr Chorea’s Retro//Per//Spektywy) in Poland at a different platform I made, called The Fifth Wall. This is going to be–already is, I hope–a place for writing about process (and not only in theater) in a more formal manner.

Singers rehearsing for the “Pieśni Świata” (Songs of the World) concert, during Retro//Per//Spektywy.

Links to the posts from this festival, and thoughts on festival blogging and blogging-as-a-whole, follow:

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“Do you remember the picture-book thieves?”

[Duplicate post from paroct.com.] If you don’t, Charlotte Mew does! 22 of the 26 shorts from this summer’s ANTHOLOGY II are now up on YouTube and on the Parallel Octave website. (YouTube is best for skipping around–the ParOct page link lets you watch them in the order they appeared in the supermegafilm.) Here’s one to get you started: filmmaker Adhiraj Goel’s stop-motion “Fin de Fete,” based on the poem by Charlotte Mew. This is one of the shorts created through the JHU Auteur 101 class.

And the poem:

Fin de Fête

Sweetheart, for such a day
One mustn’t grudge the score;
Here, then, it’s all to pay,
It’s Good-night at the door.

Good-night and good dreams to you,—
Do you remember the picture-book thieves
Who left two children sleeping in a wood the long night through,
And how the birds came down and covered them with leaves?

So you and I should have slept,—But now,
Oh, what a lonely head!
With just the shadow of a waving bough
In the moonlight over your bed.

– Charlotte Mew

ANTHOLOGY II premiered at the Creative Alliance on August 2nd, 2012; some pictures from the screening are here.


A belated adieu to Baltimore (for now)

This is a small something I made with the IMovie equivalent of a single piece of Scotch tape–as a way of a coda to ANTH II, a love letter to Baltimore, and to a crazy but wonderful summer. [update: Youtube made me take it down; working on putting it back up, internally to the blog, at this time…]

Let’s try this again:

So–I left Baltimore in the middle of August 2012, after six weeks of uber-busy Parallel-Octave-filled movie-making action. In all this time, I didn’t manage to make a single movie of my own, despite co-teaching a short film class with D., producing 26 shorts in the supermegafilm (ANTHOLOGY II) and the screening in which all of those 26 things appeared. It was a busy summer. A good one, but a busy one, and, really, there wasn’t space or time for me to make a film of my own.

Poem-recording session at the Creative Alliance, following the screening of ANTHOLOGY II.

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Update: in Baltimore, teaching film, preparing for ANTHOLOGY II screening

This is just to say that I am in Baltimore for the summer, co-teaching, with Daniel Schwartz, a course called “Auteur 101: Short Film Laboratory” through JHU’s Program in Film and Media Studies.

Good morning, Inner Harbor!

The student course blog is here. We’re meeting 3 days a week and the students are making a film a week (this is their Youtube channel), which will serve as another excuse for the lightness of recent posting.

Here’s one of the student films, shot in and around a Baltimore cemetery, based on Tennyson’s “The Deserted House”:

In the past two weeks, I have co-taught six classes and co-led two ParOct sessions in which we recorded fourteen new poems. It has been awesome, but crazy.

Another student film, based on Vicente Huidobro’s “Canción Nueva”:

All of these student short films will be most harmoniously joined in a marriage of video and poetry with films made by outher filmmakers, from Baltimore and Beyond, in the joyous interface of ANTHOLOGY II: the second Parallel Octave short film collaboration, at the Creative Alliance on August 2nd, 8 pm. Free admission.

Suffice it to say that if you find yourself in Baltimore or nearby on the evening of Thursday, August 2nd, there will be no more filmicpoetic way to spend said evening.


the armour of books

Mr. Fonseka seemed to draw forth an assurance or a calming quality from the books he read. He’d gaze into an unimaginable distance (one could almost see the dates flying off the calendar) and quote lines written in stone or papyrus. I suppose he remembered these things to clarify his own opinion, like a man buttoning up his own sweater to give warmth just to himself. Mr. Fonseka would not be a wealthy man. And it would be a spare life he would be certain to lead as a schoolteacher in some urban location. But he had a serenity that came with the choice of the life he wanted to live. And this serenity and certainty I have seen only among those who have the armour of books close by.

– Michael Ondaatje, The Cat’s Table, chapter 15