NO SERIOUSLY! THE NEW GAY THEATER IS NOT POLITICAL!!!

"I want to have sex with you. I just don't want to do it in a way that could be construed as political." Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

From Neil Genzlinger’s review of “Yank!”:

“Yank!,” with music by Joseph Zellnik and book and lyrics by David Zellnik, his brother, of course has an added resonance because of the current debate over whether to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But this is hardly a political show. Its subtitle, “A WWII Love Story,” encapsulates its main aspiration: to depict a same-sex couple as so many heterosexual couples have been shown over the years, struggling to capture the elusive thing called love against a backdrop of grand events.

If by “a backdrop of grand events” Genzlinger is referring to the social pathology of homophobia that unfairly punishes gay people for being gay and uses the mechanism of government to manipulate gay people’s lives, to deny their very existence, and to prevent them from even developing loving relationships with the people they want, then NO, SO MANY HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES HAVE NOT BEEN SHOWN THIS WAY OVER THE YEARS. OR EVER.

This “hardly political” love story literally cannot exist outside of politics. It takes place within a political system. And it is a condition that is enforced on gay people by heterosexuals who participate in the homophobic establishment. Am I taking crazy pills? If not, please point me to the nearest pharmacy?

It Is Written

As some of you may know, I have been hard at work on a new opera over the last few months. It is now finished and had its world premiere this past weekend at the Mt. Tremper Arts summer festival in the Catskills.

With my ensemble, Collective Opera Company, we created SCARLET FEVER, an evening-length operatic adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s iconic novel, The Scarlet Letter, which is a book that everyone thinks they know or remember, but in reality, no one knows or remembers much or any of it.

At any rate, while the work (I believe) is strong, and each performance was met with a wonderful audience and some amazing feedback, I was discouraged (I am only human, after all) not to have received really any listings from the NYC classical music and opera media (although we did get this amazing preview in “The Times” – The WOODSTOCK Times, that is…).

This frustration, I’m sure, is no stranger to those who pursue careers as artists. I’m sure the party line is not to give a relationship with the media too much power over you. I agree that this is probably a healthy point of view. But forcing oneself to “not” feel this way does not alleviate all the angst and frustration one may feel for feeling overlooked by the press.

I also don’t believe—for the most part—in invoking mind over matter, when matter has a very real effect on our lives. In this specific case, press coverage (and I’m not even talking about reviews here, but simply getting cultural event listings) effects the number of opportunities people have to find out about your work, which effects how many people will actually come see your work, which effects the opportunity for people to talk about your work, which also promotes your work. Press coverage is real (in this way), and really can have a significant effect on things like ticket sales, and the general awareness of the arts community to your work.

So, yes, I felt snubbed, and annoyed that the NYC classical music media complex ignored (whether intentionally or not) what I believe to be an important event in the larger conversation of opera, classical music and theater.

I’ve since done a little research, and was happy to find out that in at least one instance, that the neglect was basically bureaucratic.

But this is also part of a larger and very personal relationship with one’s work and the media. What is that moment of throwing something out into the canyon of the world, then straining your ear out to  hear the echo? It is natural to want this. It is natural to feel let down when the echo does not bounce back. Some might say it is an immature, arresting neediness (or narcissism) on the part of the artist. But there may be no way to eradicate these feelings, and personally, I’d rather spend my energy working around, over and through it, than razing it.

I also feel that if this sort of principal is having an unfairly and excessively negative effect on emerging artists (since press coverage does tend to favor the established venues/organizations), then we should be addressing it head-on, and not just wish it away through self-help.

That said, a few months ago, after I finally bought a Macbook (and subsequently coined the phrase “There is no Art. Only Mac.”), I wrote a little ditty about this desire to be noticed by the New York music critics, and the sadness I feel (well, not the “someone died” kind of sadness, but sadness nonetheless) when the papers turn their cold, silent shoulders to my work.

I’ve inserted the track above (with a fierce new music sharing service, soundcloud, which should allow listeners to actually make comments on the track) and you can read the lyrics through the comment clouds.

Call it art as criticism; art as protest.

Call it a song.

TO DO: DTW Lobby Talks

Lobby TalkLobby TALKS

The New Media of Dance

(not in performance)

Photo: Ed Rawlings

Jun 9 at 7:30pm
Dance Theater Workshop

219 West 19th Street, New York, NY

Organized by Chase Granoff

“As the internet continues to develop and mature into a powerful platform for communication, marketing, networking, and criticism, we will look at how these technologies have influenced dance. How has this development challenged and changed the landscape of dance journalism and criticism? Does print media remain relevant? How are dance artists and companies utilizing social networking and other Web 2.0 technologies?

“Panelists: Caleb Custer, Director of Marketing, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; Marlon Barrios Solano, creator of dance-tech.net & DANCE TECH/The Program; Andy Horwitz, Founder & Editor, Culturebot.org; Claudia La Rocco, Performance critic, WNYC’s Art.Cult blog; Kristin Sloan, Founder, The Winger, Director, New Media, New York City Ballet; Ryan Tracy, Counter Critic; Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody blog, Body and Soul podcast; and Chris Elam, Artistic Director, Misnomer Dance Theater.

“Lobby TALKS creates a forum for open and in-depth discourse on contemporary issues in dance and performance. Organized around specific themes, each meeting uses as a starting point one or more of the artistic investigations, methodologies, and motivations that can be seen in performance today. Subjects will be investigated, challenged, and considered by an invited group of artists, critics, and theorists, and is open to all who would like to join the conversation.”

Grab Bag

A few things worth noting…

Right now, there’s a pretty raging debate over the use of animals in performance over at L. Ro.’s Performance Club. C.C. is like “umm, dogs can’t consent to making art,” and others are like, “well, he’s having fun, so chill the fuck out!”

People are also commenting about other aspects of National Theater of the U.S.A.’s latest offering at P.S.122.

Also, here’s a little lag-time for you.

After C.C. posted this piece of arts news gossip here, and this one here, The Times decided to cast the official seal of approval on these days later.

Here’s Dan Wakin’s take on the Brooklyn Philharmonic “belt tightening.”

And Roslyn Sulcas confirms our blind item about 3 dancers being “fired” from a major NYC modern dance company, which turns out to be Merce Cunningham.

I guess when The Times reports on something stat, it’s breaking news. But when they drag their heels it’s responsible journalism.

Letter to a Young Musician…from an Old Critic

Seriously, though, this is pretty amazing, the latest from T-Bone’s Talk to the Newsroom.

Although, can we make 30s the new 20s?… (You’ll get it if you read on.)

* * *

A Word to Young Musicians

Q. Times are difficult for young musicians, especially in this economy. Gigs can be few and far between, competitions can be cutthroat, and there’s always the looming, dark shadow of doubt that can plague any musician, especially one with such a long road ahead. What would you say is the most crucial piece of advice a musician in his early 20s could receive, either personally or professionally?

— Andy Jurik

A. Thanks for writing to me, Andy. I take your question to heart and wish I could offer some real answers. Times have always been hard for young musicians, and right now things are hard for almost everybody. So I can imagine your frustration.

First off, I’d say always remember how fortunate you are to be gifted and skilled enough to pursue a career in music. Still, I know how hard the struggle can be.

Every time I heard someone talk about the long, difficult road to becoming a doctor — with medical school, residency, grueling hours, no sleep and more — I get very impatient. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a long tough road. But a medical student travels that road knowing that without question it will lead to an immediate place in the profession.

Contrast this with aspiring musicians, who go to school, take out loans, study and practice, and practice and practice, and do so without any certainly that this will lead to anything. Now that is really difficult. Continue reading

“The Christ in Me” and “The Bagwell in Me”: A comparative analysis

Below, you will find a post that I prepared weeks ago but didn’t get around to finalizing. It’s a revisit to Ann Liv Young‘s “The Bagwell in Me.” It’s a kind of mega-rant, full of twists and turns, perversities, theories, doubts, and, as always, criticisms. I know this makes me officially obsessed with her work, but whatevs.

Between writing this text and now, I have had a dream that Ann Liv was trying to be my friend, and I was nervous that she wouldn’t like me because of all the shit I wrote about her work. But, in the dream, she was actually totally cool with it. Alas, it was a dream.

After the following, I’m sure we’ll never be friends. But who knows. If I can call L. Ro. “a dirty old dried up lima bean” and then still wind up solid BFFs, maybe there’s hope for ALY and CC…

Foreplay

So, I’m following up on my review of Ann Liv Young’s “The Bagwell in Me”, for which I delivered a somewhat abrupt opinion, even for little old C.C. This is one of the benefits of blogging, in that I can revisit a review almost immediately after publishing it.

One thing readers of this site may have noticed over in the sidebar to the right, is that the top two posts almost every day for the past few weeks have been the awesomely bad Christian dance team from The Way, and my very first review of Ann Liv Young.

And before I posted the video from The Way, which now seems to be sending about a hundred people a day to this site, my review of Ann Liv at Rush Arts was always one of, if not the top read posts daily. I’d also like to note that this particular review has received over two thousand hits to date.

So can we learn anything from this statistical realities? I mean, what common interest could The Way and the work of Ann Liv Young possibly share?

Some initial observations…

Gawker Nation

First, and most obviously, spectacle. And this is spectacle in the first order, the kind that astonishes, but does not fundamentally impart any real knowledge. When people consume the kind of viral videos that The Way seems to have become, there is a shared sense of agog, or communal ridicule, or, for the more heart-warming viral videos (like the one with the lion hugging those two hippies), shared pathos. But my criticism of these YouTube hits is that they allow people to believe they know more about the world than they actually do.

Take the sensation, “Two Girls and a Cup” (That’s right! There’s a Wikipedia page. Definitely NSFW, and I honestly wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch it, unless you’re actually, genuinely interested in scatological fetish: aka, poop sex). Continue reading

Clive Barnes (1927-2008)

This just in from the New York Times.

Here is the only review of Clive Barnes that C.C. covered, mainly because we pretty much ignore the NYP.

Naked Brunch

What we didn't get to see in HD

What we didn't get to see in HD

Salome: Review in brief, and in HD

So, C.C. stopped by BAM (a couple Saturday’s ago) to see Karita Mattila get naked in The Metropolitan Opera’s brunch-time simulcast of “Salome.” I mean, come on, that’s not the only reason we went to see it, but it was definitely a draw.

But lo and behold, as soon as Ms. Matilla’s dance of the seven veils–or, in this case, a Doug Varone choreographed dance of the non-sequitur pant suit–drew to its final unveiling, the camera cut to an awkward shot of Kim Begley (as Herod), and I was left with my proverbial dick in my hand.

Now, come on, you know C.C. doesn’t go that way, but we do go the way of adult entertainment, by which we mean, entertainment made with the essential maturity of an adult audience taken into account. But for The Met to leave out the nudity in a production that flaunts the nudity as a way to pique interest–not all sopranos make the choice to bare all, well, some can’t even lift their arms–illustrates the conflict at the heart of The Met’s bid to be a relevant player in the theater of popular entertainment. We see more snooch on South Park than what opera house patrons saw of Ms. Mattila on Saturday. For The Met to get demure when it comes to the simulcast only leaves the audience with blue balls, and, in effect, resenting the opera house.

Aside from the censorship, I found the account of the opera to be stirring. Ms. Mattila is a remarkable, if somewhat over-the-top performer. Well, let me qualify that.

Something that many know about the simulcasts is that sometimes devices that work well in a huge opera house become overexposed in the high definition and large-screen format of the movie theater. In this vein, Ms. Mattila’s foaming interpretation of Salome, wriggly and jiggly as it was, probably worked better in the cavernous opera house, but it was simply too much jelly for the silver screen to handle.

It will be interesting to see, as Anthony Tommasini proposed a while back, if The Met will begin to conceive of new productions with the HD format in mind. If so, and I don’t think it would be a bad idea, I only hope that they trust the simulcast audiences are mature enough (or maybe immature enough) to deserve as much full frontal as the those paying premium dollar for the velvet seats. Otherwise this sends the sign that, when it comes to nudity at The Met, you’ll only get it if you’re willing to pay for it.

That’s right. We called The Met a whore. We’re proud.

TO DO: Live chat with L. Ro.!

Talk to me, Goose...

Dear, Lord...

Today at 3pm, WNYC’s blog is hosting a live chat with Claudia La Rocco and Nathan Lee.

Details are few, but whatever, any chat with L. Ro. is bound to be like chicken soup for the critical soul. (Cheesy and delicious!)

I’ll update later on as soon as it becomes clear exactly how the hell this is going to play out.

xoxoC.C.

UPDATE:

Here’s the link to the WNYC chat. Basically, you just type in a question, and Claudia and Nathan will do their best to answer in complete sentences. See you there!

UPDATE 2:

You guyz! It’s actually happening! And it’s very cool. GO NOW.

UPDATE 3 – About Face:

So, some head is up some ass over at WNYC. Let me apologize to y’all if you’ve gone over there and you got to the bottom of the page an realized: IT’S OVER.

Turns out they only chatted for half and hour and then called it quits just when things were getting good (aka: when C.C. chimed in).

I don’t know who’s responsible, but I wouldn’t doubt it’s the same people who were responsible for consolidating L. Ro.’s blog into all the others. BTW, have you noticed that L. Ro.’s posts get like, millions of comments, and the others (maybe with the exception of Nathan Lee’s) are like ghost towns? L. Ro. really had something going.

And WYNC could really have something going. I like how they’re trying to mix things up. But today’s aborted live-chat was kind of pathetic. It felt like that asshole parent who says you’re going to get to go to Disneyland, drives you up to the gate, says, “See! We went to Disneyland!” and then turns around and takes you to the public pool. Lame.

New York City (Soap) Opera: Episode 3 – “Phatnom Menace”

Recent articles in The Times have chronicled the latest in New York City Opera drama.

On Friday, T-Bone Tommasini wrote in-depth regarding Mortier’s troublesome relationship with the board of the City Opera. Chairwoman Susan Baker made some reassuring comments, confirming that the board is “galvanized” around a series of proposals Mortier made during a recent meeting, and that patron money is still coming in.

But the very next day, word came that the company layed off 11 administrators at the same time Jane Gulong, their executive director, decided to leave since Mortier “effectively eliminated her job.”

It’s amazing how much the trials of the City Opera are mirroring a political campaign/election. Mortier is being called on to show face and sell his agenda during a time when the organization seems to be facing political and financial crisis. Mortier’s flirtation with the Bayreuth Festival certainly didn’t help consumer confidence.

The City Opera hopes this season’s main performance fare, “Looking Forward”, a series of low-cost concerts in each borough, will foster community interest in the 20th century program Mortier has planned for his first full season in 2009-2010.

In a performance review today, Anthony Tommasini expresses doubt that it will do the trick, but thought Saturday night’s Staten Island installment proved that at least the performers of the New York City Opera are still eager to put on a show. NYCO Director of Media Relations Pascal Nadon confirms that Mr. Mortier was not in attendance, although it’s been said that Mortier will only spend a few weeks of the entire season in New York.

It’s also telling that some of the big developments in this saga, like the firing of staff members and even early rumors that Mortier was looking for jobs outside of his City Opera gig, have only come to light after prodding from the press, or at the very least, well after rumors had begun flying. It’s understandable that organizations–like campaigns–try to keep these kinds of twists and turns, many of them unpredictable, under tight control. But this task becomes less and less manageable with each surprise plot twist.

At this point, anything the City Opera can do to convince the public that the organization isn’t going to implode and disappear through some parallel dimension Carrie-style vortex, is much welcome.

The next “Looking Forward” is coming to Brooklyn on November 2. Let’s hope audience interest, administrative leadership, and fiscal liquidity, can last that long.

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