~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


pushPULL ~ Monday, June 19, 2006

Or PUSHpull--I’m not sure which.

After the Storytelling Festival, Tom came to pick me up and we drove into Toronto to see Tom’s friend Robert perform in a dance show. It was pretty neat stuff--the dancing was good (I was a bit concerned with the first number, but I think maybe they just had to get warmed up).

Most impressive was the juggernaut that was the company itself. They marketed themselves as dancers who all have day jobs--mostly as professionals. So, they’re engineers, lawyers, editors etc. by day. And at night, they dance, and rehearse and put together a full-length show (I think it was probably 1.5 to 2 hours, with intermission), including costumes, an overarching, loose but unifying theme (“Unspoken Conversations”) and a number of diverse choreographies with different styles (tap, latin, swing, hip hop, country etc.), concepts (love triangles, abstract, dreams come true, etc.) and dancers--of which there were over thirty. They even had a couple of full-company numbers, which must have been nutso to coordinate.

They even got coverage in the Globe--which is amazing for an amateur company. The dancing itself ranged from good but not professional level to truly amazing. They also had more diverse body types up on stage, which was refreshing to see--real people, doing the moves and doing them well!

In the Globe article, they talked about how most of the company love dancing, but also really enjoy their day jobs (ergo: the “pushPULL” of their two [a]vocations or whatever)--in addition to enjoying getting their regular, usually quite generous, paychecks. They’re all highly motivated and one imagines, well-connected (ergo: coverage in the Globe, though I think another facet to that is that the idea of living out one’s fantasy of being, say, a dancer, or a lounge singer etc. at night while having a regular job by day is a compelling one that resonates with many, and so seeing that in action is exciting in itself, particularly given that the performances were also good). The show we went to was pretty much sold out--nor was the theatre a small one.


::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 8:07 PM::::



Latitudes ~ Sunday, June 11, 2006

At any rate, Saturday was also a busy day. I went to a Storytellers' festival, which was absolutely wonderful and fascinating, in downtown Kitchener. I was a last minute addition to the "story in a day" writing contest, in which six (including me) writers had to come up with a short story in four hours (we had from 10 am to 2pm). Then, Andrew Pyper would read them and choose first, second and third place winners.

This was good, in the sense that it was a lot of fun and kind of neat. We were set up at a series of tables on STAGE, and laptops were provided for our use. We weren't allowed to bring any notes or cheat sheets, but were also provided with paper and pens for anything we needed to jot down at the time. In addition, as "guests", we were given access to the "back room" were there were comfy chairs and all kinds of sumptuous foods.

So already I'm thrilled. I'm pretty good at filtering out peripheral distractions (which is good, cause I forgot my mp3 player), so what it comes down to is that I get free lunch, in return for sitting around doing what I normally do at home, where I have to prepare my own lunch. :-D In addition, it means that my story is automatically submitted somewhere. I don't have to stress about tweaking this and that (as I would if I were subbing it at home and had more than four hours)--I don't even have to print it out! They do it all for me!! It also means a break from the novel I'm mired in, and a total change of pace.

So, I arrive there. I get to meet the other interesting people who are also competing (I knew Jana, who told me about the contest, but four others, at least). The laptop is a bit inconvenient, as it doesn't have all the handy shortcuts that I'm used to--but still, all is good. Except--I see the day's schedule and suddenly wish I weren't writing for most of it, because it's fascinating. Aside from us, up on stage, all the other rooms, which are done up with funky fabrics and decor, feature verbal storytellers. And so, I sneak off for breaks whenever I can during the day and then wish I could just stay and listen to all these wonderful, fascinating, amazingly told stories. Instead, I just hear tantalising bits and pieces. Fortunately, I finish my own story a bit early, so I'm able to slip away and enjoy more of the storytellers for a few more hours.

So, it was absolutely wonderful! It's an amazing festival. As a participant, I walked away with TWO BAGS full of cool stuff (again, all for sitting on a stage doing what I normally do at home anyway)--organic coffee and chocolate, a nalgene (sp?) water bottle with the cool "Latitudes Storytelling Festival" logo, a bookstore gift certificate, a fabric book bag, and on and on. Wow!

Then, at the end of the day, after Andrew had made his choices, we each went up and read what we had written, which was also fascinating. By the time everyone was done and Andrew started reading out the winners, starting with third, I figured I was out for sure! But, I won! Hooray! That was a nice bonus, but even without it, it was a fabulous and super fun day. All the entries will be posted on the website, so I will add in a link here once they're up.

There are also some pics of the reading at the flickr website:


::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 6:58 PM::::


On Friday afternoon, we went canoeing along the Grand River--it was a lovely trip, even though it was rather chilly that day. A brisk wind was blowing, though at least that meant that we didn't have to paddle as much, and could enjoy the scenery all the more. Pictures of that and other recent activites at:


Then, that evening, I had a ticket to the play version of "Marion Bridge", which was really good, and really well done. It was also completely different from the film--as in, aside from the general premise, the same given names and a couple of other basic details, it was a different spectacle altogether. But I really liked it. The acting was compelling (the eldest sister was a bit annoying, but it's not totally clear how much that was the character and how much that was the actress, because again, she was a different character to the one played by Molly Parker in the film--who was more restrained and silent and full of undercurrents. In the stage version, she is chattier and more outgoing).

I wondered whether part of the reason for the difference was to give viewers who had seen the play something different and new to see in the film. Really nice, though.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 6:50 PM::::



Stage Beauty ~ Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A few weeks since my last post. I've been working on my Pitman shorthand, but it's slow going. I've decided to use the book to find the core basics that I'll need to learn to perfect it, and not bother with the fancy things like "halving a stroke to add t/d" etc. I kind of like the idea of knowing it all, but it's so excruciating trying to develop a facility with it that I suspect I'm liklier to abandon it altogether if I had to layer things like that on top of the other stuff. I'm not using it for dictation anyway, and even as is (notwithstanding a few shortcuts I'd like to get under my belt from further along in the book) it's much faster than longhand. So I'll be ahead with my note-taking anyway, be it for a lecture or meeting, or from a book. Yippeee! But there's still at least another few months' work on it, getting comfortable and to the point where I don't have to think before I write or decipher before I read. I'm at the "puh-eh-rrr" sounding out stage for now.

I saw the film "Stage Beauty" recently and rather enjoyed it (notwithstanding some anachronisms, that nonetheless, in one case, made for an electrifying climactic scene). I pulled it up with a low level of commitment and expected little from it. It is set during the Restoration/Charles II (IIRC) in England, depicting a fictionalized version of the transitional period where theatres went from men only (and therefore had men in drag playing female parts) to allowing women on stage.

Ned Kynaston (sp?) was the drag player who found himself suddenly out of fashion (to his own confusion and dismay: "A women playing a woman? Where's the trick in that?"). The role was played by Billy Crudup--well cast, IMO for his understated style of regular acting (as opposed to how he played the female roles on stage) and his looks, which work well in the context of a beautiful man/woman (not androgynous, per se, but rather, he's pretty with a touch of the masculine as a woman, and handsome with a touch of the feminine as a male, rather than one who looks genuinely, Tilda Swintonishly androgynous).

The other main character, Maria/Margaret Hughes was done by Claire Danes, whom I don't really like much, but I managed to forget it was her and got into the role she was playing relatively early, so it worked out for me. :-D

There were a number of wonderful oppositions and dualities produced in the film, as one might expect with a narrative whose subject is the interplay between male and female and its variations.

I also liked the way in which Ned's sexuality was ambiguous and confused. One has the sense that he might have grown up primarily straight under other circumstances. But, in this world, because of the circumstances under which he ended up playing the female roles on stage, he has a very wide nominal comfort zone with regard to his sexual encounters. But instead of going for the easy "scarred, twisted sexuality" route (though it's not easy for the person who's stuck with it, of course) that one often finds in depictions of a straight guy who is forced away from his sexual orientation, Ned is comfortable with both--just confused as to how to position his identity, once he is thrust out of his role as drag-female star. And so his agony is only in part due to the confusion of his sexual identity (in my take) and is primarily found in the loss of his public identity and the fact that, like Norma Desmond, he is now obsolete. He knew who he was on stage, even if his sense of self was confused as soon as he stepped out of the footlights.

Maria, by contrast, is very clear on who she is at a personal level, but struggles to find herself and her identity as a performer and a public persona, and so there's a strong and interesting counterpoint to be found in that.

The other thing I really liked about the film was the way in which it got multi-duty out of its climactic scene. Not to give too much away, I hope... but, I love it when a spectacle (play/film) is able to layer a climactic scene so that it has multiple meanings to the audience, depending on how much the watcher knows. An example of this would be in "Hamlet", with "the Mousetrap", the play Hamlet has the players perform for Claudius. We know of the nominal layer--the narrative itself. We know of the hidden layer--that it is Hamlet's dramatization of the Ghost's story of Claudius's crime. And we know of a third layer--more than a dramatization, it is also a trap. A way for Hamlet to determine whether Claudius really is guilty. And so, Claudius and Hamlet, as spectators to the players' performance, also become part of the spectacle itself.

The play/film "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" adds several more layers to that, and so, if one is familiar with "Hamlet" then Stoppard's play positively throngs with resonances, layers and nuances. What fun!

Well, "Stage Beauty" doesn't go quite to that extreme. But, it has a wonderful climactic scene on stage, which resonates along those lines. It is the climactic scene of the play being performed. It is also the climactic scene for the characters we've seen, discovering their identities on stage and in performance while enacting private tensions we know about because we've been watching them in their world through the film. And the magic is that we sense the audience in the theatre, who knows nothing of those tensions, also senses them and reacts to them. And then there was a final thread of foreboding subtext that was worked in from early in the film that added an additional edge to the scene.

All in all, the ultimate catharsis--horrifying, involving and in some way exhilarating because it was so deftly accomplished.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 10:20 AM::::


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Anduril Elessar
Susan Deefholts

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