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December 2006 Archives

December 5, 2006

Macbeth. Spike Lee. Denzel Washington. Fatslug. Tan Dun. Janice & Camus.

Do I have your attention? Danke.

Blog intro first. Spike-Mac-Denzel-Slug-Dun-Camus coming.


PRESENTING THE DRESSER: DRUM ROLL ANYONE?

Karren Alenier is a poet. Poets don’t walk down the street the same way as other folks. Ideas, memories, accidents on the roadway, a clan of walkers with ski poles on a warm day, a spotted dog named Sparkle and more cause poets to zigzag literally and metaphorically. Although you might think you know Karren Alenier — She is The Steiny Road Poet — that’s just one cubist view. Here at The Dressing she will be known as the Dresser or, maybe, the unDresser.

Good Grief, as Charlie the kite-flying roundhead, would swear, whatever does The Dressing and Dresser mean? As the Dresser, I say The Dressing means as much as possible!

IS THE DRESSING EXTRA?

Dressing:

A medicinal or protective gauze to cover a wound. Something that takes the ug out of an ugly break in the skin.

A viscous mix for certain dishes, such as salads. Think virgin olive oil & fragrant lemon for example.

A stuffing for poultry or fish. Anything from bread to fruits & veggies. Maybe a dash of nuts.

Manure or other fertilizing ingredients for soil. Night soil – Borat’s gift to his unsuspecting southern hostess.

That activity that covers human nakedness.

Then there is dressing for success, cross-dressing, dressing up, dressing down, dressed to the nines. What about window-dressing and well dressing? Just scratching the surface. I’m sure someone will point out what hasn’t been said yet and I welcome any additions. (Well, not all additions. I’m not Miss Manners and I don’t tolerate fools who bring Boratian surprises.)

DOES THE DRESSER HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR?

Maybe the better question to ask first is does the Dresser have a sense of order or will this be a descent into the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Here we go:

The Dresser wants to talk about Macbeth first. What’s really hot in theater today are actors breaching the fourth wall. (That’s the invisible wall between the actors and the audience.) The Dresser took her friend Myong-Hee Kim, the translator of Crow's Eye View: The Infamy Of Lee Sang, Korean Poet, to experience 500 Clown Macbeth at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at Maryland. The Dresser thinks she was assigned the role as the 499th clown and Myong-Hee, who is much more shy, was the 500th. Both of us spend a lot of time reading poetry so we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. This was physical theater deconstructing not only Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth but also deconstructing the stage and the concepts of theater. Clowns Bruce and Shank are strongmen. Why, one of the clowns bussed my cheek. Did he wish to influence the critic on the aisle with a kiss?

Quick précis – (for a complete review of 500 Clown Macbeth, visit the theater section of culturevulture.net) three men with red ears and wearing kilts across their shoulders (who dressed these performers? Oh, they are clowns.) climb into the audience from the back of the house and make their way over the heath. Each of them wants to be king. Each of them tries to reach a crown hanging from the ceiling. They use a wobbly scaffold. Yes, this is a story of ambition. The three characters are named Kevin, Bruce, and Shank. Kevin is played by Molly Brennan. Molly as Kevin is a gender-bender and part of her clown dressing is a pink tutu. Being a woman has nothing to do with the role of Kevin, or does it? Kevin plays Lady Macbeth. Kevin delivers the out-damn-spot soliloquy and darned if the light doesn’t go out every time Kevin says spot.

500_Clown_Macbeth4-preview.jpg

Photo By: Adam Friedland

YAKETY YAK

In a talkback session, the Dresser got to peer under the theatrical gauze covering all the wounds in this work. The actors are trained to fall—Bruce falls from the top of the scaffold through two trap doors and under the stage, maybe 12 feet down. Bruce (Adrian Danzig), however, showed the talkback audience a big bruise he got during this performance and said it was no big deal. “Things like this happen all the time when people play sports” says Adrian and the troupe equates their style of theater to sports. Nevertheless, the actors are trained not to hurt each other—they know not to pull hair or put weight on anyone’s neck. They know how to take weight. So when Kevin (Molly) rides his imaginary motorcycle Evil-Knievel-style over Shank who is holding up a board at a slant, Shank (Paul Kalina) is not crushed and does not suffer injury. They learned some of this in clown school.

Continue reading "Macbeth. Spike Lee. Denzel Washington. Fatslug. Tan Dun. Janice & Camus." »

December 11, 2006

Spike Lee. Tan Dun. Grapes of Wrath. Denzel Washington. Déjà Vu. Janice & Camus.

GATEKEEPERS & LEVEES

On November 30, 2006, the Dresser heard film director, writer, actor Spike Lee speak at the University of Maryland, College Park. By way of talking about his life and film career, his agenda was to recruit new gatekeepers to change the face of current Hollywood power moguls and to promote his four-hour documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. The film, which aired first on HBO, will come out on DVD in mid December.

SpikeOnMike.jpg

Some of the highlights of what he said—mostly addressed to the predominately African-American student audience—were “a fraternity makes a leach desirable,” anti-education jive like “you ain’t street, not from the ‘hood” is “genocide,” “where’s the evolution in the rapper’s work?”

So there was Spike Lee dressed in baggie clothes, spinning his gospel of how to hook into a passion not a “slave” (jazzer’s word for job) and how to avoid dreaming a messiah will appear to help you jump over obstacles, while advocating strongly that “voting counts” and despairing that after Michael Moore’s documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 came out that Bush was voted back into office. Has Spike given up on rapping or has he taken the genre to a more intellectual and, possibly (heaven forbid), a more conservative level? While he still looks like a kid from the ‘hood, he is 50 years old (born March 20, 1957) and has been teaching for nine years at New York University.

He also said luck is “a residue of Design” meaning a Higher Power metes out chance. Therefore, an aspiring maker of films in this world of easier-to-make-a-film-but-much-more-competition needs to work hard and not count on luck. Unlike reality TV, he said there is no overnight success. The Dresser thinks this is pretty sobering advice from an artist whose work has always been and continues to be about controversial social and political issues.

Still there is plenty of sauce left in the boss filmmaker. In talking about the Katrina disaster, he referred to our current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as “Rice-A-Roni.” He asked where was she when the levees broke—“buying Ferragamo shoes and seeing Spamalot! on Broadway.” He said there was great symbolism in what Condi Rice was doing in those five days after the hurricane struck and poor people (not just blacks) were unaided and ignored by the U.S. government. “Why is it the U.S. could help people in other countries within hours of their natural disasters” such as the Asian tsunami that struck Sumatra in December 2004?” Lee said he was in Venice when the levees broke in New Orleans. “How is it that Holland, a country of 14 million (The Dresser looked this up and it’s more like 16 million), can afford a flood wall and we can’t? All Holland has is tulips, wooden shoes, naked ladies in windows and hashish.” He emphasized that the poor of New Orleans still need lots of help and urged students to do their part.

DENZEL, A STAR FROM THE JOINT

Among the questions form the audience was why Denzel Washington, an actor whose career launch Lee takes credit for, has not won an Oscar for any of Lee's films. The filmmaker said, “Denzel deserved an Oscar for Malcolm X” but he went on to explain that, as most people know, Oscars don’t seem to be about who or what is at the top of the game. Gatekeepers play politics. The Dresser gets where Spike Lee is going when he said not everyone has to be a filmmaker and that he wanted these college students to consider becoming gatekeepers in Hollywood.

The Dresser agrees that Denzel Washington deserves top honors for his work and he has gotten two Oscars. In 2001, he won for best actor in his role as a rogue cop in Training Day. In 1989, he won as best supporting actor for the Civil War film Glory. Malcolm X, though an overly long film, was a powerful cinematic work made poignant by Washington’s performance. The Dresser rented the DVD before writing this blog entry and the movie put her back in touch with the late Sixties when she read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and other books such as Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Stories about human struggle and overcoming adversity has always provided the Dresser with new ways to survive rejection and marginality, the constant companions of writers who choose to be poets.

The Dresser also loves the scope of what Washington can do as a performer. Washington and Lee as Lindy-Hopping zoot suitors in Malcolm X made her heart and feet lift with joy. Washington playing the trumpet in Mo’Better Blues was like falling in love. Such sensuous lips, Denzel! More important, the Dresser respects DW for insisting that his new movie Déjà Vu (not a Spike Lee Joint, as Lee calls his productions or a film with any involvement by Lee) be set in New Orleans. The movie was scheduled for earlier production and release, but then Katrina hit. Maybe the delay made Déjà Vu a better film. This film, which involves what she calls a soft sci-fi element about breeching time, is an impeccably and tightly told story. Washington gets to be both serious and a little comic in this film. Most likely he won’t win an Oscar for this role, but the Dresser will say that Washington’s performance is more substantial and interesting than the role Brad Pit plays in the arty film Babel, a chaos story incorporating the butterfly effect.

Continue reading "Spike Lee. Tan Dun. Grapes of Wrath. Denzel Washington. Déjà Vu. Janice & Camus." »

December 21, 2006

Tan Dun. The First Emperor. Plácido Domingo. Grapes of Wrath. Ricky Ian Gordon.

BIG GUNS AT MET PRESS CON

On December 8, 2006, the Dresser attended a big-guns press conference and full dress rehearsal of The First Emperor, a new opera by composer Tan Dun and librettist Ha Jin. The opera about the tyrant who built the Great Wall of China with slave labor premieres December 21 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

MetSigns.jpg


Tan Dun, Chinese film director Zhang Yimou, and new Met General Director Peter Gelb participated in the press con and was later joined by tenor Plácido Domingo. Domingo came dressed in full costume and makeup. He quipped it was his “first news conference as Emperor.”

FROM OUT OF THE RICE FIELDS, A CROUCHING TIGER

Tan Dun, who is best known for composing the music to the popular Ang Lee film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and who was forced to work in rice fields during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, said it was his dream to create an opera for Plácido Domingo. A modest man, Tan Dun never imagined that he would have such an opportunity. Met Artistic Assistant Manager Sarah Billinghurst, who provided some background information at this news conference, said that Tan Dun and Tobias Picker (his opera An American Tragedy premiered at the Met last December) were selected out of a pool of 100 composers. James Levine led the search, but Tan Dun was considered a risky choice and most likely not Levine’s favored choice. Although Levine was originally tapped to conduct The First Emperor, it will be Tan Dun holding the baton. Billinghurst added that Tan Dun was an exemplary composer never missing any deadlines.

TanDun.jpg


When the Met offered the commission to Tan Dun, he was working with Zhang Yimou on the film Hero. Hero is about Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China. Qin Shi Huangdi is the ruler that unified China and standardized the Chinese language, set measurements for width and length, and built a series of roads and canals to converge on the capital city of Xianyang. Fearful of death and longing for immortality, Qin Shi Huangdi of the Qin Dynasty is known for his army of terracotta soldiers. The Dresser offers this poem from her collection Looking For Divine Transportation:


The War Against Death

The emperor of the Qin

dynasty pursued life ever

enduring,

dispersed emissaries

to commandeer the elixir

of immortality.
Sooth-

sayers decreed, “to be a true

man, one who would never

die, one who could fly

through clouds and air,

the emperor must guard his

whereabouts.”
So he became a

ghost floating through secret

passages in his palace, ordering

the death of any subject who slipped

and said, “I saw him in the garden. I

saw him in his chambers.”
Just in case,

he assembled all the potters of his empire

to form and fire a terra-cotta army,
generals

six feet tall, horses in full battle

dress, one thousand foot

soldiers—every one

a unique face,
bowmen with working weapons.

If he had to go into the unknown to wage

this battle, he would not depart alone.

by Karren L. Alenier

Continue reading "Tan Dun. The First Emperor. Plácido Domingo. Grapes of Wrath. Ricky Ian Gordon." »

About December 2006

This page contains all entries posted to The Dressing in December 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.