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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.

CURSES

Learning clown is serious work. Adrian Danzig has studied clown (notice one does not say clowning) in Europe with such artists as Ctibor Turba. Turba is Czech mime, choreographer, director and instructor who, jumping off from the work of Marcel Marceau, incorporates techniques from drama, silent comedy, film, circus commedia dell´ arte, and more. Those red ears (no red noses for these clowns) that each member of the 500 Clown troupe wear come from a European tradition of the Whiteface clown. Adrian says the red ears emphasize that the troupe is ever alert, listening for cues from the audience.

Back in the 500 Clown dressing room for each performance, the troupe makes it a ritual for each performance to paint each other’s ears. The Dresser didn’t ask, but maybe this is part of their personal theatrical superstition about this show. Adrian mentioned that Shakespeare’s Macbeth is fraught with superstition. He said there were fifteen books on the subject. So the Dresser Googled and gasp! Macbeth is fraught with frightening beliefs involving horrible luck and possible death. Some say the origins of the superstition come from the Witches’ song within Shakespeare’s play. However, in searching a little further, the Dresser learned that Macbeth was a huge crowd pleaser and when a theater company ran into financial trouble, the director would insist on performances of Macbeth to save the company from financial ruin. So maybe the fear of playing Macbeth was more about a portent that a theater company was going to go out of business.

But let’s talk about sauce! The bucket of blood that the 500 Clown troupe spit at each other and rub all over themselves is made out of flour, water, and unsweetened black cherry Kool Aid. If it is cleaned up immediately, no damage is done to the stage or the actors’ clothing. Secretly the Dresser hoped none of the clowns would spit at or on her or on her friend Myong-Hee and she was worried about this from the get-go when Bruce came brushing by her and was spitting out his words from “When shall we three meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain.” This is what the first witch in Shakespeare’s Macbeth says as the play opens. Seriously, the Dresser doesn’t mind rain or a little clean spit from a friend, but blood, even black cherry Kool-Aid blood, would drive the Dresser to shout out damn spot and she would not mean that dog named Sparkle.
500%20Clown%202%20blood%20spit-preview.jpg
Photo By: Steven Shapiro


TURKEYS

Question: What is the troupe’s worse scenario? Answer: When the audience sits like stuffed turkeys not making a sound, not moving. This happened in one performance until a man in a long white beard exclaimed, “Boo” and released the rest of the audience, giving them permission to react. The Dresser saw an old woman with white hair beat on Shane’s baldhead. He invited her to do so after he thought he killed Bruce with a gun. Shane took the punishment but said, “Ow, your rings are hurting me.” The director Leslie Buxbaum Danzig said the troupe has a contract with the audience and that they are part of the show. Public displays of emotion are encouraged because this is physical theater.

Physical theater made the Dresser free associate and so she asked the troupe if they take anything from reality TV. The Dresser hit a red-hot button. Molly said she was “uncomfortable with reality TV. What 500 Clown does is create real experiences.” Adrian jumped in and said, “Reality TV edits. It hides part of what happened—you as audience are not getting the whole picture. We are not hiding anything. Also it is a voyeuristic experience. Take Fear Factor. It’s not really about fear. It’s about making fools out of everyone, including the audience.” Since the Dresser thinks reality TV creates a bad smell in the mind (yeah, night soil), she was impressed that the 500 Clown troupe went into a PDE (public display of emotion) snit over that Q.

MEET FATSLUG

And while we are on the subject of what’s real, the Dresser chooses this moment to introduce Fatslug, the poster boy for low self-esteem.

Fatslug Meets A Funnyman

It was so brief, it was almost
subliminal: Fatslug, on the Down escalator
in his office building, saw going Up
a funnyman.

Not a superstar comedian, mind you,
but famous enough: a talk-show darling,
Mr. Anything-for-a-Laugh.
A make-animal-noises, doff-his-toupee,
dance-crazy-to-Spike-Jones-records type.

To this day Fatslug doesn’t know
why he did what he did. He wasn’t
a particular fan of the funnyman,
rarely even gave him a thought. Perhaps
it was the surreal juxtaposition
of funny fame and him,
perhaps a conditioned response
to craziness that made him crank up his face
in a silly grin, wave and call out
the name of the crazy funnyman.

Except
the funnyman, in person, didn’t act crazy.
He reacted the way that Thomas Mann
or Igor Stravinsky might have reacted:
iced Fatslug down with a cold blue stare,
then hid his face in his mink collar.

Did Fatslug learn a lesson? Only this:
that it is good to be funny
and crazy. Then you can afford mink collars
to hide your face
from the unintentionally funny and crazy.

By Miles David Moore
From Buddha Isn’t Laughing (Buy this book. It will make you laugh and cry.) or
query editor@wordworksdc.com to buy the CD recording Fatslug Unbound.


COMEDY VERSUS TRAGEDY

One of the themes of “Fatslug Meets A Funnyman” is that comedy is hard to achieve, that possibly it is an accomplishment deserving dead serious respect or not, depending on how your funny bone vibrates. Despite what traditionally puts tragedy above comedy (based on Aristotle’s treatise on tragedy, his treatise on comedy was lost), the Dresser believes that the bottom-to-top order in the universe of storytelling is drama, tragedy, comedy. The best comedy includes elements of drama and tragedy. The 500 Clown troupe takes risks both corporally and intellectually in 500 Clown Macbeth. If tragedy according to Aristotle is supposed to purge the body of pity and terror, the Dresser says that comedy, good deep-down comedy, should cleanse not only the body of pity and terror but also the soul. Think about this, who gets sent into hospitals on a regular basis to engage and entertain the critically ill? Tragedians or clowns? Molly Brennan (Kevin), Adrian Danzig (Bruce), and Paul Kalina (Shank) all work with the Big Apple Circus Clown Care at the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital. That’s serious work involving human lives.

The Dresser strongly recommends that if you get a chance to see a performance by 500 Clowns (home base is Chicago), you will become a more evolved human being. Repertory work includes 500 Clown Frankenstein and 500 Clown Christmas. Work in development includes 500 Clown Don Quixote and The Brecht Project, which may be based on A Man’s A Man. If you want to refresh your memory on Brecht’s play about Gayly Gay, a man who gets swept off to war by random selection, check out the culturevulture review Web site.

Next up will be Spike Lee.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 5, 2006 1:49 AM.

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