Culture: June 2002 Archives

Only a few days left, but definitely worth a detour. A great and gutsy production of Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" can be found through sunday at The Culture Project. It's Shakespeare were he alive today, and were he appreciated as much as this sturdy little company does Stoppard's first big success, written when he was 26.

"It costs little to watch, and little more if you happen to get caught up in the action, if that's your taste and times being what they are." (The Player)
On a surface level, the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an absurdist look at two secondary characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Amidst their clever rhetoric, the two characters find themselves (or rather DON'T find themselves) trapped in a fatalistic path leading to their inevitable destruction. Given the universal nature of the play, a director has the ability to extract worldly significance from otherwise ambiguous, yet extremely thought provoking, text.

Daniel Carlton, as the player king, is brilliant, and Jenny Gravenstein and Frederique Nahmani, as Guilderstern and Rosencrantz respectively, are more than worthy of everything their characters are---and are not.

The title of this item is the original title of a compelling new film from the UK, now called "AKA," by Duncan Roy. It's making the rounds of the American queer film festivals this year and was shown three times here in New York at the New Festival.

It's one of those dramatic experiences that hangs around long after you have left the theatre. Extremely well acted and directed, with a brilliant eye behind the camera, it's really the story which finally knocks you out. Is it a documentary? Actually, it feels like you are being taken along on a real anthropological expedition, but without the accompanying mess of cables and microphones and improvised scenes. The director hints at an autobiographical source for his work, but even without that suggestion the film moves in a real world of fantasy, fantasy here for both the nobs and the snobs.

Oh, I almost forgot, the (almost?) innovation incorporated in the film is the projection of three side-by-side frames of nearly simultaneous action and sound rather than the single frame and single sound track which has limited our experience of movies for about a hundred years. This eccentricity was disconcerting at the beginning of the film but while its distractions were eventually replaced by the arguable pleasures of a sort of cinematic cubism, I think the verdict may still be out on this subject.

Aint the web wonderful! Somebody is ready to satisfy any need. You don't even have to ask. Just search.

I owe this item to Mark Morford. Ok, I'll include his take on it as a quote.

Am always deeply frightened and yet strangely enamored by/of the earnest creepiness of the horrid little Jesus Inspirational Sports Statues for very young deeply repressed midwestern Catholic white kids who will soon be in therapy, because of course if Jesus is about anything, he's about helpin' little Timmy smoke some bitch-ass on a 2-on-2 pickup game down at the projects, or helping little Suzie bloody the shins of her bitchy little Atheist enemies on the soccer field. Don't forget to look at pages 2 and 3. *Swing* batterbatterbatterJesusspankmyassbatterbatter, swing!

Rosa von Praunheim announces in his diary, "Im Jahre 2002 werde ich 60, auf keinen Fall weise oder leise, aber immer noch kämpferisch [In 2002 I will turn 60, in no way wiser or quieter, and definitely still combative]." An extraordinary career and a beautiful man. We just saw his latest completed film, "Tunten lügen nicht [Queens don't Lie]," at the New Festival just ended.

It was a delightful and "combative" film about four Berlin queens whose highly entertaining drag art is inseparable from their totally uncompromising and effective activism.

The film will now be going to Frameline in SF, Outfest in Philadelphia and other film festivals, according to Rosa.

Forget the raw materials and the tax incentives and the interstates, the 21st century's growth areas are those which appeal to talented people. This means:

High counts of gays and counterculture "Bohemians"? Lots of immigrants? Downtowns with lively music and arts scenes, even a tolerance for tattoo parlors?

In general, strong high-tech growth has erupted in cities that not only tolerate, but seem to promote and indeed celebrate all manner of cultural diversity. Cities that ignore the new signal will likely be stragglers in the new century's economic race.

We know where Johnny and Jane want to be, even if their names are Ivan and Janisha.

I have put off entering an item about an extraordinary production of Richard Wagner's "The Rhinegold" [sic] two and a half weeks ago, by the EOS Orchestra, since I was waiting for the review which I asssumed would be coming from the NYTimes. The review never appeared, even though the paper had published the customary preview puff piece a week prior to the performances.

If we wish to see our experience as members of the audience confirmed it's necessary to go online, to reviews in Andante or Classics Today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have no familial relationship with the German songwriter, only a total adoration for his music. [Of at least a dozen uncles and 95 first cousins, not one was given the name, "Dick," so far as I can recall. Very odd.] I am extremely fond of the full-size Patrice Chereau Bayreuth peformance and I have several recordings of most of the operas in traditional form, but I was totally blown away by Johathan Sheffer's pocket production last month.

The performance was absolutely enchanting, immediate, dramatic, and gloriously musical, but ultimately its greatest virtue was probably the proof it offered that opera, even Wagner, can be made accessible and very sexy for any size audience, anywhere.

New York should insist that EOS bring the rest of "The Ring" to audiences which think the Met both too poor in its art and too rich in its fees, and we should be able to see the example of chamber Wagner followed elsewhere around the country.

The Great American movie? Not quite, but it'll do for this week at least. Queer, yes, but not just for queers. We saw Luster last night at the New Festival and got much more than we expected.

Ok, it's set in L.A., the actors are attractive (and not looking like Chelsea or Hollywood), it's very cool, very sexy, very beautiful, with a great soundtrack (half the scenes are in love with the perfect little music store) and the plot is not predictable.

Most oddly, with its stealth morality and easy didacticism, it could serve as the best ever after-school special, but only in a more perfect, grown-up world where we don't have the burden of our inherited prejudices.

Best line, from a very sexy guy-naif, "I'm a lesbian!"

Write your congressperson. Get it into your neighborhood. Don't lose this film!

Another voice rejecting banality and business as usual at the site of the World Trade Center.

As the task of rebuilding begins in earnest, the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation should heed anew Daniel Burnham's advice to Chicago's leaders a century ago: "Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood."

Martin Esslin, the man who gave us the phrase, "The Theater of the Absurd," and essentially legitimized for a conservative culture some of today'most iconic playwrights, died in London this past February, it was reported today.

In his book, he linked Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Arthur Adamov and Eugène Ionesco with younger playwrights like Harold Pinter, Edward Albee and Fernando Arrabal at a time — 1961 — when they were regarded as artistic outsiders. Eventually, with the encouragement of Mr. Esslin and others, they were accepted as theatrical innovators.
But it may be his words in a book of a generation later that really position the validity of all theatre, in all societies and in all times.
In "The Field of Drama" (Methuen, 1987), he reached out to analyze the semiotics of drama in movies and television as well as theater. In all its forms, he said, "drama provides some of the principal role models by which individuals form their identity and ideals, sets patterns of communal behavior, forms values and aspirations and has become part of the collective fantasy life of the masses."

This one was for Rex!

Before he [under huge protest] succumbed to H.I.V. disease a few years ago, Rex Wasserman was a wonderful friend, a fanatical New Yorker, a fierce activist, and a City landscape architect with little love for Henry Stern's self-promoting theatrics. When I saw an item by Stern on the Opinion page of the Daily News this week, I thought of Rex and of the Park we all love so much, and I couldn't go on without adding a few words for myself and for my friend.

Today the News printed my letter, unedited, in its own box at the bottom of the Letters page.

[excerpt] "Our natural shrine" has, in fact, been exploited repeatedly by installations intended to enhance reputations, movements and pocketbooks. For starters, I need only mention any number of rock or other music extravaganzas, at least one Disney film marketing event, rallies for religious figures and the most recent absurdity, a CBS "Survivor" episode.

This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from June 2002.

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