March Madness

Life feels like a full court press.

Now that spring has sprung, life is getting more hectic for a lot of people. While pressures and deadlines are spawning out of virtually everywhere, time and the weather has changed, inspiring everyone to take a break and indulge in some much needed recreational activity. Our social calendars are exploding, we’re going on trips, we’re meeting up with friends we haven’t seen all winter. There is so much to do, so much to get ready for.

I am loathe to say that my return to the stage is in limbo. In a way it is a blessing, not knowing whether or not I will be playing the role of Jesus in an upcoming dance theater production in Baltimore. The production has gone on hiatus as the director would like more time to develop the show in order to make sure that it is absolute perfection. I know that I was not the sole cause for his postponement, but my nightmares tell me otherwise.

It was supposed to be a great experience builder for me, for I rarely work for other directors and choreographers. I can’t even think of one off the top of my head. The innovative and demanding choreography did prove to be a little daunting and intimidating for me, and I kind of choked during rehearsals so insecure in my abilities as a dancer. I am the same way with my own work, but work that I compose for myself is usually based on my capacities and strengths as a dancer, so I need not worry if I’m too out of shape to do something at the request of another.

I was waiting to hear back from some other artists regarding the Fringe Festival. After taking two years off, I decided to jump back into the beast as not to fall into oblivion as a choreographer. I was also invited to present a full length production at this year’s LGBT Arts Festival that goes up in early June, just 3 months before Fringe. The latter would be a tremendous opportunity for me to expand my audience, ironically enough, I don’t have a lot of contacts on my roster that are from the gay community.

For the Fringe I will be presenting a two act play entitled “The Ending or Beginning” that incorporates dance into the work. There is supposed to also be an interesting but subtle use of video work in the piece, but I don’t think I will have the fiscal resources to pull it off. Fringe costs a lot of money; there is a participation fee, marketing fee, venue rental fee and all the advertising you have to do on your own. Then there is the studio rental for rehearsals and if you can, you really need to pay the performers or offer them a cut of the door revenue that usually is barely enough to cover the expenses. Let us not forget the A/V equipment and labor expenses, the costumes, the materials to make set pieces, the props, etc. It is an exhausting process, in more ways than one. Oh yeah, and transportation and food costs.

I turned the original script for “The Ending or Beginning” into a screenplay and I had hoped to one day produce a film version of it. I have only submitted it to one competition to no success. The opening monologue was performed at an interdisciplinary show I produced and directed in 2006, and it went over very, very, very well.

I’m thinking I will do whatever it takes to streamline the work and my goal is to have everything I need for the show be able to fit in a cab with me, even if I need to get a ride otherwise (the arts is all about Plan B). I am very proud of this work. It was one of the first full length pieces I wrote during that dark time when Bush got re-elected, and I feel as though it speaks to my style the most.

It is a dramadey, half comedy, half drama, that centers around one character, Jodi, who is an art school drop out with a lot of talent. The story follows her through and after her first art exhibit and a love quadrilateral ensues between her and several other motley characters in the story. The dialog is rich with wit and subtext, and the characters are all unique and cruise at different levels.

I am doing a historical ballet for the LGBT Festival that will primarily center around Lili St. Cyr, the famous burlesque dancer, and her alleged homosexual tendencies (w/ Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe). The ballet itself will depict a time line of strip tease in America from the 30s to present. I am hoping that this won’t be too hard to do and that I will keep the cast pretty small. The stage sets won’t be that demanding, but the costumes will take up a lot of my time, but really, I am very much looking forward to designing again.

For these two lovelies, I will be having a dual audition, something totally new and totally DeVo. I will have to pick actors and dancers for two very different productions at the same time. I am looking for strong personalities and committed artists. I will know it when I see it. While a look is very important, and I always have in mind a look for my characters, what really draws me in is seeing someone that can bring something new to what I’ve created and make it their own. I like works that progress and while much of the idea of both of these pieces is pretty concrete in my head, I am looking for a muse or two to help me develop as an artist. I am constantly in need of inspiration, it is my life force.

Speaking of inspiration, my recent trip to Barcelona, Spain was remarkably inspiring. While I had plenty of time to relax and clear my head, I used that time in a totally different way. I came back to the states manic with ideas, simply mad about wanting to create more. I wanted to write, I wanted to paint, I wanted to start designing clothes again. Such a wonderful, colorful city. It made me feel my love of art again. For a while I was so overwhelmed with my ideas that I got depressed. I want to do it all…but I can only do a few things at a time.


Actor out of Work

St. Vincent
Wildbirds & Peacedrums
Thursday, February 25, 2010

First Unitarian Church
2125 Chestnut Street

I just wanted to write a quick note about a rock show I went to see last week.

Long gone are the days of crowded venues, getting to second base with complete strangers, a mosh pit boiling just feet away from you. We’re not kids anymore and the music scene, while thriving in Philly (per usual) is a chore to experience live. You can only drink in certain places, smoke in certain places, stand in certain places. I’m still stuck in the nineties (and the seventies) and have yet to have the desire to see any new bands until now.

The Hipster scene is rife with music nerds that are half connoisseur, half poseur, all vying for the opportunity to dole out a bunch of “really cool bands” they’ve heard that you’ve probably never heard of. They all seem to have obscure names, perhaps established during a whiskey fueled rehearsal in some dingy basement in Fishtown. I can’t speak much for these bands, I know there are some good ones out there, and a few that I wonder if they’re still around. I have no excuse really to never go to the Khyber or Tritone or where ever the cool kids go, but it’s such a chore these days because it is so hard to not be disappointed when rock is so dead. It’s just not what it used to be.

That’s why we have friends to rely on these days. Most times I end up hearing about a newer band from a friend or someone that is in the band. I’ve lucked out because most of them have been pretty awesome. I’m pretty picky when it comes to music even though I will listen to virtually anything.

One of my well-versed friends had told me about St. Vincent a while back after someone she knew (who was in a band) would be opening for the band. She went to see them live and couldn’t stop talking about it. She sent me their video and I was particularly impressed.

St. Vincent is frontwomaned by Annie Clark who held tenure with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, the latter I’m familiar with thanks to a hipster who got a hold of my Mac one day and put a few tunes from them on it to pique my interest. The band is somewhat of an anomaly. There is this beautiful amorphous nature among its members that doesn’t allow the band to be pigeonholed. Several of Annie’s band mates are multi-instrumentalists, that to me makes for a very engaging experience. Her vocals are concisely brilliant with a quirky darkness to them. There is pure rock coming from her guitars, but the sweetness in the melodies produced calm the punch of the edgy beats. I thoroughly enjoyed the music not only in the way it was presented, but I’m a lyrics man and the writing was amazing.

St. Vincent is one of those bands that sends electricity through the audience because what they are doing is so fresh and different but not just for the sake of being different. When there is that uncanny air in the room and you know that this is a big shift in the way music can be viewed, it is hard not to take note.

The opening band, Wildbirds & Peacedrums also gave us a pioneer-esque effort with its two piece, male/female percussion overload. The male drummer was by far one of the best drummers I’ve seen live in a long time, I’m glad to see more drummers becoming front men in bands (take another dynamic duo, the local band Pattern is Movement). I was taken aback by his skill and precision and performance quality. While I was intrigued by his cohort who provided the vocals and a considerable effort in playing the kettle drums, her singing was borderline indecipherable but in the end I got it. She was using her voice more as an instrument than a vehicle with which to express herself. I was entertained, but still, I hate when I can’t understand what someone is saying.

All in all, it was a great show. The Hipsters pray to the G-d of rock and roll at that old, dingy, awesome Unitarian Church. I hope this isn’t a trend but the beginning of a new era in music where the emo boys go cry to their moms and the best drummers in the biz (and the women they adore) come to the forefront to kick some ass.