Friday, October 13, 2017



NY Times Profile on Frances McDormand 

This is the kind of artist profile that makes me want to be a braver, bolder person. McDormand operates by a strict code of conduct at odds with the expectations of Hollywood. As an artist, she clearly values complexity. So I was troubled by writer Jordan Kisner's first physical description of her subject:

Frances McDormand, or Fran, as she is called in regular life, cuts a handsome figure on the street. She is 60 and sexy in the manner of women who have achieved total self-possession. 

Focusing on the actor's sex appeal seems to undermine the thesis of the otherwise excellent article, which is about McDormand's uncompromising artistic integrity. But I'm torn. I can understand the necessity for pointing out a woman's attractiveness at an age when they become typically become invisible to men. But does leading with it suggest sexiness is McDormand's most defining characteristic? Is that really necessary up front to make the actor seem more relevant?

Actually, writer Ben Blatt doesn't answer the question, but I'm such a nerd for statistics, I enjoyed it anyway. And it piqued my interest enough to seek out his word frequency analysis of the literary canon, Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve. I'll report back after I've read it.

I listened to Ta-Nehisi Coates read this piece, which you can do at the link above. Coates possesses an oaky basso-profundo, which only adds credibility to his highly original insight that "Trump is something new--the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president."  

Friday, October 6, 2017


As with a little-known show about the guy on the $10 bill, Hip-Hop has restored poetry to the theater. NSangou Njikam's new play SYNCING INK gives a jolt of energy to the familiar "portrait-of-an-artist-as-a-young-man" tale through an extravagance of language that makes me want to be a better writer. 

The show also confirmed my instinct that Flea artistic director Niegel Smith is my kind of director, someone who understands the full meaning of the word "play." In SYNCING INK, he's created an atmosphere both profoundly sacred and delightfully profane. The beat of his compassionate heart provides the rhythm for the bold, kinetic performances of his actors, each of whom is a force of nature to be reckoned with. McKenzie Frye, Nuri Hazzard, Elisha Lawson, Adesola Osakalumi, Kara Young as well as the author himself also elucidate the text with the same keen intellect as the best of Shakespearean actors.

On a related note,  I felt a carbonated happiness sharing molecules with an audience that was, by my count (because I'm nerdy that way) 1/3 African-American. Informed (I assume) by the gospel church tradition, black people aren't afraid to leap out of their seats and talk back to the stage in a way that makes those of us raised in the submissive Protestant and Catholic traditions seem uptight and joyless. 

The boundless enthusiasm of the melanin-rich people in the room made me feel that those of us who are pigment-deficient literally pale in comparison. 

 To the best of my knowledge, The Flea is the largest non-profit theater in New York headed by a person of color. Niegel has invigorated the company not only by presenting under-represented voices, but with a singular idiosyncratic vision all his own. I loved this guy the moment I went to his performance piece TAKE CARE last season and sat with a box on my head while actors squirted water at me.
You have to see SYNCING INK. Tickets start at only $17 and there isn't a bad seat for this show, which is performed in the round. Then write me on my professional page on Facebook and let's talk about it. 
If you're not in the New York area, write me on Facebook anyway and we'll talk about anything you want.

Friday, September 29,  2017

I sought out Larsen to inspire revisions for my play THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE (AND OTHER SONGS), which will have a public reading Saturday, October 15th @ 4:00 pm in Fairfax, Virginia. The play is based on the true relationship between Albert Einstein and Marian Anderson. Anderson was an exceptionally guarded person, making her a challenge to write, particularly for a white man.
Hence Nella Larsen, a Northerner of roughly the same age and working class background as Anderson. Her style is elegant and literary with an undercurrent of deep pain and mordant wit. Sadly, she wrote only two novels before falling into obscurity, but is now hailed by many as the best black novelist of her generation.

I can't get enough surrealism these days, so I returned to this movie, which I haven't seen since I was a kid. I was astonished by its screwball humor and visual inventiveness. Every frame is a painting.

I love this show and how it explores "the hidden side of everything." I found their episode "Why Don't We All Speak the Same Language" really provocative. There are 7,000 languages in the world, with only 20 dominating: what are the costs and benefits of our modern Tower of Babel? The show also analyzed a pet theory of mine, which is how the structure of language influences how you think. 

No comments:

Post a Comment