Tuesday, July 3, 2007

ACCREDITATION

Now that the Pretentious Festival is over, it's finally safe to say that the Pretentious Festival is not over. There are a series of extensions, which you can read about at http://bricktheater.com/pretentious, as well as future entries of this very blog. Meanwhile, it is my duty (and a solemn one at that) to record the winners of Sunday night's Pretentious Awards. The ceremony, hosted with an astounding air of sheer hatred by the one and only (and let's keep it that way) Jeff Lewonczyk (with the surly assistance of Miss Audrey Crabtree), lasted a mere four and a half hours, with acceptance speeches ranging in length from a mere nod (Most Obstreperous Silence) to a full production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (Master of the Bard). In such an open field, every win was an upset, so read on to become upset yourself!

MOST UNDERSTOOD (a citation of failure): Matthew Freeman, Interview With the Author

MOST MISUNDERSTOOD: Ian W. Hill’s Hamlet

LEAST UNDERSTOOD: The Mercury Menifesto

LEAST MISUNDERSTOOD (a citation of failure): Compression of a Casualty/Fox(y) Friends

KEENEST CONTEMPT FOR THE AUDIENCE: Rockberry, The Last One-Man Show, or The Infinity Within

MOST POPULAR PENIS: Robert Honeywell, Every Play Ever Written

THE FIRST ANNUAL DANNY BOWES LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD OF UNCONVENTIONALLY PROFOUND THEATRE: Danny Bowes, This Is the New American Theatre

BEST-DRESSED NON-PARTICIPANT: Mikki Baloy

MOST ALCOHOLIC:
Art Wallace, Between the Legs of God

IRRADIANT PROWESS: Amanda Woodward, Lighting Designer, many shows

MOST OBSTREPEROUS SILENCE:
Nothing

MOST: The Children of Truffaut

HOTTEST, SEXIEST STAGE MANAGER FROM TUNISIA: Rasha Zamamiri, Every Play Ever Written

MOST NOMINATED ACTOR: Gyda Arber, Ian W. Hill’s Hamlet, Between the Legs of God

BEST USE OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: Commedia Dell’Artemisia

BEST USE OF “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”: Yudkowski Returns!

THE "OPPOSITE OF THEATRE" AWARD (for Avoiding Participation in All Pretentious Festival Shows): Alexis Sottile (accepted in the name of Theaters Against Theater)

MOST ORGANIC BLEND OF BRECHTIAN ACTING AND MEISNER TECHNIQUE:
Scott Eckert, The Children of Truffaut

DENSEST LANGUAGE BASED ON THE FORMULA OF A PICTURE BEING WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS: Macbeth Without Words

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE PRODUCTION: Three Angels Dancing on a Needle

MASTER OF THE BARD: Aaron Baker, Bryan Enk, Stacia French, Ian W. Hill’s Hamlet and Macbeth Without Words

KEENEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Lynn Berg, Audrey Crabtree, Moira Stone, Every Play Ever Written

Thursday, June 28, 2007

ACCLAMATION: EVERY PLAY EVER WRITTEN


Jason Zinoman is a man of discerning taste and wide-ranging intellect. His critical opinion was honed to an incisive cusp when he came to see the premiere of Every Play Ever Written, as presented by The Brick's Robert Honeywell on Friday last. The New York Times review can be read HERE, and you should wear sunglasses because it is glaringly positive.

Meanwhile, Mr. Honeywell took time off from circumnavigating his private island via unicorn-powered jet-ski to answer our questionnaire.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
Our show is not pretentious. Our show is an example of the hard work of theatrical exploration in action. Great things come to those who run hard and long for them.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Professor John E. Hankins at the University of Maine stunned me with his trenchant observations in the Pelican Shakespeare on the meaning of young love in Romeo & Juliet. As did Professor G. L. Anderson on his extraordinary analysis of the erotic rasa in Abhij├▒ana-Sakuntalam, composed by the amazing Classical Indian playwright Kalidasa between the first century B.C. and the fourth century A.D. But where would my understanding of theatre be without Professor C.A. Robinson, Jr’s moving description of the skene and all that emerged from behind its protective walls. This one’s for you, C.A.

The late Roland Barthes once wrote "For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture." Explicate.
I disagree with Mr. Barthes. My arms are relatively short and I act beautifully.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
We do not seek to confuse or opaque anyone in the audience. The audience is our friend, our co-traveler, our bunkmate, on this our journey through the ocean of theatre.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Michael Gardner’s Nothing. Please see our show to understand why. The divisions between us are now so deep as to be irreparable. I still don’t see how he could do this to me.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
I would thank you, the Audience, and my extraordinary cast of Actors (Audrey, Lynn & Moira) and my extraordinary stage manager and board op (Rasha), for using their love and support, their skill and dedication and unwavering teamwork, to take me deeper and yet me more deeply into the deep, dark, soothing essence of Theatre. I would not thank Michael Gardner or his show Nothing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

INTERROGATION (nth): MACBETH WITHOUT WORDS

In today’s questionnaire, our questions are presented to the individual in the best position to answer them the way they were meant to be answered. That’s right: I, Jeffrey Alexander Lewonczyk, Associate Artistic Director of The Brick, Artistic Director of Piper McKenzie Productions, Curator of the Pretentious Festival, and Director of Macbeth Without Words, am finally going to show you how it’s done. Rejoice and/or Despair! (Note our production photo at left. None of those people are me.)

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
For those of you who may not have been reading this blog with the regularity it requires, I was quoted in the New York Times recently, calling William Shakespeare a hack, a livestock molester, a flash-in-the-pan, and, most damingly, a closet Catholic. (Why anyone would want to take credit for his plays is beyond the really rather vast scope of my comprehension.) We are improving upon his unfortunate play Macbeth by doing it without the pedestrian, sophomoric “poetry” with which it has long been associated. Your average first-year creative-writing student has better self-editing skills than this long-dead solipsist.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
What influences we will confess to definitely do NOT include Shakespeare. Let’s admit to a glancing relationship with the greats of silent cinema (Griffith, Keaton, Pabst, von Stroheim, etc.) and throw in Busby Berkeley to make everyone scratch their heads in wonderment. (We will not cite anyone within theatre, because we despite theatre.) I will also list the names of those most influential to this production: ourselves. Fred Backus, Katie Brack, Hope Cartelli, Bryan Enk, Stacia French, Robert Pinnock, Robin Reed, Iracel Rivero, Ryan Holsopple, Qui Nguyen, Julianne Kroboth, James Bedell, and, of course, Jeffrey Alexander Lewonczyk.

The late Roland Barthes once wrote “For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.” Explicate.
In a show as gesture-heavy as ours, adequate arm length is a prerequisite that is thoroughly examined during the audition process. That being said, the correct explication of this quote is “Roland Barthes was smoking opium one night and scribbled something down, and the rest of us are falsely expected to find it interesting and relevant.”

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
We deny them the warm, comforting teat of language – is that not alienating enough?

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
We originally considered the speaking Hamlets as our enemies, but that would be jejeune. Instead, we settled upon The Mercury Menifesto, because A) their ethic of stillness contrasts sharply to our aesthetic of movement, and B) they have betrayed their presumptions of “silence” by doing a show in which they speak. Silver-faced, forked-tongued hypocrites!

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
Our acceptance speech will be to present the entire show for the audience, free of charge, on the stage at the awards ceremony. The only adequate way to pay tribute to those who would honor us is to give them more of what they so desperately need.

Friday, June 22, 2007

INTERROGATION (um, 19?): THE CHILDREN OF TRUFFAUT

In response to rumors that writer/director Eric Bland is actually the illegitimate son of French New Wave director Francois Truffaut, I say yes, yes he is. Whether he himself would say so is another story, but that is not a story I'm interested in. Meanwhile, his show, The Children of Truffaut, plays Sat 6/24, Fri 6/29 and Sat 6/30. Here are his answers to the freaking questions.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
Our show is inspired by the oeuvre of Andrei Tarkovsky, Federico Fellini, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Jean-Luc Godard, so, um…what was the question? …Yeah…

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Our work is nourished by the three G’s – Grotowski, Godard, and Griffin, Peter.
To expound on one—from Godard we honor the frisson, the tension created between self-awareness and adherence to naturalism or to the true emotion of a story however fractured—scenes where a character speaks directly into the camera as if being prodded by an outside force, or, even better, scenes where a character is being prodded, provoked, almost interviewed by another character on-screen.
These Godardian dialogues, perversely Socratic (both question-packed and aiming at the examined life), speak to the issues and worries of the day while betraying a want, a need the interviewer (often male) so often has with respect to the interviewee (often female). The dynamic is at once artificial yet formless, man-on-the-street yet dramatic—a blurring of fact and fiction so organic the blur is irrelevant.
Boo. (pause) Yah.

The late Roland Barthes once wrote “For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.” Explicate.
When did Roland pass? You’re serious?
Roland Barthes “Simpson” once saw a photograph of a family member and proceeded to write a smashing essay centered around love. Our show is about love.
But our show is also “about” theatre—what Ro-Ba was meditating on. It is “about theatre” not in terms of content but in terms of form. It has three dimensions: space, time, and character.
Simultaneously, text is extremely important to us, huge, if often indirect, in terms of conveying character and emotion. But gesture implies concern for the body below the chin as well, where one might find arms long enough for reaching.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
We plan on not inviting our audience. Which should alienate them.
In case they do come, however, we presently have a video projection planned, described in the script as having “a Rothko-esque splotch of orange or dark blue.”
Wait, we cut that I think. Are you alienated yet?

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Our sworn enemy is “Project 365.” We don’t understand why Susan Lori-Parks is doing this festival. Perhaps writing a play a day creates an image of pretension in some minds. I, however, can only see a lady smiling at me from a roofless red car on the cover of “American Theatre” magazine.
Update: We understand “Project 365” is no longer in the festival. We are sorry for our anger. It was sophomoric. We are now focusing our energy/jealously on “Macbeth Without Words.” Because the show has no words, they will not be able to say “Macbeth” in the theater, which would have thwarted all their efforts. So we must go on the offensive.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
Duncan Chalmers rocks. Stay clean, man, stay clean.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

INTERROGATION ([...]): Q1: THE BAD HAMLET

So just what is it that makes Q1 such a Bad Hamlet? Is it because the title is constructed in "urban" slang, creating a situation in which the modifier "bad" actually means exactly the opposite of what's expected? No - stop trying to insult me. This new production of what might well be an old version of an old play is being produced by Dillon/Liebman/Schafer in association with New World Theatre Company under the direction of Cynthia Dillon, and it opens TONIGHT at the one and only Brick. Jason Liebman, who portrays the titular Bad Hamlet, explains.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?.
What could be more pretentious than doing the First Quarto version of Hamlet, the only version of Shakespeare’s most oft-produced play - that no one ever deigns to do? Perhaps doing it with fake British accents while sipping martinis, or perhaps talking about doing it while in public so as to lure eavesdroppers into thinking how interesting and creative we must be. We’ve tried doing those things, but performing the play in the Pretentious Festival would make us feel far more self-satisfied.

Name some obscure influences on your work - extra points for unpronounceability.
We have no influences. Not even each other. We reinvent the wheel each time we take the stage. If not the wheel, the arts at least. We’re like the Walt Disney Corporation that way. Not influenced by it, just like it. We should also mention that Shakespeare’s First Quarto of Hamlet in no way influenced our performance of Shakespeare’s First Quarto of Hamlet, nor did Shakespeare. Nor Bacon.

The late Roland Barthes once wrote “For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.” Explicate.
That’s ridiculous. Did this Roland Barthes character ever write a Shakespeare play? I think not. “Speak the speech…nor do not saw the air with your hands…” seems pretty plain to me we’d better off as theatre artists without the distraction of arms.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
Audience? We’ve never noticed one before and we’re not about to start now. That doesn’t mean we don’t want you at our show. It just means we will only acknowledge you existentially (and not without a modicum of ennui).

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
We declare the entirety of the Pretentious Festival, it’s very existence, our sworn enemy. Ideologically, metaphorically, allegorically, acutely, obtusely, truly, madly and deeply. And that other production of Hamlet too (break legs Ian & Co.). To illustrate the disdain we bear, we will no longer refer to this as the Pretentious Festival, but rather the ?retentious Festival.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
“Ha.”

Friday, June 15, 2007

INTERROGATION (interrogation): COMPRESSION OF A CASUALTY/FOX(Y) FRIENDS

Sponsored By Nobody is an up-and-coming theatre company that somehow defies the laws of physics in its very name. Their double bill of found-text plays Compression of a Casualty and Fox(y) Friends opened the other night, and now a member from each cast weighs in on how special they are. Michael Criscuolo plays the Fox News morning anchor, Steve Doocy, in Fox(y) Friends (he would like viewers to note that he does not suffer from any of the afflictions Steve Doocy suffers from in the play; ladies, all of his organs are completely intact and functional). Sean O'Hagan is a founding company member of Sponsored By Nobody, and plays deceased American solider Joel L. Bertoldie in the play Compression of a Casualty.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
MC: The only pretentious thing about our show is how much we're allowed to revel in
our own FOX(y)-ness.
SO: Maybe because it deals with current events, and is not based on a Disney cartoon.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
MC: The obvious influences are Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, William Irwin Thompson, Jaron Lanier, and Jean Baudrillard. But, we also draw inspiration from a plethora of other pop culture sources including Laugh-In, the progressive rock band Genesis, the Home Shopping Network, and actor Peter Graves.
SO: Zydrunas Ilgaukus. Center for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The late Roland Barthes once wrote “For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.” Explicate.
MC: Roland Barthes' arms were obviously too short to box with God. Besides, didn't
he write Mythologies? Yeah, that book sucked.
SO: I agree. I have long arms, and my knuckles nearly scrape the ground when I walk.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
MC: What could possibly be alienating about our FOX(y)-ness? Audiences will swoon
over our intoxicating blend of phermones and charisma. Although, I must admit,
the numerous references to genitalia and erongenous zones may cause some viewers
to leap right on stage and jump our bones.
SO: I'm not just going to give it all away here.....

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
MC: I am ideologically opposed to Macbeth Without Words because there is nothing FOX(y) about Shakespeare without the language. Plus, having previously played the title role myself, I was shocked - SHOCKED! - that director Jeff Lewonczyk didn't call to engage my services. You've gotten yourself into a world of trouble now, mister.
SO: All of them, is there any other way ?

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
MC: Thanks. You have good taste.
SO: I refuse to believe that I am the most prententious out of a room of pretentious people. I demand a recount.

INTERROGATION ((%$&((): IAN W. HILL'S HAMLET

Though Ian W. Hill was recently referred to as "downtown's Orson Welles" by Paper Magazine, it would be more accurate to refer to Orson Welles as a kind of bicoastal Ian W. Hill of the past. That being said, Hill is doing what Welles never got off his ass to accomplish: he is directing, designing and starring in Ian W. Hill's Hamlet on the Brick stage! The show opened this past Tuesday, but there are three shows left. Read what he has to say for himself.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
It's a production of that chestnut-masterpiece by Billy Shakespeare, Hamlet, and I've had the nerve to design it, direct it, star in the title role, and put my name over it (like John Carpenter) and make it into Ian W. Hill's Hamlet. I've been working on it for 18 years, stewing it over a simmering flame like a good Texas chili, so you know it's just GOT to be incredibly overconsidered! I believe that the best way to honor and respect Shakespeare's dramatic work is to have no respect for any of the tradition that has formed around it, like barnacles. So I'm taking a power-sander to the arthropodic crust.


Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Some may be obscure, but most are simply, perhaps, unusual: Charles Marowitz, Josef Svovoda, Russell Lynes, David Halberstam (R.I.P.), John Berger, Joseph Cornell, Gore Vidal, William Peter Blatty, Steven Berkoff, Greil Marcus, Del Close, Joseph Stefano, Ingmar Bergman, Richard Dawkins, Dashiell Hammett, Johnny Rotten.

The late Roland Barthes once wrote “For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.” Explicate.
No matter how long your arms may be however, your arms too short to box with God, Barthes, so put THAT in your Umwelt and smoke it!

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
I have deliberately removed as many of the "comforting" traditions one would expect from a production of Hamlet as I could. Apart from that, I want people to be surprised, so no specifics.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
I oppose Nothing.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
"I deserve this."