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 Abhijñana-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."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

INTERROGATION (B12): COMMEDIA DELL'ARTEMISIA

Little can be said about the Stolen Chair Theatre Company aside from: give me back my damn chair! Director Jon Stancato, while infuriatingly mum on the subject of furniture theft, is most articulate on the subject of Commedia Dell'Artemisia, which opens this Sunday, June 17. (The damnedest thing was how comfortable it was... I had the blessed thing for years. It was like a member of the family - a soft, cushiony member of the family that had a few Scotch stains, sure, but that doesn't matter because after all it wasn't for the world but it was mine, dammit, MINE!)

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
While we feel that enumerating one's pretensions violates the very spirit of pretentiousness, one must be prepared to make sacrifices for one's art. Our show is pretentious for no fewer than 3 discrete reasons:
1) It is based entirely on obscure 1612 trial transcript for a case of "stupro violento" (violent defloration) that the Carravagioesque painter Orazio Gentileschi brought against the perspective specialist Agostino Tassi in the name of the former's daughter, Artemisia Gentileschi, claimed by art historian Mary Garrard to be the first great female painter.
2) The script is in rhyming couplets fashioned after the style of Jean Baptiste Poquelin (known, to some dullards, only by his stage name, Molière).
3) It is performed in the style of Commedia dell'Arte, the masked Italian professional comedy which descended from the Roman phallophores and was popularized in the 1500s.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Well, in addition to the obvious influences of Artemisia Gentileschi, her first biographer Mary Garrard, JBP Moliere, and his chief English translator Richard Wilbur, our work draws theatrical inspiration from Jacque Lecoq, Antonio Fava, Ariane Mnouchkine, Charles Ludlam, Mel Gordon, Pierre Louis Ducharte, Maurice Sand, Agnes Merlet, and Flaminio Scala, and theoretical inspiration from Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida (of course!), Jan Kott, Katherine Liepe-Levinson, Fredrika H. Jacobs, and John Berger. Our chief influence, however, has always been ourselves.

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 shortarms can never, never make a fine gesture." Explicate.
Too many artistes take the current artistic climate at face value, somehow naturalizing the stylistic idiosyncrasies that define it. These short-armed simpletons somehow believe that naturalism is actually natural and that realism is real. Stolen Chair uses its long arms (collectively, our company's arms span approximately 60 feet) to reach deep into the past and around the world to remind ourselves that style is always a choice.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
In choosing to create a comedy about rape, our project's very mission is alienation. The most confusing moments will not be found on stage, but will instead be found in the psychic drama that each audience member will experience while attempting to reconcile the cognitive dissonance their sick and inappropriate laughter has engendered.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
We will take on both Hamlets as our ideological enemies as the players' scenes therein bastardize the tradition of Commedia dell'Arte which we are dutifully reconstructing.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
To accept an award of any sort is to become a slave to the awarding institution's ideology, thereby precluding the Nietzschian re-valuation that all artists must face to embrace their Dionysian power.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

EXPOSURE ROUNDUP

Okay, this is just getting silly; there's so much out there that we can hardly be expected to keep up. We should really hire a secretary to keep track of all this, but would we really want to exploit the proletariat in that fashion? On the other hand, one should always have a retinue on hand to elevate one's stature. *sigh* I suppose it all depends on what genre of pretentiousness you subscribe to.
  • New York Magazine features Macbeth Without Words, Compression of a Casualty/Fox(y) Friends and Every Play Ever Written in its weekly theatrical Short List, both in print and online.
  • The Brooklyn Rail offers a much more comprehensive profile (blowhards!) in their print and online versions, under the nigh-insufferable title "Having Their Cake and Meaning It Too."
  • Nytheatre.comhas posted several more reviews of Pretentious shows, many of which are still running strong.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

INTERROGATION (-IV): TUNNEL VISION

Carla Stangenberg, writer/performer of Tunnel Vision (which emerges onto the Brick stage Thu 6/14) is a woman of few words - so few, in fact that she declined to answer several items on our questionnaire. How pretentious is that? The show, which is directed by the equally laconic Mercedes Murphy, also features video by the less than garrulous Katurah Hutcheson.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
This show is so high brow we have to pluck the main character's nose hairs not to mention the fact that one of our artists has a painting in The Philadelphia museum and a contributing cinematographer shot in Michael Moore's SICKO.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Napoleon Hill, Noam Chomsky, Pink Floyd, and Paramahansa Yogananda.

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.
[Declined to answer]

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
[Declined to answer]

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Three Angels Dancing On a Needle we were told we would be the only show using
Angels. Suffice to say ours are more precious.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
"Thank you to the pseudo psycho gurus who gave me the tools to visualize my way off the couch and got me in touch with the key. There are no more secrets left. Glory glory hallelujah."

Friday, June 8, 2007

EXPOSURE (CCC): THE NEW YORK TIMES

After an increasingly embarrassing spiral of wheedling, cajoling, and outright begging, I finally consented to grace the Times with an interview - but only on condition that it revolve around my own production of Macbeth Without Words. I was quoted in the company of such tyros as Jack O'Brien and Bartlett Sher, among others. Do you think what I said had the good manners to be uncontentious? Naive! Below is the excerpt featuring my musings; read the full article HERE and the accompanying data HERE.
For Jeff Lewonczyk, co-artistic director of the Brick Theater in Brooklyn, whose Pretentious Festival this month leans to the arch and self-referential (sample title: “Every Play Ever Written: A Distillation of the Essence of Theater”), there was at least one playwright he wanted to avoid.

“I’m sick to death of Shakespeare,” Mr. Lewonczyk said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’m sick of seeing other productions, and I’m sick of having him held up as the sole bar for quality.” (He had also been deterred by taking on “The Tempest” at a premature age, he added.)

But all it took was seeing a good “Comedy of Errors” for Shakespeare to infiltrate his creative thoughts, and soon Mr. Lewonczyk was directing a mute Macbeth and programming two other adaptations for his festival: “Ian W. Hill’s ‘Hamlet’ ” and “Q1: The Bad Hamlet,” based on the error-ridden first quarto of the play, reviled by most scholars.

Notice how I insult my fellow Shakespeare productions, and then pull back by allowing them to be mentioned in the space that should rightfully be MINE? This is called Machiavellianism, friends, and I advise you all to study it. Also observe the playwright's death mask in the photo above. He is dead, and will remain so indefinitely.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

INTERROGATION (XLI): THE MERCURY MENIFESTO

Rather than write my own preface, the staff of The Mercury Menifesto demanded I use their canned material to introduce their show. Here goes:

In the late 90s, after being fired from his job as Santa at Sak's Fifth Avenue due to an incident with Mayor Giuliani, John Del Signore began standing in the subway dressed in a silver unitard. Passers-by would crowd around and debate whether or not he was "real"; it was only when money was dropped into the bucket at his feet that he would "come to life". In due time, Del Signore and his collaborator Victor Wilde became known as The Mercury Men and their stationary artistry was sought after for events at such decadent venues as The New York Stock Exchange and a Mark-of-the-Beast-themed nightclub in Times Square called Bar Code.

Del Signore's Pretentious Festival show, The Mercury Menifesto, is presented as a motivational seminar for those who dream of one day performing in the subway but lack the right confidence and technique. Along the way, the twisted story of The Mercury Men will be vividly re-enacted during the seminar with the help of actor Jeff Seal, puppeteer Mary Kate Rix, video artist Mikella Millen and - live via satellite from L.A. - Victor Wilde.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
Just look at the title. What could be more pretentious than a manifesto? How about a MENifesto.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
I see where this is going - your next question's going to dredge up all that rubbish about how I "stole" my act from the gold guy in Times Square. Well, I refuse to be tried in the court of public opinion! Interview over.

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 suppose I have time for one or two more questions. Roland and I used to be quite close, as a matter of fact. Regrettably, we had a falling out when I spotted him leaving a matinee of Animal House and, grinning from ear to ear, rushing to buy a ticket for the very next screening! He tried to tell me he was researching a theory about the semiotics of toga parties. Well, I let him know what a disgraceful philistine he'd become, and he promptly belched in my face! Barthes was a vulgar fraud! What was the question?

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
Woah, woah, woah. Are you suggesting that the general public will be admitted into the theater? Absolutely not - I won't have them stinking up my production with their "popped corn" and their "heated dogs". My actors and puppets perform for a pristine, empty house - or no one! (Of course Industry and press are most welcome.)

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
My staff informs me there is another show set in the subway called "Tunnel Vision". While the title is certainly clever - if one goes in for that sort of thing - anyone who has ever taken the New York subway knows it's MY turf. That I wasn't even consulted by their production team was truly a slap in the face.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
I will accept my awards on behalf of all my marginalized silver brothers and sisters who are still - in 2007! - denied a seat at the table. The entertainment industry will come in for a particularly scathing indictment for their degrading portrayal of silver people as nothing more than bug-eyed, robotic street minstrels. It's high time we started seeing people of silver in roles as rock stars and crime-fighting aristocrats. (My headshot and resume available upon request.)

Photo by Haik Kocharian

Monday, June 4, 2007

EXHORTATION: THREE ANGELS DANCING ON A NEEDLE

Most of the production in this year's Festival originated in New York City; however, we have one entry that has come to us all the way from that bastion of American pretentiousness, Miami, FL. It is Three Angels Dancing on a Needle, written by Iranian expatriate author Assurbanipal Babilla and directed by the Peter Brook of Dade County, Michael Yawney. On the eve of the company's arrival in New York, it was revealed that they swept the theatre category of the Miami New Times Best Of Miami Awards. The valedictory blurbs are reproduced below. Show these Southerners some Northern hospitality and come out to support their show!

Best Acting Ensemble Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, Square Peg Productions
Assurbinipal Babilla called his play Three Angels Dancing on a Needle, but Merri Jo Pitassi, Odell Rivas, and Miriam Kulick did a lot more than dance on that needle — they got skewered on it. If you were lucky enough to be hanging out in the Deluxe Arts complex this past January, you'd have seen one of the most jaw-dropping displays of dramaturgical virtuosity to hit Florida in ... well, who knowsç Three Angels was a play that brooked no real comparisons. Playing characters of pornographic ugliness, reeking of spiritual decay and utter moral desperation, the three actors urged each other on to operatic heights of shame and degradation before small audiences who, by play's end, didn't know whether to clap, puke, or kill themselves. Maybe Three Angels wasn't the most fun way to spend a Friday night, but these three actors didn't give a shit: They were playing for higher stakes than that. What those stakes might have been, the rest of us are still trying to figure out.

Best Actor Odell Rivas in Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, Square Peg Productions
In Three Angels Rivas's part consisted primarily of a monologue called "God's Greatest Invention," in which his character confessed to being madly in lust — not love, just lust — with a man. The whole performance was one long scream of trembling, jittering need, with lots of big, declamatory statements and huge, sloppy emotions. But out of that tempest came a handful of lines that possessed a weird grace and some kind of defeated composure, summoned from who knows where. One of those lines was this: "You said you don't mind doing it with boys. Well—what in God's name keeps you from doing it with the boy in meç" There are more than six billion people on this earth, and most of them have asked that question in some form: Why not meç When Rivas asked, the bottomless dignity in his face and in his voice told their stories as much as his own. This year no other actor even came close.

Best Actress Miriam Kulick in Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, Square Peg Productions
The third actor to accost the audience in Assurbanipal Babilla's Three Angels Dancing on a Needle, Miriam appeared as the wife of a man who'd killed himself by jumping off a bridge. She hated him a lot, and his death had done little to soften her rage. For an interminable time — truly interminable; she could have held the stage for instants or epochs — she stood there, body and voice trembling, all her communicative faculties short-circuiting at their inability to process the vastness of her anger, tracing the shape of her hatred with horrific blind references to episodes which are never quite illuminated, allowing the audience's imagination to extrapolate at will and guiding that imagination into very weird terrain. Walking fifty-seven blocks to the morgue to identify her husband's remains, she danced all the way — like a whore, she said, just like her husband's mother. When she did the dance onstage, her hips were like war machines, and her face was like nothing you've ever seen before — a writhing tableaux of electric evil so pure that, if you encountered it in life, it would almost certainly be the last thing you ever saw. Even within the relative safety of the theater, audiences felt an actual, physical revulsion. One spectator said, "If she came any closer to my seat, I was going to scream," and that's about right. It's worth mentioning: According to all reports, Miriam Kulick is a very sweet lady when she's not scaring the hell out of you.

Best Theatrical Production Three Angels Dancing On a Needle, directed by Michael Yawney for Square Peg Productions
There was a handful of productions this year that will stick in audience's memories for a long time, but Three Angels is probably the only one that will have those audiences doubting their memories. Scant days after the fact, it already felt like a dream: the kinky Catholic-voodoo-gothic rituals that sandwiched the scenes; the brutal speed of the monologues; the unearthly poetry of the writing; the unholy passion it inspired in the cast; the purely holy passion with which the actors endowed exiled Iranian writer Assurbanipal Babilla's ugliest, most fevered musings not with dignity, but something dirtier and infinitely more pitiable. After the cast received its standing O's, people milled around, wanting to talk about what they'd seen but not sure what to say. Given a dozen or so weeks to think about it, they might have come up with something like this: By showing us three people who've moved beyond desperation into utter, predatory insanity, and by giving their voices a chance to be heard, Square Peg made it apparent that even monsters can be human. The unavoidable subtext was that if monsters are human, the rest of us must be, too.

EXULTATION

The first weekend of the Pretentious Festival has passed with supercilious fanfare, and there is much to share with our slavish admirers.

The Pretentious Opening Cabaret was stunning in its success. I myself hosted, accompanied only by an anthology of 20th-century French poetry and my own enviably plummy baritone. The featured acts (including a surprise appearance by Trav S.D. as Nihils, who I will never forgive for out pretentiousing me in front of everybody) all garnered new legions of followers, and much fermented beverage was imbibed.

The opening readings and performances of The Sophisticates, Dinner at Precisely Eight-Thirteen, This Is the New American Theatre, Between the Legs of God, and Intervew With the Author all played before teeming audiences of fawning minions, all of whom would not surrender their indelible impressions for all the opium in Afghanistan.

Dinner at Precisely Eight-Thirteen is the first show to receive a review from nytheatre.com - read Martin Denton's esteeming appraisal HERE.

Brick-a-Brac played before a sold-out house. Video augmentalist Jonathan Latiano shamed the audience with his opus Un film présomptueux et bon d'art de pensée dehors and its accompanying audience talkback, after which one will never view William Howard Taft or steamed fish the same way again. A late addition to the bill, Nate Lemoine presented Bestward Ho, a riff on a Samuel Beckett story that left the original looking tepid and compromised. Finally, we experience the premiere of Grand Opera at The Brick with Cardium Mechanicum's Mother Is Looking So Well Today, featuring four (professional) musicians, a cast of nearly thirty (!) , and honest-to-god cupcakes that the audience was allowed to eat afterwards. The spectacle bordered on being populist, but was saved at the last moment by the singing of the final lines in German. Nice save, guys.

Finally, late Sunday night brought The Impending Theatrical Blogging Event, which was one of the more metatheatrical events ever processed by the human brain. Bloggers both onsite and off blogged and had their postings and comments projected on a screen and read aloud by the redoubtable Berit Johnson. Part happening, part installation, part probing analysis of a rising theatrical subculture, part intellectual circle-jerk, and part happening, it will be written up in academic journals for years to come. You can read the full transcript (replete with inadvertent time-zone discrepancies, inside buffoonery, and cryptic missives from "THE AUDIENCE") at the official Blogging Event Blog.

Also of note is our inclusion (along with band Animal Collective and "film" Knocked Up) in Friday's edition of New York Magazine's Vulture. Though we find the Indieist's evaluation somewhat glib and hackneyed, we cannot deny its essential truth.

Friday, June 1, 2007

INAUGURATION

And so it begins. Long anticipated, little comprehended, the Pretentious Festival finally opens its doors to the sentient few this evening at 7pm. Gawking rubbernecks, dandified poseurs, and shrill, clingy art-groupies will no doubt be in attendance as well, but they hardly count.

The lineup of the Opening Night Cabaret, as delineated in several e-blasts and back-room cafe confabs features:

Tunnel Vision
The Mercury Menifesto
Commedia dell’Artemisia
Ian W. Hill's Hamlet
Macbeth Without Words
Every Play Ever Written
The Children of Truffaut

There have been so many Exposures that it's been impossible to keep up with all of their bounty, but suffice it to say that today brings us a suspiciously eager write-up in the ostensibly populist New York Post, and Brooklyn Courier-Life Publications (publisher of the weekly 24/7) feature an in-depth interview with the Festival's creators, especially me.

We will be too busy in the trenches of Art to blog as regularly over this, our opening weekend, as we'd like, but we hope to be back on the scene, in spirit at least, with Sunday's upcoming Impending Theatrical Blog Event. Meanwhile, check our schedule, and see some premieres this weekend, would you? You can't be seen, after all, without seeing.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

EXPOSURE (LVI): NYTheatrecast (II)

Apparently the forward-thinking visionaries at Nytheatre.com loved me so much last time that they wanted to hear more about the Pretentious Festival. I was, of course, unavailable for a second round (pretentiousness is three-fourths playing hard to get), so they turned to several of my compatriots instead, to wit: John DeVore (The Sophisticates), Bob Saietta (Yudkowski Returns), Art Wallace (Between the Legs of God) and Eric Bland (The Children of Truffaut). Shockingly, they are nearly as witty, erudite and incisive as myself in terms of delineating pretentiousness as an artistic strategy and validating the working methods of Independent Theatre. Leonard Jacobs (National Theatre Editor of Backstage and, as blogger, participant in Sunday's Impending Theatrical Blogging Event) moderates, and our own Trav S.D. (creator of Nihils) hosts. Listen to Them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

INTERROGATION (VIII): ROCKBERRY

Nick Jones is a playwright created by Jollyship the Whizbang, a well-regarded pirate puppet show featuring rock music. He penned Rockberry: The Last One-Man Show (a play), in what is arguably (if you don't count Shakespeare) the only production in The Pretentious Festival to be written by a fictional character. The all-too real Peter J. Cook directs. "Nick" recently answered our questionnaire regarding his show, which opens on Saturday June 9.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?

The difference between my show and the other shows is that where others try, I simply am. Everything that happens is part of an energy that is constantly flowing out of me. The music you hear, the lighting you see, the actors when they speak, and the way they move, this is all part of my dream which I hope to share with you. But it is not a dream in the sense of a fantasy. It is the dream of showing Life as it truly is on stage. Because that's never been done before, and that is why I am very proud of this work. I think it's my second favorite work in my oeuvre.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.

When I look back at different times in my life, they seem as if lived by different people. These other people are my heroes.

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 suppose because then they couldn't tap the ash off their cigarette into the ashtray on the coffeetable while still leaning back supinely in the armchair with a bored expression while giving up their time for interviews to buffoons.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
I will cite my favorite moment which we have cut from the production. A video camera feeding live to the giant projection screen pans slowly across the audience, then hones in on the fattest person in the room. We zoom in tight, then leave the camera on him while we start roasting weenies on stage. The show becomes entirely about food. We do not mention the audience member, nor acknowledge him, but leave his giant fat face on the screen for the remainder of the show. If he tries to change seats, there is a camera person to follow him. If he leaves the theater, we follow him out. The show is not about him, and it is not for him. It is about Questioning.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
I am sure to detest much at this festival. I have caught a distinct whiff of middlebrow from nearly every participant. And I should add: if you are spending your time reading this blog I truly pity you.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
I would keep it simple. I would just read a list of everyone who has ever doubted me, or looked like they were doubting me, and then burn the list, hold the trophy in the air, and laugh. And then spit on the ground, maybe. I think the strongest statements are the simplest.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

EXPOSURE (XXXII): The New York Times (II)

The Old Gray Lady Who Sits Behind Her Curtains and Clucks Ruefully at Her Inferior Neighbors As They Walk By on the Filthy Street Below has once again chosen to expel some ink in the direction of The Pretentious Festival, this time under the auspices of Charles "Generally Off-Broadway But Flexible" Isherwood. Link is HERE; the full text, with usual addenda, to follow:
  • And the most endearingly named theater smorgasbord of all [just try to keep this phrase out of our promotional materials] starts this week too. THE PRETENTIOUS FESTIVAL: THE MOST IMPORTANT THEATER FESTIVAL ON EARTH begins Friday at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It kicks off with a free evening, a cabaret preview of coming attractions [there is very little to mock or riff on in this accurately informative sentence]. Outraged at being called "egalitarian and unpretentious" by The Village Voice last year, the company's co-artistic director Michael Gardner has thrown down a gauntlet [literally; I was there], saying in a press release, "The Brick is as self-indulgent and impenetrable as the most oblique and experimental performance organizations in the city." Anyone want to demur? [A slightly better phrase would have been "Anyone care to demur?" Still and all, it's interesting that the Times has assumed that we take a pugnacious attitude towards defending our project, whereas most people who would choose to pick a fight with us about these matters will merely be silently scorned and largely ignored. Perhaps Mr. Isherwood stands to learn a thing or two about withering contempt. We offer lessons, and at very reasonable rates.]

ERRATA

The patriotic weekend left us too aloof to return to our keyboards and pen pretentious missives; as such, with the Festival opening a mere three days hence (!), we will work overtime to burn you out with extensive postings, the likes of which you have never seen before. We begin with a page of errata. All of the f0llowing is reflected at the Pretentious Festival’s home page, which is and will remain the most up-to-date authority on any and all matters pertaining to the Pretentious Festival. Check regularly, if only because it’s THE place to see and be seen…
  • It is with regrets that we announce the withdrawal of Project 365 from the Pretentious Festival roster, for personal reasons. We wish Miriam Daly all the best, and look forward to hosting her at The Brick at some point in the near future.
  • Simultaneous Reciprocal has changed its Brick presence from two performances mid-Festival to a one-time-only slot at Brick-a-Brac on Sun 6/3 at 7pm, so change your calendars accordingly.
  • The Sophisticates has downgraded its status from a full production to two exquisitely staged readings during its original two performance slots. More information to follow.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

EXPOSURE (XVII): ICELANDAIR

To prove that our pretentious credentials have spread worldwide, we turn your attention to this dispatch from the frozen-yet-steamy North. I particularly enjoy their willingness to join in our fundraising efforts, though as of this writing we have yet to see króna one.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

INTERROGATION (VII): MOTHER IS LOOKING SO WELL TODAY

Very few people have attempted to create Grand Opera in under one page; more probably should. So let us draw your attention to Cardium Mechanicum's Mother Is Looking So Well Today, a world-premiere performance appearing at the June 3 Brick-a-Brac that fits exactly that description, featuring music by Craig Lenzi, book and lyrics by Ed Valentine, and co-creation by Robin Reed. They recently called us from their analyst's couch to share some insights regarding their complex process.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
Mother says Grand Opera is the most pretentious of all Art Forms, but she tells us we should ingest it frequently because it's good for us, like Brussels Sprouts.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Mother says the only opera for her is Classic Opera, and she "doesn't go for any of this modern hoo-hah." We rather like Modern Opera ourselves – the works of Vanderschnoot and Schkrotum, in particular - but Mother is extremely fierce in her opinions and we're all terrified to contradict her. You have no idea what this woman is like.

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.
Mother doesn't like us to talk about arms because they remind her of hands, which make her very nervous. Mother says 'don't touch yourself.' That's very dirty and it makes Jesus cry.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
The final lines of the libretto are in German. That's right: German.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Mother would never be Caught Dead at a theater festival (and in BROOKLYN, no less!) – so declaring any show a 'mortal enemy' is beneath her. Still, she's so offended by the title Between the Legs of God that she's written one of those Letters she's so infamous for. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
Our acceptance speech? All we're allowed to say is: "We'd like to thank Our Mother."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ILLUSTRATION (V)

If this photo doesn't receive captions, I'll hold my breath until my hair turns blue...



Monday, May 21, 2007

INTERROGATION (VI): THE SOPHISTICATES

When not incarcerated, Sirius radio host John DeVore writes plays. What kind of plays? Sophisticated ones. Like The Sophisticates, which opens on June 1. We caught up with John at a recent parole hearing to find out what he has to say about the Pretentious process.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
It's not "pretentious." It is sincere. My play, The Sophisticates, is a profound work of art that nibbles at the nerve endings of the self-conscious, like a melancholy incubus with a liberal arts degree. While the other shows in the festival aspire to "pretentiousness," my show strives to molest the unknowable, and thereby, I hope to achieve artistic sublimity; I am happy to let my so-called "colleagues" rut in their collective creative feces, pining for validation from the press and the artistic elite, while I lurch, from the clutch of the metaphysical grave, to stroke the cheek of God

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Jerzy Grotowski. Michel Foucault. Michael Gardner.

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.
Long arms are important, especially if one's artistic cock is giraffe-like.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
Once you are all dead, you'll understand how brilliant I was and am.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Hamlet is for fuckwads. Poeta nascitur, non fit.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
"John DeVore ... has asked me to tell you, in a very long speech which I cannot share with you presently—because of time—but I will be glad to share with the press afterward—that he must... very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reason for this being... are the treatment of American Indians today by the theater industry… excuse me… and on stage, and also the recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that we will, in the future…our hearts and our understanding will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of John DeVore." – To be delivered by John DeVore's humble servant, RJ Tolan.

Friday, May 18, 2007

ILLUSTRATION (IV)

This one features Brick Associate Artistic Director Hope Cartelli, and is simply begging for a caption. Get to it, Pretentiouslings!



Thursday, May 17, 2007

INTERROGATION (V): BETWEEN THE LEGS OF GOD

Art Wallace, writer/director of Between the Legs of God (opening Sat 6/2) is many things to many people, but mostly he is the deity of Squark-7, a sub-molecular civilization located beneath the nail of his left index finger (so much for the title of his show). Taking a break from his duties, he deigns to answer our questions.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
I like to think of myself as a rebel, an outsider if you will. I go against the grain and don't find myself on the heavily trod path of mundanity. Like Fonzie I say, "Hey that's not cool," or "That is definitely not cool." I think you get my drift/meaning. So here I am, out here, avant, seeking the new and challenging not so easy way to reinvent the wheel... hell, I guess I just don't care what people say in their plastic worlds.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Billy Jack

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.
Could King Kong strike out Godzilla? Kong would have the advantage of a forty foot high strike zone. But it would be very narrow because of Godzilla's tiny arms. On the other hand, I can't picture Godzilla getting around on an inside low breaking ball. So I would say no, King Kong could not strike out Godzilla, and on top of that I would predict a walk to first or hit by pitch would be the most likely outcome of Kong's constant chin music. The only way I could be wrong is if Godzila would get excited and swing at the cheese.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
The video projection of an entirely different play on top of the live play including canned audience and bows.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Interview With an Author or whatever it is called. I met this guy Matt, and he said hello to me and he seemed like a nice enough guy. And then I realized he was evil and wanted all other shows to fail. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. For the sake of all the other Pretentious Fest participants, I am sure God wants me to hate/thwart him and his "show." There I said it, it's on!

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
I like to think of myself as a rebel, an outsider if you will. I go against the grain and don't find myself on the heavily trod path of mundanity. Like Fonzie I say, "Hey that's not cool," or "That is definitely not cool." I think you get my drift/meaning. So here I am, out here, avant, seeking the new and challenging not so easy way to reinvent the wheel... hell, I guess I just don't care what people say in their plastic worlds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

EXPOSURE (IV): TIME OUT BLOG

David Cote introduces the masses to our event at the Time Out blog today under the headline "For those who wouldn't be caught dead at a summer theater festival." Perhaps true, David, but we also wouldn't be caught dead presenting such OBVIOUS pretentious clip art as that which you used in your entry. Our own imagery is far too advanced for a populist rag like TONY.

EXPOSURE (II): NYTHEATRECAST

For those of you who have never heard me blather on at end about topics theatrical, your luck is about to change. I was recently interviewed by Michael Criscuolo for an installment of the Nytheatrecast, on the subject of The Pretentious Festival and various shows appertaining thereto. Listen to it HERE. Bonus points for anyone who can point out my embarrassing (and repeated) mispronunciation of a word crucial to the theme of one of the Festival shows!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ILLUSTRATION (III)

Ooh! Ooh! I figured it out! A CAPTION CONTEST! Like the New Yorker, only more pretentious. Take the time to leave a comment featuring your ideal caption for this photograph. The winner will receive a stuffy nod of approval and the right not to be made fun of during the next go-round.

Monday, May 14, 2007

EXPOSURE (I): THE NEW YORK TIMES

In Sunday's issue of the New York Times, there is a section called Summer Stages. Since The Pretentious Festival takes place in the summer, it is listed and expounded upon, thanks to one Jason Zinoman. We will reproduce the text (with addenda), but we also encourage you to visit it in its native habitat HERE.
  • THE PRETENTIOUS FESTIVAL Williamsburg, Brooklyn, June 1-30 [sic]. Does any company (outside of Les Freres Corbusier) market its shows better than the Brick Theater? [No.] This outfit understands the first rule of getting attention: You got to have a gimmick. [To refer to our creative decisions in this manner diminishes our unique achievement.] The last two summers have brought us the $ellout Festival and the Moral Values Festival, but this year they may have topped themselves [inevitably], ironically (I think) [wrong] embracing the black-turtleneck-wearing aesthete inside us all [actually, only in those of us who are special, talented and intelligent enough]. The shows include the self-explanatory “Macbeth Without Words”; “The Children of Truffaut,” about ’70s art house cinema; and John DeVore’s “Sophisticates,” about two self-important bloggers [a rare breed indeed]. In his press release, the co-artistic director, Michael Gardner, boasts, “The Brick is as self-indulgent and impenetrable as the most oblique and experimental performance organizations in the city.” [Duh.] Them’s fighting words. [See you in the ring, Mr. Zinoman!] (212) 352-3101, bricktheater.com/pretentious.

Friday, May 11, 2007

INTERROGATION (IV): INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR

Matthew Freeman is a writer, a blogger, a lover, a fighter, a graduate of the Sorbonne, a smoker, a joker, a midnight toker, a member of the American Enterprise Institute, and a blogger. He performs in his own Pretentious Festival show, Interview With the Author (directed by Kyle Ancowitz and produced by Blue Coyote Theatre Group), which opens on June 3rd. Here's what he has to say.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
Because it is about Matthew Freeman, who you've never heard of, and how important he is. That last part is true.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
The Sophetic Dialectic of Post Partumnus. Post Partumnus was a philosophist, whose bones are currently dated at having been living bones in or around 405 BC. He wrote: "Sophocles' work makes me piss my pants. He is whimsical and I prefer whimsy to other forms of humor." He wrote this in Greek. He also wrote stuff about the Peloponnesian War, and man, those words were something. He also was the first male Greek to carry a male child to term in his man-womb. The baby did not survive, but Post Partumnus's name lives on.

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.
Barthes! You cad! Get this man another Scotch. Neat, you imbecile! This is Roland Barthes!

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
I tend to explain to the audience, in every instant, exactly what is happening on the stage so they do not miss any of my literary allusions and brilliantly fractured narratives. In this way, they shall be taught what a play is. If this doesn't alienate them, then the only response left to them is gratefulness.

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

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
"Members of the Brick Theater... I accept this Award on behalf of the Working Class, who cannot speak for themselves; and my parents, who should never have gotten divorced."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

INTERROGATION (III): PROJECT 365

The lovely and talented Miriam Daly is Irving Berlin's great-great-niece. Every day she writes a song and takes a photo, and she will be presenting a special performance of these daily musical reveries under the rubric of Project 365 at the special Pretentious edition of Brick-a-Brac on Sunday, June 3. (More information, as always, is available at bricktheater.com/pretentious) She has submitted to our rigorous questioning with the following results:

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
I sing words like "cyclooxygenase." ("Ibuprofin" 11/09/06)

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Obviously, one of the influences on my work is the Xiuhpohualli. I'm very into time constraints and numbers, and the Xiuhpohualli was an Aztec calendar cycle constructed from a count of 365 days.

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.
Not only can an artiste with short arms never make a fine gesture, they also have a hard time reaching the pull-chain to turn on ceiling fans.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
I will alienate my audience by never singing a song about heartbreak or true love, but may instead sing about the history of maraschino cherries, or the inflatable Union Rat. My audience will also be alienated by the fact that they will get to choose some songs, but will have to choose BLINDLY - just by date, without seeing the picture or knowing the title.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Hermits like me don't just have one enemy - the entire outside world and all the other shows included in that world are full of craziness and chaos that we'd prefer to avoid.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
"Thank you. Without your support I would have never received this award. Which I guess makes me co-dependent. Which probably goes well with my OCD...."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

INTERROGATION (II): THIS IS THE NEW AMERICAN THEATRE

Reclusive billionaire and Brooklyn native Danny Bowes has written, with persecuted gadfly Tom X. Chao, a Pretentious Festival show that states its mission in its title: This Is the New American Theatre. Between bouts of crafting innovation out of shapeless matter using such tools as nudity and excessive self-absorption, Bowes has taken some time to answer our questionnaire. Here are his answers. (This Is the New American Theatre opens on Saturday, June 2nd - find out more about it at bricktheater.com/pretentious)

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
Two guys. One medium. Total reinvention.

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Since the whole point of the show is that it's the NEW American Theatre, the only influences on this show are Danny Bowes and Tom X. Chao. However, I still get the extra points because for some reason no one can pronounce "Bowes." (It's like "oh" not "ow" . . . "ow" is what happens when I smack you for mispronouncing my name.)

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.
Monsieur Barthes is, of course, being French, both pretentious and absolutely right. Both myself (Danny Bowes) and Tom X. Chao are in the neighborhood of six feet tall and, thus, have arms of sufficient length to make fine gestures, including the metaphoric extension of the middle finger to all theatrical traditions which preceded our much-needed reinvention of the medium.

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
We intend to alienate all theatergoers who like bad theater. Anyone looking for a boring show where the actors are unfunny and wear clothes is sure to be disappointed.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
All other shows in the Pretentious Festival are our sworn ideological enemies for they either: a) are based in theatrical traditions that are neither new nor American; b) fail to adhere to the principles governing the New American Theatre outlined in our show; c) have actresses who are less hot and less naked than ours; or d) suck.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
Gist? I'll give you the whole speech: "You're welcome."

Monday, May 7, 2007

ILLUMINATION

Today represents a landmark occasion in the history of broadcast media, the history of art, and humanity in general. For it is the day that we unveil the long-awaited, slaved-over, soon-to-be-reviled, epoch-making, sense-enhancing, mutually-exclusive, mystic-mongering, profoundly abstruse, esoterically erudite, hermetically obscure, adverbally adjectival opus THE PRETENTIOUS FILM: THE MOST PRETENTIOUS FILM ON EARTH. It is directed by Tom Gubernat, auteur of the ages. Don’t even pretend your life hasn’t been changed.

Friday, May 4, 2007

INTERROGATION (I): NIHILS

We recently posed a series of questions to all of our Pretentious shows, so you, the readers, can get an idea how to mentally prepare yourselves for the artistic onslaught they will endeavor to provide. The following responses were provided by the estimable Mr. Trav S.D., author of the vaudeville history No Applause, Just Throw Money and the inventor of quoits. His show Nihils will open on June 16.

What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
To paraphrase the blind lounge singer in Airport ’77, pretentiousness is “in the eyes of the beholder.” The Latin root from which the word springs means literally “holding [something] in front of oneself.” In a sense, all speech, all representation, is a similar feint, or dodge – a “shield” of (non)communication behind which to hide. Falsity and mask are the nature of the beast. The pretentiousness (or unpretentiousness… tentiousness?) of the current work is a matter of degree, then, not of kind. To grossly misrepresent a remark of Bertrand Russell’s: “If I am not pretentious…what am I?’

Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Baudrillard, Foucault, Bazin, Kant, Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Becket, T.S. Elliot, the Beats, Jim Morrison, Gertrude Stein, Sartre, Kierkegard, Nietzsche, Byron, Blake, Heidegger, Artaud, Adolphe Appia, Marshall McLuhan, Christian Metz, Stephen Hawking, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Robert Oppenheimer, Lenny Bruce, the Velvet Underground, Jerry Lewis, Brecht & Max Reinhardt.

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.
Theatre must not only address man’s primal nature, but his primate nature. Before man was pretensile, he was prehensile. The first theatrical audiences were austrolopithicenes, circa one million B.C. Savannah-dwellers mainly, they would periodically return to their Edenic mother, the arboreal habitat from which they sprang. Ensconced in the canopy, they would munch fruit and watch specialized members of their community enact rude frolics not substantially different from modern rock concerts, wrestling matches, and situation comedies. The long arms to which Barthes refers apply not so much to the performer as to the audience, who must rely on these appendages to ascend and navigate the branches…and (being prelingual) gesticulate their approval or disapproval of the performance. (This, too, some speculate, is the origin of clapping. Thalidomide babies and others can attest – when your arms are too short, you cannot clap.)

In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
If I have not already alienated the audience with my last sentence, then there is nowhere to go but down. As for the performance, I don’t wish to tip my hand too much. Suffice it to say that the entire piece is composed of “cells” or “units” of alienation, based upon the principle of the Hegelian dialectic. From first to last, from Alpha to Omega, there is no theatrical moment within the piece that does not fold in against itself, in implied or self-evident replication of the Curved Space Theory.

Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Myself. Those who see the piece will be the first to agree – surely I am my own worst enemy.

Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
I intend to send an American Indian in my stead, who will give a brief speech about the historical mistreatment of his people.