Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fluffy but fun

Wilson, Sandy. The Boyfriend. dir. Julie Andrews. Orange County Performing Arts Center.

This is a 2005 production of a 1950s musical about the 1920s. Talk about fun with historical displacement! Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut in The Boyfriend in 1954. She directed this version for the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, from which it began a national tour. The show itself was fun and interesting, and though it had some problems, overall I realy enjoyed it. It was cute and sweet, and the music was upbeat and really stuck in your head.

The fact that Andrews, who played the female lead, directed the show, seemed evident in this production. The moment that that character, Polly, appeared on stage, the whole thing seemed bright and cute and really made sense. Jessica Grové as Polly gave a particularly excellent performance. She managed to be a sweet, innocent ingenue without being obnoxious about it. I found her perfectly charming. When she wasn't around, things felt a little off. That might have something to do with the way the play is written, but to me the ensemble was confusing; they were neither full and unique characters, nor a unified group of backup dancers. They were Polly's schoolgirl friends and their boyfriends, and two of the girls had their own songs, but nothing distinguished the others from each other and it felt kind of weird.

Another problem with this production was the set, which was adorable and cartoony and bright and fun, but it felt like it was trying to fill up a stage that was too large. The result of this strategic space-wasting was that the whole production felt too small for such a big space and especially such a large audience. But really, this is a fairly good production of a silly, fluffy little version of the 1920s. While it would never qualify as great theater, it was quite diverting and very pleasant and I encourage anyone to see it, especially if you're in the mood for a pretty, well-paced escapist fantasy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

America's Next Top Lesbian: Follow-up Interviews

Hot! Out Wesleyan Lesbian Kim Stolz talks to The Village Voice, The Advocate, and about her experience on America's Next Top Model. I'll gladly admit that I only watched the show because of her and that I stopped watching the moment she was eliminated. For her sake, and the joy of seeing a tomboyish, almost butch, girl on TV, I put up with the atrocity of all of those other girls, most of whom were particularly idiotic, and the inanity of listening to Tyra Banks talk. While Kim's not always polished, she sports good solid just-out-of -college liberal politics and a general intelligence that makes her interesting to watch. I can't wait to see what she's up to next

What I'm doing for my Winter Break:

A Collection of Random Ramblings

I hadn't been reading blogs for most of last quarter, but now that winter break has set in, I've become completely nocturnal and have been catching up on the wit and wisdom out there in the blogoshpere. I'll share some of my favorites among the things I have learned:

A lovely new find is Beth Spotswood, who amused me with her review of the Brokeback Mountain viewing experience, and delighted me by saying 'hi' in the comments to my post. When I subscribed to her feed, my newsreader for some unknown reason downloaded the last MILLION posts, and I actually read them all. The process was suprisingly fun, and I highly recommend her.

Violet Blue recently posted her list of The Top 10 Sexiest Geeks of 2005. The whole thing is lovely, and I do indeed love sexy geeks, but my favorite discovery was Annalee Newitz. Not only is this a totally cute picture, but I had no idea she was anything other than a standard aspiring academic. How cool is it that one of the people whose book I read for class last year actually understands and writes about technology. Based on her response to King Kong, I'm totally excited to read her forthcoming book, Pretend We're Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture. I love it when academics become cool writers.

The Hammer museum here in LA, which is currently displaying the first half of the Masters of American Comics exhibit (MOCA is doing the later half), will be putting on a puppet rock opera in February. Awesome.

What's even cooler than a puppet rock opera? Zombie super hero comics! Marvel asks one of the great questions of our age, positing: "an alien virus has mutated all of the world’s greatest super heroes into flesh-eating monsters! It took them only hours to destroy life as we know it—but what happens when they run out of humans to eat?!?" We'll see if they manage to develop a story that goes beyond a cool premise, but I'm curious.

Monday, December 19, 2005

John Waters and Peaches

A John Waters Christmas. UCLA Live. Royce Hall. 12/17/05.

I went to this event expecting it to be fabulous, but not really knowing what it would be like exactly. If John Waters was involved, it was bound to be interesting at least.

It began with a good long opening performance by Peaches, who completely rocked. It was a weird show, because the audience was in no way warmed up or prepared for a crazy sextastic punk rock extravaganza. Peaches herself was completely awesome and put on a rockin' show, but she should have been performing in a slightly smaller venue with more alcohol and fewer seats. I totally want to go see a more intimate show of hers sometime soon. Rumor has it she has been showing up/performing at random bars/clubs throughout LA all week, which is awesome. The absolute best thing about her performance, which was generally fabulous, was the fact that she perfomed a whole song about the Hanky Code complete with male and female topless backup dancers. I love that such a song exists and I must own it! For the last song, "Fuck the Pain Away," the audience rushed the stage and acted like it was a real rock concert. Peaches Rocks!

The John Waters part of the show was one big Christmas-themed stand up routine. He was absolutely hilarious and totally engaging and generally wonderful. It was a riff on the things he would like to recieve as Christmas presesnts (obscure books and DVDs) and reminiscing about being poor and stealing things around Christmas time. Because really, what's more Christmassy than stealing? He even did a Q&A session at the end, which I think no one was expecting and yet he managed to answer even the most inane questions with interesting stories and comments.

This whole event was strange and wonderful and I totally loved it. I'm so glad I managed to buy tickets to this event. Even the audience was a wonderful collection of young, crazy Peaches fans and sometimes older but no less crazy John Waters fans. There were men in skirts and eyeliner, all sorts of cute queer women to drool over, and in general some of the most fabulous clothing I have ever seen. There's just no way to express how much I want to own a purple velvet top hat.

P.S. Defamer linked to this extremely elaborate Hanky Code guide which makes me wonder if it's comfortable to walk around with a teddy bear in your back pocket?

Gay Cowboy Roundup

I actually managed to get to Brokeback Mountain not long after it opened. I would have gone opening weekend, except that was completely SOLD OUT because it was only playing in ONE THEATER! What were they thinking?!? This is LA; we're not afraid of gay cowboys!

As for my own review, I loved the movie. I thought it was beautiful and devastating. I feel that it was extremely well done on all sides. I'm not sure how I feel about it politically, what with the whole 'we're manly, manly men' aesthetic in which Heath Ledger is a Man of Few Words who suffers his internalized homophobia in silence. But it's a beautiful story adapted with skill and compassion, and for that I love and respect it very much. And yes, I was sobbing.

I've recently read some great commentary on the movie, though, and that's what I want to share. First, read Beth Spotswood report on the experience of seeing the movie in San Francisco. It's delightful. And then, Susie Bright takes on the conservatives and supports Brokeback Mountain as a political statement. Both of these things make me very happy.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Schulman Storm

I haven't been reading the blogs recently, and boy have I missed out! Apparently, there was quite a buzz about "Who's Afriad of Sarah Schulman," a (10/23) article by Jesse Green in the New York Times about Sarah Schulman. Schulman is a fantastic lesbian writer. Her collection of articles, My American History is a wonderful documentation of 1980s in New York with an emphasis on the AIDS crisis and the early days of ACT UP. I recently read three of her early novels, now out of print, and I absolutely loved them. Unfortunately, her career as a playwright has been less successful thus far.

Schulman herself often comes across as the stereotypical 'angry lesbian.' She is in very many ways a squeaky wheel, not afraid to speak out, loudly, when she feels injustice. I suspect even the fact that there is an angry lesbian stereotype and that I reference it and repeat it, thus giving it a little more power, is something to which she might object.

Anyway, Jill Dolan wrote a response taking apart the basic prejudices inherent in the article, particularly the tendency in the article to domesticize Schulman, emphazing her home and generally depicting her as 'reformed' and 'tamed' to fit in with the uptown off-Broadway scene. Apparently, Schulman complained to Dolan about the characterization of the work and her personality, causing Dolan to write a second post questioning her own obligations and commitments as a lesbian feminist critic.

Personally, I find the whole thing fascinating. I love Schulman's writing, especially her polemical pieces. She's brilliant when she's angry, and the world needs people to stand up and say 'this isn't right' loudly and frequently. I'm dying to read/see Schulman's play, Carson McCullers: Historically Inaccurate, which sounds fascinating despite its mediocre reviews, but is tragically unpublished. I would love to see a theatrical adaptation of some of her caricatures of the downtown performance art scene from the early '80s in Girls, Visions, and Everything. Though she repeats some critiques of Schulman without firsthand knowledge, I think the main thrust of Dolan's analysis is right on, and important. What I think is most disturbing and offensive about the Green article, though, it the fact that it takes to page two on the online article to even mention the cause of the article, Schulman's new play. While clearly this isn't a review, drawing attention to the play or the trajectory Schulman's career would be much more interesting than this strange indictment of Schulman's personality. And I'm kind of offended that he calls the WOW Cafe a "downtown dive"; that really misses the point and the importance as a venue and a movement. It's a part of the marginalization of lesbian writiers and performers against which Schulman argues. I recently had a lovely conversation with poet Ami Mattison (who seems to be similarly radical and justifiably angry) about Schulman, and she told me to take all of the critiques of Schulman's personality with a grain of salt. Schulman may be loud, but she might also be right. I don't know her personally, and honestly I'd rather know more about her work, and maybe even have a chance to see it, than worry about whether or not she's learning to play nicely with the powers that be in midsize theater. I'm glad she's getting attention, though. One way or another, I think recognition is a good thing. Cheers to Playwrights' Horizon for producing Manic Flight Reaction. I wish I could have seen it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Yes, it was a Bloody Mess

Bloody Mess. Forced Entertainment. Freud Playhouse. UCLA Live. 12/4/05.

Forced Entertainment is apparently the UK's answer to The Wooster Group. I hear that they have several digital media performances and shows that integrate film. Bloody Mess wasn't one of those, but it was fascinating nonetheless. It started out with a hilarious clown act between two men, which culminated in the distruction of innocent mismatched chairs of the sort that belong in low budget blackbox theaters. This bit started the audience off laughing and set the spirit and the breakneck pace of the whole show.

Bloody Mess was a delightfully critical deconstruction of the business and labor of theater, moving back and forth between the spectacle of pretentious postmodern performance by the likes of Robert Wilson and the Wooster Group and the excessive effects of a rock concert. While a clever critique, the performance was also entertainment all its own, perfectly capable of captivating an audience for two and a half hours without intermission. It was a crazy, wacky experience that left me emotionally drained and a bit exhausted.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ooh! Art! What else does it do?

So this is one of those things I meant to post ages ago. A month ago (Nov. 5), I went to The ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives for the opening of the WEAR ME OUT exhibit. It's a weird selction of stuff, but a super fun exhibit and I totally enjoyed attending its opening. I highly recommend that you go by and check it out.

The funny thing about this exhibit is that, while it doesn't say so anywhere, it's mostly a collection of clothing designed by lesbians and queer women and art made up from such clothing. There are several fashion photographs and and art inspired by queer/lesbian fashion. Everything item was different, and usually a bit of a suprise and a few items, like some random shoes, were almost inexplicable and yet cool.

The critique I could give of this exhibit would be that gay men and transfolk are underrepresented, especially considering their place in mainstream fashion. But I suppose that's the point; this is about the unrecognized and uncelebrated sides of queer fashion. Despite its eccentricity, the collection is fascinating and I had a wonderful time wandering through the exhibit. This exhibit runs through Jan. 29th, so enjoy it while you have the chance. You'll probably never see any collection remotely similar.

Following on the theme of cool art exhibits, there's an exhibit that closes on Saturday (Dec. 3) of the comic art of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez at the Pasadena City College Art Gallery. Personally, I love the Love & Rockets graphic novels. They're beautiful and weird and intense and the Locas series is the sweetest craziest punk rock lesbian relationship/friendship I've seen in graphic novel form. (via Flog).

And one more gallery exhibit of art originally intended for some purpose other than gallery display... Porn! Yes, it's an exhibit of gay male erotic art entitled Erotic Pioneers Past and Present that features the work of Tom of Finland, Rick Castro, and Wilhelm von Gloeden among others. Runs through Feb. 3 at the Antebellum Gallery, which claims, "Specializing in fringe, fetish, and erotic art, Antebellum to feature artists and work that ranges from traditional to the outrageous. Antebellum will host original curated exhibits, new artists, film screenings, tea salons, readings, forums, and performances." This seems to be the gallery's opening event, and it doesn't seem to even have a website of its own yet; it's all from links off of I think I'm glad that LA has/will have a gallery that primarily displays erotic art. How crazy is that? Crazy, but kinda cool.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cool Reasons to go to Museums

John Waters Film Festival! Super cool. In conjunction with the John Waters: Change of Life exhibit at the Orange County Museum of Art. This isn't a festival of John Waters films (they apparently did that part in the month of November), but it's a series of films selected by John Waters, presumably for their '50s and '60s campiness. It makes me happy that John Waters is being exhibited in an art museum, especially in OC. Pretty awesome.

I'd also love to see the Masters of American Comics exhibit at the MOCA.

Tomorrow is also First Fridays at the Natural History Museum with Jared Diamond talking about the environment and climate change, but sadly, it is sold out.

Next week, Fridays off the 405 at the Getty involves salsa lessons, which is pretty cool.

Also Friday the 9th, the LACMA is showing a preview of Match Point, Woody Allen's new film starring Scarlett Johansson. And speaking of LACMA film screenings, apparently they show crazy old movies there on Tuesdays at 1pm. Up next: Tennessee William's Night of the Iguana starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton. Hot. I wonder who goes to these on Tuesday afternoons? Probably old people, but it's pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In Need Of Queer Eye for the Straight Musical

The Drowsy Chaperone. The Ahmanson Theatre. 11/27/05.

The LA Times loved it. Personally, I'd have to say that The Drowsy Chaperone was startlingly deficient on gay people. Apparently, for some that's a good thing, as the Times review asserts ""Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw (of Broadway's "Spamalot") gives all the performers a long leash when it comes to chewing scenery and winking at the audience, but he rarely allows them to descend into camp." For me, a good sense of camp was exactly what this musical was lacking.

For me, the biggest problem was Bob Martin as the Man in Chair. He played his role well, but far too heterosexually. The role was just a little too painful and pathetic, talking too much about how he was in the closet. This was the abject gay man at its most depressing, played by a very clearly straight man who doesn't actually understand or love the character. This should be a man who celebrates musicals as an expression of his queerness, whether he is open about that queerness or not. There needs to be more love. I'd love to see Nathan Lane go for it, over the top and campy, with passion and love. Martin is one of the creators of the musical, so one could argue that his is the most 'authentic' performance possible. The role was, after all, written for him. And one can assume that yes, he does love the show. But he needs to love and understand the character more so that it's not an uncomfortable travesty of a gay man.

Similarly, I thought Beth Leavel as the Drowsy Chaperone was a little too serious and not quite enough aging diva. It's an astounding role, and it could be wonderful, but it wasn't quite there yet. She should be doing Bette Davis in All About Eve, a little past her prime and severely threatened by the young ingenue. While she had her moments, for the most part she was forgettable. This might have to do more with the part than the peformance, though.

The most fabulous performances for me, personally, were Edward Hibbert (who I saw as Oscar Wilde in Gross Indecency) as Underling, the butler. He was beautifully dry (and all wet) and just the right combination of campy and straight man. I wonder what he would do with the role of Man in Chair? Also, Dannny Burstein as Adolpho the Latin Lover was hilarious and huge and campy and that was wonderful. Eddie Korbich as George, the best friend, was great as well. His dancing was excellent and his character animated. I would have loved to see more of him in this show.

Sutton Foster as Jane, the leading lady, was good. She did her one big show-stopping number excellently, and the most interesting thing about her performance is the intertextuality it creates with her role as Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, the kind of role that this musical was spoofing. She's a quirky and interesting performer, and I'm not sure exactly how I feel about her, but I am fascinated.

The other major flaw in this production, I thought, was in Troy Britton Johnson as Robert, the leading man. He couldn't really dance, he was too stiff, and in general completely uncompelling. Which could be read as a commentary on the vacuity of the leading men in some of these shows, but I would rather have seen a good spoof of Fred Astaire than his muddled stiffness.

Right now, this musical rather reminds me of a show that I worked on in high school, a musical spoof of Agatha Christie mysteries called Something's Afoot. That, like this, was a good, fun show but not quite Broadway-quality. I think it could be revised into something Broadway-ready, but I'm not sure it's quite there yet. I'd put it though another round of revisions or give the cast some leeway to rework it a bit. Don't be afraid of being campy; in musicals, that's a good thing.

A lesbian musical?!?

When I hear that there's something out billing itself "The Lesbian Musical," many things go through my head. One of them is certainly, "This I've got to see!" But apparently it's true, and here in LA. So yes, I will be going to see The Breakup Notebook: The Lesbian Musical.

I'm already dubious about the tag line "...because everyone deserves a love song." Ugh. Also, one of the cast members actually made the first line of her bio ""___ is not a lesbian but is thrilled to be playing one onstage." Anyone that weirdly compelled to assert her heterosexuality is pretty lame in my book. But there are some good omens, too. The Musical Director apparently worked on Reefer Madness when it was here in LA and I saw it in a little NoHo theater.

But anyway, I must see it. Previews start Dec. 2 and it opens Dec. 10 for a "limited engagement" of unspecified length. I don't know when, but it's definitely on the agenda.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ditch the comparisons

Ditch. Akbar. 11/19/05.

Local performance artist Kristina Wong performed numbers from her show, Miss Saigon with the Wind, at DITCH on Saturday. I've long meant to see Wong perform, and I'm glad I had this opportunity, although it's no substitute for an actual show. This particular space creates the strangest performance dynamic ever, because it's a bar, not a stage. There's no platform or real stage space to perform on, so the audience is packed in close around the performer on the dance floor. It's hard to see, and hot and crowded and often loud. Which made Wong's performance of the opening scene of Miss Saigon, in which she played all of the prostitutes (and soldiers) in the Saigon bar, incredibly strange and personal. While it's certainly not an ideal venue, it creates a fascinating performer/audience relationship. Wong's screetchy rendition of the (fairly vile) love ballad from Miss Saigon was hilarious as she switched between a saccharine female voice and an exaggeratedly deep masculine voice. I'm going to have to see more of Wong's performance before I can render judgement, but I must admit I'm curious and will try to get out to see a real show of hers soon.

DITCH at Akbar was superfun; the difference in events between DITCH at Zen Sushi and Ditch at AKBAR is huge. At Zen Sushi, there's a decent stage space and we can actually see and hear the performers and actually pay attention. At Zen Sushi, I've been able to carry on conversations better. But at Akbar, there's something to be said about the crushing crowd and loud music - I danced for hours and had an amazing time! Both times I've been to DITCH at Akbar (actually the first time more than the second), I've been with a smoker, so part of the event becomes going outside for fresh air and a cigarette, where there's more conversation and more meeting people and just standing on the street corner talking and taking a break from the heat and the noise, which is important with these events I think. It's one of the times I'm kind of glad to know people who smoke. The whole secondhand smoke thing makes me feel comfortable, it reminds me of friends of mine from college, pubs in London, and all sorts of other good associations with a bad smell. While they're very different experiences, both DITCH venues are amazing and wonderful in their own ways.

Something to be Thankful for

Trans/giving. 11/19/2005. Plummer Park, West Hollywood. 11/20/2005. UCLA.

This Trans/giving was, I believe, even better than those I have previously attended. Trans/giving was celebrating its second birthday and in doing so, they gathered a pretty great lineup of talent. I love the mix of local talent show and professional artists, but this group seemed especially well put-together Of course, it certainly doesn't hurt that one of the performers was Turner Schofield, my personal favorite performance artist.

Spoken word artist Ami Mattison came from Detroit to perform at this event, and her performance was incredibly powerful. She has a beautiful, powerful speaking style that can really electrify a room. Her pieces are wonderfully political and appropriately angry. They are brilliant pieces of writing delivered compellingly. Personally, I was distracted and maybe the tiniest bit obsessed with her hands, which she used well in general, but often held just in front of her pelvis, drawing attention to her crotch. I spent a lot of time during the performance thinking about what that symbolized, but also not wanting to think about anything but what she was saying, which was great. She has a voice and a style that I would gladly listen to all day long. She was selling her CD, but as far as I can tell she doesn't seem to have an up-to-date website of her own for me to recommend. But if you have a chance to see her, check her out.

Turner Schofield remains the up-and-coming performance artist that everyone must see. He's got all of the skill and talent of the perfomers of a previous generation that I love so much, Holly Hughes or Tim Miller or Peggy Shaw, and he's sweet and committed and accessible. On Saturday night, he performed a piece of Debutante Balls, which I have seen at least 3 times now and I never get sick of it. It is completely compelling and feels fresh every time. He's open and honest with an amazing storytelling quality. His comic timing is perfect, his inflections are beautiful, and he can win over almost any audience. Write your local college or performance space and encourage them to book him immediately.

On Sunday, Turner perfomed a piece fromUnderground Transit, which I had never seen before. This piece felt more like poetry and less like storytelling, and I just wanted to drown in the words sometimes. This piece felt younger somehow, less mature. It was fascinating and extremely well done, but somehow didn't blow me away the way Debutante Balls does every time. In the space of 15 minutes or so, he did 3 full costume changes, sang two songs, and talked about what seemed like a million different things. It was a crazy, brilliant, beautiful rainbow whirlwind. It felt like he was bursting with things that had to be talked about and they came out in no particular order exploding in every direction, so sometimes it was hard for his audience to follow. There were some moments I loved, but they seemed fragmented, too short, out of context. I love his Joe Androgynous, frat boy look with yellow pants and matching visor (do frat boys ever really match?) where he asks "Does this boy look like he's got a feminist consciousness?" and implicitly asks "Is this what I might have become?" It's a wonderful moment, but I'm not sure why or how we got from the suit to the frat boy look. I think my problem is that I didn't get the framing story; however tenuous or stream of consciousness it might be, I needed something more to bring these selections and personas together. What do these ideas have in common? What does the subway metaphor have to do with it all? Who was the woman in the red dress? It definitely made me want to see the whole show and find out.

The other highlight of this Trans/giving was Stephan Pennington on banjo (with Phil Gentry as backup guitarist). They performed a fabulous set that spanned genres from bluegrass to lesbian folk music to rock and roll. Stephan's vocals on "Wabash Cannonball" and the Elvis and George Michael songs were especially provokative and nearly inspired girls to swoon in the aisles. Their set was quite sexy and incredibly enjoyable to watch.

On Sunday, ryka aoli de la cruz performed an intricate and incredibly intense piece of poetry. It was an absolutely beautiful performance reaching over the gap from poetry to performance art. In this piece, cruz shared some things that were so incredibly personal that I as an audience member felt vulnerable for her.

It was an amazing set of performers at this Trans/giving and I am very much grateful that such an event exists, frequently bringing in amazingly talented out of town guest performers. This particular edition of the event was especially powerful and I very much appreciate everyone's hard work and dedication to making it happen.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Fiction and Technology

A thought on the frequent difficulty of accomodating contemporary technology into mainstream fiction. I'm not talking about SciFi here, I'm talking about the everyday stories, the classic plots, adapting to the availabilty of technology.

In many ways, Sarah Schulman was brilliantly presceint in saying, "Everything was getting computerized by the summer of '84, and it was happening so fast, a social critic could hardly keep up with it. Lila was having a hard time building a plot around a WANG word processor" (Schulman 250).

On the plane from Toronto, I was so mentally fried that I succombed to the temptation to watch the in-flight movie, Must Love Dogs. I love Diane Lane and I love John Cussak, so this movie did have some things going for it. But awareness of technology was not one of them. It was an entire movie about internet dating, and yet none of the characters seemed to own a cell phone. Not once or even twice but several times the plot revolved entirely around people showing up at other people's houses without calling first; who does that? It seems unbearably rude to me. The people writing, directing, and performing in these movies must know that this technology exists, why can't they figure out how to use it properly? Get around the awkwardness and the tired old plot devices and think about the way we live now!

Lesbians do Keroac

Schulman, Sarah. Girls, Visions, and Everything. In Triangle Classics: The Sophie Horowitz Story; Girls, Visions and Everything; After Dolores. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1997.

"Lila Futuransky always knew she was an outlaw, but she could never figure out which one."

This is a book I picked up cheap because someone told me I should know about Sarah Schulman's dyke noir phase. In reading it, I am consistently amazed at Schulman's intelligence and prescience. While I would generally be dubious about anyone discussing 'the lesbian experience' in the '80s, I have to love Schulman's class and race politics. I find this rumination on Jack Keroac's On the Road set in the lesbian performance art community in New York fascinating. Her fictionalized Kitch-Inn seems like the best depiction of the WOW Cafe that I've ever read, complete with a hilariously successful 'Worst Performance Festival' and a crazy over night trash aesthetic. Helen Hayes and Mike Miller, poorly disguised representations of downtown queer performance luminaries, are fabulously reflective of the figures I've come to know through my work. While I don't know the scene well enough to tell if more of the characters are directly correlated to some of my favorite performance artists, the similarities and representations are wonderful.

Of course, that's not entirely what the book is about, though I kind of wish it were. It is about Lila Futuransky wandering through the East Village as Keroac wandered across America, doing things and meeting people and reflecting brilliantly. Lila, however, goes on a personal journey in which she falls in love and seems to sort of settle down, a plot line of which I am highly suspicious as a representation of lesbian adventures and trajectories. While my general lack of appreciation for On the Road arises from its excessive masculinity, I might criticize Girls, Visions, and Everything for being a bit too "lesbian" or a bit too bitter in the beginning and sweet at the end, but in general I love it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cool Queer Events this Weekend

I was trying not too drool over all the cool things happening this weekend, because I'll be out of town and thus I cannot go to them all, but I am sad. It's a great weekend for queer film because Outfest is putting on their people of color film festival, Fusion, on Saturday and Sunday. Also, there is a bunch of independent queer film at the Arclight's AFI Film Festival this weekend. I have a friend who's going to see Breakfast on Pluto, in which Cillian Murphy plays a transgendered woman in a '60s nightclub. And together, the two film festivals give you 3, yes 3, chances to see Margaret Cho in Bam Bam and Celeste (although one of them is last Tuesday and you already missed it. sigh.

In terms of performance, the most exciting thing to me is that the Butchlalis de Panochtitlan will be performing on Saturday (Nov. 12) at the Fusion festival at 6PM at Barnsdall Art Park. They're a super-fun group of performers, if sometimes a bit overly theoretical in tone, and totally cute, and I would definitely go see them if I were in town.

Next Top Lesbian

For some reason, I'm not quite sure why because I missed most of this week's episode (I prefer the replay on Tuesdays), Kim from America's Next Top Model, was doing a guest spot on Veronica Mars. My general appreciation of Kim as a vaguely butch face on TV inspired me to allow myself to fall victim to their crossover ploy. It actually worked fairly well - Veronica Mars was pretty good, and I was convinced to watch the whole episode. Kim's acting debut was a little rough- she was servicable but a bit awkward in a minor role as a rental car lackey, but I still believe that she needs to have a career beyond reality TV that will allow me to watch her more often.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What's so great about Nov. 19?

The date of Nov. 19th wants to kill me. I was originally supposed to go to a USC football game, but I cancelled that when I realized that it conflicted with Turner Schofield performing at Transgiving, which of course I absolutely must see. If you ever have a chance, I highly, highly recommend that you see Turner's show. This tragically conflicts with DITCH at Akbar that night, which will probably also be awesome. Technically Transgiving ends at 9:30 and DITCH starts at 9, but the last time I was at Transgiving it was absolutely epic, starting an hour late and dragging until everyone was kicked out of the space. Akbar was the location of the first DITCH, and I had more fun that night than I had in a long time. It was an excellent evening and I suspect returning to the scene of the crime will be equally awesome. Also, Kristina Wong is performing at DITCH, an artist that Turner himself has frequently told me I must see. Saturday the 19th is also the UCLA leg of the conference formerly known as QGrad, the Queerscapes conference cohosted by USC and UCLA, but that should be over before the queer performance action really starts.

If you happen to be in San Francisco, Nov. 19th is also the date of the Miss Trannyshack 2005 Pageant, which will I'm sure be an absolutely amazing drag event.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Double booked!

At UCLA on Thursday (Nov. 3), 2 exciting queer scholars will be presenting papers at almost exactly the same time. Bad scheduling makes my life difficult!

Karen Tongson from USC will be presenting "From Weissnichtwo to Kalihi: The accent in Queer Provincial Imaginaries" at 4pm in 164 Royce Hall.

Sue-Ellen Case will be presenting ideas from her new book in the Distinguished Lecture Series for the department of Musicology in Shoenberg hall at 5pm.

Friday, October 21, 2005

You say 'relic' like it's a bad thing

Goldoni, Carlo. Arlecchino, Servant of Two Masters. Piccolo Teatro di Milano. Giorgio Strehler, dir. Freud Playhouse, UCLA. 10/21/05.

Ferruccio Soleri first played Arlecchino in 1960 and has been performing this play for 50 years. The production, directed by Giorgio Strehler, has existed more or less intact for even longer, although Soleri is credited with restaging it after Strehler died in 1997. The play itself was written by Goldoni in 1747. It was based on earlier Italian commedia dell'arte which in turn was strongly influenced by Roman Plautine comedy. It's a production with an awfully long history. Sometimes that makes it feel old, especially in that Soleri is 70 years old, so while he did a great job, one can assume he would have been a litle more spry in the role when he was younger.

This was actually a really fun show, in that commedia is a fun genre and this was a strong example of it. There were several ridiculous and hilarious moments and I found myself laughing out loud on occasion. It was, however, 3 hours long, which feels a little extreme for a comedy of mistaken identities and wacky antics. Occasionally it was a bit slow and probably could have been trimmed a bit. There were moments where it felt weird being in a dark theater watching a play that evoked the roots of commedia when it would have been performed in a bustling marketplace.

But overall, I had a great time. Stock characters, slapstick, pratfalls, and other commedia humor still makes for a great show. Soleri was quite agile and did a good job of holding the audience's attention regardless of his age.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Play in Search of A Genius

Svich, Caridad. Iphigenia Crash Land Falls On The Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable). In Divine Fire: Eight Contemporary Plays Inspired by the Greeks. Ed. Caridad Svich. New York: Backstage Books, 2005.

More people should read this play. It's a play with a great title and a lot of potential. I want to see it, and I want to see it done well. I want a collaboration between Luis Alfaro and Francesca Lia Block, possibly with help from the Butchlalis de Panochtitlan. I believe this play could be amazingly brilliant, but I'm torn. It requires a brilliant video artist, a brilliant sound designer, and a director with vision and a decent urban glam rave sensibility. Plus, there should be an awareness of both queer politics and Latino/Chicano issues and culture.

Apparently they did it at 7 Stages in Atlanta, which I hear has a good queer contingent, so that gives me some hope. There are some pictures here.

Anyway, the play seems totally fascinating, but it's also kind of hard to visualize because projections and music play such important roles in the production. It is in many ways about atmosphere and surface and I'm not entirely sure about what's below the surface but I think it feels right to me. The play is making comments about sacrifice, teenage sexuality, indulgence, and celebrity but it's not saying anything didactically, so it's hard to think about the point below the story and to distinguish that from tone and mood. I need to think about it more. I also need to read Euripedes Iphigenia so I know where Svich is coming from.

But this comes in a series of recent plays in which queer Chicano/a playwrights adapt Greek tragedies. I'd love to see a festival reminiscent of the ancient Greek festival of Dionysus in which three tragedies and one comedy were presented in the span of a single day as a trilogy of related themes. I would put Luis Alfaro's Electricidad at noon under the heat of an LA sun and the powerlines pulsing. Sunset would fall at the end of Cherrie Moraga's Hungry Woman and the rave of Svich's Iphigenia Crash Land Falls... would lead us into the dark. It would be a strange, beautiful experience.

But back to Iphigenia. There are some confusing vaguenesses in just reading the script and I'm not sure what some of the elements really mean. It references maquilladoras and desaparacidos and features a dictador that could be Juan Peron, Hugo Chavez, or George W. Bush, leaving a director or reader to infer what to make of these references. In fact, it felt very topical in terms of Dubya wrangling rebellious Bush twins. The male lead is supposedly a "transgender rock star" but it's unclear whether that means he's a transman or an effeminate biological male. In fact, I'm not sure whether its transgendered politics are in the right place at all, which is a big issue. Is this campy crossdressing or trans awareness? Why do they need to be transgendered; what does it mean? I still have a lot of questions about this play, but I very much want to see it done and done well.

A Good Moment for Brecht

There's a lot of Brecht going on at the moment.

Caucasian Chalk Circle just closed at South Coast Rep.

Threepenny Opera is running at the Odyssey Theatre through Nov. 27.

Mother Courage opens on Oct. 29 at The Theatre at Boston Court.

Are L.A. Theater companies slowly becoming more politically aware? Are they using this for actual contemporary commentary? Will there be audiences? I'm kind of curious, though I hear that the Caucasian Chalk Circle was a little fluffy and uncritical. I'm most interested in Threepenny; Brecht is more fun with more music.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More Psychotic

Futher thoughts on 4.48 Psychose, perhaps occasioned by the New York Times article preceeding its performance in Brooklyn.

First, Isabelle Huppert is indeed phenomenal. She manages to be riveting despite speaking for an hour and a half in a language I don't understand without moving. She also appears without makeup in this production, looking her age, tired, even a bit haggard, even though she remains one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. Her physical, vocal, and facial expression remain extremely articulate, implying that language is almost unnecessary. She remains the strength and the weakness of this production; it could not be done with anyone else, and the minimalist intensity relies entirely on her skill and her fame in certain intellectual circles. Anyone who as not seen her films, for whom she herself is not part of the attraction of this play, who cannot appreciate her uncharacteristic vulnerability, will get much less out of the production.

Second, the fact that the play is in French is not the problem. The fact that the play is so incredibly minimalist that the audience has not even language to rely on makes it more difficult. But the problem is that this is a brilliant, beautifully-written text and the production in many ways foregrounds that text with Huppert's stunning articulation. The drawback is that this makes it feel like a French lesson; the words are clearly spoken but their meaning not fully grasped. Not understanding the words means that much of the mordant humor, the hope, the potential of Kane's text is lost in translation or lack thereof. This production means something so different when you hear the words but not all of their resonances, not the profound depth of their meanings. The very fact that I know and love the text of the play made it more frustrating for me that I couldn't understand all of the words.

Third, while I'm not sure seeing this play in French is the greatest thing ever, and perhaps I would have enjoyed it much more in English, I'm so incredibly glad that I saw this production. It gave me a feeling of insight into how the play itself worked and it was an extremely intense, emotional experience despite the language barrier. I learned that part of how Psychosis works is by putting the audience into almost a trance state, so you can feel the barrenness and desolation about which the character speaks. Emotional vulnerability not only of the actors but the audience is essential to the play. You have to make the audience brutally aware of their own embodiment, the act of sitting there watching, thinking, feeling. It has to be an experience of the self as much as of the play, which leaves me in an incredibly strange emotional state. It leaves me raw, emotional, introspective and that is the greatest contribution of the play.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tough on the Psyche

Kane, Sarah. 4.48 Psychose. Starring Isabelle Huppert. UCLA Live. 10/5/05.

I didn't post a review of this when I first saw it. Partially because it took some time to think about, partially because the things I have to say about it are about as minimalist as the production itself. But then I read this blog post about the early press for the production when it gets to BAM in New York and I thought maybe it was worth saying something, however conflicted, about my experience at this production.

First of all, my thoughts fall somewhere in between The Playgoer's and the article to which he was responding. I agree with the premise that an informed audience is better than a suprised audiend. I found the idea, however, that fluent French was a requirement for "decent theatregoing Manhattanites" to be profoundly elitist and a bit disturbing. While a solid working knowledge of the "classical" languages would be lovely for all educated adults, it's not a feasible reality in this day and age. Would he be making the same comment about Arabic? Chinese? As a native Californian, I would have understood the play quite a bit better if it were entirely in Spanish because that's the more practical language to undestand in my life. Seeing theater in other languages is a difficult experience and a good thing to do, but it is reasonable to inform the predominantly English-speaking New York audience that a play originally written in English won't be performed in English. Warning the audience makes sense to me.

I also found the assertion that all problems would be solved if everyone would just bother "to read the play beforehand. When it's a classic, like a familiar Shakespeare, it's really no problem to at least follow where they are in the play. Such effort is called preparing. And perhaps what ticks me off is that is what is mocked most in McKinley's article." Now, I can't comment on McKinley's article (I refuse to pay to get it out of the NYTimes archive), but I know 4.48 Psychosis. I've read the play at least 3 times and seen the British Royal Court production twice. I know this play well and I love it. But reading it is a very different experience from seeing it. It's more of a poem than a narrative in which one can "follow where they are in the play" and without any movement whatsoever, there's not a lot of following to be done.

I personally was the recipient of one of these warning letters when I purchased my ticket to the production, and I must admit that I scoffed at it. I was amused at the idea that the audience had to be warned, but I also didn't realize that there wouldn't be consistent supertitles so I was glad to know. And my letter did include encouragement to read the play beforehand and an offer of the text online. Personally, I would much rather have an informed audience than the few people who didn't read the letter and therefore walked out 15 minutes into the show or even worse, boo'd at the end.

Now with all of this discussion, it makes it sound like it was a horrible production and I didn't enjoy it. That is very much not the case. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. And I'm not at all opposed to seeing plays in foreign languages that I don't understand. This one was strange and fascinating and gave me some good insights into a play I know and love.

The Surrealist Theater is Empty

all wear bowlers. dir. Aleksandra Wolska. The Kirk Douglas Theatre. 10/18/2005.

After all of my disappointment with the Center Theatre Group's season, I ended up seeing all wear bowlers at the Kirk Douglas with my parents this weekend. It was probably a mistake, since I feel so repulsed by Ritchie's programming, but director Wolska worked at my alma mater right before I got there, so I feel a personal connection that motivated me to see her work.

This piece was quite entertaining and flawlessly executed. Trey Lyford and Geoff Sobelle are extremely talented perfomers and the production itself was quite clever. It began with delightful clown routines and playful gestures, and by the end it was mildly terrifying and evoked existential dread. The perfomers all seem extremely well-educated, perfectly familiar with the Beckett, Magritte, and Laurel and Hardy upon whom they were building.

Unfortunately, the performance itself left me asking, "so what?" It was entertaining, but was there a point? They are clever and witty, but why should I care? It seemed to be all empty virtuosity that was tragically irrelevant. They certainly didn't manage to change my mind about Michael Richie's programming for CTG. And halfway through the play I was struck by the shocking revelation that Ritchie is completely evacuating the potential of the Kirk Douglas as a space in a shameful way. They are going to dedicate it almost entirely to children's theater and productions from elswhere and completely write it off. That's a tragic failure to live up to its potential and Gordon Davidson's plans.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

More on Pinter

I believe I can be a little more articulate on my feelings about Pinter - I was reacting in a hurry earlier. I am glad that a playwright won the Nobel Prize. I believe Pinter deserves quite a bit of recognition for what he has done. He's a fascinating playwright mostly because his plays have a great deal of depth that leaves room for actors' and directors' interpretation. However, his portrayals of women disturb me profoundly. They are all a combination of uptight frigid bitch and whore. Seriously, think of Ruth in The Homecoming or the woman in The Servant or Stella in The Collection. He's working out some serious sexual issues with women by turning them into these weird dark fantasy creatures. Even creepier that most of these women were played by Vivan Merchant, who was his wife. So if you can turn off all feminism and other forms of identity politics (Pinter's characters occasionally make really strange racist remarks where you don't know if Pinter is making fun of his characters or not and I believe almost all of his plays are all white) then sometimes you can enjoy how nasty the people are to each other, but I always have reservations. Pinter's plays aren't enjoyable, and generally they aren't really political either. Thinking about the implications generally upsets me. The thing he seems to be doing most with plays such as The Lover or The Homecoming is shattering middle class repressed sexuality, which is a good thing, but he seems to do it in such an anti-woman way that it disturbs me. Not that his men necessarily come off well, but the women always seem to be a bit of this same woman.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Whatever Happened to Crazy Joan?

Lypsinka. The Passion of the Crawford. The L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's Lily Tomlin Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center. 10/14/05.

John Epperson as Lypsinka as Joan Crawford in The Passion of the Crawford. Well, if that isn't a giant mess of identities, I don't know what is! In many ways, I don't know what to make of this show. Now don't get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed out loud and I laughed often, but it wasn't quite what I expected. I anticipated a sort of collage show of Crawford's greatest and lowest moments and especially bits of Mommie Dearest. Instead, Lypsinka perfomed mostly excerpts from a live interview with Crawford (in front of a live audience), which provided an interesting object on which she could practice her art.

The performance became very much about Lyspinka's gestures and facial expressions, particularly the way in which she punctuated the pauses in Crawford's speech with tics and twitches and the way she reacted to the interviewer, who was played delightfully by Steve Cuiffo. My favorite moment was when she was reminiscing about the star system and said "but I don't live in the past." I wish I had an exact quote for this because it was very meta.

The interview was occasionally cut with interludes of Joan singing, which were extremely strange, and scenes from another interview in which the inteviewer visited Crawford's home at Christmas, suggesting the reality of Mommie Dearest. After the interview section, Lypsinka performed Crawford reading a strange children's poem, which was even weirder. This part was a little slow, and since the poem made very little sense, my mind kept wandering. In the end was a final breakdown, in which a bunch of very short clips of Joan were spliced together into a collage of insanity, which was kind of fun. I felt bad because I didn't necessarily get all the references, being most familiar with Crawford from Mildred Pierce and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, but a lot of the sections were actually bits from the earlier interview so that worked out OK.

Crawford is such an interesting person to impersonate because later in her career (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane) she became such a mockery of herself anyway. With her giant bushy eyebrows and broad shoulders, she looked like a drag queen herself. It was interesting to see the video montage at the beginning of the performance which included plenty of her earlier work and even some musicals, because I was suprised to be reminded that at one time she actually was a beautiful women. She says in the interview that she could never play an ingenue, but she was indeed actually a starlet and at one point she looked the part.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Reflections on Pinter, Nobel Laureate

Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize. Of course this is quite an honor, and playwrights, especially extremely political playwrights, are rare recipients. The New York Times makes a good point about Pinter seeming to be a political choice for the Nobel Committee - he's a vocal opponent of the Iraq war. In fact, he recently announced that he was retiring from playwriting in order to concentrate on political writing and poetry.

I've spent a fairly significant amount of time with Pinter's plays recently, and I have to say that I'm not entirely a giant fan of Pinter's writing. It is endlessly fascinating, mentally stimulating material with which to work, but I've never particularly enjoyed watching it. All his plays have the same rhythms, the same speech patterns, and a very similar set of mysterious incidents, so en masse they seem rather overwhelming and somewhat monotonous. And bad productions of Pinter are quite possibly the most miserable experience on the planet.

Pinter is certainly brilliant and quite deserving of theis phenomenal honor, even if he's not always for me.

Friday, October 07, 2005

John Fleck makes a great lesbian

Greenspan, David. She Stoops to Comedy. The Evidence Room. 10/7/05.

John Fleck is my hero. He's hilarious. He can make just about anything funny. And in this case, he played a lesbian with no costuming, no elaborate drag, no offensive sterotypes; it was wonderful. She Stoops to Comedy is a play about an actress, Alexandra Page, whose estranged girlfriend is heading off to Maine to do Shakespeare in a barn (haven't we all been there at some point?). In order to make sure the girlfriend doesn't fall in love with a costar (or various other possible motivations), Alex heads off to take the role of Orlando opposite the girlfriend's Rosalind in As You Like It. Cross-dressing without costume changes and complicated sexual tension ensues. I could watch John Fleck play a lesbian diva for all eternity. He was awesome and over the top, but entirely with voice and gesture - the play was quite sparse in terms of costumes and sets and Fleck looked like Fleck whether playing Alexandra Page or Harry Sampson.

The script itself was a bit too self-indulgently PoMo at times. There were moments where it dragged and some moments were extremely awkward. And the entire heterosexual director subplot was boring and extraneous. I don't even know what to make of the whole gay man "who needs another play about me?" section. I think I might have been offended by that. But on the upside, Shannon Holt played dual roles as a rival diva and a lighting designer/archeologist who also happened to be ex-lovers and had an amazing, hilarious scene together. While there were some problems, overall this production had some moments of brilliance that make it absolutely worth the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Is one trial as good as another?

Lawrence, Jerome and Robert E. Lee. Inherit the Wind. New York; Bantam Books, 1960?

Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey Trial. The names have been changed to protect the historically inaccurate, but there's no attempt the hide the fact that they're rehashing the trial. Clarence Darrow becomes Mr. Drummond and William Jennings Bryant becomes Matthew Harrison Brady; it doesn't take much sleuthing to find the similaritites. What is most interesting, however, is the fact that the play, written in 1955 about a trial that took place in 1925, says that its time is "Summer. Not too long ago." and that it takes place in "A small town." I'm not the first one to think that this great American Courtroom Drama was written with the McCarthy hearings in mind, nor that it's become strangely relevant once again as the Kansas City School Board battles over Intellligent Design. While it is supposedly creationism against evolution on the witness stand, in reality it is freedom of speech. But these are not the same issue. Inherit the Wind is about the right to disbelieve, to question, to think. It's not really about evolution, though of course that is in there as well. It's about learning. And in a way it says that it's better to be a believer than a cynic; Mr. Hornbeck the athiest newspaperman doesn't come off very well in the play. It's a play about great men battling over great ideas, in the fine tradition of Roman oratory, though of course it it Rachel whose soul is at stake and who, in the end, learns to question authority and think for herself.

But what does the title mean: "He that troubleth his own house Shall inherit the wind?" Both of these men are all wind, really, and in a way Matthew Harrison Brady is the tragic hero of the piece - we can tell because he dies at the end. The quote seems to say 'don't rock the boat' which is not exactly the point of the play.

Katherine of Arrogance, Kate the Cursed

Lombardo, Matthew. Tea at Five. Pasadena Playhouse. 10/2/2005.

For me, Tea at Five was a fascinating play that fell apart at the end. In this play, Kate Mulgrew played Katherine Hepburn, at her parents' beach house at Fenwick, Connecticut at two points in her life, 1938 and 1983. According to the program note, the play was written for Mulgrew based entirely on the fact that Lombardo noticed a resemblance between the two. And in many ways, the strength of the play was indeed the imersonation Mulgrew did. It came on strong at the beginning with a heavy accent. The first act in many ways was about Mulgrew posing to affect Hepburn's long, active, lounging look. This act takes place in 1938 as Hepburn retreats from Hollywood after several box office flops to wait to hear if she got the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. What a different movie that would have been! She talks about her relationships, her family, her stage carreer, and my personal favorite was her performance of the morbid calla lillies scene from The Lake, famous for Dorthy Parker's review that "Hepburn ran the gamut from A to B" and Hepburn's subsequent performance of the scene in Stage Door. This act was a little stilted at first, but quite fun once it got going. Mulgrew's technical imitation was excellent, if a little charicatured, and very clearly drawn from a lot of watching Hepburn's movies.

The second half, however, disturbed me a little. It a lot of ways it was the Hepburn I was most familiar with: old, fragile, a little shaky. It was Hepburn in 1983 and she seemed more sorry for herself than spunky. She did a some reminiscing about Spencer Tracy, basically saying that even if he mistreated and abused and never acknowledged her, it was good to have someone who needed her. It was a weird self-effacing depiction of Hepburn as tragic figure and way too psychological. The play seemed really focused on the men in Hepburn's life, the fact that she never got approval from her father and then looked for that mistreatment from Tracy. The whole thing creeped me out.

Honestly, I enjoyed Cate Blanchett as the Great Kate in The Aviator more, but I think that's because the part was more well-written, less stilted and actually showing more personality. I would love to see Mulgrew do Kate in a better vehicle, because I feel that this play was unfortunately not as well-written as it could be, though it was fun to see.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A good weekend for Queer Women

Not only is this weekend Gay Days at Disneyland, there's also

L.A. Women's Fest: Women Rock!
Saturday October 01, 2005
Time: 3 p.m. Gates Open; 5 p.m. Show
Location: John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd., East, Hollywood, CA 90068
Tickets: $55, $65;
Box office: 323.461.3673 or

The most amazing lineup of talented lesbian performers come together on one stage for a show you won't soon forget! Picnicking, vendors and nonstop entertainment from sunlight to moonlight in the enchanting Hollywood Hills. Oh yes, and did we mention you'll be in the company of 1,000 women! A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Breast Exam Project. Sponsored by Women On a Roll.

Interestingly, both of these events are quite expensive and at least a little politically regressive in their lack of indication of trans- and bi- awareness and inclusion, although one can assume that Gay Days at Disneyland is fairly inclusive in that it's fairly opt-in and unofficial.

The best queer women event this weekend is, of course, DITCH on Sunday, which will be awesome and educational and is cheap and super-inclusive. Anyone interested should comment and I'll spread the word.

And if I were in SF instead of LA, I'd be at:


"...the original, the raucous, ultrasapphic comedy...leaves
audiences shaking with laughter... screamingly
funny!" -Dallas Morning News


Don't miss this sexy, scandalous and critically
acclaimed show that tackles race/ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and more!

SATURDAY, OCT. 1st at BRAVA Theatre Center
Located at 2789 24th Street (S.F.)
*parking available at S.F. General Hospital at 23rd & San Bruno

A MATINEE QUICKIE @ 4 p.m. (Spanish Performances)
“La Maestra del Sexo y las Tortillas”
includes live preshow music by Meli Rivera
(Tickets: $10 at the door/ CASH ONLY)

A ONE-NIGHT STAND @ 8 p.m. (English Performances)
“Mastering Sex & Tortillas”
(Tickets: $20 at the door/ CASH ONLY)


AGES 16 & UP. $5 discount for students w/ ID.

Official Promoter: SFO PROMOTIONS

Community Sponsors: KALIENTE, Boricua Productions, Ellas en Acción, QueLACo,
and the S.F. Queer Cultural Center

Monday, September 26, 2005

Queer Fashion Art Show

This event (the opening reception) should be interesting and fun. It's a sounds like an odd and interesting collection of artwork totally worth going down to the archives to see.

WEAR ME OUT: Queering Fashion, Art and Design
an exhibit honoring what we've fought to wear

November 5, 2005 to January 29, 2006
at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives
909 West Adams Blvd., LA CA 92007

Opening reception 7pm, November 5, 2005.
with DJ Emancipation and members of the Black Artists Collective

Los, Angeles, CA, September 23, 2005--"WEAR ME OUT: Honoring what we've fought to wear" puts textiles and clothing at the forefront of an exhibit on the subject of "reading fashion." Bringing together 30 queer visual artists and fashion designers, curator Tania Hammidi aims to "take the shame out of fashion and situate how aesthetics, gay/lesbian/trans memory, and utility have historically converged on our bodies.”

The show busts seams in its exploration of aesthetics, narrative, and cultural memory wedded to orafactory perception and tactile exchange. Emily Roysdon explores gesture in her "Gay Power" jumpsuit installation while Heather Cox brings out gestural and patterned repetition in "Shirt Quilt.” Privacy and monumentality meet in a dynamic series of bronze panties, "Porn Stars and Academics," by Elizabeth Stephens. And while "Visible Difference" by Lenore Chinn appears aesthetically balanced, it's message is much bolder. New work from Emile Devereaux, "Wormhole #3," provides a sonic interactive piece on recogniction while Mitzy Velez explores the artist's own emergence as a lipstick-donning gay woman confronting normative standards of beauty.

Worn by Le Tigre's JD Samson is "Totally Soft" a t-shirt articulating a vocabulary of sentiment, bravery, and comfort through physical wear and tear. Chitra Ganesh dons resistance through Hindu mythology and constructed Indo-Persian armor in "The Awakening." The cover painting "Last Time I Wore A Dress" by author Dylan Scholinski suggests that scale communicates his own experiences of psychiatric incarceration and regulated dress, while drag coiture of performance artist Shelly Mars evidences the 1990's historical shift in queer/lesbian focus on female masculinity and lesbian rites of passage. Queer fashion photography from K8 Hardy, Cass Bird and Sarah Baley are far ahead of the fashion industry. "Blue Things I Wear" by Jessica Lawless honors genderqueer sensibility while confronting heteronormative gallery phobias.

Designers Parisa Parnian (Rigged OUT/Fitters, NYC), Hushi and Micheal (LA), Bre Cole + Aisha Pew (Chocolate Baby Designs, Oakland) and Gayngsta (LA) approach design, the body, and queer cultural memory in widly divergent manners. Designer Parisa Parinan's "queering" of vintage menswear addresses desire and the problems of a global fashion labor force head on, while Micheal and Hushi bring Iranian identity and gay sexual desire together on one muscle T.

19th century African Amerian "Quilts of Suits," the lost shoe of Mayor Frank Jordan (on loan from SF Gay Lesbian, Bisexual, TransgenderHistorical Society), and G.B. Jones' "Bitch Nation" T round out the archival corners of the exhibit.

Whether celebrating the everyday or unfolding the repressed, these bold artists enact the subversive practices of reading fashion – and show us that we speak and remember through clothing.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Theatrical Version of a Chick Flick

Rebeck, Theresa. Dir. Judith Ivey. Bad Dates. Laguna Playhouse. 9/22/05.

Bad Dates at the Laguna Playhouse resembles several of the other things I've been reading/watching recently. It has a lot in common with Sex in the City or In Her Shoes. That doesn't however, necessarily disqualify it as good theater. It was extremely entertaining, and as such probably fulfilled its main goal, which was I'm sure to sell tickets and amuse subscribers.

Beth Broderick, most famous as Aunt Zelda on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, performed this one woman play extremely well. She maintained her pace and energy and held the audience's interest for an hour-and-a-half monologue in which she was more or less just telling stories straight to the audience. Her skillful manipulation of several elaborate costume changes without revealing anything to the audience earned her a great deal of applause mid-scene. While the beginning of the play was a little awkward and audience members weren't quite sure how to behave, once she got going she brought the entire theater along for the ride. It was quite amusing that at the beginning of the play, the audience seemed to want to be more participatory, almost as if it were as stand up act or a rally. They seemed to want to applaud and shout 'right on, sister' after every beat, and the play didn't seem necessarily written for that kind of interaction but it's fascinating that the impluse arose. It has something to do with the direct address of the play to the audience, as if it were just two friends having a conversation rather than an actress performing a script to a silent audience.

The LA Times Review compliments author Theresa Rebeck's wit and facility with words, but criticizes the failure to achieve a deeper meaning. I suspect, however, that "the myriad differences between women and men, and the things they want from life" are less important to the play than the reviewer implies. It seems to be a play about women, not so much about men or about the interactions between them. It creates the dynamic of female friendship between performer and audience. It performs a normative femininity as a cross between self-sufficiency and haphazardness. While reviewer Daryl H. Miller calls the character of Haley Walker a "ditz" and a "floozy," and perhaps he's(she's??) right that she seems more of a charicature than a realistic character and she gets caught up in fairly ridiculous circumstances, he misses that the extremity of the situation and character are part of the point. It's fun that she's so over the top, and that rather than the deeper meaning is what matters about the performance.

Not that I can't talk about deeper meanings. First of all, there's the shoes. The set for Bad Dates is Haley's apartment bedroom, completely taken over by pairs of shoes. They're in boxes, on racks, under the bed - everywhere. Rebeck seems to be following in the footsteps of the rest of the chick lit genre that requires expensive footwear as the indulgent luxury of an everywoman. Why is this? Where does the footwear fetish come from, and why is it the primary hallmark of contemporary femininity. Rebeck draws attention to this in the first few minutes of the play by both having Haley claim that the shoes are not a fetish and allowing her to admit that most of the shoes hurt too much to wear. She dramatizes the effective hobbling, foot-binding aspects of a high heels, which every woman knows and far too many fail to admit. This revision of the contemporary mythology around beautiful shoes is probably part of what makes the beginning of the play so jarring, but it's an interesting way to set the tone for a play that then indulges in all of the fluffy femininity that that those inital assertions undermine.

My favorite aspect of the play was its references to Mildred Pierce, a 1945 noir women's movie starring Joan Crawford as a long-suffering woman striving to protect her evil and spoiled daughter. Rebeck openly references the plot similarities between the ridiculous circumstances of the film and the equally extreme events in Haley Walker's life, creating resonances between the two texts while simultaneously undermining them (presumably, Walker's daughter is not evil and thus the circumstantial similarities are irrelevant). Being a modern women's story, Bad Dates' references to its 1940s counterpart serve as a form of validation tying together an easily-dismissed genre (chick flicks, chick lit). The intertextuality gives Rebeck's script more strength and depth, more claim to a wider discussion of feminitity and women's roles in society, than it might have had without these references.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Noir play

Overmyer, Eric. "Dark Rapture." Eric Overmyer: Collected Plays. Newbury, VT: Smith and Kraus, 1993.

Eric Overmyer's Dark Rapture is often subtitled "An American Theatre Noir," and it is in its recreation of film noir style and stereotypes that it is most captivating. It has all the proper noir ingredients: gangsters, three beautiful but dangerous femmes fatales, and one fairly bland leading man who nonetheless gets the girl and gets away with the cash. There are exotic locales, double-crosses, and characters who quote Raymond Chandler. In reading, the play seems to start out as pretty boring, but I suspect that if you dove right into the atmosphere and made the beginning highly stylized to capture the audience's attention right away, this would be an extremely fun play to watch or perform. While it took a while to draw me in, by the end of the play I was completely engaged in the twists and turns of the plot as hidden identities were revealed. If done properly, I believe this play could be excellent.

Stargazing at my Own Little Constellation

I'm totally excited about:

John Fleck in She Stoops to Comedy at the Evidence Room. Through Oct. 23.

Isabelle Huppert (who rocked my world in I Heart Huckabees) performs Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychose at UCLA Live. Oct. 5-9.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Events: Susan Stryker Film and Lecture

Film Screening and Q & A: Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's
(2005, 57 min.)

Date/Time: Thursday, September 22, 2005, 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm (2
showings), Q & A with the directors (Victor Silverman and Susan
Stryker): 8:30 pm

Location: The Rose Hills Theater, Smith Campus Center, Pomona College
Campus map

Written and directed by Victor Silverman (Pomona History Department) and Susan Stryker (Transgender Scholar/Activist), Screaming Queens tells the little-known story of the 1966 riot in San Francisco's impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, when transgender prostitutes and gay hustlers banded together for the first time in U.S. history to fight against police harassment. This unheralded event helped kick off a new movement for human rights in America.

Brown Bag Lunch Lecture: "(De)subjugated Knowledges: The Emergence of Transgender Studies" with scholar/activist Susan Stryker

Date/Time: Friday, September 23, 2005, 12:00 pm

Location: Humanities Auditorium, Scripps College
Campus map (#19B on the map)

These events are free and open to the public.
For more information, please call (909) 621-8274.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sci Fi Authors and Politics

Kurt Vonnegut on the Daily Show was pretty awesome. Here's his list of Liberal Crap I Never Want To Hear Again. I very much enjoyed Evolution Smevolution week.

This article in the Guardian about Kim Stanley Robinson is brilliant. His new trilogy sounds amazing (and eerily precient). Here's what Robinson says about our president:

"The current guy is worthless, probably the worst president in American history. There's a sort of stupid, small-minded meanness - a pathological assholery - to him. I think he likes doing bad things."

I love that. And if I had more time to read books for fun, Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below would definitely be on the list. And I've always meant to read his Southern California trilogy, too.

An Ill Omen

This worries me. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the publishing director at Routledge has been fired. He has been credited as responsible for the rise of cultural studies and for publishing the major works in queer theory. The fact that The Chronicle of Higher Education calles it "the end of an age in cultural studies" makes me a little nervous about the future of what I do.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Political Activism for the Couch Potato

I just called the Governator's office to support AB 849, the gender-neutral marriage legislation. Since I'm notoriously phone-phobic, this is a major accomplishment for me. Fortunately, you don't actually have to talk to actual people or even be articulate about your opinion; it's just an automated machine. Here's what you do:

1. Call the Governator:916-445-2841 (his number is listed at
2. Push: 2 (voice your opinion on legislation)
3. Push: 1 (gender-neutral marriage bill - Senate Bill 849)
4. Push: 1 to support marriage equality
(via towleroad and Prophecyboy)

It's quick and easy, and there's some hope that it will have an effect, since he hasn't actually vetoed the bill yet. The Governator's supposedly scheduled a meeting with gay marriage activists, and the more support they have to show him the better the chances.

Now, I'm not unambivalent about gay marriage. In general, I think state-sanctioned marriage of any sort is a pretty bad idea. In many ways I'm a 1970s lesbian feminist, especially in the belief that all marriage is an exploitative property contract and a holdover from a time when women were bartered between men in exchange for money. Lisa Duggan is wonderful and articulate on how the fight for marriage is essentially conservative and works against meaninful social change in that it reinforces dependence on the family and household, freeing the state to make more cutbacks in things like welfare, health care, and child support. But nonetheless, just because I don't believe the state should be promoting marriage at all, that doesn't mean I believe that perpetuating marriage as a heterosexual institution furthers the cause of gender liberation. And Arnie's excuses for vetoing the bill are downright vile and discriminatory. So voice your opinion, in the form of pushing a few buttons on your phone. Even if it is a qualified support, I encourage everyone to do their part in undermining marriage through gender neutral language.

Lillian Hellman and Who?

Ephron, Nora. Imaginary Friends. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.

Imaginary Friends dramatizes the relationship between Lillian Hellman, author of The Children's Hour, and Mary McCarthy, who was also an author and critic in the '40s and '50s. Apparently, Hellman and McCarthy had a longstanding animosity culminating in McCarthy's comment on TV that "Everything [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'" and Hellman's subsequent lawsuit. Ephron basically imagines everything that led up to this legendary feud, including a few song and dance numbers and a some strange childhood interludes involving a tree and a dolly.

Ephron is most famous as the screenwriter for When Herry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, but this play was a bit of a departure for her in its fragmentary nonrealistic style. The play's premise, which was basically something like Hellman and McCarthy trapped together in the afterlife rehashing their lives and their famous fights, might not have been substantial enough to actually hang an entire drama on. It seemed basically like one extended catfight which was interesting for its insights into the 1930s-1950s literary scene and leftist politics but not quite dramatic enough. It gets major points for having two very strong leading roles for women (and an odd moment in which they kiss), but somehow it seemed just a little off.

Hollywood does Genre

Gay does genre this season with Hellbent, the first gay slasher flick, which just happens to be set in West Hollywood and also happens to have been released this week. The Village Voice HATED it, but I want to go out and see it and support it anyway. The much-more-anticipated gay genre flick coming up is, of course, gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain, which has all the gay men I know counting down the days until December 9th.

As for me, I have a date to head out Saturday morning to see Corpse Bride because it doesn't get much better than Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. It looks creepy and delightful.

And here is a wonderful interview with Neil Gaiman about Mirrormask. In it, he reveals a quite hilarious opinion of Hollywood execs and why some film adaptations of comic books are so bad. Courtesy of Neil Gaiman's blog. Also, Neil Gaiman will be speaking at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Oct. 2. Cool!

I'm also, of course, on the edge of my seat for Serenity, Joss Wedon's space-western (double genre!). Both Serenity and Mirrormask will be released on September 30th, which also happens to be right when I go back to work. Cruel, cruel fate.

I'm also very much looking forward to In Her Shoes on October 7th as well, despite not being a huge Cameron Diaz fan. In terms of genre, the occasional chick lit and chick flick can be fun, and I like Jennifer Weiner quite a bit. I borrowed In Her Shoes and Little Earthquakes from my mother this summer and devoured both books.

Why do all the movies I really want to see have to be coming out at the end of the summer when I shouldn't be this indulgent. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Vintage Wooster

Savran, David. Breaking the Rules: The Wooster Group. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1988.

This is a fairly strange exploration of a strange group. Savran attempts to mirror the Wooster Group's style by presenting their material out of chronological order and in fragments of interviews and photos juxtaposed with his analysis. Unfortunately, this organizational structure leaves the book with interesting first and final chapters and an interminable middle chapter.

Savran doesn't explicitly explain his arrangement with the group, but he seems to be some sort of authorized official historian with a great deal of access to the group. This leads me to question also what kind of constraints he might be working under in exchange for this access. He does not explain much about how the group came into existence (other than it vaguely emerged from Elizabeth LeCompte's and others' disillusionment with Richard Schechner's leadership of the Performance Garage) or other personal dynamics within the group. For example, Steve Buschemi magically appears in L.S.D. (...Just the High Points...) with no indication of when he joined the group. Elizabeth Lecompte's sexual relationships with Spalding Gray and Willem Dafoe clearly influenced the structure of the group, and yet they are barely suggested in Savran's book. Similarly, Ron Vawter's homosexuality goes completely unmentioned. In is attempts to avoid documenting the personal gossip and dirty laundry of the group, Savran leaves gaping holes in his explanations of the group's history.

Route 1 & 9 and L.S.D. (...Just the High Points...) emerge from this book as fascinating theatrical experiments masterfully described and analyzed by Savran. The juxtaposition of Our Town and The Crucible respectively with various other cultural moments evoke criticism of both American theatrical traditions and the historical periods represented by each of these plays. Savran explores L.S.D. as an exercise in historiography, looking at Miller's Crucible and the work of Timothy Leary as two images of the same period. The Wooster Group takes apart that moment; "it performs the fact that history, like theare, is always a dance of absence and substitution, a dance of death" (205).

The middle chapter, however, in which Savran discusses all of the early work of the Wooster Group prior to Route 1 & 9, works neither as a history of the group nor as an anaysis of the ideas behind these productions. In this chapter, the pieces that compose the Rhode Island Trilogy (Sakonnet Point, Rumstick Road, and Nayatt School), its epilogue (Point Judith), and a completely unrelated dance piece (Hula), are all thrown together in a jumble of all the Wooster Group's early works. In the discussion, these pieces emerge as a general tribute to Spaulding Gray and the entire early work of the Wooster Group seems to be a sop to his ego. Each piece of this section is discussed mainly in its contribution to Gray's psychological development progressing toward his career as a monologist. His departure from the group seems to happen because "I knew it had to come to an end" (149) as opposed to his self-centered "need to be...the major subject matter and the focal point" (149) or because his relationship with LeCompte had ended. This entire chapter seems tedious quite disingenuous in its failure to discuss the real impetus behind any of these early works.

Savran's most fascinating contribution in this work is his discussion of LeCompte as one of the major American theater artists. He frequently emphasizes what it means that all this work comes from a female perspective and what it means for her to be "autocratic" (eschewing specific reference to the director as auteur that is rather familiar in avant garde theatre). While at one point LeCompte seems to use her role as a female director as an excuse for some misogynist comments by Gray, for the most part Savran celebrates the strength of her control over the Wooster Group as a hint of a feminist critique contributing to the Wooster Group's deconstruction of the social structures by which the group and society are implicated but which they also challenge from within. It's an interesting analysis and it deserves some more time, especially in reference to LeCompte as a woman, which Savran seems to want to explore further. He is clearly a feminist and a socialist, but he tries to avoid bringing too many of his personal beliefs into this discussion of the group's work. He limits his own perspective and contribution to mostly a fairly strict analysis of the performances.

Rufus is an Opera Queen

The New York Times does a nice, personal interview with Rufus Wainwright in which he discusses his love for opera. Unfortunately, the end of the article basically says "These young people these days just don't appreciate the opera the way we did back in the day." Ugh. But Rufus is articulate and quite passionate.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lesbians wear Leopard Print

White, Patricia. unInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representablitity. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999.

This book belongs to a second generation of feminist and queer film theory, following and critiquing the work of scholars such as Mary Ann Doane, Richard Dyer and Teresa De Lauretis, and she has no qualms about harshly contradicting her predecessor's "missreadings," though sometimes the scholarship she quotes appears more significant and interesting than that she provides.

White's readings of classic films are spectacular; she beautifully parses the symbolic systems that codify certain stars and roles as queer despite the unrepresentability of lesbianism under the Hays Code. White focuses on analysis of films from this period, roughly 1930-1960, and demonstrates the ways in which lesbians were representable even though it takes some careful reading to discern them. She focuses on 'women's films,' gothic horror, and the asexual sidekick, villian, and other 'character roles.' She also alludes to but doesn't engage with the gossip of lesbian that is part of certain 'star images' such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Agnes Moorehead (Endora on Bewitched). One of the things I learned that besides unmarried women in roles such as nanny, governess, or spunky secretary as lesbian types, you can also spot lesbians by a tendency to wear either leopard print or tweed. I knew I needed more tweed in my wardrobe!

White introduces the concepts of the "femme film" and "retrospectatorship," both of which I wish she would have more thoroughly explored. The "femme film" seems to mean films the 'woman's film' genre (the pre-1950s version of the 'chick flick') "that sustain lesbian inference" (xviii). It raises questions of the lines between homosociality and homosexuality (when does female bonding cross into 'lesbian inference'?) and emphasizes that while butch women were fairly unrepresentable, a lot could be explained away as normative femininity as long as the women seemed appropriately gendered. White, however, doesn't seem to want to consider lesbians too closely in butch-femme dyads or even necessarily discuss whether or not two women are necessary to make lesbianism visible. After introducing the term, she doesn't seem to continue to interrogate it throughout the book, and I would like to know more. "Retrospectatorship" more or less appears only in the last chapter, and again seems fascinating but underdeveloped. This concept implies that we now watch old films through a general cultural perception of them; no one can watch Bette Davis in All About Eve without some perception of camp appropriations of her persona. We view classical Hollywood cinema through contemporary lenses and thus get more intertextuality and a richer experience. These classical films are part of what shapes contemporary queer identities and visibility, and thus we view the films through those conceptions of identity. Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca seems to be an evil and obsessed lesbian in part because that's the way that queer relationships were representable at the time and partially because that's how we've learned to see queer relationships through that representation. It's a fascinating concept, and I'm not sure White gave me enough to really understand or commit to it. I suspect I'll have to come back to this book and try skip the fascinating readings of old films and try to sort out the theory.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Here are the release locations for Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask (CA only posted below). This is tough because I believe it's the same weekend as Serenity, but since this a small film in limited release, it's even more important to get out there and support it on opening weekend. Why are all the summer movies I want to see opening at the end of September? Based on the reviews from Sundance and the online trailer, this film looks visually stunning, like a creepy futuristic Alice in Wonderland, and I can't wait to see it. The film was directed by Dave McKeane, who did all the cool and creepy covers for the Sandman graphic novels. Hurry to a theater near you:


OPENING 9/30/2005


Edwards University Town Center 6
Irvine, CA

Landmark Act 1 & 2 Cinemas
Berkeley, CA

Landmark Nuart Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Landmark Ken Cinema
San Diego, CA

Landmark Lumiere 3
San Francisco, CA

Rafael Film Center
San Rafael, CA

from Neil Gaiman's Blog