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.