Sunday, December 31, 2006

Better Late Than Never: Eurydice

Sarah Ruhl. Eurydice. Circle X Theatre Company. 12/17/06.

I saw this one weeks ago at this point, but it's still playing, so you can check it out still at least. I was conflicted about Eurydice, which I suppose is why it took me so long to write about it. Charles McNulty of the LA Times listed it as one of his best of 2006, but I'm much more reserved about it. I do believe it is well-written - Ruhl's use of language is evokative and skillful. I absolutely loved the teal tile of Brian Sidney Bembridge's set. Kelly Brady as Euridyce is a striking and powerful actress. But, honestly, I was hoping for more from Ruhl than a beautiful play.

In once sense, Eurydice is strikingly anti-feminist and that really bothers me. It's all about a girl passing from the house of her father to the house of her husband and her refusal to grow up. The main premise is that a wedding is the moment in which a girl leaves her father and marries her husband - there are no other options for her. My problem with it is that Eurydice sometimes seems rather than the active main character of the play a passive absent center. She refuses to grow and instead chooses childhood and forgetting in the arms of her father - she doesn't reject the idea that she must choose between father and husband and learn to stand on her own as I would like her to do. The play starts out so hopefully as a recentering of the Orpheus myth to focus on the woman neglected in the story of a great mythical musician, and I still believe there's a lot of potential in this story, but in many ways that's not what Ruhl is trying to do. She's using the myth to tell her own story, and her own personal conflict, which is fine and in many ways beautiful, but for one of the few plays out there by women and one of the few women playwrights to get national attention, I think it's kind of tragic that the mindset of this play is so regressive.

The husband, an Orpheus played by Tim Wright, is part Greek poet and part urban hipster rocker, but sometimes treats Eurydice as a child and certainly denigrates her bookish intelligence. Personally, I was terribly conflicted about whether he was horrible to her and she was better off dead or if he was sweet and learning to respect her, which is part of what makes this play so complex and forces me to fight my tendency to dismiss it. The relationship between the two of them is interesting and complex and conflicted and gives a lot of depth to the play.

Is it fair of me to fault her for not telling the story I'd like to hear? Perhaps not, but I do wish it had been different. Frank' Wild Lunch attributes the feeling of this play being not quite right or not quite satisfying to modernity and his own detachment, aserting that "I feel like it wants to be a deeply felt examination of grieving, and I should be a puddle of tears by the time the show's over, like the puddles of water all over the stage," but I don't think it really wanted to be about grieving at all. I saw it as an examination of growth and maturity and death and the futility of resistance of each of these. I felt there was more resignation and melancholy than real grief in the play and that in itself is frustrating.

Friday, December 29, 2006

What's a femme to do?

Now, I have a fairly vast wardrobe. I have dresses and skirts galore. A plethora of high heels and stockings with backseams. And I have a large wardrobe of slacks and sweaters and other sensible, moderately respectable clothes for teaching. But there are some occasions for which none of these things are proper attire. Sadly, I'm tragically unhip and don't do casual wear well. So I often show up to plays and events somewhat overdressed, but I usually shrug this off as femme performativity and all in good fun.

Today, however, like many other days, I find myself in a casual daytime situation for which I have absolutely no solution. I want to be more hip and less formal than my sweaters for teaching and I want to be comfortable. But I have not mastered the art of cute t-shirts and jeans or any other appropriate look for the days when a retro halter sundress isn't quite right. How to be cute and femme in jeans? What can I wear that's resistant and slightly punk without overdoing it? My gay best friend tells me that I have not yet mastered the art of the little black t-shirt, which can solve so many of these problems. He's right; I own far too few t-shirts. There are the old ones that I sleep in, and a couple I've picked up at concerts and shows, but I own very few t-shirts that are actually anything resembling cool. I've only begun to accept the idea that I can pull off a tight-ish, girly t-shirt rather than a huge baggy men's t-shirt, which is never particularly cool. I only buy a t-shirt if I really, really love it. It has to both look cute and say or support something I agree with. I own very few slogan t-shirts because there's a very high threshold for accpetability. I'm fine with t-shirts with just pictures on them, though, as long as the pictures are cute and I can explain where the t-shirt came from if asked. So I'm asking for help and taking suggestions. What can and should I wear in casual situations? What cute t-shirts should I own? Help!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Chicano Gay Elvis Christmas - Maybe Worth the Wait

El Vez. My Mexican Merry Mex-mas. The Knitting Factory. 12/22/06.

Note: the first half of this post is a rant. If you want to know about the show, skip to the second paragraph.

OK, maybe I should have been prepared for this, but when I decided to go to the El Vez show, I was thinking it would be more like a theater experience and less like a rock concert. As in, I assumed there would be seats and that it would start sometime close to the posted starting time, which was 8pm. I was very wrong, and for that I suffered. When we got to the Knitting Factory at 5 minutes to 8, it was almost completely empty, even though the Knitting Factory website implied that the show started at 7 and you had to read the small print to see that actually the doors opened at 7 and the show started at 8. If we had been familiar with the space, we might have realized that getting there that early might have allowed us to get a seat in the upstairs balcony, but we didn't know there was an upstairs balcony and by the time we discovered it, there were no seats left. I will say that the space is extremely poorly designed and they could provide much more seating if they wished. The reason sitting down would have been important was that I, not anticipating standing for hours, had worn new high heeled boots that, while totally cute, were not meant for heavy-duty use and hadn't yet been broken in at all. My feet are still a bit tingly and sore. So, not only did the show not start on time, it didn't start 'til 9:15 and there was nothing really to do while we were waiting. The friend I was with wasn't a big drinker and hadn't really been prepared for this show - she had agreed to come with me on a whim - so I felt really bad that she was waiting around and I didn't want her to have a miserable experience and the music was too loud to talk over but not particularly good for dancing to (mostly Christmas music and some of the more obscure El Vez songs), so we sat there waiting and being bored. Eventually (9:15) the opening act, Human Hands came out. They were mildly amusing, and if they had started at 8 as advertised, I might have liked them, but after waiting so long, I was just angry that they weren't El Vez that I had no patience with them. They were a totally dorky, which could have been cute if I were in the right humor, but I wasn't, so mostly I thought they sucked for not being El Vez.

When El Vez finally came onstage, somewhere around 10:15, I was so fed up with waiting that I was almost ready to leave. Seriously, I was not happy. But then he started, and all of a sudden I was in the Christmas spirit. The whole show was delightfully campy and fun and spirited. "Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus" and "Brown Christmas" managed to make me feel festive where all of my roommate's Doris Day Christmas music had not. His renditions of crowd favorites such as "Huraches Azules" and "[You Ain't Nothin' but a] Chihuahua" had everyone laughing and screaming. The show included political calls for peace and acceptance as well as general holiday cheer, Chicano culture, and Elvis-ness. El Vez is a truly delightful performer and I would gladly go see him again any time.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Longest Night

I spent the longest night of the year with friends and family, as it should be. I went to dinner and a play with my parents down in Orange County, then returned to LA to see friends. We watched the Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special and The Judy Garland Christmas Show and then played goofy video games until 3am. I drove home tired and happy and didn't get to sleep until nearly dawn, which is, I think, the perfect way to celebrate solstice.

For other solstice celebrations, the always delightful S. Bear Bergman proposed spending The Longest Night telling stories. Sadly, I am not much a storyteller but an avid audience and I very much appreciate the results of hir evening. Poet and storyteller ryka aoki de la cruz also offers up a Christmas story and jackadandy gives us solstice art.

Friday, December 15, 2006

¡Una Tortillera Caliente!

Mastering Sex & Tortillas by Adelina Anthony. The Theater District. 12/15/06.

Adelina Anthony is a talented chicana lesbian performance artist returning to Los Angeles after several years away. Mastering Sex & Tortillas demonstrates her skills to the utmost in a hilarious two-character one-woman show. This piece is seriously a performance art powerhouse that kept me laughing aloud all night long. Anthony creates a super-fun, playful vibe and her supurb timing keeps the show moving at rocket speed.

The evening begins with La Professora Mama Chocha, una fiesty, flirty femme instructress, teaching her clase "How to become a tortillera" con mucho drama. You'll never look at a warm tortilla quite the same way again. The second half features Papi Duro, Fearless Butcha Instigator, teaching her recruits to infiltrate Beverly Hills and fundraise for the movemiento. Both characters are lovingly-crafted and delightfully funny. While personally I especially apreciated the utter ridiculousness of La Professora Mama Chocha cuando she demonstrated the importance of her experience as a Tejana as it contributed to her early skills as a lesbian, Papi Duro y su lugar en the 1960s Chicano movement era muy interestante tambien.

Get everyone you know who is Chicana, Lesbiana, or a tortilla-lover of any sort and go to the theater this weekend because it closes on Sunday. If nothing else, you'll learn a lot about Spanish slang and laugh out loud all night long. If you don't believe me when I say that this is an excellent show to which you should run immediately, take jackadandy's word for it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Nasty Lesbians to the Rescue

Positively Nasty. LTTR issue 5 Release Party. Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. 12/09/06.

This was an excellent event with a super cool crowd. LTTR attracts kinds of people with whom I wish I belong, even though I don't exactly fit in. It's an artsy creative rebellious (and fairly academic) kind of vibe. There was a proliferation of gender presentation, creative self-expression, leather, tattoos, piercings, makeup, and well-placed grunge. There were many people with butch, trans, and andro looks with whom I would gladly flirt. There were also plenty of hip boys - it was in no way a lesbian-exclusive event. And, while playing up the femininity feels so good in queer contexts, it doesn't quite mesh (or get me dates - sigh) with this crowd. Oh well, I had fun anyway.

But on to the performances. I feel bad commenting, because I walked in well after the performances began (traffic - ugh), so I missed a gret deal of the fun. Although it was a combination performance and social event and thus I'm not the only one who walked in in the middle or spent more time socializing than paying attention to the excellent performances. Some of the stuff I missed looked interesting, too. Tania Hammidi (whose column you can read at dotnewsmagazine) seemed to have done something involving green lipstick and crazy hair, which I find to be a fascinating departure from her everyday look. She also had a video piece called "I Find America Nasty" which was appropriately icky. There was also someone wandering around with a paper bag on hir head and a sign that said "she-male inside" - I have no idea if this was related to a performance that I missed, a bit of performance art, or just the way someone chose to attend the party.

I arrived in the middle of Silas Howard's performance. Ze was reading a poem/story and I didn't quite catch the main subject other than the fact that the speaker had feelings for a girl. But there was a fascinating tangent about sea cucumbers. And really, I would watch Howard read the phone book. Ze is completely adorable and totally crushworthy. Sigh.

The next peformers were a band whose name I didn't quite catch (the mic was really not so loud and I was in the back of a large noisy room). But their instruments included two flutes and a wacky rain-sounding disc thing. Their music was cool and mellow and one of the women was wearing skin-tight gold pants.

Eileen Myles was totally awesome and fascinating. She's a kickass performer/poet/person/speaker.

The final performance, however, was my favorite (and also the only one that the audience shut up for). My Barbarian performed a wacky and hilarious tribute to the Iraq War, including a delightful song about the Iraq Study group that asked "What is your favorite thing about the Iraq War?" They ended with a plea to "Bring Our Gay Troupes Home" and in general were irrevent and political in a clever and entertaining way. These are some talented perfomers and I look forward to seeing more of them in the future.

Overall, it was a great event, and I'm pretty sad that I only managed to see half of it. I appreciate all the work that the LTTR folks do to put together awesome events in both LA and NY as well as putting out an interesting zine. Bravo and thanks.

Friday, December 08, 2006

2 Super Cool Events this Weekend

ryka aoki de la cruz presents:
Queer, Kewl, and Cultured!
A night of stunning queer West Coast poetry, music, performance, and dance.

FRIDAY, Dec. 8 @ Tribal Café 7 pm
1651 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA., 90026

Lauren Wheeler, Jennifer Fox Bennett, Helen Wong (aka Allenina), Tiko, Edgrrr Grajeda, Lauren Steely
Tiko—Tiko’s from Little Havana, and a crowned priest in the Lukumi faith. He’s also so incredibly talented it’s sick, and Afro-Cuban beats flow from him like moonlight off the evening sand.

Lauren Wheeler—From San Francisco, no one channels broken-glass imagery into hardcore rhythms like our favorite National Slam poet, goth/industrial go-go dancer, and video game producer.

Helen Wong (also known as Allenina)—Admit it! If you’re into transsexuals, you’ve probably visited Speaking of hardcore, this transsexual model, scholar, and actress, and former porn icon has been there and done that. Wouldn’t you like to see what she’s up to now?

Jennifer Fox Bennett—Poet, actor, engineer, member of the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve on the ethereal Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Canada. OMG! Jennifer’s words will take you away and leave you breathless.

Edgrrrr Grajeda—award-winning dancer, actor, poet. From Guadalajara, Mexico, Edgrrr’s so beautiful and honest you’ll want to sell your possessions and run screaming naked on the beach.

Lauren Steely—musician, poet, transgender activist. The sexiest redhead you can imagine, only smarter and with a better sense of timing.

The cover for this special night is $5. All proceeds will go to the artists!


December 9th: LTTR V/ issue 5/ Positively Nasty

celebrating the release with live performances by: My Barbarian, Eileen Myles, James Tsang, Silas Howard, Anna Sew Hoy and Giles Miller, Zackary Drucker, K8 Hardy and more!

at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angles Projects
5795 West Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

7 to 9 pm with an after party at Mandrake on La Cienega

come one come all come out

contributors to issue 5 include:
Alvin Baltrop, Amber Ibarreche, Anna Sew-Hoy, Anne Hal, Bruce Weist, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Deb Shoval, Donnie & Travis, Edie Fake, Emily Roysdon, Erika P Earl, Fereshteh Toosi, GB Jones, James Tsang, Jeanine Oleson, Kate Huh, Leander Djonne, Liz Flint, Lupe Rosales, Mariev Robitaille, Rebecca Quaytman, Ridykeulous, Shannon Ebner, Shelly Marlow, Silas Howard, Tania Hammidi, Third Leg, Ulrike Mueller, Zachary Drucker, Zoe Leonard

LTTR info:

LTTR is a feminist genderqueer artist collective with a flexible project oriented practice. LTTR produces an annual independent art journal, performance series, events, screenings and collaborations. The group was founded in 2001 with an inaugural issue titled “Lesbians to the Rescue,” followed by “Listen Translate Translate Record,” “Practice More Failure,” and most recently “Do You Wish to Direct me?” LTTR is dedicated to highlighting the work of radical communities whose goals are sustainable change, queer pleasure, and critical feminist productivity. It seeks to create and build a context for a culture of critical thinkers whose work not only speaks in dialogue with one another, but consistently challenges its own form by shifting shape and design to best respond to contemporary concerns.

Low Budget Fantasia

Pageant of the 4 Seasons: A 99cent only modern Something. Bootleg Theatre. 12/7/06.

Ken Roht has been putting on 99cent shows for years around Christmas time. The highlight of these shows is their imaginative use of brightly-colored papers, plastics, and other kinds of junk from the 99 Cent Only stores. They also assemble an extremely talented cast who seems to be having a lot of fun, and that in itself is important and valuable.

I have mixed feelings about Pageant of the Four Seasons, however. It felt to me like it was trying a little too hard to be "experimental" and "edgy" and not trying hard enough to be cohesive. It would have been nice if there had been a little more gesture toward a story or even more of a throughline, rather than just an exploration of the 4 seasons, but even that wouldn't have been necessary if the 4 seasons themselves were a little more coherent. Summer, however, was a bit crazy and vaguely culturally offensive with its undertone of Polynesian natives and human sacrifice. Fall and Winter were more coherent and blended into each other nicely, but then Spring felt like it was in an entirely different universe. It was fun and pretty, though (I especially enjoyed the folk song trio who began the Spring section). Each season was beautiful in its own way, but they didn't really go together much at all.

Mostly, I was irritated that they charged $20 (no student discount even!) for this piece that lasted less than an hour. It was beautiful and fun, but overpriced for my budget and what it was and that makes me less likely to recommend it to others, even though it was a lovely piece of theater/dance/opera/experimentation. If it had either been longer and more cohesive OR cheaper, I would be raving about it right now. It was fun and funny and beautiful at moments, and everyone who worked on it is super talented. There were many performers who I would have liked to see more of. There was some fascinating tumbling and clowning, some compelling sugestions of character and relationship, and, of course, many gorgeous costumes (I would have loved to see more done with the fish!). There were many things they could have pulled out and made more of in this show, and I'm kind of sad they didn't. I very much admire what they do with the 99cent Only Store Shows, but I will say that I liked last year's better.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Resistant Femme as Domestic Terrorist

Lois Weaver. Diary of a Domestic Terrorist. UCLA. 11/30/06.

Lois Weaver, consummate femme performance artist, gave a combination show and lecture that included a retrospective of some of her past work, excerpts from her current performance piece, What Tammy Needs To Know, and, most importantly, a call to arms. She explored two intertwined terms, "Domestic terrorist" and "resistant femme" to posit strategies for resistance against dominant regimes. Weaver offered public, active domesticity and femininity as techniques for celebrating resistance. The image of Weaver hanging her laundry in public, projected onto a sheet, becomes an image of oposition against those who want us to be quiet and orderly. Instead of behaving properly, Weaver takes off her clothes. Instead of censoring her nipples, she shows a video in which she let them all hang out. She distributes clothespins (aka homemade nipple clamps) with the label 'domestic terrorist' on them and encourages eveyone to use them proudly and visibly. Weaver's domestic terrorism is a subtle form of resistance, but in its active opposition it terrorizes those who terrorize us. Weaver is feminity with power, performed actively and by choice, visible and deliberately not perfect. This is her performance as a 'resistant femme' embracing, celebrating, and subverting femininity. She finds the power and the threat in domesticity and performs femme as visibly queer and visibly resistant even without the butch to make it visibly lesbian. She's an excellent femme role model as well as an excellent speaker and performer, and if you're ever given the chance to see her do her thing, please take it.