Feeling generally low-energy and fighting the beginning-of-the-quarter cold, I missed the first night of Small Press Traffic's 13th Annual Poets Theater; however, all reports indicate it was SOLD OUT out and a fabulous event. I can vouch for the fact that this was so on night number two as well. The theater at CounterPulse was packed and there was so much body heat I was tempted to take off my new gold sweater. I was sweltering.
But the heat couldn't detract from the great pleasure of Kevin Killian's direction of the fabulous "In a Word, Faust," a play in two parts, by Ish Klein.
"Klein reduces Geothe's five act tragedy to twenty minutes by the simple expedient of reducing every speech to one word. Faust, a knowledge seeker, sells his soul to the devil in order to win knowledge no man was supposed to possess, and to have the world's most beautiful woman (Helen of Troy). So what's the downside? Fourteen artists, poets, scholars and novelists play parts human, divine and satanic in this probing farce" (program).
|Jordan Essoe as Faust|
Photo by Camille Roy
Jordan Essoe played the part of Faust. That man is blessed with amazing cheek bones and his cape accentuated his imposing stature. The rest of the excellent cast included:
Matthew Gordon as Wagner, His Secretary, Robbie Dewhurst as Casper, A Traveling Genius, Joe Bly as Mexico, Johnny Drago as Auerhahn, Nicholas Andre Sung as Vitzliputzli, Jack Frost as Alesko, Cliff Hengst as Mephistopheles, Ian Heames as Berlicke, an Infernal Spirit, Steve Orth as Ferdinand, Duke of Parma, Norma Cole as Blanca, his bride, Tom Allen as Orestes, his councilor, Dodie Bellamy as Genius, a supernatural spirit, Lindsey Boldt as Helen, Trojan Beauty.
Norma Cole, Lindsey Boldt, and Dodie Bellamy were luminous; Cliff Hengst is always a force with great timing. In each of his several performances over the course of the night, Steve Orth was in his element.
Brent Cunningham recruited actors from the audience minutes before each of his "Standard Stoppages:
#1: The Poet Suicides
#2 Great Puppets of the Middle Ages
#3 Panel! Panel! Panel!
The Stoppages were alternated with other plays, including:
Mary Burger and Yedda Morrison's "Un/Conventional Chorus," a play "featuring some common native and exotic plant species found in Glen Canyon Park, exploring the intersections of botany, politics, history, naming, and pollen (program). The Cast included: Mary Burger, Beth Murray, Aja Duncan, Nicole Trigg, Tanya Hollis, Wendy Kramer, Chet Weiner, Mari Collings & Jocelyn Saidenberg.
|Tanya Hollis and Beth Murray in "Un/ConventionalChorus"|
Photo by Camille Roy
"The Voice Reconfigured as Event as Spatial-Temporal Gesture: A Proposal" written by Avra Spector and directed by Avra and Ecan Schnair is "based on NBC's reality singing competition the Voice. This version sees three punctuation marks blind audition in hopes of getting an astute writer to turn around. At stake is being signed to a most prized and lauded prose block and a chance at superstardom. As the writer tires and the punctuations start playing dirty, the whole audition process is thrown asunder" (program).
Lastly, but not least, "Escape From Century Hills" written and directed by Lindsey Boldt and Steve Orth takes place "fifty years in the future. A group of experimental poets in the winter of their lives find themselves in a retirement home. A young poet come to visit eager to learn from them and 'make connections.' The elders are less concerned with posterity than bustin' outta the big house" (program). The cast included Steve Orth, Lindsey Boldt, Sara Larsen, Kevin Killian. This team clearly had great fun working on this production!
|Kevin Killian, Steve Orth, Lindsey Boldt, Sara Larsen in "Escape from Century Hills"|
Photo by Camille Roy
Here's one of Brent Cunningham's entertaining Standard Stoppages:
Standard Stoppage #3: Panel! Panel! Panel!
by Brent Cunningham
Cast: Moderator, Panelist, Questioner #1, Questioner #2
[Play opens with a standard academic “panel” set up: table, chairs, a Moderator, and a Panelist. Questioners are in the actual audience. All actors are welcome to ad lib on the basic structure.]
The Moderator generally speaks only the following six words: “Greet,” “Sum,” “Defer,” “Discomfort,” “Deflection,” and “Valediction.” Repetitions of “Greet” at the start of the play give way to “Sum” then to “Defer” as the Moderator introduces the Panelist.
After they are introduced, the Panelist reads the following paper:
Jargon jargon jargon jargon jargon jargon jargon. Jargon jargon. Jargon jargon jargon. Cite cite cite. Jargon jargon. Cite. Jargon. Cite cite cite. Jargon jargon. Jargon jargon jargon jargon. Cite cite cite cite cite cite cite cite. Jargon jargon jargon jargon. Jargon. Jargon.
Of course it’s much more complicated than that. Further, complications to these complications are complicated by the complications of their own smaller complications, which in turn are complicated by complicating the complications within which the complications are in the first instance complicated. Complicating the complications are the complicated complications of the complicated. Complicated complicated. Moreover, the complicated complications are complicated by the complications to which the complications complicate the complicated complications. Complicate, complicate, complicate. In short, it’s complicated.
[As if spoken, not reading.]
Side point that sounds spontaneous but which in fact I worked on very hard. Side point that sounds spontaneous but which in fact I worked on very hard. Side point that sounds spontaneous but which in fact I worked on very hard. Side point that sounds spontaneous but which in fact I worked on very hard. [Returns to reading.]
Jargon jargon jargon jargon. Jargon jargon jargon. Cite cite cite. Jargon jargon. Cite cite cite cite.
In the final analysis, let’s not bicker and argue over whether my right ideas are right. Indeed, let’s not bicker and argue over whether my right ideas are right. As I have shown, bickering and arguing over whether my right ideas are right leads nowhere. Rather, and this is my essential point, let’s not bicker and argue over whether my right ideas are right. In conclusion, let’s not bicker and argue over whether my right ideas are right.
After the Panelist finishes, there is light applause. Moderator uses mixture of “Sum” and “Defer.” Moderator may then signal beginning of Q and A by asking “Are there any questions?”
Questioner #1 repeats the following sentence 4 or 5 times, ending with a high rising terminal (“question” intonation) on the last repetition of the sentence: “I wasn’t really listening but was instead thinking about how to formulate this question.”
In response, Panelist answers by repeating “Polite bewilderment” 10 or 12 times. Then repeats “Reiteration of points previously made” 6 or 7 times.
Moderator asks if there are more questions.
Questioner #2 repeats the following sentence 4 or 5 times, ending with a high rising terminal (“question” intonation) on the last repetition: “Challenge not just to the points made, but to the undergirding social structure that enabled the points to be made and indeed to the universe as a whole.”
In response, Panelist answers by repeating “This is not the time or place” 10 or 12 times. Then says, “Besides,” and repeats the following 5 or 6 times: “personal revelation intended as an anecdote but a little too revealing of deep perversity.”
End of Q andA the Moderator repeats “Discomfort,” then “Deflection,” then “Sum,” then “Valediction” until curtain.