losing our religion

I’m currently in love with this song Live with Me by Massive Attack.  Maybe it’s just where I am located right now in my mind but there is something about the sentiment of it that has been missing from many of the songs I’ve listened to recently.  It’s not so much the words, but rather the honesty in the delivery of the words, and the way it has been mixed with awesome melodies. Good songs, good lyrics, like anything performed, come from a well of emotion that cannot be faked.  At least, that is how I feel about it.  The emotion does not have to come from personal experience, per se, but I think living fully in this world, attemping to avoid mindless consumerism and other materialistic garbage as much as possible, helps to keep the edge of the knife from being blunted.  

I think that is why I really dislike all of the hip/smug cynicism that abounds in much of the work I have seen recently.  I blame television, advertising and the suburbanite sprawl that surfaced over the last half century.  I guess I could also blame the internet and the car in their influence on increasing isolation and alienation, but you cannot single any one thing out.  I’m not even really against cynicism.  There is a place for it, especially since we live in an era of superficiality fueled by the branding/marketing of almost anything.   I’m not someone who skips through the world holding hands singing some corporate created happy-go-lucky song.  I find myself quite cynical at times,  but if something can tear me apart, either in sorrow or in joy or even in anger, or inspire me to create something new, then I know the performance has succeeded.   If I walk out of there ambivalent or annoyed by its contrived attempt to show how hip and meta it is via snarky commentary, that is when I start to think that we’re all damned. 

A friend of mine who works at an art gallery in Chelsea recently introduced a book called “Damaged Romanticism” to me.  The book itself is based on an exhibition with the same name.  The concept of damaged romanticism is incredibly appealing to me as an artist.  It is a type of undefined movement/undercurrent in western society that focuses on recovering something valuable, something positive from disappointment.  It’s hard to get through life without some form of tragedy or damage, but where former movements show humans throwing themselves into full on self-destruction mode, I suppose our generations version of romanticism mixes both the idealism of the original movement within the current soup of a hyperstimulated, bitter  world of this current milieu.   I’ve been seeking performance that might fit this definition.  I wanted to say that Sarah Kane’s work really had elements of this, particularly her play Blasted.     I was fortunate enough to catch Sarah Benson’s direction of Kane’s play at Soho Rep last fall.  Sarah Benson was a second year MFA student at Brooklyn College when I matriculated in the MFA  Directing program in 2003 and I remember having a conversation or two with her before leaving the program before the first semester began.  Benson is now the Artistic Director of Soho Rep and her direction of Blasted was perfectly executed.  It was an incredible performance by all of the actors and I’m not really going to get into a review of this, but I was astounded to realize that this was the first time  Blasted  had been staged in NYC, even though it was originally shown at the Royal Court in London back in the mid 1990’s, before Kane’s early death at the age of 28. 

Plays with lots of violence have to be handled differently from violent films.  There is something that a live performance does to an audience that a film never can.  I rarely see audiences walk out of films that are violent unless there is something especially brutal in them or they’ve been filmed a certain way that has a particular effect on the audience.   I bring up this because soon enough I will be viewing the Tampa based Jobsite Theater’s version of The Lieutanent of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh.  While McDonagh’s play is very different from Kane’s, they both have large amounts of violence.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve done for Tampa Bay area audiences.  From the reviews I’ve read so far, it looks like it’s a gruesome success.  Looking forward to seeing it as well as the Gilgamesh production at USF before I head out of Tampa again until June. 

Yes, it’s true.  I’m leaving again for a short stint and I’ll be taking this blog from Tampa to NYC for the next two months while I work on several of my own shows for the Movement Research spring festival as well as another located on a boat at pier 40 for this Book Club performance art show.  I think it’s Mutiny on the Bounty as the theme.    Can’t wait.