Guest Post by Wendy Lee Spacek
Greetings from INDPLS, new friends!
Caroline and I saw one another a few weeks back at a poetry reading I gave at Heavy Gel in Chicago. I gushed about life in Indianapolis to her, so she asked me to send a monthly dispatch from the Circle City all summer long, and I’m delighted to do so. You may be thinking: INDIANAPOLIS?!?! WHERE IS IT? WHAT IS IT? You may even be thinking “more like, IndianaNOPLACE!” and I assure you, many a naysayer has said that (including our own Native Son, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.)
But let me relay to you a tale of a place that has touched me deep down in my soul like not so many things can. For a number who live here, Indy is the most magical Midwestern city; Steeped in possibility, affordable, walkable, bike-able, jam-packed with public art and home to some seriously nice people.
Indianapolis is the 12th most populous city in the United States (sandwiched between #11 Jacksonville, FLA and #12 San Francisco.) As of today our population is approximately 834,852.
Indianapolis is the state capitol of Indiana. The capitol used to be in Corydon (pop. 3,122) but in 1820 some powerful dudes decided to move it to the very center (almost) of Indiana. In part because most capitols are located in the center of their states and partially because they mistakenly believed that the White River could be used as a highway for boats. Well they were wrong- Indianapolis is the largest city in the United States on a non navigable body of water.
Being our capitol city, downtown is the center of government, so we have a high density of beautiful, historic government buildings, memorials and monuments.
Speaking of these beautiful, historic government buildings, this May First Friday (the night out for art here in Indy) brought a once-in-a-blue-moon, one-night-only opportunity to enter the former City Hall building on Alabama Street for an exhibition of work by 47 current, former or graduating students from Herron School of Art and Design. Aptly named VACANT, the exhibit took inspiration from the wildly successful TURF exhibition held in the space during Indy’s moment in the spotlight: Super Bowl XLVI.
The show was curated by graduation Herron Seniors Taryn Cassella, Anna Martinez and Andrea Townsend. Where TURF was an exhibition of installation art, VACANT included work across mediums. I especially enjoyed Jordan Ryan’s section off the main library detailing the history of the building. A good review with some pictures from the exhibition an be seen on Indy’s weekly arts newspaper, Nuvo’s website.
Vacant Old City Hall Building. Image via Historic Indianapolis.
Jon Keown’s artwork in VACANT. Imagine via Nuvo.net.
This is actually one of the most exciting things I’ve seen lately. The paintings themselves demonstrate a super high level of skill, extremely tight and in an incredible array of colors. The addition of Chromadepth 3D glasses was almost too much to take. I spent at least an hour circling through the gallery taking in florescent anthropomorphized fast food and dancing psychedelic popsicles popping out at me. It was a visual treat. Plus, Tripper was there and his whole outfit was in Chromadepth and he was a really nice guy.
Images via Monster Gallery
The very next day brought the long-anticipated opening of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail (an 8 mile bike & pedestrian path that connects the city’s seven designated cultural districts.) It was an all-day event that featured tons of free activities along the entire trail. A sampling of what I saw/did: petted an albino skunk, talked to a miniature therapy horse, saw a knit bombed house, and saw live performances by 9 marching bands! The marching bands were my favorite part because of their historical context in celebrations/mourning, as well as their significance for youth. Six high school bands converged on Market St. downtown with the sole purpose of playing “Get Down on It” by Kool & The Gang.
High School Marching Bands converging on Market St.
John Marshall Community High School’s drum line playing “FREAK THAT” on closed down Market St. Downtown.
A contemporary twist came through the addition of a free performance on the ground/steps of the Central Library by Chicago’s own Mucca Pazza as well as a Brazilian-style party parade down the trail led by Bloomington’s Jefferson St. Parade Band.
Mucca Pazza performing in front of the American Legion Mall
Late in the month brought the Broad Ripple Art Fair a fundraiser for the Indianapolis Art Center, (my place of employment) which included 225 local, regional and national artists. My participation was working the Make Art Take Art Leave Art Market where people could make and trade art for free!
I also hosted a poetry reading at Indy Read Books, our only independent bookstore within the downtown area. Here is a Vine from local Poet Doug Manuel’s reading.
My friends and I also painted this mural (on the sly?) on an electric box in our neighborhood:
And lastly at the end of every month the Indianapolis Museum of Art hosts an free event called Final Friday and I typically find myself there. The music is curated by DJ Kyle Long of Cultural Cannibals and features both a DJ set by him and a live performer or band. This month was a Pakistani via Brooklyn garage band called The Kominas. Overall it was a good event. Although I did get in trouble for trying to dance with a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
The Kominas playing at the IMA
Ai Weiwei’s Installation “He Xie”
Kyle Long DJing in front of Robert Irwin’s, Light and Space III, 2008.
Until next month!
Wendy Lee Spacek is a poet who lives and works in Indianapolis, Indiana. She likes her city very much. She is a core volunteer of the Indianapolis Publishing Cooperative (Indy Pub Co-Op), publishes small editions of handmade books under the name Soft River and is an arts administrator at the Indianapolis Art Center. She will be posting monthly all summer long about her encounters with art, culture, creative experiences and resources in her city.
As audiences, when we speak of performance we are speaking most often about the glimpses acquired in the act of witnessing. We are speaking to our experience as it lies bound up in the delineation of time and space that is the act of performance, the curve that captures us as we are moved through the phases of the work. Accompanying this journey is a kind of willful ignorance, a reliance on the media at hand, the phone, the body, the text, the document, to describe what has escaped us, the event as it captures our imagination in its unfolding or to mediate in the moment of witnessing so that we might better understand what’s happening. There is not one way to know a performance work, there are many, and it is for that reason that the quality of performance is brought to light through the normalizing tendency of the archive.
Performance documents provide us with the frozen instant, a single moment in the event of the performance. They are tools to help our critical faculties, providing us a moment to rest and to consider what it is that has happened. This perhaps makes the most sense in relationship to the lived experience. The relationship between what my body knows through the performer’s body, a knowledge acquired through an empathetic transference of meaning(s) from the performer’s body to the audience’s and the images my mind recognizes through the documentation. We would be hard pressed to understand either, the experience or the document, without the other. Without the accompanying bodily knowledge the performance document hangs in suspended animation.
Once collected these documents form a group of materials that more often than not speak more to the interruptions of the art context than to the actual work. It would be impossible to ask of the text, photograph, moving image, body and the like to preserve for us what we can only ever hint at. Audiences and performers will always be bested by the performance as it unfurls itself before both. What we know of performative acts after witnessing and enacting them is but a fleeting memory of having done so or if very lucky, a lingering sensation. One that may motivate us, as others have suggested, to go forth and act out what we have experienced in the performance space.
Archive are a technology of bureaucracy. They are way stations for data and accumulated temporality, flattened proofs of the “official” experience. The system of the archive itself is responsible for this kind of alienation. Categories, decimal numbers, and white gloves are methods of sanitation that work to preserve the individual’s experience/state requirement. Once cataloged, memories of childhood, legal forms, receipts, and other accouterments are neatly laid beneath layers of fabric and cardboard. So precious are these relics that the archive must continually migrate them from one outmoded media to the next. The performance relic, however, subverts the safety of the archive. Not all archival material functions in the same way. There is a difference between documents that prove our life/work and documents that preserve the performance event, even if they both document performative tasks whose symbolic functions make permanent an abstraction. The way a notary’s signature on a form makes official the binding language of the agreement. The difference between the two is a result of the social quality of the experience. Once placed within the archive the quotidian document does little to extend the life of the proceeding. This is due to the individual nature of what it documents. The experience of going through a live event within the collectivity of the art context is a social endeavor that expands the role of the document through the sensations and collective consciousness of the group.
It is the sociality of the performance experience that prevents the performance document from falling into the normalizing mechanisms of the archive. The experience of having been to a performance and then seeing the documentation of it, even if what one finds is outside of their memory of the event, finds its fulfillment in the muscular memory of the one handling the document. By this I mean that it is easier to imagine what might have happened in a particular performance after having gone to see one, even if the two are unrelated in image and form, it is the remaining sensation of the event that is rearticulated in the body of the audience upon resuscitation by the performance document. Having spent the entirety of my life involved in performance in one way or another it is difficult for me to imagine how the experience might play out to one who is naive of the ways of the performance event but I would like to suggest here that one of the things that performance does as an art form is to simultaneously imagine and enact living alternatives and to remediate the experience of such imaginings. To present documents of that process in an entirely new context, to potentially naive audiences, such as the library, school, or museum is to depoliticize them and reinscribe them with a whole new set of contextual politics. A process that imbues the document with a different set of concerns that surely tints the experience of the document.
The performance document is possessed by the audience. It is they who own the experience that it represents. To place it within the repository it to attempt to use someone else’s signature to write your name. It may be in your possession but it is not fully yours.
Last month at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicagoans had a chance to see all five films of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. Cremaster has a role in the art world similar to that of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction: everybody knows about it, art students reference it in papers, and relatively few (of my classmates back when I was in school) actually bothered to read it. Cremaster, like Art In The Age…, is taken as a given. We all know some basic facts: Matthew Barney used to play football, he’s married to Bjork, he thinks of himself as a sculptor, and he made these movies which are basically all about his nads. Having seen a few artifacts in a group show at a contemporary art museum, and maybe having watched The Order on DVD, most of my artist friends feel like they’ve got a pretty good grasp on what Barney and Cremaster (the artist being basically synonymous with this one project) are all about. Few have watched any of the actual films, at least not all the way through, and far, far fewer, after having watched one, have felt compelled to watch the other four.
Well, my wife Stephanie Burke and I decided to join those narrow ranks, and last month we watched all five Cremaster films. Fortunately, the Siskel has a bar. From the sound of pop tops and rolling bottles, most of the audience had elected to bring their own booze, but Steph and I are patrons of the arts, and supported the Siskel by buying literally all the Guinness they had. This helped to wash down the films, and is a recommended procedure for anyone viewing them in the future. Frankly, arthouse cinemas are a poor choice for showing these films, with the expectation of propriety and somber contemplation. There are some scenes in these films that are awkwardly comical, and a setting that encourages laughter would really make the viewing experience a lot more pleasant. There is, of course, no admonition against laughing at the Siskel, but when you’re surrounded by a bunch of serious-looking people watching the film like they’re listening to their grandfather’s eulogy, laughing, even when something is really funny, starts to feel like you’re farting in church.
The Cremaster films aren’t the kind of linear narratives that rely, like an M. Night Shyamalan picture, on unexpected twists and turns to sustain the viewer’s interest, so I’ll eschew the usual “spoiler alert” you’d expect from a movie review. (As I write these words, everyone’s bitching about people revealing what happened on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, which I haven’t seen yet either, but I’m inclined to say “Fuck ‘em if they haven’t read the books.” It’s a nice day for a…Red Wedding.)
Having some context about what’s going on can help; if you’ve got the big picture, you can focus on the details and nuance, sort of like reading Infinite Jest for the second time. (More on David Foster Wallace later.) I won’t bother writing up a detailed synopsis, as that work has already been done, so if you’re like a summary, along with a lot of interesting background information and context, check it out: http://www.cremasterfanatic.com/Synopsis.html
One well-known fact about the Cremaster films is that, like Star Wars, their sequential numbering does not reflect the order in which they were shot. They were shot in the following sequence: Cremaster 4 (1994), Cremaster 1 (1995), Cremaster 5 (1997), Cremaster 2 (1999), Cremaster 3 (2002). This creates an interesting effect in which the quality of the visual effects, which were undergoing something of a digital revolution in the late 1990s, is fairly dated in the first film, improves a little by the second, peaks in the third, and then drops off drastically in the fourth, before picking up a tad at the end. The films aren’t by any stretch effects-heavy blockbusters, but Cremaster 4 in particular shows its age in terms of the film quality, whereas Cremaster 3, the last to be filmed, is fairly polished.
Of course, unlike the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s something of a chore to sit down and watch all 398 minutes (over six and one-half hours) of the Cremaster films. (A LoTR marathon, on the other hand, especially in a theater with a good bar, and decent meal breaks between films, is an absolutely transcendent experience.) At the Siskel, at least (not sure if this is how it’s always done), they played 1 and 2 as a double feature, the longer part 3 by itself, and then parts 4 and 5 as a double feature. Part 3 conveniently includes an intermission, great for a much-needed potty break and Guinness refill. There were a couple of showtime options, and due to our schedules, we watched the films neither in numerical sequence nor in the order in which they were filmed, but rather arbitrarily: first we watched Cremaster 4 and 5, then took a day off, then watched Cremaster 3, and the next day finished off with 1 and 2.
Just as nobody can remember that Star Trek 4 is called The Voyage Home (and consequently everyone calls it “The One With The Whales”), the weird sequencing and semi-narrative structure of the Cremaster films makes it hard to remember which one was which. The above-linked synopses will give you a long-form breakdown of what’s in each film, but if you’ve seen them and are having a hard time remembering which was which, here’s a quick guide in the form of suggested subtitles:
Cremaster 4: “Bukkake Goat Motorcycle Race.”
Cremaster 5: “Meat Mangina Mermaid Opera.”
Cremaster 3: “Masonic Punk Bands Dental Demolition Derby”
Cremaster 1: “Grape-Eating Football Blimp Chorus Girls”
Cremaster 2: “Gas Station Murder Beehive Sex Rodeo”
These give a sense of the semiotic smorgasbord Barney uses in his films, which is basically what Moe on The Simpsons was referring to in explaining postmodernism to Homer: “You know, weird for the sake of being weird.” This isn’t to say that the imagery is arbitrary, rather, it is carefully considered and thematically consistent, if frequently unexpected. Rather than engage in a tiresome deconstruction of this content, I’ll combine an inventory of its themes with a helpful aid for a more enjoyable viewing experience. May I present to you…
The Cremaster Cycle Drinking Game! Abnormal Prosthetic Genetalia? Drink! Multiple Young Women In Identical, Revealing Costumes Performing Synchonized Movements? Drink! Bizarre Footwear? Drink! Crawling Through A Confined Space? Drink! “That looks like semen.” Drink! The Presentation of Ritual Regalia? Drink? Ominous, Mysterious Agents of Power? Drink! Human-Animal Hybrid? Drink! Group of fawning, adoring women? Drink! Overt reminder of Barney’s athletic background? Drink!
The general unavailability of Barney’s films for home viewing (outside of The Order), and the general discouragement towards playing drinking games in arthouse cinemas, make this game more theoretical than practical. You could play it at home with a DVD of The Order, lurk on eBay for a bootleg, or bring enough friends to the theater that that’d have a hard time kicking all of you out. Or just play it quietly on your own.
If films are placed on a continuum, from “movies” to “art,” Matthew Barney’s work stands just on the “art” side of the imaginary dividing line, buttressed on the “movie” side by David Lynch. They both elicit the same “Well, that was fucking weird” response from the general public, and both attract a certain fan base of intellectuals with a taste for the bizarre. David Foster Wallace once wrote an article on David Lynch’s films in which he discusses the way they straddle this line; it’s a great article and a good point, but ultimately Lynch’s films are still what Wallace calls “Entertainments,” that is, you can sit down and watch them and it’s fun. They’re smarter than most, granted, but they still function that way.
Not so with Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. Although they lack Lynch’s ironic juxtaposition of the macabre and the mundane (Wallace’s description), something about the Cremaster films nevertheless makes me think of David Lynch, and specifically of Wallace’s essay on Lost Highway. Lynch and Wallace seem to buttress the fine divide between cinema and art film like a pair of bookends holding up a single sheet of paper. Compare Barney to other artist-filmmakers, such as Nathalie Djurberg (I had to Google “ass-licking claymation tiger” to remind myself of her name) or Shirin Neshat. Cremaster is undeniably more like a movie than are those artists’ films, and not just because it’s longer (compare with Warhol’s Sleep or Empire). It may be something to do with context; I’ve seen Neshat and Djurberg’s films in galleries, while Barney’s films I have seen only in theaters (the galleries show ephemera, sketches, and sculptures). The combination of duration, context, and the nature of the films themselves puts them on the cinematic edge of art film, but they ultimately rest on this side of that fence. Cremaster leans up against that divide, shaped by it like a mold full of Vaseline, ultimately conforming to Wallace’s definition of art film, which he uses to explain how Lynch’s films are neither art nor commercial, but something else.
Art film is essentially teleological; it tries in various ways to “wake the audience up” or render us more “conscious.” (This kind of agenda can easily degenerate into pretentiousness and self-righteousness and condescending horsetwaddle, but the agenda itself is large-hearted and fine.) Commercial film doesn’t seem like it cares much about the audience’s instruction or enlightenment. Commercial film’s goal is to “entertain,” which usually means enabling various fantasies that allow the moviegoer to pretend he’s somebody else and that life is somehow bigger and more coherent and more compelling and attractive and in general just way more entertaining than a moviegoer’s life really is. You could say that a commercial movie doesn’t try to wake people up but rather to make their sleep so comfortable and their dreams so pleasant that they will fork over money to experience it-the fantasy-for-money transaction is a commercial movie’s basic point. An art film’s point is usually more intellectual or aesthetic, and you usually have to do some interpretative work to get it, so that when you pay to see an art film you’re actually paying to work (whereas the only work you have to do w/r/t most commercial film is whatever work you did to afford the price of the ticket).
“Paying to work” sounds like a harsh indictment of the experience of viewing a film, but in regard to Cremaster, it’s accurate. The hope is that this work proves rewarding for the viewer, and with the help of a few trips to the bar, it’s not too painful.
The week began with a guest post from Jamie Kazay who continues her serial Barbie-reflections:
Play time with Barbie created a space for the infinite possibilities that language enables. This is, albeit a different medium, how the principles of La Nouvelle Vague operate. Within this movement there seems to be an intense need to circle-back, to recreate, and to satirize all with the intention to provide a variety of end results. It is the distance that is traveled while watching these films that should be observed. They provide a wealth of possibilities. For instance, in “À bout de souffle” I am amused by the collage of scenes that jump back and forth like a child playing jump rope. The mismatched shots pull from a variety of American cultural references. I recount the jazz notes and sounds, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans, Humphrey Bogart, and countless other references. As I played with Barbie, I adapted. I coordinated a sense of wonder and culture, and this established my freedom to create.
Following that, EDITION #10 spellz hot hot hot and, aside from a Who Wore It Better contest between TIME Magazine and a tombstone, the weather report, Facebook art convos, and more, contains a nice little list of good books to check out. As What’s The T? mastermind, Dana Bassett, puts it:
Chicago Artist Writers hosted a workshop with Lori Waxman at Gallery 400 on March 14, 2013. This week on Bad at Sports, they tried to collect and recap some of Waxman’s two-hour lecture:
Lori posited that criticism has largely not changed much since its first appearance with Diderot’s reviews of the Paris Salon of 1765, and the writing that we see in major outlets like the Tribune or Artforum holds the same basic values of that style to this day. This default approach to art criticism doesn’t reflect the drastic changes in art and technology’s influence on the contemporary conversation as much as it could.
She used Documenta as a case in point–-it embodied a sprawling, time-intensive experience for the viewer, and the critical responses to it suffered as their structuring was inadequate to cover the exhibition’s curatorial conceits. Critics who were only able to visit 3-5 days and print 1000 words were ill equipped to critique the event in its totality. “Who goes to NYC for a weekend, and tries to see everything, and if they can’t, it’s New York’s fault?” Lori asked. She used Dieter Roelstraete’s review of the Documenta in Artforum as one example; one of his main critiques was that it had too much going on. Similarly, Roberta Smith’s review in the New York Times was schizophrenic, unable to deal with the scope of the massive three-month undertaking. Lori suggested that despite the stubborn precedent of “objective distance” in traditional criticism, she herself might be the best critic of Documenta, having spent her entire summer there.
News from New York: Juliana Driever interviews Jason Eppink, who by way of introduction has said on his blog: “At some point in time I will write three succinct sentences that clearly express who I am and what I do. Alas, we have not arrived at that point in time yet. ” He is also the Assistant Curator of Digital Media at theMuseum of the Moving Image and, at one turn in the interview says:
Every generation is comfortable navigating the world with the tools they grew up with and every generation feels uncomfortable with the tools they didn’t grow up with, and there’s a simple evolutionary reason for this: Our brains are elastic during our youth as we figure out how the world works, adapting very easily to new tools because, well, everything is new to us. And our brains become more firm as we age so we can more efficiently do the things that ensured our survival. And in age, we can interpret new tools as threats or we can adapt and relearn behaviors. Historically this was not much of a tension, because, e.g., it took thousands of generations to perfect agriculture. Today, the tools change a little faster.
BIG & BOLD: a post from your truly about exciting things (or should I say, things I am excited about) including the Rapid Pulse [Performance] Festival, ACRE’s kitchen festival, a Heather Mekkelson show from 2008, and the new Vitamin D2 book, featuring Deb Sokolow and Elijah Burger.
Monica Westin posted her piece on Steve Juras this Friday:
The first impression Steve Juras’ studio calls to mind is of self-constraint as aesthetic. His work spans any number of two and three dimensional, formal and conceptual practices, and it’s the consistently tightening systems he builds and acts under that provide a through-line: repetitions and experiments in tightly restricted games that insist on looping back on themselves. Juras’ background is in design– his MFA from SAIC is in visual communication– and it’s easy to read some of that background into his somewhat detached approach, which often translates into the obsessive working of images into their most basic shapes (like a long series of skull drawings in notebooks, where a naturalistic sketch ultimately devolves into a study of curve and line) and explorations of shapes within grids. “I’m always looking back to abstraction, the investigation of the line,” he muses as he flips through carefully labeled notebooks that offer endless repetitions on simple themes.
MAINTENANCE #2 courtesy of one Mairead Case — who adeptly discusses the MORE books (including) Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler (Seven Stories Press, 1996), Kite by Dominique Eddé, trans. Ros Schwartz (Seagull Books, 2012), Dying Birds by Nicolai Howalt and Trine Søndergaard (Haasla Books, 2010), Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun (Riverhead Books, 2009), STIR Vol. 1 (www.stirtoaction.com, 2012), and Man vs. Sky by Corey Zeller (YesYes Books, 2013), with an introductory note:
This MAINTENANCE comes to you from my neighbors’ apartment, where it is thunderstorming outside and inside, I am looking after one very great, very large, very orange boss of a cat. My Buddha machine is on and every hour or so, a cuckoo clock pings and the cat leaves the bedroom to hiss or to glare. Across the alley, some little girls are shriek-giggling.
All the disquiet—a word I’m using like the great Marc Weidenbaum does—is, in the end, pretty cozy. (Kitty calmed down.) I didn’t always feel this way, the shrieks in particular would be too many hooks for hanging my hat. But Weidenbaum’s writing and sound archives, which include field recordings and more traditional performances (usually as part of Disquiet Junto, a series he runs), they help me maintain focus even when my neighborhood’s not playing a lullaby. They help me see chaos settling into music, not into garble but patterns and rhythms, however hiccupily.
And, rounding off the week Adrienne Harris posted this very same Sunday with notes from our other coast, about her theater and movie attendance:
When I lived in New York, theatre felt almost as easy as going to the movies. There were so many theaters all over town. There was public transportation and the TKTS discount ticket center in Time Square offering me tickets to shows I desperately wanted to see at a price that was in my budget. I had friends that worked for live theatre and could get me free tickets. Hell, I sold concessions at a small professional theatre in West Village and saw all those plays, multiple times, for free. I saw the original production of the Last 5 Years and an amazing productions of Burn This with Edward Norton and Katherine Keener for free! It was great. Now I live in LA and my friends work for tv shows and in movies and no one has access to free theatre anymore. So, I go to the movie theatre near my house and park in the large parking structure that takes the movie theatre’s validation and I use my Stubs card to earn upgrades on popcorn and eventually free movie tickets and I sit in the dark and watch Super Heros duke it out, or couples turning 40 fight about their marriage, or young people who feel lost but find love in the end. And I LOVE this too. I really love it.
When I lived in New York, I saw a lot of live theatre. I saw Broadway musicals and Shakespeare in the Park. I saw Off Broadway shows at the Public Theatre and Playwrights Horizons, and I saw Off Off Broadway shows in tiny black box theatres in the Village. Those shows usually had a friend or school-mate in them. They were all wonderful (well, they weren’t ALL wonderful, but you get the drift.) I’m a fan of live theatre. But I hardly ever go anymore. Not since moving to LA. Occasionally I buy a ticket to the touring musical at the Pantages in Hollywood and once or twice I ventured downtown to the Ahmanson theatre, but these outings are few and far between. So since a friend’s husband/ very talented actor was staring in Ms. Julie at the Geffen recently, I decided it was a “must see.” So naturally, I waited until I had a free evening, and I waited until towards the end of the run, and I waited until I found an equally theatre loving friend to go with me, and then a week in advance I went to buy tickets. FAIL. SOLD OUT! Friday night at the theatre was sold out and I had blown it. So, instead, I went to the movies.
In fact, I went to the movies twice last week, on both of my free nights. First on Monday and then on Friday. (Just so you know, the Geffen is dark on Mondays so I couldn’t see the play that night.) Both movies were fun, enjoyable and with an independent spirit. On Monday night, I saw Before Midnight, and on Friday I saw Francis Ha.
All in all, going to the movies is easier than the (debatably) more culturally enriching experiencing of going to live theatre. And all though I was disappointed in myself for not being able to make my night at the Geffen happen, I was secretly relieved to not have to get dressed up (as I feel one should for a night at the theatre), fight the traffic heading deep into the West Side and find parking all in time to make an 8:00 pm curtain. Again, I do LOVE live theatre. I love watching the actors tell me a story that is slightly different from the story they told the night before. I love the idea that I might see an actor on a particularly “off night” or an extremely great one. I love that they are real, in the flesh, right there performing for me…LIVE. That is exciting to me in a way that film can never be. But that being said, a night at the movies is simply easier, and some nights, I just want easy.
When I lived in New York, theatre felt almost as easy as going to the movies. There were so many theaters all over town. There was public transportation and the TKTS discount ticket center in Time Square offering me tickets to shows I desperately wanted to see at a price that was in my budget. I had friends that worked for live theatre and could get me free tickets. Hell, I sold concessions at a small professional theatre in West Village and saw all those plays, multiple times, for free. I saw the original production of the Last 5 Years and an amazing productions of Burn This with Edward Norton and Katherine Keener for free! It was great. Now I live in LA and my friends work for tv shows and in movies and no one has access to free theatre anymore. So, I go to the movie theatre near my house and park in the large parking structure that takes the movie theatre’s validation and I use my Stubs card to earn upgrades on popcorn and eventually free movie tickets and I sit in the dark and watch Super Heros duke it out, or couples turning 40 fight about their marriage, or young people who feel lost but find love in the end. And I LOVE this too. I really love it. And I can excuse my lack of theatre going by telling myself that I write movies, not plays, and so I am in the right place because it is my business and not because I was too lazy/busy to get organized ahead of time and buy a theatre ticket before the night sold out.
Last week I was also supposed to go the LACMA to see the Stanley Kubrick exhibit, but that didn’t pan out either. Oh well, maybe one day soon I’ll get some culture, but first I need to see Star Trek: Into Darkness in 3D. Anyone wanna come with me? It’s playing everywhere, all the time. Come on. It will be easy!