29 May 2012

an artist of your city, of your country, or of the world?

Video Artist Kalum Linzy wrote an interesting piece on HuffPo about whether of not New York City is still a legitimate home to artists. You can check it out here.  Linzy argues in his piece that NYC is indeed a home for artists both young and mature, with enough excitement to attract younger artists (and their penchant for mirth and excess) and enough sophistication to retain more mature artists, who are interested in maintaining significant relationships (Linzy lists "husband, wife, friend, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother, family members" - and I noticed that 'father' and 'mother' were conspicuously absent - but that's another topic).

Linzy's column got me thinking a bit about my own life as an artist in my own city - Los Angeles. I have lived in LA for five years now, but my career has yet to put down roots in LA. I teach down in Irvine and I do a fair amount of work in Orange County (South Coast Repertory has been a great artistic home to me), but LA and I have yet to hit it off.  I've got friends who work all around town, but in my five years, I have done just one production in Los Angeles proper (thank you, Geffen Playhouse!). I've got two more coming up, but those are both notable exceptions - one (Pasadena Playhouse) is receiving a co-production from SCR, and the other (another show at The Geffen), is with a director of mine for over ten years - who lives in New York.  It was he who recommended me, not The Geffen. LA continues to not notice me.

Maybe I should wear taller heels.

It's pretty clear that regardless of where I pay rent and taxes, Los Angeles is not my artistic home. So, if not LA, then where? Or, more fundamentally, do I need to have a cosmopolitan area that I can call home? My career is truly bicoastal - In the last 12 months, I opened shows in Boston, Florida, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Costa Mesa, Cincinnati, Long Beach... so do I even want to be bound by one city? Or even one country? Last summer, I had an event in Prague. On Thursday, I take a flight to Romania for a show.

For me, the answer is clear: YES. YES, I long to be part of a larger community of local artists. YES, I want that support structure, that social structure. YES, I want to develop relationships that can be maintained without hopping on a plane to a different time zone. YES, I want to do good work with valued colleagues, to make a living doing so, and to sleep in my own bed at night. And for the past five years, living in LA, I have not done that.  In fact, thinking back, the last time I felt like I was part of the artistic community in my own city was when I lived in... New York.

03 May 2012

Mother Courage and Her Children

For the past 12.5 months, I've been working on a score for a show at UCI.  Mother Courage and Her Children is a staple of the Western canon, written in the early 20th century by Bertolt Brecht. The play takes place during the 30-years war, and it primarily concerns one women's life as she tries to survive the war as a merchant. Over the course of the play, she has success and failure, but ultimately (surprise, surprise), the war takes its toll on her.

Brecht is synonymous in the theatre world with the phrase 'alienation effect,' which, briefly, means that the theatre makers should take steps to ensure that the audience remains aware that they're watching actors in a room, not real humans named Mother Courage, Kattrin, etc. Brecht wanted the audience to have to juggle sympathy for the characters with an objective analysis of the theatrical mechanisms by which they're being manipulated.  One of the ways that Brecht achieves this goal is by writing about a dozen songs into the text (the theory being that the break with reality caused by actors breaking into song will remind the audience that they're watching a play, not real life).  Thousands of pages have been written on alienation effect, and I'm just touching the surface.

At any rate, our production, directed by 2nd-year MFA student Ryanne Laratonda, ran last weekend, and during tech rehearsals, I made some videos of the songs.  I'm posting them here for you!

If you want to read more about this production, head on over to the UCI Sound Design page, where I'm cross-posting this post with a good deal more information about the process and the songs.

Mother Courage Theme:

The Song about The Soldier and His Wife:

The Song of Fraternization:

The Song of the Hours:

The Song of Great Capitulation:

From Ulm to Metz:

The Cook's Song

The Anonymous Song

Eia Popeia