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REVIEW: 50 Fingers & 88 Keys

28 Jul

REVIEW by CP composer Veronika Krausas

50 Fingers & 88 Keys (…actually 60 fingers and 176 keys)

I just attended one of the most delightful events of the year. Yes, I did just use the word ‘delightful’. I was at a lovely Sunday afternoon garden party organized by Jacaranda Music that included a delicious lunch and a wonderful piano recital, hence the title with lots of fingers and keys! It was at the Music & Art Atelier: David Anderson Pianos and Tanya Ragir Studios.

The pianists were a line-up of excellence: Aron Kallay, Danny Holt, Steven Vanhauwaert, Yana Reznik and the duo Joanne Pearce Martin and Gavin Martin. All will be featured in Jacaranda’s upcoming season.  The repertoire ranged from Mozart, Granados, Rachmoninoff, and Ravel to 21st Century composers David Lang and Nico Muhly.

pianists: Steven Vanhaueaert & Danny Holt

During a sublime performance of the quiet and delicate Etudes by Muhly, sirens and ambulances started up down the street and then disappeared. Not missing a beat or a finger (one of the 60) pianist Aron Kallay smiled slightly and kept on serenely playing.

pianist: Aron Kallay

It was a magical afternoon:  as the music wafted through the garden, the shadows of the rustling leaves in the trees danced on the white table cloths.

If this event is a prelude to their next season we can all be very excited!  Jacaranda 

Patrick Scott - Artistic Director Jacaranda Music

REVIEW: Microtextual at the Microfest 2011 concert series

5 Jun

MicroTextual

Catalysis Projects

April 16, 2011

MiMoDa Studio, Los Angeles

Review by CP composer Veronika Krausas

One of my favorite things is bilingual poetry books – English on the right side and the original on the left.  Sometimes it’s a foreign language I understand but often not. Still, it makes me feel a little bit like a traveler to an exotic place – comparing the alternate versions.  It feels like a magical and secret world that is private and I’m opening up a little cabinet of wonders to enjoy and watch sparkle. 

CP’s MicroTextual, curated by Aron Kallay, for me was just like that – a land of wonder, from the moment you walked into MiMoDa.  The space was transformed to an art exhibit with soft lighting and mysterious scrolls hanging from the ceiling and paper-origami-poof lamps  (my term) and a super cool vibe.  This concert featured many of the Catalysis Projects artists and what a collection of creativity and performances it was.

The reason I bring up bilingual poetry books is that the work of Quintan Wikswo is a 3-D version but so much more.   Her ‘cabinet of wonders’ included two wonderful works combining her texts with sublimely beautiful video footage.  They’re from her Floriography collection:  Floriography I (Coimbra 1541) and Floriography II (Bavaria 1543).  Her term is a “diptych of text-integrated video installation.”  

Wikswo "Floriography"

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the back wall, in amongst the mostly red images floated text, in English, while Rafael Liebich read, as an echo, the same text in Portuguese, with trombonist Matt Barbier playing a microtonal composition by David Rosenboom.  In the second work, the texts were read in Hebrew to a soundscape of flies and frogs.  These pieces were a visual realization of bilingual poetry books.

Wikswo: FLORIOGRAPHY II: COIMBRA 1453

Starting the program was the amazing Honey, Milk and Blood, a collaboration by composer Isaac Schankler and visual artist Kim Ye, inspired by the ideas of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla.  The scrolls were explained – they were functional art!  It was the score for the dozen singers, dressed in off-white flowing clothes.  The soprano soloist Andrea Zomorodian was herself a sculpture, a kinetic sculptures by Ye, a mermaid plant with a long root carried out by her attendants.  LOVED the music, LOVED the kinetic sculptures – it was the first sparkle opening up the cabinet of wonders.

Schankler/Ye: HONEY, MILK AND BLOOD

And what microtonal concert would be complete without some quintessential Harry Partch, the grandfather of American microtonal music?  The Barstow:  Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions by Partch was brilliantly performed by baritone and guitarist John Schneider, one of the co-directors of the Microfest series this year and Aron Kallay on chromelodeon.  

The second half of the concert started with a minimal and very serene work by Cat Lamb, The Field (for Agnes)There was a world premiere by Jeffrey Holmes, Fragments for soprano and piano.  The vocal line is more of a chant or what Holmes calls “a spell” in a series of images that use text from a variety of anonymous Latin sources. It was a Teutonic saga full of rich harmonies and virtuoso piano writing.  The virtuoso piano part was expertly performed by CP member and organizer of the whole evening pianist Aron Kallay

Holmes: Fragments

The most amazing thing about this piece was visual and completely accidental. I just happened to be lucky enough to be sitting in the exact spot to notice – Katherine Giaquinto, the singer was standing in a spot that when I looked in the mirror on the opposite wall, her body was replaced by the reflection of one of those paper-origami-poof lamps.  This alternate body was like another sculpture by Kim Ye and added to the chant-like Latin text’s magical and removed quality.

The concert concluded with Luminenscence, a gorgeous work by this year’s other co-director of Microfest, Bill Alves.  In his program notes Alves writes:

… an oton [is] a ritual that is performed 210 days after the birth of a child when the baby’s feet touch the earth for the first time. Before that time she is considered still too close to the realm of the gods to be allowed to touch the ground. The only music at this ceremony came from the chanting of the officiating priest and the small bell whose sounds he wafted to the fascinated baby’s ears.  Those chants, or mantra, are … a way of tuning oneself to the vibrations of the universe. These are in a very real sense the sounds of the transition from the celestial to the terrestrial world.

The singers now changed from white to black – from light to dark – balancing the visual and aural in the concert, touching the audience’s feet to the ground.  The whole evening was a wonderfully surreal and dreamlike experience.

PS

If you, like me, love bilingual poetry books – definitely check out The Madness of Amadis by Jean Cassou, translated by Timothy Adès  (Agenda Editions).  Cassou (1897-1986), was a war-time Resistance leader, created France’s National Museum of Modern Art, and a poet!  It’s wonderful poetry and a brilliant and sensitive translation.

PS #2

The concert was part of the Microfest Concert series that started in LA in by the fabulous John Schneider in 1997.  www.microfest.org

Eco Amazons by DORKA KEEHN

2 Jun

Recommended Reading by

CP composer Veronika Krausas

I have just received a new book – it’s an absolutely beautiful hardcover by the San Francisco writer, documentary film maker and activist Dorka Keehn, who is definitely her own force of nature.  I highly recommend it!

Eco Amazons brings together for the first time the women leading the charge to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth. Through intimate interviews conducted by journalist and activist Dorka Keehn and arresting images by award winning photographer Colin Finlay, Eco Amazons calls attention to this century’s critical environmental challenges by focusing on the remarkable women developing solutions and guiding us towards a sustainable future. Their efforts demonstrate how individual concern gives rise to passion, how passion leads to action, and how action effects meaningful change—efforts that can be emulated by each and every one of us.
If you’d like to order one, they’re  on Amazon OR at a 30% discount is available on http://www.ecoamazons.com if purchased by June 5, World Environment Day (WED).
If you are in the Bay Area and would like to meet Dorka, please join us at Gump’s, 135 Post St, SF CA on June 16 5:30-7:30 PM. Rsvp: specialevents@gumps.com
Through decades of WED celebrations, hundreds of thousands of people from countries all over the world have been galvanized for individual and organized environmental action. For more information and activities, please visit www.unep.org/wed

Dorka Keehn

Dorka’s been a guest blogger for CP and here’s more information:
Dorka Keehn is a journalist and social entrepreneur. She is currently working on ECO AMAZONS, the first book on American women environmental leaders to be released on Earth Day, 2011, with images by Colin Finlay, one of the foremost documentary photographers in the world. She completed in November 2008,Language of the Birds, a large-scale solar powered permanent site specific sculpture for a new plaza in Northbeach, commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission, that was voted one of the best public artworks in the United States by Americans for the Arts. As a filmmaker, she has produced several films for television including the two-time Emmy award winning documentary, OF CIVIL WRONGS & RIGHTS: The Fred Korematsu Story (PBS POV 2001.) She is a founder of EMERGE AMERICA, the premier training program for Democratic women who plan to run for political office, and has been a leader in the women’s movement for over fifteen years. Mayor Willie Brown appointed her twice and Mayor Gavin Newsom re-appointed her to the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. Dorka was also the West Coast Director of Gloria Steinem’s Voters For Choice, the largest non-partisan, independent pro-choice political action committee in the U.S. And she has served on innumerable Boards of Directors of women’s, environmental, media and educational organizations.

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Ichiro Irie on paperclips, artistic discomfort, and interdisciplinary portraiture

22 Apr

REVIEW BY RACHEL MATOS. Introducing our first in a series of articles by CP guest blogger Rachel Matos. An exhibited artist, educator and professional performer, Rachel studied at the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University, and has since worked for LACMA, Norton Simon Museum, The Guggenheim, The Met, The Bronx Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt and thePhiladelphia Museum of Art.  

Ichiro Irie

Have you been to the Torrance Museum of Art lately? The museum is in the midst of its first in a series of international exhibitions representing artists with similar cultural backgrounds. The first is Gateway Japan, where I had the privilege of viewing works by Japanese and Japanese American artists. The show ran the gamut of disciplines from three-dimensional portraits atop of mobile phone canvases to sumo-wrestlers creating footprints on a clay fighting ring.

As I entered the gallery, I noticed black canvases that evoked a series of emotional range. From afar, I could see a monochromatic portrait of a woman singing and a man laughing. Up close, I noticed the portraits were all made with staples on blocks of wood transforming the illusion of representational work into abstraction.

Interested in Ichiro’s interdisciplinary approach to portraiture and his participation in Gateway Japan, I asked the artist a few questions about himself, his work and what’s next.

CP: You were born in Tokyo, raised in Los Angeles, but you don’t consider yourself Japanese or American. You say you feel ‘Angelino’. What does being an Angelino mean to you?

IRIE: Technically I’m both Japanese and American.  I was born in Japan from Japanese parents.  I was brought to L.A. when I was 2, but I spoke Japanese at home, ate Japanese food at home everyday, and went to Japanese school on Saturdays.

Ichiro Irie

Ichiro Irie

On the other hand, outside of the house, I’ve lived my life mostly like any kid in L.A., my friends and acquaintances from all walks of life.  Well, I grew up in West L.A. and Brentwood, went to middle school and high school in Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara.  Most of my peers were Caucasian with a sprinkle of other races and ethnicities.  My connection to the Japanese and Japanese American communities here outside of family and a handful of friends had been limited at best.  I should also mention that I just became a U.S. citizen last year.

Nevertheless, because of my appearance, people who see or meet me here for the first time see me as the other.  Heck, I even saw myself as the other, and perhaps I still do.  My favorite movies, my favorite bands, my favorite actors and actresses, people on T.V., girls I liked, my best friends… nobody looked like me.

In Japan, I look, more or less, like everyone else, but after a few minutes of conversation, it becomes pretty obvious that I’m not completely one of them.  Often in a good way, because, when I visited Japan as a child or as a young adult, people were curious to get to know me, kind of like the exotic strange animal at the zoo.  I didn’t mind that for some reason.  In short, I’ve always been the token Japanese kid here, and the token Gringo Japanese in Japan.

I feel like an Angelino, because my identity and my outlook towards the world have been totally shaped by my experience here.  For all its politically correctness, progressive thinking, yoga, and health consciousness, life in Los Angeles is defined by racial politics.  I’m not saying anything that’s hasn’t been said 1000 times before, but just go to any restaurant in Brentwood, Melrose, Beverly Hills or Santa Monica… 90% Caucasian.  The busboys, dishwashers, housekeepers, gardeners, and day laborors… Latino.

Ichiro Irie

I have a son in grade school now.  Investigating which public schools have the highest level of education, the highest standardized test scores are in predominantly White and Asian communities.  The school in the bottom half are all Black and Latino.  This reality is not only sad, it’s criminal, although I’m not exactly sure who to blame.

I’ve read a couple statistics, one that Asian men are the most single (as in available) segment of the population, and another that they have the highest average income.  In what kind of f’d up society is the richest guy considered the least desirable?

Los Angeles is also home to Hollywood.  There are an unusual amount of people who want to be famous here.  There are an unusual number of people with cosmetic surgery.  Los Angeles is home to the San Fernando Valley, the porn capital of the world.  Los Angeles is a city where people are very isolated.  I visited New York for the first time since 2005 this year for a show.  I was shocked how random people actually walk up and talk to you.  It made me uncomfortable, and I liked it.

So, as I hope you can see, my relationship to the rest of the world, I believe, is measured against all of my experiences here in Los Angeles.  I’m a product of this city.

CP: Was there a pivotal moment that brought you awareness about the self importance and the over-glorification of oneself as an artist? Are the mediums you choose a reflection of those feelings? 

IRIE: I think those were the words of Heather Jeno Silva who wrote about my work.  Although I don’t necessarily disagree with her, I don’t make work in order to prove some point against self-glorification either.  I just try to do what comes the most naturally at any given moment.  Even when I’m being ironic from time to time, I simply try to do what feels like a sincere pursuit of my artistic concerns.  My work is diverse, dispersed, and spans media and disciplines, because of this.  I get bored easily.  I’m interested in a lot of different things.  I want my body of work to reflect an expanded definition of identity without being didactic.  I can only accomplish this within my means and my limitations, both economic and personal.  It is certainly not the most efficient strategy towards achieving commercial success or branding my self as an artist.  Maybe this is being humble, or maybe I’m trying to bite off more than I can chew.

Ichiro Irie

The materials I choose, and the images I create are a result of questioning to my self, why a person like me or just people around me in general would end up in a place like this, at this particular age.  When you are surrounded by these materials and images, they become normal, and almost invisible.  For example, with my accumulations series, I observe, depict, accumulate, and transform everyday objects such as paperclips, staples, screws, poster putty, and hair clips.  By bringing these entities to the foreground, I’m trying to show how unusual these things really are.  Imagine landing in the world today from, say, just 200 years ago.  All of these things would seem so bizarre.

This idea of transformation and humor has been particularly important to me recently, because it allows the possibility for subtle defiance, active participation and pleasure within a set of parameters, even if it is only within my tiny corner of the world.

CP: Have the tragic events in Japan changed or influenced the direction of your work in any way?

IRIE:  Yes, in 2009, I did a series of ink drawings of two adolescents, one boy and one girl, surrounded in the aftermath of some catastrophic event.  In spite of the bleak environments depicted, I believe they were hopeful pictures.  I wanted to expand on this series by doing larger drawings and paintings of a similar nature.

Because of these recent events in Japan, I’ve decided not to continue this series anymore, because I’m worried that people will think that I’m doing these works as a result of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami.  I’m worried that the works would now seem opportunistic.

CP: Can you share what you are working on and what we can look forward to?

IRIE:  I’ve been teaching at Santa Monica College and Oxnard College the past 4 years.  I feel a little bit like the catcher in the rye, trying my best to not let these kids and adults slip through the cracks.  Several of the more fortunate ones are doing remarkably well.  It’s a very rewarding process to see your students evolve.

I’ve invested so much energy in the teaching process, and with many of my students, a relationship emerges that is beyond academic or professional.  I’ve been reading up a little on the concept of transference and counter transference in relation to psychoanalysis, and playing with the idea that most of these students are trying to transfer to a 4 year university, MFA program, or simply to the next stage of their lives and careers.  My most current work revolves around these ideas of transfer and transference.

I’ve been in 5 shows in L.A., New York, Mexico City and Frankfurt in the last 4 months, and I feel a little spread thin in terms of exhibiting, so I probably won’t be showing my own work again until August.  I will be showing work at Gallery Lara in Tokyo at the end of the summer, and will be participating in the Sur Biennial curated by Ronald Lopez this fall.  I’ve also been invited to participate in a show in Berlin called “La Vida es Cruel” curated by artist/curator Florian Heinke.

In the meantime, we will continue our curatorial projects at JAUS, a small artist run space I direct in West L.A.  I’ll have my summer off for the first time since returning to L.A. from Mexico City in 2006.  I’m looking forward to spending more time in the studio, developing new works and getting some much needed R&R.

ABOUT RACHEL MATOS:

An exhibited artist, educator and professional performer, Rachel Matos studied at the School of Visual Arts and Columbia University specializing in painting and the history of modern art. She has worked for LACMA, Norton Simon Museum, The Guggenheim, The Met, The Bronx Museum, Montclair Art Museum, Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt and thePhiladelphia Museum of Art, among many others.  She is often sought to develop educational programs for art institutions and to serve as a guest lecturer and curator. Her works have been exhibited at the Woodmere Art Museum, the Colombian Consulate, the Society of Illustrators, and Rockefeller Center. Learn more about Matos here.

THE INDUSTRY launches in Los Angeles: Veronika Krausas’ Event Review

18 Mar

By VERONIKA KRAUSAS –

On Wednesday night (March 16, 2011)  THE INDUSTRY held a launch event at the fabulous Royal/T Café in Culver City.  Over 300 people came out to celebrate!  Excerpts from Anne LeBaron’s opera Crescent City were highlighted amidst wine and chocolates and a very electrifying vibe.

THE INDUSTRY aims to be a bridge between the visual arts and musical worlds here in LA.  They’ll present new and experimental productions that merge music, visual arts, and performance in order to expand the traditional definition of opera and create a new paradigm for interdisciplinary collaboration.  It’s an exciting time to be in LA and the artistic director and founder Yuval Sharon said in his opening remarks:

I’m excited about the audience in Los Angeles, as well as building the audience here for boundary-breaking work… LA’s rich cultural heritage of innovative music is the foundational inspiration for The Industry.

We’re all really invigorated by the reception for this new venture in our wonderfully creative city.  Their inaugural production of Crescent City will be in the Spring of 2012.  Stay tuned for more news.

http://www.theindustryla.org/

ps  definitely check out the Royal/T  Café – it’s a wonderful place for art and music and tea and their turkey burgers ROCK! www.royal-t.org

ROYAL/T Cafe in Culver City

Congratulations Jennifer Egan: Quintan Ana Wikswo’s Notes from the Studio

12 Mar

NOTES FROM THE STUDIO
This week your friends at Catalysis Projects introduce the fifth in our series of new columns – brief notes from the studios of our Core and Resident Artists. This week our Core Artist Quintan Ana Wikswo points out just how clueless and distasteful the Los Angeles Times can be in reporting on women writers.  

I am quite pleased that Jennifer Egan’s novel “A Visit From the Goon Squad” was awarded the prestigious fiction prize from the National Book Critics Circle last night. Go pick up a copy at Skylight Books. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of the nonfiction winner, Isabel Wilkerson’s riveting book: The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (sorry Skylight, but you say you don’t carry it).

But I couldn’t be more horrified that the LA Times article today made an atrocious series of choices in announcing Jonathan Franzen NOT winning the award, rather than a talented female writer WINNING the award.

First bad choice? The headline: “Egan beats Franzen in National Book Critics Circle’s Fiction Prize.” Isn’t it enough that she won, without naming the famous man whose work was NOT selected?

Second bad choice? The tagline: “The Jennifer Egan work bests Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom.'” Um, you might want to name the winning book (“A Visit from the Good Squad”) rather than the name of the novel by the man who didn’t win.

Third bad choice? The photograph: of a typically fatuous looking loser Jonathan Franzen, instead of the female winner, Jennifer Egan. Here’s an actual author photograph:

Jennifer Egan

I like the damning article by Cynthia Newberry Martin in Contrary Magazine, who offers an alternative headline:

EGAN WINS NATIONAL BOOK CRITIC CIRCLE’S FICTION PRIZE.

Click here to respond to the LAt Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-op-email-form,0,3054191.customform

Vienna meets Theater Voyeur in Little Ethiopia

15 Jan

by Aron Kallay

Paper or Plastik

When Yasha J. Michelson bought the old Dancers Studio, a few blocks south of Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia neighborhood, he had big plans.  A true renaissance man, Yasha has worked in fashion, design, fine art, photography, film, and dance.  His vision for the newly renamed and refurbished MiMoDa Studio is to create a multi-purpose space that is capable of accommodating dance, film, music performances, theater, release parties and also capable of being a spot for more community-centered projects, such as youth ballet and yoga classes.  Oh… and did I mention that there’s an amazingly hip and understated coffee shop in the storefront, Paper or Plastik.  I got to experience Yasha’s vision firsthand this week at a concert that featured members of the Symbiosis Chamber Orchestra and Mimoda Jazzo Gruppa.

MiMoDa Studio

Walking into Paper or Plastik, I was struck by the urban sensibility of the space: brick walls, exposed beams, hard concrete floor.  Starbucks this is not.  After ordering myself a tasty cup of Intelligentsia coffee, I entered MiMoDa Studio through a tiny steel door in the back of the shop.  When I was in college, I played piano for more than my fair share of ballet classes.  It was decent money and, if you were good enough at it, you could read the newspaper while you played.  MiMoDa is nothing like the drab dance studios I remember.  Here, one entire wall is floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the street.  The back wall has chairs and tables nailed to it (on which Yasha tells me they sometimes dance).  A high vaulted ceiling has exposed wood beams, lending the space better acoustics than I would have expected.  And here is the kicker: it was packed, on a Wednesday night!

Photo by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy

The first half featured members of Symbiosis, a conductorless chamber ensemble based in Torrance.  To open the concert, the ensemble tore into up-and-coming young composer George N. Gianopoulos’s Cello Quintet, Op. 22, a charming piece that deserves more hearings.  They then moved on to more standard fare, playing Schubert’s epic late Cello Quintet, D. 956, a piece composed two months before the composer’s death.  Alternately tranquil and turbulent, the piece invites comparison to Schubert’s own late piano sonatas, which are similar in emotional scale and harmonic inventiveness (the Quintet ends with a Neapolitan sixth chord in place of the dominant–Chopin, taking up the mantle of harmonic inventiveness after Schubert’s death, would open his First Ballade, op. 23 with a Neapolitan sixth seven years later).  Symbiosis played admirably–one could sense their searching for a deeper beauty contained within the music.

Photo by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy

After a short intermission, and another cup of coffee, it was back into the studio for Yasha’s Mimoda Jazzo Gruppa, an ensemble of dancers, actors, clowns, and singers.  Theater Voyeur is hard to describe.  It continues in the tradition of the grand vaudevillian; short sketches of dance and theater, often intertwined, alternate with comedy and downright silliness (and I mean that in the best possible way).  Much of the second half was visually stunning, with dancers performing in front of, or behind, large illuminated sheets of fabric.

How close Yasha is to realizing his vision for MiMoDa?  I’ll leave you with the following: at the close of the evening, which began with Schubert, something completely unexpected happened: a dance party broke out.

Photo by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy

FREE REED CONSPIRACY: accordions, zippers and a ZOTE

14 Dec

A REVIEW by CP member Veronika Krausas

This evening I attended the concert of the Free Reed Conspiracy, an accordion quartet with Catalysis Projects Resident Artist and composer extraordinaire, Isaac Schankler, along with mastermind of music boxes and music Daniel Corral, with James Barry and Jimi Cabeza De Vaca. It was at the Pasadena Library and part of their Creative Music Concert Series.

For most people accordions bring to mind om-pah-pah music, polkas, beer steins, burly smelly men and lederhosen.  There was not a one of any of these in sight.  The four musicians sat as still and erect as a string quartet.  The music was mostly minimal-process oriented- slowly unfolding music.  It was really a treat.  The first piece was by Dr. Schankler’s charming Chocolate Phase that’s his minimalist take on YouTube senations Tay Zonday’s Chocolate Rain.  The other 3 works were by Daniel Corral:  I-V-I, Neotrope, and Mandala Fanfare.  This last one had guest percussionist Andrew Lessman who performed on a snare (with a lovely dirty blue t-shirt thrown on the skin to dampen the sound) with a pair of sticks/brushes that looked like they had been gnawed on but they made the best sound!

It was a lovely hour and a half of hypnotic accordion sounds which ended miraculously at the exact same time as the library’s announcement of “The library will be closing in 15 minutes ….”  came on.  The performers and the audience were absolutely stunned at the timing!

The accordion is just a rockin’ instrument.  At the concert I ran into a fellow composer who leaned over after the first piece and said “you realize we first met at an accordion concert, does that mean we both have accordion fetishes?”  My answer “Yep … but don’t tell anyone!”  I frequently run into this same composer at other concerts including the ‘respectable’ ones at the LA Philharmonic.  At one particular concert, probably one of the Green Umbrella variety, this same composer was wearing a really cool pair of pants and I commented “hey, great pants.”  To which he replied “they’re women’s pants” (by the way he’s a he) and I said “How can you tell they’re women’s?” and he enlightened me that the zipper on men’s pants is done up with the right hand and women’s ‘traditionally’ with the left. Fascinating!   I reminded him of this encounter this evening and we proceeded to discuss this and the side buttons are buttoned up on on men’s vs. women’s shirts – but that’s for another blog.

When I got home I decided to do a little scientific research.  I went into my closet and counted zippers on pants.  The first thing that was utterly shocking – Good Lord! I own 24 pairs of pants!    Thirteen zip on the right, nine zip on the left and 2 pairs zip on the side.  The left ones include most of my dress pants and suits (including those made in Thailand).  The majority of the others are jeans, cords and an old pair of orange suede jeans.  The right is winning!  Maybe women’s left-sided zippers are slowly being converted to right-sided ones.

Since zipper begins with a Z (I still pronounce this ‘zed’ being from Canada and all) …  I must quote one of my favorite writers from a book that is always on my desk:  Edward Gorey’s The Utter Zoo Alphabet.

(About the Zote what can be said? There was just one, and now it’s dead.)

HYPERKINETIC GUMBO & THE PHANTASMAGORIC ANUS: a review of the Wooster Group’s Vieux Carre at RedCat

7 Dec

guest review by Atalie Kessler

Ari Flaikos and Kate Valk in "Vieux Carre." Photo by Nancy Campbell.

The Wooster Group’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “Vieux Carre” at the RedCat should come with a warning for those seated in the first five rows: actor’s anuses are closer than they appear.  After sitting through the two hour production – no intermission – I left feeling like I needed a shower, a feeling exacerbated by the semi-consentual intimacy of my third row vantage point of prosthetic penises, breasts, leather floss thongs, tubercular lung blood, porno video loops and, as already mentioned, neatly waxed anuses.

“Vieux Carre” is a memory play based on Williams’ experiences living in a Depression-era New Orleans flophouse.  The original 1977 Broadway production closed after five days, and it is no mystery why: the play is a gumbo of melodrama and half-remembered characters.

Scott Shephard and Ari Fliakos in "Vieux Carre." Photo by Frank Beloncle.

The Wooster Group’s production is a phantasmagoria of sexual degradation, poverty and abject loneliness staged and played back on screens in both real-time and fast-forward. The acting is vigorous and abusive; the cast members molest each other throughout the production with an ease that evidently comes from years of working together.  Despite the tawdry costumes and incessant inanity, the production is enjoyable for its originality and fine acting. Kate Valk’s performance as the homicidal landlady “Mrs. Wire” and lovelorn “Jane Sparks” is enlivened with humor and pathos, and worth the price of admission.

The Wooster production attains a level of sophistication through elaborate video and audio manipulations, which creates hyperkinetic projections of the Writer’s (played by Ari Fliakos) own sexual awakening and loneliness. Characters appear as grotesque ghost like figures both on screen and off, tempting and tormenting the Writer. Unfortunately, by the end, they torment the audience too.

“Vieux Carre,” REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles. 8:30 p.m Tuesday-Saturday, 7 p.m Sunday. Ends Dec. 12. $45-$55. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes (no intermission).

ABOUT ATALIE KESSLER:

Atalie Kessler produced her first video, Attack of the Killer Vanity Products, when she was just eleven years old.  After graduating from the American University with a BA in communication, she joined Feld Entertainment’s creative services department and learned how to juggle bowling pins while producing multiple shoots for Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus., and Disney On Ice.  Since then she has gone on to produce and post-production supervise a number of projects ranging from the The Radio City Rockettes to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Scott Shepherd in "Vieux Carre." Photo by Frank Beloncle.