Thursday, February 07, 2008

Drinking out of a firehose

Drinking out of a firehose: Bobo's first three days at the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in L.A.
Getting exposed to a lot of new ideas here, and, hate to say it, but I'm doing it while it's 65 degrees and sunny. My hotel room has a view of the Disney concert hall by Frank Gehry, the Mark Taper (being refurbished) and the Ahmanson and Dorothy Chandler. From the 24th floor, I can all the way to the Griffith Park Observatory thru the L.A. smog.
Day 3 of the Institute. Saw The Color Purple musical, as produced by Oprah herself. Maybe I'll append the (short) review we did as a first writing-group exercise. Visually interesting, esp. in the Celie goes back to Africa dream sequences, but mostly unmemoralbe score, some good perofrmances, but matters of life and death (incest, rape, abuse, separation, cruelty oddly downplayed). Audiences in the big city just want to be happy too.
Orson's Shadow at the Pasadena Playhouse for a Wed. matinee. They're getting a new Gehry building too. I'd seen the Artists Rep produciton in Portland in May. This was in a larger house, less intimate. The Orson Welles, a recognizable TV face (as were two others in the cast), not as good as the impersonation or threat and intimidation in the Portlnad actor's renditon. Wonderful Olivier. Felt, on second viewing, like a good play with a limited shelf life: too insidery (though I LOVE the script,a nd 5e0 years from now, they'll forgotten. Sharon Lawrence from NYPD Blue as Vivien Leigh -- incredible job of shwoing how VL bcame subtly like Blanche Dubois lateer in life; good insanity bipolar scene.
This is a place where you get into film vs. theater criticism chats with the likes of Michael Phillips, film critic for the Chi Tribune, one of the inssdtructors here; I worked with him at hte O'Neill back in July '04.
Great talk with one of hte instructors here, arts reporter at the Missoulian, about music criticism, being an advocate for the arts, etc.
They keep us going here. I snuck in a swim yest. morning, but every wwakin moment takne up.
Took mamy notes during Carey Perloff's keynote address -- she's AD at ACT in SF, wanted to ask about her working with Stoppard but no chance. Boring formal dinner at Cal Tech's fancy faculty club last night, but talked to some theater marketing types and LA Arts Commission's exec director; hilariious story about the Christma Eve perf. of the "Dulcimer Ladies."
ACting classes-- lots of movement work, felt a bit silly; about to enact other people's first memories, or first memories; they wrote it, we have to memorize it and enact it.
Today on digitial media, lots of good ideas, newspapers working on an outdated biz model, n time to type up all my notes just now.
Tonight: 3 hrs of Wooster Group's Hamlet; write about it all Fri. morning. Seeing Athol Fugard's latest, Victory the next night. I dont even have time to look ahead on the sked. Some great folks int he group-- invigorating to see so many worried about the same things,

February 07, 2008 1:39 PM

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At February 08, 2008 12:08 AM , Blogger Bobo the Theater Ho said...

review of The Color Purple
2/6/08, for NEA AJI TMT

Return to Sender

He has lifted the hem of her dress with his riding crop, leered and slobbered at her, appraised her like livestock. But when Mister seizes Nettie — the dastardly villain assaulting poor defenseless innocence — his grasping fingers appear from a doorway in scarlet light, like a jolt from a cheap horror movie.
The Color Purple (at the Ahmanson through March 9) offers vibrant settings, rambunctious choreography and some soaring ballads in the spirit of sisterhood and self-affirmation. But a surrender to the conventions of light musical comedy prevents this saga of sexism and abuse, estrangement and loss from being played for the life-and-death stakes it requires. Every poignant moment, it seems, must be followed by a frenetic dance break or a cackling three-woman chorus. Sisters pledge their fidelity and men declare their undying love — which would be fine and dandy if emotions were allowed to register before break-out-into-song moments rushed proceedings along
As Sofia — the “hell, no!” fat woman played in the movie by Oprah Winfrey, whose imprimatur this production carries — Felicia P. Fields balls up her fists and laughs at authority with such crowd-pleasing gusto that her example, meant to instruct Jeannette Bayardelle’s Celie, may instead overwhelm her appeal. Bayardelle, tasked with acting abused and robotic for much of the evening, belts out the power ballads by its end, leading to the evening’s predictably triumphant end.

Other details are more successful. Broad green leaf fronds against gingham, for example: In a dream sequence that transports Celie to Africa and reunites her, if only in imagination, with her beloved sister, the contrast of sedate American frocks with regal African robes evokes the long journey toward self-affirmation that Celie travels in this trying-too-hard-to-be-inspiring show.
Director Gary Griffin nicely interweaves the two worlds of Celie’s hopeful visions and harsh reality, deploying white-clad African emigres trudging across the savannah in a tableau that’s broken by forlorn, slump-shouldered Celie pacing toward the audience, at cross-purposes with her ancestral people.
`It’s an effective sequence. Too bad that the musical verison of The Color Purple is at cross-purposes with its emotional tenor, presenting us with prefabricated emotions instead of embodying Celie’s triumphs.


Marsha Norman’s book hews close to Alice Walker’s novel, but with the burden of translating into melodramatic action what was quiet pathos in Celie’s letters to God.

At February 08, 2008 12:10 AM , Blogger Bobo the Theater Ho said...

the assignment was to write 325 words using a specific images from the show
i actually wrote 355 and used three such images, two in late grafs
our group mostly thought of this show as a sellout with a weak score
so of course it will tour well ...


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