Archive for theater

On Seeing the Redoubtable Barry O’Rorke in GLORIOUS as Mr. ST.-CLAIRE in Hong-Kong in May of 2013 Anno Domini

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 9, 2013 by spinoza1111

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He knows what side his bread is butt’rd on
And comes he out of the cold to Firenze,
Florence his mustard and his Grey Poupon
A madness only apparent, a fine frenzy.
Sometimes he sings, and sometimes he dances!
Sometimes he doth naught but shitteth around!
He taketh risks, and finely takes he chances!
Boozing like English-man never an hound!
Never questions he Flo’s talent and skill
His is the older man’s wisdom, never bite
Oh! The delicate hand that feeds ye, Bill
Or Ted or Hank…you know, this, oh Will!
For Florence is Venus and you live at her hest:
You’ve left Earl’s Court for the End that is West!

Edward G. Nilges 5 May 2013
Copyright Edward G. Nilges (c) 2013
Moral Rights asserted

An “Edwardian” sonnet, mine own invention, may have zero, one or more final couplets but it is Shakespearean in its quatrains. Additionally the lines of the final couplets may be Alexandrines but the lines of the quatrains must be iambic pentameters. But note that I’ve broken the quatrain rule here in the last quatrain: it is abaa not abab.


Good *Craic*?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 1, 2013 by spinoza1111

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In Gaelic (Irish), Craic is conversation and story-telling: banter. But I am being filmed here and for the next couple of weeks, I hope with interlocutors, holding forth on things I think I know about, which would be everything except higher mathematics and the hard sciences. I talked about Shakespeare last week with Jim here and also explained the history behind Spielberg’s excellent film Lincoln. I believe that Illinois boys, especially, should know about Lincoln. I hope there’s as much craic as possible from me Irish side.

This is because German lectures can be so boring as to cause paint to peel off the walls. I believe that this type of traditional education has its place especially in advanced philosophy; there’s no avoiding introductory lectures on Heidegger and Wittgenstein. It’s almost impossible to make sense of Sein undt Zeit without a weekly lecture from a kind and motivated teacher with good outline-format handouts every session.

There’s no reason why a lecture cannot be a straight story. Take a look at the 1981 film My Dinner with Andre: the (real person) Andre Gregory tells a mostly silent Wally Shawn (also a real person, used to see him shopping in the Red Apple on the West Side of NYC) a story about a theater group in Poland deliberately going Neolithic to recapture the essence of theater. Wally and the audience learn a lot about theater and life because as in Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner we cannot choose but hear:

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot chuse but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner

Sorry about the Fashion Disaster. The jammies are required wear for all inpatients at Grantham and throughout Hong Kong’s hospital system, I would imagine so the cops can recognize us when we escape and walk down the street mumbling. The tartan o’ the McVomit clan.

Change Record (day, month, year)
01052013 First version added
01052013 Minor corrections

Adam West Rips Up the McAuley in Leonard Nimoy’s Vincent!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 4, 2012 by spinoza1111

Vincent is a one man show originally developed by Leonard Nimoy.

It is being presented this week by the redoubtable Hong Kong actor and director Adam West (holy malaprop, Batman, not that one). Mr West has been burning the candle at both ends recently, performing the leading role in Private Lives opposite the formidable Nicole Garbellini, and apparently buying more wax, for his performance of Theo van Gogh’s relationship with the artist is incandescent.

West is the perfect big brother as apparently was Theo, an art dealer with a bourgeois existence but saddled with a brother that was, far from crazy, merely a gifted visionary. Behold, this dreamer cometh.

In Chicago I always felt that there was a barrier between the Players and I, constructed by my choice of a rigorously conventional workadad life and the American low lying ozone of art hatred. Here in HK no such barrier exists, and only in part because willy nilly I was Chosen in unemployment and penury to be Sheldon Levene last year in a local production of Glengarry Glen Ross and fell in with a cry of players.

In fact, at two points in the production, Mr. West selected audience members, breaking the “fourth wall” deliberately, and I was selected to be an unfeeling early critic of Van Gogh.

West’s work was a dithyrambic protest against the very idea that artists are crazy. He is profoundly talented and deserves a bit of a rest. I find that long fallow periods are productive. My first waifish nude was drawn on Christmas of 1979 and although I realized I’d just drawn my soul, it literally took thirty years for this to become a Dance of Victory or Peter’s Crazy Aunt.

The technical direction, which showed Vincent’s work, could have been royally screwed up but was excellent as was the lighting.

Coffee and Cigarettes Opening in Hong Kong on Oct 11 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 15, 2011 by spinoza1111

This is a series of short (one act) plays on the subject of coffee and cigarettes opening Oct 11 at the Aurora Theater in Hong Kong. I have authored one of the interludes, a smoking break between two people who are about to send in the clowns…

We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay! in Hong Kong

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 5, 2011 by spinoza1111

You learn something new every day, and all I knew about modern Italian theater was Pirandello and Ionesco (was he even Italian), the Commedia delle Arte, Pulcinella and Columbina. This is 99% more than most Americans but not enough. We know more about Italian cinema, of course. So little did I know about Dario Fo, who won a Nobel for his work.

Under the direction of Meaghan McGurgan, a troupe has done a wonderful job here in Hong Kong with We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!, a sort of Italian version of the Honeymooners or the Flintstones, about daily no-money desperation, reproduction, the omnipresence of Catholicism in Italy and how it leads to reproduction and desperation.

The lovely and talented Nicole Garbellini-West owns the stage. I first saw her in These Actors of Mine and was honored to play opposite her Toni Roma in Glengarry. We are both physical, rangy, tall actors who tend to prowl and own the stage.

Aisling McDonnell was also stellar as a policeman, the Pope and an old lady. A young Irish girl she has quite a range.

Daniel Jade-Levia as the policeman showed his professionalism, since I failed to recognize him although he was Moss in the Glengarry.

Krishna Moriani is a shockingly young and shockingly talented actor. I hope he doesn’t become a chemical engineer although he might be a good one.

The stage lighting and in particular the use of levels under Meaghan’s direction all first rate.

I auditioned for a role and didn’t get it because I was completely unfamiliar with Dario Fo. But these semipro leagues are tough and time consuming. I lost a lot of weight on Glengarry. My next role shall be Escalus in Measure for Measure if all goes as planned. I have also written an inconsequential little Agon for a new production of small ten minute plays about smoking and coffee.

If my life is a crowded fire, it is high time to shout Theater! As in a dream the lost Prince follows the actors to save his life as they travel through Sweden of the Black Death re-enacting the Fall of Man. As in a dream the Professor hangs about the stage door.

Shakespeare at the Beach

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 2, 2011 by spinoza1111

I love memorizing Shakespeare on the MTR and then going to the beach at 3 AM to deliver the speech to the empty, vast, and wondering air, for once you memorize it you are thinking it when you deliver it. Like prayer you replace your usual crap (boop a doop money boop a doop idle speculation boop a doop sex) with something better.

I memorized this for an audition (Measure for Measure Act 2 sc 1)

Let us not make a scarecrow of the law
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey
And let it keep one shape till custom make it
Their perch, and not their terror.

Ay, but yet
Let us be keen, and rather cut a little
Than fall and bruise to death. Alas, this gentleman
Whom I would save had a most noble father.
But let your honour know
Whom I believe to be most strait in virtue
That in the working of your own affections
Had time cohered with place, or place with willing
Or in the resolute acting of your blood
Could have attained the effect of your own purpose
Whether you had not sometime in your life
Erred in this point which you now censure him
And pulled the law upon you.

‘Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fail. I not deny
The jury passing on the prisoner’s life
May in the sworn twelve contain a thief or two
Guiltier than him they try. What’s open made to justice,
That justice seizes. ‘Tis very pregnant:
The jewel we find, we stoop and take’t
Because we see it: but what we do not see
We tread upon and think not of it.
You may not so extenuate his offence
For I have had such faults: rather tell me
When I who censure him do so offend
Let mine own judgement pattern out my death
And nothing come in partial. Sir, he must die.

Be it as your wisdom wills.

Where’s the Provost.

Here, an’t like your honour

See that Claudio
Be execute by nine tomorrow morning
Bring him his confessor: let him be prepared
For that’s the utmost of his pilgrimage.

Well, heaven forgive him, and forgive us all!
Some rise by sin: and some by virtue fall
Some run from brakes of vice, and answer none:
And some condemn-ed for a fault alone.

[Typed in from memory]

This beautiful scene contains, as does a leaf replicate the form of a tree, the entire issue of the play: Angelo speaks for justice, Escalus, painfully and with broken syntax and circumlocution (the hardest bit to memorize) tries to suggest to him that he may have also sinned, for Shakespeare was subject, by Tudor law, to weekly attendance and weekly bible reading:

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

[NOT typed in from memory: emphasis mine.]

Escalus sums it up. As in modern Hong Kong, because the leaders are just as stupid and evil as they rest of us, people rise by sin, and virtue makes you fall.

Here’s a rewrite of part of the scene in Bob Dylan’s style

It’s one thing to be tempted
Another thing to fall.
Some run from all correction
Goin’ in the wrong direction,
While some are nailed upon the cross
For one fault or even their own loss:
See her carryin’ her baby and the baby he don’t talk
In her own shoes ya gotta walk
While he kicks the mailbox and plays his trumpet
As if to ask who is the judge and who, the strumpet.
‘Cause it’s one thing to be tempted
And another thing to fall:
Y’all gonna need the landlord, y’all gotta read the deed
Y’all gonna call down and ring:
Y’all gotta see, the writing on the wall,
‘Cause the hypocrite tea preacher he’s right after all
It is one thing to be tempted
And another thing to fall.

Edward G. Nilges 2 June 2011. Moral rights asserted and be damn’d

Brits believe that “Americans can’t understand, or even pronounce Shakespeare”, so, for the good old U.S.A. and for father Abraham Lincoln (who damn straight read Shakespeare) I hope to get the part, and make all split: it is a long shot in a British-tradition community to be able to play Shakespeare as a Yank, with the ghost of a Chicago patois colliding with schwa and broad As, like Tom Eliot on old Caedmon recordings.

But casting is a complex art and even the ghost of John Belushi (“we’re onna mishin from Gahd”) may be like the black piper who wanted to join George MacDonald Fraser’s regimental band in the 1940s. As it happened, the Ugandan chap was a good piper and the Pipe Major admitted him. Casting is race neutral these days and in some cases gender neutral (isn’t Puck a lad? he’s often played by women) but accent neutrality may be another thin.

So if I don’t get cast the time was spent MOST profitably.

I’m onna a mishin from Gahd.

Glengarry Glen Ross: final notes on playing Levene

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 20, 2011 by spinoza1111

The run has ended. Most evening performances were sold out, it appears and all performances were well-attended.

I played Sheldon “The Machine” Levene in a bespoke dark grey suit; the only reason I can afford bespoke is that I live in Hong Kong and was lucky to find Bobby’s Fashions on the Carnarvon Road in Tsim Sha Shue.

I was selected to play a “leading” role (Levene has the largest number of lines and the play is his de-centered, drive-by tragedy) through a fluke as described below.

I suffered agonies last Tuesday, opening night, for my only previous onstage experience had been the “Richard III seduces the Lady Anne” scene in reader’s theater. I had literally no idea whether the lines would come or the lines would go, and I’d had great difficulties in memorization until a cast member, who’s studied pro theater extensively, demonstrated muscle memory.

Although my dance training helps, I was the largest object on a small set in the Fringe Theater and had no idea whether my native clumsiness, which I was hoping against hope would be counteracted by my dance practice, would cause me to knock over the flimsy set or fall, with a despairing cry, into the orchestra…fortunately, there was no orchestra, and all went well.

Indeed, with the approval of the director, I’d “choreographed” Levene’s entrance in scene 5 (“get the chalk, I closed the cocksucker”) as a Baryshnikov leap. Then, last Monday, I arrived backstage at the Fringe and, to my horror, I realized that I had two launching pads for this stunt, both of them built by foul trolls from the Dark Ages.

I could squeeze between the front board of the back stage, over a strut, and run first to the left and forward, and then, turn, and leap, hopefully not crashing into the coffee machine.

But this would mean that the audience would first here my hoofbeats unless I said “get the chalk” more than once (something that Jack Lemmon does in the film), and it was also a longer and therefore statistically more perilous stunt.

So, I went into a box out of audience line of sight behind the “bar”. For seven shows running in five days, I would either take a half seen leap over the box’s strut or run round it, push off with the left foot, and land in the middle of the cast who, fortunately enough, knew I was due to land just after Roma gets off her lines about “Vishnu and Siva”.

I lined up with a seam on the floor that was down stage of the coffee machine and arrived safely each time. Nyah ha ha. Barishnikov does it in tights, I do it in a business suit.

Muscle memory and dance-inspired delivery of Levene’s complex lines were the key. I waited for the “Williamson” actor, the lovely and talented Carman Ng, to say the word “marshal” as in “marshal the leads” and broke out into a dance of mockery and frustration because the ordinary slob knows then the language is being trashed by management-speak.

“Marshal the leads? What the fuck, what bus did you get off of, we’re here to fucking sell.”

The parade marshal’s gesture I then turn into an unspeakably vulgar Chicago gesture that means “you’re jerkin’ me off” that produced titters and gasps in some shows.

My biggest fans in the seven audiences were large, jolly Western men. One said to my line “they ain’t even been in the office yet today”, “bullshit, they have too!” because in the production, scene 1 (Blake’s abusive sales lecture) flows direct into scene 2 (Levene begs Williamson for good leads).

After expressing fear and frustration with Moss and Aaronow in scene 1, I had to stay on stage, walk to a stool practically within inches of the first audience row, sort of crumple in frustration, but then (since when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro) go direct into my attempt to sales-talk Williamson: “Jane, Jane, Jane, ok, look, the Glengarry Leads, you’re sending Roma out.”

In fact the crumple on the stool between scene 1 and 2 was designed by me, with the director’s approval of course, as a foreshadowing of the way, in scene 5, I collapse, in sobs, after getting a “fuck you” in response to “my daughter”.

That scene 5 business was an emotional wringer. I put my head in my hands and let it out. I then realize Roma is in the room. I take a deep breath, inches, in full house productions, from the front row and silently vocalize the Kaddish words “praised lauded magnified exalted”; I’m not Jewish but Levene and Mamet are.

I followed this with barely perceptible “dovening”, the back and forward rocking of the Jewish prayer. Then stillness…Roma is saying, “we’re a dying breed”. The preparation permitted me to grin sadly when Roma refers to the way she and I, in the persona of D Ray Morton, had fooled Lingk.

Doing “D Ray Morton”, the phony “Vice President of European Sales and Service for American Express” was also tough, because I have to turn in a heartbeat from addressing the world on the iniquities of Mitch and Murray to listening to Roma tell me what to do.

I should have had my head examined for doing this, but it appears that “I did it, I did it, like I was taught, like I used to do, I did it.” Money? It didn’t cost me anything, as Henslowe promises the lads in Shakespeare in Love, and it was a free class in acting that will help me to get film work.

Levene’s management and motivation speak has to be delivered by speaking the lines not only with 100% accuracy (something which I did not attain in all performances) but also with rapid shifting as if you are driving a manual transmission car in the mountains at 90 mph.

Mamet did not write “No, Jane, no. Let’s wait, let’s back up here. I did-will you please? Wait a second please” as a sort of general guideline, more as atonal music which demands perfection.

Levene alternates fragments with highly grammatical and rather complex management/motivation-speak. When Williamson mockingly says “you want something off the B list”, it being an open secret in the office that the B list contains deadbeats and “Indians”, Levene, who’s invested in the idea that it’s fundamentally a fair game, first explodes, in my version and then says, precisely, “At the very least, that I am entitled to, if I am still working here, which for the moment I guess I am.”

A “sentence diagram” or “parse tree” of this would show it to be above the complexity of Moss’s lines to Aaronow. In Scene 2, Moss gets Aaronow to be an accessory before the fact by means of very short, step by step lines; he lets her know of a planned crime, he gets her to promise to not go to the police.

Whereas Levene in my version, stands, legs apart, suit jacket unbuttoned, arms akimbo in a classic film noir “men in the city” pose and clearly lets Williamson know that he stands on a platform, while using the prepositional phrase “for the moment” to convey the fact that he, Levene, knows the score:

How overcome this dire Calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from Hope,
If not what resolution from despare.

(Milton, Paradise Lost)

Mamet appears to me at this point to have designed scene 2 and 5 as a matched set. In both, for example, Levene has to pull out his wallet, in scene 2 to see if he can pay Williamson’s demand, in scene 5 to offer Williamson some of the money Levene’s made from the caper.

On the Hong Kong stage, the lights illumine our more colorful money and I could only hope my thin wad of pink one hundreds would evoke, in scene 5, a stack of Hong Kong thousand dollar bills.

But in scene 5, Levene also has to be still, and react subtly, to support Roma to build their relationship to the point where it’s believable that Roma (whose affability is real but completely in self-interest) would try to intervene with Baylen the cop.

Was I trying to make a Statement? I dunno. I remember stacking books on sales and accounting in the Roosevelt University bookstore because steelworkers of the 1950s wanted their kids to have respectable jobs. Communism exalts the manual laborer, only C Wright Mills gave the white collar true recognition.

I hope, if one can hope for the subjunctive and counter-factual, that Adorno would have liked it.

Did it work? Well, do we all have to be shrewd, self-interested, focused tough cookies, Adorno’s Tough Baby? Must we always use language in Habermas’ second sense, twisting it to serve an end, and never using it to communicate the truth, even of a work situation, with our work-mates, even as Jules, in Pulp Fiction, says, we should have shotguns for this job, my days of forgettin’ is over?

I do know this. My next role shall “condole in some measure”, I’m thinking of Flopsy Bunny for children’s theater, or Ariel in the Tempest.