The Yearning To Be Seen: a Review of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

Deeply touched by the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata.  Veda Hille and Bill Richardson have written a non-linear musical that uses actual Craigslist ads for its lyrics.  Craigslist, in case you’ve been in a hole, is an online one-stop-shopping for finding whatever it is you want— from someone you saw on the train that day, to an old trumpet, to homes for your cats.  It’s a pared down, non-glitzy site—just text–where you have to use words to sell what it is you want to sell, or get what you want. Ads are quirky.  I think with the number of them, people have to come up with newer and more outlandish ways to make their ad stand out.  It’s not a Tumblr site so there’s no pics in your subject line to make you stand out–just a line of text.  What is Craigslist anyway?

The musical is episodic, going from ad to ad, occasionally reverberating or repeating a motif in another ad, enough to make it stick together well.  There are a number of “characters” who have very specific and ludicrous (sometimes even strange) desires and wants.  It would be easy just to laugh at all of them–and we do.  Audience tonight was having a great time laughing it up at the woman trying to sell her 300 stuffed penguins, singing an alphabetical list of the different species of penguins and hoping to find a special child who might want them all.  Or the man who wants someone to sit in his bathtub of cooked noodles…  Or the wanderers who keep missing each other–though having a brief moment with someone they fall for.

It would be easy to laugh, except Hille and Richardson don’t let us off that easy.  They have found a way to make that search poignant, a statement on 21st Century technology becoming the medium for expressing our desires.  There’s a song though that Hille sings in the middle–a quite surprising song about Noah and the doves he sends out into the world to find land.  And this becomes the central metaphor that pulls the show together in a quite exposing, vulnerable, emotional way— that Craigslist is a collection of those doves, sent out–with no replies, really.  “No one learns how the story ends.  Did they find each other?  We don’t know,” Hille says in the Artist talkback tonight.  There are only beginning moments–story starters, if you will–but we don’t know if any of the missed connections actually connect.

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Dancing Bears on Main Street, Whitehorse: Sarah MacDougall, The Greatest Ones Alive

So, I’ve always wanted to be a bear.  Sarah MacDougall’s album, The Greatest Ones Alive, is being released at the Yukon Arts Centre on Saturday, Nov 12, and Erin and I decided to promote the album by being the dancing bears on the cover of her album.

Costumes rented, we danced up and down Main Street.  We had a great time.  Sarah MacDougall was there, and captured us in a video and put us dancing to her beautiful song, “Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes You Win.”

I already love her CD.  And I was already looking forward to seeing her live in concert.  Now I feel deeply honoured to be part of her VIDEO!!  And I get to be the bear I always wanted to be. I think I was born to be a mascot–what do you think??

Tickets are still available (667-8574, box office).

I would go on and on about a) her music, and b) the existential moment of being a bear, but I’ll let you watch the video instead.

 

Find Sarah MacDougall’s CD, The Greatest Ones Alive here.

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Gross Heart: Much to Love about Mump and Smoot

Canadian clowns, Mump and Smoot (with Thug), were in Whitehorse tonight in a revival of their first show together, Something.  I was led to believe it was going to be scary, or disturbing--but these were not scary clowns.  While there are some grotesque moments, there’s a charming show beneath the grossness.  It stems from the deep friendship between characters Mump and Smoot, developed more than twenty years ago by John Turner and Micheal Kennard.

On stage, there is a sense that Mump, a bit rule-bound and dictatorial, is trying to be a mentor to Smoot, or a father-figure.  Smoot, on the other hand, is young, innocent, full of whim, silly even, more uncontrollable–like a child.  His voice even sounds a bit like Elmo from Sesame Street, though he can easily scowl at the audience and berate them just as much as Mump.  But the two clowns cry together, miss each other, play together, and are true friends–even if they play doctor and (unintentionally) hurt each other.  It’s not Laurel and Hardy I think of but Abbot and Costello.  Or even George and Gracie.

Our audience was completely charmed by these two–and I laughed through the whole thing—there’s really only a few moments that you can stop laughing.  Sometimes you are laughing at what the clowns are doing to other members of the audience.  The Audience serves as the fourth member of the show, and completely unpredictable.  John and Mike, afterwards in the talkback, referred to what the Audience does at their shows, as “gifts.”  They don’t know how the audience will react, but they take whatever the audience does and uses it in the show.  This is why the show is different every night.  Sure there are several “acts” they go through–but the audience determines paths they will take in the act.

Yes, there are some grotesque moments, but comedy and the grotesque have often gone together.  Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein comes to mind as comedy exploring inside Horror.  We all still laugh–in fact fear makes us want to laugh all the more.  Movies that play with death, or that use a dead body as a running gag, or that find humor in zombies (see Sean of the Dead). Saturday Night Live’s spoof on Julia Child severing her own finger while doing a live cooking show–this is what they mean by grotesque, or even horror.  Mump and Smoot really don’t go beyond that barrier towards horror.  There is nothing so realistic that it makes you gag.  Thug, played by Candice, is perhaps the scariest of the three, and she doesn’t say a thing–which is why she’s kinda scary.  She’s completely unpredictable.

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The Truth and the Narrative in Beauty: Compagnie Marie Chouinard’s “The Golden Mean”

To the slow, pounding, pulsing kettledrum, its waves of sound hitting the audience, the two sheen-fabric wrapped shapes on the stage slowly writhe and discard their stiff shimmering sheaths.  So begins Marie Chouinard’s The Golden Mean, restaged for another amazing tour.  I would have a hard time describing what happens.  It’s modern dance, but the performers are all wearing golden wigs, masks, and tassles that run down their legs, at first.  They resemble fauns.  But this isn’t Prelude to “the Afternoon of a Faun”—the music sounds a bit like a science fiction chorale, voices, drums, chorus, building, sustaining, crashing, wincing and dodging, always aching with long-note beauty.

There are maybe twelve dances in the 80 minutes, and each one provides a chance for the viewer, the audience, to participate by bringing their own meaning to the dance.  Perhaps this was intentional; perhaps not.

The dancers, part ballet-part something deeply, bodily organic–they tiptoe, launch, lurch across the stage, always flowing in rhythm to the music.  They are all lovely to watch.  For the first few numbers we feel as if we’re seeing the birth of a civilization, a whole society; toddlers walk across the stage, learn to laugh and cry together, have first few sleeps; ensemble pieces involving the whole company break up the solo, duo and trio dances.  I was most captivated by the two dancers who seemed to be acting out a first relationship—a man who dates the pliable woman, the one he fits into any shape he wants; he is aggressive, demanding, sexual, and she is passive, not quite even awake in the dance.  He discovers how wonderful it is to slide her hand down his face, his chest, his groin; and she starts to fight him, pushing away, and they twist each other back and forth, as she starts finding her own inner aggressor.  They have tortuous sex, or the dance version of it, always moving, stretching, twisting and flexing those dancers’ bodies.  I was captivated too by the narrative I was creating out of the dance–the story I gave that dance, that I’m even giving that dance now in this essay.

We can’t help it.  Human beings, when we see two or more humans interacting with another, we come up with a narrative, a voice over, maybe, but at least a set of actions, reactions, motivations, based on the expressions, the movements that we see in front of us.   Try it at your local mall.  Watch people for any length of time and you give them a narrative.  You can’t help it.

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“Where were you?”: God and Grace in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life

It is a beautiful thing that the Yukon Film Society was able to bring us “Tree of Life” through their new Available Light Cinema incarnation at the Yukon Arts Centre once a month.  Even more amazing was the swiftness.  Whitehorse is not known as the place where new good films come quickly–but the YFS have almost bridged the gap between us and Seattle.  Tree of Life was handed the Palme D’Or in May, and we have it in September.  I’d say that was pretty darn fast. It shows again on Wednesday night, Sept 14 at the Yukon Arts Centre.

The Tree of Life is many things to many people.  The film doesn’t concern itself with a complicated, or even clear, narrative.  It has a simple one.  At the opening of the film, the death of brother/son sends the characters reeling.   What follows is a montage of scenes recalled from the mind of a surviving brother, now grown up (Sean Penn) as he tries to figure out what happened to “allow” this death in God’s great scheme of things.  The Tree of Life, for me, was a calling out, a plea, a requiem to God for our personal tragedies–asking many times of God, Where were you?  Why did you let this person die?  Was he a bad person?  The film is loosely tied together with scenes from a Texas childhood–a paradise of sorts–with a scary center, a frustrated musician father (Brad Pitt) who takes out his anger, at having to put away his music, on his three boys.

There’s a lot of whispering in this movie.  Be careful when you cough.  You’ll miss them.  Often the whispered pleas begin with “Father” or “Mother” or “You”— as the man, who speaks as the boy, tries to figure out whether he was more worthy of death than his brother.

God appears in this movie, but not as Christians typically think of him–he is a bit distant, but consistent with the book of Job.  There is the other “Where were you?” to consider:  the movie opens with an epigraph from Job, asking Job–in the voice of God–“where were you when I created the heavens and the earth?”  And there is stunning cinematography that takes a viewer from the beginnings of creation through to the moment the son is born.   Through this, the pleas and the questions cry out— “God, are you there?” plays over a volcanic planet being birthed.  The magnitude of the event of creation overshadows the magnitude of the personal tragedy.  It is almost as if Malick is answering for God: I was worried about much larger things.

But to make that the only statement Malick makes would be to miss his emphasis on the importance of love and forgiveness in the face of the cruelties of life and death.

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Is there no Sincerity in a Marketing Director?

Do you trust this man?

I was lucky enough to get a dream job: being a marketing director for the Yukon Arts Centre.  The Arts Centre is a venue for a lot of non-local acts (and does host lots of local acts and artists as well) that come through Whitehorse, and into the communities.  It encompasses not only the actual Arts Centre, up on the hill, but the Old Fire Hall, the Yukon Arts Gallery (adjacent to the mainstage), and various venues for workshops and talks around town.

Before I got the job I was a Waterfront Trolley interpreter, a guide for the Beringia Centre (our ice age/mammoth museum), and a vaudevillian.  I told you about some of these jobs.  Mostly, I talk about writing, and I talk about the cool things that happen in Whitehorse.  I always have.  Most of those arts centered events happened at the Yukon Arts Centre.  And I raved about them because I thought they were good.  I wanted to share what I’d found.

As it happens, I now get paid to promote the Arts Centre.  Does that change my sincerity?  Not in the least.  If you got paid for what you love to do would it change the way I view what you say or do?  No.  I just happen to love what I do.

For the purposes of this blog, my thoughts are still my thoughts.  I intend to still tell you about all the cool things that I find, and I don’t think that should stop suddenly because I get paid to promote one organization.   I’ll critique movies, talk about writing.  I’ll still promote good local plays, from local playwrights.  And I’ll still find great things from the Yukon Arts Centre too.  I probably won’t be negative about a Yukon Arts Centre event, but you would expect that.  I’m not really into being negative anyway.  There’s too many good things happening here–I want you to see them.

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The Observer Observed: Kelly Richardson’s Twilight Avenger

I got a sneak peek at the opening of the Yukon Arts Gallery show today.   I wanted to see what was happening…the ad my predecessor had put together for the show was intriguing.  It had a green stag in the forest looking at you.  It’s Kelly Richardson’s installation.  I went into the room where the seven minute video plays, where the stag moves onto the screen, and keeps looking up at the viewer.  It’s magical.  It had a little Harry Potter feel to it–it glows green with a green fire and smoke coming off it.  Check out this Vimeo 50 second excerpt.  Imagine it across a full wall.

I once had an encounter with a deer in the forest.  I was in New Mexico.  I’d just had a very disturbing moment with friends–it doesn’t matter what.  I was emotionally upset, and I ran out of the hotel we were all staying in.  And I ran right into this deer.  The deer just turned to me and looked at me.  Just being looked at by something wild, as it takes you in, is mesmerizing.  I remember that the whole encounter probably took only five minutes, but it felt like an eternity.  It felt like the deer knew me–or could see something in me that I couldn’t see myself.  It calmed me down.  I know that much.

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