Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong (shadesong) wrote,
Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong

Emerging America Festival

We are in the stage of drastic housecleaning that looks like the house was turned upside down and shaken vigorously. At present, we are at an Adam Has To Do Stuff point, so I'll recap the Emerging America Festival so's to get these programs off my desk.

Bellona, Destroyer of Cities
to wound the autumnal city.
So howled out for the world to give him a name.
The in-dark answered with wind.

Bellona begins where Dhalgren ends. Or maybe it does. Which is about right for anything based on Dhalgren (and if you haven't read it, go now, do it now). Delany's novel is a swirling circular metafictional text - it's not a thing you can read in a straightforward manner. To read Dhalgren is to surrender to the text.

By necessity, Scheib's play must be more straightforward.

It's pitched not as an adaptation of Dhalgren, but a loosely based reimagining. I can see it both ways. As I said, it begins how Dhalgren ends, a bit, with Kid leaving town and a woman entering; in the play, however, the woman becomes Kid, rediscovers his notebook, lives his story, even though we see Kid leaving. Time is fluid; events referred to in the beginning of the play occur toward the end. There is always a Kid, there is always a murder, there is always a fire. Gender is also fluid, especially Kid's; the actress is coded as male or female changing from scene to scene.

The set is spare: two rooms, a bar and an apartment, and the space in between, which has a long screen through the middle of it. The screen displays live video from both of the rooms, from various places within and some out of view - so you get reaction shots from characters whose backs are turned, or who are offstage altogether. We were not quite sure how this was going to work, but we loved it.

The bulk of the play focused on the third section of Dhalgren, "The House of the Ax" - the narrative about the fracturing of the Richards family. Bits of the first chapters are woven through, as well, but none of the parts after, really, save Kid leaving... and passing the gun (not an orchid) given to her by the previous Kid to that selfsame Kid, returning, with no memory of having been there before. In between is an almost hallucinatory experience of Bellona, the city caught in a never-ending loop of self-destruction.

But I still hear them walking in the trees: not speaking.
Waiting here, away from the terrifying weaponry, out of
the halls of vapor and light, beyond holland into the
hills, I have come to

The Un-Official Guide to Audience Watching Performance

"Three windmills," Raphael Xavier says, then executes them slowly. Again and again, he tells us what he's going to do, performs that single move. Until at the end the music starts, and he executes a perfect breakdance routine to it - he has shown us the entirety of the construction of it, piece by piece. Audience watching performance.

He started with "Let me introduce myself!" in a booming voice - then proceeded to do so, meandering the room, shaking hands, clearly delighted. "Let me introduce myself," he said conversationally. "I like to."

There was a dance crew. There was spoken word, all about breaking down not just how Xavier performs but how he decides what to perform, how our reactions inform how he performs. There was a guest poet, too, who wasn't as good - but Xavier charmed me. I think he could've gone farther into the meta - this felt like something he was just starting to explore. I'd come back next year if he does, to see where he's taken it.

Grand Theft Ovid
Characters from World of Warcraft, Halo Reach, and Grand Theft Auto 4 perform tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Middle and high school students turn into digital “puppeteers” when they operate projected images of their favorite games.

This is what it sounds like. And it was hilarious and fascinating. This started out as a school project, and it's a fantastic way to get kids into mythology!

Daedalus and Icarus, performed on World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto
Orpheus and Eurydice, performed on Call of Duty: Black Ops and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Midas, performed on World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and Guitar Hero 5
Daphne and Apollo, performed on World of Warcraft
Niobe, performed on Halo Reach

As someone unfamiliar with most of the games, I was constantly surprised and delighted with how well things fit - Niobe in particular. So cool! All of the gameplay was live, but WoW had the bonus of being live and online, so we had other players being goofy all over the narrative. :)

The Momentum
Adam saw this one without me. He says: The concept was a three-person show that felt like it was both a tribute to and a parody of the self-help, self-actualization, and support group movements. In many ways, it was just the three cast members delivering extended monologues of the kind one might see when watching a ________ Anonymous group on a TV show. Individually, many of the speeches were very well done, with a just-shy-of-cult-look-of-happiness on the actors' faces, which worked very well. However, the play, in the end, lacked the cohesion to make it anything more than an interesting experiment.

Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage
Oh my word. This? This was the centerpiece of the whole damn festival. Punk-rock lit-crit. Smack talk. Thumb-wrestling. Dragons. THIS SHOW HAS IT ALL. I could keep listing things, and it would sound like a Stefon club recommendation from SNL. STEFON WOULD LOVE THIS SHOW.

So wow. Okay. What is this? It's an analysis of Beowulf, including dissection of the historical period and the themes of masculinity and femininity. It's a love story to the epic. It's a brilliant skewering of the epic. Beowulf is a hero, a thug, a warrior, a jackass. Grendel's mother lights the stage on fire - metaphorically, though with this troupe, one ought not to be surprised if she does so literally. Their battle uses fishtanks held above their heads. This makes sense in context. It all does.

Also it's a musical.


The narrators start out through an academic lens, but as the play goes on, they become Grendel, his mother, the dragon - they can't keep their distance from the narrative. To love the poem is to inhabit the poem. One can't help but engage. Especially when Beowulf is stealing your drink. (Warning: Beowulf will steal your drink.)

You just have to see this. Promise me that you will see this, when it comes to your town. Then come back to me and you will be like DUDE and I will be like I KNOW. I KNOW.
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