Monday, July 23, 2007

Ebb and Flo

Nothing much to report from the edge of sanity. I am on the largest ship in the world the Liberty of the Seas. It will be the largest ship for another couple of years until the launch the Genisis, it will be about four times bigger than this.  I think eventually you will be able to board a ship and walk the deck to Ireland, it will be that long.
I miss the artist of Manchester. It was like some Sheakspearian Midsummer night dream. I have to pinch myself that it really happened at all.  I know that I don't live a normal life, but the life that these artists live it even odd by my standards. Actually I am looking forward to doing the show again next year in Paris and Amsterdam. 
Interesting thing. I am now being introduced as "Tony Award winner...".  It always gets applause. It is almost like a knee jerk reaction by the audience.  MC says Tony Award and the audience clapps.  It is really fun to observe.  I am certainly enjoying the ride. 
This week end I will go the the Bohemian Grove.  It is a secret society and I can't even mention that I am a part of.  However, I am the first Tony Award winning member they have ever had.  I get to take my victory lap among the redwoods and hob knob with the boys of Bohemia. It is always fun.
As you were,

Monday, July 16, 2007

It was an eighteen-hour proposition to get home from Manchester yesterday. I was traveling with the Sun so it never got dark and time seemed to stand still. Time was so still in fact it seemed like 30 hours in the air instead of half that.

I won’t go into the experience of traveling. That could fill several blogs. With the amount of flying I do, every blog entry could be about transportation.

It is enough to say that British Airports are poised at their highest level of security. We were dropped off at a parking lot at the edge of the airport and had to walk to the terminal. No cars were allowed to get close. I was checked and frisked three times before I got on the airplane.

Because of some confusion with my ride, I ended up traveling to the airport on a bus with all the “bull set” cast. This included the “urinators” and the musicians, the dog wranglers and wrecked car mechanics. The musicians and the urinators are from New York City, no joke required, and “bum girl” (the one with her hand up.. you know) is from the United Kingdom. It made me feel a little better that Matthew had to go outside the United States to cast at least one of his parts.

Bum girl is quite famous in her own right. Her name is Mouse and she is an “exotic pornographic performer” based in Britain. She has a website that is just a little bit scary with film of herself involved in activities that are beyond shock. (So I’ve heard) Which means for her this experience was just another day at work.

We shall do the show again in Paris in February and they are talking about Amsterdam and Copenhagen. There is some talk about whether the “bull set” will be performed or not. The concern is not over the pornographic values or obscenities in the piece, it is about the animal rights issues of the dog on the head and the bull on stage. To me that’s ironic, you are not allowed to do to an animal what you can ask a performer to do.

My Tony Award arrived while I was away. I opened the box and put it on the mantel last night. There it is with my name on it and it is real. I haven’t waked up yet or it really isn’t a dream. I make excuses all day to walk through the room and gaze at it. After my experience with the artists I realize it is not the actual object, but the feelings the object evokes. For me this Tony brings up feelings that are beyond words. I see it and smile, I read my name and I believe, I touch it and feel a spark.

Sandi and I are taking a week to regroup on the high seas. I am performing on a new ship I have never been on before, the Freedom of the Seas, largest ship in the world. To give you an idea of the size, it is almost four times the size of the Titanic. But the access to the internet is still difficult and expensive at sea. So, my posts will be limited in size and occurrence. Besides, I really don’t imagine I will experience bulls, head dogs and urinators on a cruise. Old people and heart conditions, you know.

However, I still remain your reporter from the twilight of sanity.
As you were,

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Well," Il Tempo del Postino" is history. I am hours away from winging my way back across the pond to find some normalsey in Los Angeles. Yes, that's right, I said normalsey in Los Angeles, those words have rarely been used together in the same sentence.

The wrap party is still going on downstairs at the hotel. There is one thing about Artists, they can party till all hours of the night or in this case morning. Counting the orchestra, the performers, the artists and the production people, there are hundreds of artisians who made this happen. They are all down stairs trying to make some sense of what we all have experienced. Everyone is feeling the release of accomplishment, birth really. I don't think the full significance of this event will be realized for days, perhaps years. The world of contemporary art is completely foriegn to me, but to my knowledge, and the experience of those who do know, this experiment has never been tried before. The mating of theater and performance art.

Theater is a world of compromise. The limitations of time and logistics sometimes dictate how a scene will be presented. Sometimes a better way to accomplish an effect is realized by the compomise of two designers in the context of the theater. Theater requires many artists to produce. Theater is a community of work.

To the artist there is no compromise. Each affect is specific and any compomise will affect the integrety of the idea. The arist working on canvas for example never compromises. He will mold the colors and composition in a way that only he agrees with. Ther artist toils alone. It is a singular work.

In Manchester what happened was unique. The theater people learned that sometimes the brush stokes must show, and the artists learned that sometimes there is an easier way to communicate the same idea. What was born was a bastard child that has never existed before, a synergy of theater/art. Everyone learned, everyone grew, everyone will be forever changed, and I was an invited guest to wittness it from the inside.

Tonight I watched the "bull set" performance one last time. This time the experience was with an audience that was seeing it for the first time. It was gross, it was obsene, it had no relevance to my in my world of jokes and humor. But I found myself hanging on every movement of the man with a dog on his head. It was like a bad dream that does not fade when you wake up, unlike the pleasant dream that can't be remembered. I found myself digging deeper into the symbolism to find what can't be found, sense in the senseless. Why was I watching this, and why were they doing this, it was a question that will never be answered. But the question that cannot be answered is the one that keeps repeating.

I have joked about it, and belittled it, and had great sport being the outsider, but I am not the same person that arrived a week ago. I have changed. Isn't that the goal of all art, to move the human spirit from one place to another? To question what we think is "normal", to wonder where the line of humanity is? Only when we cross the borders we think are solid do we mark a new frontier.

I will never see my performance in the same way, because I have performed my art in front of three thousand people behind a 12 inch magnifying glass. What did the audience see? That is not so important as what I felt. In some way I was more naked than the girls who stood with out clothes. They simply displayed their bodys, I displayed my artistic soul. I will never feel quite so unveiled, yet when the curtain was drawn back I was still there. There is an artist hiding inside of me. I found him this week. Before now I did not know what the "bull set" piece was called. Tonight, in the audience, watching this profanity I read the title for the first time in the program... the piece is called. "Guardian of the Veil".

As you were ( but I am not)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Update on the performer preparation for the peeing process. The "urinator" (as I now call her) has switched from Evian water to beer. She threw back about three pints tonight before my first bit. I can't say that I blame her. She must have read the reviews. I personally think they should serve beer to the audience.... lots of beer.

Okay, so I am learning about art with all my new artist friends. You just have to come up with something that no one understands, most people don't like and the more offensive the better. No matter what, claim that it is the viewer who doesn't understand. So here it is my first attempt at truly cutting edge art: I call it... ANGRY BIRDMAN

The reviews came out to day and I broke my rule about not reading them. I just realize that reviews coming out on Friday the 13th is not the best of signs. Of course all the talk is about the bull, the guy wearing the dog on his head and of course the urinating naked women. Duh! Hey reviewers... there is two hours of a show before the women even start to pee. We are doing a complete show before the bull and the dog even arrive at the theater.

I do have a favorite comment by one of the reviews. He comments on the fact that the show does not allow children to attend. He said that it is not because the kids might be offended, it is because a child would see it for what it is and boo!

This is so true. I think it is the ultimate carny trick. As adults we are told to look for more than is obvious. What is the hidden meaning? Hey.... maybe there isn't one... maybe the emperor has no clothes and naked peeing in public is just well, against the law if not on stage.

They added a part for me after the tree. I didn't tell you about the Tree. A large tree is on stage, the curtain opens and we look at it for 7 minutes. It's dead.... you can't even say we're watching it grow. Here is the weird part... it got applause. I get to follow the tree because it takes so long to remove the tree. I say let the audience watch the crew take it backstage... at least there is some action to that. Let the stage hands do it naked, let the dog have a go, then later we could say peeing is a call back.

By intermission I am done with all three of my performances. They have cars to take us back to the hotel.
Tonight I was ready... I went up to one of the drivers and said, "Can you run me back to the hotel". He said, "No, sorry. I'm here for the dog." From Tony Winner to second billing under a dog.
As you were,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

So, I know how the unrination thing works now. Don't get me wrong it is not that I was trying to discover the secret. The 'bull set" cast just happens to be dressing, or "undressing" in this case, on the same floor as my dressing room. The contortionist starts drinking Evian water about an hour before the show. I saw her in the hall way tonight chugging a couple of liters. I don't know, do you call that preparation, rehearsal, what? I am still confused about the timing. Speaking from personal experience I tend to lock down when a stranger enters the public men's room when doing my own business. How do you "turn on the shower" with 1500 people watching in the audience.

All these years I have tried not to drink too much water because I might need to pee when I get on stage. Here she is, worried that she won't be able to pee when she gets on stage.

Also, what do you say to the naked girl with her hand up the tush? "Hey nice show, a really conviencing performance. I have never seen anyone do it better?"

But the big question is... how do you find these performers. What kind of audition is this?

"Okay will all the girls in the front row strip naked bend over backwards and water the boards... and five, six, seven eight."

"Number four, really sorry honey, your body is great, the back bend was sensational, but the unrination thing was just not coviencing. Keep working on it. Now will all the girls in the back row... make a fist turn up stage and..... five, six, seven, eight..."

I did find out that the dog the guy wears on his head is not a professional. The bull, however, is.
As you were,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The computer I am using here in Manchester belongs to the hotel. Mine has a voltage issue with the British electrical current. Each room in the hotel has a wonderful Mac G4 hooked to a fast internet. The only problem is that if the intenet isn't active for longer than 5 minutes it cuts you off, and I can't save anything to the computer locally. The only way to get back on the internet is to reboot which destroys my work.

I lost two long blogs from that process last night. I will try to keep them short, but for this project there is just too much to tell.

We didn't make it all the way through the dress rehearsal last night. What I am now calling the "bull set" piece ran longer than 50 minutes. They pulled the plug at the Theater to avoid golden time. Many of the acts did not get a chance to do a final tech.

There were a couple more elements added to the bull set last night. There is now a naked girl standing in a mound of white grease with her back to the audience and her hand up her... well... back side. She stands there for the entire 50 minutes and at the end removes her hand to reveal it is covered in black grease. I think it is black grease. I hope it is black grease. The artists who know told me it was black grease and the symbolism behind it. "Behind" is not a play on words and neither is it when I say the whole idea is shitty.

The bull refused the chance to mount the wrecked car, but I don't think it would have saved the piece. However, in a perverted way I was facinated that one of the contortionists could actually urinate on cue. I can not imagine the impact this will have on a live audience tonight. I am both interested and frightened by the prospect of being there to witness.

There are musicians, singers and other performers like me who have been assigned to the 15 artists to be the talent in their projects. One of my pieces has been going fine until yesterday. I didn't realize the artist who concieved it had not arrived yet. He is a major German Nazi control freak (is that redundant) who thinks his piece is the single most important moment in the history of art. We spent ten minutes just rehearsing the way I would walk to the middle of the stage. Where I stood was almost as important as anything else because the "negative space in the incorrect porportion would kill the entire integrity of the idea." I mean really I have been on a stage since I was eleven years old, which I think is longer than little Adolf has been on the earth.

I have had a lot of fun with several guys from Virginia who are actioneers. One of the pieces is 7 auctioneers doing their cadance back and forth and together with some music. I really does work and I find it facinating to listen to. They are not performers they are livestock auctioneers and this is their first time out of the States. Since I am American they seek me out to find out what is going on. They want to teach me auctioneering so I can auction and bid at the same time. Yesterday, one of the guys caught me in the elevator and said to me in confidence (think a very heavy southern accent) "Jaaay, you won that Tony and know show business pretty damn well, is it just me or are some of these performances just plain weird?"

As you were,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

So tonight was our first "stagger through" of the show. It is the first time the all the pieces of the show attempt to run in order.

Here is the way this show works. There are 15 (yesterday I said 13 but I miscounted) artists responsibile for their own section of the show. In reality that means 15 individual directors. Many different performers are attached to each artists work. I am attached to three different artists, which is a record for any performer in the show. If you are part of an artists piece you become the clay they use to sculpt with. It is only good manners and refined diplomacy keeping me from occationally shouting... "Are you f---ing kidding me?"

One of the artists I am assigned to is doing several short scenes with two costume body puppets. They are really wonderful silent spots. He created small versions of the full size puppets and enlisted me to perform ventriloquially with them. In a thick French accent he said, "I am not a comedy writer and since they never talk until now, you do something funny with the puppets for four minutes." I am actually up for that task. After being asked to do some weird things with ventriloquism, this seems right up my alley.

Tonight I discover that my puppet sequence comes right after the bull mounting a wrecked car/nude women unrinating on the junk yard stage extravaganza which goes on for 28 minutes. I can't believe that I have to follow this with comedy. But like all good performers I try to see the positive side. I am thinking that the audience will be so ready for a diversion I will "kill". Well, it could be. Most importantly the stage crew needs at least 4 minutes to clear the bull set stage.

However, just as we are about to run that section my artist director comes up to me and says, "I did not know we would follow that. After seeing it there is no way I will follow that piece... mine will be a disaster."

I say, "Listen, I have been a performer all my life, I have followed a lot of tough acts before, I am willing to give it a shot because I think I can score."

He shakes his head and says, " No... no.. no one can follow that act.... it is TOO GOOD!" So the number was cut.

Now I may be a Tony Award winning performer, but I am currently in an alternate show buiness Universe.
As you were,
Okay, so maybe I shouldn't be writing about this until I get safely out of the UK. But I don't think anyone I am involved with over here reads my blog any way. So here goes. I won't mention names just in case.

I am performing in a show of 13 contemporary artist who are presenting their own “time based art” at the opera house in Manchester. `”Time based art” is the new term for “performance art”. You know the kind of performers who stare at a piece of cheese on stage for an hour and call it drama.

I am in the company of some of the greatest artist in the world. I am actually the “project” of one of the artists who is directing the show. My job is to be the ringmaster/emcee of this show trying in words to make sense of it all, while not moving my lips. Yeah, I have to communicate this complicated metaphoric symbolism with out the use of my lips. The microphone is a huge magnifying glass that makes my lips look the size of my head. It is like a magician sawing a woman in half using a clear box and an exacto knife.

One very famous American artist is presenting the longest piece of the show. It involves a 50 foot tall ramp coming down from the back of the stage . The stage is set with a wrecked car, Grecian pottery and what seems to be a junk yard of stuff. Several people carry in a dead body on a stretcher, a real bull is lead down the ramp dressed in a golden crown making three circles around the car and then mounting (yes in the sexual way) the wrecked car, while two half naked contortionists do back bends. The artist (wearing a dog in his head.. yes a real dog) and a squad of people dressed in Egyptian costumes look on while one of the contortionist urinates. I could not make this up. I watched them rehearse it for three hours yesterday.

I am not biting the hand that feeds me, but here is what I am learning about art. Art is mostly the guts to make people believe that what you are doing is important. While the bull is being lead around the stage yesterday 50 stage hands are watching in silence and a film crew is making a documentary of the experience. You would think this was a demonstration of the cure for cancer.

This was only day two of four rehearsals. I have been asking for a script to learn for about a month. I didn't get it until last night. One French lady said, “Are you really quick at learning a lot of material?” Yipes, why am I writing this and not studying.

As you were,