Hello! Suzanne Menghraj here with links to two short films I saw at the Labapalooza festival at St. Ann’s Warehouse a few weeks ago. The festival features experimental puppet and object theater (geared toward adults) developed at St. Ann’s through grants from the Jim Henson Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts. There were two programs this year. The one I attended showcased three projects (the first of which, Essex, was particularly outstanding). Between shows, short films that recreate in cardboard (!) aspects of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (“Fitzcardboardaldo”) and Burden of Dreams (“The Corrugation of Dreams”) were screened. The films were created by Robin Frohardt.
Students who took my spring 2013 Approaches class (The Artist-Critic: Inventive Approaches to Theory) will remember what I fan I am of puppet theater. If you’re looking for further reading on puppetry, check out Heinrich von Kleist’s “On the Marionette Theater” and the book Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life by Kenneth Gross. And if you like the idea of filmed puppetry and object theater, you might also look up the Quay Brothers, whose “Street of Crocodiles” is an adaptation of Bruno Schulz’s book of the same name. Oh… and if you ever get a chance to see this live, do! And by the way, Labapalooza comes around every spring (this was its fifteenth year). It’s always fascinating, so check it out some time if you have the chance.
The CCCP blog is enjoying summer break. We will have updates from time to time but nothing regular. Visit us in August when we start preparing for the GLS class of 2017!
Last week, the students in my Global Topics class read/watched Spalding Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia, a brilliant piece of storytelling/post-modern monologue/whimsical/melancholy (my favorite combination) performance piece. They were, pretty much uniformly, amused/moved/entranced by the piece which, though almost 30 years old, still retains its capacity to inspire. In fact, they were inspired enough to try writing their own autobiographical monologues, some of which will be developed for a final project.
I interviewed Spalding Gray many many years ago, when I was a struggling freelance writer. It was for the ill-advised magazine OMNI, for a piece on Future Arts. Gray said–and I have always remembered this–that as the arts became more and more overloaded with technological flourishes that his brand of “caveman art,” what he called “shamanic storytelling about the tribe,” would become more and more urgently needed. That seems more true today than back-in-the-day.
If you spend any time in Washington Square Park, you have certainly seen Colin Huggins, or as my children know him, Piano Guy. The quintessential Village eccentric, he carts his piano out of a storage space to WSP most days; on weekends in pleasant weather, he plays–quite beautifully–for hours, amuses the crowd with his low-key showmanship and witty patter, and sells his CDs. We own all three. He knows my kids and invites my disabled daughter Anna to play the piano with him sometimes. He rocks.
Don’t try this at home. Or: don’t try this, period.
Whenever I revise a story, I fact-check some of its components even if I’m already certain of their accuracy. This can lead to interesting discoveries. While revising “Shadow,” a story that involves, among other things, shark encounters, I googled “lemon-tiger sharks,” and several clicks led me to the website of Lesley Rochat (above), diver-activist-conservationist and … crazy woman? I’ve been in the water with sharks, never while free-diving, which limits one’s options, but always on scuba, and never with species that can end human life in a single bite (and have). For me, any dive that includes sharks is a high-voltage dive. There’s a feeling of awe, accompanied by … fear isn’t the right word: let’s say, primal urgency. All systems are on high alert–you can feel that. The eyes are wide open. Compared to Ms Rochat’s work, however, my interactions are just a notch more adventurous than taking a bath with no hot water. She free dives, she touches, she goes outside the cage to photograph tigers and great whites. She reminds me that my best dive teachers have always been women. I wonder if it’s because their courage is based on trust, not aggression… Still, I worry for her. I remember the sad case of Sheck Exley, the man who wrote the book on safety for cave diving, and later met with a fatal accident while on a particularly challenging dive. According to Jim Bowden, Exley’s former dive buddy and student, Exley used to say that the teacher’s greatest joy is when a student surpasses the teacher’s accomplishments. In cave diving, I guess you can always go deeper, or think you can. But how much further can Lesley Rochat go? And how much longer can I avoid further revision?
This is a thoroughly amazing event, three days of Americana, weirdness, and some truly inspiring performances. Off the beaten path, to be sure, but who wants to be on that lousy old beaten path anyway?