Theatre Feed

Lil Nas and the Magic of Now #grammys

NasAs a 55 year old, I am not the target demo for pop music. I'm OK with that. I'm sure my parents were somewhat baffled by the music I listened to growing up (Abba, ELO, Bee Gees, etc) much in the way the Mister and I were sort of scratching our heads last night at various songs/artists who seemed to spew/shout incoherent lyrics to choppy tunes. Although to be fair to my parents, our household was home to a wide variety of music - the Beatles, Mamas and Papas, Broadway musicals, comedy albums, classical, big band, etc. 

But while most of last night's Grammys didn't reflect my musical tastes, some of the performances (like Lil Nas) were inspired. I don't have any idea what he was singing, but man, that performance was a visual masterpiece on a master class level. 12 hours later, I am still thinking about it, and that's what Art should do - stay with the viewer. Drenched in pop culture iconography and very complicated choreography, this is definitely something that will be referenced in the future; I'm very glad to have seen it live. 

It seems, for many people my age, the night was incomprehensible (if my Facebook feed is any indication) but pop music isn't for us, it's for the Now and rather than being all 'get off my lawn' about it, I am choosing to find value even if that value is only to see what is considered popular right now. I like that I can appreciate the magic of now no matter what age I am. 

The other thing that gives me comfort in this is this: when you take away the flash and pizzazz, all of these performers are doing exactly the same thing that legends like Frank Sinatra did - they entertain their peers in a way that reflects the culture. The proliferation of 'crazy/shouty' music last night is sort of disconcerting to me in that context, but, at the end of the day, music is a product and this is what sells. Right now. Ten years from now? Who knows. We could be back to the big band era and crooners wearing suits. Can you imagine? 


Cunningham @cunninghamovie @cunninghamfilm #cunningham

Back in graduate school as part of a dance studies class. It was a strange class on top of a strange experience, that I will eventually write about... but anyway, I had to watch a video of Merce Cunningham performing and then describe it. I had originally gone to grad school thinking that I would work as a dramaturge but had switched interests to writing theater for young audiences, Unknownand after this particular exercise, I realized that I had little interest in knowing how to write about a performer who repeatedly sweeps his toe on the stage. 

When I was graced with a couple of tickets to see the new documentary about Cunningham, I flashed back to that video I had watched in 1992 and flinched. I almost said 'no', but then the Mister was excited to go and so I smiled through what I thought would be a painful evening. I couldn't have been more wrong. 

"Dance" as an art form sort of confuses me - I find it a little tedious but filmmaker, Alla Kovgan, not only gives us some background (although this is not a comprehensive biography by any means) of Cunningham, but traces his artistic evolution, plus provides the audiences modern interpretations of his work - the effect is a gorgeously filmed movie that makes one want to search out live performances of the work. And having seen the work through her eyes as well as though the Mister's, I think I have a much better appreciation for its beauty and how innovative it was (and still is, really). 

I really encourage you to seek this film out; you can find where and when it's showing by going to the film's website by clicking here.



Seduce. Destroy. Heal. The Magic of Carol Lipnik

The other night, my pal Ro treated me and two of our friends to see the wonderfully talented Carol Lipnik at Joe's Pub. I'm not saying anything out of turn when I say that Ro is one of the most adventurous people I've ever met when it comes to seeing performers and shows that he knows little to nothing about except that someone he likes recommended them.

I've been fortunate to be on many of those expeditions over the years and, as you might expect, there have been uhmmm mixed results. Sometimes the show is great, sometimes not -- and we do this to each other... usually about five to ten minutes in, depending on who has invited whom, will turn to the other if it's bad and say "I'm sorry" to which the other shrugs and grits their teeth and orders another drink (Heaven help us if we're at a show without a bar; I generally try to focus on my 'to do' list) LOL . If you live in New York City, you owe it to yourself to get out and at least sample as much of what is out there as possible because you never know when you're going to find a gem.

CarolSo Ro has been trying to get me to see Carol Lipnik for some time and I've kind of resisted as when I've asked "what does she do?" and the answer is "hard to describe", which usually raises a red flag for me.

Happily in this case, this description was true- there is no real way to describe what you'll experience when you see Carol Lipnik - but I'll try.

First off, she's a singer, and a damn fine one at that eschewing traditional 'covers' of other people's songs, and, instead opting to perform numbers that she and her pianist have written. Sure, there were a couple songs that one could describe as "covers" but when you hear "The Twist" done as sort of beat poetry, it doesn't really feel like a cover, it feels like an entirely new piece.  Her final piece was a straightforward rendition of "Moon River" and I've not heard it sung so beautifully since I had the good fortune to be at a book signing a decade ago, where, impromptu, Margaret Whiting gave it a go (and we all joined in, because, geez, how could you not?).

So, secondly, you're not really getting a concert, you're getting an 'experience' that is unique - where else can you hear a song inspired by a William Blake poem? Or where else can you hear a song with the lyrics, "the anesthesia is wearing off" and make it sound at once sound Buddhist and political? You see? Hard to describe. There are howls (hers and yours) and a song about a werewolf and... well, you get the drift. This is not a woman who sings about being "back in style"; nothing that bland.

There are stories (real? imagined? Who knows? It genuinely doesn't matter) that place the audience in the role of meditative listener - and yet we were invited to participate so not once did I feel like a passive audience member simply hearing someone else as in most concerts.

Finally, there's her personal motto: SEDUCE. DESTROY. HEAL. Something in each of us at the concert certainly could relate to all of that.

What's also wondrous about Carol Lipnik is that she (smartly) avoids current topics (Ok there was the obligatory Trump dig which felt sort of out of place but given how much of a lout Trump is and has always been, it's easily forgiven) which gives the show a timeless feel.  Given her Earth Mother vibe, this show could have existed in it's current form 10, 20, 30 years ago without one word, one note changed. How often nowadays do we get to experience that? Usually a lesser talent substitutes topical humor for actual wit.

She has one final show, tomorrow night, Thursday, March 17 at 7pm (doors open at 6). Shockingly there are still tickets available - run, don't walk to get your tickets and enjoy an hour of the mysterious.

(And thanks to Ro for continuing to push me out of my comfort zone by recommending/inviting me to new things!)

Jumping for Joy on Saturday: Patti Graham's Crackerjack Performance and This Afternoon's Short - "Closet Space"

Good morning.. er... afternoon all .. hope you've spent your week Jumping for Joy - a friend asked why all the sudden motion on this blog and in the Jumping for Joy Facebook group after a long dormancy - and the answer is quite simply that the world today - especially right now - is so bleak what with the campaign running on and on and on that I thought we could all use some reminders of the things that we have that make us happy  (and by the way, can we, in the future, just start the Presidential election process around May 1 of the election year? How many years do you really need to vet a candidate who has been in the public eye for decades? Although this is nothing new - I remember in, I think it was 2008, when people were asked on the eve of the election who they were voting for and they claimed that they still didn't know.. .I call BS on that and think these people just wanted to be on camera, but I digress).

PattiBLOGAnyway, I'm trying in my own way to bring some Joy into my life and I hope along the way that you find something to be Joyful about as well. On Thursday night I joined my former colleagues for a night of music sung by the incomparable Patti Graham who performed as part of the Uncle Floyd show at the Cutting Room. Patti is a former work friend as well and has an amazing other life as a fantastic performer. I heard her CD of old romantic standards a couple months ago but having the opportunity to see her perform on stage live was a real treat. The hour flew by it wasn't even marred by the boisterous group behind us who, I think, thought that they were at a football game not a cabaret concert. Oh well. LOL Anyway, the highlight (for me) was her rendition of "I'll Be Seeing You" - the best word that I can find to use to describe the performance is "exquisite"... tender, emotional, but not maudlin. That's quite a feat to accomplish that. When Patti has her next performance, I'll make sure to alert you all because she's someone that you shouldn't miss! You can read her bio here.

You know, it's one of those things that people tell you when they find out that you work in corporate America - that all your other non work interests will end...  But I believe in a work-life balance and Patti's proof of how one can have your awesome job and still find the time to pursue your passions. If that's not an expression of Joy, I don't know what is. :)

Today, a little video that I found about the joys of discovery. Me, I don't think that I would have put my husband in the closet, I think that I would have first put a $20 and see what happened with that first LOL. It's very Twilight Zoney and gave me that spooky/prickly feeling that I like so much. Joy comes in many forms! :) And in this case, "Jumping for Joy to be Creeped Out!"

Closet Space from David F. Sandberg on Vimeo.



Jumping 4 Joy on My 3rd Day of Christmas (Dec 12)

In addition to 12/12 being the 2nd wedding anniversary for two couples that I married - Teresa and Dec12wedding1BLOGMaria from San Francisco and David and Timothy from North Carolina (I'll get to those stories in a minute), 12/12 was the 3rd Day of My Christmas. How did I celebrate? Well, I spent the day in my pajama top, starting what could possibly be an inevitable slide into being that guy with the 12 cats and newspapers piled up to the ceiling. OK, not really. The super had to do some work in my apartment and, not knowing what time he was coming, I bummed around the apartment for part of the morning (I took the day off) waiting for him to arrive. I got engrossed in, what else, Facebook, and suddenly he was here and I grabbed the first thing I could find to wear - which just happened to be the shirt from my PJs. Yes, I sometimes wear PJs to bed on really cold nights. I'll let that image burn itself into your brain for a minute. :)

Anyway, we got involved in getting a problem fixed and it took much longer than expected. I had to run outside a couple times to do errands and it wasn't until later on in the afternoon that I realized I was still wearing the PJ top. See? I've become that guy. This is how it starts - today a PJ top worn as a 'real' shirt and tomorrow I'm spooning beefaroni from a can. (Ok who am I kidding? That sounds delicious).

DandysXmas2014I finally pulled it together and met my pal Ro for dinner down on the Lower East Side followed by a show - Dandy Darkly's Fucking Christmas. Dandy is a storyteller and a friend of mine and I married he and his husband back in February 2013. The show featured another friend, Boylesque performer Matt Knife who runs a monthly show at Stonewall (yes THE Stonewall) and is also someone I married (with an asterisk but I'll get to that eventually)... as well as my very good pal and former Empress of the Imperial Court, Witti Repartee (whose wedding last February in Delaware was amazing).

TimDavidWedding121212BLOGSpeaking of weddings, two years ago I pulled double duty performing two weddings in about a two hour span. Here's how it happened - there were many weddings happening that day - 12/12/12 - and I booked two with plenty of travel time in between. But then one got pushed up, or pushed back, I'm not sure I remember now two years later, but it was a triumph of time management skills to give each couple the spectacular wedding they deserved. :)

Fortunately the weddings were close enough that I could make it happen - Teresa and Maria got married a venue in Chelsea and then Dave and Timothy were in 30 Rock plaza (you know, where I happened to be on my 2nd Day of Christmas). The 30 Rock wedding was a bit renegade as the families of both men gathered at a agreed upon time and place and I walked them all through the ceremony. To be honest, I worried that the police might ask us to move or that we'd get some lookie loos from the crowd... But although a crowd gathered, the grooms were only given congratulations and applause. This is of course a welcome relief to those of us who have experienced just how homophobic people can be.

It was such a quick ceremony and I was able to get back to Chelsea to make the gorgeous dinner (and cake). It was, in some ways, as though I had not left as they had spent the intervening time taking pictures.

So, happy 3rd Day of My Christmas and more tomorrow!

Jumping 4 Joy on My 2nd Day of Christmas (Dec 11)

On my 2nd Day of Christmas I had the opportunity to spend part of my afternoon playing Santa Claus for about a dozen children from Homes for the Homeless. I did this last year and it was a total blast and weeks and weeks ago I bugged the organizer to let me do it again. It so happened that it SantaHomesforHomelessBLOGoccurred just a couple hours from one of the holiday parties our department was organizing but even though it meant I ended up sprinting across the street to help finish my colleague set up.

But I'm so glad that I did. I spent many summers in the mid 90s working for the California Theater Center as an Artistic Director teaching and directing month-long conervatory sessions. The kids were aged anywhere from 8 to 14. For four summers I would trek out to Sunnyvale, CA - no matter that one summer my car died about 250 miles from Salt Lake or that another summer I had gone to work for another arts organization that proved to be really awful or that one summer I had to figure out how to cast and direct 50 kids in a shortened version of "Midsummer Night's Dream" - one that only had roles for about 30 - and the kids only had three weeks to memorize Shakespeare. But the kids did it - yes the same age group  from 8 to 14. Then, for a couple years I taught a weekly drama class for 7, 8 and 9 year olds at a now defunct theater here in New York. THAT was awesome and prompted one of the 8 year olds to declare that I was 'one of them', which I took as a compliment (I'm pretty sure that's how it was meant).

So coming into the room with a bag of toys for the kids and having them swarm and grab on to my leg was one of the best moments I've had in a long long time. I always wanted kids but being a single gay man has kind of worked against me in that department.

In any event, it's things like being Santa that kind of make up for that lack. And rousing the kids to "ho ho ho" was totally awesome. Then the kids scrambled up on my lap for presents and pictures. Mostly they were anxious - except one girl who was a little bigger (and maybe older?) than the other 4 to 6 year olds. When it was her turn, I called her over (like I had the other kids) and she came over, hesitated and said "I can't... I'm.... heavy".

I couldn't believe my ears - at what, 6 or 7 (?) she had already had someone knock into her head that "heavy" = "worthless" and a little bit of my heart broke. I encouraged her to come up anyway - and then so did the other kids. And I think my heart repaired itself a little as she climbed up. And you know what, she was just fine and btw not 'heavy' at all.

I wondered how she would fare and what road she'd have to take to get rid of that notion that she was 'heavy' and realize that she's just fine the way she is. If I were the real Santa Claus, it would be the first thing I'd do for her.

CityscapeBLOGAfter presents we sang and I left, changed, sprinted across the street to 30 Rock for an event at the Rainbow Room that we were managing. One of my colleagues thought he saw Tina Fey walking through the lobby and then we found out that the 30 Rock holiday party was happening at the same time - and we were like "yeah, that was definitely her".

And then I got to see the view from up there. The pic is a little fuzzy (iphone photo, you know) but you get the idea. So on Day 2 I Jumped for Joy for lots of reasons and looking forward to the coming days as well.