There’s something about dinosaurs that stirs human imagination. Over at my Myspace blog, I explore the connection via running into three different dino-related sites online this past week.
It’s interesting, particularly in light of a conversation I had lastnight with a performer around ideas of so-called “low” art and “high” art -what constitutes each? And are these lines vanishing? I, for one, hope so. It’s all about play, after all.
A few items of interest presented themselves today.
The first is a fantastic piece courtesy of the New York Times’ video site detailing a new theatre piece that involves the use of mobile phones and computers. I confess, I initially had a few doubts about this, but seeing the participants’ reactions, thinking about the intimacy being created (especially via modern technology), well… I’m a believer. Check it out.
“Isn’t it pessimistic?” a person in the crowd of visitors asked the exhibition’s curator, Asad al-Sagheer, as he described an unsettling composition of death masks, painted in thick strokes of red and blue. The artist, Halim Qassim, found inspiration in Baghdad’s central morgue, near his home in Babalmuabhm, a place once overflowing with corpses.
“He thinks there’s beauty in the faces,” Mr. Sagheer said, “even after they’ve been killed.”
Closer to home, people are getting the role arts and culture plays in daily life. Apparently the National Endowment for the Arts is getting additional funding as part of President Obama’s stimulus package, and artist Chuck Close thinks there’s no better time than tough times -now -to be an artist, despite his opinion that the Depression didn’t produce especially good art.
“When we’ve had major times of financial distress in this country.. .a lot of people argue that some of the best work was made. I don’t think it was America’s greatest hour; art… the best period for me in American art was the 50s and early 60s… That could be seen as a time when America opened its arms to … immigrants, and we became a beacon as a free and open society, and attracted some of the best and brightest from all over the world.”
So, there I was, writing about how I wasn’t going to be covering theatre so much anymore… and I went and saw an awesome work lastnight I felt compelled to write about. Naturally!
The formal review of Andrew Moodie’s Toronto The Good will be posted at New Theatre Review tomorrow, but in the meantime, I can tell you… I loved it. Why? Fully fleshed-out characters, strong dialogue, an involving story about important themes. But it was never preachy, never judgmental, never pretentious. Nothing turns me off faster than going to the theatre and getting a finger wagged at me. That isn’t helpful, not is it dramatically involving.
Northrop Frye said you should always describe what is there… so? Toronto The Good is smart, funny, sad, thoughtful, and really well-acted and staged. And deeply relevant to the times and conditions we’re living in. That’s huge for me, and, I suspect, for a lot of other people that might find theatre to be a bit too… uh, thee-uh-tah-ish. Toronto the Good brings all the issues of modern, urban living up close and in your face -and there’s a rap scene too (how often does this happen in the theatre?). You’ll find yourself thinking, more than once, “I’ve seen that” or “I’ve done that” or “I know someone like that” or even “Oh Gawd, that’s me…” Such is the power of Moodie’s writing; he manages to raise some really important issues around ideas of race, ambition, opportunity and modern relating, but at the same time, keeps the personal touch that makes good drama so appealing.
Anyway, some of you will have noticed my moving away from theatre writing and reporting. There’s a reason -and it has everything to do with my inherent curiosity about the world around me. I’m branching out to explore stories that run the gamut from environmental-meets-social media (like One Million Acts of Green) to pop culture (ie -television, film, and music) to the just plain fun (like Ms. Forbes-Roberts and her fantastic fair). So in the coming days and weeks, expect to read more about my thoughts on all this stuff, and less on the performing arts. I still love ’em (deeply -I saw the COC production of Fidelio today, in fact -beautiful) but I love a lot of other things, too. The topics I pursue still have a distinctly arts-and-culture bent, as befits my own interests, but this feels like a natural progression in terms of range and breadth.
“Play” doesn’t just refer to what happens in theatres; the term also encompasses what we do in childhood, the very thing we forget moving into adulthood. It’s also the thing we all want to re-embrace, and what artists -of any discipline do (bravely) embrace. If the “play” really is “the thing,” to quote Hamlet, then Play Anon is about just that -playing, in a lot of different areas, free from the shackles of “should.”
As someone once told me (speaking about themselves) many years ago, “I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I am one of the most curious.” That describes me too. Here’s to a new day, and a new Play Anon.