Welcome to my blog..

"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.

I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.

I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review of American Vaudeville Theatre

Trav S.D., who has written, directed and produced The American Vaudeville Theatre 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza at FringeNYC has been staging vaudeville shows for over 15 years, bringing back the spirit of the Ellis Island era of downtown NYC (some of which can still be seen on Coney Island today).  He has had great success over the years in staging these performances, writing and lecturing about vaudeville in order to ensure the form of vaudeville does not die, which is no small task. 

This show is made up of a series of revolving vaudeville acts that are showcased between entr’actes written and directed by Trav S.D.  There are the kind of bad jokes and MC behavior from him and his troupe that one would expect from vaudeville, my favorite being a sketch wherein some businessmen who rhyme ferret out the intruder in their midst by the fact he does not rhyme and beat him up for the transgression.  There was a very funny, and weirdly affecting lip-synching act by a man, who also lip-synched the accompanying voices with sock puppets.  The featured acts on the night I attended included a young woman, Poor Baby Bree, singing traditional Lower East Side songs, The Leroy Sisters doing a long melodrama sketch and A.C. Prouser (I think – if the program is accurate – though I cannot tell if he, too, is the ‘juggling genius’) juggling balls, plungers and toilet seats.  There was a mentalist sketch by Rory Raven and some dancing with red flags by the Five Sizzling Fajitas. 

There is something deeply charming about this whole project, and it is quite interesting to think about how this type of work played at the time when it was wildly popular at the turn of the 19th to 20th century.  I do wonder what its relevance is today and if there is not some nostalgia involved for a time gone by, but there is a living museum quality that clearly people enjoy.  The audience was quite engaged and lively throughout the many acts.  And there was a lot of skill involved in many of the acts that was refreshing to witness.

Back to my obsession with dissecting irony, though, I did wonder about the song at the end ‘New York’s a Patriotic Town.’  It was funny, yes, and of course it was ironic.  The patriotism implied was not so much for the U.S. as for NYC itself, and anyone who’s lived here, as I have, can relate to that feeling.  I do wonder aloud, again, though – why do we have to say things in this way?  Why must there always be this wink and a nod, and it’s OK because we’re all smarter than that kind of attitude?  I am afraid I must seem quite pedantic by now, banging on and on about this, but it keeps bothering me, probably because in the past I’ve been a purveyor of it myself, or perhaps because I don’t like it as a self-protective stance and feel somewhat put out by the fact that others do protect themselves this way.  Either way, I do think it’s worth looking at why this is the main way we communicate and if there is another way.  Also (and this comes from having lived outside of the U.S. for eight years), the wink and a nod patriotism, which on the one hand mocks itself but on the other hand asserts itself seems quite blatant.  There is a way in which satire can confirm rather than undermine its so-called target, and I think this is an example of that.  If this is the intention, than so be it, but if not, then perhaps it can be re-thought.

However, the more important message here is that what is charming about American Vaudeville Theatre is that it seems to come from love of this form, and for that I commend it.  It is not easy to stick it out, keep a form alive that is on the edge of extinction and continue to bring in new acts that find new ways of keeping an old form fresh.  I was also impressed that there was an audience for this that seemed engaged in particular with certain acts.  Some of these audience members felt free enough to talk at the stage, and that engagement seemed quite appropriate to the form.

One of my favorite moments of the evening was when one of The Leroy Sisters was asking the audience for help finding the criminal and she reminded us we were all here and it wasn’t a film.  There does seem to be an interesting challenge in this time of the virtual to bring about engaged audience response.

I suppose this would be the most interesting challenge for the next 15 years of AVT (and I hope there are at least 15 more years) – get the audience as involved as they used to be in the old music halls.  Somehow create that raucous atmosphere and voluble comments that characterized the old-time vaudeville.  It seems like these days perhaps stand-up comedians and their audiences are the closest equivalent we have, but there seems to be room here for that, too.

For schedule and tickets for remaining shows, click here: AVT

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