Before the below post about artistic stuff, a reminder that today (Saturday) is the Occupation Party at Times Square, details here:http://www.theoccupationparty.com/ It sounds fabulous. I plan to be there. Was delighted that pure public pressure from people, politicians, artists, writers and of course the occupiers themselves cleaning all night long, kept Zuccotti Park from being 'cleansed' on Friday. Now my BCC students still have to go down and interview them. That is good.
In other news, the Prelude Festival was happening the last few days at Martin Segal Center. In retrospect, I wish the work, any of it, had been a bit more responsive to the events on the ground in NYC, but in fairness to the artists, they have been preparing this work for the festival for a while and theater is collaborative, etc. However, I found it interesting that in a talk with academics at Columbia that could be absorbed but not so much with artists at CUNY. Then again, a talk is easier to adjust than a production...
Below is some stuff I wrote last night about what I saw at Prelude. I am only mentioning that which stood out for me, but there was a lot of good stuff. However, I am kind of tired of what I see as almost stereotypical postmodern irony, so am not addressing work that I felt fell in that category. When confronted with even very well done versions of this, I find myself initially laughing and then thinking: wait a minute, this again? It's like Cheese Whiz for smarty pants. Oh yes, there are the codes, oh ha ha, they've been broken, etc. I think some of my own work has probably fallen into this category at times, so this is not finger wagging, it's just me wondering: are we there yet? When can we begin creating something new? (For more about Irony, you can read my post from August ranting about this subject - Irony and its Discontents...)
Below, however, is some stuff I felt differently about that seemed to have its own weight all by its very self...
Seeing Steve Mellor performing a reading of Mac Wellman's Muazzez, which is a story from a collection based on apparently real asteroids was a revelation - as much for the acting as the writing, which were both spectacular. I have not been so riveted through so much dense material in a long time. The actor is speaking from the point of view of an abandoned cigar factory (ACF), who only speaks to one other ACF (Fin - the 'smarter ACF apparently). However, this ACF has not only a consciousness but a claw. I fear in attempting to describe this I will do a horrendous job of paraphrasing. I do know they are planning on making this reading into a show, so I will simply say: go see it. The premise may sound bizarre, but within this performance of text in which language goes dizzyingly astray - making the familiar strange and the strange familiar - there is an exhilarating journey through human consciousness and even - dare I say it in these postmodern times - soul. By having a solo performer embodying the text, which itself deals with the aberration of a body(building) that is 'steadfast' having the ability to dig into the layers of its own foundations thereby discovering its origin but also in that moment of discovery also realizing it/s/he has dug its/his/her own grave in which s/he/it will fall eventually, gives the text a kind of emotional/spiritual weight it would not have otherwise. There is a continual lament throughout the piece, the reason for which I will not reveal as, believe it or not, it kind of keeps a certain dramatic tension throughout the wild trajectories of the text, which is "They lied to me!" What that lie is turns out to be the axis on which the discovery the ACF makes digging with his claw turns. And I must confess it is only now writing this that I put that together...so there you have it: dense and recurring (in a good way!) material.
Two other shows were stand-outs: one was Paul Lazar reenacting a talk given by artist Suzanne Bocanegra at MOMA about how she became an artist and its relationship to her Catholic upbringing in Texas. This included watching an artist re-do her local church with decidedly modernist Rauschenberg-like gestures in the wake of the 1960s reforms of Vatican II, and in seeing the power of this artist to disturb, provoke and to her eyes create great art, even if the rest of the congregation disagreed. This experience she believes added validity to her wanting to become an artist and showed her real art may not be loved but was always noticed. The interesting talk, with images, and the alienation of hearing her voice and Lazar's giving the same lecture was charming, unsettling and ultimately quite moving. Lazar did an excellent job simply inhabiting these words, without strain or showiness in a way that brought a past talk it into the present, took it out of the personal, and handed it to us in the audience as our own experience somehow. Fabulous.
The other show that interested me was created by Otso Huopaniemi, a Finnish-American writer/director, in which he worked with 3 other performers, a laptop, Google Translate and voice recognition software. This made the piece unpredictable, visible in its creation and showed the fragility of language, understanding and the strange persistence of our ongoing relationship with machines. I can't summarize the experience, but it was quite compelling to watch. And it made everyone question the notion of authorship in an explicit way, which is always a good thing. It is called abz.love so go see it when it's completed.
There were some other interesting performances, but these are the ones I want to focus on for now. Prelude, by the way, is free and open to the public and is another reason I love being in NYC. Free stuff, lots of it, that is excellent. And seeing as with my adjunct salary, once I figure the actual hours I work, is basically minimum wage, this is a good thing.
Now off to get prepared to go meet with some friends, meet my protest-buddy Christian to Occupy Times Square and then to another friend's birthday party...assuming I manage not to get arrested, which would be a plus.
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. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
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 having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
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.