Hi folks, sorry for the long break but have been quite busy with teaching and theater going and such. It's been a dark time emotionally so have needed to focus on meditation and emotional balance and am kind of sick of writing about the same old pain. I also have a cold coming on, so this post will be short.
I went to see Gemini CollisionWorks' ObJects at The Brick, which I will write about, but before that want to mention that today was the Dainty Cadaver day (also at The Brick) that involved my scene, and it was a lot of fun to watch, also exciting to see something over which I had zero control other than my one little scene. I was particularly pleased that the director had the guts to take everyone outside onto the sidewalk at one point, which I had called for in the script but wasn't sure would happen. A male actor who in the first scene played a dog and in my scene was transformed into Ganesh (during a Bollywood dance number - which involved close to 20 actors...in a tiny theater), brings everyone outside to look at "our star" the sun and eat Dunkin Donut holes...this was inspired by my step-father Tom's love of Ganesh and his insistence that he eats sugar.
The other scenes (which were written only in response to the previous scene without knowing anything else) were also very funny, and the whole thing turned into a gloriously twisted, deeply silly musical.
Then, for a very different evening experience, there was ObJects. This is a dystopian piece written, designed and directed by Ian W. Hill with a large cast of talented actors. It's kind of Infinite Jest meets Andromeda Strain meets Network with a smattering of Enron...if you can imagine such a thing.
It is, like Hill's other work this past summer (Antrobus and Gone) not relying on easy irony or in reference to any of these other movies or books but instead is a dissection in both form and content of capitalism, bio-engineering and the ruthlessness of the American class system in which even people who get rich do not get to belong to the elite. Appropriately enough, the woman who runs the corporation Chronos (Mrs. Franklin played by Leila Okafor) that exists to make money but produces nothing is played by an actor from London, so the whiff of British class hierarchy that exists in the Northeast of the US was made even stronger. For those of you who are British, you might be kind of aghast to see the almost slavish Anglophilia that pervades the upper and upper-middle class here (see e.g. Downton Abbey-mania).
However, I don't want to make this sound like a Message Piece, because it is far more subtle and interesting than that. It is dark and shows no love for US capitalism and, like my play We live in financial times, Hill's play has been changed by Occupy Wall Street - in that the resonances are all that much stronger.
Because the plot is quite complex and in hopes you may go and see the play, which is worth the trip to Williamsburg (Lorimer stop so not quite as annoyingly hip as Bedford...tho rapidly catching up), I am not going to go into the twists and turns as I really enjoyed watching the ways in which it continued to shape shift in terms of power dynamics/alliances and not knowing how and where it was going. However, if you like your humor smart and dark and your analysis of the US economy and class system on the unsentimental side, this is your show.
Finally, Hill mixes up language quite beautifully in the show, working with various fluencies, disfluencies and poetic 'mysticism' that belong to various characters. My only quibble was with the three diviners (like contemporary 'weird sisters') in that they seemed a little bit too much like lost Grateful Deadheads for my taste, though that may have been intentional. Perhaps because I liked some of the language they spoke I wished they had a little more specificity in their delivery. This is also because the other characters all had quite defined, sharp roles, with names like Madison, Franklin, Hamilton (yes the names of Presidents and Founding Fathers - two of whom were played by women of color - also a nice touch to move out of the SWM cliche). The diviners have great names (Geist, Bann and Modell) and wonderful descriptions in the program but listening to them in the moment watching it was hard to differentiate).
Another slight issue I had was with the energy level of the cast as a whole at the beginning of the piece, which seemed low (it was Superbowl Sunday and a small audience, which could definitely have affected this). However, as the show gained momentum, and especially when the lovely actor Sam Erenberger showed up as Miss Lee Lightfoot ('biohacker & genius'), the energy level and tension raised.
The able cast also included Josephine Cashman as Ms. B. Minor (the eternally loyal second in command), Rokia L. Shearin as Madison (half human, half technology - done very well, btw), Christian Toth as Hamilton (rich but not that kind of rich guy), Michael Jefferson as Mr. Horseback (skeevy 'hip' corporate guy), Gyda Arber as Miss Sybille (in charge of the three 'diviners'), Lindsey Carter, Joy Song and Anna Stefanic as the three diviners and the MBAs from Harvard: Nicholas Miles Newton (creepy loyal), Kirk (described in program as 'a tool') and Tony (professionally annoying, cynical guy).
Go check it out, you don't have many days left, and it's a rarity to see committed, intellectual theater these days with a philosophical-political soul that doesn't apologize with winks and nudges.
One quick observation in relation to teaching - the same day as the NYPD ran into an 18 year old's house and shot him dead in the Bronx (a kid who could easily have been one of my students at BCC), in my class we had been talking about communication. In one class the sample encounter we discussed, at the students' suggestion was between a student and a police officer. The issue of fear came up and how dangerous that is on both sides. I turn on the news later that day and this 18-year old, unarmed has been shot to death after being chased into his own home. I was horrified. You can read the story here.
These are the moments I feel like: WTF am I doing? What am I teaching? How am I supposed to teach these kids knowing what they face day to day. I do my best. They do their best. But the odds against them are just mind-boggling. So, like if you have a moment and believe in that kind of thing, spare a thought, a prayer, a well-wish to my students.
I know, too, from other local folks that my students, the ones that make it to BCC are the way-lucky, way-successful ones. My rage at the inequality of our economic and educational system really knows no limit right about now. This sense is exacerbated by my time in UK, because I saw the same thing there, and I feel like I want to run down the streets screaming sometimes. It's probably time to go find the Occupy Wall Street people again and start marching before my head explodes.
Meanwhile, time to get some sleep and hope I can not get this cold full strength.
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.