Sometimes I use my blog to review theater that I see that interests me enough to write about it, and this is such a time. I was lucky enough to see In Blue, written and directed by Ran Xia at The Tank in NYC on Friday night (running through December 15), and wanted to share some thoughts on that.
The play does not reveal itself easily. The subjects are poet and playwright Else Lasker-Schuler and Blue Rider painter Franz Marc. I am on not an expert on either of them, and am not going to pretend to be for this review, though I am a fan of The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) school of painting, its most famous member being Kandinsky. I went to the play in part because of a memory of going to the museum in Munich devoted to this work back in 1984 and being blown away by the riot of colors and the sheer energy of the work.
Franz and Else's connection is not clearly factual or fictional, though according to the play there were postcards Franz sent to Else, and he illustrated one of her poems with his famous blue horses. But the sense of In Blue is that it is working much like abstract-expressionist paintings, vivid imagery that does not cohere to a specific story in the naturalistic sense of that word. What makes it hold together are the performances of Alyssa Simon and Finn Kilgore, who are grounded in each moment wherever it may go. Simon as Lasker-Schuler especially needs to move through multiple levels of presence, sometimes even within the same sentence, and does so with grace, ease, and humor, whereas Kilgore is an anchored fictional presence, seemingly evoked from Lasker-Schuler's memory and dreams. The direction and use of the beautiful set designed by Sarah Adkins and lights designed gorgeously by Becky Heisler McCarthy is imaginative and wonderful to watch unfold (sometimes literally). And, a special shout out to the costume designer Florence Lebas for sourcing the historically accurate and drop-dead gorgeous Lasker-Schuler shoes, which alone are worth the price of admission. The musician, Luke Santy, who is credited as performing a 'live score' is also a delight, and his presence and live music, including his interaction with Simon, adds a necessary present tense sense to the moment to moment flow of this multi-layered piece.
I am not attempting to be overly oblique here, but just wanting to evoke a sense of what it is like to watch this show. At first I became obsessed with dates (since many were mentioned) and where we were from moment to moment. Then I gave up and it got easier to follow. In the end, the bits, like in a Blue Rider painting, revealed themselves as a whole. The difference between theater and a painting being of course that the painting you see all at once whereas the play accumulates over time. So, I would counsel patience while watching, as it will all eventually come together, not in a linear whole but like a certain kind of painting or experimental music.
I do recommend going to see this play, as it gives insights into the early 20th Century, with some uncanny and uncomfortable parallels to our own tumultuous beginning of the 21st, and to a kind of love and connection via art and words that transcends—albeit in a troubled fashion—even such inconveniences as death and time.
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 as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While was blessed for the opportunity, after four years of being an adjunct, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in NYC 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. As of 2018, I also started leading writing retreats to my beloved Orkney Islands. If you ever want two weeks that will restore your soul and give you time and space to write, get in touch. I am leading two retreats this year in July and September.
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 now work full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, editor and writing retreat leader. 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
In 2017, I launched a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. You can also contact me through that site.
In May, I directed my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which now includes an award-winning chapbook of my short-story White shoe lady, which you can find on the sidebar. I also have become a certified yoga instructor in the Kripalu lineage. What a year!
And FINALLY, I have created a website, which I hope you will visit, The Unadapted Ones. I will keep this blog site up, since it is a record of over 8 years of my life, but will eventually be blogging more at the website, so if you want to know what I am up to with my writing, teaching, retreats and so on, the site is the place to check (and to subscribe for updates). After eight years I realized, no, I'm never turning into One Thing. So The Unadapted Ones embraces the multiplicity that comprises whomever I am, which seems to always be shifting. That may in fact be reality for everyone, but will speak for myself here. So, do visit there and thanks for coming here, too. Glad to meet you on the journey...