Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


How Theater Failed America

Last night Pramas and I went to see Mike Daisey's new show, How Theater Failed America. It was the third time he'd performed the show ever and he performed to a packed house (they had to break out the overflow seating); I told him after the show how hard I'd had to work to suppress the urge to "heckle" (or rather yell out my completely platonic love for him) during one portion of the show and he looked genuinely relieved as he thanked me for not doing so. I shrieked with laughter during the show when he did his bit about people "dialoging" because I had just gone on a rant about how I'm sick of everything being a "dialog" while we were waiting for the doors to open: Kate's after school program manager wanted to "dialog" with me because she could tell I was eager to get away from her and she thought she's upset me... we'd just seen an advertisement for a yoga studio that proclaimed that yoga established a "dialog" between mind and body. Not ten minutes later, Mike had me in stitches by hitting the "dialog" thing with his special brand of sweaty, exuberant verbal hammer. How's that for an image?

The thing is, Mike's clearly a favorite here and not just with me. He sells out his events at CHAC and this debut run of the new show (which begins its off-Broadway run in New York shortly) was no different. At the beginning of his month-long run he was performing his excellent Monopoly monologue, which we'd heard before but misremembered as his Tesla show, so saw again. Thing is, it was still enjoyable. No regrets.

How Theater Failed America is the most personally relevant of Mike's shows that I've seen. Even though he was often talking about the state of theater specifically, more than that he hit on the themes of passion, art, sacrifice, and those moments of success (or what passes for it) and the ever-present threat of crushing failure. I loved this show. I loved this show for exactly the reasons Mike lays out in his monologue that regional theater is failing. So many of his insights and experiences were directly applicable to my little artsy pond of the roleplaying game industry. Mike's description of the actors setting upon the cheese plates at theater openings was all too familiar, except in my case it was indy publishers literally pocketing the left-over brie and booze after some bigger company's GTS or GenCon function broke up. You can hear an excerpt of the monologue here. Although it is sadly leaving Seattle after tonight, I heartily recommend it if Mike comes to perform it at a theater near you.

To get some idea of the tone, if not the content of the show, I encourage you to read this piece he wrote for The Stranger.

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Thought for the Day

"We just have to turn this corner," is all well and good unless you live in an Escher drawing.



Art Appreciation

Proving that 11-year-olds are the same now as when I was a kid...

Kate's class had a field trip to Meany Hall at the University of Washington to see the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company doing their interpretive dance program of Jacob Lawrence's paintings.

Kate's assessment? "Just as boring in motion as they are still." and "They were crawling around on the floor and jerking around. No one understood what was going on." She also noted, "All the women were really buff. You could see their muscles and stuff." This was not said in an admiring way...

Ah, interpretive dance. Ah, fifth grade.

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The Daisey Incident

Mike's put video up of the disruption of his performance.

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What possesses these people?

Monologist Mike Daisey is an acquaintance of mine. I wouldn't presume such familiarity as to call him a friend precisely but we have good friends in common and we could recognize each other on sight. I've been to several of his one-man shows now and I hold him in very high regard. He is quite a talented fellow and I've never failed to be childishly enraptured by his story-spell when he works his craft.

So, when I read his blog today, I was completely taken aback:

Last night's performance of INVINCIBLE SUMMER was disrupted when eighty seven members of a Christian group walked out of the show en masse, and chose to physically attack my work by pouring water on and destroying the original of the show outline.

For those who have never seen Mike perform, allow me to describe the scene: he sits alone at a table in front of the audience; on the table is nothing but a glass of water and the outline for the show. The rest he works from scratch, through well-rehearsed and intimate stories, all personal to a greater or lesser degree. Every night, just him and the audience. In fact, there's a short sample of this show available online here.

Can you imagine if someone ripped the bow from a cellist's hands before walking out of a performance because he objected to the music? How about snatching off an actor's wig or pulling down a ballerina's tutu or tearing the book out of a reader's hands or the pages out of the book itself? It's unthinkable to me and the more I think about the incident, the more disgusted I feel. Insulted. Angry on his behalf and on behalf of all the other people who were assembled to see this talented performer.

What possesses people to behave this way? By what right does one's disappointment or disapproval over an artistic act entitle one to attack the artist?

[EDIT] I meant to link to the rest of his blog, for those who are interested. Fixed now

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Jonathan Lethem

I'm going to see him tonight, as the last of this season's Seattle Arts and Lecture series. As has been the theme all season, I have not read any of his books. Until this week I was almost completely ignorant about him, but I did go listen to an interview on Fresh Air and I've picked up his novel Fortress of Solitude with one of my credits at Audible.

Seattlest has an interview with Lethem today. This particular quote really spoke to me:

We just need to constantly understand how much we’re awash in our own subjective, fantastical consciousness. This is why people are so interested in stories, even if they distrust them. It’s why fiction and film…it’s how we understand ourselves. By the same token, we’re all storytelling at some time.

The context of the quote is about memory and how we recollect things, the idea that we're not remembering the event as much as we're remembering the last time we remembered the event and I'm very interested in that idea... but when I read that quote I immediately thought: blogs.

Lethem also has a really interesting view on inspiration, plagiarism, the impulse to make art and all that goes with it. His website has a really neat shared content experiment which he calls The Promiscuous Materials Project.

I'm looking forward to the lecture tonight very much. I'm going to try to make it to the pre-lecture for this one if I can but I'm so busy I won't know until just before if that will be possible.

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Art Spiegelman

Last night's Seattle Arts and Lecture guest was Art Spiegelman. I suspected we were in for a good show when there were signs posted across all the doorways warning that tonight's performance would feature smoking and that special air filters were running to make up for it. One lone chain-smoking comic artist in the auditorium was already stirring things up and he wasn't even on stage yet.

Spiegelman gave his Comics 101 lecture. Or performance. It was a little of both: well-scripted, peppered with zingers, Spiegelman was comfortable on stage and comfortable with the material. At the link above, Iconia reports on the same lecture where Spiegelman delivered the same one-liners, the same set-ups and the same observations. In that sense, it was indeed a performance and so Spiegelman did not lie when he began by lighting up a cigarette and announcing, "This is not a lecture, but a performance, because at a performance you are allowed to smoke." Instead of repeating the parts of the lecture the Iconia already details, I'll just direct you over there.

Spiegelman was a very enjoyable and entertaining speaker. He moved fast and packed a lot into his hour, speaking rapidly. He gave off an almost manic vibe and I left with the impression that he could have easily gone on for another hour. More than that, I could have listened.

I definitely thought of J.D. and his Four Color Comics blog throughout the lecture. J.D. is a comic geek going way back, with an appreciation for the old stuff that never even hit my radar. Not just the old Action comics, or Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy, but the stuff like Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat, or artist Lyonel Feininger's foray into cartooning with "Wee Willie Winkie's World". Spiegelman covered a lot: Plastic Man, Robert Crumb, MAD Magazine, and had a few things to say about "Edu-Manga" (where Astro Boy takes you on a tour of history and introduces the reader to Helen Keller, Anne Frank or Mother Theresa...seriously). He's no fan of Lichtenstein ("He did no more or less for comic books than Warhol did for soup.") and made no mention of Alan Moore, which I thought was a fairly conspicuous omission, but he did have pretty nice things to say about Chris Ware and mentioned people like the Hernandez Brothers, Daniel Clowes and Joe Sacco in quite favorable tones.

Overall the lecture was perfect for someone like me. I have a strange and erratic relationship with comics and graphic novels. MAUS was my first comic book, though I read comic strips in the newspaper as far back as I can remember. My childhood was spent on Nancy Drew mysteries, not issues of Swamp Thing and the kinds of strips in the newspaper (Cathy, Garfield, Mary Worth, Family Circus, For Better of For Worse, Peanuts) were as plain and predictable as McDonald's hamburgers. Later I discovered strips like Bloom County, Doonsbury, Calvin and Hobbes, Foxtrot and occasionally read collections of their strips, but self-contained comic books were completely outside my experience before MAUS. In the same way that first MAD Magazine burned its way into Spiegelman's consciousness, MAUS hooked me and drew me in and so it was a great pleasure to attend this lecture and hear the man speak for himself.

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