18 May, 2015

Trojan Women 2015

“Troy’s Gone…. Nothing to block the wind of Asia now…”

This play is not about Then, or about Now.
It is about Always.

‘The Trojan Women’ (Ancient Greek: Τρῳάδες, Trōiades), also known as ‘Troades,’ is a tragedy by the Ancient Greek playwright Euripides. It was originally produced in 415 BC. 415 BC was a savage year in  he lives of the Ancient peoples—the Peloponnesian War was in full horrific swing, the capture, slaughter and subjugation of the Aegean island of Melos by the Athenians, the scandalous desecration of the hermai were only a handful of gruesome events which may have influenced Euripedes.

The story of Hecuba, Queen of Troy and her devastated family has been imagined and reimagined with global and personal relevance, over and over again, for over two thousand years. These women are symbols, but they are such because we see ourselves within them.
Our anger. Our humanity. Our grief.
My intention was to turn these symbols on their heads, slice them open and revel in the drain of their universal humanity.

“Widowhood is grief but also chance, and falls of cities both finishes and starts. ”

For ultimately, Trojan Women is a play about loss.  But what is loss? Loss of a city is no different than the loss of one’s sanity, family, love, principles.  In the aftermath of any ‘war’— be it literal or metaphoric; we are asked to cleanse ourselves and begin anew.  War is our story because all men, throughout all of time, have the capacity to hate. Troy is no different from Rwanda, Dachau, Sarajevo, Syria, or our very own World Trade Center and Ferguson, Missouri.

“‘Helen of Troy’ was a triumph—a legend—
a Woman who made her mark upon Your World
—never mind if that mark was a scar. ”

We hear from Hecuba and her family—the mad priestess Cassandra cursed with a gift of prophecy that no man shall ever believe; Andromache, the widowed wife of Trojan hero Hektor (who symbolizes a collective loss not at all unlike America’s Jacqueline Kennedy); and Helen of Troy, the “most beautiful woman in the world” who bears the bitter responsibility of whatever it is society deems to currently be “beautiful.”

“Should we not reach down beyond the known for once?”

New to this adaptation are some additional characters.  The additions of the three goddesses responsible for the Trojan War—Athena, goddess of wisdom, Hera, goddess of women, and Aphrodite, goddess of love. Their presence offered the play an opportunity to self-reflect, as well as directly challenge the audience in the de-familiarizing styles of Brecht and Artaud. Also new is Creusa—royal princess of Troy and wife of Aeneas (noted hero of Virgil’s Aeneid). Her absence in the original always seemed intentional, and bringing her back into the scenery showed itself to be a necessary and arresting presence. Creusa’s singular personal agency as the one “Trojan Woman” to escape Troy of her own accord presents us with a crucial alternative voice. Finally, the presence of the two Greek soldiers Diomedes and Teucros—both characters from Homer’s The Illiad—gave us what is probably the most important new piece of humanity. What is a war story without its soldiers? Are they not victims too? They experience losses even as victors, and I felt it essential that we hear from them.

“It is not true that everyone wants to be Entertained…
Seeing agony, we are made greater.”

Finally, this play is brief.
But it is hard.
Art that means to shift our deepest conflicts is always hard work, and that hard work can be an honor.

Thank you for joining me, and my commissioner Dutch Kills Theatre.



05 May, 2015

Metamorphoses

Readers,

My babies are out-doing themselves this year with the Greeks. Did I mention we end each school year with two Greek plays? Usually we do tragedies but this year we're doing romances because this class has something... special. A grasp upon complexity and subtleties that is so uncommon for 18-year-olds.
It is familiar. 
But most of all it gives me hope.

Listen here to two of my most beloveds Bethany and Kevin as Eros and Psyche...


04 May, 2015

Oedpius at Colonus

[ALL except the leader of the CHORUS and OEDIPUS leave the stage…
The crowd reveals the body of OEDIPUS laying on the ground, who after a moment, rises.
OEDIPUS blinks hard
—HE can see. HE looks deeply at the face of the CHORUS…]

OEDIPUS. Father?

[The CHORUS nods]

I remember you.

CHORUS [now LAIUS].  And I you.

[Pause]

OEDIPUS. … I’m sorry.

LAIUS.  I know.

OEDIPUS. Where have you been, father?

LAIUS.  Here.  With you.  Always.

OEDIPUS.  All along?

LAIUS.  Yes.

OEDIPUS. I knew that. I did.

LAIUS.  Most men believe only what they can see…
You didn’t have that hindrance.

[THEY share an ironic smile]

OEDIPUS.  What happens now?

LAIUS.  The next chapter.

OEDIPUS.  And that is something you can see, from there?

LAIUS.  There is not much you can’t see.

OEDIPUS.  What is it like?

[After a beat, LAIUS concedes…]

LAIUSI will say this:
The term is over: the holidays have begun.
The dream is ended: this is the morning…
[LAIUS reveals to OEDIPUS a world made completely of light…]

OEDIPUS: I have come home at last!
This is my real country!
I belong here.
This is the land I have been looking for all my life,
    though I never knew it till now... [1]

LAIUS: Come, son. It’s time to go.

OEDIPUS: But wait…What comes after me?

[Pause]

LAIUS: More.

OEDIPUS. More?

LAIUS.  There’s always more.

OEDIPUS: … Is that all?

LAIUS: Oh, my son. That’s always all.

[Father and son, exit.
                         ... Enter ANTIGONE]


ANTIGONE:  He’s gone.
Gone the way one might well wish to go.

The best way possible.

I endured the pain of constant care for him… I loved it. 

What now?

There is misery even in the loss of misery.

Oh father—you are clothed now in eternal peace.

Never, father—never will I, never will either of us, stop loving you!

I must return home.
To save my brothers.
From themselves.

[Enter THESEUS visibly shaken.  ANTIGONE runs to HIM]

Theseus, I beg of you—let me see my father’s tomb.
Please.
With my own eyes.

THESEUS:  [Heavily] I can not permit you to go there.
Your father has ordered me never to return to that place,
    Or, to tell anyone of the whereabouts of his tomb.

ANTIGONE:  [Hurt, but understanding]  Very well.


[THESEUS moves to go, and ANTIGONE speaks abruptly]

—Theseus?
…What were my father’s final words?

THESEUS:  Antigone—
ANTIGONE: —Please—
THESEUS: —But I—
ANTIGONE: —I beg you.
THESEUS: —I do not know what they meant—
ANTIGONE: —Please Theseus. [Beat.] He was my world.

[A long pause]


THESEUS:  ‘What comes after me?”
—That was his final utterance.
I do not understand it.
He seemed to be speaking to the air…

ANTIGONE:  … ‘After me?’

THESEUS:  Yes.

[ANTIGONE thinks for a long while...]

ANTIGONE.  …What does, my friend?
What follows the reign of a father?
Of a King?
What comes after him?

THESEUS: …You do.
You do, Antigone.
The child follows the parent.
And so on.
On and on.
…Until the end of us all.

ANTIGONE:  . . . And after all of us?

THESEUS: … I don't know.
But something is eternal.
It has to be.


[During the following song, the entire COMPANY performs the ancient burial rites on the body of OEDIPUS… before all go off to their various futures… on and on… until the end of us all…]
. . .


‘After Me’ by Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker

There's one thing on the tip of your tongue.

It will still be there when all your speaking's done

It's cold and it's proud
But you feel no need to say the words aloud.

There's cool breeze in the air


You can feel September playing with your hair

And only now faintly hear the sound
It's rising up and slowly drifting down…

After me
After me…

You crawl to safety underneath the stairs


For time and tide will search for no man there

And there you say the words you meant for me
And write the letters I never receive
After me
After me…
There's one thing on the tip of your tongue
It will still be there when all your speaking's done… [2]



[1] © C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
[2] © by Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker

24 April, 2015

Ask Al: Recovering from your 'not-so-best' moments

Dear Al,

I just had the most embarrassing audition, and I'm having a tough time recovering / moving forward. It was so bad that they asked me to come back and do something else,  then I came back it was even worse than the first time…! I felt genuinely humiliated and don't know how to get out of this funk.



*

Dear Funky,

Okay first just remember you are going to be okay! Maybe not in an hour, maybe not in a couple of days even. But someday and soon this day will be a learning moment and nothing more.

Sometimes we have a LOT going on in our lives.
Sometimes we are distracted and have every right to be.

But sometimes we spend weeks on end on the sofa, unable to lift our limbs, watching Daytime TV, and cleaning corners with a Q-tip LIKEABOSS; our interests only in padding feebly from room to room, napping, procedural crime-drama marathons, and shoveling pre-packaged food into our drooling gobs…

…Oh dear.

Listen:
We all have an ‘off’ day or two.
We must be kind to ourselves and try not to torpedo into “I’m-a-failure" mode because of a bad day no matter how bad it FELT.

So! Here’s how to turn your not-so-proud moments into AWESOME-PIE.

When we get to that [hermit-bathrobe] place, we must do the following:

     1.) Stop talking. 

     2.) Look within—not outside—for the answers.

By spending time in silence, reconnecting with what I like to call your “Highest Self,” (i.e, the version of you that is your most compassionate, wise, understanding and non-judgemental) and maybe even having a chat with your good ol’ pal The Almighty Universe, you remind yourself that every single thing you need is within you. Worrying, doubting, forcing, obsessively planning, dramatizing, tensing up, bracing yourself, overworking….all this does is cut you off from what is naturally trying to reach you.

When we tend to that which is within, we allow the desires that we perceive to be outside of ourselves to manifest in the real world.

Basically: When you spend some time in silence, you emerge feeling like you can bend a bridge in half.

Then, when you emerge from Silent-ville, surround yourself in treasured friends who are smart, fun, and the good kind of tough-on-you, who are also ambitious about their own lives, high-vibration-y, creative smarty-pantses. Being around that energy will inspire you to take care of business, YOUR business to be specific. (Meaning: you don’t want someone to sit down in the muck with you who is also a muck-monster. You want a fellow kick-assasaurus.) For, you see, one must truly roll up their sleeves and reach deep into the plasma of their own ass-kickery… in order to…ya know, kick some…ass.

Cuz listen: rejection and sucking at things you are normally good at?
It sucks.
And boy oh boy, it always will—
     from crappy auditions
to horrible dates,
     from breaking bones while doing a workout DVD
to accidentally hurting a friend,
     from I-thought-I-knew-how-this-electrical-circuit-breaker-worked-BEFORE-that-fire
to I-killed-another-plant...
…All of the above, by the way, I have done—and I still consider myself to be awesome in general.

And while I totally understand that it is embarrassing and awful to feel like you did poorly in front of people that really matter to you, it isn't the end of the universe.
You didn't end up in prison
or get humiliated by the mass media
or tank for Steven Spielberg…
    and you know what?
Even if you did do any of those things— it wouldn’t be the end of the universe either.
Why?
Because of  little thing called the power of perspective.

Examples:
You had a bad audition
     and you will have dozens of other chances to do good work
     because you're a PERSON and allowed to have moments like this.
AAAAND
We’re not slicing brains or fixing Syria.
It’s professional pretend.

But on a grander scheme: people are not perfect and perfectionism is a very real form of self-sabotage directly linked to personal shame. If we can recognize and make peace with our shame, we can accept that perfectionism isn’t a realistic, attainable or healthy goal and incorporate our less-than-awesome moments with our glorious ones and recognize that they are all part of our over-all awesome selves.

But that said: it stinks.
This is your life’s work and you had a bad day.
But it is NOT  the end of the world.
It is an opportunity to grow.

I really really promise.

I know this because I both
     sang on the Grammys...
and set fire to my ceiling.


So lick your wounds, get back in that practice room, pick yourself up and keep going.
We can't nail it every single time. I've bombed more auditions than I can count.
And I'm still alive and have self respect.
…Maaaaybe not self-respect about keeping plants alive— but certainly in general. 

Al

x

11 April, 2015

A list of Right Now

currently:
1. homemade green juice
2. binge-watching awe-inspiring TED talks.
3. greek tragedies
4. the magic of my perfect, perfect bed
5. the post-daylight savings light in the winter palace around four o'clock
6. great empathy and compassion from treasured inner-circle friends
7. adorable care packages from Mama Silbs
8. Radiolab, TED Radio, This American Life, and my new discover: Love and Radio
9. catching up on heaps of theatre (American in Paris, John & Jen, Fun Home, Hand of God)
10. Tatiana being adorable (I brought her home a year ago this week!)
11. reflecting on how much I love the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
12. dreaming of glasgow
13. dreaming of los angeles
14. trying new vegetables
15. thinking about my Pace babies. Always.
16. gluten-free deliciousness
17. drinking coffee. (delicious, delicious coffee...)
18. becoming more of a night owl
19. introverting
20. singing (and not-singing)
21. journal-ing (even when I don't feel like it)
22. copy-editing
23. clearing internal and external paths for new and better things
23. reading: chekhov, brené brown, susan cain, shalom auslander
24. working: spoon river, the seagull, my fair lady, all things bernstein
25. (re)writing: euripides, sophocles, and ovid
26. talent-crushing on patricia arquette
27. healing
28. waiting for Spring...

©hula seventy

05 April, 2015

Effort at Speech Between Two People by Muriel Rukeyser

:  Speak to me.          Take my hand.            What are you now?
   I will tell you all.          I will conceal nothing.
   When I was three, a little child read a story about a rabbit
   who died, in the story, and I crawled under a chair    :
   a pink rabbit    :    it was my birthday, and a candle
   burnt a sore spot on my finger, and I was told to be happy.

:  Oh, grow to know me.        I am not happy.        I will be open:
   Now I am thinking of white sails against a sky like music,
   like glad horns blowing, and birds tilting, and an arm about me.
   There was one I loved, who wanted to live, sailing.

:  Speak to me.        Take my hand.        What are you now?
   When I was nine, I was fruitily sentimental,
   fluid    :    and my widowed aunt played Chopin,
   and I bent my head on the painted woodwork, and wept.
   I want now to be close to you.        I would
   link the minutes of my days close, somehow, to your days.

:  I am not happy.          I will be open.
   I have liked lamps in evening corners, and quiet poems.
   There has been fear in my life.          Sometimes I speculate
   On what a tragedy his life was, really.

:  Take my hand.          Fist my mind in your hand.          What are you now?
   When I was fourteen, I had dreams of suicide,
   and I stood at a steep window, at sunset, hoping toward death   :
   if the light had not melted clouds and plains to beauty,
   if light had not transformed that day, I would have leapt.
   I am unhappy.          I am lonely.          Speak to me.

:  I will be open.          I think he never loved me:
   He loved the bright beaches, the little lips of foam
   that ride small waves, he loved the veer of gulls:
   he said with a gay mouth: I love you.          Grow to know me.

:  What are you now?          If we could touch one another,
   if these our separate entities could come to grips,
   clenched like a Chinese puzzle . . . yesterday
   I stood in a crowded street that was live with people,
   and no one spoke a word, and the morning shone.
   Everyone silent, moving. . . . Take my hand.          Speak to me.
from The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser. © Out of Silence: Selected Poems (TriQuarterly Books, 2006)

04 April, 2015

Another unsent letter

You

I've started this letter to you over and over again.

I doubt it will ever reach you, but nonetheless sometimes we must send these missives out into the world regardless—
like birthday wishes, or letters to Santa; trusting that somehow, the sentiments will reach the party regardless.

I also realized that I don't know where you live. 

Well. 
That's probably best, seeing as I might have shown up at your doorstep a few times bearing my blood to you. And no, NOT in a romantic way—but in a 'Law and Order,' old-testament-y, creepy stalker, institutionalizing way; a way that would have probably alarmed even your pets… casual. 

The point is there was nowhere to send a letter to.
So. This is the result. 

I wrestle with the urge to share it all. 
Every. single. night.
...This.

 

What do I say? 

Glasgow was soul-rocking. I came alive again.
I swam in the Pacific ocean a week later despite it being 48 degrees in Venice.
I lost my voice—in every way.
I dyed my hair.
Oh, and we’ve made some beautiful art at school recently—
    The Seagull was a dream.
    So was Spoon River.
    The Greeks are proving to be exhilarating (we’re doing Metamorphoses and Oedipus at Colonus
—both so gorgeous and human), ...And one day after class, alone in what felt like an almost holy circle of teacher-student, center-of-the-universe intimacy, Zack  played me two songs on his guitar with such calm intensity I thought my heart would crack in two... 
He had no idea how much I needed it. 
Or perhaps he did. 
Regardless, I don’t think I'll forget that moment as long as I live.

Then,
     today I bought a homeless man a cup of coffee and stuck around to drink it with him.
He just wanted some coffee.
But mostly to talk. 


...Which is of course, all I long for too.
 

To talk—really talk—as we did.
To laugh so thoroughly and from-the-gut, the cells quake.
 

I ache for it.
 

For you.
 

Ache to tell you all of this and more.
 

To have my mind held in the palm of your own.
 

To luxuriate in the exquisite torment of being truly seen as clearly as I was by you.

I've had dinner with others.
Sometimes more than dinner.
I play the role but wilt within
...
 
    None of them are you.

And sure, I'll admit, I'm embarrassed by how cliché this all is.
    The blonde cheerleader taking a selfie while drinking a smoothie
    
     The cat-meme of unsent letters.
   
But, fuck it.
 

And you.

Your love has ruined me.
 

And mine for you has metastasized within my body like some kind of ancient sickness—I feel you in my muscles, infiltrating each vessel of blood and intake of breath down to my marrow...

I want to smother you.

Perhaps it all went a little too far.
And I still love, I regret to say.
A love unrelenting and juvenile in its intensity. 


And I still love.

A



13 March, 2015

The Seagull

Well, reader?
My beautiful babies killed it again.
They made us laugh and broke our hearts and exposed their gorgeous, purple souls with piercing clarity and the microscopic skill it takes to pull off Chekhov. 
And with their work ethic, passion and enthusiasm they seared us to the core with a crushingly difficult as well as (what I consider to be) the world's most beautiful play.

Am I one proud teacher? DA.

"And now I know, Kostya. In our profession--acting or writing it makes no difference-- the main thing isn't being famous. It's not the sound of the applause. It isn't everything I dreamed it was. The main things is to keep on going no matter what happens. You have to keep on believing. I believe and it helps. And now? When I think of my profession I am not afraid of life..."


"I'm in mourning for my life..." - Masha
"Everyone is against me" - Irina Arkadina
"How easy it is, Doctor, to be a poet on paper, 
and how difficult in real life!" - Konstantin Treplev
"Or something, or something, or something..." - Pyotor Sorin
"Women need so little, Kostya. 
Believe me I would know..." - Paulina
"Why do you always wear black...?" - Semyon Medvedenko

"...I have to write. I have to..." - Boris Trigorin

"Bravoooooo Silvaaaaaaaa..." - Shamrayev

"Now when I think about my vocation, 
I am not afraid of life..." - Nina Zarechnaya

"Ah youth, youth..." - Dr. Dorn

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