Thursday, September 02, 2004


Street Theatre, Belief, and a Shitload of Poetry

So, today we celebrated my daughter's 7th birthday, which doesn't happen until Monday, but we hit the weekend with the kiddie party...more intimate than usual (her record, I think, was when she turned 5 and invited all of the kids from her kindergarten class...and they all accepted. 30 children running around in our yard at the time--oy vey!) --today was 4 girls, 2 from school, one a friend she gained through her mother's work. And, with 4 girls, 4 nationalities, none of them German: American, Turkish, Chinese, and Spanish. Sounds like one of her parents' parties. Easygoing, for the most part, except for the fact that my daughter is well known for her meltdowns after a solid dose of chocolate...and there was plenty of that to go around. Her cake (made by yours truly) was chocolate fudge with whipped cream filling and cream cheese icing, and we'd lollies enough for 12 children, just in case all of the children invited came. Germans have this bad habit of not understanding what R.S.V.P. means (why would they? It's French...), and that makes for difficulties planning.

If a kid's birthday party isn't enough action for one day, I had an appointment with 3 women at the Pinakothek der Moderne to discuss a possible street theatre venture...2 of said women did not end up showing up. One, Erika, a Canadian woman who shares both my daughter's sun sign, Gemini, and her Chinese zodiac animal, the Ox (and boy, can't you tell...I look at Erika and think, yeah, there goes my daughter in 25 years...) had to pack for a 'free' trip cruising the Greek islands....she landed this trip by working a job translating voiceovers for a film detailing another cruising trip, and it's free in the sense that she doesn't have to pay anything, but she does have to work the two weeks on the ship. Anyway, she had to pack. The other, Dory, an older comedian from Texas (the one who convinced me to try my hand at the stand-up gig...) heard of our last brainstorming session, in which we lit upon the idea of not street theatre, but a 'literary' tour of Munich, in which tourists are guided from one site to the other, where the sites are accompanied by someone's reciting something from one of the many artists that have passed through this city. (It's packed.) This didn't light her up--and I think she has in mind more of a free-for-all, with all members of the proposed troupe dressed in religious garb and basically taking the piss out of organized religion. Dory gets a big kick out of wearing the 'pregnant nun' costume, swilling Bavarian masses and smoking cigars, and countering anyone who challenges her on her negligent behavior whilst pregnant by saying, in a loud Texas-volumed bray, 'What the fuck you talking about? I got the LORD inside me!' Anyway, I'm up for hijinx like that, but the original proposal was to do something a la Andy Kaufman, in which we generated an air about the performance that allowed (nay, encouraged) any onlookers to leap to the wrong conclusion--to assume that something was going on that was not--and then disabused them of that conclusion in comic fashion. Thing is, if there's a gaggle of 10 players in religious costume, the audience is pretty much clued in, isn't it? ended up being Tania and I, and after an initial exchange of gifts (Tania gave me a pin to give to my daughter--Tania had picked it up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and said that she especially wanted to give it to my daughter because, as a child who moved around a lot, she remembered wanting things associated with the place where her parents grew up--and as both my wife and I grew up in Oklahoma...and she gave me two jars of Mauritian food, which she said I needed to fix for my family within the day...I, unfortunately, had less to give...a cup full of lollies from my daughter's party), we got candid, and ended up at pretty much the same place: that the initial project had drifted, that as the two people being called upon to draft the whole thing, we possess the power to pull the project back into line (in the beginning was the word...) AND (with me prefacing this last with an observation to the effect that I wasn't sure if my editing gig was making me More or Less patient...cuz I've gotten a whole lot better at dismissing anyone who comes off as flaky to me of late...) that we were going to do so. We then set about drafting up a few overarching structural ideas that would allow for anywhere from 2 to 20 players to perform, and we have our assignments.

Tania is a recently acquired friend (and how very out of place the word acquired is in that context)--she moved to Munich about 3 months ago, and immediately set to work identifying what artistic communities there are in the area. Her search landed her at the open mic I've been hosting (or frequenting, on those nights when Dory takes over the MC duties) --her first night she won the contest, hands down, largely on the strength of a poem in which she described the precise way in which she objectifies men when she's ovulating. That was followed by a poem entitled 'Dream Man,' a title that she followed immediately by saying 'you know who you are' (thus prompting every man in the room to start mentally strutting and saying, 'Yeah, she's talking about me...')--it is very, very excellent to talk to her, because most of my interaction with like-minded poets occurs online, and it's rare that I get a real chance to talk to someone who knows the same sort of things I do. We get on well. An immediate connection, and so, in drafting up ideas, we fused a couple of ideas being floated (both based on a simple, 'competing groups' framework...the first, two groups of buskers (or just two, depending on the number of players being worked with) set up camp near each other, and, after much glaring and competition, begin to step on each other's acts--culminating, of course, with the two acts fusing, the second, two preachers taking different sides of one issue quote verse at each other, and end up, in the process, quoting the same verse in unison to back up their opposing arguments. These two have been melded somewhat, and the idea is for Tania to adopt a stern, Emily Dickenson-like air, and to take the basic stance of deferred pleasure (in the interests of a greater good at a later time) and for me to don a fool's outfit and come at the same material from a carpe diem perspective--pleasure now--with the two fusing, somehow, into a realization that both outlooks are still centered on pleasure. We've lots of work to do, but it's all geared at exploring the viability of the basic structure, even if nobody else is really interested in seeing it through, while at the same time researching ideas that others can join in on. The other, grander project has to do with a 'rolling' band of players, possibly extended over an entire afternoon (or longer), but with stage entrances and exits marked by surprises from the audience. This could accomodate 20, and a much wider variety of approaches--it is, in fact, an elaboration on the Absolute Beginners framework...much more potential for chaos and genuine befuddlement on the part of the audience.

Tania is good for all of this because she does things like stopping in the middle of the brainstorming and saying, 'Okay, then, we need to identify the MOTIVES. Why are we doing this?' Because this was a huge part of the reason for drift...what began as a way to have fun and get practice (and experience) turned into either A) schemes for getting specific messages across or B) schemes for turning a buck. I'm not against either of those things, but I do have a central aesthetic that asks that either of those outcomes be brought about organically--that they be the end result of something that was originally undertaken simply because we wanted to do this thing.

All good, and a good session, and I haven't written down a tenth of what went on between us in conversation.


over 40 entries to the contest, over 30 poetry subs, and a shitload of work...but it's all good. Much better to be sending good stuff back than to be trolling the internet trying to find it. May this state of affairs last a long time.

Oh--in closing, also, my friend Tony asks this question, which I with much anticipation would invite all and sundry to respond to, if they feel so compelled: What do you believe in?

Belief being very central to my own idea of who I am, I'll offer mine, first posted at Tone's palace, first:

I used to be evangelical athiest. Now I'm a devout agnostic. Part of that radical doubt. I went and read Derrida and started doubting my doubts. urrgh...

I've been known to take up whole evenings discussing the difference between saying 'I don't believe in God' and 'I believe there is no God.' The question of what I believe in is actually central to who I think I am...but I'm damned if I can think of one single thing that I could say, unequivocally, I believe in.

But then, I think most of the things we think are solid are actually pretty fluid, and that this is a good thing. I.e. anything that labors under the name 'god,' being a perfected being, must be able to change. And must want to...goodness. AND....if I had to pick a god, it wouldn't be exclusionary. In my more high-flown moments, I like to think that all that we do and feel and think--ALL of us--is part of the experiential component of 'God's' knowledge--that you put the whole thing together, and THAT's god. But a little thought into the sheer scope of the universe does rather dampen any sense of certainty I might feel around any such proposition. Any such scheme could easily be wishful thinking on my part. Still, if there is a creating force, I'd like to think it wouldn't be something that excluded some of the beings it contained.

My fave is something I was once taught in regards to the Bhuddist view on the matter: We are nature's way of perceiving itself.

That, yes, is, if nothing else, a beautiful way of looking at it.

& that makes it your turn, if you wanna play.

Back to work, then--


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