Boulder

Punching Through a Crystal Wall

Remember that Doctor Who episode, where he was trapped in the nightmare loop? The way he escaped was, each time he got to the end/his death, he punched a thick glass (or rock crystal?) wall, just once, with his bare fist. Turns out that he ends up going through that time loop so many times, that he eventually punches through the thick crystal wall completely. Think of how many millions of times you’d have to punch with a bare fist, to get through a rock wall several feet thick. But he succeeds, and it sets him free.

My life lately has run up against that thick layer of crystal, or so it feels: beautiful, but holding me in a loop. I’m punching it with my bare fist, though, over and over, and will persist until it gives way. Problem is, I also have to rely on others to add their punches to mine, and so am also being forced to wait. I spent a long while musing about this last night: I’m stalled, and it’s frustrating, as I am powerless to move these other people into action. And so I wait.

But here’s the stuff I am indeed actively doing–these things may be interesting to you, lovely lurkers, so here goes:

Wisdom From Everything was a remarkable production, and my scenes of violence were carried out beautifully. This production closes on the 26th, so those of you lurkers who are local, don’t miss it.

My initial writings on the topic of Problematic Female Badasses in lit and pop culture are slowly, painfully, becoming a book. Page 23, the academic branch of Denver Comic Con, has accepted it as part of their panel presentations, and so I will be talking about this project and my 7 Tropes live in front of a roomful of geeks this June. Will I be the catalyst for Gamergate 2.0? Time will tell…

Also this summer, I’ll be trekking back to Longmont to teach the teenaged ballerinas how to fake punch each other in the face, drag each other around by their hairpinned buns, and etc. One of the highlights of that is when they learn the face slam. The initial teaching of it is slamming the face into the floor, but some tutued girl always gets the idea to slam her partner’s face into the ballet barre, which is just such a delightful thing to witness.

Sooner than that, though: Blue Dime Cabaret is having our first show at Full Cycle on April 7th. It’s a bike shop, coffee shop, and bar over on Pearl Street where Penny Lane used to be. This is going to be a really fun show: we’ve got comedians, burlesque, burlesque on roller skates, and an opera singer. I’ll be jiggling my sparkles in a 1920s Charleston inspired burlesque bit that I actually need to finish choreographing… anyway, we’ve also been picked to perform in this summer’s Boulder Fringe Fest, too, so this’ll be a fun way to see how these variety shows will turn out. If you’re local, do come see us, and tip generously. I need the money.

I’ll let you know how Goth Prom goes, too. I have a rather ’80s inspired outfit to honor my early days of gothiness. But anyway.

These are the punches I’m throwing these days. What punches are you throwing into your walls? Add them in the comments, if you’d like to share. Of course, there’s a reason I call you all “lovely lurkers…”

Advertisements

Brecht and Storytelling part 1

I came across this old (OLD!!) paper in my continued culling of belongings, lovely lurkers, and I was still interested in its arguments, so I thought I’d share. It was the final paper for my Senior Seminar at CU Boulder, for my BFA in Acting, waaaay back in 1995. It’s a little longish for a blog, so I will post it in multiple parts. Here’s Part 1.


Brecht and Storytelling
Written by Jenn Zuko for Senior Seminar, BFA Acting program @UCB, 1995
PART 1

Audiences have difficulty engaging in and understanding Brechtian acting. Brecht’s idea of separating the actor and character is meant to touch the audience intellectually, to “alienate” the audience and let them watch the action at an emotional distance, but this idea often fails in practice. Brechtian productions, therefore, are done rarely, and when done, are met with criticism: “In his own home Brecht has been criticized … The cool, calculated, artificial, expressionistic acting is against our traditions and spirit” (Rouse). Having the presence of a narrator, whether in set design or textual style, violates what most theatregoers view as a “normal” play, and so most are thrown off by this style.

Storytelling, however, also has the presence of a narrator, and has a separation of teller and character that hits a viewer more in the mind than the gut. Yet storytelling continues to gain large audiences of all ages, and is practiced and performed with great success by many. Why is it, then, difficult for audiences to enjoy Brecht’s alienated acting, while storytelling (which is much the same style) still enchants and engages?

In my last paper, I attempted to answer this question by analyzing the acting styles and techniques of Brecht’s work and that of the storyteller. Here, I will pursue this question further by discussing character construction in both acting styles. How the character is formed directly affects not only the acting, but the structure of the entire play or story and how it moves the audience.

The character construction modern audiences see and to which they are most accustomed is the realistic system originated by Stanislavski. His way of creating a character is so widespread that his “Method” (or variations thereof) are taught as the only approach in most acting programs. That is, the actor and character are inseparable; as an audience member, one must believe that the person onstage enacting a role is indeed that character. As an actor, one delves into the past history and inner thoughts of the character, and strives to be “believable” in the role. Then, the directors and designers clothe the actor and her environment in authentic-looking costumes and scenery. This way, in all respects, the audience member succumbs to the illusion that this is a different person in a different place. This indistinction between actor and character may be one of the reasons (as I argued in the last paper) that audiences have a hard time sitting through Brecht, since Brecht tried to separate the person of the actor and their character. Kasimierz Braun describes it thus:

This is an actor, with a name, personal life, political opinions, a member of a specific society, and that is a character, a creature of literature and imagination. The actor was not subordinated to the character” (117).

One can understand why, when audiences are so accustomed to Stanislavskian realism, they would have difficulty engaging with this strange Brechtian separation.

Yet we still have not explained why storytelling, which is much the same in theory as Brecht (that is, the

The man himself, Bertolt Brecht. And the cigar is just a cigar.

separation between actor and character is certainly present in storytelling) flourishes marvelously with the same modern audiences, where Brecht’s plays remain relatively esoteric.

Perhaps Michael Kirby can help us. We have just discussed how Stanislavskian characters are formed: by the actor in effect becoming the character in psychology, physical bearing, and costume. We have also concluded that for realistic theatre, constructing a character constitutes creating the illusion of another person in another place. Brecht did not want to create this illusion as such; rather, he wanted his characters, through alienation, to keep the audience engaged intellectually, not fooled into a fantasy world and duped into emotional empathy. Michael Kirby (he of Happenings fame) describes acting as a “matrixed” performance: one that has a structured, imaginative situation surrounding it. In the following quote, Kirby describes the difference between the realistic way of creating a character, and his characterless performer of the Happening:

“Acting might be defined as the creation of character and/or place: details of ‘who’ and ‘where’ the performer is are necessary to the performance. The actor functions within subjective or objective person-place matrices. The musician, on the other hand, is non-matrixed. He attempts to be no one other than himself, nor does he function in a place other than that which physically contains him and the audience.”

Kirby’s concept of performers in the Happening is that none of them are different characters or existing in any other world besides this present one. So, though they are not acting, they are still performing. This sounds almost opposite to the realistic character construction, and it seems as though Brecht is trying to have both Stanislavski and Kirby present in his characters. Each character, for Brecht, should be real in their intentions and actions, but behind them is a consciousnesses which comments on those actions: that of the actor, who is only himself, and separate from his role. This combination is the center of why Brecht doesn’t do it for most audiences.

Where does storytelling fit into all this? In practice, it distances the audience by separating the teller from the characters, and, like Kirby’s performers, each teller wears no costume, puts up no set, and attempts to be no one else but herself when she is the narrator. So why is storytelling more widely practiced with success than Brecht? There is one major difference between the two that might be the cause for success in one and not the other:

THE NARRATOR.

 


Stay tuned here for Part 2.

(Image credit. Works Cited will appear after the final installment.)

A Moment of Nerdy History

nerdist1

Remember when I appeared with a Quemment on the now-very-famous Nerdist Podcast? Before Nerdist was a behemoth media enterprise? When they did a live podcast at the Boulder Theatre? I came across this proof of same, thanks to Rod Tanaka. I presented the three gentlemen with written choreography for a staged fight scene, in case they ever needed to enact their friendly rivalry on TV. Chris Hardwick actually got the copy of my book I sent him, and remembered it! I remember being hammered, and terrified with nerves, and also look at how much more weight the old lady had on her bones back then! Hm…

Links That Are Link-esque

Here’s another linky list, lovely lurkers (oo, alliteration!), for your brain food happiness.   ~Jenn

Two articles re: William Gibson / Neuromancer supplied to me by Friend Harold, as I am now reading its sequel at his request. A Global Neuromancer and this one from Wired magazine.

This podcast ep done by  Friend Jason M. during which he and I hash out the “Genre Wars.” Many more linkish

This meme is about logical fallacies, which is one of the things I taught my Comp students about recently.

This meme is about logical fallacies, which is one of the things I taught my Comp students about recently.

links on the podcast’s page, too–all stuff we discuss during the ep. It’s not a new one, but I had recently re-shared it to my other social media, so.

Friend Ian’s new book is out soon, and I wrote him a Foreward. I was a beta reader for this one, and I highly enjoyed it. It’s called The Lion and the Five Deadly Serpents.

I will be helping Friend Corbin out with his latest film (coordinating stunts, natch). Here’s his film production site, and the insane 48-hr-competition short called “Spinners” for which I also supplied the fight scenes.

Did you hear the big news about Patrick Rothfuss’ brilliant not-quite-completed trilogy?

Have you followed the other websites/blogs to which I contribute my writings? There are three: Your Boulder, Nerds in Babeland, and Sherlock’s Home. All three are worth following, not just for my work alone.

Random Movement Pic

This from A Caboodle of Seuss, year: 2000. Director: yours truly. Seven stories adapted from Dr. Seuss by yours truly. Ensemble: Brice, Jason, Jesse, Matt, and yours truly. I named my little group Five Funny Faces after a game the illustrious theatre prof Sean Ryan Kelley frequently used to play w us as class ended. This shot isn’t from one of the stories, just an ensemble shot. Get it? Five Funny Faces?

  

Latest Theatre Event

Check out this article I wrote over at Your Boulder, about the latest theatrical gig I’m involved with. It’s The Five Fifths of the Princess Bride, and it’s going to be…as postmodernly insane as you can imagine. An excerpt from the YB article is below, and for the rest, go to the above link. And come see me on Saturday!   ~Jenn

The artists assigned to tackle each of the five facets of the Princess Bride are (in order):  Stories with Spirit,The Band of Toughs, Al Stafford Productions, Mandy Greenlee, and Jaryd Smart. Tickets can be purchased on the event’s Facebook page or the Boulder Fringe website. $25 will get you admission to a cocktail hour, silent auction, and of course the show itself. All proceeds go to the Boulder International Fringe Festival. It’s a Boulder event not to be missed, to support another Boulder event not to be missed!

10455224_10153955505343502_2227351194956183062_n

Image

Boulder Fringe Fest

YourBoulder.com published an article I authored about the upcoming 10th annual Boulder Fringe Festival. Here’s an excerpt, and go to the site for the whole enchilada.   ~Jenn

Here’s how it works: each December, performing artists enter their prospective shows into a FringeSLogo_Wide_PinkBlack_RGBlottery, from which is randomly chosen the year’s line-up. There is no adjudication, only a drawing, so the shows are as extremely wide-ranging in theme and quality as a random draw allows. Each performer either signs up for a large venue, small venue, or what’s called the bring-your-own venue. Some performers are recurring characters in the Boulder Fringe scene and bring their own following with them, others are colorful newbies. Shows vary from one-person shows to full blown plays, from clowning to dance to multimedia dance theatre. Workshops are also available for those who want a hands-on learning experience from the performing artists. Boulder explodes with performance those two weeks in September, and there is something for everyone, things happening all day and into the night.

 

I miss my MTV

I am in this heavily ensemble-created show that will be performed as part of the Boulder International Fringe Festival. It's a dance concert with a high level of theatrical content. It will be a myriad of experiences for the viewer: nostalgic, aesthetic, comedic and dramatic. Show runs in Boulder Sep. 19-27. More info to come...

I am in this heavily ensemble-created show that will be performed as part of the Boulder International Fringe Festival. It’s a dance concert with a high level of theatrical content. It will be a myriad of experiences for the viewer: nostalgic, aesthetic, comedic and dramatic.
Show runs in Boulder Sep. 19-27. More info to come…