juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Hamlet, Elizabethan Theatre, dir. Lisa Peterson

A fairly standard staging with a few exceptions, largest of which is the use of doom metal—the gravedigger stands atop the stage with a guitar, providing ambient audio; some soliloquies and sung lines are done with a mic. I buy this conceit in theory, but it failed to impress in practice. It muddies some lines ("To be or not to be" is so famous as to have become clich├ęd, so I understand choosing to mix it up via mic and audience participation—but what a flop) while adding little of substance besides ambiance.

But the casting is almost universally phenomenal, the characters so well-rounded. I took some issue with Claudius (maybe only an issue of costuming: the bulky crown on his bald head looks silly and exaggerated—exaggerated obsession with power, exaggerated evil) until 4.7 when he, with ruthless political acumen, invites Laertes to murder Hamlet. Ophelia's song's beautiful, and easily the best (and most natural) inclusion of music. Polonius! is phenomenal! this character needs to be the fool, comic relief with a grain of truth, and he needs to be lovable because his death must to be a loss big enough to mark a turning point within the play—this is that, most especially 1.3 "these few precepts" which is both officious and sincere. Horatio as a Black woman is brilliant, and she's the emotional strength and center, directing the audience's emotions through the loss of the cast. And: Hamlet. I have touched on this briefly elsewhere, but this is the Hamlet I dream of, a Hamlet large, who contains multitudes; a Hamlet of sincerity and performance, of flippancy and bereavement, consumed by a toxic self-knowing and yet so self-possessed. This script keeps both of my favorite soliloquies: 2.2's "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!" and 4.4's "How all occasions do inform against me," and they were all I could have wished for: a Hamlet obsessed with how others perform grief and action.

Twelfth Night, Angus Bowmer, dir. Christopher Liam Moore

This production has two interesting directorial choices: it's set in 1930s Hollywood, and Viola and Sebastian have the same actor. I was initially doubtful of the first and ridiculously excited about the second; they both work, often because of how they interact with one another. In the reunion scene, a single actor is able to play both Viola and Sebastian because a screen descends and a projected black and white film version of the actor portrays the non-speaking twin; even better, the actor then steps into the projection, the twins embrace, and the actor exists the film-within-the-play to portray both of the roles simultaneously. Twelfth Night generally resolves its own queerness* by ending with heteronormative pairings; this defies that, it keeps the fluid orientations and queer subtext alive until curtains. The 1930s conceit is successful because it helps pull that off; also because the social and sexual freedom of the era well suits the content of the play.

I was impressed by the handling of the B-plot. There was some clever staging—separating the left and right sides of the stage into the A and B plot, one side of the stage going dormant while the other had a scene, with Feste thematically and physically knitting the halves together. The B-plot is given as much depth as the A-plot, but the character depth and growth in Toby in particular is never not allowed to overshadow the unforgivably harm done Malvolio, who I have also discussed elsewhere: what a sympathetic, unforgiving depiction of his experience, his growth, his anger. I'm not fond of physical comedy, and this has a lot of it; beyond that, what a well-cast and well-considered production. Attending a talk by an actor (who was equally passionate about Malvolio and about queering the text!) only made it better.

* moreso now than then, when crossdressing Viola was originally played by a male actor

The Wiz, Elizabethan Theatre, dir. Robert O'Hara

I can't separate the experience of this production from the production itself, because there just was that much rain, But the energy of the cast defied the weather. This is engaging and lively and not all that deep. Allow me to quality that: this is valuable in historical context, and still valuable now, for the all-Black speaking roles and also for the body-type diversity in the ensemble. The playful, irreverent, flamboyant tone is is engaging and alive, and the costume design (what we saw under ponchos!) is phenomenal, especially in the backup dancers, especially the birds. But beyond celebrating a new ownership and audience, it doesn't provide much as a retelling of the source material—feel-good songs, no particular reinterpretations or depth.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I made an unusually long visit to Corvallis, because I hadn't seen Devon for a while and because I was making a trip with my parents to go to Ashland and see some Shakespeare (!! !). I usually travel by train, but Devon and I drove back up today because he had to pick up a friend from the local airport.

This is the sort of thing that only I could do:

As we approached the airport, Devon called his friend to let him know we were running 20mins late on account of traffic. I was unsure if this was traffic-traffic or "traffic"-traffic, as we had stopped for dinner along the way and I legitimately did not remember any traffic congestion. It occurred to me that if it were white lie-traffic, I was complicit in a white lie! so I queried Devon. Devon recounted for me the three (3) episodes of stop and go traffic that resulted from some broken-down cars, which occurred approximately when I was talking in depth about 1) the abuse of Malvolio and its end-game resolution as appeared in this production of Twelfth Night,* 2) the way the B-plot was weighted against the A-plot in Twelfth Night, the ways they were knit together, the depth given to the B-plot, 3) the overlap of an actor in Twelfth Night and Hamlet, and as natural segue, 4) which was the more successful production of the two (spoiler: Twelfth Night), especially in conceit, but 5) that this was one of my very favorite Hamlets.**

Which makes these things the take-away:

My memory is so spotty that I can entirely forget not one, not two, but three separate repetitions of the same event.

I am so engrossed in media criticism that I can carry on a one-sided outpouring of Shakespeare Thoughts that lasts through at least 20-mins-late worth of traffic.

My compulsive honesty is so intense and deeply ingrained that even being adjacent to the possibility of a small lie will cause me anxiety and require immediate clarification/resolution.

* As a type-A fellow antisocial uptight often-socially-corrected personality, Malvolio is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters and I am incredibly sensitive to how productions depict his abuse and its aftermath—whether it's played for fun, whether the audience is complicit, whether his "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you" does or doesn't diffuse the anxiety of the realization that things have, indeed, gone too far. This one was handled so well! so explicit, so cruel, so unforgiven; he internalizes his enforced socialization, his "smile," but reclaims it, develops it into a tool to use against those that hurt him. It threatens to diffuse and then refuses to, so pointedly. It was all I ever wanted.

** I feel that too much Hamlet discussion and production is given to issues of is he mad or faking (& is he flippant or bereaved); in this production he was all, he was driven to an extremity of emotion and he was numb, impassioned but indecisive, feigning and sincere, sarcastic and authentic. He was complete. That is the Hamlet which makes the play endure, who engages our ambivalence and writes it vast yet sympathetic, and we see ourselves in him, and we fear him, and fear ourselves
juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
From [livejournal.com profile] lupanotte—a quite nice book survey/meme/thing, with unsurprisingly long answers. Feel free to steal it for yourself!

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Shakespeare, probably, if I count the individually bound imprints of his plays. After that, Brian Jacques—I (used to, and am sadly out of date now) collect the Redwall series in hardback, with a few volumes in paperback for easier reading.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I have a number of books in duplicate, but just a few in triplicate—and then, often accidentially. I have three copies of the complete works of Shakespeare (Oxford and Norton, with strong preference for the former; I also have a complete collection of individual imprints, and a few random singly-bound plays which I plan to donate); The Oedipus Cycle, Sophocles (due to variations translations); and the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling (I have the whole series in British English and American English, a paperback of the first book, and the first three books in French).

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Yes, but I'm a stickler in such ways—though being a stickler for grammar is going out of fashion (if the recent anti-celebration of the anniversary The Elements of Style is any indication). However, considering the informal nature of a survey meme thing, it hardly matters here if it's in or out of favor—prepositions are not the end of the world.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
I remember having quite a crush on Nicholas from The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice—but it's been so long since I've read the book that I'm not longer sure. My fannish obsessions rarely extend to book characters, and they're not often crushes so much as admiration. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that since I don't have visual thoughts, characters on page don't have a physical identity—and while looks aren't the only part of attraction, they help. Instead of crushing, I become fascinated—and what fascinates me is part mysterious attraction but moreover moral ambiguity, passion, strong character traits, and memorable experiences or emotions.

So, duh. I'm secretly in love with Maledicte, from Lane Robin's book of the same name. He's beautiful and dangerous and oh-so-thought inspiring, and so he is unforgettable. I want to be him, be with him, and be around him, nevermind fearing for my life in the meantime. But that desire is hardly secret.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
I have no idea. There are a good number of books which I return to every year or so. Some of these are newer additions to the roster, so I've not read them as many times yet—but I will have, eventually. Some of them have been on the list since high school. Some are denser reads, and so take more work to go back to. Some are swifter and easier, so I reread them more often but they may leave less of an impression.

This list includes but is not limited to: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury; the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling; His Dark Materials, Philip Pulman; Maledicte, Lane Robins; Sharp Teeth, Toby Barlow; Wise Child and Juniper, Monica Furlong; The Story of O; Pauline Réage. Some of these books I've only read twice so far, some I've read a fair dozen, but all of them are working their way towards most read.

+27 more questions. )
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Macbeth via Wordle

I've played with Wordle before, with my own text. but never loved the product so much as I do this. Worlde allows you to input a chunk of text (alternately, a web address) and arrange it in a typographic layout, choosing how to filter common words and how many to use, layout direction, font, and color. It's a lot of fun, especially if you love words (and I do). This is the full text of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, presented via Wordle.

The full version is here on the Worlde website.

Some chatter about Macbeth: my love for the play, and how I read it. ) But even more interesting in the layout, I thought, is how the common words of the play are also thematic elements.

The WITCHes, of course, tempting Macbeth to his downfall, haunting the edges of the play, controlling the action. LADY Macbeth, at once mother and wife, female and male, controlling Macbeth for what she believes to be his own good. And GOOD in a play where no one is: where MACBETH murders to steal a throne, where DUNCAN welcomes his own death by favoring his son against rank and custom, where there are no good characters and even the savior, MACDUFF, is a child of unnatural circumstance.

SHALL, DONE, COME, HATH, NOW in a play about doing bloody deeds—the events and their causes, but also the recalcitrance to do them. Macbeth aspires, but then fears his aspirations; Lady Macbeth must cajole and bully him to action; both fear the bloody deeds which they must do so boldly, and aim to act before they have a second thought. "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well / It were done quickly."

The bloody deeds themselves: DEED, MURDERER, DEATH, DEAD, BLOOD and BLOODY, FIGHT, and SWORD. The NATURE they subvert by being STRANGE and unnatural. And the FEAR they inspire, in the victims but also in Macbeth, who has murdered his SLEEP with fear, who panics at KNOCKING because it foretells the coming of those who know his deeds.

And what is and what is not, when Macbeth tries to steal a role no longer meant for him: SEE and SPEAK, MAKE, LIKE, MINE, DARE, CAN. The limited TIME in which he will wear his ill-fitting, borrowed robes before they are stripped from him.

I ramble, but I think you get the point. Texts reveal themselves in text—sometimes very well, when stripped like this to their common words. It certainly fascinates me, here: Macbeth is both beautiful and telling like this, simplified and laid out, coded to size and represented in pleasing font and color. I would love to see Worlde or similar layouts at the beginning of essays about literature, where they make a similar statement. I think they would also make an wonderful image on a playbill.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I've never felt less like a cat then in the week or two after declaring that I was one. I have never doubted that identity more than I have now, in the last two weeks. Overthinking can burden anything—and it has certainly burdened this declaration of identity. By questioning everything, I began to doubt everything until I became so far distanced from my identity that it seemed rather foolish to speak on it in the first place.

There is an ideal balance between knowing thyself and being thyself. I use this example all the time, but I do so because it's true—and particularly famous. Shakespeare's Hamlet I.iii.78: "This above all: to thine own self be true," Polonius says to Laertes, but when Hamlet tries to do just that, to know himself and be true to himself, he began a play's worth of murderous inaction. I've written a post about it before, but the point is: when we—rather, when I become obsessed with realizing my identity, I get trapped within a Hamlet-like contemplation of that identity and forget to actually exist within—or despite—it.

I am very good at reading, at observing, at learning; I am very bad at putting knowledge into action, or achieving action at all. So I've spent the last two weeks reading deep into everything I can find of therian and otherkin writing: theories, treatise, awakening stories, surveys. I also went through and read the Wikipedia articles on cats—while hardly the best source of information, it is an adequate starting place. The constant theme of the therian community is to question what you think you know of yourself, and in the face of it I've been feeling rather ... doubtful.

Some doubts, some thoughts, and where to go from here. )
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
On our recent trip to Ashland, my mother, father, and I saw two plays. First, and an evening performance, was Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a Thursday night, and there were many visiting high schools (and some younger) come to see the performance. Of course Shakespeare is my true love, and so I was most excited to see this play. However, this was Midsummer with a twist: set not in Elizabethan England or Athens, the play takes place instead in the American 1950s-1970s.

(Picture at right is by Jenny Graham and copyright the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It features Fairy Queen Titania and Fairy King Oberon.)

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. )
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
I recently came back into contact with an old friend—Lizzie, from England. She was one of the closest friends I've ever had, and on of the greatest forces in perhaps one of the most formative of my life, although she may not know it. We've been out of touch for some years now, but at the urging of [livejournal.com profile] aep (after he heard me talk about England), I sent an email to the last address I had for her—and, luckily, heard back. We've been trading emails back and forth since then, reintroducing ourselves, catching up on lost time. It's been wonderful, of course, though there always seems to be more that I want to tell her—but I'm wordy and overly-analytical and intense by default, and so I feel like I'm cramming my letters with heady information and heavy honesty. With is fine, but, well, I don't want to overdo it.

The amount of catching up that there is to do has made me wonder, once again, about writing up a brief summary of myself and of my life. A single space with all the important background information, easily accessible, cleanly written, useful and organized. I've written introductions of me before, which is one thing—but there's still a lot that doesn't get included in there. Things I'm curious about in other people, but seem almost inappropriate to communicate about myself.

I watch a few journals of people with lupus/fibro/seizures, histories rape trauma/drug use/abuse, mental health issues, and the various combinations of such. Why these people interest me so much is probably a discussion issue in and of itself (although, in part, I find it puts my own history in context, and moreso, I admire them and appreciate what they have in-depth background info, chronicling their lives, ailments, who they are and how they got there. It puts their daily posts into a greater context, but it's interesting in its own right as well. These hidden diseases, mental and physical both, as well as past traumas, they all a particular impact on the sufferer, they are personally and socially trying, and I identify and I want to understand. I appreciate the open, clear communication.

But do I have the right to write such things about myself? Would it be healthy for me to do so—would it be educational and cathartic, or would it keep me constrained to a limited identity, defined largely by all the things that are wrong with me?

This above all: to thine own self be true )

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be
The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock 111, T.S. Eliot
But the truth is that I often am—I am so caught up in knowing myself that I am limited by myself.

For the record, the issues I'm talking about writing about are my mental health issues, my back problems, and the merry little downward spiral that I've traveled as I've gone from school to school to no school.

I mentioned this, almost just as obtusely, in my last letter to Lizzie: the labels I have gained and use are hugely important to me because they make me definable and categorizable to myself, because they validate what I feel, how I act, who I am; however, I am so attached to these labels that I am limited by them, constrained by what they say about me, reluctant to deviate from them. On one hand, yes, I do not want to be and am not ashamed of who I am and how I (dis)function; on the other hand, I know that this desperate self-definition is a form of enabling, allowing me to remain motionless because I am consumed in contemplation, allowing me to remain unchanged because I am limited by the labels that I've been assigned and have adopted.

All that, coupled with that is the very real consideration that, as a self-concerned twenty-two year old with almost no life experience, my life just ain't worth writing about. In many ways, nor are my problems. I'm depressed, sure. I have problems with anxiety, or better, agoraphobia. I'm largely housebound, and largely by choice. I have chronic back pain. But no matter how greatly these issues, these labels, define me—and they do—they are not that interesting, not that big, not that bad. I have no past trauma beyond rocky moments in my relationship with my mother, no physical diseases greater than a moderately fucked spine, no mental issues greater than your run of the mill stuff. There are a few stories, the progression of my depression into anxiety, of my agoraphobia into being housebound, of how the back pain started and why it continues, of why I've transfered away from and dropped out of some wonderful schools, but yanno, there's no biography to write here, not one that would matter. I don't think so, anyhow.

I'm having the distinct impression that I've had these same thoughts, wrote this same sort of post, sometime before.

So for a change of pace, why not open up the issue a bit. Would you, flist, friends, readers, be interested in that sort of selfish, self-important backstory? Would it interest you, or be useful to you? Have you wondered what that backstory would be like, condensed and coalesced? I can deal with these doubts and these self-referential episodes of circular reasoning (and literary illusions). But if the information might benefit another, well then it means more than if it's just me, considering, defining, contemplating me. And if you want to tell me that you think this sort of contemplation of my own backstory is or isn't healthy, hell, do have at. But I certainly don't expect anyone to resolve my concerns for me.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Title: The Sound and the Fury
Author: William Faulkner
Published: New York: Signet Book (Random House), 1292 (1959).
Pages: 220
Total pages: 12,853
Text number: 36
Read for: for my personal enjoyment.
In brief: I picked up this book at the start of the school year out of love for Faulkner (As I Lay Dying is one of my favorite books) and Macbeth where the book finds its title, theme, and many of its images. The text did not disappoint. It's about the Compson family, a Southern family in the 1920s riddled with mental illness, depression, love and hatred, and the personal struggles of family members to rebuild the family name, find freedom, life, and escape. The text is short but intense. Each chapter centers on a different family member and Faulkner writes from the thoughts of the given family member, making the text very personal but also fragmentary and hard to read—especially in the case of Benjy, the "idiot brother with the desires of a man and the mind of a child" (as the summary text reads). I enjoyed the book and recommend it to those looking for a manageable but serious read. I must admit, though, that As I Lay Dying is still closer to my heart.

The Macbeth silioquy that the title and many of the images are based on. )



juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)

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