Yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of my brother’s death, and every year we mark the occasion with homemade tacos. My dad gets curry on his anniversary. Such is the luck of the draw and whims of family.
My mother looked a little beaten up yesterday from when she picked me up at the airport until bed. She told me that the day is hard, every year. She didn’t make a big deal of it – no rending of clothes, ashes on head, nothing dramatic. She just seemed a bit tired and fragile.
At dinner, my sister asked me if I was disappointed not to be a part of the Minnesota Fringe that’s going on right now. The vehemence of my “very much,” seemed to surprise her a bit.
The words are just information. I miss you. I’m upset. I love you. I care. They’re supported not just by everyday actions – a phone call, punching the wall, flowers – but by the conviction with which we perform our words. My mother doesn’t perform her grief over my brother’s death. I don’t perform my disappointment over The Heart of a Dog being done and not performing here. If we didn’t perform and denied our emotions, you’d say we were in denial. But we acknowledge, just don’t make a big deal.
So how do you know how big a deal it is? And how inappropriate is how big? The performance needs to be proportionate to the scale – somehow.
My mother did her dissertation research comparing widowhood between caucasian, Jewish, and African=American women. The period of mourning was a topic that arose in the course of her work. What used to be “wear black and be officially in mourning for a year” for the white community has become, after a year, “don’t you think you should move on with your life?”
So here’s a question. If performance makes such a big deal in our face to face communication, what is filling that gap when we’re reading these words and there’s no one to perform?
If there’s a single phrase that suggests in our common language that we perform ourselves, it is “out of character.” If we do or say something that is not typical, we hear, “That’s not like you.”
I like performing, but I also like my time as the center of attention to be limited. I really, really enjoyed doing THE HEART OF A DOG with Andy. I loved teaching. But I don’t want everyone looking at me all the time. I like the anonymity of being a guy in the city and not having to worry about someone recognizing me. And if they did, it’d be basically just a novelty anyway. Jonathan West, former artistic director of Bialystock & Bloom and current managing director at Sunset Playhouse, once had someone recognize him in a coffee shop. Said fan was so enthusiastic about whatever she’d seen him in, that she gesticulated his coffee right on to his computer.
See? A little anonymity goes a long way.
I did something screwy to my knees yesterday, and today I’m walking around in constant mild pain. It’s more of a drag than anything else, but combined with whatever was bothering my stomach, I felt like hell by the time we were heading back from the dog park this morning. Lisa commented that my eyes looked glassy.
I can’t perform that – glassy eyes. I can limp, or I can try not to. I can hide some symptoms but not others. I can be sick without acting sick. When we feel like it, we recognize that there’s a qualitative, existential difference between someone who is an asshole, and someone who is just acting like one. My father-in-law has a list of several of these people.
This is the “low affect” question with Anthony. For me, at least. How much of his depression is performed and symptomatic, and how much is generated by his body? The tremors, the tics, those are all symptoms of the disease – or, I don’t know, maybe the drugs that are supposed to be alleviating other things. Anthony is not like anyone I’m used to. He’s articulate and can talk immediately about his lack of threshold between complacency and anger. And because he’s articulate I expect him to be able to do something about it, and I watch as he snaps from complacency to anger, unable to do more than observe behavior in himself that he doesn’t like.
It’s not that the performed “sick” is less true. If I don’t limp, then my performance is a lie by not indicating my discomfort. There’s no more inherent relation between performance and truth than there is between words and truth. We can lie or convince in all kinds of ways.
October 19 is the anniversary of my father’s death, and this past year on that date, at roughly 2:30am, my cat of 8ish years (and Lisa’s cat for nearly 10 years before that), died. Later that day, Augosto was born to our friends Michelle and Alvaro.
This past weekend, Lucie died. Today, our friends Alison and Simon welcomed their daughter Millicent into the world. They look exhausted and delighted.
Last week Andy and I were talking about getting THE HEART OF A DOG up on its feet again in preparation for the Minnesota Fringe when he got a job offer. The short version is that we’ve withdrawn from the Fringe Festival and don’t currently have any other performances of the show slated. On the upside, he’s got a great job. There was never any question as to what the correct decision was, as much of a bummer as it is.
Things don’t always come in pairs. Oftentimes it feels like it’s wave after wave after wave.
I’m appreciating these respites.
Everything takes longer here, except when it doesn’t.
As I stood at the Malostranské Náměstí tram stop yesterday with a bag of laundry (Andy and I are hoping to travel with clean selves and clean clothing in an effort to promote civil society, at least amongst the people seated immediately around us on the plane), I overheard an American woman who seems to live here explaining to the people that seemed to be her parents that traveling in western Europe is so easy. Everyone in Italy at all of the tourist stuff was so friendly. Here, it’s like they don’t even want you.
Part of me revolts at the general dismissal, in English, of the surroundings and the people. And part of me thinks, yeah, that’s true.
I got to Don and František’s to throw my laundry in, the model of the efficient public transportation taker, turned on the light, and the bulb blew out. With a POP that was rather stronger than any light bulb burning out had any right to be. And the reason for that was that somehow it knocked a circuit out. I spent the next 15 minutes trying to locate the fuse box, talked with Don, who was out of town with František, found the fuse box, failed to get the power back on even flipping the main breaker, and explored the halls of the building, looking for the common exterior fuse box.
You cannot imagine the trepidation I felt at the thought of flipping the wrong one and disconnecting power, however briefly, to a Czech family who might be, at that moment, home. Unless you’ve lived here, then I expect you can imagine it quite well.
It turned out to be simple, in the end. The fuse was obvious. I turned it back on. Power restored. Laundry begins.
What should have taken one minute – throwing my laundry in the machine – took thirty.
Yesterday was also the last day of the Fringe. Which quite suddenly, abruptly, ended. No particular fanfare, no particular statement, just another evening of shows, another evening at Rubín (where I did not last long). Shocking in its immediacy.
And that’s kind of Prague.
In other words: Prague is beautiful. Clean up after your embarrassed dog.
It’s the last day of Fringe Festival Praha 2010. Expect a blow out tonight at the after-party at A Studio Rubín.
Yesterday we spent the morning running errands that really took a long longer than they had any reasonable right to take. “Thank you, Prague,” said Andy, who seems to have grown to have the kind of affection for Prague that you might have for an older brother that cuffs you upside the head, and then follows up with “two for flinching.” Andy tried briefly to imitate pedestrians on the Charles Bridge yesterday, and nearly ended up taking a woman’s eye out. Which made the imitation all that much more authentic, and Andy all that much more embarrassed.
We got our last Prague Kickstarter picture taken (posted this AM), and here’s the superhero that was next to us as we were framing up.
Then we made it up to Charles Square where we found the coolest hollow tree ever, and Kelly got some good pics (bottom of the page).
A good show energy-wise for us, with probably the smallest house we’ve had – 10 people. But a very appreciative 10, and we’re grateful to have had them at all. After a week of overcast skies and two days of particularly spitty, unpleasant rain, the weather broke and we’ve got beautiful, warm weather with a lovely breeze. I’m surprised anybody came inside at all.
It doesn’t get much better than Prague in spring time.
Went to see Company FZ’s HORSE last night, which was at turns hilarious, lyrical, awkward (in a good way and on purpose), and quiet. Not a particularly Fringe-y show in that there’s no way they set that stage up in 15 minutes, but that’s only a point of fact, and doesn’t bear on the execution. Flick Ferdinando plays a series of women and horses (and the odd pony) in a series of scenes that touch on horses in various ways, from sexual, to showcasing, to shooting one that’s gone lame. A beautiful, lovely piece.
Tonight, I think, I’m seeing The Fugitives, probably the last thing I’ll see at the Fringe.
I haven’t been blown away by anything like I was last year with In a Thousand Pieces, or Backward Glance, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been a strong year, only that the level of intensity isn’t quite the same. I suspect every year has a slightly different personality – how could it not?
One of the advantages of my schedule last year was having the timing jump a bit – this year, Andy and I perform every night at 6:30pm, and there’s all kinds of shows we can’t see. I’d really like to see Suzy in Shakespeare’s Will, for example, but she ends 15 minutes before we go up. Can’t really work my head and clock around that. I’m looking forward to the juggled schedule at the Minnesota Fringe to compare notes.
I was up too late last night, 3am. This is what was in our doorway when I got back to the flat (the picture taken this morning, obviously).
Who drinks beer from a straw?
Who somehow found out about the Dancing Building. Of course, Frank Gehry had something to do with it.
Chase and Molly asked for dancing in front of the dancing building, and the pirouettes just weren’t taking.
We like to this of Kelly’s picture as “Fred and Ginger in front of Fred and Ginger.”
Plus right to our left is the craziest statue! She’s like a superhero traffic sign. I’ll post that later, once I get it uploaded.
Thanks, Chase and Molly!!!
Who as his Kickstarter reward requested a photo in front of the Charles Bridge or on Petřín Hill. The latter proved unlikely, the former, accomplish-able.
In this picture, Andy and Kurt imagine what the other must have been like at UWM.
We only have two more days of the festival. This is both a reason to celebrate and mourn.
The show is definitely hitting a stride, even though we fell back a pace or two on account of me being selected to start off playing the dog. Yep, I did three nights in a row in Milwaukee, the first night here, and since then, five nights in a row, it’s been Andy. Now me again. But we didn’t fall back to last Friday – there’s ongoing development. The big trick, I’ve been thinking, is keeping some kind of momentum from this experience going into August in Minnesota.
Last night was Big Club Night, in which Andy partook and I didn’t. Club Lávka is the biggest dance club in Central Europe, and according to one of the volunteers who chose not to go, not a place she’d feel comfortable sitting on furniture. Still, some 20-30 folks made it there last night, and Andy rolled in around 5:30am. I didn’t notice. My morning errand was sussing out how to pay the difference on our apartment that we were mistakenly not charged when we moved in. No, there’s no scam, just sloppy work on their part. After many many hiccups, we’re sorting it all out tomorrow.
Then the action started at 10:30am. Jarda from Brno texts me: Rozinka can’t make it, something’s come up at home. See you at 13:30 at Florenc, yellow bus. A good deal of running around later, I meet Brbla as he gets off the bus. No Jarda. Didn’t he text you? Someone stole the security camera from the back of the theater – for the second time in two weeks. He’s meeting the police. Shortly after, Jarda calls, he’ll be in at 4pm. Got it. Brbla and I have lunch, hang out. He orders a coffee and a shot of rum. Pours the rum in the coffee. Drinks. A Czech specialty, he tells me. A Brbla specialty, Jarda later corrects him. Jarda is delayed even further, until 4:30, and I still have to drop them off at the theater, get to the flat, turn around and get back. Everything works out with only the slightest of elevated heartrates, and I leave Jarda and Brbla to their own devices.
We had our biggest house yet, just over 30 people. I spent the rest of the evening continuing with Jarda and Brbla (the latter smoked three packs of cigarettes over the course of the evening – not the day, the evening), as they were taking a 12:30am bus back to Brno. You couldn’t find nicer guys, they’re not getting in until 4am or so.
And they gave us the best compliment that I could have imagined. Now, they don’t really speak English, but they can understand it pretty well, though we do speak pretty fast. They definitely got all of the cursing. They said that the story was visually clear, they loved the back-and-forth exchange of characters, and that (here’s the good part) it reminded them of the work that Goose on a String used to do. Spare, more of a focus on action.
Couldn’t have made me happier. They didn’t even think we were disgusting.
Okay, so after yesterday, today should be a bit more ease on down the road, right?
Thankfully, that’s pretty much what happens.
It’s raining all day, somewhere between spitting and a steady downpour. The garden party hosting by the British Ambassador (the official sponsor of the Prague Fringe Festival) hosted an indoor garden party that was quite lovely. Andy and I neglected to eat in advance, assuming snacks. But being American, we assumed (without ever saying it out loud) that snacks meant “buffet” and in fact, in Europe (or at least here), snacks means “canapés.” Tasty, frequently at hand, and yet somehow lacking in the gorge-ability that is American Ethnic Cuisine: all-you-can-eat. We grabbed lunch afterward.
We hit the 3:30 showing of Sealskin, Multistory’s contribution this year. In 2009, they did the amazing Backward Glance. This is my response from that show – which is funny to re-read now, because I think now I’m a lot higher on it than I was then. Whatever. Sealskin is the second selkie story at the 2010 PFF. Bill and Gill’s version keeps the story as a story though – a story that a mother tells her children, the Younger Brother and the Older Sister, over a period of about 10 years. She tells them presumably as much in anticipation of her departure from their lives as in giving herself the courage to leave at all. At times it was difficult to connect with them as family members – when we see them re-telling the story their mother tells, it’s almost an outside eye. When we see them in the present discussing their family, we see them with their quirks and foibles, but we haven’t made the connection just yet to make that on-again-off-again squabbling that family members do pay off. The elements of naturalism beat out storytelling in this regard. But like last year, this was a good story and it was incredibly well-executed. I had a chance to talk to each of them briefly tonight, but not enough to either.
Our show was solid. Once again, Andy was the dog. That’s four times in a row, now. No, five. Weird. We’re rather hoping to be able to switch it up again soon. We’re tightening up our delivery, taking the air out of some lines. Nothing really bizarre happened tonight. A house of 23. Good good good. No one stole Andy’s pants. Good good good.
We ended with Poste Restante, which is performed by the company They Gotta Be Secret Agents, who are something like friends of friends of friends. They don’t bill themselves as cirque nouveau, but if that’s not what they’re doing, they’re kissing cousins. Bonnie and Tim are originally modern dancers, and they’ve incorporated aspects of simple acting/clowning, puppetry, and film/projection into a performance of boy and girl meet, fall in love, fall out of love, fight, and reconcile. Their strengths are solidly as movers – their physicality is virtuosic. It’s beautiful and amazing and inspiring to watch. Their puppetry is a bit hit and miss. They’re not lacking for ideas (Bonnie’s manipulation of a living desk lamp is a great start), but sometimes the execution of the puppets themselves compromised the beauty of what they were trying to achieve. I have to stress though, that this is mostly nitpicking. They’ve created a feel-good show that makes everyone feel good. The house was full up and they got a well-deserved thunderous round of applause. SO FUN to see shows that connect with an audience like this.
The rest of the evening – well, I didn’t expect to be writing at this hour. I was supposed to head over to visit Don and František tonight, but Don didn’t get out of work until at least 11pm. OUCH. I’d already walked to and from the National Theatre and was relatively soaked, so when I got back a little before 10:30, Andy and I just went downstairs for a drink (Velvet and peanuts, if that means anything to you), and when we were done, we went over to Fringe Central (aka Rubín) for the after party. Why is this relevant? Ha ha! Because, we discovered talking to some of the Hong Kong folks from Shakespeare’s Will (a piece we sadly can’t see due to time slot issues), that the rude woman from yesterday? The one who says I’m disgusting? Um, yeah, turns out she’s a reviewer.
She’s at expats.cz.
Feel free to check her out, but I’m not reading it until we’re done here, so let’s keep it to ourselves, shall we?
This is how we made the rain better.
First let’s clear up a little linguistic confusion. Today, which is Wednesday, is not Hump Day as far as we’re concerned, because today is day 6 of the festival. Yesterday, day 5, was our hump. This is appropriately Prague-like, just a little off center.
Nothing terrible happened yesterday, though many company members seemed to have a bit of the blues. Middle of the run, middle of the week when it’s harder to pull in audiences, maybe the time by which the foreign things (for foreigners, of course) have accumulated to a critical mass… In our case, every good thing was simply undercut by a less-than-good thing. No big deal, which we recognize, but we allowed ourselves a bit of crabbiness.
The day starts off perfectly – getting Lale to the airport on time, getting to my friends who graciously allowed us their laundry for washing costumes, perfect. No lunch until 3, so I head back to the flat, drop off the clean and dry clothes (heaven) and head downstairs with Andy to grab food (for me) and beer (for him). All good good good. We don’t have the opportunity to see Sealskin, another selkie show, this one by the folks from Multistory Theatre that did the Orpheus and Eurydice adaptation I liked to much last year. That’s got to be on today’s list, else I won’t be able to see it at all. So instead we decided to change some money.
In his morning travels, Andy had discovered that all of the fantastically convenient CHANGE – 0% COMMISSION shops on the road do a nice little just-barely-advertised sleight of hand. Look over there!
The actual exchange rate is around 20 koruna to the dollar, and if you exchange over $1,000.00, you get that rate. If you exchange less, no problem, we’re here to help you, and the rate is 15 koruna. 75% of your money just went away, but keep in mind there’s no commission! He also learned that a lot of places don’t take traveler’s checks, which Kelly and I had both been talking up for their security. Gotta finda banka. No problem, there’s an American Express office right on Wenceslas Square, we’ll walk there, see some stuff and oh no! It’s gone! No problem, I’m sure we passed a Travelex somewhere around here… Oh, pop into Raffeisenbank? Sure. They’re a bank, they exchange money, but oh, hello, no travelers checks? Oh. Okay. Well, we’ll just keep walking. Thanks anyway, very helpful, blah blah blah. Komereční Banka is big, this is a big branch, let’s try here, and oh, you don’t have your passport? No, we can’t help you. They’re already countersigned so that… No?
The teller at the Komereční Banka was the most forbidding Czech person we’d seen on our trip to date. But this will change by the end of the day.
Not bad, right? No. Not bad. Just frustrating. Off we go to the theater.
Smallest house to date, just around 10 (the day before was 11), and one of our better performances since opening night. No one said orgasm, no one forgot their lines, great energy. And you know what really helps the atmosphere? Someone making a cappuccino. Technically, the bar is supposed to be closed for food and such during performances, but there was a huge raft of confusion, and 2 minutes before we started, a couple came in, managed to order a full meal (and a cappuccino during the performance itself) and went at it with gusto. It’s okay, they said to the house staff, we’re here every year, we know how this works, we’re performers ourselves. Oh, that’s cool. Sure.
The clinking of spoons is not a big deal. Not much difference between that and a scootched chair, after all. It was their incessant, three-quarter volume talking that was distracting. It was so distracting that several audience members told them to shut up. Maybe they do performance art? Spoken word? I think they may have left the kavárna after being scolded, hard to tell, and we continued on with the show. Then, during Shardik’s final monologue about not fitting in, Irenka, the sweet miniature (or just small) Doberman with whom we had our picture taken (see previous days’ post) woke up and barked. Took the piss a bit from the scene, but it cannot be admitted but that this was funny.
Okay, so a good show. Basically a really good show with some weird stuff. We go backstage to change, Kelly rushes over to the next theater to buy us all tickets to Dr. Brown, and Andy’s pants are gone. He’s in his costume pants, but his “civilian” pants, which had been hanging next to his civilian shirts, are gone. The shirts are still there, bunched up and pushed to the side. I check with the techs in the office behind us. There’s a new company playing downstairs, they explain, maybe they took the pants. By mistake. Can you check? Sure. Andy grumbles about German companies. And not two minutes later, the tech shows up with Andy’s pants, and all is well. I point out that if his pants didn’t look so much like Poland, and it’s probably his own fault, and we’re good to go.
We talk with the house staff about the weird people, we pack up our props, we run to see Phil in Dr. Brown, which is more absurdist clowning than stand-up, and barely manage to squeak in. 25 people watching a show in a room designed to comfortably hold maybe 10 at most. So we were uncomfortable, and the humor is intentionally awkward, and it was good fun.
Andy’s going to call it an early night, get some rest. Kelly’s getting over feeling sick, I’m thinking to go out to Rubín and see folks because tonight I’m going to hang out with Don and František, Thursday my friends from Brno arrive. Good. And we walk out of Dr. Brown’s small theater, and a more forbidding Czech woman than the bank teller (though she may actually have been Russian) taps me brusquely on the chest and says, “You’re disgusting.” Excuse me? I think she’s joking. I assume she’s seen the show, of course, because I haven’t done anything else disgusting, but at first it seems like the goofy kind of compliment one might receive. It’s not. “What you have done to Bulgakov, it would kill him a second time. You should learn more. You do not know what you are doing.” Well. I’m sorry you didn’t like the show. We certainly didn’t want to offend anyone in that way. “Do not be sorry. Just do not…” There was more, but frankly I didn’t catch it. She was done talking to me and turning away, and it’s not really the kind of conversation that’s going to go anywhere.
We had some low key drinks with each other. Andy left early. None of us went out to socialize.
But yesterday was hump day. Today is day 6, and it’s all going to get better from here.
We only saw one show yesterday, as it was Lale’s last day in town. So a slow start to the day, taking the cable car up Petřín Hill and having some coffee at the park coffeeshop at Nebozízek overlooking the city (Kelly’s got some photos of this on her facebook page). We met up with Phil (last name appropriately unknown) from Dr. Brown, who does a sort of absurdist stand-up routine. Sound weird? It is, and it generally reduces people to awkward giggles. We’re going tonight.
After spending far too much time sitting around, we found ourselves somewhat crunched for time, so rather than climb to the top of Petřín, we wandered back down toward the city. Kelly and Phil hung back to shoot some publicity still for him, and Andy, Lale, and I made our way to Wenceslas Square, since Lale had heard that the klobása (sausages) are not to be missed. And indeed, she and Andy were thoroughly delighted with what they ate. Although Andy kept inquiring as to the crunchy bits. “Vegetables, right?” I decided to go for the fried chicken cutlet (schnitzel). This was an error in judgment, as my friend Don warned me (not for the first time) last year, and for which he scolded me this morning once I told him that my bellyache was just about gone. “What did I tell you about eating street food?”
It’s probably due to my head being on my stomach, then, that during our performance yesterday afternoon (Andy was the dog: Kurt 4, Andy 3), that I misspoke.
Coulda happened to anybody.
Doctor Voronov is recording himself with Doctor Bormenthal upstage, and he’s saying, “Being capable of rational thought does not make us rational creatures. Like us, dogs are collections of proteins, bound up into muscles, orgasms, and synapses.”
You heard me. Orgasms. Kelly was barely able to function, and the limits of Andy and my mutual telepathic communication was discovered: we have none. There was about 30 seconds of ad-libbing while we attempted to (a) incorporate the gaffe into the characters and have them react to it, (b) not crack up, and (c) not forget where we are.
It is fairly safe bet that if you mention to Kelly that we, like dogs, are composed of orgasms, she will lose it entirely.
We had quite a small audience, only 11, which can be explained in part by it being Monday night. Until Wednesday we’re going to have small houses. It’s tough to pull people in without serious buzz on the workdays. But I think it’s also the case that the show really isn’t connecting the way I thought it would. I’m going to talk to Don and get some feedback about the performance, see if there’s not stuff we can’t work on even while we’re here.
Afterwards we went to THE HARBOUR, a group from the U.K. with a lovely, beautiful, magical performance about selkies, which are seals that transform into people by shedding their skins. Virtuosic, simple visual metaphors that were lyrical and clear, simple humor (young man cross-dressing as the crabby mother) that didn’t undercut the drama, but played like a counterpoint. Yesterday was their last performance (they’re off to the Edinburgh Fringe later this summer), and they played to a packed house. Pretty fantastic. James Walling at the Prague Post gave them a review the other day for a different summary.
Today is laundry day. Not our clothes, just our costumes, thanks to the generosity of friends Don and František.
Two last notes: we have discovered that as long as Andy is in Prague, it is his birthday. Also, we are made up of orgasms.
Thanks to Kirsten Stolle for the help!
Many many thanks to Julie and Tomkin Coleman for their support on Kickstarter!
A recap of yesterday, because that’s how we roll.
Andy’s idea for our commercial for the Prague Fringe Sunday Showcase – since we wanted to hew to the stated one minute time-limit – was to talk about the show in a way that demonstrated how we each do all the characters. I narrated the first half, he narrated the second, and whenever the narrator said the type of character (dog, brilliant scientist, etc.), the other of us physicalized that part. We didn’t rehearse, but we got a good response. Except from one ex-pat woman who told Kelly that “we didn’t present ourselves well.” She went on to buy nine tickets, not including us. And we had our smallest house to date, so maybe the ex-pat woman was right. But she also told Kelly that she’s lived here for 17 years or so and has only learned minimal Czech by choice, so even if she’s right I can’t really take her seriously.
We saw Turbulence yesterday afternoon, a British-Austrian show that seemed rather thrown-together. Some okay performances with some very rough performances with some scattered dramaturgy. It was very difficult to tell what exactly it was about.
We only had 17 people at yesterday’s show, and the most noteworthy of those was a British gentleman in the very front of the house. Andy started as the dog (Kurt 4, Andy 2), and leaned toward him. It helps to establish the dog if someone’s got food or something. And said British gentleman told Andy, “You touch my chips and I’ll kill you.” So that was a good start. He proceeded to get up halfway through the show, walk in front of the rest of the audience, get himself another beer, and return to his seat. Then he made out with his girlfriend for a bit, then he got up with about ten minutes left and walked away again. He didn’t return that time, at least.
So we don’t really like him or the idea of him.
The show itself was a bit rough again, which is why we’re about to do a line-through right now. Not sure what exactly is going on, but we’re still not on our game with this reversal of parts.
The weekend being over, we anticipate a drop in tickets from now until Wednesday, with numbers starting to climb again on Thursday and through Saturday. Cross yer fingers!
Oh, and a very cool thing from yesterday – someone who saw Decaffeinated Tragedy last year used my recipe to make a chocolate Kahlua cheesecake. It was great.
Fringe Sunday. You might think that because it’s Sunday and because we’re part of the Fringe, that “Fringe Sunday” is a fairly obvious construction. And it is. But it means more than that, because today is the day for showcases. Every company that wants to can do a one-minute commercial for their show. Andy’s put something together for us, in spite of his trans-Atlantic seatmate Patrick (whose spontaneous jingle, sung to the tune of something like “The Ants Go Marching,” we hope to post as a sound file later on).
Yesterday was another great day. Kelly, Lale, and I wandered around Old Town and Josefov, while Andy slept in. YESTERDAY WAS ANDY’S BIRTHDAY! A fact he brought up at sporadic intervals, always prefaced with, “Oh! I forgot that today was my birthday!” When I pointed this out, he pointed back that he only said that when I was mean to him.
We bought tickets for Normalcy Has Been Restored (New York), Horse (which, if you read the review from Day 1, is definitely a Show to See), and again to Stephen Frost. We’d also set up to have dinner with James from the Prague Post – who does not have a telephone, and can therefore not be as spontaneously addressed if Things Change.
Because things do change. Lisa told me that I shouldn’t have made plans because there was a surprise. Okay, but I bought tickets. Well, tickets are small in the grand scheme.
Normalcy plays right before us at the kavárna in Na Prádle, and their show only runs a little more than a half hour, so we weren’t particularly worried about blowing our preset or getting exceptionally freaked out. Their show is a series of mass transit horror stories. I’m not sure what it was about per se, but the interactions were good and the performances were solid. Best line: “We can’t hate him because he’s a man, we have to hate him because he’s a pervert. And we don’t know he’s a pervert, we just know he’s creepy.”
Andy got to be the dog! Kurt 4, Andy 1. We’re a little rough on this version of the show, just from being out of practice, but we still know the show top to bottom, so no great worries. We’re not concerned about doing a bad job for the audience (pretty confident we’ve got a good show either way) so much as we are doing a performance that we’re happy with. A very different audience – hardly any response during the show, but lots of enthusiasm at the end. Different energy, but again a lot of fun.
And surprise! Who’s in the audience but friends from Moscow! I met Mitch when I first moved to Prague, and he and his girlfriend are in for the weekend. A whole bunch of us went out dinner, met James, and I bailed on the later shows to hang out with Mitch and Ksenia. So only one show yesterday, but I’ll make up for that today. Andy’s report: Horse is really good (he won’t “spoil” any more of beyond that), and Stephen Frost and Co. weren’t as good the second night as the first. But still good.
Hooray for friends visiting from far away!
Today is Saturday (when I wrote this, which is not today), which means that yesterday was the Grand Opening of the Fringe Festival!
Nothing really marks the beginning – I mean – shows start. They go down. Another show goes up. I don’t know what they could do – fireworks? Yes, I think pyrotechnics would be a perfect addition to Steve, Carole, and Carole’s collective plate. They don’t have enough to do.
Steve, incidentally, is the Fringe Director. He founded the Fringe. Carole (depending on which one you’re talking about) is either his co-producer or his mother, who likes to say that she produced the producer. In other words, without her, there’s no Fringe, and Steve and Carole (the other one) are only following some kind of destined path.
That’s right. Fringe is destiny. I said it.
And if you think you’re confused reading this, you should have seen Andy’s face trying to put it all together.
We saw only two shows yesterday. My initial inclination was to see EVERYTHING, but then I thought that might be dumb on the first day, and maybe I should let myself be nervous on day 1. So we did our show, then saw Bruce, then the Stephen Frost Impro Allstars.
The Dutch guy doing Bruce set himself a CRAZY high bar. He emulates Lenny Bruce not in terms of performing him, but performing like him – mannerisms and dress are easy enough, and the little I know of Bruce he seemed pretty good. The hard part was telling the kinds of jokes, getting you to laugh while being horrified at him, or his content, or at your reaction. But Lenny Bruce didn’t happen overnight, and Valentijn van Hall (said Dutch guy) only had an hour of our time. Sadly, when he asked us if we knew who Lenny Bruce is and there was a smattering of “yeahs,” he said, “okay, well, there’s ten minutes of material.” AAAGH! You’re the expert! Tell us tell us tell us! A mixed bag, in other words.
The second show was fun for all kinds of reasons. It started off as fun because the four guys on stage are all improv professionals. In fact, two of them used to appear regularly on the original (British) version of Whose Line Is It Anyway. The second reason it was fun is that Andy grew up watching them . He got all cute and gushing at the after party.
Our opening was really solid. I was picked to be the dog again (Kurt 4, Andy 0), so we sped through it all, got laughs throughout, a decent crowd of 20-plus people. My falls were apparently quite spectacular, and even Kelly thought I’d hurt myself. Not yet, is the answer.
We all went to the after party and marinated in beer and smoke in Rubín, which is an underground bar/theater (another Fringe venue), that functions like a literal echo chamber, or a Dutch oven if we’re going to stick with the marinating metaphor. Andy and I cleared out a little before 2am. As soon as we were gone, two of the Impro Allstars joined Lale and Kelly and bought them drinks.
First day. Very good, very fun.
Not much in the way of time right now, so I’ll just say that we had a good opening yesterday, and a decent paragraph review in the Prague Post.
It’s the big opening day, and the cloudy skies have cleared to a hazy heat with a cooling breeze. You really can’t ask for better Prague weather. Not reasonably, anyway.
In other excellent news, after some inquiries, we now have sporadic WiFi to our flat.
In other words, today is starting off pretty kick-ass.
Lale (a friend from Spain), Andy, and Kelly and I went up to the castle and walked around for about 2 hours, wrapping back down Neruda Street to some other Fringe theaters where we could drop off some of our postcards. I’ve still got a ton, so this will be an ongoing effort. One of the volunteers we met yesterday told me that we might have a school group coming to see us, and could we do a Q&A afterwards.
Um. You know there’s a lot of vulgarity in the show? No problem. You know that we have to clear out of the space to make room for the next show, a one-man piece about Lenny Bruce by a Dutch guy, right? No problem. Okay, then sure, we’re happy to do a Q&A. Hopefully not tonight, though, because we’ve got tickets to see some Dutch guy do Lenny Bruce.
So here’s our program for Day One of the festival. We’re both back at the flat. Andy’s trying to stay healthy, I’m trying to stay awake (in spite of nearly 9 hours of sleep – maybe because of 9 hours of sleep?). Kelly is off exploring a non-touristy area of the city, handsomely called “Prague 8″ (postal code) because her small card reader overheated and burned out and now she can’t upload photographs. ARGH! And we even got one of our Kickstarter images today! So she’s off on a bit of an adventure. We look forward to seeing her close to our curtain time.
If all goes well, she’ll see at least two shows before we go up at 6:30. We’ll all be at The Heart of a Dog for the opening. Andy, Lale, and I will stick around for Bruce (in our space) and the Stephen Frost Impro Allstars (in the theater downstairs). Kelly skips Bruce tonight to see a surreal piece called Dr. Brown’s Dr. Brown (it’s more convoluted than that), and then joins us for the late night. As the official Fringe photographer, she doesn’t have to pay for tickets – she just wanders into whatever she wants to see, assuming that they want photos taken.
Speaking of photos, here’s the cathedral of St. Vitus.
We do have a picture of the two of us standing in front of it, but it’s currently victim to Kelly’s dead card-reader, so for today this will have to suffice. Incidentally, the Catholic Church and the Czech state just this past week essentially signed a treaty stating that the state will take care of managing St. Vitus. It’s been in the courts since 1989, I think.
We open in four and half hours!!!
So I posted about copyright last week mere hours before we opened the show at Moct Bar. A friend of mine thinks she might have a contact for a friend of a friend of Frank Galati. Or something like that. In the meantime, we press onward in our legal limbo. Seriously, anybody out there know anybody?
And I think I mentioned that we opened the show? Right, that happened.
I haven’t looked at the footage from our generous videographers (Teddy Lyngaas from AboutFace Media, and Nicole Brown and Brad Lichtenstein from 371 Productions), so I can only go on my gut and say that the performance went fairly well. We got some laughs throughout the entire piece, even at the end, and it’s not really a comedy, so that’s gratifying. It is a satire, and it’s supposed to be funny, but it’s not bust-a-gut stuff.
I have to interject a note regarding performance evaluation, though. Two weeks ago we had a rehearsal at Andy’s apartment during which I felt that we were basically just marking the whole show. By which I mean we were going through the motions. Saying the words without much affect. Not really acting so much as repeating. We get to the end, and the first thing Kelly says is, “that gave me chills.” Andy concurs, he felt like we were really ON.
David Mamet has something to say about this practice of actor self-evaluation, good or bad, which can be paraphrased cleanly as “shut up - you don’t know what you’re talking about. It looked fine. Shut up. Stop thinking.”
So for those of you wondering how the performance was – I have no idea. It felt good. We had good responses from our small audience, half of which was Andy’s family. YAY ANDY’S FAMILY!
And with a house that small, here’s my question to you in the ether: how do I register a complaint about press coverage without sounding like sour grapes? I’m not expecting a review, I’d just like to make it into a couple of listings in a timely manner.
Actually, if you could tell me that latter bit, I’d forego the complaining altogether.
Periodically I meet someone in a specialized industry – like when I talk with a CPA, for example – and I come up with some factoid that makes them think I know their subject.
Here’s the thing: I probably don’t know your subject, whoever you are and whatever it is. I might know a fact, I might even know a bunch of things. But they’re probably disconnected from any meaningful context. I can’t generalize well, and making connections is just stabbing in the dark.
Case in point: copyright law.
As a general rule, I understood that copyrighted objects would go into the public domain 75 years after their publication assuming that the author is dead. “Public domain” means that any of us can do anything we want with the text. For example: Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Brahms. And considering that The Heart of a Dog was written in 1925, I have long figured that, given we’re 85 years past, our adaptation would be working within the public domain free and clear.
Now there are exceptions, or modifications. One such is translations. Bulgakov might be in the public domain – but only the original Russian satire. The translator (into whatever language) would hold the rights on the “new” work.
Andy and I have taken more than a free hand with our production. We’ve added a new character, we’ve pulled from U.S. history and introduced new plot points galore. There’s only one character who retains the original name, Doctor Bormenthal. And with the exception of about 5 lines of text, we’ve used nothing of the novel itself except its storyline. In other words, we clearly owe our story to Bulgakov (operating principle: public domain), and we owe no words to any translator.
This is where things get interesting. A few weeks ago, shortly after we posted our Kickstarter campaign, I was contacted by a film producer in Seattle who was wondering about our rights and how we got them. To which I thought, but it’s public domain, right?
So I contacted an attorney. Here are the complicating factors to which I can easily connect: Bulgakov, a Ukrainian, wrote this in 1925, under the Soviet Union, when “owning” property was a bit tetchy. Would there even be a literary estate? Would it have been the government? What would have happened after the USSR collapsed? The attorney was as flummoxed as I was and did some digging, and as per my request, sent me information on how I might learn this information on my own rather than send me the information. I’d rather have a sense of how to address this sort of thing in the future and not always have to rely on friends and goodwill. I also did some follow-up using the information that the Minnesota Fringe Festival passed on to us.
The attorney sent me to the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office (within the LOC). I did some more digging. Sure enough, the translations are copyrighted, but nothing about the original text. I continued my correspondence with the producer, who’s done a lot more homework already. To a degree, he has to – distribution matters in copyright infringement. We’re not going to perform this show for more than 500 people at the most, I expect, while a successful film, posted online, could be seen by 500 people in a matter of seconds.
Here’s some of the additional information he passed on:
- A link to a summary of current copyright law (much better than what I had in my noggin)
- Bulgakov’s family does hold his literary estate
- Bulgakov wrote The Heart of a Dog in 1925, but it wasn’t published until 1968 (in English, outside the USSR), and the 1980s (in Russian, in the USSR). Which means that the whole number-of-years count is problematized on multiple fronts.
All of which is to say – we may be in violation of copyright with our show. And we don’t really want to be.
If you know Frank Galati at Steppenwolf in Chicago – he’s got a stage adaptation of the script, so he must have got rights from someone – or if you know how to connect us with someone who’s connected to the literary estate, please email me at email@example.com. Just like we would want someone else to do right by us, we want to right by Bulgakov.
Let the panicking begin… NOW!
The lights are in the air – now with safety cables! That’s so big chunks of metal filled with light bulbs don’t fall down on anyone’s head. We care about you.
We did a line-through in the space yesterday to start thinking about the practicalities of the acoustics. Moct is a a former garage – high ceilings, steel beams, brick exterior walls, drywall interior, concrete floor. Sound really bounces around in there.
Tonight we’re working with Matt Daniels of goats&monkeys (who just did a bang-up staged reading of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW), who’s helping us with some of our gestural stuff, then we’ll do a full run. And somewhere in there I actually have to focus the lights. There’s only four, so it’s not like it’s that big a deal, but it’s more stuff to do and it has to be done at night.
Print programs for the Thursday show. Print paper props.
LEARN MY LINES.
Apparently, multi-tasking is a bad idea. Last night in rehearsal Andy and Kelly each said something to me, at the same time. My brain froze up. I couldn’t make out a single word. It didn’t even sound like language.
I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t do two things at the same time very well, but that tends to be more physical. Even on the mental level though, when you can in theory keep it all together, something still suffers. For example. Lose a train of thought, maybe. Take the wrong turn. Drive auto-pilot home instead of going to the movie theater you’d intended to visit.
Most “multi-tasking” isn’t simultaneous, though, it’s serial. We do this all day, right? Walk the dog, get the groceries, pack the office, feed the cats, did you remember to hit the store on the way home? Uh, nope. Nope, missed that altogether.
I’m good at planning and at executing, but at a certain point of sustained intensity, something starts to suffer. Or more typically, everything starts to suffer equally. I’m producing THE HEART OF A DOG, doing all the graphics, doing some of the props, trying to take care of my house as much as I can, be a reasonable partner to my spouse, do the dishes occasionally.
Everything suffers a little bit. Case in point: I can’t remember my lines.
See you at Moct next Thursday!
We’re opening our adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s THE HEART OF A DOG next week. Something substantive soon to come, but in the short term, here are the details:
WHERE: Moct Bar, 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave. in Milwaukee’s 3rd Ward.
WHEN: Thursday May 6 @ 7:30pm
Thursday May 13 @ 7:30pm
Friday May 21 @ 7:00pm.
HOW MUCH: As much as you want. You want a free show, you got a free show. You want to help a couple of chumps fly over to Prague and drive up to Minneapolis, drop a couple bucks in the hat.
I’m sitting in my living room and looking at the primed crown molding in three rooms, the primed built-in cabinets, and base shoe that needs to be re-installed.
Today is March 29, and as of Wednesday night, I’m supposed to be off-book for THE HEART OF A DOG. Next week we shift up from 2 nights of rehearsal a week to three in anticipation of our May 6 opening at Moct.
Three weeks before that, on April 16, we’re mounting MOTIONARY COMICS at the same bar.
This morning I looked at my calendar and realized that The Hinterlands are running their clowning workshop (SIGN UP! SIGN UP!) on the 17th, a day on which I will be in no shape to participate. This is a drag, because this is a great opportunity.
I will be picking my battles, however.