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Rain Dog Dance

By Nick Fracaro at 7:50 pm on Thursday, September 28, 2006

Much of Artaud’s theory on theatre can be classified as the dramaturgy of the actor. It’s easy to see why Butoh originator Hijikata found a shared sensibility and stratagem for performance in Artaud’s writings. One of his prized possessions was the recorded copy of Artaud’s radio broadcast. This tape of To Have Done With The Judgement Of God was played when Hijikata choreographed Min Tanaka in a performance entitled Ren-ai Butoh-ha Teiso (Foundation of the Dance of Love).

To work toward performance with certain sections of To Have Done with the Judgment of God will be more difficult than others. Some of the writing, as the saying goes, is just pure caca.

Where it smells of shit.
it smells of being.
Man could just as well not have shit
kept his anal sack closed
but he chose to shit
like he could have chosen to live
instead of consenting to live dead.

Because in order not to make caca,
he would have had to consent
not to be,
but he could not make up his mind to renounce
being,
in other words, to die alive.

There is in being
something particularly tempting for man
and this something is indeed
CACA.

Ankoku Butoh often explores unknown or taboo territory of the human body. Butoh-Fu (“fu” means score in Japanese) uses words and images to create the mise en scène through which the actor moves.

******************BUTOH-FU WORKSHOP****************

The actor is a Rain Dog.

Maybe I should say something about the title of the album, “Rain Dogs”. You know dogs in the rain lose their way back home. They even seem to look up at you and ask if you can help them get back home. ‘Cause after it rains every place they peed on has been washed out. It’s like “Mission Impossible”. They go to sleep thinking the world is one way and they wake up and somebody moved the furniture. —Tom Waits

Rain Dog, there is no home for you.

You have roamed too far from your patron. Your only audience now is the-hand-that-feeds-you. You have nothing but contempt, yet dare you bite the-hand-that-feeds-you? If only you could go wild, back to wolf again. Then you would remember, only then would you remember, the-hand-that-feeds-you is also food.

And even if the house-trained can never go wild again, they can still go feral.

Feral Rain Dog.

The patron is frantically posting LOST DOG signs on the trees in a widening circle around 59th St-Lexington Ave.

Words are similar to memories are similar to scents.

The body is word is a vessel to be cracked open so the myrrh within is released.

The COLLABORATION of directors, writers, dramaturgs, and designers have created a world of Gawkers.

Feral Rain Dog, can you find your way home, again?

(Random and anonymous Gawker comments Thursday morning in Brooklyn and Manhattan south. Scents,memories, butoh-fu for dance home. )

“Asscake deathvenom animal carcass … Burnt rubber.”

“Poop-filled diapers.”

“Hungover white whine shits.”

“Something dead and decaying … Old outhouse poop … Fresh poop … Sewer water … Urine post-asparagus buffet .. Breath of a hungry old lady … Stinks like puke.”

“Like a trip up the ass of a homeless man.”

“Urine, fresh mildew, and dirty penis.”

“Burnt rubber, sweat.”

“Fresh barf.”

“Sweat and construction … African oils, incense … Sweaty poop stink.”

“Bum urine, sometimes vomit.”

“Urine and bleach.”

“Made fresh daily – feces in all forms.”

“Homeless piss and bleach … Pissoir from hell … Like bucket after bucket of piss.”

“Dead vomit … Evil diarrhea … Peaches … Fermented shithouse … Hobo urine and AAA batteries … Like a family of rats died in the wall and is festering there … Two-day-old vomit and crayons.”

“Rotting fish juice.”

“Like a homeless man’s sweaty ass that his drunk friend just puked on … Cocaine … a mixture of shit and pool water … Extruded out of Satan’s ass … Rat poison … High-school chemistry class … Really moist, crumbly, moldy dirt … Fried food.”

“Cow shit.”

“Mold, wet wool, old plaster … Dead rats en masse … Like a mushroom farm … Dirt and soil … Weed … Honeyed rot marinated in hummus … Stinky feet … Gangrene … Entrance to Bloomingdale’s smells like flowers, leather, and rich people.”

59th St-Lexington Ave

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To Have Done with the Judgments on Artaud

By Nick Fracaro at 9:51 pm on Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Alison Croggon at theatre notes has obviously read more criticisms on Artaud than actual writings by Artaud. She parrots the negative critiques that have always been attached to this singularly important theatre theorist. So nothing new in her attempt to marginalize Artaudian theatre by classifying it to the experience of the lunatic asylum, war zone and concentration camp. However, Alison extends this old criticism to new a level by outrageously and unconscionably comparing Artaud to violent terrorist killers Osama bin Laden and Pol Pot. She goes so far as to suggest that Artaud would have celebrated the 9/11 attacks as “the greatest work of art there has ever been!”

The fact that Alison correctly cites the long list of celebrity theatre groundbreakers informed by Artaud’s work makes the following statement of hers doubly absurd.

It is possible to think of the theatrics of torture in Abu Ghraib – the posing for photographs, the obliterating of the human body, the totalising word, the sexual loathing – as the ultimate Artaudian theatre.

George Hunka at Superfluities in support of Alison’s critique of Artuad underlines another old criticism frequently recited and meant to diminish Artaud’s legacy, “the impossibility of the full theatrical realization of the Artaudian vision.” George holds the Peter Brook staging of Marat/Sade of 1964 as the most compelling “incompletion.” He has made this reckless assessment based on the “film version” of a piece of theate and/or the hearsay of other critics.

Artaud’s theory positions mise en scene, movement, gesture, and the actor’s presence in opposition to the dominance of text. No More Masterpieces. British and American theatre is largely script centered, as is most of European theatre, so no wonder George and Alison both seem unaware of the many less celebrated contemporary physical theatre ensembles around world that trace their lineage indirectly and directly from Artaud.

The divide between praxis/theory will always remain a dilemma, but the performance art/dance form Butoh as originated by Tatsumi Hijikata is arguably the truest realization of Artaudian theatre. Artaud’s influence on Hijikata is outlined in this excellent article Ankoku Butoh as Cruel Theatre.

Filed under: Dramaturgy12 Comments »

Artaud’s Granddaughter

By Nick Fracaro at 9:30 pm on Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Twenty years ago, I drove a 450cc Honda motorcycle into the Sierra Madre Mountains in search of Antonin Artaud’s granddaughter. My forehead became blistered with sunburn during the long trip from Chicago so I tore up a white pillowcase I had taken from an El Paso motel room, using it as a protective and medicinal bandanna. The 3 gallon motorcycle gas tank caused constant adventure because of the distance between petrol stations in Mexico. So eventually I found myself out of gas in a nowhere place west of Chihuahua City. I didn’t find the Raramuri (Tarahumara) as much as they found me. I think it was my white pillowcase bandanna that made them think my appearance in their desert was significant.

I lived with them for five days. They ferment ground-up corn into a kind of beer that they drink from large gourds. This beer making and drinking is ritual but ritual is also just part of daily life. Although they can speak Spanish, they spoke in their native tongue to one another. I speak little Spanish so we didn’t try talking much to each other. I understood their word for peyote to be related in some way to the Spanish word “gringa'” but that may be mostly my own invention.

I never found Artaud’s granddaughter (attractive woman of French, Native American descent, approximately my age, the Creative Accident of the flesh in search of its completeness), but I did learn how to run full speed through a moonless desert night, naked except for a white bandanna.

I am speaking of the Tarahumara
eating Peyote right from the soil
as it is born,
and who slay the sun to establish the kingdom of black night

I am still working with Artaud. We recently translated and recorded an English version of his radio piece, To Have Done with the Judgment of God. Soon (not so soon) a butoh performance with a Steal This Radio broadcast.

To hear Artaud’s voice listen to the opening text at this site. Section 2 is the Artaudian Scream by the master himself followed by The Dance of the Tutuguri which was drawn from his trip to Mexico and encounter with the Raramuri.

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Open Letters to Purple Haze

By Nick Fracaro at 10:28 pm on Saturday, September 23, 2006

McSweeney’s has more than a hundred entries at its fiction section titled

OPEN LETTERS
TO PEOPLE OR ENTITIES UNLIKELY
TO RESPOND

The writer of the open letter to Vice President Cheney first offers condolences for the loss of Scooter Libby, then applies for the open Chief of Staff job. The applicant begins his list of qualifications with

1. I am pure evil. I can provide letters of reference from former girlfriends, as well as from my previous landlord, to attest to this fact.

2. I can keep a secret, especially if it involves your criminal and immoral conspiring against other Americans, State Department officials, intelligence agents, or the leaders of the U.S. military.

Edward Einhorn, Artistic Director of the Untitled Theater Company #61, currently producing the Havel Festival, writes an Open Letter to President Bush that probably wouldn’t fit that well at McSweeney’s.

Of course Edward’s is a real letter not a work of fiction or theatre. I think it’s real, anyway, although the letter does require an obvious suspension of disbelief. The President and the administration are People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond to his letter.

So to whom is Edward really writing? Who is his real audience for the letter?

Plainly the letter was written, at least in part, as an element in the PR package promoting the Havel Festival. So a piece of the audience is that potential audience of People or Entities Who Are UnLikely to Respond to the plays of Vaclav Havel. But the letter doesn’t seem completely willing in its suspension of disbelief, as if that “other audience” were really there listening.

During the Communist reign Havel believed that only half of his self was truly a dissident, the other half of his self actually supported the totalitarianism under which his country suffered. Further he believed each of his Czech countrymen were split in a similar manner.

In other words, no blue or red states. No liberal and no conservative. But everyone and everywhere a blend of both. More like a purple haze as in this alternative to the red/blue map graphic we usually see. So Edward is right, as Havel was right. The other audience is there listening because the other audience is one in the same with us.

The speeches the nation leaders recently presented to the U.N. General Assembly attempt to function as Open Letters to the larger world. Thursday El Presidente from the South branded the Northeamericano President the devil.

And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.

Making the sign of the cross, lifting his prayerful hands and eyes to the sky, there was a trace smile on Chavez’s face as he said this. The purple haze audience was definitely watching this piece of theatre; it was the most downloaded clip from CNN. And these do sound like fighting words. But to whom? Politicians mostly. Doing something the politicians cannot, Chavez and Venezuela are committing 25 million gallons of discounted heating oil just in New York City alone. If it were all used this winter as many as 700,000 city apartments would be heated at 40% off the wholesale price. If Chavez ever wants a day job as mayor here, he could win the vote next election.

Another Presidente from South of the border brought a prop onto stage with him. An illegal prop. Cool. And who would have thunk it? The coca leaf is not white, it’s green!

Theatre often preaches to the choir. How much more interesting theatre is when it seeks to speak to that “other audience” of the purple haze.

Scuse me while kiss the sky.

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Criticism versus Reviews

By Nick Fracaro at 6:13 am on Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The distinction between reviews and criticism, reviewer and critic, should be made.

Reviewers have both space and time pressures imposed upon them. The reviewer has a “job” job. More often than not the subject/work is an assignment not a choice. The job also entails that something needs to be written even when nothing warrants it.

The critic is not on assignment but begins with the subject/work that intrigues and excites, “something that needs to be written about.” The critic is often a freelance writer who needs to sell not just his own writing to an editor, but also the story itself. The critic creates his “job.”

Here another distinction can be made between editors of newspapers and magazines at one end and editors of journals and books at the other. The relationship and collaboration level between the writer and editor will be different in each form of publication.

Also there is always a gap between the readership of the publication and the audience of the theatre work. Reviews attend the contemporary audience; criticism serves the historical audience, although each aspires for relevance in the other’s domain.

The mission at HotReview.org as described by editor Jonathan Kalb highlights this problem.

…space pressure has fomented a pandemic of abbreviated thinking in today’s magazines and newspapers. By the same token, our assumption that every article should determine its own length also means that we happily consider shorter pieces–provided their brevity clearly derives from critical choice, not glibness or facile partisanship.

On-line publishing such as HotReview offers a brand new playing field where editors and writers can forge and invent new relationships and collaborations. The very nature of the blogsphere itself, with its links from one blog to the next and to the many, is more a network of editors than it is a network of writers.

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Artist/Critic Controversy circa 1996

By Nick Fracaro at 11:52 am on Monday, September 11, 2006

AMERICAN
THEATRE
presents
Weigh In on Cultural Power

The August Wilson/Robert Brustein Debate
Moderated by Anna Deavere Smith
**************************************************

John Weidman and the Guild should have taken lessons from August Wilson and TCG before they tried to pick a fight with a critic. In a very methodical manner, TCG along with its magazine American Theatre, engendered and nurtured the smoldering feud between the playwright and the critic into a convoluted but interesting cultural polemic. The apotheosis was a public debate that sold out Town Hall’s 1,500 seats at $20 a piece.

Six months in the making, after gallons of press ink, much anticipation and a last-minute crush for entry more typical of rock concerts than high-minded debates, “On Cultural Power: The August Wilson/Robert Brustein Discussion” certainly was one of the more left-field events of the winter theater season. Variety, January 29, 1997

Responding to the hype we posted the above cartoon late in the year in1996 on the ratconference web site. Ten years ago there was no Google and many different search engines were competing with one another. They would become some of the brightest stars in the Internet investing frenzy of the late ’90’s. If memory serves, altavista and LookSmart were the most popular search engines then. What I do remember for sure was that this Wilson/Brustein cartoon was generating an enormous amount of “traffic” to the ratconference site. No doubt this was not due to the cartoon itself, but to the actual sustained promotional campaign that the cartoon was parodying.

Despite the hype, or maybe because of it, the culture did partially engage Wilson and Brustein in their debate. As response Henry Louis Gates expanded the discussion by writing an informative essay in The New Yorker titled The Chitlin Circuit. The ratconference and many others in theatre connected to the playwright and the critic in their debate.

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The Hollow Men

By Nick Fracaro at 9:20 am on Sunday, September 10, 2006

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

And the Hedy Weiss spectacle in Chicago ends in the way it began. Not with a bang but a whimper. Its only accomplishment was the denigration of both theatre and criticism.

Theatre as an art form is more than just the manufacturer of a consumer product subject to the whim of a newspaper review. Audience is something other than the Wal-Mart shopper. Yet playwrights will often cast the press as scapegoat for the culture’s lack of attention to theatre and their lack of a career.

We whisper together “If only Hedy Weiss were gone, Chicago would be a great theatre town.”

The 22 Dramatists Guild letters now sit in their vault, quiet and meaningless.

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The Dramatists Apologize

By Nick Fracaro at 5:54 pm on Thursday, September 7, 2006

The Dramatists Guild’s president John Weidman apologizes to Hedy Weiss in a Sun-Times’ Letter to the Editor. Well, not really. As we predicted, the public inquisition of the critic proceeds in the words of The Guild’s executive director Ralph Sevush “without pause and without apology.”

So who is the “reliable source” that presented El Presidente with the faulty intelligence that instigated this whole letter writing campaign?

 

Before writing the letter, I confirmed with what I believed to be an entirely reliable source that Weiss had been told by the producers of Stages 2006 that they did not want these presentations to be reviewed. This is not something I deduced. It is something I was told, directly and unequivocally. It now turns out that what I was told was untrue.

We can assume that the other 22 Guild Council playwrights who attacked Hedy Weiss also know/knew the identity of this Deep Throat. The need of these other 22 playwrights to cover their assess in the spectacle is one likely motivator of the Weidman non-apology.

A number of rank and flle members are supposedly upset by the lie at the core of this “Public Policy of the Dramatists Guild of America,” but apparently not upset enough to say so publicly. The link to the Guild’s discussion board on the controversy shows only support of the original Weiss attack.

Executive director Ralph Sevush says, “we are busy flagellating ourselves” just before he extends the public pseudo-apology by the Guild into a renewed attack on the unfortunate critic.

Filed under: Artist/Critic1 Comment »

Pound the Critic

By Nick Fracaro at 2:12 pm on Friday, September 1, 2006

Ezra Pound had the reputation of being the most well-read in literature amongst all his contemporaries. Remarkably, he once said “You don’t need to read an entire book in order to speak intelligently about it.” I am not sure if that “confession” made me think more or less of Pound as an arbitrator of literature.

No doubt that Jeremy and Melissa have picked Ms Weiss’ winning offense. A perfect example of the hubris of the Critic, not to see the performance in its entirety, but still believe you can speak intelligently about it.

It’s now understood Hedy Weiss was essentially invited to review. But the fact she left at intermission will become the red herring so that none of the Guild writers will necessarily feel the burden to apologize for their campaign. As with all witch-hunts, the venial sin will suffice when the mortal sin is absent. Of course the adjectives and characterizations the writers invented may no longer be applicable. “obscene” “scary” “shocking” “destructive ” “appalling” “outrage” “act of vandalism” The petty crime will need new words. But this should not be too difficult a task for our most brilliant writers in theatre.

However, the hope would be that at least one of these 22 Guild writers is able to examine their own culpability in this spectacle and is inspired to write less self-righteously and more elegantly on the Artist/Critic relationship.

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The Editor’s Axe

By Nick Fracaro at 12:22 am on Friday, September 1, 2006

Thoughts and ideas can become dangerous so I always begin writing to the great metaphysical abyss with the salutation “Dear Editor.” It keeps me on my toes.

The greatest fiction writer of the 20th century was of course Vladimir Lenin. The Editor especially enjoyed his pamphlet State and Revolution. In 1940 Leon Trotsky was in the study of his heavily guarded house near Mexico City writing the History of the Russian Revolution when The Editor embedded an alpine climbing axe into his skull.

The Chicago Sun-Times editor is somewhat more pedestrian god but Hedy gives an impassioned defense of herself. I am with her. The Guild writers acted too rashly.

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