Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weird Al Rocks My World

I spent this last weekend in Phoenix, acting as a bridesmaid for one of my close friends. I have to say, the entire weekend was fantastic, from the pool lounging to the completely not-horrible bridesmaid's dress (yes, they do exist) to the flawless ceremony and the marathon dance party afterward. But one of the highlights was definitely the bachelorette party where I, for the first time, saw Weird Al Yankovic in concert.

I'd been a sort of casual admirer of his songs for some time, but since I don't listen to a lot of popular music, the finer points of his parodies are usually lost on me. But Friday night I found a reason to fall in love with him.

The man is a dynamo. When he hits that stage he EXPLODES. The energy radiates off him in waves. And he loves his fans. That's evident not only from the way he sings and goofballs his heart out, but from the way he interacts with them. During one song, he gave up his mic to a girl wearing a chicken hat - clearly, he's more concerned with everybody having an awesome time than with making his own voice heard every minute.

Not to mention that he has fabulous hair.

The act of performance fascinates me. I hope to use my written words to entertain people, but Weird Al uses his whole body. Unlike a book, that you can access as long as the pages stick to the spine, a performance is an ephemeral thing (and no, recording it does not count. No video is the same as a live performance, which is why we still buy concert tickets), good for one night only. The actor or the singer puts her whole self into creating something that will be gone almost as soon as its born. And yet, live performance is an incredibly powerful thing.

Well, that's it. I feel like I should have some profound conclusion, but I don't. I'm just fascinated.

Cheers, all!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pygmalion at the Alley

Tonight I got to attend the Alley Theatre's production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. I'd read the play before, once in high school and once when studying for my comps, and I have practically memorized the film version of My Fair Lady, but I'd never before seen the play performed. I was little nervous since I am such a big fan of the film that I wouldn't be able to avoid constant comparisons between my memories of it and what I was watching on the stage. I also am not the biggest fan of the Alley troupe's usual leading lady Elizabeth Bunch - I've previously seen her in The Thirty-Nine Steps where she was hilarious, and in Peter Pan where her Wendy left something to be desired (in her defense, it's not easy to be a woman playing a  little girl pretending to be a woman, and Barrie wrote a lot of strange lines).

But overall, I have to say that tonight's performance was delightful. The first scene took a bit to get warmed up - the British accents were a little shaky, and I was haunted by shades of the incomparable Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. But by scene two the actors hit their stride, and the brilliant hilarity of Shaw's wonderful exploration of language and the battle of the sexes took over. I surprised myself by enjoying Bunch's loud-mouthed Eliza, particularly during her infamous tale of the aunt who was "done in" and also during her final, furious battle with Higgins. This is the scene that receives shortest shrift in the movie, probably because it doesn't play to the film's understated but decidedly happy ending where Eliza returns to Wimpole street (which she does not do in Shaw's original: the ending is left ambiguous, although Shaw hoped audiences would reach a different conclusion than the one almost everybody does). But it is the heart of Shaw's play, where his belief about the right of every person, regardless of class or gender, to own their own soul really comes to the forefront, and Bunch and leading man Todd Waite played it fully in all its bitter battle glory.

The real star of the production in my opinion, though, was Elizabeth Shepherd as Henry Higgins's long-suffering mother. She was the perfect late Victorian mother, who both loves and can't abide her ingenious and terribly improper son. Her lines were delivered with just the right amount of dry wit and no nonsense-attitude that, I think, make her one of Shaw's most Wildean and lovable characters.

Finally, anyone encountering Pygmalion for the first time should follow up the production with a visit to Shaw's text where they'll find what you don't see in the Hepburn/Harrison film or on the stage - a multiple page author note where Shaw passionately explains why Eliza and Higgins will NOT end up together, why it would be appalling if they did so, and why society in general is completely wrong about women (this from a man whose own relationships with women were often troubled). It's fascinating example of an author utterly exasperated with his public for reaching the wrong conclusion - an authorial attempt to reclaim a text that's been released for public consumption. But the truth is, an author can't control the way readers will interpret (in this case) his work, particular when the ending is left ambiguous. Once the play is performed, it is no longer up to Shaw whether or not Eliza and Higgins will get together. It's up to the audience.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vive le summer!

Okay, it's been a while since my last French class, so my vocabulary is a little embarrassing. And this is the first time I've blogged since February, which is more than a little embarrassing.

But it's summer. And I finally have enough energy to send my novel rewrite zipping along as it should be. I don't mean that words are magically flowing from the ends of my fingers. I mean that I've finally recovered the energy and focus to sit down for 3-4 hours a night, every night, and FORCE them out. It's exhilarating. It's exhausting. I'm so happy.

Hopefully this new surge of productivity will include a few blog posts, but I'm done scheduling myself or planning what to write in advance. I finally realized that I'd been trying to do with blogging exactly what I don't do with my writing--outline. I start with a scene or a character and let that little piece lead me down a path and tell me what it will be. I figure my blog should probably be the same way. I put in the time, and the blog decides what it will be :)

If you are a fiction writer and you aren't reading Patricia C. Wrede's blog, you should be. Her posts are so chock-full of good common sense about the writerly life, that I suspect she's actually her own character, the witch Morwen (whose front gate sports a sign reading "None of this nonsense, please") in disguise. As proof, I offer up her last two posts, which have been about, yes, budgeting. What could be more down to earth than that?

Check out Pat's blog here: http://pcwrede.com/blog/.

Cheers, ya'll! Enjoy your summers. Wear sunscreen.