Bluetooth Headsets are a Singer’s Best Friend

The sight of people walking down the street yakking into cellphones via wireless headsets used to unnerve me. If it wasn't bad enough that they were talking loudly and not paying attention to their immediate environment, the fact that they appeared to be talking to themselves owing to the absence of a phone clamped to their ears made their behavior seem all the more freakish.So many people use wireless headsets these days that the "she's not deranged, she's just talking on her cellphone" phenomenon has become commonplace. And I'm happy to … [Read more...]

Casting Against Type With the Aid of a Computer

When I first heard that Ray Winstone had been cast in the role of Beowulf in Robert Zemeckis' digitally-enhanced movie adaptation of the famous Nordic legend, I was confused. I couldn't quite see how the balding, middle-aged English actor with a pronounced paunch and history of playing thugs in terse British gangster flicks, could convincingly play the role of the sexy Scandinavian superhero.It was only after watching the "special features" section about the making of the film on the DVD that I understood just how far the physical … [Read more...]

F**k The Marquee

As a theatre critic, I count myself lucky that I don't often find phrases lifted from my reviews and splattered across theatre marquees, press releases and ads for shows around town. This could of course be because my views are deemed unimportant by the producers. But I like to think that it's because my prose makes for lousy advertising copy.In any case, I was gratified to learn from Variety yesterday that the U.K. has passed legislation banning theatre producers from using out-of-context quotes from theatre critics' reviews. According to the … [Read more...]

In The Spirit Of Experimentation

A few months ago, I wrote a blog entry about being asked by local theatre company, Killing My Lobster, to participate in a fundraiser. The company's plan, which sounded bizarre albeit intriguing to me, was to auction off "en evening at the theatre with Chloe Veltman."I didn't think anyone would plunk down their hard-earned cash for the item, but much to my surprise and bafflement it started a bit of a bidding war.As a result of the auction, I ended up spending a delightful evening with a few local theatre buffs who wanted to catch a show and … [Read more...]

In Support Of Conversations Between Theatres and Audiences

Should audiences for performances be more vocal about how they feel about their experiences? Or should they keep their thoughts to themselves or the people with whom they attended the show?I ask these questions in response to a conversation I had just a couple of hours ago with a few theatregoers following a trip to see a production of a new rock opera in Berkeley. I attended the theatre tonight with three articulate, brilliant people who see a lot of live performance and have strong opinions about what they experience on stage. One member of … [Read more...]

On Wearing A Custard Yellow Tie In The White House

"Uh Oh" I thought to myself as Dana Gioia stepped on stage at The Merchants Exchange in San Francisco yesterday evening: The National Endowment for the Arts Chairman and former poet laureate was wearing a custard yellow knitted tie with a square end.Turns out the tie was more than a fashion faux-pas. Startling in its guarish originality against the backdrop of a dullish tweed jacket, nothingy shirt and sensible slacks, it served as a metaphor for Gioia's current situation as, in his owns words, "the chairman of an arts agency in a country that … [Read more...]

A Strange Start To An Interview

The funny thing about waiting for a few weeks before getting around to transcribing an interview from voice recorder to page, is that it's easy to forget what the conversation with the subject was like in the first place.I interviewed Mike Leigh in mid-April for a piece I am writing about the brilliant British film director for The Believer Magazine. For one reason or another, I've only just got around to listening to the recording I made of our morning together. It was quite a lively interview. The first few minutes in particular got things … [Read more...]

Bad Is Good

I wonder if people have always been fascinated with bad art or whether it's elevation to rockstar status is a symptom of our own particular post-ironic times?My question is prompted by recent articles in the media on both sides of the Atlantic about the Scottish weaver-turned-poet, William MacGonagall."MacGonagall has long been celebrated as Britain's worst poet, inspiring satirical tributes to his doggerel awfulness from Spike Milligan, Monty Python and even the Muppets," writes Esther Addley in The Guardian.Now, it seems that the poet who was … [Read more...]

Good Stage Gore

In general, the theatre doesn't do blood well. It's somehow pretty hard for live audiences to suspend their disbelief at the sight of a guy sticking a retractable plastic knife or blunt-tipped sword into the gap between an adversary's left side and his arm and watching a load of radioactive-looking ketchup spurt out from the fake wound. The cinema does gore so much more believably.That's why the most engrossing plays and compelling productions so often use language to describe bloody scenes of violence and death or use sound and or/visuals in … [Read more...]

Chanticleer Embarks Upon The Mission Road

Some pilgrimages must be made. I spent Thursday night three and a half hours down the California coast in San Luis Obispo listening to Chanticleer, the renowned San Francisco-based a capella male vocal ensemble, perform music from the Mission period.Over the next couple of weeks, the Grammy-winning group is undertaking a tour of eight of the 21 missions on the California coast's legendary Camino Real, including two concerts in San Francisco's Mission Dolores, where it made its inaugural public appearance in 1978. I'll be witnessing the first of … [Read more...]

Bleached Whales

Last weekend, American conceptual artist Spencer Tunick photographed around 1,800 naked people lying prostrate on the bleachers at the Viennese soccer stadium that will host the Euro 2008 soccer final on June 29.Tunick's body of work comprises many projects involving large numbers of naked people posing together in unlikely surroundings. One of the artist's latest endeavors took place on a glacier in Switzerland, where 600 people stripped off in temperatures of about 10 Celsius (50 F) last August. His biggest project to date involved 18,000 … [Read more...]

Josh Kornbluth’s New Blog

Somehow inbetween launching a production company, performing his latest monologue Citizen Josh all over the country, planning a new TV/Internet program and starting work on his next solo show, Josh Kornbluth has managed to find the time to revamp his website and join the blogosphere.I don't know how the man does it.Most people know the Bay Area-based performer for his politically-charged solo shows and the Sony Pictures Classics feature Haiku Tunnel which caused a stir at The Sundance Festival in 2001. But beyond all these worthy achievements, … [Read more...]