John Rockwell: March 2009 Archives

I've been remiss with this blog, and since I depart tomorrow morning for a 25-day trip to Europe, Ohio and Seattle, I'm going to keep on being remiss for the next month or so. Then, I promise, I'll be good. Or at least better.

Part of the problem is that I have reconfigured my days to carve out three-plus hours in the mornings to work on longer-range projects, like books. In particular my long abrooding tome on "The Magic Flute." Any year now, on that one, especially if a possible book on Robert Wilson materializes, but in the meantime I'm plugging away. That leaves the afternoon for errands and puttering on the Internet, and I go out most nights to films and performances.

Another problem, though, especially last December, was a run of performances that just weren't that wonderful. It's hard to muster up the fervor to write thoughtfully about events that simply haven't excited you much, positively or negatively.

The second half of December was devoted to a trip to the American Southeast, and I did blog about that, followed by holiday festivities. But when I look at the first half of the month, what do I see? The following is a list, leaving out a couple of items that aren't even worth summarizing.

Doug Elkins's charming "Fraulein Maria" at Joe's Pub, a happily campy take on "The Sound of Music," is enjoyed by young and old alike. But it's been around for a while, appealing to the "Hard Nut" crowd, and seems hardly worth extended comment by me now. In late March.

"Black Watch" at the St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn was at the end of its much-admired run; I found it stagey. Stephen Sondheim's "Road Show" at tke Public, yet another reworking of his much-reworked exploration of the Mizner brothers during the Florida land boom of the 20's, was really very good; Sondheim is a genius, after all. Michael Cerveris was fabulous, as usual. Put it on Broadway, already.

I found the revival of Martha Clarke's "Garden of Earthly Delights" at the Minetta Lane Theater disappointing. All that fake nudity in flesh-colored unitards: from the second row, the seams looked wrinkly. James Turrell's night-time exterior lighting for the Franklin Conservancy, a Victorian-style botanical palace in Columbus, Ohio, seen on a visit to watch our dancing daughter dance at college, is lurid and seductive. Of course, I'm a Turrell sucker: witness a skyspace I saw in a private home in Los Angeles in November, or his magical framed artificial-light piece in the Guggenheim's how-Asia-influenced-American-art show.

What else in December? Pina Bausch's Indian piece at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was the best of hers I've seen in years; funny how India inspires European artists, like Bartabas and his Zingaro equestrian circus or Ariane Mnouchkine. And Kevin Rafferty's "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29," a feature-length documentary film combining game footage from 1968 with interviews with some of the men who played on both sides (like Tommyk Lee Jones, Al Gore's roommate, for Harvard, and George W. Bush's Yale roommate).

Don't quite know how appealing this film would be for anyone who didn't go to Harvard or see the game, in which Harvard rallied improbably and spectacularly in the last two minutes to tie a game the undefeated, heavily favored Yale team had seemingly salted away. (Yale was led by Brian Dowling at quarterback, a campus god who was the inspiration for Gary Trudeau's BD character in Doonesbury, which got its start while Trudeau was at Yale back then.) At least when the dust settled Yale still had an undefeated season, even if they were agonizingly despondent and the Harvard team and fans were jubliant. The film -- the title was the Harvard Crimson's witty headline the next day -- did have quite a run here at the Film Forum, which either means the public liked it or that there are a lot of Harvard grads in New York. Or both.

As an up-to-the-minute footnote, please check in at and look at his latest video, from 2008. It shows him doing his quirky, jerky dance at exotic spots all over the world, this time joined by more and more natives, all exuberantly imitating and extending his moves. You want joy? Here it is.

March 26, 2009 6:19 PM |
Not sure this title is English, or even American, but wot the hell. Here is the second of my two postings today to ARTicles, this one musing on parallels between the traditional British career pattern for arts journalists and the situation that newly disenfranchised arts writers in America now find themselves.
March 19, 2009 7:03 PM |

It's been a long while. I've reorganized my work day, hoping to accomplish longer-range projects, and that's squeezed time for this blog. But I do hope to make some catch-up filings before I decamp for Europe late next week.

In the meantime, here is the first of two postings today to ARTicles, the blog of the National Arts Journalism Promgram, which I've also been neglecting. This one muses on the quaint snobbery of a Columbia University spokesperson about popular culture.

March 19, 2009 6:57 PM |


About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by John Rockwell in March 2009.

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