Monday, December 6, 2010

These Are The Posters In My Film Class

The title nearly says it all.

Since the first day of class in September, I've been pondering the significance is of the only five posters gracing the walls of the classroom which plays host to my film theory class, that over the course of the semester has taken us from Plato to Alberti, Lessing, Kant, Tanizaki, Lacan. One week left of the seminar and we have not watched one frame of film. It plays more like one of my English classes of yore than a film class, which is actually fine as I suppose the goal of the course is for me to carry this theoretical, philosophical knowledge home or into the cinema as may be appropriate-although, I have to say, I see far fewer films in the theater at this time in New York than at any other time in my life; yes, I'm terrified of bedbugs (see case-in-point.In any case, the choice to place posters of these five films on the wall has perplexed me to no end.

The easy and most likely answer is that each probably involves an alumni from the university's film program. Further adding to my sense of unease is the fact that I have not seen any of these films. My mind therefore makes the logical association: I am taking a film class in this room and this is the kind of art I have to aspire too-movies that have played no part in my personal history or burdgeoning creative aesthetic. What am I doing here? What are they teaching me? What kind of artist are they trying to make me?

I shouldn't judge. These could all be incredible films of which I have gone through life completely unaware-I have heard of Punch Drunk Love but have no predispositions thereof-though still none of them would scream "Rent me!" at the video store or "Queue me!" on Netflix. So, if you've seen any of these films, grant me some guidance and clarity of mind as to why these might be showcased so.

Are they worth adding to my queue? If you've seen them all, I'll even let you rank them for me.

Educate me!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marriage & Shakespeare

The following was written as a brief hypothetical Playbill note which would frame Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice through a specific contextual lens-in this case, that of marriage.

The Present-Tense Pact: Marriage at the Time of Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice is a play of pacts. At the crux of the play rests the legally binding agreement between between Antonio and Shylock over the lending and repayment of three thousand ducats over the course of three months. In order to seal this bond, Antonio and Shylock must solicit the presence of a notary and a contract is made. A simple procedure that works similarly today, but The Merchant of Venice is also about pacts of a different kind, pacts that function in far less simplistic manners today than they did in Shakespeare’s. This “pact” I speak of is that of marriage.

Marriage features prominently at the end of many Shakespearian comedies and the courtship that precedes it is ripe for dramatic play. The romantic comedy that ensues from placing one individual in a position of affection towards another who may in turn place his or her affections elsewhere creates the automatic perception of a throughline as courtship stories inevitably ended in marriage. There is rarely another conclusion—even a non-marriage would constitute a strong outcome if not unsatisfying—the play having nurtured the audience towards marriage through the “wooing and winning” involved in the courtship narrative.

The Merchant of Venice is not strictly a comedy, of course, yet highlights the matrimony of several couples. While the play does end on a rather cheerful note celebrating these happy unions, it certainly lacks the pomp and circumstance of some of Shakespeare’s other ceremonious endings. Perhaps this is because for all of Shakespeare’s emphasis on its dramatic weight, marriage was not always so grand an event in his time. In fact, the rules regarding its instigation were not so much delineated during most of the Elizabethan Era. Matrimonial law was a hotly contested issue for both the Church and the state of England from the middle of the 16th century onward. Finally in 1597 and again in 1604, the Church created a set of standard practices in order to combat the overwhelming ambiguity surrounding marriage touching on the wedding service procedure, registration, and licenses.

Nevertheless, the customs of local communities and other accepted practices varied wildly, but the most consistent of these appears to be the spousal contract created through the mutual, verbal conset of two parties to marry. This would have to be done in present tense words, per verba de praesenti—a practice we continue today with the present tense phrase “I do.” Even in the absence of witnesses, unlike Antonio and Shylock’s monetary legal agreement, the union could still be considered both “binding and indissoluble.”

With The Merchant of Venice, written around the same time as the Church’s first canonical revisions regarding marriage vows, Shakespeare may very well have been demonstrating the boundaries and multitudinous traditions of courtship that were taking place across England. Lorenzo and Jessica—the Christian and the Jew—elope happily, while Bassanio and Portia engage in a much more formal process culminating in their marriage too. In the end, for both couples—in spite of differing manners of courtship—their marital bonds are sealed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Three Dark British Plays

These are three of the darkest plays I've ever read. They're also all by British playwrights. They're more than slightly traumatizing, but I was not been able to put any of them down. With the one I did see, Blasted, I had the strange sensation of being moved and wishing the play would end as soon as possible so that I could leave the theatre-back to a safer place. These are not comfortable plays and that's why I think I love them-I see way to much unchallenging theatre. If you have time to read at least one of these, you'll be doing your psyche a favor.

Last year I had the opportunity to see Sarah Kane's Blasted at SoHo Rep upon a pre-move visit to New York. It features one of the most stunning set transformations I have ever witnessed and two incredibly skilled performances. It remains one of the most haunting theatre experiences I've ever had and continues to be a touchstone among theatre artists for groundbreaking theatre in New York.

British teenagers. Yet their conversations are more adult than most I've ever heard. I could listen to them talk all day. Simon Stephens' Punk Rock is crude, funny, and charming's not. The ending had my stomach churning with horror and sickly sweet empathy-or was it pity? I had to crawl under the covers after I finished this one.

Imagine Peter Pan meets Lord of the Flies meets Where the Wild Things Are and you'd have done a halfway decent job of describing Polly Stenham's Tusk Tusk. What if the Darlings had never come home for their children that night in Peter Pan? What if Peter had never taken the children to Neverland? This is a story of true abandonment, loss and self-preservation.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who showed up for the book release party Wednesday night for Smart Pop Books' Inside Joss' Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum. It was a great turnout and the staff at Vig 27 was so accommodating. I met a lot of new Whedon fans in the city which I was really hoping to get the chance to do! Let's not wait until the next Whedon-related title comes out to get together again!

Pictures from the event are now up on Flickr! A few are below.

If you didn't make it to the event and still want to purchase a copy of the book, click hereor on the link to the right side of the blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Disney Epic Mickey: Interview with Warren Spector

The level of sophistication, creativity and innovation that is being demonstrated with this game prior to its release is really phenomenal. I really hope Disney puts out a "Making of..." book for this title. If there were ever a more compelling reason to get a Wii, I don't know it.

Here's an interview with renowned game designer, Warren Spector who led the Disney Epic Mickey panel at New York Comic Con this past weekend:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Inside Joss' Dollhouse Book Release Party

In just over two weeks, I will be hosting a release party for the first book to be published on Joss Whedon's latest television series, Dollhouse, in New York City!

Inside Joss' Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum is an anthology of 18 reflective and critical essays from Smart Pop Books and edited by Jane Espenson (@JaneEspenson), who has written for all of Whedon's shows as well as for Battlestar Galactica and Caprica.

On April 1st I found out that an essay I had written about the character of Claire Saunders in Dollhouse had been accepted into the book as a chapter. Yes, it was on April Fool's Day, but the publisher assured me that it was no joke and now I have the book in hand to prove it! My chapter is called "'I Like My Scars': Claire Saunders and the Narrative of Flesh" and speaks to the way in which Claire's identity is shaped and ultimately redeemed by the physical scars she endures within the television show. It sits amongst some really insightful works including one by Susan Quilty (@SusanQuilty) that uses the concept of negative space to trace the relationship between Caroline and Echo and Tami Anderson's (@witnessaria) chapter about various roles in the Dollhouse and how they fit into a larger, real-world context.

Event Details
The event will be held at Vig 27 at 119 East 27th Street (between Park Ave S & Lexington) in New York on Wednesday, October 13th between 7-10PM. Join us for free giveaways and a chance to socialize with other pop culture and Whedon enthusiasts. A limited quantity of books will be for sale (with cash) at the event. Event entry is FREE. Tweeting about the event? Use #SmartPopDollhouse. RSVP here.

Book Description
In only two short seasons Dollhouse captured the imaginations and of audiences all over the world, rewarding viewer loyalty with mind-blowing plot twists and an extended meditation on the forces that guide our actions and make us who we are.

Inside Joss' Dollhouse covers Dollhouse from anticipated start to explosive finish-from the complexities of identity to the triumph of the human spirit.

Smart Pop Books
Smart Pop is a line of smart, fresh, funny essays on the best of pop culture tv, books, and film, with a particular focus on science fiction and fantasy television and literature.

Our writers are New York Times bestselling authors, television writers, psychologists, philosophers...anyone with a love of pop culture and something worth sharing about it.

I hope you'll join us to celebrate!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On Resident Evil

Earlier this afternoon, the ladies over at Zaxy tweeted a link to their blog post which debates the authenticity of the Resident Evil films. Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth film in the eight year old film franchise came to screens everywhere yesterday. The first film premiered in 2002, but the game on which it is based came out almost 15 years ago. I have not played the games, but I can comprehend the feeling one might get when playing them-the mystery, the puzzles, the extensive world-building, the slow-mounting tension. In the years since I saw the first film-a couple years later when it came to DVD-I have developed a great appreciation for these films.

The films, for me are the definition of a phrase I actually hate to use but here it applies, "popcorn entertainment." They first come across as disposable, but there is a certain fondness I have found as a result of the feeling I get that the creators have really embraced their roles in creating this world. Incidentally, Afterlife is the first film after Avatar to use the exact same 3D camera as developed by James Cameron. Regardless of your thoughts on Avatar, its implementation of this new technology was pretty radical and for Paul W.S. Anderson to craft a film with this specifically in mind is admirable rather than going the easy route of post-production 3D which so many genre films have done recently-to less than stellar results.

Last year, during Afterlife's production, I began following Milla Jovovich on Twitter (@MillaJovovich) and I enjoyed experiencing her excitement with every cast announcement, completed stunt, set description and cast and crew interaction. Anyone reading her tweets and seeing her in interviews about Resident Evil, can tell that she loves doing these films. Would she invest 8+ years of her life between raising a kid if she didn't? It soon became clear to me that there is a great passion that come to work on these films possess that later comes through clearly in the films.

Certainly, in different hands, the franchise might be a little more nuanced, but three movies in, I'm all for the fun, spectacle and a little story, which is more than I can say about a lot of sci-fi/fantasy action movies these days.

I'm looking forward to the Afterlife.

So, if you've seen the movies and/or if you've played the games, head on over to Zaxy's post and tell them what you think!

You can follow Zaxy on Twitter at @Zaxydotcom and me at @eincline.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Scottsboro Boys does Injustice to Injustice

The dainty brass tune that floats down from the orchestra platform at the upper left of the auditorium of the Vineyard Theatre seems particularly subdued for this highly anticipated musical from the songwriting duo John Kander and Fred Ebb. When an unnamed woman—who will remain so for the great majority of the one hour and 45 minute production, should you happen to ceaselessly wonder as I did—walks out on stage to a pile of chairs in a pool of mottled blue and yellow lights and sits at the side of a road the audience’s anticipation is not quelled. As she waits there with the sound of buzzing traffic, we anxiously wait with her. Where is the “flash”? The high kicks?

After a few long moments, the performers stream in from the aisles with a surfeit of energy. Grinning and spinning their way to the stage, the room is transformed into a carnivalesque music hall. From behind the footlights steps our requisite master of ceremonies, the only white performer, John Cullum, who is also granted the duty of playing two other administrative positions, a Judge and the Governor of Alabama. The performers swing and stack simple silver chairs to represent a courtroom while boldly proclaiming, “everyone’s a minstrel tonight.” And for this first colorful, physically demanding first number, we believe them.

Reality sets in when the banner announcing the play’s title falls away and a series of ominous drum beats rupture the overwhelming cheer. Those drum beats, which echo throughout the show, also serve as early evidence of the production’s difficult task of staging a musical based on the repeated trials of nine black men accused of raping two white women. History has all but proven their innocence, but it is not the kind of story one would immediately propose as the subject for a song and dance spectacle. I suspect this is why the tone and choreography of the show are so uneven responsibility for which falls on Director and Choreographer, Susan Stroman (“The Producers”).

Stroman’s challenge here lies in making injustice entertaining—and not just any injustice. The trials depicted here are based on one of the most high profile cases in the history of American racism. Unlike Kander and Ebb’s “Chicago” from which this book and production borrow heavily, “Scottsboro” portrays a justice system just as ridiculous but lacking in the theatrical humor associated with courtroom manipulation. Following the rousing minstrel chorus, when the lights come up on the modernist set, I already miss the flash and the kicks. The second number is strangely static, which is ironic, now that the chairs have been arranged as a traveling boxcar.

Even when the show makes a rare return to the kind of big-band, Fosse-inspired style of the opener, the atmosphere is never so lighthearted and hopeful, lacking in vivacity and hindered by a bleak outlook for the story’s characters. When the youngest member of the accused has a freakish nightmare about the electric chair, the accompanying tap dance is appropriately frenetic, bizarre and sinister. This sequence, by the way, has more than enough flash with incessant strobe effects and a sparking chair; “What a fabulous way to die” indeed. “Electric Chair” spends a lot of time and energy on a particularly horrific notion. The number certainly serves the narrative at this point, but goes on just long enough for the audience to question its enjoyment of it.

Still, it’s one of the few moments in the production that sticks out for its spectacle if not innovation. The story gets buried under too-slick staging, repetitive action and a whole mess of derivation. Brandon Victor Dixon’s character, Haywood Patterson has one number which might as well be “Mr. Cellophane” from “Chicago” stuck in the score as a placeholder. In a number more than reminiscent of Billy Flynn’s “Razzle Dazzle”, Forrest McClendon as Samuel Leibowitz sings “Financial Advice”. I suspect they even recycled the confetti. That “Scottsboro” is another Kander and Ebb musical does not excuse this sloppy, unoriginal writing.

What’s even sadder is that “Scottsboro” has an extremely talented cast. Dixon belts a “honeysuckle-sweet” ballad from his prison cell and the ensemble dances are clean and precise. There is a sense, though, that Stroman is doing this all by the book. Much of the problem lies in the subject matter, which does not befit a musical adaptation. While the repeated trials are part of the story, by the seventh, we’re ready for the gavel to fall for the last time. I suppose the prisoners grew tired of waiting too, but there’s not enough here to keep us interested. When the performers dressed as interlocutors come out in blackface and announce the finale, the cumulative effect is disingenuous. At least I knew it would be over soon.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Inside Joss' Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum

The book I've contributed to is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This is a Bloody Review

The Public Theater’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson comes complete with an audience proviso—and it’s not just that the performance contains fog and strobe effects. “You have to bring some ass to get some ass,” declares Benjamin Walker (Les Liaisons Dangereuses) as President-to-be, Andrew Jackson. “I’m going to put it in you,” he continues. Whether “it” refers to a fast and flashy depiction of history, a rollicking alt-rock score or an intelligent yet ironic sense of humor is ultimately irrelevant. Whatever “it” is, we take it.

Bloody Bloody is one of the most immersive theatrical experiences I’ve had this year and it doesn’t even require audience participation—except for bringing your ass into the theatre—but that it’s hard not to want to participate in the frenzied, pop-infused storytelling. At the launch of the show, the always-appreciated nerdy-girl-in-wheelchair, glasses and thrift store knitwear serves as its narrator. That is, until Jackson shoots her in the neck. Goodbye, framed narrative. Hello, blood. Jackson states, “I think I can take it from here.”

We don’t miss the narrator—though she is played with a tremendous comic awareness by Colleen Werthmann (Gone Missing). Walker and his talented entourage manage to tell the story with color, flair and style on their own. Even while on his knees—representing his childhood—as he witnesses the deaths of his family members by way of Indians’ arrows, Walker commands the stage. Following this tragedy, Jackson becomes a kind of juice box wielding Fess Parker in a coonskin cap as he tries to navigate the wild frontier in the “era of whoop-assing.” As far as history lessons go, Bloody Bloody is incredibly detailed, surprisingly relevant and excitingly modern. As the production unfolds, Bloody Bloody proves itself to be extremely smart political satire in its portrayal of the blood-smeared rocker Jackson and his pursuit of a “brand of maverick egalitarian democracy.” Hip, radical and sexually charged, Bloody Bloody’s brand of politics isn’t just “populism”, it’s, as per the song, “popujizm”.

Adding to the appeal of Jackson’s exploration of populism and his rise to presidency is the visually riveting emo-fantasy world in which the events of his life are played out on stage. The set is an Urban Outfitters accessory whore’s dream. Hipster regalia dazzle and intrigue the eye in every direction. The hazy, rouge-tinted room is accented with chandeliers, framed portraits, plastic-wrapped animal heads, Christmas lights, chandeliers, candles, and the must-have-hipster-accessory, duct tape. With every scene change and music number comes a new discovery; the set is in a constant state of flux with surprising lighting choices and clever design. The overall effect of Bloody Bloody’s staging is eclectic and energetic. This is a rockstar’s paradise—a nexus of cultural appropriation and entrancing social defiance.

The fact that Bloody Bloody relies so much on poaching elements of popular culture is not a hindrance to the historical narrative. Instead, these pieces act as relatable signposts and shorthand for human behavior. Notably, Bloody Bloody contains perhaps the best use of the music of Cher in a dramatic narrative form. It’s a glimpse into an alt-glam pastiche world that works particularly well in its combination of stage spectacle and over-the-top melodrama. There a good number of original, well-crafted, often hilarious songs too accompanied by tight and amusing choreography—when was the last time you saw a dance number with muskets or a good ol’ fashioned bar brawl with barrels? Overall the production’s aesthetic synthesis of modern and 19th century is clear, appropriate to the story and absolutely entertaining. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson proves you can have your history and fuck it too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Wooster Group's Atlantic Antics

Walking into the performance space at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, one feels like he is entering the cavernous belly of an aircraft carrier, the setting of The Wooster Group’s NAVY-themed musical, North Atlantic, now playing through April 25th. The multi-leveled industrial construction of the set with its catwalks, chrome ladders and giant sloped platform—like the curved inner hull of a ship—serves as the perfect backdrop for the boisterous display of wit, surprising musical numbers and provocative action.

Minutes into the show, I realized the production intended to stimulate the audience on multiple, simultaneous levels. In the beginning of the play, Captain Chizzum, played by the handsome and brawny, Ari Fliakos, speaks to the audience at a rapid pace like an auctioneer or used car salesman. At one point he tells General Benders, “not so fast with the hot sauce” as if channeling the audience’s reaction to his hurried speech. Like dealing with auctioneers and salesmen, you may not know what you’re being sold until you’ve bought. It is ironic that though the play centers on the exploits—read sexploits—of a group of word processing girls, including Frances McDormand as Sergeant Bryzynsky, the audience cannot always process the words said on stage. Chizzum’s opening performance is just the first indication as to the production’s proclivity to overwhelm the senses .

If Chizzum sounds a lot like “jizm,” it’s likely not a coincidence, which should be a clue as to the age appropriateness of this show. Several music numbers are adult takes on folk songs and other classic selections of aural Americana that tend to spring out of the performers with such spontaneity. So, don't take the kids. I suspect you don't want your child singing a sexually explicit version of "Yankee Doodle" while making suggestive hand-to-microphone gestures.

The production is scored not only by music but also by mechanical sounds, overlapping dialogue, jet engines and other blaring soundscapes creating a cacophonous chorus. The accompanying choreography also subverts typical notions of the musical. While much of it is folksy like the music, it and other movement is restrained both in physicality and through the limits imposed by the set. Though impressive in scale, the multi-angled set is not conducive to dance so much as continuous relocation along an X-Y axis particularly along the sloped back platform along which the actors stand, slide and climb throughout.

Over the course of the 90-minute performance, notions of isolation, individuality and life outside the armed forces rise above the sensory overload prompting the question: how does the NAVY disrupt one’s personal narrative? And on the contrary, how might it contribute to one’s own history? As for the show’s narrative, these existential queries may be as close as Atlantic gets to possessing a story. What Atlantic lacks in story, however, it makes up for with a talented cast, inventive staging and more than a few cleverly placed double entendres.

Even though the theatre is located on the third floor of a quiet New York City block, Atlantic takes its audience on a raucous ride with the U.S. military through the open seas on a big, burly boat. Civilians, welcome aboard.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Memory Making with "Moon"

“Ages of the Moon” now playing at the Atlantic Theater Company's Linda Gross Theater will inevitably be compared to the work of another modern Samuel—that of the Beckett variety—and while the play does lean precariously toward an over-awareness of Beckett’s work, particularly “Waiting for Godot”, Sam Shepard’s latest play avoids a potential miasma of derivation. If “Godot’s” primary concern is the anticipation of an entity that never actually appears, “Moon” is about waiting for an event that is a cosmic certainty. That the pending eclipse is, in fact, pending, grounds the play and its two characters Ames (Stephen Rea) and Byron (Sean McGinley) in a greater sense of reality and immediacy. As a result, “Moon” never reaches the level of Beckett’s extreme existential exchanges and the two friends are able to focus on not what might come to pass, but rather what was.

Byron has invited Ames to his porch for the purpose of drinking Woodford Bourbon Whiskey and waiting for the aforementioned lunar eclipse. It will be many hours before the celestial event is to occur—Ames arrives in the morning and according to Byron’s almanac, the eclipse will be at 5:00AM. Audiences may thank Shepard and Irish director Jimmy Fay that the eclipse arrives in a swift, but full, 75 minutes. Meanwhile, Ames and Byron synchronously swill bourbon and attempt to make conversation. Reminiscing—if not remembering—should come easy for these decades-old friends, but this proves as difficult to do as getting the porch ceiling fan to function properly with any amount of consistency.

“Why do you keep trying to insinuate yourself in my past?” Ames accuses Byron whose later line, “I remember, I remember” seems to echo major themes of the play: the insistence of memory and the prevailing need to assure one’s presence in the world and within history. “What age do you think we’re living in?” Byron asks Ames who uses the literal ages of the moon as written in the almanac to try and prove the rarity of this event and perhaps by extension, the rarity of their friendship.

As with any friendship, however, tempers do erupt. In one scene, as tension mounts, the fan speeds up, whirring violently above their heads. When their feisty natures are expressed in fists, the ensuing fight is difficult to take seriously—but maybe we are not supposed to given the vaudevillian, absurdist qualities of their characters.

After sparks fly—and they do, literally—Ames and Byron settle down for the eclipse. Their speech begins to mirror one another’s and they begin to remember their pasts as one. As they watch the eclipse they begin to build a new memory together. Seeing “Moon,” is not a bad way to make one too.

"Moon" has been extended through March 21st!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Two weeks ago, my friend Kj and I, among many other popular culture enthusiasts, descended upon the Hyatt Regency in Albuquerque New Mexico for four days of academic investigations of film, television, literature, technology, music, and more. This was the annual conference of the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association. Presenters included graduate, PhD students, professors, and authors as well as some undergraduates and independent scholars.

The conference conference more than lived up to the expectations we had coming into the event for a second time. It's hard to imagine a better way to spend a week than holing up in a hotel with one of your best friends, listening to 50 some papers, drinking lots of coffee and smoothies, attending screenings of some of the best episodes of your favorite television shows, and visiting three restaurants on rotation. In the few hours we had outside of the conference, we filled our time with mozzarella sticks, episodes of Angel and an afternoon double-feature at the local cineplex. So much joy. My heart ached when the week came to an end.

Here are the panels I attended-most of which coincided with my conference companion. Following the panel title is my choice for the standout paper of said panel.

Science Fiction & Fantasy 19: Battlestar Galactica and Narrative
Standout Paper: Your So-Called Dance: Combative Narrative in Battlestar Galactica
Paul Zinder, The American University of Rome

Myth & Fairy Tale 2
Standout Paper: Once Upon a Not so Unique Time: Reconciling Individualism and Literary Borrowing in Oscar Wilde's "The Nightingale and the Rose"
Ashley Benson, University of New Hampshire

Science Fiction & Fantasy 3: Whedon, Sexuality and Gender
Standout Paper: Anya's "Disturbing Sex Talk": Breaking the Pattern of Punished Female Sexuality in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Tamy Burnett, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Science Fiction & Fantasy 5: Sex and Violence in Twilight
Standout Paper: "Why Are You Apologizing for Bleeding?": Confronting the Evangelical Embrace of Twilight
Kj Swanson, Mars Hill Graduate School

Religion 3: Conservative Christianity and Culture
Standout Paper: Sacred and Sexular: Ann Veal in Arrested Development
Brandon Barnes, Texas A&M University

Computer Culture 7: Game Studies 7
Standout Paper: Beyond the Button: The Nintendo Wiimote Interface and its Implications for Embodiment, Performance, and Play
David O' Grady, University of California, Los Angeles

Science Fiction & Fantasy 8: The Dangers of Twilight
Standout Paper: Un-Biting the Apple and Killing the Womb: Genesis, Gender and Gynocide in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga
Colleen Orihill, Cleveland State University

Science Fiction & Fantasy 9: Whedon and Genre
Standout Paper: Firefly: Between the Noir Frontier and the Final Frontier
E. Charlotte Stevens, York University and Ryerson University

American History & Culture: Rethinking Suburban Sense of Self: Identity and Memory in the Suburbs
Standout Paper: Everything’s Bigger in Texas: Mega-Religion in Lone Star Suburbia
Charity R. Carney, Stephen F. Austin State University

Computer Culture 11: Game Studies 11
Standout Paper: Hyper-Ludicity, Contra-Ludicity and the BFG
Steven Conway, University of Bedfordshire

Science Fiction & Fantasy 12: Whedon, Technology and Ethics
Standout Paper: There's an Echo in this Horrible Dollhouse, Doctor: Memory, Identity and Neurotechnology in Riley, River, Gunn, Echo, and, of course, Spike
J. Douglas Rabb and J. Michael Richardson, Lakehead University

Horror (Literary & Cinemantic): Affective and Imaginary Machines of Horror
Standout Paper: Manufacturing Images: Allegories of the Factory in Tomb Raider
Craig Bernardini, Hostos Community College

Science Fiction & Fantasy 14: Whedon's Re-Visioning
Standout Paper: "Look Where Free Will Has Gotten You": Brave New World and Angel's Body Jasmine
Mary Ellen Iatropoulos, State University of New York, New Paltz

Computer Culture 14: Ethnography, Writing, Second Life, and Film
Standout Paper: The Sex Life in your Second Life: An Ethnological Study of Women as Sexual Objects on Second Life
Alexis Waters, Northeastern Illinois University

Science Fiction & Fantasy: Whedon & the Body
On this panel, I had the privilege of presenting my paper: “I Like My Scars”: Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and the Narrative of Flesh
Standout Paper: Postmodern Anxiety: Androids and Cyborgs in the Whedonverse
Susan J. Wolfe and Lee Ann Roripaugh, University of South Dakota

Computer Culture 16: Theorizing Internet Forms
Standout Paper: “Wizards and Witchcraft in the Wired World”: Magical Thinking in Popular Culture
Nicholas Goodman, Northeastern State University

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Collaboration 1

The first public performance of my work as a dramaturg is this Monday at 2pm at the Schapiro Theatre in Morningside Heights. This will conclude the first of three rounds of collaboration groups involving a different theme and different creative team for each production. The theme for this round is "Adaptation." If you're clever you may be able to guess what "text" we are adapting with Green Eyes & Shiny Teeth. Or you can ask me, in which case I'll probably tell you and then tell you that you cannot tell anybody else.

Dream of the unattainable. -Peter

Green Eyes & Shiny Teeth is one of six original short plays that will be making their debut during an afternoon repertoire near the Columbia University campus at 115th & Broadway on Monday from 2-5pm. Our play is first on the agenda, if you are able to make it to the area, even for that first 20 minutes-not to take away from the other great talent that is being represented across the rest of the performances. Your presence would be immensely appreciated by all involved. For more details on the event and a full listing of the other plays, go here. We also are accepting well wishes from those who cannot be there.

Stay tuned for an official announcement of Collaboration 2. If you like, you can mark your calendars for March 29th, same time, same place. Rehearsals for those shows begin this week!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"A Single Man?! Are you single?"

Somehow I knew that going out into downtown Albuquerque-having a full eight hours to kill before Kj arrived-something would happen. Not necessarily something bad per se, but there was a sensation brewing within me that I would have an experience. Not 30 minutes after checking into my hotel, dropping my bags, and sitting down in the local movie theatre to catch a 5:05 screening of A Single Man, I had that experience. Of course, it was a never-before-had experience in a movie theatre.

I was really looking forward to seeing A Single Man. By myself. A single man. Or at least a singular man. Is that irony? I sat down in my preferred row-the one with the railing that you can sit your feet on. I was the only one there until about ten minutes before the movie when an elderly couple sat down in the back.

Five minutes into the movie, an African American woman came in to the theatre. Now that I think of it, I think she came in multiple times-checking things out? Then the moment came when she fully entered the space and says to me me at room volume: "Don't tell me you're here all by yourself!"

"Y-yes," I said.

"A Single Man?! Single?! Are you single?"

"Heh...I'm killing time."

She rushes over to me. She sits down. RIght next to me. In an empty movie theatre. Did something I say sound like an invitation? Hardly. She was committed.

There is rustling. Intense rustling-going on as she situates herself in her seat.

"What happened? Is it good?"

Oh my lord. No. I should have taken a clue and moved right then. But, how? I whisper, "This is a day in his life. His partner just died. It's set in..."

Again, at full volume, "He's GAY?!"

She cuts me off as I say, " 1962."

"They were GAY then?!"

"Where's my candy bag?.." She pulls out a plastic bag, unwrapping what I assume is the remnants of a Hershey's bar due to the unmistakable aroma of wax and sweaty chocolate.

I am frozen. I continue to debate with myself whether I should move. Through the movie I press (read slam) my body further into the armrest opposite her, legs curling up against the other chair.

Colin Firth's character looks at a woman. Close up on her large eyes, soft lips. Cue violins.

"Is he not gay anymore?!" she asks.


Firth speaks in a lecture hall (I paraphrase): "Let's leave the jews aside for a moment. There are other minorities that are perceived a threat to people-either real or imagined..."

"Black people!" she exclaims in a harsh whisper.

"Please. Please, I'm trying to watch," is my cry. In the darkness. She acknowledges this only by looking at me and placing another piece of chocolate in her mouth.

Her commentary continues. I am fleeing. But only inside. I can't bring myself to escape.

Every few minutes: "What's a puff?" "What's tonic?" "Is he bisexual?" "Is that the Mashed Potato dance?" Additionally, any time there was sexual tension-which Tom Ford handled like a seasoned film master, incidentally-or skin on the screen, she would gasp, or giggle, or cackle. Or all three in some unholy trinity of inappropriate reaction. At one point towards the third quarter of the film, it sounded like she was chewing her teeth.

I kept asking her to be quiet. This never worked. I began to believe she was incapable of not commenting during movies. Actually, I imagined she did this in everyday life. It was easier to accept that she did this all the time in conversation with people-or by herself-than to think she would somehow not be aware of the impropriety of talking to one's self or others during a film.

I can't help but wonder whether this was a fated encounter. Whose cosmic choice mattered more? Me seeing the movie or her choosing to come in five minutes late and approach me? A Single Man-which I had wanted to see-was felicitously the only movie playing at the time. At a time that I wanted to go to a movie. That was it. It was that moment; it was then she chose. And I was there. I was the chosen.

A Single Man-as a film, not the experience-was extraordinary. I was misty-eyed minutes into the movie but what gave me that immediate reaction in the beginning transformed into something deeper, more subtle, electric, and nostalgic. Yes, it was emotional and the filmmaking beautiful, but it is so purposeful, so personal. It pulls you, stretches you, and surprises you-not by shock, but by its play with sensuality and proximity if not intimacy.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Theatre Viewings 2009

This list includes theatrical productions I saw between my arrival in New York City in August until the end of the year.

Time Period: August 17-December 31, 2009

Stand Out Production: Circle. Mirror. Transformation. by Annie Baker, Playwrights Horizons

Stand Out Playwright: Clay McLeod Chapman for The Pumpkin Pie Show: Commencement, Under St. Marks

Longest Play: The Brother/Sister Plays (three parts, over seven hours), The Public Theater

Best Staging of a Classic Work: Our Town, Barrow Street Theatre

Best Set: The Royal Family, Manhattan Theatre Club

Best Musical: Finian’s Rainbow

Best Comedy: The Understudy

Furthest Away: Duchess in the Dark, Flux Factory, Queens

Play That Left Me with the Most Creative Question Marks: Orpheus X

Theatre 2009
NYMF indicates production was part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival

Gesamtkunstwerk 2009
Gay Bride of Frankenstein (NYMF)
Circle. Mirror. Transformation.
Whatever Man (NYMF)
The Royal Family
The Cure (NYMF)
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Our Town
After Miss Julie
The Pumpkin Pie Show: Commencement
Duchess in the Dark
Finian's Rainbow
The Understudy
The Brother/Sister Plays
Carly Jibson is Not a Bitch...Not Yet a Woman
The Private Life of Inga Snyder
For Artists Only
Orpheus X

Film Viewings 2009

Today marks one of the first days of this year that I have felt like I can breathe. Naturally, this is a welcome sensation.

Despite this week having included literal blood, sweat and tears, I’ve come out of it feeling like I’ve been affirmed on many levels. Thankfully sweat was the only one of these I experienced—a woman’s fall in a rehearsal and a breakdown in a colleague’s creative partnership respectively fulfilled the other components of the adage. Making theatre is not always pretty. Especially when there is wounding involved—physical or otherwise.

But, this semester the feeling that this program is helping me achieve my personal and career goals has increased dramatically. Being involved in the creation of actual theatrical productions, working on “real world” artistic projects and exercises, a one-act play and giant casebook under my belt, the opportunity to speak at a conference and the support of my professors in that extra-curricular academia and my professional future have all contributed to a sense of satisfaction and peace. I’ve been given the agency and the room to make things happen and be involved in ways I felt had only been able to peripherally before.

As I gain the connections, skills, and practice to pursue my creative interests on a professional level, I am even more aware of the value in maintaining my personal interests because they truly go hand in hand—and they also keep me sane. Joss Whedon has said, “You can either watch TV or you can make TV.” I understand the spirit of this quote to be that to be an active practitioner of television you cannot be a passive consumer of television. Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t watch TV. On the contrary, it means you must make a choice to actively engage the medium in order to think critically about the creation of the art. The same, I would say, goes for film.

It is partly for this reason that a few years ago, I began to keep a list of every film I see during the course of a year. I also was inspired to adopt it from my friend Kj, for whom the practice has been a long-standing tradition. It has become something of a personal benefit too—to record my viewing habits is to record a little bit of me. I also like lists.

Since my move to New York, I have also started to record every theatrical performance I attend. Stay tuned for that list. For now, take a look at my Film Viewings 2009. You can check out 2008’s list here.

Total Films Watched: 116

Average Per Week: 2.23

Last Film Watched in Seattle:
Girls Will Be Girls

First Film Watched in New York:

Films Watched Twice:
Star Trek
Save Me

Dialogical Film Club Viewings:
He’s Just Not That Into You
Save Me
Hell House

Confessions of a Superhero
For the Bible Tells Me So
Man on Wire
Hell House
Food, Inc.
When Boys Fly
Planet B-Boy
Autism: The Musical
This is It
Ghost of the Abyss

Biggest Wastes of Time:
Eagle Eye
Otto; or, Up with Dead People
Fame (2009)

Top 5 Films of 2009:
Star Trek
(500) Days of Summer
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Viewings 2009
*denotes theatrical viewing

Saturn in Opposition (Saturno Contro)
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer
Soldier's Girl
The Empire Strikes Back
Boy A
Confessions of a Superhero
Superman: Doomsday
For the Bible Tells Me So
Futurama: Bender's Game
Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!
He Likes Guys
Eastern Promises
Were the World Mine*
Slumdog Millionaire*
Planet B-Boy
The Houseboy
City of Ember
Hellbound: Hellraiser II
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Total Recall
Save Me
The Secret Life of Bees
Otto; or, Up with Dead People
Let the Right One In
Man on Wire
Wonder Woman
Eagle Eye
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Les triplettes de Belleville
Logan's Run
The Terminator
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Star Trek (2009)*
Rambo: First Blood
The Fall
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Terminator Salvation*
Dead Snow*
Ching Yan (The Beast Stalker)*
When Boys Fly
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Patrik Age 1.5*
(500) Days of Summer*
Cold Souls*
He's Just Not That Into You
The Reader
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen*
Tropic Thunder
Confessions of a Shopaholic
Rachel Getting Married
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince*
Save Me
Star Trek (2009)*
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
District 9*
Girls Will Be Girls
Hercules (1997)
Coco avant Chanel*
Daredevil: The Director's Cut
Whip It*
Resident Evil: Degeneration
Synecdoche, New York
Autism: The Musical
New York, I Love You*
Bridget Jones's Diary
Legend (Theatrical Version)
8 1/2
Pieces of April
Legend (Director's Cut)
Hell House
Dangerous Liaisons
American Psycho
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire*
Gods and Monsters
Wall Street
Death Becomes Her
Aliens (Special Edition)
Eyes Wide Shut
Food, Inc.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Proposal
Jennifer's Body
Fame (2009)
This Is It
New Moon
Ghosts of the Abyss

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Right Now

I would be doing this if I could.