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