dimanche 29 mars 2009

Cries and whispers: Just about dead, a play

The stage image - startling: Agnes, covering herself in blue paint, and imprinting her blue body on a canvas, imitating Klein's happening in the 60's, but with an altogether different meaning.

A dying woman, spreading her pain on a canvas . A monster of an actress, spilling her guts on stage. The music, ear-throbbing, ripping, tearing the theatre apart. And then, calm. Crisis over. For a while. And then, it's even worse. The pain cannot sore higher than that, so it stops. Definitely.

Ivo Van Hove, a dutch director, chose Bergman's script Cries and whispers as material for his play. His take on Agnes's death was horrifying and heart wrenching. Just as un-watchable as the death of Agnes in Bergman's film, but different. Where Bergman's Agnes dies as modestly as possible within the circumstances - her guttural breathing is loud and insistent, but we feel like she would do anything to make it softer if she could - Ivo Van Hove's Agnes blows out in her final moments, in a tempest of body matter and energy.
In both cases, the battle between death and woman is shown with great candor and honesty, confronting the audience with the truth and the nastiness of the final moment, that last futile and necessary fight for life.

I was disappointed that Van Hove abided - for the most part - strictly to Bergman's script. It was only in those moments where Van Hove detached himself from the orthodoxy of Bergman storytelling that the stage images jumped out and reached me deeply. Fortunately, those moments were spectacular and intense, and worth all the other, less satisfying ones.

And the acting, incredible. Those women, all of them, just... beautiful. And cruel, and distant and fucked up.

I didn't feel so steady when it was time to leave. I had to wait a bit, gather myself up. Pick up the pieces. It had been a long time since I had been touched so viscerally by a performance. I'm glad there's still that kind of theatre out there and I'm glad I witnessed it.

The review in Libération: http://www.liberation.fr/theatre/0101558630-cris-et-enchantement

My review on http://www.lestroiscoups.com/ in a few days...

vendredi 27 mars 2009

While walking

Accentuated sense of estrangement as I struggle to truly write what I feel. Only time when thoughts are clear : while walking. But no pen or paper in mid-air, so the thoughts dissolve as the heeled foot hits the pavement with a tap.

Article in the New Yorker about a great writer who died because he tried too hard to write exactly what he felt - David Foster Wallace, the contemporary struggling scribe who ends up hanged in his garage with an unfinished manuscript on the table for his now-widowed wife to read. The suicide of a depressed man who thought salvation resided in writing fiction. It didn't work out but then, he attempted to write a book solely focused on boredom. There's no harder theme than that, I don't think.

Would be better if I could not identify with his story and his fate. Not saying that I'm adept at hanging but, you know. It's not about the death, more about the struggle. He didn't succeed in his endeavour. Everyone might have said he was great and meant it. If he didn't believe himself, the hype really didn't matter.

The wind last night was steady and slightly strong. Clearing the head and giving that night time its special song. And I thought about a theme for a book. Where a woman can't love because of her fear of dying. And I thought about Wallace and I thought at every tap of the heeled foot - some that stayed, some that faded.

mercredi 25 mars 2009

Teaching beats me

I'm a lousy teacher and one of the girls I tutor in English is a lousy pupil.

The trouble is that I'm supposed to teach her and her little sister "English through games". It sounds fun, but it can be quite a nightmare, because it means coming up with interesting games that make the kids use the language. But, since we're only three players, we can't play big group games like tag, or musical chairs (adapted for language use, of course). And the games must be suited to both girl's ages and interests (the young one is 7, the old one is 10). Other problem: the two girls don't have the same level. The younger one is a total beginner whereas the older one thinks she's bilingual but never actually answers me in English.

Other added problem: the older kid is a stubborn brat when she wants to, and she's allergic to effort. And she lacks curiosity. Or she's too self-conscious to express her curiosity. She's in that in-between age of 10 years old. Pre-teen or whatever. She's a sweet kid, I desperately want to believe she is, but she seeks attention only through negativity. By belittling her sister, by complaining, by refusing to cooperate. Sometimes, when she deigns show enthusiasm, everything is okay. But if you ruffle her feathers, you can say goodbye to "teaching English with games" and opt for "teaching English through tears".

My last session with those two little girls didn't go so well. At some point I stopped being all perky and patient. We were making a paper village, and my aim was to finish the village so that we could then invent a story with paper characters. While making the paper village, I was hoping the girls would learn a bit of vocabulary. How to say "house", "street", even perhaps making sentences. But as much as I want to teach them, if they don't make the effort of talking, it's not going to work. I can talk my way through hell in English (not sure why I would want to do that - is the right expression "talking your way to heaven"?), if they keep on answering in French then they won't learn Shakespeare's language or Mika's language for that matter - that's the singer they listen to these days.

The younger one was at least making the village, even though she wasn't talking that much. But the older one had clearly expressed her lack of interest and was not going to do anything while I was there. So I told the older one to make an effort, otherwise I would stop coming every wednesday. And I actually meant it, it wasn't blackmail. I'm getting paid so that these kids get a bit of English inside them, and I'm totally failing in my job. I'm actually feeling pretty bad about being paid too much for babysitting.
I explained that to her - the fact that I was tired of trying to instill knowledge in her little brain without success (I tried to be diplomatic).
She didn't scream or yell. She tried to counter my arguments b y manipulating my words, but it didn't work so well. I think she knows deep down that she doesn't make an effort. And I think she knows that I wasn't kidding this time when I said I would stop coming. And the odd thing is, I think she doesn't want me to stop coming. They enjoy their time with me, but they're not learning anything! I feel like such a fraud after a session like this one.

I better have a great lesson plan for next week in case both sisters are willing and ready to learn. If the older one is still giving me an attitude, then I'll talk to their mom and see what'll happen next. I can't help still thinking about this. Education is so important, but so bloody difficult! How do you know if you're saying the right things, if you're not scarring the kid for life? How do you know when they're pulling your leg? When they're sad and won't tell you what happened? How do you know what really scares them?

Kids are complicated little creatures. And they don't give a shit how they make us (adults) feel sometimes. That's for the best. We don't want them worrying about us. It's our job to worry about them. Not always such an easy task.

lundi 23 mars 2009


Oh, Lou Reed. Such nice sound. Berlin is a lovely lovely song. That's what I'm listening to right now, and I'm quite content. Good music tends to do that, make me feel just right. And these days, my mood always begs for Lou. Is it the nonchalant voice, the spiky guitar riffs, the simple and quirky lyrics? It's all of that, and then some. ..."And those footsteps they start to fade"... it was Berlin, now it's Going Down.

I still need to find more ideas for the piece I'm going to record on video for this theatre audition (see post "The Blue Cape" for more details).

There's the sea thing, playing around with the Atlantic ocean. But as I said, that's just one idea, and it won't carry the whole piece. I was also thinking of playing around with language... maybe speaking in a gibberish-type frenglish language, and then little by little starting to separate the two languages... or the reverse, maybe speaking French and English separately at first, and as I sink into the Atlantic ocean, both languages merge? But then I would probably re-emerge from the ocean (because, you know, I don't want to die in there) and what language should I speak then?

I'm not sure this whole talking to myself thing is useful. I really need to rehearse it and see what comes up when I'm actually on my feet.

Otherwise, the researchers and university professors are still striking. In a weird twisted way, it's only when professors strike that I feel the urge to work on my dissertation.
But in Grenoble, some strikers organised a ritualised funeral as some of them solemnly gave up their administrative tasks. Here's the link to the video, it's pretty interesting.


dimanche 22 mars 2009

Sea People

I'm a sea person. I know it's stupid to say that, but I am. When people say "I'm a cat person" or "I'm a dog person", it sort of makes me laugh because surely we aren't really cat people or dog people, we're just people who like cats or dogs. Similarly, I like the sea; I'm not a sea-person like half fish/half human or something (that would be a mermaid, actually).

Anyway! Yes. So. I like the sea. I bet you're happy to know that.

Here are some pictures I took at Le Guilvinec in Brittany (Bretagne). I do not know these two people, so I think technically I shouldn't be publishing their portraits. But I'll take the risk. And I do feel like I know them a little bit. I know them for that glimpse of time when their expression caught my eye and the result landed on film (or, more accurately, on a memory card).
Maybe I'll write about them some day. Maybe they will be the basis for some characters.But for now, let's just call them the young and the old fishermen. Or the Sea People, the real ones. Those whose lives depend on that vital, beautiful and dangerous element. Those who are intimate with the sea, enough to call her "Ma belle" every once in a while and to look at her tenderly.

samedi 21 mars 2009

Ugh: a poem

As soon as I have the brilliant idea to start a blog, of course, my internet connexion acts up. Ugh. That's what happens when you live in a small maid's room, and where you depend on a pirate connexion for survival (although I also pay a service that doesn't actually work).

Anyways... feeling like this blog entry isn't going to be particularly uplifting... so... I'll just write a poem. Let's just call it...


Edgy and fidgety and annoyed

Tensed nerves at the ready

To stretch, break and explode.

No reason to be particularly

Frustrated and yet

It's like that.

No reason to want to scream or yell

Except for the bloody internet connexion

That chose to bluntly fail.

But I should breathe and start meditation

So I can live a long healthy life

Instead of thrive on agitation

Encountering nothing but strife.

I will dream up a happier blog entry next time...

jeudi 19 mars 2009

Memories, not messing up and strikes in Paris

Today, there are a few things to talk about.
First of all, my dream. I dreamt I was back in Ireland and saw one of my friends again, and was so happy I climbed to the top of his shoulders and just stayed there, looking at Dublin from his height and touching his curly hair. I was happy.

Maybe that dream emerged from the fact that I miss being in Ireland, and that with St Patrick's day, I'm reminded I could actually go back. But I feel like I can't. It's weird. But the dream maybe also emerged from the fact that I watched this film last night - Before sunset. These two previous one night lovers meet again after 9 years, and walk around Paris, talking. The film is about a lot of things, love and reality and how life can be unforgiving and imperfect. But it is also about a memory - the memory of a perfect time. And refreshing the memory is very painful for both of them, because now they're in reality.
That's a little bit how I feel about the whole going back to Ireland thing. Things have changed, and I'm not sure I'm ready to accept the change. But on the other hand, maybe I shouldn't be so melodramatic about it.

The other thing I wanted to say was that Seattle Rep. got my application, so that means I didn't mess up by putting the wrong documents in the wrong envelopes. Fiou! That's a relief!

And the last thing is that today is National Strike day (grève générale) in Paris and in france in general. So, as a hommage, a few pictures from a previous strike: the Universities and research community (they're still striking).

mercredi 18 mars 2009

Kissy kissy

Tonight, something dawned on me: I had been a very insensitive director last year when I asked two actors to kiss without giving them much time to be prepared (within the context of a scene and as characters, of course - I'm not a bully, just a director). I wasn't terribly insensitive, but it's a good thing that Juliette my co-director, had a bit more sense and actually realized kissing someone, even in make-believe world, isn't the easiest of things.

Now, why did this realization hit me tonight? I just had to kiss a fellow actor for a scene and just realized it was not easy. In fact, we both failed in the kissing and will have to try again next rehearsal.

You live and learn.

The blue cape

This really cool theatre in Pennsylvania (USA), is recruiting apprentices for next season. I am very interested, but I can't audition because I live in Paris, France, and don't have the funds to take my private jet to get to the other side of the Atlantic. Damn distances, and damn not being rich. However, I will actually record a piece on tape so that the people at Touchstone will have no choice but to say : We NEED this woman! She is so bloody brilliant! How could we even think one second not to take her right now!?

Now for ideas.

First idea is to play on my double nationality. Since I'm Franco-American,I am intrinsically weird, never completely satisfied with who I actually am. And this - the fact that I can't attend the audition - kind of heightens my ambivalence. I'm american, but I don't live in the United States, and actually never lived there. That has to be a bit odd. And yet, here in France, I don't feel completely at home either. Maybe that's why I love the sea. That's where I really belong. In the In-between of France and America. I live in the dash of Franco-American. Not a terribly spatious place to live in, bit at least I feel comfortable there!
How to picture that on stage?
I was thinking of getting a big blue sheet with written Atlantic Ocean on it, and playing with it. Dancing around it, taking it on my back as a cape and flying with it, stuff like that. But that idea only goes so far. It will maybe be an aspect of my piece, but not its core.
I still have some thinking to do.
Will keep you posted when inspiration strikes. And it will!

mardi 17 mars 2009

Oh, the cheek of blogging

So. It appears I have decided to start a blog. One more blog in the multitude of blogs that grace the world wide web. Will mine be any different? I highly doubt. No concept, no interesting life (for the moment), no outrageously funny sense of humour. My blog is not really for anyone else to read, but really mainly just for me. I need a place where I can be completely crazy, talk about whatever crosses my mind, and not be afraid of anyone.

So why the hell am I writing on a blog, where everyone can see what I'm saying? Cos I feel like it, dude. Do I have to give any more explanations?

It is contradictory. If I'm writing a blog, I must want people to read it. Maybe. But it's more because the medium allows to post pictures and videos, and do other crazy new-technology stuff like that.
It's also about the discipline of writing, and the need to find my voice. My own private/public voice. Good writers seem to walk on a tight rope, balancing clarity with emotion, personal experience with observation of the big bad world. And they get to be good writers by... guess what... by writing! That's the first step to being good. You actually have to write stuff. Compose! Compose till you drop!

So. This will be my lab. Caution to all readers: work in progress and risk of explosion.