February 9, 2006

Idiot Joy Showland

My old friend Kevin O'Sullivan has pulled together a little micro theater scene here in ChinaTown. I searched and found a PDF:

Wes Walker
Sharon Yablon
Kevin O?Sullivan
Jacqueline Wright
SHORT VIDEO by: Michael Medaglia
473 Gin Ling Way
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 625-7500
Milling about at the Mountain's bar, I was surrounded by actors, theater people, movie folk. (It's a world so unfamiliar to me that I don't even know what terminology to use to refer to them.) My friend Daniel Brodo works in that world. They call it "the business". Daniel said those words to me one day and I asked "What business is that?" Through his double take: "THE business, Dennis." AH-SO. I forgot. In this town, for those who work in the movie industry, there is only one business. Galleries here wait for the day that Hollywood wakes up and realise that they can collect fine art too. Too bad for them (us) that the people in THE business think that only they are creating the ultimate fine art. Whatever happens in Chelsea or in the pages of Art Forum (alas) seems to be for them, beside the point. They could be right.

(But I'm not betting on it.)

Fly on the wall style, I listened as I was immersed in what was a reconstituting social set: "It's great to see you again!" "It's been so long." "It's great that Kevin is doing this. The community needs this."

Good for you, Kevin. Bringing people together. Experimenting. Do it yourself. Feats and deeds. Short pieces of theater, just big enough for meat on the bone and short enough to work the idea out into the world without the hub-bub that could encumber a standard production.

Human scale theater.

The night started with a video that had one had to don 3-D glasses to view. It was surprisingly good. The place was packed. Among the pieces that followed on the improvised stage upstairs was "Fully Formed Human Head" (written and directed by Wesley Walker) featuring daddy's head on a plate and the murderous daughter mounting the headless corpse... and yes, it was funny.

Kevin's description of that night is better than I can do:

piece was awesome & visually arresting (head &
shoulders) tina preston is don preston from zappa &
the mothers of invention fame (he was there
grayhairedbeard)...vudi from american music club
(guitarist), slim evans rank & file (drummer) were
also there...trying to appeal to musicians artists
poets novelists dancers video artists...next one up in
The language of the acting communtiy is new for me. It sounds/reads like it was hyperlinked, references tumbling and jostling in the text. He goes on:
--knicked title of night from Fall song...earlier
show (In Every Dream Home a Heartache) knicked from
Roxy Music...provisional title of next is Confusion is
Sex ( title stolen from Sonic Youth)...mike shamus
wiles has been in Magnolia (Tom Cruise's sidekick)
Fightclub (bartender with 'halo' from busted neck) &
X-Files (show & movie)...future shows will include
more multimedia...Jackie Wright got a buzz from her
play "Eat Me" Wes Walker won L.A. Weekly award for
best direction "The Celebration"...directed plays of
his own, plus Murray Mednick, Sarah Koskoff..
So, Kevin is a music-title-nicker. That's probably why the Stone's lyrics played in my head as I perused a link concerning Kevin's movie, "Wild Horses".

Kevin nicked me a bit with his piece: "MABUHAY! OR SHIT RIVER". It begins:
(A bare, cold lit space indicating a cancer ward. From
offstage, a husky voice)
MILES Queen Bee!
Hong Kong!
(MILES, a strongly built man in his early 50s, moves
onto the stage with a medicated gait, wearing an
open-backed hospital smock, exposing his bare ass. He
turns to face the audience and continues a litany of
names. A length of clear tubing from an IV dangles
from one arm, a hospital wrist-bad gives his stats.)
MILES Mona Lisa!
Alligator Pit!
Man, who can forget the P.I?
MILES clutches himself, bracing against the
institutional cold.)

Everything here is hitting close to home for me. A man standing past high noon in life. Echos of Subic Bay, sailor days. Cancer wards and mental hospitals. Environments that enveloped and consumed my fathers (three: father, step father and father-in-law). A haunting dialog that reminded me of Joyce's Finnegans Wake (or as much as I have read and heard read aloud). Anna Livia Plurabelle in a singsong all afloat in ether. Memories melting, the past and present all a slurry in a chemo drip.

Cynthia enters from behind Miles, his significant other underlined with gravitas:
CYNTHIA I couldn?t dream of it all...your stories. It
should have made you seem older. It should have made
you wise.
MILES You were, what, 20? 21? Not old enough to buy
CYNTHIA I didn?t need to.
MILES I bought it then.
CYNTHIA Liquor is something I never needed to buy.
MILES But you drank. You liked it.
CYNTHIA With you. You liked it. So I did too. It was
MILES We had a lot of fun.
CYNTHIA Too much fun.
MILES Good times. We had ?em. God, you were beautiful
then. I thought, what a pair of tits!
CYNTHIA It?s funny how you remember things,
distinctly, and then you start to wonder if it
happened at all.
MILES It happened. I can tell you. It happened. I was
a sucker for you. Right from the start. Even though I
knew from the get go you were a game player. You liked
to play games. Back in Subic, nights in town ?no games
there. All up front.
There were some adjustments to be made.
CYNTHIA If it?d been a year before, I wouldn?t have
given you the time of day.
MILES It felt strange, being home.

The place was crowded. I had my digital camera with me but I dared not break the mood with an obnoxious range finding anti red eye light. Later, I sk Kevin for a pic, he didn't have one. "Why don't you draw one?" Uh. Yea. Why didn't I think of that? This digital camera has taken over my sketching impulse. I didn't want to shoot a digital pic of a hand drawing. So I pulled out my new Wacom Graphire Tablet. The image above is the second drawing I've done with it. Miles (Michael Shamus Wiles) was that fiftyish guy. Muscular, thick neck, spent testosterone by the gallons.

I felt all heart heavy as Kevin nicked it up. Lost vitality. Youth spent. Life hurtling into the far end of the arc. It was the dialog of things said when you have the last chance to say them, things that are too hard for us to deal with in this here and now because we have this illusion that there will always be a here and now forever. The groan of the bell curve of the Baby Boom. But it won't be that way always, of course... and if you're lucky. You might get a chance to say them with that disapating, anguished, heart-devouring breath. It's that day that comes for all of us but we don't want to think about it too much.

Or maybe it was just a bad dream.

(CYNTHIA backs out of the light, leaving MILES alone
MILES Cynthia??
(to offstage)
Why should I trust your memories more than my own? I
was there too, you know! How can two people see things
so differently. Are the memories of a memory to be
We never could get our stories straight, the two of
us, even when we were lying to ourselves.
If I was given the chance, to make things right...I?d
bend. More...I?ll make a different life for us, right
now. I know how to do it. It will always have been
right. I need you...You were always so much older than
You were my one true love.
So long ago...Cloudy...but it feels real to me, more
real than what is happening now. Maybe this will feel
more real when it becomes a memory too. I have trouble
with the present. There is too much past pushed up
against it.
(Pause. Miles gathers speed, energy.)
MILES Magsaysay Drive all night long. Subic
City...Creeping on Gordon Ave.
I remember:
The D Wave.
The Red Horse.
San Miguel.
Shit River.
The women! Oh how I miss the P.I.!
(MILES loses strength.)

If he said 'Brown Fox!" I would have sobbed.

Quietly, to myself.

UPDATE: Kevin fills in some background information:

Pharmacy is the name of the group putting these things
on. It exist for the purpose of putting on these
events. It is related to Pharmakos.org which is
intended to be a kind of electronic art & literary
journal. It's in the process of being built right now
(you can check it out if you like: trying to get the
portfolio section up to snuff)

Idiot Joy Showland was the name of one night.
(the first was In Every Dream Home a Heartache, back
in dec.

I worked with wes walker when i was part of empire red
lip -one of john steppling's companies before he moved
to poland, We also studied with murray mednick
together (he was playwright-in-residence at Theater
Genesis, St. Mark's Church, NYC at the height of the
off off broadway scene and later started Padua
Playwrights Festival w/ sam shepard irene fornes john
o'keefe and steppling)

wes has directed his own pieces (and recieved an l.a.
weekly award for 'the conception') as well as pieces
by murray mednick and sarah koskoff.

sharon, who has been part of two Pharmacies, was part
of Oxblood with wes and has produced Sharon's Farm, a
program of site-specific plays that have been staged
in public parks, hotels, and offices.

as for length for the pharmacy nights the ideal is
about 10-12 minutes but last time they went a little
longer...the night is designed to come in around one hour

On their site pharmakos.org, they've got this great image of Oedipus.

"Fair Colonus! Land of running horses. Where leaves and berries throng and wine dark ivy climbs the bough. The sweet sorjourning nightingale murmers all night long."
I remember seeing Lee Breuer's Gospel at Colonus, so wonderful. Stephanie, Peggie (her mother) and I saw this in Hollywod back in '88 or so. But that's for another blogpost.

Posted by Dennis at February 9, 2006 2:49 PM

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