Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's never been about the money...

Thank you to Adaptive Arts Theater (via their blog) for the link to this, the Bread & Puppet Theatre's Cheap Art Manifesto. If you haven't read it already, it is a friendly reminder of what the arts are really all about.

More on this later. My mouth is hurting my head to much to give this any more thought. So, back to healing my wisdom teeth with LOST.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Side Walk Chalk Walk

Hi Everyone!

During my final semester at Brooklyn College, my 20th Century Theatre professor, Steve, introduced me to works by Allen Kaprow and Tadeusz Kantor. Thank God. I would have been really embarrassed if I had a BFA in Theatre and didn't know who these people were. It's bad enough I still have no idea what every theatre theorist who has ever written anything, means when he or she uses the adjective "plastic."

Anyway, I was pretty enamored by the ideas of these two theorists. Steve agreed to let me stage my own Kaprow-Kantor inspired Happening as a final project. The vague plan was to advertise a meeting on Brooklyn College's quad, and trace each other with Sidewalk Chalk.

This is the mission statement.

Here are the photographs.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Holistic Theatre

Holism – noun Philosophy – The theory that whole entities, as fundamental components of reality, have an existence other than as the mere sum of their parts. (Random House Dictionary, 2009)

The spirit of theatre, I believe, comes in the hope of uniting audience and production. A hope that spectators will be more than spectators, that actors will do more than entertain, that all in the room on a particular evening will connect through higher themes and emotions – that people will be, for lack of a better term, moved.

A few months ago I sat in on a Butoh workshop. Feeling rather unwell that day, I (sadly) opted only to watch rather than participate. Though downtrodden, being witness proved to bear its own gifts beyond the scholastic and analytic. For here I am, months past and still stirring with thoughts and feelings from the encounter. As a workshop, it was (smartly) not geared toward the idea of the “performative” – for an “audience” – but nor was it for personal, private, (selfish?), learning. Those participating were guided to express, for whoever was willing to holistically listen, the seemingly inexpressible essences of whom they uniquely are.

What a joy! Here was all the humanity of each individual participating in all its frighteningly unsanitary glory. No jars or tubes, no gloves or goggles, no disinfectants or antibacterial wipes. No fourth walls or contrivance of a character. Meat on my plate, straight from the hide. Raw, bleeding.

Take a breath, hold it, and dance your final dance of life until you can dance no more. Walk the timeline of your life, from birth to death, not failing to take time and cherish the moments in between. They all will come, but they all will pass. And death will come, and you will pass.

This was as great a theatre as any I could hope to see upon a stage. Perhaps as Romantic in theory as could exist, too. It was grotesque, but that it was made it beautiful. I saw the rich life of those I knew, and recognized the fruitfulness of those I didn’t. I thought of my life, my connections, what my dance of life would be. I was filled with love and hope, and wanted to do better in the world, make stronger, more loving connections while I was able. I was in awe of the spirit of (wo)man.

This is what theatre should be.

I have spent this summer working on Joan of Arc at Fort Tryon Park with Gorilla Rep, an environmental and ensemble based group that takes great pride in directly connecting with the audience to make them truly a part of the show.* During one performance, in the latter part of the play as it moved near the large archway at the base of the Pine Grove area, a dark, clearly solid object came plummeting out of the sky and nailed a teenage audience member square on the head. The show was stopped as the girl was tended to, our young war veteran director chased off the culprits, and cast joined audience beyond the (500 watt) lights. Suddenly, I was back in the classroom, experiencing Butoh. Breath held, our spirits danced in fear, hoping the girl to be uninjured. It was roughly ten minutes that cast and audience shared as family, strengthening our devotion to being better people over this unnecessarily violent act. Fortunately, we shortly discovered the object was only a half-filled beer can. Our combat medic cleared the beer-soaked teen of any severe injury (aside from the slight to her dignity) and when asked, she insisted on seeing the rest of the show (it was her second time). And almost all of the some-odd hundred audience members stayed as well. Not because the show was that fantastic (though we’d like to believe it was), but because of a deep emotional connection to community. We all stuck together. That’s what Joan of Arc is all about.

There was something very special about the end of that performance. The strange, artificial (and somehow inevitable) wall between performance and audience was permanently stripped from the evening. I felt an incredible, overwhelming need to tell the rest of this story to the absolute best of my ability (Joan of Arc is, after all, about love and greed, right and wrong, and the very gray line between them). Which was tough. I was playing a vindictive character attempting to rape Joan, ultimately gaining pleasure from her burning. It was, however, so important for this audience that I play my role truthfully that I – and the whole rest of the cast – prevailed with incredible fervor. That last thirty minutes were one of the greatest gifts as an actor I feel I’ve both ever given and received.

Yes, a select few were very angry the show was not stopped and the cops were not called. Yes, some participants did not give over to the experience in the Butoh workshop. But they are important, too. They are humanity that must be recognized, and the earth shared with them as well. Theatre should remind us of our community we must love while we share our brief moments on earth. And great theatre will not just “show” us, but truly share with us the same thick air in a small room gathered under the stars willing to look merely to one another.

* - I do not mean, though I admit it certainly sounds like it, to say that Gorilla Rep is what theatre should be.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Times they are a-changin'

I live quite happily without a television, having very little time for passive entertainment and keeping up with current events through online periodicals. The news has always been difficult for me due to my feint-of-heart sensitivity to violent images and my talent for crying over just about everything (international tragedies and Pixar films alike). I'm very thankful for the easily accessible, alternate source of news that enables me to choose which articles I read instead of tolerating unannounced gruesome images and the repetitive nature most news channels thrive on.

I like the New York Times. I find the articles informative and compact and the website is easy to navigate. I start with the "front page" and move on to national headlines, then to the international section. I peruse the science and health articles, and if I have time, I read an opinion or two. I end with the arts section, working my way down the artistic alphabet (skipping over "Television") until I arrive at the theatre page. This should be my favorite section, but it's not. I usually take in the reviews with an open mind, and find the informative articles educational and enjoyable. I love the audio slideshows. However, there are two particular articles I've read lately that have left me a little embarassed for The Times:

A recent review of Gorilla Rep's "Joan of Arc" addresses some legitimate critiques of the production from a company that is famous for outdoor, wordsy theatre...except that a large part of the article was criticising it for being...outdoors and wordsy. I am not suggesting that mud and mosquitos should be an understood and accepted aspect of outdoor theatre, and therefore should be left out of a review completely. Folks who have never seen a Gorilla Rep production should be advised to bring bug spray and sneakers. The company is considerate enough to add a disclaimer about the nature of their performances on their website. I would have appreciated critisism that did not dwell on the advertised, if not renown style of their environmentally staged performances.

Secondly, there was a great informative article on the process the playwright underwent in the development of Primary Stage's "A Lifetime Burning." The article focused on the playwright's obsession for modern design and how it was translated into the play and the set design. Though there is a photograph of the set and it is mentioned several times, none of the designers are credited except for the company which provided some of the furniture. I don't expect the production team to be recognized often, but since this piece is so particular about the aesthetic inspiration of the show and the set design, I would have expected the designer to be credited. Please note that this article appears in the Theatre section of the New York Times website, but originally appeared in the Home and Garden section of the Style Page in the published periodical.

As always...what do you guys think?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Important Workshop Announcement

Lecoqworkshop NYC



June 22nd - 26th

After two highly successful visits in ’06 and ’08, Norman Taylor, who taught alongside Jacques Lecoq for 20 years, is returning to New York for a five-day summer workshop.

Beginning with the premise that everything moves, this workshop is an exploration into the inherently physical nature of theater. It will explore three fundamentals of Jacques Lecoq's approach to artistic training: the analysis of movement, physical storytelling, and the actor as creator. By drawing upon the inspiration of music, painting and poetry, the actor will explore styles of storytelling that include spoken word, pantomime blanche, the language of gesture and sound. Working from short stories by Chekhov and Poe, the workshop will culminate in the collective creation of original physical theater pieces.

This workshop offers the actor a unique opportunity to develop a heightened sense of their body in performance with one of the world’s greatest teachers.


Norman Taylor taught at the Ecole Internationale de Théâtre in Paris for 20 years. Prior to this, he was a student of Lecoq's himself, first as an actor and then as a student of his pedagogy. From 1998 - 1999, Norman was the Pedagogical Coordinator at the school. He now teaches Lecoq's techniques throughout Europe and Latin America and is on faculty at the renowned Lassaad International School of Theatre in Belgium. This is Norman’s third visit to North America.


Participants do not need to have studied Lecoq technique but do need to have a working familiarity with one or more theatrical movement techniques.

For more information please contact:
Adrienne Kapstein at

by phone at: (347) 645 4985

or go to:

Hours: Monday, June 22nd through Friday, June 26th 10am - 3pm

Brooklyn College:
New Theatre Workshop, Whitman Hall
(Entrance at Campus Road and Hillel Place)

$100 deposit is required to secure a space and is refundable until June 8th
Remainder of fee is due June 15th

Please make checks out to Adrienne Kapstein and mail to:

Adrienne Kapstein
2515 Glenwood Road, #6G
Brooklyn, NY 11210

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oh no you didn't....

The Collaborative Theater - PART THREE: The Collaborative Theater

Theater is by its nature collaborative, no matter what way you slice the pie (unless you don’t slice the pie at all – see notes below). But we seem to have certain nomos (the Greek term for tradition, or unwritten law) in regards to how we create theater, of which I am starting to think – based on my previous exploits in parts one and two – are standing in our way of creating greater art.

Recently, I have had an Actor confide to me their fears of having to take a stage-craft class, and a Director share how they opted not to take an Improv II class because they weren’t “an actor.” In many other careers, this would (and probably should) be standard fare (you may not want an eye doctor giving you open heart surgery). But we are so fortunate to be working in such a free and exploratory environment; the nomos of the theater is not in stone - we do not have to adhere to “rules” of how to do Theater, there are no “Theater Police” to arrest us should we not create art in the way our society expects us to.

And how do we know what “society” is expecting us to do, anyway? Many of my good friends at this point, I am sure, are shaking their heads in shame, with Richard Foreman or John Jesurun pounding on their frontal lobes (please see notes). But I will abate your fears.

What happens should we momentarily put aside our prescribed titles (Actor, Director, Designer, etc.) in the working of theatrical projects? Would it work towards forming a more collaborative feeding ground for our art? I see a great quality of Theater growing out of Peter Brook’s question 'Why Theater?' and think, because of this, we all should, first and foremost, be Theater Artists.

So what I am calling the Collaborative Theater begins with Theater Artists interested in working with one another. And they come together lacking any preconceived notions of what is to happen, save for ideas they may want to play with theatrically. Here they embark on a discussion of their art, what brought them together, those ideas they may want to play with, etc. This discussion is most vital, not only because it is in the hope that this is the discussion that will lead to the creating of a work of art, but it is also about freeing everyone involved - discussing Theater freely, what one sees working or not working, what one finds interesting and boring - because this establishes the relationship of the artists from here on out. And it is here, hopefully, that an idea is arrived at which can begin to be worked theatrically. Obviously this could be an incredibly wide range of possibilities, depending on the people in the room; working from only fertile soil, the possibilities are truly limitless.

In deciding on a project, the preproduction element (crafting of a conceptualization, the writing of a play – anything) should remain as free and open to discussion as this initial discussion has been – no one has a “job” yet, we are all Artists with equally valuable thoughts. However, in the midst of crafting a project, leaders in certain aspects will seem to emerge – maybe a Designer, or a Director, even Characters. This should happen. For a piece of theatrical work to come to fruition, it is (or at least should be) demanded that each artist involved be their own leader of their aspect of the craft (or crafting).

In the Collaborative Theater, it is good to allow here for the unexpected. A prescribed “actor” may emerge designer, “director” may emerge actor, “designer” may emerge director. These roles, these Leaders, should emerge organically (and in that, it will be more organic that, say, the designer becomes a designer through this process. What we don’t want is, for example, non-collaborative actors to be fighting over a part – that would be counter-intuitive, more of that pie problem).

This term, “Leader,” is important, for who is a Leader without Followers? The idea here is that ultimately everyone becomes a Leader (an emerged designer will be the Leader of their element, an emerged actor will be the Leader of their character), and thus everyone else involved becomes everyone else’s follower. And they are all Followers not by blindly following, but they believe in their Leader, and know their ideas, when voiced, will be heard, discussed, thought about – each Follower is allowed to have an influence upon the Leader. Call it Democratic Theater, if you will.

The Collaborative Theater begins with the simple fertile soil of Artistic minds so as to keep the discussion open and free throughout the process. It is coming from the belief that the more truly collaborative our work, the stronger the piece we emerge with will be. It comes from a desire to keep fear or inhibition of sharing ideas (or opinions) out of the work, allowing for there always to be room to grow, ideas to be voiced by anyone within the group about any aspect of their production. When we all start from the same simple place of a desire to create, we are able to hear everyone more clearly as we move through our personal creation, for everyone else’s ideas were the one’s helping to shape what we ultimately created ourselves.

A Few Notes:

1. Tadashi Suzuki has some excellent thoughts I feel I should point out:

"[E]very aspect of the terrorist group known as the Japanese Red Army is evidently centralized. In such a communal mode of thinking, the communality supports the collective vision in its entirety, and therefore, personal and everyday dimensions of living are fulfilled by the group. When a group, be it theatrical or political, establishes its own logic, the individual constituents of the group are forced to regard themselves only in terms of this framework."

This is very true, and very much the opposite of what my aim with the Collaborative Theater is. This is the reason I have to treat the projects, as they move out of their embryonic states of ideas into actual practice, in regards to the Leaders. Everyone must take responsibility as a leader, doing work necessary to and contributing artistically with their position, as well as being an active follower to everyone else, being involved and curious about the creation of the rest of the piece.

2. The pie. One can cut the theater pie however they may like, but so long as it is being cut, it is being collaborative. So grabbing the pie and running would be selfish theater making. And I’m not quite sure how it would turn out, nor do I think anyone else would know, seeing as how it has been taken. It may also be interesting to expand this idea to the making of the pie itself. It is certainly possible for one to bake a pie by themselves, entirely for themselves. I recently made a batch of cookies in this same manner. In regards to the theater pie, however, this seems doomed from the start – doing it by yourself for yourself sounds as though the audience, if there is one to begin with, will be very disengaged and disinterested. As for my selfish cookie expedition: I wound up sick.

3. There are many artists out there doing excellent work in regard to collaboration, such as Tadashi Suzuki, Anne Bogart, David Levine, PS122, Less the Band, and so, so many others. I did, however, mention Richard Foreman and John Jesurun, admittedly mocking their work in my reference to loosely making theater by unconventional means, and I do not mean to completely discredit these accomplished Theater Creators (…ok maybe a little). But what little of their work I have seen is, to me, extremely selfish, and lacking some serious responsibility. And having a lackluster attitude toward responsibility diminishes any notion of immediacy.