Letters from Venice – Part III

imagesAug. 22, 1982

The night before last after rehearsal we all trouped over to the Rat Café, which was an experience! At the piano in the back of this tiny little café, were a piano player and a very “Weilian” singer dressed in black with a green scarf looped around her throat. They were singing bluesy songs, accompanied by a poor sax player and some very enthusiastic percussionists whose ranks we joined with tambourines and spoons from the sugar bowls on the tables.  We sort of threw a coup, and the displaced Brits (Scots) joined us in singing songs from bad (& good) Broadway musicals. Except for the lead pianist who sipped his wine and pouted in a corner, confiding in whispered tones to a granny doll made out of apple face and rag clothes, which sat wisely atop the piano.

The sax player would punctuate every song’s finish with a blood-curdling battle cry of “MORE!!!!!” And the fun began again. We lasted with this until 2:00AM, when “The Americans” left, and the place went back to normal?

August 23, 1982 (Monday)

But this was the day to remember. Sunday. Oh, the props hunts we have been on cannot rival the garden spot we discovered. Bill Conley and I found storefront on Cowgate (very near the Rat Café) that was crammed full of junk. Every cranny. And objects like a bear’s head, to a close-and-play. There was everything. We walked in, to discover the two proprietors of this astonishing collection in the back room, amidst the continuation of this stuff, cooking breakfast on a wood burning stove, and watching Star Trek on a color TV. What a trip!

August 25, 1982

Saw the worst show on the Fringe today, “Momentum, A Play in 6 Crimes,”

“Worth getting up for” (1/2 truth) James Madison University.

(I remember being trapped in the first row for this god-awful show, at 9:00AM, and not being able to escape and having to watch the whole thing.)

Also saw Scagnarelle at the Royal Lyceum Theatre tonight- Wonderful! Collection of four Moliere shorts, directed by Andre Sorbonne, incredibly innovative and colorful.RoyalLyceum

Tomorrow AM, I am on the street to peddle our shows at the Fringe Office – also will be a chance to get tickets for some shows. I’m getting greedy to see things now – the bug is setting in! It’s fascinating, because after each show, you ask yourself- was that good? And if you liked something well enough to recommend it to others in the company, why did you like it? All these thousands of tourists and theatre people looking for the one show that Carol put it “Makes me go WOW!” Have yet to find it, and I’m not sure what it would be if I did.

Talked to Mark today on the phone, which was a great booster, yet, also a reminder of the length of separation. He said his show is sold out for opening night on September 10th – I’m incredibly excited for him. I only wish I could be there to see him perform.

Found a great bar that also serves cheap food tonight called “The Circuit.” Had dinner there with Lee and Bob. We talked more about travel plans. At this point I could either stay in Edinburgh for the last week of the Festival, then buy an Inter Rail Pass and travel down to Florence with Bob to meet Lee, or just buy an Inter Rail Pass and travel all over from Sept. 5-23rd. Who knows? Decision by Sunday when Lee leaves. Good night.

August 27, 1982

Went to see “Ethel & Julie” this morning; a show about the Rosenberg’s case. It was very well done, simple with the two Rosenbergs and a commentator figure and two multi-purpose minor characters. That seems to be very common in the contemporary stuff I’ve seen – a lot of doubling of characters. In Scagnarelle, each of the four leads was played by a different one. It really reveals the elasticity of British actors. I think we could take a lesson from these Brits!

Am going to see two more shows tonight – “Brecht’s Women” and a review called “Maidenhead Revisited.”

Sept. 1, 1982

“Brecht’s Women” was fantastic. Highly professional show, with great care obvious in all aspects. I am really glad to have seen it. Since then, I have seen “Lulu”, and “Prelude to Death in Venice” both directed by Lee Breuer of the American Rep Theatre. They were similar in flavor – very New York and slick and both very much vehicles of a highly egomaniac director. The Mabou Mines (Prelude) piece was just bonkers – no plot, but the neurotic rantings of a man through his wooden puppet which he cradled between two American pay phones. Very bizarre. “Lulu”, on the other hand, while being very remote from Wedekind’s German Expressionism, was a production devoted to the sensual exploration of his script – very much in keeping with the spirit of Lulu’s search for pleasure and happiness. Very High Tech, with video and miked to death. Carbone, the “Impressionist Painter” of the original script, became, in Breuer’s production, an anemic fey photographer whose focusing of his telephoto lens was not integral to his shooting but which was only suggestive of “extra-pictorial” effects. [what does that mean, Els?] Every instrument, whether it be actor or microphone was exploited beyond it’s normal uses – totally in keeping with the content of the script. It’s not a kind of theatre I aspire to create or even be a part of. But I would not have missed it for the world.

Today I went to St. Giles Cathedral,

my first really “old” church of a string of them, I’m sure. I was struck by the age of the church the minute I set foot inside. I know that is an incredibly trite thing to say, but it was absolutely my first sensation. Then the glorious color of the windows, muted and far subtler than the screaming modern palette of Twentieth century windows. The content of the windows, some of them, anyway, was Scottish history, something I just haven’t seen before in the states.

Today I really got a sense of the importance of certain images to the integrity of a play. Example. I thought the other day, that when the Xmas lights wouldn’t blink for “Action” (the Sam Shepard play which was one of the Princeton University offerings at the Fringe Festival, and which I was stage managing), that it didn’t really matter – we’d fix them for the next day. But now that I am operating them manually from backstage and I appreciate the regularity they afford to the otherwise entirely volatile and unpredictable world Shepard has created. For all these explosions take place, and there I was, backstage, constantly flicking the fucking tree: On-2-3-4, Off-2-3-4. And the voltage drops, which never seemed too important before, now became the only thing that broke the regularity of my flickering. I don’t know why I record this – it just struck me as interesting.

I’m embarking on reading “Death in Venice” a glimpse of what “Prelude to Death,” meant may be imminent!

“Bozzy,” a one-man show about James Boswell…not worth writing home about. You really have to have both a great script and an incredibly innovative actor to pull off a 1-¾ hour show. David McKail had me for ½ hour tops….

Sept. 3, 1983

Saw the New London Actor’s Company perform “Treatment” a play about London youth last night. The acting was incredible – very strident, but controlled, so that I had the feeling the actors had honestly been directed as weapons – never pointed directly at the audience, but I was always with the knowledge that there was a loaded gun in the room.

The one actor, Roger Monk, had such facility with his face to make himself incredibly ugly, that I was amazed. These actors truly know how to use and exploit their bodies to that effect. The group “always centres its work on the sheer mental and physical powers of the actor himself. The aim is to present a highly disciplined and entertaining theatre.” (From the program)

Stopped in yesterday to see four young London artists’ early works in a studio set up for the Edinburgh Festival. The installation was a combination of wooden sculptures which I would call languorous and paneled paintings composed of 6 x8 panels of slate spaced evenly apart in a grid shape, painted in Gauguin/Matisse-like shapes and bright yellows, reds and greens. I liked the work – the subjects, when not totally abstract, seemed to have been Biblical, from Paradise.

There is a great deal of that subject around. The Cambridge Experimental Theatre did “Tartarus,” a show with three actors and a kitchen table, exploring the “Universe”. Again, highly skilled work, the utmost care and concentration exhibited.

Sept. 4, 1982

We are finished! I have a great feeling of accomplishment, and relief at the end of this project. Seeing people off is a bit scary, as the total break from friends for such a long period is bound to be.

Mark called today – OH GOD! It was great to talk with him. Much less strained than last time, and a better phone connection. He’s talking about a European job possibility and about showing up by January. It would be so great.

The show is apparently not going so well. It opens in five days. I hope Mark is satisfied with his work on it anyway. That’s what counts. Though I know how much more frustrating it can be not to be able to control the quality of others’ work, as well.

Would love to hear what you are thinking!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s