AuthorsDen.com   Join Free! | Login    
   Popular! Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry
Where Authors and Readers come together!

SIGNED BOOKS    AUTHORS    eBOOKS new!     BOOKS    STORIES    ARTICLES    POETRY    BLOGS    NEWS    EVENTS    VIDEOS    GOLD    SUCCESS    TESTIMONIALS

Featured Authors:  David Schwinghammer, iDarryl Jenkins, iWalt Hardester, iKalikiano Kalei, iMichael Thal, iPaul Williams, iShelley Costello, i

  Home > Blogs Popular: Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry     

Ian Thal

· + Follow Me
· Contact Me
· Articles
· Poetry
· News
· Blog
· 13 Titles
· 20 Reviews
· Share with Friends!
·
Member Since: Before 2003

   newsletter

Subscribe to the Ian Thal Newsletter. Enter your name and email below and click "sign me up!"
Name:
Email:
Ian Thal, click here to update your pages on AuthorsDen.






Blogs by Ian Thal

Self Criticism
5/5/2004 10:08:11 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

What follows is the self criticism that James and I engage in as part of Cosmic Spelunker Theater. It might be of limited interest if you haven't seen us perform "Waltzing to War."
Monday, April 19, 2004:

The narrow foot path leads me through the tall hedges to the yard behind the weather worn house. The sailboat, resting on pylons in the untrimmed grass, planks missing from its thirty foot long hull, is no better shape than this house on Savin Hill. I catch sight of Jan working in the garden and mention that I'm there to watch the video with James, she asks if I've met Ray, their ancient land lord who is sitting on the dilapidated front porch.

I enter through the side door and clamber up the steps to the floor where Jan and James make their home. James has just set up the video as I arrive, offers me some tea and we sit. It is a ritual for us to meet within a couple of weeks after a major performance to watch ourselves on video so that we can engage in self critique and thus make the following performances stronger. We've never had a flawless performance, but the videos have shown us steadily progressing towards stronger, more ambitious, and more interesting work since we began taping our performances as Cosmic Spelunker Theater.

We watch the opening and critique our work as if we were commentators on a special edition DVD. As we see our images walk onto stage we agree that from now on, that I should not be the only one in white face, that James should also wear makeup. As we open with a series of ever more elaborate bows, I note that I need to quickly get to the bow instead of using ornate buildups to the final immobilities. It's too "pretty for pretty's sake." I note that I have the same problem during the waltz of moving my arms too much. James states that he should have just followed me in that instance. These are things that most audience members never notice, but we, as performers do.

There's a nice second or two at the end of the waltz and box step sequence when I take off my army helmet, and it to James, and he puts it on. It's clean and elegant with the perfect timing of a Chaplin two reeler. It is followed by "A Cat During Wartime" which is a real virtuoso workout for me. Some of the new bits I have added to it, like hooking my left leg over my head to simulate the tail of a cat, and dancing about the stage more during the helicopter invention, make for dramatic improvements, but I still pass my hypercritical eye over the video: it's card to project my voice in some of the more physically demanding poses; the arabesque I use for the geese needs strengthening (in fact this is the worst arabesque I have ever seen myself do on video) the fixee can stand some improvement. Still, the interaction between us is great; James supporting role in this scene is a perfect counterpoint to my work and the "sax solo" is nice.

"Godfather America" is James' first speaking role in "Waltzing to War" and the slapstick improv we've created allows for some funny and surreal physical interactions as I pick his pockets or poke the foot long beak of my mask between his legs but we both agree that like classic vaudevillians, we ought move towards a more choreographed comedy. The same hold true for the more manic and even more surreal "Front Line Troops" when I take on a more cartoon like persona.

Il Dottore di Difesa's briefing on "Operation Hit Them Back First Before They Hit US" gets the most laughs. Despite the mask that makes me look like a skeletal carrion bird, my voice projects quite well. The various immobilities I take are very bird like with extended arms and fingers, crossed feet, standing on the balls of my feet, bent legs and a torso that is never quite erect. I've never really seen myself as a comedian before and I am very happy with what I see. It only needs some tweaking with the timing and rhythms. Now if only I could keep the momentum in "Simple Plan" with more extended arms and legs.

Since we are in talks of doing a larger scale theatrical production of "Waltzing to War" I have already thought about how to expand the scale this scene using a "presenter of the cards," a role I have taken at a few dance concerts.

The fight is a little too wild for either of our tastes. Instead of an elegant invention based on some karate exercises, it looks too much like a real brawl. It needs more work, still my collapse in to the floor and into the next scene is done well. It's difficult to throw and block punches with the limited visibility of the mask that I have worn for the last four scenes and perhaps contributes to my anxiety levels as I see James' fists coming for me.

When I rise again, I am unmasked, and tell the story of my childhood when my parents were protesting the Vietnam War. There are some minor bits of technical detail I note to myself but they are simple changes. Most importantly is when I deliver a few lines as my father-- and realize that I'm getting his body language all wrong. Unlike my mother and I, my father does not gesture much with his hands.
At this point I sit down on the army helmet, using it as a stoop and take an immobility, there is an almost Buster Keaton level of intensity that makes me almost become inanimate and disappear as James delivers "Remembering Vietnam"; it is almost as if I have become a ghost-- one of his fellow soldiers who didn't come back from that war.

I continue with the Keaton like intensity as I rise and mime the role of a DJ setting up his turntables, putting his records on, putting on his goggles and earphones, etc. before I start to speak the titles of the the two pieces that I form the aural part of the cutup "our...our... our... death...death... our...death...national...death...death...death...anthem...of the ball turret gunner" that I had first tried as an improve at Whimsy back in January. The dance that follows has some nice moments but needs more precise trajectories. I am very please with the immobility I take on the line "six miles above the Earth; freed from its dream of life" that involves my arms fully extended to my sides and my torso parallel to the floor as my legs take a deep cross legged bow.

My fall to my death could be done more smoothly but it does make a good impact and the resurrection could be done better, and the waltz time peace dance that we improv as we come to an end works well. We bow and begin to sing "Danny Boy's Answer" to the figure of the snail antennae and we end.

James hands the army helmet back to me and I give him a very Chaplinesqe look. Between Chaplin and Keaton, I am stealing from the best I suppose...

The exercise of the auto critique is very helpful to us, but in the end we remind ourselves that too much perfectionism is self destructive. I find comfort in the experience of seeing technical imperfections in the performances of artists I admire without feeling that they detract from the performance. We are, after all, only mortals.


Post a Comment

More Blogs by Ian Thal
• September 2007 Blog - Saturday, October 06, 2007
• August 2007 Blog Index - Sunday, September 02, 2007
• July 2007 Blog Index: - Wednesday, August 01, 2007
• June 2007 Blog Index - Monday, July 02, 2007
• May 2007 Blog Index - Wednesday, May 30, 2007
• The Adventures of CMYK - Tuesday, May 01, 2007
• April Madness - Tuesday, May 01, 2007
• Walt Whitman and I - Friday, April 20, 2007
• Breaking with Bread and Puppet - Thursday, April 12, 2007
• American Dissident Outs Stalinist Clown! - Saturday, February 24, 2007
• The Last Days of Judas Iscariot - Wednesday, January 03, 2007
• My First Feature Film Shoot - Monday, September 04, 2006
• Into the Station” at Boston City Hall - Saturday, July 08, 2006
• Becoming Fire - Friday, June 09, 2006
• Bill and Ian See Blue Man Group - Monday, April 17, 2006
• An Open Letter to Stephen Schwartz - Monday, April 03, 2006
• My Quarrel with The Weekly Standard's Stephen Schwartz - Saturday, March 04, 2006
• Bread & Puppet Journal, 2005 - Thursday, December 29, 2005
• Teaching mime with Open Air Circus - Friday, August 05, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VIII - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VII - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VI - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part V - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part IV - Monday, January 03, 2005
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part III - Friday, December 24, 2004
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part II - Friday, December 24, 2004
• Another Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part I - Friday, December 24, 2004
• The Dresden Dolls show - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Waltzing to War @ Out of the Blue - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Word Play on SCAT - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Autographs & Interviews - Tuesday, November 09, 2004
• Beacon Hill Panorama @ All Asia Café - Monday, October 04, 2004
• Trip to Providence - Monday, October 04, 2004
• Interview in Providence Phoenix - Thursday, September 02, 2004
• Activists Vs. Artists - Friday, July 30, 2004
• James Van Looy Interview - Thursday, May 20, 2004
• The Perils of a Political Humorist - Wednesday, May 05, 2004
• On Display - Wednesday, May 05, 2004
• Whimsy: 4/29/2004 - Wednesday, May 05, 2004
•  Self Criticism - Wednesday, May 05, 2004  
• From The Archives: A Misreading - Tuesday, March 09, 2004
• Our National Anthem/Back in the USA - Friday, January 30, 2004
• Notes on the Confederacy/Back in the USA - Friday, January 30, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Epilogue - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XVII - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XVI - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XV - Friday, January 23, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater, Part XIV - Tuesday, January 20, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater, Part XIII - Monday, January 12, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater, Part XII - Monday, January 12, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part XI - Monday, January 12, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part X - Friday, January 02, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part IX - Friday, January 02, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VIII - Friday, January 02, 2004
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VII - Saturday, December 20, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part VI - Tuesday, December 16, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part V - Tuesday, December 16, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part IV - Monday, December 15, 2003
• Two Weeks With Bread & Puppet Theater: Part III - Sunday, December 14, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part II - Friday, December 12, 2003
• Two Weeks with Bread & Puppet Theater: Part I - Friday, December 12, 2003
• Flux Concert & Lunar Eclipse - Friday, November 28, 2003
• Squawkings, Hexings and Sonny Holiday - Sunday, November 02, 2003
• On Groupies and Bloggers: Part II: The Blogger - Monday, October 27, 2003
• On Groupies and Bloggers: Part I: The Groupie - Monday, October 27, 2003
• First Ballet Lesson - Sunday, October 26, 2003
• Economics of Art - Wednesday, August 13, 2003
• An artist at work - Tuesday, August 05, 2003
• Performance @ Large - Tuesday, August 05, 2003
• Friday, July 18th, 2003: - Sunday, July 27, 2003
• Trip to NYC, part II - Sunday, July 20, 2003
• Trip to NYC, part I - Sunday, July 20, 2003


A Man of the Twentieth Century by Rosemarie Skaine

Recollections of Warren V. Keller, a Nebraskan as told to Rosemarie Keller Skaine and James C. Skaine..  
Featured BookAds by Silver
Gold and Platinum Members



Authors alphabetically: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Featured Authors | New to AuthorsDen? | Add AuthorsDen to your Site
Share AD with your friends | Need Help? | About us


Problem with this page?   Report it to AuthorsDen
© AuthorsDen, Inc. All rights reserved.