Posts Tagged ‘Theatre’


Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

I’m acting in a show at Columbia U. this weekend.

It’s a lot of fun.

Check it out.

It’s Free!

Here’s the info: Hypochondria

See you there!!!

I’m working on it…

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I’m working on a couple of blog posts (replete with pictures) about my experience with the kayak rangers in September.


I’m back in Juneau. Working on The Blue Bear.

This article about Voices Of the Wilderness came out today. There’s a section about me:

Yeee haaaa…

Stay cozy everyone!

Idiom idiocy

Monday, December 21st, 2009

When you work in the performing arts, you end up changing your cloths a lot. I guess its the same for people in sports but most sports facilities have clearly defined dressing rooms etc. In theatre and dance a lot of times you find yourself (and others) changing in hallways and bathrooms and lobbies of studios etc. Its just not a big deal, and although there is reasonable measure of modesty, there is a certain looseness about this which is, I think, pretty darn healthy.

So I was very very surprised to see this sign in a bathroom at the Playwrights Horizon’s Theatre School.

Now I’m going to stay away from commenting on this jaunty, whimsical character who in other signs is seen admonishing us to “Do the ‘quiet in the hall’ thing!”. Let’s just say that I’m not a fan.

My problem with this sign is two-fold. First off, I think it’s actually a bit unreasonable to ask people to use stalls to change. My history teacher in high school, Paul Scott, taught me that you can tell what was going on in a society by looking at what laws they had. So I have to assume that there was enough changing going on in these bathrooms to make this policy necessary. However, forcing people into stalls seems unseemly on a number of levels.

And this leads to the bigger problem I have with it. The idiom “Caught with your pants down” means being caught doing something worthy of guilt. Obviously the origin of this is adultery. I know there are a range of attitudes about this kind of thing, but changing one’s cloths is not a bad thing. I mean modesty is modesty, but this IS a theatre school. And to even imply that there is something shameful about changing cloths is a “thing that makes me go hmmmm.”
And I know the point here is to “Do the ‘clever with words on signs’ thing” but, again, this is a theatre school. I would think that textual analysis would have a role here.

So what is being said here is that changing your cloths is a dirty, stinky activity that you should feel guilty about. Another victory for the forces that seek to denigrate the body. And at a theatre school… nice!

And yes, I’m making a mountain out of a mole-hill here, but I am fascinated by idioms and am amazed at how easily mangled they become. For example: “The proof is in the pudding.” This makes no sense. The proof is NOT in the pudding. The correct idiom is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” which actually makes sense.


…stay tuned!

Under Construction 2

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

So we’re up and running and the show is kind of fantastic and fun and we’re having a great time with it.

Here’s my hero Chuck Mee talking about the show:


The national press hasn’t descended upon us yet. Isherwood will probably write about us in the Times but in the meantime here are two local reviews:

Courier Journal

Leo Weekly

We may be posting some footage that I’m shooting on a FlipCam during the show on YouTube at some point soon. In any case I’ll keep y’all posted here. If you’re in driving range of L’ville come on down! We’ll also be doing it in Tempe AZ, and Champagne-Urbana IL once we close here.

K. Nuf for now.

Under Construction

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I’m in Louisville with SITI Company working on UNDER CONSTRUCTION, and it would be hard to be happier with a work at this point! We’re having a BLAST and this big messy mass of theatrical pleasure that we’re working on every day is my favorite thing in a LONG time. Of course I say that about everything I work on. Sue me. But this is really quite special I think. It is exactly where I want to be right now on so many levels.

And I think a lot of people are going to hate it.

And I think a lot of people are going to love it.

And that feels about right.

To paraphrase Tom Nelis, talking about the actual play from inside the play: This is the way we’re doing it and we think this feels wonderful.

Anyway there’s a blog. Check it out.

Typical blog post

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

I suspect that the most common sentence used to start blog entries is some variation on: “I haven’t updated this blog in awhile.” I know I’ve written a few. I’m trying to avoid writing it again, but it’s been two full months since I’ve shown my face here. So here I am.

I really meant to blog about the inauguration, and the Oscars but I didn’t.

What I’ve been doing in the meantime,

1. I’ve been in Tempe/Phoenix Arizona directing a production of Sarah Ruhl’s EURYDICE. It was a so-called “site specific” production. Here’s a review.
While in AZ. I did a lot of hiking in the Superstition mountains/wilderness. This activity took up all the time I would have spent blogging etc.

2. I’ve been watching Barak Obama get inaugurated and start his term. I still choke up almost every time someone says “President Barak Obama.” I have also discovered that I wish I was Malia or Sasha. Not that I am that unhappy with the life I have, but man, wouldn’t it be GREAT to be one of those girls?

3. I’ve been getting more active on Twitter. If you know what it is, I’ve also started using Brightkite to update both Twitter and Facebook. I’m also using Yelp more and more and I’m actually writing reviews. Check out the new Yelp window on this blog (scroll down on the main blog page, it’s on the right).

4. I’m now in Louisville KY rehearsing (as an actor) Chuck Mee’s UNDER CONSTRUCTION with SITI Company. More on this later…

Ok. So that’s it for now.


Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

TSA airport security inspections suck.

Who was it who said that TSA stands for “Thousands, Standing Around.”

There is, on one hand, the whole political argument about being subjected to a search without probable cause, and the attendant argument about whether any of this is really doing what they say it’s doing, but that’s a rant that been ranted in other places by other ranters. Let me just say that I have deeper questions about the whole thing.

But the frustration that I’m ranting about here, is related to the aesthetics of the experience. I mean, I know there’s probably some sort of security reason why the whole thing has to be flexible or something, but why does it always seem like these TSA inspections are run by FEMA? I know for a fact that there are architects in this country. It follows that some of them are talented. It follows that some of these could solve this. It just doesn’t seem that hard to design a way to do this with a modicum of grace. It’s one thing to have to take your belt and shoes off as part of a public transportation experience. But I don’t think they could do this worse if they tried. Even the newer facilities that have been built in the last few years, look like they were set up in a couple of hours by some high-school student council committee.

Beyond the design issues, there is the problem of the staff. There seem to be two types.

The first is the type that knows that there is an inherent arbitrary absurdity to the situation and the best thing they can do is try to maintain compliance with this week’s regulations with a minimum of stress. These people are relatively helpful.

Earlier this summer I was going through security in Las Vegas (on the way from Edmonton Alberta to Chicago Illinois… in addition to architects I think we could use some cartographers.). I have taken to carrying Sigg water bottles with me when I fly. By filling them at water fountains at the gate, I can avoid the carbon footprint of bottled water and the bacterial footprint of onboard water tanks. Anyway, the trick requires going through security with the bottles empty, but in Las Vegas, because I was on a lay-over I didn’t expect to have to do the TSA thing, and one of my bottles was full of Canadian water. So the guy said, you’re going to have to empty it, and then escorted me on a circuitous path that took me around the entire inspection area and back to the other side. We walked past several water fountains and restrooms. He said he’s having to do this more and more because more and more people have similar hydration strategies to mine, and he doesn’t think it’s right to take their bottles away. When I said “And there’s no way I can just dump it on THIS side, he shook his head and rolled his eyes.

The other type of TSA employee is apparently dealing with the largest amount of authority they have ever had. They are not dealing with it well. They have allowed their perception of the stakes of their situation to stress them out, and make them vaguely abusive. Harking back to Milgram, these people have been given instructions that allow them to be stupider and ruder than they probably would be in normal circumstances.

I was going through security in New Orleans once, several years ago. I had a button shirt that I was wearing over a T-shirt. It was unbuttoned and untucked. I was flying north and I would want it buttoned by the time we landed. The guy told me to take my jacket off. I told him that it wasn’t a jacket, it was a shirt. But he made me take it off. I asked him if he would have made me take it off if it had been buttoned up. He just stared at me. But I really wanted to know, so after getting through, I went back out, buttoned and tucked in my shirt, went through again. The guy just stared at me. He was clearly pissed off at me, but he couldn’t ask me to take my shirt off.
Ok, so that’s a story about how I’m kind of a jerk, but the point is that these rules are CRAZY, and they set up situations in which human interactions become really dumb. Unless this craziness is the common enemy we’re at odds with each other.

On the positive side, the TSA has set up TSA Complaints, and I have heard reports that this has been effective. Some things that people have complained about have been addressed.

However, in addition to the TSA staff, there is another group of people who frustrate me when going through airport security.

The other passengers.

I’m sure I’m guilty of pissing people off in TSA lines as well, but I have NEVER gone through one of these lines without feeling that people aren’t paying attention or thinking ahead. I understand that some people don’t travel very much and aren’t used to this process, but it just isn’t that tricky. Here are some “rules” that have emerged for me.

1. Think ahead. Pack your carry-on with a thought towards this process. Put the contents of your pockets in your bag before you get anywhere near the scanner.

2. Think through how many of those plastic tubs you’re going to need. Grab that number and keep moving. Keep your stuff together for as long as you can.

3. Put your, laptop, little baggie of liquids, your shoes, and belt etc in the tubs at the last possible moment, and send them through the scanner.

4. At the other end, the priority is to keep moving. Grab your stuff and get as far from the scanner as you can. If you are standing at the exit to the scanner, putting your shoes on, you are causing a problem.

If people would just do this, it would move SO MUCH smoother.

All of this of course is filed under the heading of sweeping generalizations. There are plenty of anecdotes about helpful TSA folk and efficient passengers. But on the whole, I find everyone to be at least mildly irritating, if not wildly infuriating while involved in this hateful practice.

It has always driven me irrationally crazy, and I could never figure out why. Going through security at Jet Blue in JFK this last weekend, I suddenly realized why this is so irritating to me. As a theatre artist a big part of my job/interest is movement through time and space. I’m not an expert when it comes to the legality of this whole TSA enterprise. I am an expert when it comes to how it’s performed. TSA security inspections are badly staged!

I can see how to fix this problem but I need everyone to either train more or rehearse.

Oy vey

Seeing things and people in Tokyo.

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

So I’ve been in Tokyo for the last while. My time here has been extremely busy. No time for silly things like blogging. However, I have been thinking a good deal about this country and culture.

The one thought that I keep circling around is the idea that Japan is spending a good deal of energy and resources on innovation and development that is relevant only for the Japanese, and is still somehow failing to find ways to make their contributions resonate fully in the world community. I’ll try to come back to this point, but for now some vignettes of the week.

We spent the first couple of nights in Tokyo at the home of Yoji Sakate. Mr. Sakate is the artistic director of the Rinkogun company, and current head of the Japan Playwrights Association. I have known Sakate for about a decade now. We first met when I performed the simultaneous translation for a tour of Rinkogun’s Capital Of The City of the Gods. This was a significant tour for me in that it marked my first visit to New Orleans. I have since translated a number of Sacate’s plays and directed a reading of a section of his Attic. The last time I was in Japan was when I was here 6 years ago to create an adaptation of Moby Dick with RInkogun. So the first night we were in Tokyo, a bunch of the people who had worked on that show came over and we had about 17 tons of food and drink. It lasted late into the night.
I had a long conversation with Mr. Furumoto, Rinkogun’s managing director. He’s from Toyota, where I grew up, so we have always had an interesting bond. It was interesting to hear how the funding situation in Japan is getting more and more severe. GOS grants that had kept the company alive for most of it’s 25 years, have simply gone away. Despite the fact that Rinkogun and Sakate have won just about every award available to them, and are arguably one of the most firmly established companies in the country, they’re still having to re-invent the funding wheel every year to stay afloat.
There was a woman at the party that I did not know, who brought some food that she introduced as “macrobiotic”, informing us that it’s currently a big hit in the United States. This is a common trope, something that is barely on the radar in the U.S. is marketed here as a huge craze that is sweeping the United States. What struck me though was that she used the word “macrobiotic”. Now, I may be wrong about this, but my understanding is that the concept of macrobiotic food is based on “Shoujin Ryouri”, which is the food eaten in certain Japanese Buddhist monasteries. So there’s a perfectly good Japanese term for this stuff, which everyone in Japan would understand. “Macrobiotic” is, at best, clumsy in Japanese.

The next day, Akiko and I went down to Yokohama to have lunch with Akiko’s older sister and the elder of her two daughters. The ocean-front area of Yokohama around the new “Landmark Tower” is a futuristic architectural splurge with amusement parks, hotels and shopping malls arranged like the diorama of a theoretical cubist city. Post-modernism is alive and well in Yokohama. After lunch, Akiko and I went up to the top of the Landscape Tower (the tallest structure in Japan) on the elevator (the fastest elevator in Japan, although the certificate on display from Guiness said “Fastest Elevator” so I’m not sure if there’s a faster one anywhere). The view was spectacular. Even in Yokohama, which is technically past the southern border of Tokyo, the expanse of buildings is unending. You literally can’s see the edges of the city. It’s civilization as far as the eye can see, off past the curvature of the earth.

That night, Akiko went to see the dance company she used to dance with and Sakate met me at the Tokyo Public theatre to see Hanagumishibai’s new take on Chushingura. Hanagumishibai is a 20 year old company that has as it’s theme, the re-interpretation of Kabuki in a modern, unauthorized context. These guys (and yes, they’re all men) trained in the traditional techniques of Kabuki but are not part of the official Kabuki organization. I hadn’t seen their work in over 10 years, so I was curious to see how they were doing. I was a bit disappointed. Back in the day, the company had featured a friend of mine, the extraordinary Sasai Eisuke, as the principal Onnagata (specialist in playing women). Sasai was so compelling he became a kind of phenomenon all on his own. The times that I saw the company, the interplay between Sasai and company founder and director/performer Mr. Kanou was mind-blowing. These two guys were at the edges of their ability, weaving a totally new kind of cloth out of this ancient thread. Sasai has since left the company, and although Kanou is still really (and I mean REALLY) amazing on stage, the production as a whole felt safe. They have a lot of money now, the costumes look fabulous, the staging is gorgeous, but many of the very things that they began criticizing about official Kabuki are now features of their performance. It could have been because they were doing, perhaps, the most well worn play in the Kabuki cannon, but especially the first half was deadly boring.

The next day, Akiko and I moved to my brother Joel’s place for a night. After a beautiful walk through Tama Cemetery (resting place of Yukio Mishima, Edogawa Rampo, General Tojo and Admiral Yamamoto), we had dinner with Akiyo (an old friend from Toyota) and her two kids, so along with Joel’s family it was quite a crowd.

The next morning, with the help of Joel, I got a bunch of little fixes implemented on the blog. So if you haven’t noticed, things are working smoother and every-thing’s a bit prettier here at Leon’s blog.

Akiko and I then moved to a hotel in Ikebukuro, which was part of our old stomping grounds. That night we went to see Shiraishi Kayoko play the mother in Parco Theater’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenan. For those who don’t know, Shiraishi Kayoko is the best stage actor in the world right now. I would qualify this as my opinion, but I’m not the only one who feels this way. She was Suzuki’s lead actor for the period of time when his work was important, and she was the progenitor of much of the so-called Suzuki Method. I was lucky enough to have my time with the Suzuki company and hers, overlapp by about 3 years, during which time we became quite close. She has toured to the United States twice with her “Hyakumonogatari” solo performances, and I have made a fool of myself on those occasions, distracting the audience with simultaneous translations. Aside from being a remarkable performer of the first order, she is also a fanatically loyal friend and one of my favorite people.
The production was directed by a new up-and-coming 32 year old whipper-snapper of a director. It was solid, but not brilliant as a production. As is appropriate to the material, the style of performance was naturalistic. But this raises one of the most interesting points about the production; Kayoko is anything BUT a naturalistic performer. She is a monster on stage. A huge theatrical presence of titanic proportions, and to the very depths of every bone in her body, theatrical. So for her, acting “normal” on stage is immensely difficult. What this meant is that everyone else on stage is coming from a place of comfort within the daily-life body of naturalistic performance, and reaching towards theatricality. Kayoko is starting from a place of intense theatricality and reaching towards daily-life. Which one do YOU think is more interesting to watch? For me it’s no contest. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The character is a horrible, cruel, resentful hag of a woman. Kayoko makes her absolutely and terrifyingly vivid in all her ugliness and then makes you care about her. It was, in a word, stunning.
After the show Akiko and I and Kayoko and her Husband went to Roppongi for late night Chinese. At midnight it became Kayoko’s 66th birthday so we made a deal about that. She was born the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As she said, “…there’s always been something about me and America.”

The next day (Sunday), I met my childhood friend and ersatz guru Tom “Peach-fuzz” Eskildsen for breakfast. We then met up with Akiko, Ivar Eimon, Paul Hoshizaki and his wife Hiroko for lunch. These are all childhood friends of mine. We were eating at this really rather good “All the organic food you can eat in 90 mins for 1800 yen” place when another childhood friend who lives in Kobe, Loren Gilbertson called Ivar. It was about as close to a full-on reunion as I care for.

Ivar had to leave but the rest of us went over to the Ginza and walked around until Joel and Ruth showed up and we had Joel’s favorite thing to eat in the entire world An-pan fresh from Kimuraya. Kimuraya is a very old bakery on the Ginza and An-pan is a sweet bean-paste filled roll that originated there.

The party then shed those not related to the Ingulsruds and we went to big brother John E’s and after meeting up with Joel’s two girls, we had a pizza dinner surrounded by John and Kate’s 29th floor, panoramic view of Tokyo at night.

This morning we had to leave the hotel by 10 am leaving us the bulk of the day before our evening flight, so we went to Ueno (the Hard Rock Cafe spells it “Uyeno”), put our bags in a big locker, and went to Ryogoku; the Sumo district. The reason for this side trip was that we had not had any luck finding Tabi (Japanese formal socks with a bifurcated toe that we wear for Suzuki Training) in my size. For reasons that perhaps obvious to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the sport, the Sumo district is a good place to look for anything oversized you might want in Japan. Please insert here one or more jokes at my expense comparing me to a sumo wrestler.

And now I’m at the airport. The tabi and everything else is checked in and we’re checked into that international limbo of intercontinental air travel. This has always been an emotionally and philosophically loaded space for me. I used to write poetry on airplanes a lot. Then I stopped writing poetry all together and the world was a better place.

I can’t say that I’m ready to go back. There are certain things/people I’m looking forward to seeing. But on the whole, I wish I’d been here longer. This is leading to a sense that I want to get back as soon as possible, and for as long as possible. I don’t want to be an ex-pat. I find them sad. But I do love this place and feel a bond to it, even if it’s only one way.

Then again, I want to live a life with lots of places that I miss.