Inever wrote the essay about my sort of-ex that I had intended to, one that started out drawing the ironic comparison between his flawed communication style and inconsistent articulation of his desires with the fascination he had (which he then shared with me) in the flawed communication style and inconsistent articulation of desire, of the women on the Real Housewives of New York. It was intended to be a poisoned lollipop of a personal essay, a mode I generally avoid, vacillating between the mild transgressions of someone who didn’t know what they wanted, the person who got strung along, and the perhaps unusual pop culture artifact that functioned as the bridge between them. But that essay and its banal details — the improprities of a fuckboi are seldom all that interesting — would have been its own green screen backed, ill-lit framed confessional. It would have been both something truthful and attention seeking, not so much inauthentic as necessarily theatrical, and, had it been published, another invitation to flog oneself publicly. It could have all been a grandiosely told lie, but that would not really have mattered; the only thing that did matter was the impulse to narrativize something like heartbreak into something that was consumable.
There’s little else to do with one’s feelings these days. You feel them and then what? If there’s no one to perform them for, did they ever really happen? The question of whether a performance is still a performance if there’s no one there to watch isn’t new, but the ways in which it’s been inverted (if there’s nothing to watch, did anyone perform?) does feel strikingly of a recent moment, a recent condition.
In Sally’s eyes, as played by Imelda Staunton in the 2017 National Theatre revival of James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim’s musical Follies directed by Dominick Cooke, you can see madness, pain, a dream slipping through her fingers, curdling into nightmare. It’s Sally’s folly in the back part of the show, the ghosts of the past not so much stalking her, her pathetic and unfaithful husband Buddy, her former best friend Phyllis, and the object of her desire Ben, so much as creating a phantasmagoric vaudevillian performance space which forces them to confront their ills. This is “Loveland”, as the hoofers tell us, draped in idyllic, too perfect to be true baby blue lighting, silky curtains, and costumes that uncannily resurrect the past. It’s so much sadder than being deranged because reality is just at the edges.
It seems significant that Sally’s number, quiet and rumbling compared to the vivacious pastiches of everyone else’s, including their former selves, is called a “torch song”. Minimalist where the others’ performances are maximalist, she sits by a vanity, her nightgown, her skin, her hair milky and shimmering in a way it hasn’t since she was a showgirl. She’s starlight, but she’s dying. A flame that’s burned eternal, the blue at its base wavering in the wind but still alight. Imelda Staunton’s rendition of “Losing My Mind” simmers at first until she douses herself in kerosene, her continued, desperate and mad pining for Ben, even when he’s once again spurned her, the ultimate kind of self-immolation.
“They Should Feel That Twinge of Indictment”: More on “Circle Jerk” with Michael Breslin, Patrick Foley, and Ariel Sibert
(Author’s Note: You can find my interview with the Fake Friends, where we talk more about memes, white supremacy, and queer aesthetics at theLA Review of Books. These are some excerptsfrom our two-hour conversation which didn’t make the final cut.)
In terms of queer aesthetic being reappropriated or weaponized and becoming a tool of white supremacy. Was there anything within the show that you sort of, discussed or hesitated about as far as that also kind of falling into the same trap?
Michael Breslin: Yeah, I mean we can all talk about this in various ways. But that was the main question in every single rehearsal, and every single writing session. Cat, who plays Eva Maria has this really great way of thinking about this, which is, if you’re going to critique something, there’s a very slippery slope to, falling into doing the thing that you’re you think you’re critiquing, right? So we’ve rewritten this play so many times, because that is a real threat. And I’m still wondering how people experience the play and on that spectrum.
Patrick Foley: Then the other danger is that you don’t convey these men honestly and you sort of defang them and in doing that, you sort of exonerate them, and you make it so that you can’t take them seriously. So there is a seesaw of risks, I suppose that’s we’ve been sort of going back and forth on.
MB: Yeah, I would say the plot, like Jurgen and Lord Bussy’s plot to spread misinformation, had many different iterations of what that looked like. And we had to really discuss eugenics, and how that relates to faces and how that relates to algorithms. There were a lot of conversations around that specific part of the show.
PF: And how specific it should be about the genocidal reality or intent or follow through.
Ariel Sibert: There was some moment during production where I [saw] there was an advertisement on my Instagram feed for a kind of application that would scan your face and based on your bone structure, analyze your personality type, which was just straight up phronology. And this was already at a point in the show where we had put a number of FaceTunes, and of the characters actually editing their own appearance, refining it on apps like Manley, and also on FaceTune. And we were thinking a lot about this idea of facial structure, surveillance, optimization for AI.
How much of our way of presenting ourselves and appearing is actually optimized to be read by non-human vision? And now we’re at a point where the show is reaching so many more people than we thought it would. And our own anonymity is something that we’re starting to talk about, how to own digital security in a way that as the show grows, and the infrastructure around how our image gets used, and appropriated and circulated. I mean, for me, I live tweeted the show last night, I had 12 Twitter followers and used it as a private joke. And now it’s become part of my digital identity because of this show, which is great for me in a networking capacity, but it’s also the way that this show circulates has really changed people’s access to the faces, particularly with Michael and Patrick.
You can read the full interview here.
In two different plays, adapted from two different films, and by two different directors (one Belgian and one French), two women—“of a certain age,” someone, more likely than not a man, might write colloquially, garden variety sexism dotting the fibrous page—look into the mirror and see their unsavory fates, and the loss of what was once so promising, even if under a particular paradigm. They’re two actresses playing actresses in play adaptations of films about plays, and theatre, and performance, and all of that baggage. One actress, Margo Channing (Gillian Anderson), reacts to her growing obsolescence with venomous wit, peppered in with drunken desperation. The other, Myrtle Gordon (Gena Rowlands) responds with a sort of actorly paralysis, like the yips, and also with sloshed conduct. And as two live feeds amplify and project the frustration and neuroses these women are experiencing, men loom in the background, flattening it all for the sake of their own thrill.
It’s fairly interesting that, at least in New York, that the international broadcast of the National Theatre’s production of All About Eve, directed and adapted by Ivo van Hove, and the United States premiere of the stage adaptation of Opening Night, directed and adapted by Cyril Teste, should “run” in such close proximity to one another, mere weeks apart. They’re effectively very similar texts, with equally iconoclastic leading roles for women, and presented in not dissimilar, but extremely disheartening ways. It could be argued that the films from which these plays are adapted are in dialogue with one another, and, in a way, so are the adaptations themselves, though I would really designate it as a pompous shouting match that grates on the ear than a conversation. Read the rest of this entry »
“What sort of resources did you have in terms of resource for research, or did it all just come during rehearsals?” an audience member asked an actor during a NT Platform panel regarding a six hour long play, reports GayTimes UK.
The actor responded, per GayTimes’ reportage:
“The preparation had begun before (rehearsals began) with a lot of my friends. (The play is) As much devoted to my friends in the gay community as it is those that passed during the epidemic.”
[He] later revealed that a certain drag superstar’s show has helped him find his character: “I mean every single series of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I mean every series.
“My only time off during rehearsals – every Sunday I would have eight friends over and we would just watch Ru. This is my life outside of this play. I am a gay man right now just without the physical act – that’s all.”
The play was Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. The actor was Andrew Garfield. His role as Prior Walter leaves him with the difficult work of playing a gay man living with AIDS and a prophet, whose message to humanity is overwhelming.
This isn’t really a story, more of a quick anecdote about his acting process. But a story was picked up nonetheless, with places like Attitude and Out Magazine decrying the actor’s comments as insensitive, specifically regarding the “I am a gay man right now, just without the physical act” bit. Read the rest of this entry »