Archive for the ‘ Popular Culture ’ Category

THE BOX IS BACK WHERE IT BELONGS

Today is the 32nd anniversary of Terayama Shūji’s (寺山 修司) death. Curiously, it coincides with Memorial Day in The Netherlands- the day preceding Liberation Day where the Dutch observe two minutes of silence from 20:00 to 20:02 to commemorate their country men who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions from the onset of World War II onwards.

Teryama Shūji, playwright, director, poet, filmmaker, innovator, died on May 4th 1983, at age 47.

My connection to his work dates back to late 1977, through a notice posted by the Mickery Theater on the bulletin board of the University of Amsterdam’s Institute of Dramatic Arts. Following up on that notice – that asked for help with the elaborate performances of Cloud Cuckooland, a visit – my life would never be the same again.

Tenjō Sajiki (天井桟敷), an avantgarde theater group from Tokyo, had settled that winter in Amsterdam at the Mickery Theater for a three-month residency to convert Terayama’s Nuhikun (奴婢訓, based on Jonathan Swift’s Directions for Servants) to a moving theater experience that took place in the entire building. Literally moving, and that’s where my role comes in. Perched high up in the rafters of the main theater, I was in charge of directing traffic below on the stage floor, where three curtained boxes mounted on hoovers and moved around by several stage hands transported spectators from scene to scene. Sometimes the audience faced a bare wall or closed curtains, with just audible access to what was going on beyond their 20-person box. This was, of course, in the heydey of audience participation- and manipulation. In the smaller theater upstairs, spectators were treated to the Cloud Cuckooland-part, conceived by Ritsaert ten Cate, only to be acquainted with Nuhikun by the end of the evening, when through a glass pane they could observe the grand finale of Terayama’s play.

What remained of the performance after Nuhikun had toured the rest of The Netherlands, London and Paris (without its hoovering boxes), was a maquette constructed by Tenjō Sajiki’s art director Kotake Nobutake (小竹信節), built of balsa wood inside a suitcase-type box measuring 46 x 30 x 10 cm of thin triplex board. On the day of departure, all cast and crew signed it, rendering it a wonderful time capsule.

Fast forward to September 5, 2008 when Ritsaert ten Cate, founder and director of the Mickery Theater and later Touch Time, dies. I inherit the model of Nuhikun. It is in disrepair. I feel it needs to be in a place where it can be enjoyed by more people than just me.

I get in touch with Terayama’s former wife and Tenjō Sajiki producer Kujō Kyōko (九條今日子), who tells me about her involvement in the establishment of a museum to house the archives of Terayama’s work. It is connected to a memorial, close to where he grew up in Aomori prefecture, in a tranquil and wooded section of Misawa city (of American Airforce Base-fame), overlooking Odanai Pond.

It takes some time to get organised – time in which the model is restored and Kujō-san dies, on 30 April 2014 – but last October, I finally made the pilgrimage to Japan’s deep north to return a piece of Terayama history to its rightful place.

The Terayama Memorial Museum is a wonderfully playful building, where Terayama’s literary, dramatic and cinematographic legacy are kept. Visitors can interact with the material by taking place in a darkened room behind desks where materials are kept, in chronological order and under glass in side drawers, and films are projected onto the desk surface through use of mirrors. In the next room, there is a tableau of Nuhikun set pieces and photographs that illustrate the history of Tenjō Sajiki and Terayama’s life. Manuscripts and further archive materials can be consulted in an adjacent library room.

The memorial overlooking the lake can be reached by walking down a meandering path behind the museum. In short, visiting here means immersion into another world, playful and peaceful at once.

I am treated to an overwhelmingly warm welcome by the museum’s director Eimei Sasaki (佐々木英明) and the Vice Mayor of Misawa, Maita Koichiro, who proceeds to read out loud a Letter of Recognition to me and a gathered audience of members of the press as well as a delegation from City Hall and the local Chamber of Commerce. To my surprise, and great joy, this is a big deal for the city of Misawa.

For a few hours, Mickery’s and Tenjō Sajiki’s illustrious histories are rekindled through storytelling and anecdotes, and Terayama Shūji and Ritsaert ten Cate are in the spotlight once more to illuminate their visionary approach to theater.

And the box is back where it belongs.

Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Terayama Shuji Kinenkan/Terayama Shuji Memorial Museum, Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Terayama Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

The Nuhikun model

The Nuhikun model

Frontpage, Daily Tohoku News, 23 October 2014

Frontpage, Daily Tohoku News, 23 October 2014

Translation DAILY TOHOKU NEWS, Thursday, 23 October 2014

On the 22nd of October, Dutch director Erica Bilder presented to the Terayama Shuji Memorial Hall of Misawa a stage model, dating from the time when the theater company ‘Tenjo-Sajiki’ directed by Terayama Shuji – a poet and a playwright who spent his childhood in Misawa – performed in 1978 in The Netherlands.

This stage model is probably the only one existent for Tenjo-Sajiki, and museum director Eimei Sasaki said with great joy, “It is a most valuable addition to understand the whole of Terayama’s use of performance space.”

In that year, ‘Directions to Servants,’ created and directed by Terayama was presented at the theater in Amsterdam.

Terayama also traveled on tour, and he directed the avant-garde performance [in The Mickery] with many small audiences and stages that move about in the theater .

The actors and staff used this model to understand the arrangement of complex scene changes changes during the performance.

The model was made by Nobutaka Kotake, who was a company member and art director at the time (he is currently a professor at Musashino Art University).

It is a wooden box, and is 1/60 scale of the real thing, length 46cm, width 30cm, and height 10cm. It has parts that simulate the audience and stage, and the model is accompanied by the script that Mrs. Bilder put together, so the original state of each scene in the theater can be recreated.

There are messages of Terayama and members of theater company on the back of its lid.

Mrs.Bilder was assistant of the stage director in the ’78 performance, and she told “I was shocked when I first saw the performance. It gave me a chance to learn about avant-garde theater in Japan. My life was changed by this work.”

She received the model from the producer in 2008, and told with a smile, “I am happy to present this to Terayama Memorial Hall because it belongs here.”

See also:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shūji_Terayama

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenjō_Sajiki

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2008/oct/31/ritsaert-ten-cate-obituary

http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/M/bo12379632.html

https://www.terayamaworld.com/museum.html

https://www.terayamaworld.com/about/

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2015/03/11/stage/going-terayamas-rare-spirit-lives/#.VUcZl6bvjBH

 

Mayor Bloomberg Speaks at La MaMa Fiftieth Anniversary Gala

Mayor Bloomberg spoke yesterday at La MaMa’s Fiftieth Anniversary Gala at the Ellen Stewart Theater on East 4th Street, the block that is now renamed “Ellen Stewart Way.”
Bloomberg talked about his first encounter in 2006 with Ellen’s driving visionary force, which made him hand over the building that was formerly called “the Annex” for one dollar (1$)!
He also announced that – at the instruction of Kate D. Levin, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) – the city will support La MaMa with 2 million dollars for capital improvements on four facilities (the original La MaMa building, the Ellen Stewart Theater, La MaMa Galleria on 1st Street and the rehearsal studio building on 47 Great Jones Street). This not only to perpetuate La MaMa’s own activities in theater, the visual arts and education, but also to support La MaMa’s guiding light function in a “Naturally Occurring Cultural District.”
“Theater, including off-off-Broadway,” said the mayor, “is a major industry in our city. In fact, on-Broadway theaters have a quarter-billion-dollar impact on our economy every year.” And that is why he thinks investing in La MaMa is “a sound investment in the city’s future.”
The evening was full of wonderful theatrical surprises, like Estelle Parsons and John Kelly in a beautifully executed mother-and-son scene of Harvey Fierstein’s ‘Torch Song Trilogy,’ touching video messages from Harvey Keitel and Sam Shepard, who received the first-ever Ellen Stewart Award, a scene from Wallace Shawn’s zany ‘Hotel Play’ with a million characters young and old flocking to the stage including Shawn himself as the bell-boy, and a vibrant new piece by the inimitable Elizabeth Swados, a ‘La MaMa Cantata’ set to Ellen Stewart’s own words. MC’d by La MaMa old-timers Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw of Split Britches, the evening was a reconfirmation that La MaMa’s future is secured for at least another fifty years.

La MaMa 50 World Block Party Day

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of La MaMa Experimental Theater Club, East 4th street between Bowery and Second Avenue metamorphosed into a meeting place of world culture yesterday.
Ellen Stewart died on January 13 2011, but her spirit was felt forceful as ever yesterday.
Master of Ceremonies Carmelita Tropicana brought to the stage Bill de Blasio, holding the citywide office of New York City Public Advocate, City Council member for the Lower East Side Rosie Mendez and Manhattan Community Board 3 district manager Susan Stetzer, who all spoke lovingly and with admiration of Ellen’s accomplishments.
Kathleen Hughes, Assistant Commissioner of NYC Department of Cultural Affairs had the honor of bestowing a name change for Ellen’s beloved block.
“I think Ellen Stewart convinced all of us that she was immortal. She was a friend, a booster, she could be a buster, she was radiant, she was dedicated she was visionary, she was love,” Hughes began her speech.
“Whether ringing her bell on Mount Olympus or in heaven – or both, if you’re a believer in omnipresence – she’s with us still and this simple but tangible municipal honor, a street sign, a ‘way,’ is proof that if we follow the Ellen Stewart Way, care about those around us, spur them on, inspire them, give them beauty, cause them to think deeply about meaning, and art, and thoughtfulness, then Ellen is still with us. And we are here acknowledging her and that perhaps she was an immortal.
For not only did she have the past fifty years in giving us new ways to look at things, new artists that we have come to know, all of those who thought she and La MaMa are on a course for the next fifty years as well. She set that for us. And those artists have inspired other artists to go inspire others and yet others.
What else is that if not a kind of immortality.
Thank you Ellen for showing us the way, I hope you hear our bells on Mount Olympus, or in heaven, or wherever you are on this glorious day and I hope you are ringing yours with us as well.”
Kathleen Hughes proceeded to read a Proclamation from the Office of Mayor Bloomberg:
“Fittingly, this year’s fiftieth anniversary celebration includes the rededication of East 4th Street between Second Avenue and Bowery as Ellen Stewart Way.
Her extraordinary spirit will live on here in La MaMa’s three New York theaters and throughout the world.
Whereas, as we celebrate the founder who made La MaMa great, we also look forward to the theater’s future. Our cultural scene is one that welcomes experimentation and innovation, which is what la MaMa is and always will be.
And we’re confident that La MaMa will always be counted on as a place where artists can explore and challenge themselves.”

Apple tribute logo

Apple tribute logo a Web hit | Today in Tech – Yahoo! News.

The End of Videoheads?

Today, I received an alarming message from Jack Moore, founder and director of Videoheads – since 1966!

“It looks like the end of Videoheads and their collection.
After 45 years of work, play and accumulation, Videoheads is in great danger of disappearing.
Various deals to sell our material or license it for publishing have been delayed and delayed. a sales agent we were hoping to work with had not panned out and we are 4 months behind in our rent. This week the Landlords will demand that we empty the building and vacate. The equipment will be sold and the tape collection will be thrown in garbage bins. We need to find 6000 Euros immediately (within a couple of days) or watch Videoheads go down in flames. If you know of anyone or any organization who could help to save this situation and the collection, please contact me or them or both. The 60s collection, our UNESCO material, the theater dance and performance collection as well as the Art, artists and writers tapes are just used tapes with no value to a bailiff.
Please have a think and be in touch.”

Are we going to do something about it?
Please contact Jack at:
jack.videomaster@gmail.com

http://videoheads.info/

Jack trained as an opera director, with degrees in Music and Theater, but since 1966 he has been intensely active in the area of application of video technology to support artists and performers in their work as well as stilmulating creativity in the fields of videographic and computer art.
Videoheads has an open workshop and video gallery in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Jack worked as a consulting expert for U.N.E.S.C.O. for 20 years, inspecting and developing media strategies and facilities in 61 countries.

Largely retired now, he lives in Amsterdam and keeps himself busy with restoring old video material to digital standards and indexing his 60,000 hours of programming.
He teaches and assists artists who use video in various ways, and gives ample video support for the performing arts.

Laurie Lives

Was that fabulous last night?
Those of you who were there must agree.
Laurie Anderson.
Delusion.
Finely worked jewels of personal short stories sprouted from the back of Laurie Anderson’s mind, interspersed with shards of music played on her electronic violin, backed up by arrays of sound bits.
Laurie Anderson – in real life of small stature – on stage larger than life, moving between folding and draped objects that function as reflecting screens. Behind her, a huge back projection spitting out an avalanche of delicious images mixed live.
The stories go deeper than ever. About time, space, and loss. The bind one finds oneself in, realizing that the death of a beloved dog causes more pain than the death of the mother.
Sometimes the deep chords of her music made the walls of the theater vibrate and my body with it. A pleasant sensation. Her voice, and her Fenway Bergamot’s voice, which never ages, soothingly, sagaciously and whimsically drove home some truths to think about during sleepless hours.

Reality Check

RITSAERT IS DEAD . . .

Art is money and money is art.

Ritsaert ten Cate was aware of that. The fun thing about him was: he had money.
He had the money and made an art form out of presenting, producing and creating the cutting edge in the (performing) arts.
What’s even more fun: he had the social grace to let us share in his fantastic journey of exploration and discovery.
When the money was spent after about five years (we are talking 1965-1969), the sharing ended temporarily.

Then the marvelous Marga Klompé (the very first woman to gain a ministerial post in Dutch government) had the social grace to prolong audience participation in Ritsaert’s discoveries.
Because he had the eye, Ritsaert, and she knew that, Marga.

Ritsaert ten Cate was an excellent observer. A privileged and entitled background took care of his having no qualms about picking and developing what he thought fit.
He observed and shared what he thought fit. And it was marvelous.
Until the money was spent again.

He changed course.

And then the money was really and truly spent.

Ritsaert ten Cate foresaw the gaping abyss of the moral and cultural deficit that we are facing now exactly 20 years ago and he quit. He burnt down the house and all bridges behind him.

The legacy of his observing eye was kept alive for a period of seven fat years in a postgraduate school that he conceived and led. The moment he pulled out, the lean years announced themselves for the school, leading eventually to its incorporation into an institutional moloch he so despised.

Such is life.

Ritsaert is dead and the last nails to his coffin – a book and a website – have firmly been hammered in the past week, accompanied by some final swooning eulogies uttered by an aging and adoring crowd.

It’s up to us to wriggle out those nails by opening the book and navigating the website, to be niggled by the man’s mad, visionary energy.

It is not and cannot ever be about having to defend the need for our existence as artists.
That’s implied.

A community without access to the artful transference of necessary stories to be told will shrivel up and die.

. . . LONG LIVE RITSAERT

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