Monday, July 6, 2009

We never could agree about the practical definition of "ages."

Goddamnit Pudding,

I was just about halfway through making a mixtape for me mam when the cassette recorder just started GOBBLING UP the tape at an alarming rate. I tried to salvage it, but alas, it was hopeless, and tore, and I may have wept slightly.

I know, you had nothing to do with it.

I know, it doesn't explain where the heck I've been all this time.

But a girl's gotta begin somewhere.

So yes. I've acquired a turntable. Actually, it's a marvelous multimedia device which has the capacity to play records, cassettes, radio programs, and 8-tracks(!!), much to my delight (although the cassette deck is currently on my shitlist for obvious reasons detailed above).

One thing I like about music is it puts me in a listing mood. With digital music, or even CDs, the lists tend to be playlists: songs divorced from ther albumhood, chatting away to each other as songs, free and whimsical -- certainly derived from some larger body of work and vaguely aware of it, but not too insistent on the importance of their roots.

I make playlists with records, compiling -- or at least trying to compile -- collections of songs onto cassettes, but it's different. Records (and cassettes, for that matter) have a physicality to them that has kind of dripped out of music with more recent mediums.

I'm sorry, I have to stop. Rewind. Choose a different track. I don't want to sound like that. There are a lot of things would rather not be, or even be perceived as. Somewhere on that list (I'm not saying where, 'cause the ranking shifts hourly anyhow): nostalgiasnob.

I'm not denying that I'm nostalgic. It's actually sort of a longstanding problem of mine. Which is kind of my point. I don't want to sound like I think I'm better than you are because lately most of my music spins around and around under a needle. I'm grateful to have brought that type of soundmachine back into my life because it soothes my nostalgic soul, and for the most part I think my current level of fascination with the spinning sounds is a relatively harmless manifestation of my nostalgic tendencies.

What this is primarily about is my itch to list, and what it's secondarily about is my itch to be a nostalgic just indulge me in both at once for a second and then I'll throw in something you're more likely to care about?


Dory Previn - In Concert April 18, 1973 8 PM Carnegie Hall
I'm not even clear on how this ended up in the collection of records I borrowed from my parents and brought East. I certainly don't remember listening to this or any other Dory Previn album during any high school vinyl jag...but I can't get enough of her these days. Like, literally, there aren't enough waking hours for me to have this album in mind. Last night I dreamed I was at an improbably vast family reunion with a lot of fat people I didn't recognise, and at some point it seemed likely that somebody was going to murder somebody else if I didn't act fast, and my dream-version of fast action was to locate a turntable and put this record on. Then an Uncle (who in the dream was played by a very unfat professor who is definitely not related to me, but who I happen to know does have a mighty nice record collection his own self) got very excited and exclaimed "Dory Previn! Omigosh! She was in Abacus!" and all the people who were about to kill each other stopped being about to kill each other and got really excited about Dory Previn and her dream-fictional band called Abacus, which they somehow produced albums out of cupboards to prove the existence of. Then I walked down a hallway and ended up at the top of the hill at my favourite music festival, and accidentally kidnapped a set of 3-year-old Laotian twins, who turned into heavy textbooks in my arms as I very bluntly explained my complete lack of accountability and documentation to the people at the first-aid-tent-turned-adoption-agency, who were trying dangerously hard to be on my side (which I certainly was not). Um. That last part didn't really have any relation to Dory Previn, it was just weird, but what I'm trying to say is, SHE HAS MOVED INTO MY BRAIN AND I LIKE IT. I do not even know why. But, um, check it out:

(You know, in that inferior, digital, divorced-from-its-glorious-context way I snubbed my nose at earlier. Mm-mm, contradictalicious.)

Arlo Guthrie - Washington County
I've probably gushed about Arlo plenty enough for the entire lifespan of this blog as far as the pudding is concerned, but gosh. I really love him, you know? This album in particular makes me swoon every time. It's some serious lie-on-the-floor-and-wallow-in-your-hippychild-crushiness shit. <3 (Somebody respectable recently attempted to make me feel embarrassed about my devotion to this particular dude, so I can report with a reasonable degree of honesty that it ain't gonna happen, but I won't fault you for trying, if that's your thing.)

Holly Near - You can know all I am (A collection of short plays)
The subtitle of this album appeals to me for pretty obvious reasons, and the best thing about it is that it's not just a cute gimmick pointing towards disappointment. These are songs with strong characters, subtly-crafted exposition, lots of suspended questions for added wonder, and the most essential promise of theatre: the possibility of transformation. I remember playing this album over and over again when I was in the process of coming out for the first time in high school (I went to three high schools, so I got to repeat the cycle in triplicate with varying levels of comfort, anxiety, and boredom from within and without). It's interesting, 'cause the album itself has this very one-foot-out-of-the-closet feeling about it, as a complete entity. Lots of pronounless declarations of infatuation and subtle nods that more peripheral characters in the scenes are bonking same-sex-style, as if to test the waters. Obviously, it's a little different listening to this album as a me who thinks nothing of wearing a sweater that broadcasts my QUEER status right above the part where it broadcasts that I am a gal who likes her garments with spacious pockets in front...but it's not entirely unrelated. I think my recent fondness for this album has a lot to do with a particular sort of disbelief that's been hitting me from a couple different angles lately. The general theme is: Holy Shit I Used To Do That And Now I Do This And What The Fuck Happened In Between There?! Like, at some point I did some really hard work to become a different person than I used to be because it wasn't working, and boy am I glad, but I really can't think of anything that sounds more unlike me...again: the promise of transformation. This album reminds me that said miracle is at work in my own life, be it because or in spite of me.

Okay. Three Albums. That's it. I could gush for ages about everything, because that's what I do, but I won't, because that's not what you came here for, I realise.

Ostensibly, you want to know about my summer experiences in Sackville.

Well, the summer got off to a strong start: my first few weeks in service of PARC encompassed the preparation and execution of the annual Playwrights Colony. As one might suppose, I was pretty giddy a lot of the time, rubbing elbows with all those folks who do their own awesome variations on what I want to do when I grow up. Although the main purpose of the Colony is to create a work-inducing retreat for the playwrights, another great perk of bringing such a fantastic group of artists into the same town for two weeks was the opportunity for a couple of really fabulous dinner parties. Nobody tells stories like people who have decided to devote their lives to divining the elusive secrets of storytelling. And nothing talks with its hands more than a kitchen full of thespians with stories up their sleeves that they've been dying to shake out. Glorious; just fucking glorious times, my friends.

Celebrations aside, I had a lot of different kinds of tasks to do over the course of the two weeks, but the most clearly defined sessions of "work" were when I was reading stage directions during script workshops.

If there's one passion of mine that gets more quizzical looks upon declaration than Arlo Guthrie, it's stage directions. I got to read some smashing ones over the course of the colony, including the unspoken adventures of Prince Edward and Madame Julie, buggery among both historical figures from the Renaissance* and contemporary suburbanites, and the antics of a trucker, a stripper, and a June-Carter-lip-synching drag queen pig named Humpy**.

Stage directions are one of those things I feel all adolescently misunderstood on behalf of. I have engaged in ridiculous feuds with classmates and lost my head in solitude over Arthur Miller's verbose parentheticals, among others. So okay. List time again. (I'm sorry. It's summer. I disappear for weeks on end and then I show up stinking of cheap liquor and old books and demanding to be indulged every which way. That's just what life with me is going to be like.)


(Exit, pursued by a bear) -- The Winter's Tale, by William Shakespeare.
It is important to begin with obvious things. If you don't, somebody gets shrill and complains that you are snubbing them. I'm not! My mind takes 100% of the delight it is expected to take in the pursuit by bear sequence. Please do not doubt this. It is true!

(Possibly lying) -- Elizabeth Rex, by Timothy Findley.
I don't want to spoil anything if you don't know this play. But since it's vaguely on topic (assuming I have a topic, which is clearly false), I will say that the context involves buggery. Renaissance buggery, at that. And there's a bear somewhere in the periphery, too. I just love how this direction cuts into this scene that is doing the most presumptuous, and most done thing -- imagining what the heck Shakespeare was really like -- and it's like this little wink, like Findley's saying, "I know, I know, I can't really do this. But you know, lots of things are lies. Like, all the time. Like this, right here. Unless..."

([BIFF] has succeeded less, and his dreams are stronger and less acceptable than HAPPY's. HAPPY is tall, powerfully male. Sexuality is like a visible colour on him, or a scent that many women have discovered.) -- Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller.
Miller just kills me. In this way where I'm like, "Oh my god, I do not understand you at all, but I can tell I'm going to spend large chunks of the rest of my life making failtastic attempts to do so, and these will make me simultaneously the smartest and happiest and the dumbest and most miserable person I know." Yeah. That's what it's like. You should try it some time. You know, with the informed consent that it will ruin your mind as you know it and give to you a new mind full of mouseholes and mother-of-pearl that you will spend the rest of your life trying to learn how to form any sort of coherent thoughts with. But you know. In a good way. If you care for that sort of thing. And you will. Eventually. Once you realise that you have no choice.

(Not a come-on, necessarily; he doesn't want to be alone) -- Angels In America: Millennium Approaches, by Tony Kushner.
It's bits like this, played well***, that make the relationship between these two cheating assholes kind of heartbreakingly sweet. It's a really desperate, pathetic thing, but at the same time, it's also just an expression of that fundamental human desire to look into other people's eyes and ask, "Are you like me? Can we make this work? Can you show me what I'm missing?" Again. Friggin' kills me. In a gentler way than Miller, but no less mindblowing.

Okay. I'll stop again.

So, like I said, the Colony was great -- very busy, all about meeting new people and buzzing around campus and town to do their, bz, bz. The job now is essentially the polar opposite of that: I work alone in a basement doing menial tasks three days a week. Which has its own charms. I sample many unlikely types of tea and listen to a lot of This American Life podcasts while I merge and mitose piles and piles of files that nobody's had much time to pay much mind to during PARC's decade-and-a-half of glorious subterranean existence. (Note: the organisation hasn't always been literally run out of a basement -- and significant chunks of it still aren't -- but the whole concept is kinda about tending to the below-the-surface aspects of Atlantic Canadian theatre.)

Oy. I'm sleepy, and I got work in the morning. Like some kind of damn grown up.

Goodnight, pudding.

More Life,

*If you're in the area, I strongly recommend seeing Nomentacke at the NotaBle Acts festival later this month. Not just for the buggery (there's really not all that much of it, anyhow); mostly for the brilliance.

**These last three characters are from, funnily enough, a one-woman show entitled The Adventures of Donna Earla Glick, which once again, for those who are or will be in the area, is going up at Live Bait (Sackville's own darlin' little professional theatre) in late October-early November.

Can you guess where the direction I quoted comes in?


glowinganomaly88 said...

When we did Winter's Tale we put pictures of bears (gummy, teddy, etc) on all of our posters because that was our favourite stage direction too.

Also, Tony Kushner went to my school and that makes me really happy.

emmet the allisonian said...

alyssa, every awesome gay american writer ever went to your school.

but we got the guy who co-wrote the united nations declaration of human rights, so that's okay.