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Archive for the ‘Play (Drama)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BILL & JOEL PLASKETT-Live at Massey Hall (April 8, 2017).

I thought I had heard of the name Joel Plaskett before this, but I know I’d never heard of Bill Plaskett.

Sharing the spotlight with his earliest musical influence- his father, the JUNO Award-winning Canadian songwriter, Joel Plaskett performs a powerful collection of songs from both his own catalogue and from Solidarity, the musical collaboration between father and son, live at Massey Hall.

They talk about the prestige and history of Massey Hall as well as how it is a large venue but it still has intimacy.  There’s a big stage, but it projects–you feel like you can touch the audience.

“Dragonfly” opens with just him Joel on acoustic guitar.  After a few verses, the lights come on and the full band kicks in loudly and powerully–Benj Rowland (banjo, bass, accordion, guitar); Shannon Quinn (fiddle) and Josh Fewings (drums).

“Blank Cheque” starts lower and sounds a bit darker.  I love the lyrics: “oh honey, you can’t eat money–it’s gonna take more than luck just to save your neck.”

“Jim Jones” is sung by Bill.  It’s an olde ballad about prisoners and pirates and the goal in Australia.  Bill says it’s a British folk song from the time when convicts were transported to Australia for minor offenses like stealing rabbits from the Lord’s domain.  It’s a song of revenge.  Jim Jones was fictional but Jack Donoguhe had escaped from Botany Bay penal colony.

“Nowhere With You” is a song about all of Joel’s travels with big sing-alongs

“Heartless Heartless Heartless” is darker and quieter–there’s a wonderful moody feeling to the song.  Unlike “Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin'” which is stompin and stompin.  People get up and start dancing and clapping.  Wow, there’s a lot of cowboy hats in the audience.  There’s a pretty fiddle that runs through this catchy sing-along song.

They talk about the magic in the collective energy of playing shows.  How the audience sends it back to you and you can feel it build over the course of a show.  It’s an awesome feeling.  Bill says it’s wonderful to play with his son in front of so many young people.

“Wishful Thinking” ends the show in a big rock n roll way.  “You can get on your feet again it feels good when you are.”  After some stomping around he starts improvising:

Don’t sing that song in A, sing it in B.
They shift to B and start singing and when they get to “it’s a long, long way to Winnipeg” the singers their notes forever–his dad longer than everyone else.  Joel: “That’s some circular breathing right there.”

The end is funny:

You’re hauling a lot of stuff, you’re taxing the vehicle.  Get rid of some guitars.
What are you talking about?  We need them for the show.
Well, figure something out.
So…

CDs for sale in the back of the hall
Buy one buy em all
Couple bucks cheaper than they are at the mall
Thanks very much we’ll be back in the fall.

It seems like he tries to end the song a few times, but they keep going and the guys from Elliott BROOD come out to sing a few ahhs at the end.

one more thing dude/
thank you Elliott Brood

[READ: February 6, 2018] “Darkness at Seven”

This is the opening scene from Eno’s play Tragedy: A Tragedy.

I really enjoyed this piece although I can’t imagine how it could be made any longer or in exactly what kind of direction it could go next.

Essentially this opening scene makes fun of all tragedy reporting and the generic platitudes that such coverage creates.   There’s Frank in the Studio, John in the Field, Constance at the Home, Michael the Legal Adviser and The Witness.

Frank sets the scene-a location in America, the once familiar sun has set.

John tells us that it’s the worst world in the world tonight.  People are looking, feeling, hoping and believing that they might learn something.

Frank wants to know if the sense of tragedy is palpable.  It is. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JEFF TWEEDY-Live at NPR Music’s 10 year Anniversary Concert (December 2, 2017).

I’m going to be seeing Jeff Tweedy live tomorrow night.  So I prepped for the show by watching this 20 minute session from NPR Music’s 10th anniversary.

There were a lot of performers at this Concert but for me Tweedy’s 20 minutes was the highlight.  He stood on stage with his white jacket and white cowboy hat and he effortlessly played five songs that spanned nearly 25 years. (There’s a terrific version of “Born Alone” which Tweedy sings with Kronos Quartet here).

His guitar playing is simple but effective and works as a perfect backdrop for his the focus of his voice and lyrics.

Thankfully for us and the audience at our 10th anniversary concert on Dec. 2 at the 9:30 Club, Tweedy’s set managed to run the gamut of [his] celebrated career. From his beginnings as a slack, alt-country rocker (playing Uncle Tupelo’s “We’ve Been Had”) and A.M.-era Wilco (with “Passenger Side”) to his recent turn as Mavis Staples’ producer and songwriter (on “Jesus Wept”) and later, Nels Cline-era Wilco (“Locator”).

The constant in all this experimenting is Tweedy’s voice as a singer and songwriter — one that invites a deep trust, even when it courts darkness. Performing solo with an acoustic guitar, his voice was once again at the center of it all.

The first song, “Bombs Away,” was previously unreleased.  The lyrics were thoughtful and stark

“I leave behind a trail of songs / from the darkest gloom to the brightest sun,
I’ve lost my way, but it’s hard to say / what I’ve been through should matter to you.”

When he starts Uncle Tupelo’s “We’ve Been Had” the smoke machine sends wafts across his face.  “Is something on fire?  …  I am cooking!”  The song soars and is one of the more upbeat songs he plays.

He follows with “Locator” from Schmilco.  It’s certainly odd on the record, but this acoustic version lets you see the foundation of the song before all of the cool effects are added.

He plays the pretty but rather downbeat “Jesus Wept” which is something that he worked on with Mavis Staples for their collaborative album.  I don’t know her version, but his is delightful.  When it’s over he says, “I thought I’d pull that one out because it’s such a big celebration….  It’s a fun song.  Can anyone think of a song I should play that’s celebratory?”  [audience shouts out].  Jeff continues, “so you don’t know any of my songs, that’s cool.”

Someone shouted out “Passenger Side” and he plays that.

He ends with “I’m The Man Who Loves You” which gets lots of applause.  He has some fun with fast guitar playing, and he is clearly having a grand time.

I can’t wait to see what he does with a full set.

 

[READ: January 25, 2017] “I Didn’t Win Any Pulitzer Prizes This Year”

This piece was not in the magazine.  It was in the Daily Shouts section online.  I am refraining from writing about these online-only posts in general, but this one slipped past my print-only radar.

Just how do you stretch out a premise like this for an entire essay?

He explains that this egregious omission continues his twenty-nine year streak of not receiving even one of these prizes.

Overlooked in nonfiction: an email with the subject line “Re: (No Subject).”  The Prize committee did not conclude that the email was informative “but its brevity was what pushed it over the edge.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 10, 2018] The Comedy of Errors

Our friends Jonathan and Carrie take their kids to the Shakespeare Theatre regularly and they invited us along for The Comedy of Errors.

I’m not the only one who enjoys performed Shakespeare about 100 times more than reading Shakespeare, and I felt like this show really brought the play (which I didn’t know) to life.  It also made me laugh at how this play is basically the foundation of every mistaken identity slapstick story every written.

The play ran for a little over an hour–perfect for kids (it was listed as appropriate for grades 3 and up).  It’s usually around 90 minutes, so they cut out some stuff, I guess, which was fine.

The story itself is very funny with “two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, colorful characters and a madcap chase sequence.”

What really impressed me about the production was that rather than having two people in the twins’ roles, they had the same actor (and actress, in this case) play both roles.  Antipholus the main character was very funny.  But Dromio, the servant, was an awesome comic character who stole the show.  I’m sorry I can’t find the woman who played him.  When it came time to have them both on stage, there was lots of very clever misdirection to allow the “double’s” face never to be seen. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARBARA HANNIGAN-Tiny Desk Concert #698 (January 26, 2018).

It has been some time since Tiny Desk has had a classical singer.  As with many classical Tiny Desks. I like to let the knowledgeable NPR person tell us what’s happening.  But I’ll say that her voice is stunning and although I don;t understand the German, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

The night before this Tiny Desk concert, extraordinary soprano Barbara Hannigan and her accompanist Reinbert de Leeuw gave a beautiful and intense recital at Washington’s Kennedy Center. The songs, all in German, came from a heady period in Vienna, when music was transitioning from the swells of romanticism to the uncharted waters of modernism. Four of those songs make up this Tiny Desk performance. The bonus here is that these impassioned dispatches become even more intimate.

[Hannigan tells us that they will play four songs all from amazing moment at beginning of 20th century when music just started to depart from harmony as we know it.  It sounds tonal but it is representing the end of all things].

Consider the opening song, Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Empfängnis” (Conception). The harmonies are sweet, but almost too rich, like overripe fruit, when Hannigan sings lines like, “Und wie ich sehend meine Arme breite” (And as I open my arms with longing). You can hear the end of a musical era.

An indefatigable champion of new and modern music, Hannigan (who is also a conductor) has given the world premieres of more than 80 pieces. The voice is simply gorgeous — silvery, buttery-smooth throughout the registers, with crystalline top notes emerging from thin air and charged with emotion.

[Hannigan tells us that Alma Mahler (Alma Schindler) married Gustav Mahler and was the most beautiful, intelligent girl in Vienna.  She was Zemlinsky’s student (and probably more), but she married Mahler and he said there was going to but one composer in the family.  The next song was written when she was studying with Zemlinsky].

In Alma Mahler’s “Licht in der Nacht” (Light in the Night), Hannigan taps into the mysterious sparkle of a little yellow star twinkling through black skies as de Leeuw’s piano explores wayward harmonies. Hugo Wolf’s “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” (Only One Who Knows Longing) is a hymn to the yearning heart. De Leeuw explains that the key of G minor, in which the song is written, never materializes. It’s all about the longing for G minor.

[Hannigan says that for the Scoenberg piece, poet Richard Dehmel wrote the words.  He was an important poet put on trial for obscenity for his work Woman and World.  Even though he seemed to be talking about reflections in water the imagery was beloved to be quite obscene.  In this song, Jesus is singing to Mary Magdeline, saying “give me your comb and sponge I want to be close to you.”  It is very erotic].

The final song, “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm” (the first music by Arnold Schoenberg to grace the Tiny Desk), offers a double dose of sensuality. Hannigan’s beautiful middle register and creamy phrasing paint the scene: Jesus asks Mary Magdalene for her comb because it will remind him every morning that she once kissed his hair. Hannigan calls the song “erotic” and she delivers on that feeling when, at the end, she cries out the name “Magdalena” with a lustrous, silken tone, touched with anguish.

It’s quite something.

  • Alexander Zemlinsky: “Empfängnis”
  • Alma Mahler: “Licht in der Nacht”
  • Hugo Wolf: “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt”
  • Arnold Schoenberg: “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm”

[READ: November 20, 2017] What Happened at Brent’s

This little book came to my desk at work and it seemed like a charming diversion.  The only problem with it is that it is set on Hallowe’en and I read it at Thanksgiving (and am now posting about it around Valentine’s Day).

Aside from some of the mannerisms and the language, this book could very easily have been written today and could easily be staged today.

The play is 31 pages (running time 75 minutes).  There are ten characters in the play, all but one are played by children.

Set on Halloween night, a group of 8th graders are having a party.  There are four girls and three boys.  The fourth boy is on his way shortly.  The children are all aflutter because their favorite actress Rita Rose is filming a movie in the town nearby.  They are all infatuated with her and think she is the best. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMINÉ-Tiny Desk Concert #671 (November 14, 2017).

Aminé–is rapper Adam Daniel’s middle name.  And while I like his light manner and fun hair, musically, nearly everything else about this Tiny Desk is cheesy to me.  From the cheesy guitar (by Pasqué) that opens up “Spice Girl” to the “clever” lyrics all about the spice girls

Scary and Sporty, tell her what I want
What I really, really want is a Spice Girl
Zig-a-zig-ah, fuck up my whole world .

It segues into his debut single “Caroline” which peaked at No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last year.  It is so full of curses I can’t believe it made it that high.

Don’t wanna talk it out, can we fuck it out?
‘Cause we gon’ be up all night, fuck a decaf
You say I’m a tall thug, guess I’m a G-raffe
If ya want safe-sex, baby use the knee pads
Freaky with the sticky-icky, baby give me kitty kitty

There’s also the backing vocalist Fahrelle Devine who mostly says single words (that weird R&B thing) until she harmonizes quite nicely.

Despite his rather crass songs, he’s an entertaining guy: “I was trying to go to the white house you can’t go up to the gate anymore. That’s really bad.  What’s up with that y’all? Ain’t got an answer, cool.  Lets go on to the next song.  “Slide” has more cheesy keys from Davon Jamison and Madison Stewart (who is male, I’m sorry to say) and cheesy b vocals.  I guess the lyrics are funny, but they seem really tone deaf.  “This ain’t a booty call it’s just a late night snack.”

His delivery and voice are really nice, I wish that he would sing about more substantial stuff.

Having said that, he introduces the final song “Wedding Crashers” with “You ever been a to a wedding before?  Can we go to one real quick?”  The song begins with almost childlike keyboard sounds.  And while the verses go too far, the chorus makes me smile

This is dedicated to my ex lovers
Hope that you hear this, never find another
Me and my friends, we don’t worry or pretend
Hope you play this at your wedding
Yeah, the one I won’t attend (Sike)

I did enjoy watching drummer Cory Limuaco because for such simple drumming, he uses all kinds of mallets and sticks and sides of sticks, which is always fun to see.

[READ: April 25, 2017] Chekhov’s First Play

This play was created by Dead Centre.  Dead Centre was formed in 2012 in Dublin by Ben Kidd, Bush Moukarzel and Adam Welsh.

The play is based on the fact that Anton Chekov wrote his first play at 19 and then more or less denounced it: “there are two scenes in my first play which are the work of genius, if you like.  But on the whole, it’s an unforgivable, if inconsistent, fraud.”  The intro notes: to this day it is unclear which two scenes Chekhov was talking about.

The play was discovered after he died.  It had no title, but is probably a play he referred to in is letters called Fatherlessness, although most renderings of the play have named it after the central character–a philandering charismatic schoolteacher named Platonov.  It first appeared after his death as “That Worthless Fellow Platonov.”  Although almost all scholars believe that the piece is a conversation piece rather than a viable addition to the repertory.

Here’s a little bit of interesting history of the play from Wikipedia: (more…)

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80SOUNDTRACK: LAWRENCE BROWNLEE-Tiny Desk Concert #308 (October 5, 2013).

Sometimes it makes sense tome when I don’t know a Tiny Desk Concert performer.  Lawrence Brownlee is an opera singer and therefore way outside of my comfort zone.  So what do we know about Brownlee?

These days, Lawrence Brownlee spends most of his time on the stages of the world’s great opera houses. That’s where you’ll find him singing Rossini and Donizetti. His supple, strong, high-flying voice can negotiate the tightest hairpin turns with grace and elegance; that, and his ability to command the stage as an actor, has won Brownlee the praise of critics worldwide.

But as much as he excels at opera, there’s a special place in Brownlee’s heart for African-American spirituals. Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Brownlee sang gospel music in church, and now he’s returning to that tradition by releasing a new album, Spiritual Sketches — and singing selections from it here in the NPR Music offices.

Brownlee bases much of his operatic success on his sturdy church-music grounding. “I would say that the flexibility I have with my voice is in large part because I sang gospel in church,” Brownlee told NPR in 2007. “It’s a lot of improvisational singing with a lot of riffs or runs.”

The spirituals might be well-known, but through Brownlee’s voice, they shine in new, occasionally jazz-inflected arrangements by Damien Sneed. “There Is a Balm in Gilead” floats in a newly contemplative mood with the addition of a few blue notes and chromatic touches, while the spunky piano line Justina Lee plays in “Come By Here” seems inspired by great stride players like James P. Johnson.

But the heart and soul of this concert is “All Night, All Day,” a performance that swells with a potent combination of tenderness and operatic horsepower. The song speaks of a protective band of angels — angels that Brownlee told the audience are watching over his 3-year-old son Caleb, who’s just been diagnosed with an autism-spectrum disorder.

“It’s called ‘All Night, All Day,’ but I’ve renamed it ‘Caleb’s Song,'” Brownlee says. The soulful vocalisms with which Brownlee closes the song are gorgeous and tinged with anguish.

I don’t have much more to add–that was a thorough blurb.  His voice is indeed amazing.  But equally surprising is how gentle his speaking voice is–if you heard him speak before singing, you’d be leaning in to hear him talk and then he would blow you away with his singing voice.

A couple things about the pianist: He tells us that this was the first time that Justina Lee had seen the music for these songs (she plays it wonderfully).  But also that the piano sounds rather flat and spare compared to the fullness of his voice.  Was this a microphone problem?  It was just kind of strange.

But otherwise, this was a beautiful set.

[READ: August 20 2016] Around the World in 80 Days

I have never read Around the World in 80 Days.  I really enjoy Verne’s stories, I’ve just never read the novels.  So when I saw this adaptation, it seemed like an interesting place to start.

I don’t know how complicated the original story is but this adaptation makes the story seem fairly simple (except for the intentional complications, of course).

So the play starts with an introduction to Phileas Fogg–an insanely punctual man. We watch him do the same routine three days in a row.  Each day he leaves his house, plays whist (wins) and then returns home. On the third day, however, he has to fire his valet because the tea is not at the required 97 degrees.

He still goes to play whist of course but he is stopped by a man named Passepartout who wishes to be his new valet.  Passepartout has worked for exhausting/questionable people in past and he is looking forward to working for someone as calm and regular as Fogg. (more…)

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curswedSOUNDTRACK: MAYA BEISER-Tiny Desk Concert #283 (June 29, 2013).

mayaMaya Beiser is an Israeli-born American cellist.  And the blurb tells us that:

Maya Beiser’s Twitter handle — @CelloGoddess — says it all. She’s a brilliant cellist with a stunning command of her instrument, and she’s tightly tied to technology. Beiser takes the sound of her cello and runs it through loop pedals, effects and other electronics to make her instrument shimmer, drone and groove.  Time Loops, her 2012 album, is one of that year’s hidden gems.

The music feels experimental in that she’s using an age old instrument (and age old tuning) mixed with technology.  But the two songs she plays here are simply beautiful and the technology only serves to make the songs all the more enticing.

I don’t know what these pieces are “meant” to sound like.  In fact, I don’t even know the composers.  But her version of these pieces (with the wonderful drones and echoes of what she is playing) are terrific.

Osvaldo Golijov: “Mariel” One of the fascinating things about this piece is that it is impossible to tell what she is looping (especially since we miss the very beginning to see if she clicks any pedals).  But is she looping what she has played or is there some other music being added in?  This is a mournful piece with some great sounds (looped) accompanying her.  It’s seven and half minutes of beautiful cello music.

She introduces the second piece “Just Ancient Loops” Mvt. 1 by saying that Michael Harrison wrote the piece for her.  She plays 6 minutes of the 25 minute epic piece, or what amounts to the first movement (called Genesis). She also tells us that it was written in “just intonation” which is an ancient way of tuning the cello, but it is natural for the instrument which is all about pure fifths.

It opens with some plucked bass notes which are immediately looped and run through much of the piece (how is she controlling the loops?  I can’t see her feet at all).  By the middle, the piece is in full swing with different cello sounds echoing and looping. It sounds full and fantastic and over all just really wonderful.

I typically enjoy cello music, but there is something especially cool about this performance.

[READ: September 2, 2016]. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I wasn’t all that excited about this book.  It was a play.  Did Rowling even write it?  (I actually still don’t understand the provenance of the story)?  And did I really want to read about a grown up Harry?

Well, first T. read it and then S. read it and they both said it was great.  So I read it.  And I flew through it (and stayed up too late reading it, too).  And, man was it enjoyable.  More than enjoyable.  I immediately got right back into the Potterverse and I loved seeing the famous characters grown up.

So, what’s this book about, exactly?

Well, without giving spoilers (to those few to whom it applies), the plot starts off 19 years after the action of the last book.  (more…)

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