Posts Tagged ‘Marken Greenwood’

The other day at…….Wit

Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by Marken Greenwood 2 Comments

I never understood the idea of alienating an audience.  I thought, “Isn’t the point of theatre to experience something thoroughly, emotions and all?”  That is what always drew me to the stage.  I love catharsis as an audience member, and I love experiencing a life different from my own as a character.  How can one experience a true life if they leave emotions out of the picture?  That was how I looked at alienation: the absence of feeling.  One of the most revered playwrights of the twentieth century, Bertolt Brecht built his whole philosophy of the stage on this concept.  Alienate the audience so that they will understand.  So that they will see the whole picture, unclouded by emotion.  But, without emotion how can we see the whole picture?

These thoughts (with less big words) ran through my head as I watched the first few scenes of “Wit” playing on Broadway at the .  This space is the home of Manhattan Theatre Club, a prolific New York production company that brings intellectual, word-driven plays to a subscriber-based audience.

“Wit” is the story of a brilliant Poetry professor diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Two things make this production of “Wit” special: it stars Cynthia Nixon (best known as Miranda from “Sex and the City”) and it’s the first time the revered 10-year-old play has been on Broadway.

So, back to that whole alienation thing.

Taking a cue from Dr. Vivian Bearing, the star of show, I will look the word up for educational purposes:

Alienate:

To make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent

especially where attachment formerly existed.

 

Who wants to feel unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent?  I mean, really?   Cynthia Nixon’s Vivian embodies all of these characteristics.  She’s about as cuddly as a cactus and as warm as a block of ice.  Despite having too much experience with her illness and seeing her standing there bald, eyebrow-less, and sweating, I found it very difficult to feel for her.  I felt, in a word, alienated.

Now obviously, it is a very tricky thing, keeping an audience from feeling very bad for you when you are suffering through cancer and chemo (which is worse, is a real toss-up).  Nixon has her work cut out for her.  Every time we start to feel real affection for her or really sorry for her, she makes sure to snap that in the bud.  She’ll harden into a brittle spinster, she’ll scream like a maniac, she’ll make you feel like an idiot for buying into the Hallmark moment.  Until the bitter end, she’ll embody the first part of that definition, alternating between unfriendliness, hostility, and indifference.

As for the second part, we didn’t have any attachment to Dr. Vivian Bearing before walking into the theatre.  So is the alienation incomplete?  I don’t think so.  In fact, we all walked in attached to our various ideas of what a cancer patient is like, what they should be like.  We’ve watched our loved ones battle this insidious disease, and we’ve come up with an encyclopedia of the cancer experience in our heads.  I feel like one thing that our society does at this point is to disassociate the person experiencing the cancer with their “former self”.  They become not Debbie, not a scuba-diving instructor, but a cancer patient.  As they loose their hair, the punctuation marks on their face, as they grow fatter from the steroids or thinner from the chemo, their individuality blurs into a _________.

Dr. Vivien Bearing will not fade away.  She will not let us think that she is just another cancer patient.  She will laughingly depict the farcical quality of the dreary life in the cancer ward so we get the full picture.  She will ply us with her knowledge of 17th century poetry and make sure we understand her unique perspective on everything so we see the stark contrast of who she is to what she is experiencing. And most of all she will NOT let us feel bad for her.  Because if we feel bad for her, we’ve categorized her.  We’ve simplified her.

I never understood the theatre construct of alienation until I arrived in the final moments of Wit.  For two hours I had been interested in the action playing out before me, but I had been profoundly uncomfortable.  I think most of the time, my face must have looked like I had bitten into a lemon.  Then those last moments came, when the whole puzzle of a play had been unraveled and it’s meaning was striking and so simple.

It hit me like a truck, all the staved-off emotion.
I wept like a baby, not for Dr. Vivien Bearing,
but for a human being.
For myself.
For us all.

See Wit.

The other night at……Once

Posted on: January 15th, 2012 by Marken Greenwood No Comments

I returned to the city after Christmas heartsore.  Literally, I think I have some sort of ulcer gnawing away at my insides from missing home so much.  I never thought I would grow into a female version of Woody Allen, but it looks like a distinct possibility.

*Tums break*

Upon arriving at my freezing apartment, the only thing that kept me from crying wee wee all the way home was knowing that my friend Brendan had gotten me a Christmas present: tickets to a show the weekend after I returned.  Not any show, but the impossible-to-get-tickets-to-because-it’s-totally-sold-out-and-in-an-off-Broadway-theater “Once”.

I have to admit, the first  time I saw the movie “Once”, I was not distinctly moved.  There are a few good reasons for this.  Firstly, the two people who starred in the movie and wrote the unearthly songs are not trained actors.  Many of the scenes in the movie fell flat and failed to achieve any sort of dramatic arc.  Maybe I’m too actor-y, but this is the stuff I look for!  I’m pretty sure the book wasn’t as strong in the movie either.  The musical’s a lot funnier than the movie which in turn makes the gloomy parts sadder.  Enda Walsh, the Irish playwright who’s rewritten “Once” for the stage, has crafted a smartly sweet script that the explores what it means to not only be human (which every good script should do anyway), but a human artist (so much harder).

Ultimately, this is the story of guy meets girl, girl brings guy back to life, and maybe guy does the same for her.  The only way this show will work is if the two leads, the Guy and the Girl, are dynamite talents with charisma coming out of every pore of their beings.   Not only do these two performers need to be a impressive actors and commercially soulful singers, they also have to be magnetically attractive and play an instrument.  Luckily, the people behind Once got pretty darn close.

The Girl, played by Cristin Milioti, is simply luminous.  Her eyes, big pools of curiosity, sympathy, and silent suffering are impossible to ignore whenever she is on stage.  For you actors out there, Milioti is a master class in moment-to-moment. Every move she makes, every word that comes out of her diminutive mouth is filled with such clear intention it makes you alternatively ache and rejoice.

The Guy, played by a too-beautiful-to-be-real Steve Kazee (a distinct change from the rather rough-looking movie Guy), is a little more toned down.  Honestly, I’m glad he is.  His character is not the active one in this tale.  Instead, he’s someone who’s allowing himself to be pushed along by the current of life, having long since given up on steering his vessel.  (As a certain song will tell you about 4 times…).  Kazee played this hurt, lost man with delicacy, never pushing.  The only moments when he stole the stage from the Girl were when he let out Glen Hansard’s wounded animal roar at the height of his songs, when the walls have come down between his insecurity and his painfully brilliant genius.

I think the biggest difference between this show and the movie may have been a very personal change in me.  When I saw the movie, I was somewhere between the end of high school and my first couple years in the Musical Theatre department at the University of Michigan.  I believed in my talent, which meant I believed in myself.  I had no reason to connect to this almost-broken-down man, and I couldn’t see the incredible value of this little woman walking into his life and nurturing in his genius.  A good way into my second year out of college, believe me, I can see the value.

A month ago, I presented a reading of a show I had written about my first year in New York.  It was the scariest thing I have ever done, the first notes sung in front of a group of my peers somewhat akin to jumping out of an airplane.  After that night, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do.  It felt like I had finally stepped into my own version of New York, like it had really become what it wanted to be.  Of course, now I have to face the real production, and I’m scared all over again.  Somewhere in the last couple years, the girl who rolled her eyes at the movie “Once” learned to fear failure.  As, the Guy says to the Girl, staring out over their city

Learning what it is to fear is the worst of all lessons.

“Once” does what I want all theatre to do.  It told me a wonderful story that left me feeling changed.   I feel inspired to stop protecting the stuff inside of me and let it out for the world to hear, even if it’s just for my own catharsis.  As the song says,

Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice. You’ve made it known.

 

To get a different vantage point of “Once” check out the previous Watch Yo Mouth!? blog Brushing the Dust Off of the Everyday by Quinn, which covers the original movie. Though our initial opinions differ, it just goes to show how differently drama and music affect those who partake in its journey.   

 

The other night at……………… Godspell & Book of Mormon

Posted on: November 18th, 2011 by Marken Greenwood No Comments

Who says God is dead?  

With Book of Mormon and Godspell on the Great White Way and Jesus Christ Superstar looming on the horizon, Broadway’s Big Wigs certainly seem to have heaven on their minds.  Pretty soon we’re gonna have a Holy Trinity on our hands.  Oh, I could keep going…

Godspell

A couple weeks ago, I sat in some free seats at a preview of Godspell.  I thoroughly enjoyed the production, but a nice review is always so boring.  I had to think of a hook.  So, I mulled.  And then I came up with a brilliant plan.  I’ll compare Godspell and Book of Mormon with each other just for the hell…er…heck of it.

My friend who assisted on Godspell affectionately nicknamed the show “Theater Games The Musical”.  It really does come across as a college production with the addition of some extraordinary voices and some well-developed comedic bits. Don’t pay full price for a ticket, or you’re bound to feel jipped – it’s really low in the budget category adding to that hokey college feel.  However, I wasn’t disappointed.  On the contrary, I had a blast.

The troupe had the youthful exuberance of a freshman improv team with the skill and slickness of young Broadway. Add to that the director’s obvious leanings toward the Leqoc school of clowning with cleverly thought out physical comedy and offbeat characterizations and you’ve got something extremely watchable.  I couldn’t believe that they managed to wring so much quirk, character, and comedy from such dry source material as the Psalms.  (If you didn’t know – all of the lyrics from the show are taken almost verbatim from this section of the Bible.)

Book of Mormon

             

And then there’s Mormon, literally on the next block.  Beyond the religious subject matter, it couldn’t be farther from Godspell.  From the splashy Broadway set and costumes that practically scream money (or mix it, if you want to be healthy about it) to the discernible plot, it’s definitely got a few advantages over Godspell. Check out Elder Price the song “I Believe” below:

I saw the show when it was brand new.  At the time, I was grateful to have SRO seats so I could stagger backwards and pitch to and fro with laughter – my appreciation of humor can get very dangerous.   The lead, Andrew Rannels, carries the show if you can believe that.  You’d think no one would need to carry a show penned by such comedic greats as the South Park creators, but Rannels is so strong and his part so pivotal that he stands out in my mind above all others.  In Godspell, the ensemble carries the show while the leading man, Hunter Parrish, looks really pretty and sings like the lead singer of a Christian band (could this be a choice as it is slightly appropriate?).

In the end, you need to see Book of Mormon because it’s so damn good.  If you’re looking for show #2, check out Godspell – it’s a lot of fun.

GODSPELL vs. BOOK OF MORMON

Round vs. Proscenium

Small cast vs. Large cast

Poly-ethnic vs. Bi-ethnic

Respectful vs. Blasphemous

Clowning ala Jacques Leqoc vs. Clownish ala Eric Cartman

Chuckle chuckle vs. Guffaw Guffaw

Student Rush vs. Sell Your Soul

The other night……………………… with Karen O in DUMBO

Posted on: November 9th, 2011 by Marken Greenwood 2 Comments

                                                                         

I recently saw my friend performing down in DUMBO in a show called “Stop the Virgens” featuring the lead singer of the Ya Ya Ya’s at a space called St. Ann’s Warehouse.  Of course, I wasn’t really aware of any of these specifics when I was heading down there last night.  All I could recall was “Dress rehearsal…free ticket…I swear it’s not a mosh pit…DUMBO…don’t bring Aunt Carlotta…”  So, in the spirit of exploration, I made the journey down the A train decked out in my Brooklyn uniform.  This consists of any plaid piece in my closet paired with ironic jewelry (in this instance it was clock earrings denoting the unavoidable passage of time and eventual mortality that we all must face) and some type of shoe that says I don’t care (in this case my brown boots with a slightly western flare that remain permanently attached to my feet from October to March).  I think you could call the overall outfit lumberjack chic.  So, decked out to blend in, I made my way to Brooklyn ready to explore.

I was a DUMBO “virgen”. 

I definitely had the impression that I’d arrived at Brooklyn Disney as I wandered the streets with names like “Cranberry” munching on a piece of Frescati’s Pizza and guiltily averting my eyes from the Vegan restaurants on each block.  I found a street called “Poplar Street” that greatly perplexed me as it had actual oil burning street lamps (the kind only found in New Orleans to my knowledge) and a woman casually walking home dressed in a sort of Mary Poppins outfit from puffy sleeves to a real bustle.  For a moment, I was convinced that DUMBO was magical and I was actually going to walk to the end of the street and end up in Brooklyn circa 1890.  Unfortunately, I just found the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway for all you outta townas).

So, I trudged on.  The newly refurbished industrial buildings took on hulking comic book proportions and the Brooklyn Bridge sat perched like some gigantic creature with legs rooted into the street in unexpected places.  There was a babble of voices growing as I approached, and I noticed that other young people were trudging beneath the freeway in the same direction as me.  Suddenly, I saw a long snake of a line wrapping around a building.  It looked like there was some sort of rock concert.  I planned to continue walking to find some shadowy little theatre, and then I saw the words “St. Ann’s Warehouse” painted quite clearly on the side of the building.

Luckily, I happened upon a theatre company I know (yes, I now have acquaintances that are not one person, but twenty – all connected in my mind like the double helix nerds in “Never Been Kissed”). I deftly slipped into the line with them.  We waited in the lobby for a long time, allowing the room to grow uncomfortably stuffy with the combined body heat and everybody’s hot air.   The group was very young, very cool, and very Brooklyn.  Again, I couldn’t help but appreciate my choice of dress.  We were finally herded, cattle-like, through sort of haunted house meets the Alexander McQueen exhibit, full of unpaid actors writhing and moaning in all white behind mosquito nets.  We ended up in the performance space where we waited another half hour in an inferno filled with even hotter, stuffier air and loud grinding and crunching sounds.

Oh, art.

Karen O came on stage at long last and sang a sad, world-weary song surrounded by moaning, writhing girls in white.  Essentially, that was the show – about eight ten-minute long sad, world-weary songs with Karen O in different costumes wearing the same expression and the girls either physically exploding with ecstasy or crumbling with rage and sadness. Fans of Karen O seemed to eat it up.  As I stood staring at the haunting tableaux, I admired her for getting up there and seeing her vision through.  Less so as my feet started to hurt, my mind started to wander, and I realized how many fans she had who would eat anything she produced out of the palm of her hand.  The girls who were her greek chorus, the Virgens, I admired much more.  The main 7 were working long hours and throwing there bodies around willy-nilly for a small stipend.  The actresses who played the other 30 virgens were doing this for no pay at all.  As I watched this one woman rock concert in experimental theatre clothing, I got a little worked up about the Actor Abuse taking place here.  Especially when I saw the incredibly expensive movie quality cameras that were swooping over our heads on hydraulic, robotic dollies…and the 20 foot digital screen showing an array of beautiful and cheesy images…And the mirror-clear, black stage that reflected Karen O in all her Gaga-like glory. And they couldn’t find the money to pay their actors?

Cut a freaking camera, Karen.


Meet the Blogger ……………….. Marken Greenwood, Actress

Posted on: October 24th, 2011 by Marken Greenwood No Comments

You will soon learn that I have a little problem with lateness – See Above…

KIDDING! This little gem was a promo shot for a cabaret that Patrick and I were in during our time at Michigan with Joan Morris called, “The Morning After” – my mother is so proud. But seriously, when I make it to a show, it’s usually the closing.  When I have a deadline, I’m pulling an all nighter to meet it.  When I hear a joke, I’m laughing a few seconds after everyone else.  Not kidding – hang out with me and you’ll see.  I swear, I don’t have a learning disability; I’m just the last to cotton on to everything.

Guilty pleasures: Netflix bingeing, pretending to be a normal commuter during rush hour, Prince William fantasies, ridiculously expensive coffee, planning to exercise (but rarely doing it)

What Im About: I want to hold a mirror up to life for myself and others.  I think that theatre, literature, music and art have the power to assist us in living better, fuller, more stupendous lives.  If I were Machiavelli, I’d say it’s the most palatable way of making sure history doesn’t repeat itself.  If I were Marken, I’d say it’s a way of reaching life-altering, mind-bending, heart-wrenching catharsis which allows you to gain compassion and wisdom beyond your years.

Be great in act as you have been in thought.  ~Shakespeare

So, back to the other night.  I’m trying out a new format, or if I’m gonna go all Carrie Bradshaw on ya’ll, a column.   I’m going to reflect on the theatrical, cultural, artistic, scientific, culinary experiences of yesterday.  New York locals, you may not catch that particular event, but what I hope you’ll catch the artist next time or remember that theatre company for the future.  Nonlocals, it doesn’t matter because you can’t see it anyway!  You just get to experience it through my ultra-descriptive, artfully-crafted prose.

Favorite board game: Scrabble

Favorite 90s TV show: Buffy

Theme song to your life:  Uncharted by Sara Bareillis

Idol(s): Katherine Hepburn, Anderson Cooper, Linda Goodrich, my cousin Carolyn, Charlotte Bronte

Favorite Movie:  Gone with the Wind

Favorite Disney Movie: Beauty and the Beast

Country you would do inappropriate things to get to… Why: Norway…because it’s the land of my ancestors.

Favorite Artist: Gustav Klimt

Favorite CD: Parade by Jason Robert Brown

If you were a vegetable, what would you be and why?: Cauliflower…because no one would want to eat me.

Do you have a horse named Whisper living in Central Park?  No.

You could say I’m a Late Bird.  Remember in Kindergarten when everyone was divided into two groups the Early Birds who went to school the first half of the day and the Late Birds who went the latter half?  Well, it’s obvious which one I was and I’ve stuck to the moniker faithfully.

And now I have effectively made my lateness work for me                     Let the blogging begin!