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May/June (and even some July!) recommendations
Is this going to be a monthly newsletter? Bi-monthly? Clearly I don’t know. But I just saw ANIMAL WISDOM and I have to tell you about it.
🧑💻 ANIMAL WISDOM by Heather Christian, directed by Amber McGinnis (film) and Emilyn Kowaleski (stage)
presented by Woolly Mammoth (DC) and American Conservatory Theatre (SF); originally produced at The Bushwick Starr (NY)
Heather Christian will make you see ghosts.
I don't experience ghosts, but I firmly believe that they're real. It seems like some people see them and some people don't. But I saw ghosts in this production. Christian describes the thing we're watching as not quite theatre but "...somethin' else". That is to say: the film doesn't try to be theatre and the theatre doesn't try to be film. You get the best of both worlds. The extraordinary performances and a fun collaboration with the architecture of Woolly Mammoth create a true sense of liveness and theatricality, but with the polish and you're-right-there intimacy of film. It digs into grief, family, and history and is at the same time funny, warm, and uplifting. As soon as I finished it, I blocked out another 2 hour and 15-minute slot the next day to watch it again. I’m going to watch it a third time tomorrow, and that is about the biggest compliment I can give it.
The closest genre, I think, to ANIMAL WISDOM is gig theatre, which as far as I can tell is a British term but not exclusively a British phenomenon. I would describe gig theatre as existing on the spectrum between concert and musical, closer to the concert end. A really theatrical concert. The songs aren't necessarily narrative; they're expressive. You don’t have to hear every word to follow the story. But the "theatre" part gives you context to understand the songs, kind of the way that a band member saying, "This is a song about a breakup," will give you a different lens through which to hear the next song.
If gig theatre sounds like your thing, of my favorite examples of gig theatre are Danusia Samal's BUSKING IT, which I was lucky to see live in Edinburgh in 2018, and Karine Polwart's A POCKET OF WIND RESISTANCE, which we are all lucky that we can purchase as an album. (Do it!! It’s very very beautiful and haunting.)
Interestingly, gig theatre is kind of an auteur form (Christian, Samal, and Polwart's pieces are all at least partially autobiographical), but seems to be dominated by women.
Watch this if you're into: Hadestown; astrology; folk, blues, punk, or spirituals; ouija boards (as a kid and/or now); highly theatrical bands like The Decemberists; The Leftovers on HBO; Catholic mass; Southern gothic; haunted houses. Watch it if you miss live music something fierce. Watch it if you see ghosts, or if you don’t see ghosts.
💰 buy tickets here for $19
🗓 any time through June 13; 48-hour window to watch once you hit play
🧑💻 SOMEONE ELSE'S HOUSE by Jared Mezzochi, directed by Margot Bordelon, produced in association with ViDCo
presented by the Geffen Playhouse (LA)
This is my family’s true story….These occurrences took place before I was born and I’ve spent my whole life frightening my friends at bars and around campfires with the tales.
But during this past year of complete isolation, I’ve found myself digging deeper into my family story – aligning my family’s memories with the actual history of the house and its previous inhabitants. I had no idea how much there was to unearth, and I now hope to tell it from an entirely new perspective. I want to release my family from the decades-old anxieties that they still hold – and I think I might be a step closer to achieving that.
I haven't seen this one yet, but I trust it because I'm a big fan of both Jared and Margot. Jared's a whiz when it comes to media in theatre, and his and Elizabeth Williamson’s production of Sarah Gancher's Russian Troll Farm was a stellar piece of covid-safe theatre, truthfully marketed as a site-specificplay for the internet. I've been excited by Margot's work ever since I saw her absolutely perfect production of Mara Nelson-Greenberg's Do You Feel Anger? at the Humana Festival in 2018.
It comes with a haunting kit! What else do you need to know?
💰 buy tickets here for $75 for a household
🗓 through July 3rd, you pick the night you watch
❗️ selling fast
☎️ 600 Highwaymen’s A THOUSAND WAYS Part One: A Phone Call by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone
presented by The Public Theatre (NY)
I experienced this show (it’s an experience) back in January. Now, in preparation for Part 2 of this show, it’s back. I’m so happy, because it’s a unique and beautiful thing. Don’t want to tell you too much, so here’s what’s on the Public’s website.
Pick up the phone. Someone is on the line. You don’t know their name, and you still won’t when the hour is over, but through this exchange – as you follow a thread of automated prompts – a portrait of your partner will emerge through fleeting moments of exposure.
Taking place around the world, A THOUSAND WAYS explores the line between strangeness and kinship, distance and proximity, and how the most intimate assembly can become profoundly radical.
Sign up for this if you’re lonely; if you love eavesdropping on strangers and people watching, and those have been two of the things you’ve missed most during the pandemic; if you love learning intimate things about others; if you’re scared of being vulnerable; if you make up histories about the person across from you on the train; if you’ve gotten joy from weird conversations with Siri or Alexa, or from making text-to-speak talk to you.
💰 buy tickets here for $15
🗓 May 20 - July 18, you pick the time
👻 what’s with the ghosts?
Maybe something about theatre artists spending much to all of the last year in our living spaces has gotten us feeling introspective. Maybe we’re all spending more time with our families now that career demands of travel and long work days have decreased or dried up entirely. Maybe we’re all feeling the ghosts of America pretty strongly these days.
this stands for “too long, didn’t read” in internetspeak.
this means a play that was written with a specific, non-theatre space in mind.
how freakin’ fancy are these footnotes?! 🤓