Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top Five Works of Art Discovered/Experienced in 2016.

1. Blackstar - David Bowie


This had to be #1. I am still crushed by his death and this incredible, moving, ambitious, risk-taking piece of art he left behind. The term "Blackstar" in my house has taken on significance in the wake of his death. This album quite frankly inspires me to get off my ass and create, and hopefully do so without fear, without self, without ego. I'm still planning to get the sequence of six partial black stars tattooed on my wrist in homage to him, maybe for his birthday in January.

2. Learning Curve - Albany Park Theatre Project/Third Rail Projects


This was just a stunning piece of theatre, possibly the best theatre I've ever seen, and had Bowie not put an amazing album out this year this would easily have been #1. I wrote about it for No Proscenium. So much immersive theatre is dark, moody, fantasy/mystery/thriller based and not exactly something with which we easily identify. But we've all been to high school. This is a piece that took me back to exactly how things felt 20+ years ago. The fact that the performers were all high school students...to some, this meant that the performances were uneven, but for me it gave Learning Curve a level of honesty that only strengthened the production.

3. The Tension Experience - created by Darren Lynn Bousman & Clint Sears


What can I possibly say about this experience that consumed my life for eight solid months this year that I haven't already said here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here, or here? This was a whole new way of combining ARGs and immersive theatre and it was so much fun to be a part of, even if at times it was also painful. I am excited for the follow up next year, The Lust Experience, but I also know that there will be more people, and it will be really different - the strange, unique, crazy thing that we did this year, when there was only a handful of us and we didn't know who was behind it - that's history.

4. Nufonia Must Fall - Kid Koala


Everything about this was performative, every piece of cinematography, every bit of stagecraft, and it was (or appeared to be) seamless. Perfect. It was the kind of production that makes me want to do EVERYTHING in my life better, because OMG, these people DID, so it can be done. Absolutely stunning puppetry, film, transitions, models, camera work, lighting.

5. Hamilton - Lin-Manuel Miranda


Yeah, I'm sure some people are like "wait, you saw Hamilton and it wasn't at the top of your list?" Big musicals are usually not my thing. That being said, I'm so grateful I got a chance to see this one, especially given this year, this election. It was inspirational. And the set design - almost sparse? Nothing wasted, nothing big and showy, and just like #4, it's always a joy to get to see something done WELL.


Almost made the list but didn't:

  • The Day Shall Declare It
  • Retribution, Tanya Tagaq
  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
  • In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien
  • Arrival

Friday, December 16, 2016

Gratitude, or Why This is the Best Christmas Ever.

This is my favorite time of year. And this has been a brutal year on so many levels, mostly on the global/geopolitical level, though I've had some minor difficulties of my own. But I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and have been waiting all semester for the break when I could just become a hermit, enjoy the long nights by the Christmas tree wrapped up in warm blankets watching movies and writing or reading or cross stitching or whatever-ing.

My normal holiday plans were thwarted a bit this year.

Some people would probably expect me to say that the holidays were "ruined," but they weren't. I spent Thanksgiving weekend sleeping in hospital waiting rooms and hoping that the next person to enter the room would bring me good news. I held two fingers of the hand of the person I loved most in the world and thought of all the ways I'd taken him for granted during 2016. I mentally canceled Christmas because I was told it was going to be a 4-6 week recovery period at best, if there was going to be one at all. So when he started to rapidly improve and the doctor told me he was going to be fine...it didn't matter that I hadn't eaten turkey, or didn't have a tree, or hadn't started shopping, or wasn't even planning on it.

I had everything to be thankful for, and I had all the Christmas presents I needed. The rest is superfluous.

The good life.

Recently I asked my first year students the following question: At this time, what constitutes the "good life" for you? What per...