Monthly Archives: March 2012

When dreams become nightmares or How to foster ‘humility’ in three easy steps

“Where did you want to run away to when you were a little kid?” – Glass Mind Theatre Company (via Facebook) March 28, 2012

When I was young(er), I dreamed of running off to join the theatre.

The problem was twofold: 1) people often say I’m “tone-deaf,” and 2) I’ve never been good at performing in front of an audience. It didn’t help that all the plays that I was able to see before going to college were high school version of old standby musicals like “South Pacific” or “Guys & Dolls” (though my mom did take me to see “Cats” on Broadway, 1992, and a touring production of “Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” at the Hippodrome, 1984).

In other words: if I wanted to get on stage before graduation day, I was going to have to carry a tune. Yes, I had bit parts in shows at summer camp, but that was because EVERY camper did it at some point in the season regardless of talent, and we were STILL better than anyone in “Zippy the Pinhead: The Musical.”

It didn’t happen in high school, but my parents sent me to a certain “college-preparatory” boarding school which outsourced much of its educational content to either a local “adult school” or a nearby community college depending on whether the student had a GED or not. One of the requirements for graduation from said boarding school was something called an “Actualization” or in my case I got fucked over by having to do THREE of them for no particular reason.

I take that back, the stated goal of my first Actualization was to “teach me humility” and what the best way to do that? Dress up your most conservative students and make them perform “Little Women” in from of the entire school – in drag.

To make matters worse, the assignment was given on Monday and the performance was at 3pm Thursday afternoon. Failure was not an “option” – it was a REQUIREMENT.

Sure, the “official” rationalization of this was we were “building teamwork and cooperation between disparate students in a creative manner,” but in reality it was to utterly humiliate upper-level students and make them the laughing stock of their peers (thus making our utter failure all the more “humbling”). It also made me lose any desire to be in another play ever again.

Meanwhile, I was enrolled in “Introduction to Theatre” course at Crafton Hills College. I can’t recall anything about the course except for two things: 1) the professor actually saying in the most pompous manner possible that “the most important thing about a play is not the script or the director – it is the BOW AT THE END! Saying ‘we are no longer our characters – we are actors who fooled into thinking we were our characters, and now we DESERVE your applause for our efforts!’” I think of this line EVERY time I see a cast bow at the end of a play and get sick to my stomach. 2) His final assignment to us at the end of the semester was to submit “an original one act play of no less than 15 minutes.”

Somehow, the head mistress of my school found out about this assignment, and, of course, she said that “if you are writing a play, the only fair thing to do would be to PERFOM it for the other students.”

“You mean direct other students to play the parts?”

“No, I mean you direct YOU to play the parts. This would be a PERFECT Actualization for you!”

“I already had an Actualization; I did that stupid ‘Little Women’ thing a few months ago.”

Good then THIS show won’t be a problem for you. You can go now.”

Congratulations, I now had three days to prepare my fully acted solo show for the entire student body. No script allowed – this was to be a performance not a reading!

So, I had to perform a hastily written play that was never intended to be performed with zero rehearsal time and an uncooperative cast. But first, I had to track down my professor during office hours to get the only hard copy of the script back. He happily handed it over, completely unmarked.

When asked if he had even read it yet, he said “I didn’t need to; I’ve seen your work before. In fact,” he said gesturing over to the large stack of papers on his desk.  “I’ve seen ALL of your ‘work’ before – none of it is even remotely producible.”

No pressure there. I just went up there on that fateful Thursday with my meticulously memorized script… and forgot it completely – my own damn play and I couldn’t remember a single word of it.

If my first Actualization was a disaster, this was worse. The only upside was I wasn’t in drag. Otherwise, I looked like a fool sputtering about trying desperately to remember something of my script, and stay in character at the same time.

This was, of course, gold for the staff. The kind of utter humiliation they LOVED seeing from an “arrogant” student such as myself. The fact that I had students come up to me afterwards and say how fucking pissed they were about having to sit through a performance that I didn’t want to put on, but didn’t get a fucking choice in the matter, only deepened the lesson I was to learn from this experience.

That lesson: Don’t do live theatre ever again. (!) The ultimate irony of this story is: my play would probably have been a good fit for Glass Mind.

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Mid-Season Recap

It wasn’t until I actually sat down to write this post that I realized that out of 19 plays that have opened since January 8th of this year: I’ve only seen 2. Fifty Words and The Brothers Size both at Everyman, and btw – they both SUCKED. This is a shame since they (Everyman) truly are one of the best theatre companies in this city.

It’s not that I’m avoiding other venues, it’s just I have no motivation to see their plays anymore. Sadly, the ones I do want to see are often on the opposite side of town from me (like Coastal Disturbances over at FPCT) where getting back could theoretically be a problem.

Lest you think I’m being lazy, I’ve spent much of my time lately trying to come up with a good name for an arts\culture blog – that hasn’t already been taken. However, I’ve also heard that there is a slight – keyword “slight” – possibility that the (Baltimore) Guardian could come back in some form (probably immediately after my new site is up and running).

In the meantime, those reviews will continue to be posted here…where they’ll continue to get zero page views. 😦

Categories: Baltimore Guardian, editorials, ramblings, theatre, writing | Leave a comment

An Artistic Afternoon

I left the apt around 11am and arrived at Shot Tower\Marketplace station a half-hour later. Unlike last time, I didn’t have a choice coming out of the gates, as the left exit (Shot Tower) was blocked off for maintenance work. That dilemma solved, I made my way up the steps and around the corner to the entrance to Maryland Art Place…which was closed (even though it opens at 11am).

Fine, I’ll get lunch and run a few other errands so it wasn’t a huge deal. I also wanted to go to Ritas, but it was cool and cloudy (even though The Weather Channel said it would be sunny and warm) so I went into the café at Barnes & Noble and got a medium iced coffee to drink while I tried to decide what to do for the rest of the day.

I looked at my watch. It was only 12:36pm. I thought about Shot Tower being blocked off, but then remembered that the “Dandy Lions” exhibition at the Lewis museum was less than two blocks walk from the bookstore. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that interested in the show itself (as I generally don’t cover fashion), but I owed it to myself as a former Anthropology major and current backyard tourist. Besides, it would eat time.

I felt a bit nervous walking in there, not because of bad reviews, but because as a 30-yr-old white male, I knew I was the principle villain of this museum. The ticket agents seemed somewhat surprised to see me, but they didn’t throw me out of their institution so that fear was gone. They even offered me a series of discounts that I sadly didn’t qualify for, so I ended up paying the full $8 admission fee.

Like “All Things Round” over at AVAM, “Dandy Lions” (and its sub-gallery “Global Dandies”) takes up most of the museum’s second floor. True to its wall text, the photographs in this exhibit show that there can be more to black fashion than gold chains and saggy pants. This colorful, well designed and highly stylized exhibit is meant to break down stereotypes, and it does so with swagger to spare.

It was 1:25pm when I left the Lewis museum, and I decided that I had given the MAP curators enough time to get back to their offices. So I walk into the gallery, and a curator pops her head out of the office for a second for a standard half-second greeting to whoever came into her gallery.

Before she disappeared, I mentioned this was my second attempt to visit their gallery that day. She waves her hand dismissively, “well then you have to come when we OPEN which is at eleven.”

“I came at eleven-THIRTY,” I said.

She looked at me blankly and said: “that was out staff meeting. We don’t turn the gallery lights on during those,” and then disappeared with a rote “if you have any questions, I’ll be in the back office.”

It didn’t take long to wander through their gallery. The point of “The Sum of the Parts” is to show that meaningful art can be made from mundane material. Many of the pieces are quite large and elaborate, others are small and deceptively simple creations, but the whole of the exhibition isn’t very impressive.

On that note, I wandered out into the courtyard and around the bend and disappeared back into the city’s subway system. Mission accomplished… now I was off to do laundry and write up some reviews that no-one would read.

Categories: adventures, art, attractions, metro subway | Leave a comment

A Green Ole Time

I left my apt at 11:40 this holiday morning with four places on my itinerary. I arrived at State Center just before noon, and to my absolute amazement the train was standing-room-only (a lot more “greenies” than I thought in this town).

I had a choice to make when I arrived at Shot Tower station: do I go left and head over to “Global Dandy” at the Reginald F. Lewis museum… or do I head straight up the escalator to see “The Sum of the Parts” at Maryland Arts Place?

I went straight, climbing the stairs into the harsh sunlight and around the corner to past the security guy standing at the entrance to Power Plant Live. I was slightly disappointed he didn’t ask for my ID, but I was even more disappointed when I got to the back of the complex… and found it barricaded off in preparation for the night’s entertainment.

I considered going back towards the Lewis museum, but that would involve too much backtracking. Besides, I was hungry, and I was already on “restaurant row” so…

I left the restaurant just before 1pm, and made my way to the “other” Power Plant. I considered getting an iced coffee at B&N cafe, but I bought a magazine and headed down the promenade. I passed the Aquarium, the line to get in…was an actual line and it stretched almost the entire length of the building. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait in it.

I stopped briefly in Harborplace to get some money from the ATM on the 2nd floor of the Pratt Street pavilion (Tir Na Nog seemed unusually crowded). The line for Ritas Italian Ice was longer than I anticipated… but it was worth the wait.

I finished my Green Apple Misto, and made my way the extra 20 feet to the Circulator stop behind the Visitors Center. I wasn’t about to completely waste my subway fare – I was going to get at least one task done today (holiday not withstanding).

I arrived at the Walters Art Museum at exactly 3pm, and I made my way up to the “Manuscripts Gallery” on the 3rd floor. Both the carpet and wainscoting were a deep purple color, while the walls were painted a cheerful lilac color, but the actual paintings were hung in gold frames with white matting. The level of detail evident in each print was absolutely astounding: his nature scenes featured textures of a pebble or the individual shoots on a branch. You could even see the shadow of the crease in the tablecloth he used in his still lives.

I exited the gallery, and made my way down the main stairway into the courtyard. I was surprised to see all the large poster boards of art produced by local students. I didn’t check which schools were represented, but I saw they had works from grades 1st – 8th grades on display in an equally diverse range of styles (drawings, sketches, illustrations, etc.).

I left the museum at 3:36pm, and slowly walked back to my apt in the strong afternoon sun. The cherry trees along Charles Street were starting to bloom, and a wedding party was getting their pictures taken in front of the monument. I wanted another Green Apple Misto, but I had a story to write…

Categories: adventures, art, attractions, Baltimore, entertainment | 2 Comments

Do I HAVE to see them all?

“Adapting Cinderella,” Glass Mind, March 9-25th

“Circle Mirror Transformation,” Fell’s Point Corner Theatre, March 9-April 8th

“Legion,” John Astin Theatre (JHU-Homewood), March 9-11th

“The Brothers Size,” Everyman, March 14-April 15th

“Darwin in Malibu,” Mobtown Players, March 20-April 21st

“Blood Bound and Tongue Tied,” Strand, March 23-April 7th

“Hotel Cassiopeia,” Single Carrot, March 28-April 29th

Categories: entertainment, theatre, upcoming events | Leave a comment

Harborplace update

I was in Harborplace yesterday. Big changes are coming: A new food court, the return of Johnny Rockets and a Ripley’s Odditorium (I’ve been to the ones in Anaheim and Key West). This is in addition to the new Starbucks and Brio Tuscan Steakhouse across the street from the Gallery.

Occupy Baltimore decried this news as “more low wage, no benefit jobs for the Inner Harbor.” I agree with their sentiment, but this city needs jobs and in this economy the city cannot afford to turn away potential employers.

But right now, the entirety of Light Street pavilion is either boarded up or closed down (except for Noodle Company, Urban Outfitters and the northern entrance to H&M). This will probably be awesome when it reopens in the coming weeks, but I still sorry for any tourists arriving this weekend.

Categories: adventures, attractions, Baltimore | Leave a comment

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