Saturday, March 30, 2013
Purely coincidental to this being Holy Week for some folks, I am fixing to head out to the desert to meditate. Thus I haven't time to post a proper review of Adam Sultan (the play) starring Adam Sultan (the man, the myth, the legend), written by Steve Moore and Zeb L. West.
I will tell you this-- it is so stunningly gorgeous, so moving and sad and funny and contemplative and joyous and... oh wow. It is just so OH WOW! I was truly verklempt and then some throughout and afterward, too, as I tried to process all that I had just taken in.
So many people came together to make this happen-- Steve and Adam and the Trouble Puppet folks (there's this one scene with Caroline Reck who, in her puppet ninja outfit and a pair of green glasses, manages to express so much emotion in such simple gestures that I just wanted to cry out at the gut punch of it all) and design people and sound people and jar people... Wow. WOW WOW WOW.
I am just beside myself. GO SEE IT.
I leave you with this. In the program all of the players get to put in a little bit about themselves, CV, etc. Holly Jackson, set designer, decided to forego the usual description and instead use a Kurt Vonnegut quote. It sums up how I feel about Adam Sultan perfectly:
"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmor or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
This show will make you murmur and exclaim. Trust me.
More info can be found Right Here.
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 1:13 PM
Thursday, March 28, 2013
For those of you who might've had the grave misfortune of missing the original notice posted on FB a couple of weeks ago, Warren and I are PSYCHED to announce the launch of our new business. The working title is Le Sac Free Range Plastic Bags, though maybe we'll change that to Le Sac Commando? What do you think?
Anyway, necessity being the mother of invention and all that, here's how our exciting new leap into entrepreneurship got started. We were off minding our own business one day, visiting cemeteries around Austin-- great cheap date, I'm telling you. Then we spotted it! A bag stuck to a fence. This was just after the bag ban had gone into effect and it dawned on me-- we could make a FORTUNE capturing loose bags all around the city and selling them. Come to think of it, maybe we should say "adopting them out" or "re-homing them"-- right?
So we're going to do a KickStarter to raise $200,000 so we can buy a 50 year-old rotted out AirStream and pay some hand-crafty hipster of integrity (HCHOI) to refurbish it using only his/her bare hands and maybe some organic moustache wax. (We will only consider applicants who spell moustache with an "o" and, preferably, come from Portland.) We'll let you know when that KickStarter campaign is up and running so you can cash in your 401ks to be part of this noble project.
Next, we plan to park the Le Sac Commando AirStream in front of Whole Foods Market (flagship) and also maybe at the 750 Farmers Markets. We will sell our Free Range Bags there, and each will, of course, come with a personal narrative-- where we found it, when, what we were doing, what we wished we had been doing instead of what we were actually doing, etc.
I'm thinking, based on the Individual Cupcakes for $7 apiece model, that we can start out selling Le Sac Commando bags for, what? Like $12 each? $15? Somebody, help me out here. I think we can justify the price since these bags, being banned and all, are a hot commodity, a true model of the whole Supply v. Demand thing that drives this fine country of ours (toward the brink of bankruptcy and destruction).
In preparation for our business, Warren recently acquired an environmentally sustainable, made-from-recycled-materials-only holding pen where we plan to keep the bags until we can transfer them to the AirStream. Here's a sneak peak of our operation, which is happening at a top secret location that may or may not be added to the E.A.S.T Tour if the price is right...
|Entrepreneurship starts at home! Warren was able to hunt this batch of beautiful babies not far from his personal property. One blew in all the way from the Phoenicia in Houston! Please don't worry-- these bags have merely been stunned, not injured.|
|Here, Warren keeps close watch over our new charges as they acclimate to their pen.|
|The bags did get a little surly at one point, necessitating Warren bravely stepping into the pen with them to get them back in line.|
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 1:51 PM
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
|Adam Sultan with Adam Sultan|
And now today I bring you more tidings of great joy. Tomorrow, Thursday, March 28th, marks opening night of Adam Sultan, a play by Steve Moore that, natch, involves the real life Adam Sultan one of Austin's most amazing, gifted guitarists and a performance genius (among other roles, he is the Melodic Cat half of Mistress Stephanie and Her Melodic Cat). I've been friend and fan of both Steve and Adam for many years and am super psyched to witness this collaboration, a project that has been in the works for sometime. It was workshopped (or mini presented or something) at last year's Fusebox Festival. Now it is time for the big, official unveil.
Along the way, Steve has been collecting items from local performers, which have been put in jars* and... omg damn you middle age, what's the word for when you log information about something? Well, anyway, it's all been organized. I was excited when I was invited to bring stuff to put in a jar, which I did at some big kooky party at Salvage Vanguard Theater. I was whisked into a back room and asked to answer a series of questions so they could determine my cause of death, which I think will be part of the show. Confused? Good. Let that confusion rightfully pique your curiosity and GET TICKETS TO THIS SHOW which I am confident is going to be SUPER AWESOME.
For those of you who insist on having a little more info to go on, the press release describes the show as a "speculative biography." It's set forty years in the future and Adam's friends are dead. He's got these jars full of mementos. It's like that Veronica video by Elvis Costello. Only completely different.
I'll see y'all there.
*The objects, not the local performers. Though there's an idea...
Here are the nitty-gritties:
WHO: Physical Plant Theater
WHAT: Adam Sultan
WHEN: March 28-April 13, 2013; shows at 8:00 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.
(Two additional shows as part of the Fusebox Festival: April 18 and April 19 at 7pm.)
WHERE: Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road, Austin, TX 78722.
COST: $12-$25 at http://www.physicalplant.org/adamsultan/ or at the door
LENGTH: 90 minutes
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 10:40 AM
Monday, March 25, 2013
Technically I’m on sabbatical this year, not doing theatre writing. However… I’m resurfacing this week because there are two theatrical happenings right now that will thrill you, and I can’t resist being the bearer of good news. I’ll tell you about Thing Two tomorrow or Wednesday. For today, a quick, super enthusiastic review of SLOWGIRL, which is playing at Hyde Park Theatre through April 27th.
SLOWGIRL, by Greg Pierce, debuted at Lincoln Center up there in the Big Fancy City. The Hyde Park Show marks its second production and, as ever, Ken Webster – who directs and stars in the show, along with Molly Karrasch—sinks deep his teeth into a nice, juicy script.
Let me remind the six of you, since it’s been awhile since I’ve written about a show, that Spike does not do spoilers in her play reviews (she saves those for Downton Abbey updates on Ye Olde Facebooke). So you won’t get much in the way of plot description here. But I will tell you that, in the eerie way that life and art keep mimicking each other, SLOWGIRL happens to echo— if not precisely then close enough— some current headlines about some Ohio high school football players who were just convicted of a crime involving teens and alcohol and video recordings and social media. It’s a hot topic, and explored really well in SLOWGIRL.
Molly Karrasch’s portrays 17 year-old Becky, who is— for reasons I won’t go into— visiting her Uncle Sterling (Ken Webster), who is holed up in his golden cage of an existence in a hut in the jungle in Costa Rica. Karrasch is the quintessential screeching, manipulative, self-involved pain-in-the-ass adolescent female. Because I once lived—briefly, though it felt like an eternity at the time— with a screeching, annoying, manipulative, self-involved pain-in-the-ass teenage girl, I can tell you, Karrasch nails it. I certainly had my friend Southpaw Jones’s awesome anthem The Cruelty of Teenage Girls running through my head by show’s midpoint.
There is this sort of irony to Karrasch’s skilled channeling. There are definitely points when you want her character to shut the fuck up. Sort of like you wanted Javier Bardem’s character to fall off the face in No Country for Old Men—you know? But in the end, you keep watching because you can’t not.
Uncle Sterling is a complex character and Webster captures the nuance with aplomb. I’m biased, yes—I am such a fan of Ken Webster’s acting that he could mount a production of the live nativity and cast himself as the burro Mother Mary trots in on and I’d be tickled to watch. Check out the show and see for yourself and if you agree (you will) let’s get a KickStarter going to get that nativity thing up and running, okay?
While I won’t reveal the plot, I will say that the theme here is that universal one about perception. How we perceive ourselves. How we perceive others’ possible perceptions of us. What we will say and do to shift those perceptions in our own minds and in the minds of outsiders. Tricky business and explored deeply enough here to make me squirm a little reflecting on representations of myself I have sometimes put out there.
In the end, let’s call SLOWGIRL a mashup of the Odd Couple and No Exit. Webster and Karrasch play off each other really well. She’s not precisely a manic pixie dream girl, but she does shake him awake a bit and he—far more gently—brings a vulnerable version of her to the surface, too.
Before I sign off and resume sabbatical, a big shout out to Ia Ensterä, whose set is MAGNIFICENT. OMG. I don’t know how she does it—I am in love with all of her sets and I think with each one it can’t get better and then it does. Super Bravo Ia! You can come redesign my house anytime.
SLOWGIRL runs Thursday – Saturdays through April 27th. Thursdays are pay what you can night. Show time: 8 pm. Ninety minute runtime, no intermission. For info go to the Hyde Park Theatre website or call 479-PLAY to reserve seats.
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 10:38 AM
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
When I started performing weddings in 2006 I had no idea that this would become my main gig. That's how it has shaken down, though, and I have been ridiculously fortunate. I get far more requests than I can take, I work with happy people, I get to be useful, and I work in gorgeous settings all around the Hill Country.
Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind." Going with a variation on that theme, once I decided to shift performing weddings from my sideline work to my bread-and-butter, I got my butt in gear. Over the past three years or so, I've worked with a friend who coaches me on SEO, I've played around with advertising, I've courted reviews (which I used to wince at the notion of, but apparently all the kids are doing it these days). The payoff has been great. And so I have transitioned from hippy business owner-- just figuring things would take care of themselves-- to someone more organized. I now have a bookkeeper (amen!) and some actual infrastructure to keep track of my clients.
Yesterday, I decided on a next step. I'd been looking at my Google Analytics, and noting that one place I advertise-- The Knot, which is sort of a virtual mega-mall for brides-- was generating very few leads. On the advice of my SEO coach, I called to suspend my account, to see if it would affect my leads. If not, then I'd cancel and save around $1000 per year. If so, then I would resume advertising.
The phone calls I had to endure were just another reminder of how fucking haywire the world has gone. I had a simple request-- turn off my account-- and, as is so often the case with customer service these days, I was greeted on the frontline by a young pit bull of a rep who was not going to hear me out. Because I am a bait taker, instead of just being silent until I had my request met, I decided to engage (pardon the pun) with her. She wanted to know why. I explained the user interface had changed, that even I could not easily find a way to view my advertisement as potential clients might, and that all the changes they made pretty much sucked. I also told her I'd analyzed stats on my end and they just weren't delivering.
She went on to chastise me for not participating in their free webinars. Really. Can you even say webinar without giggling madly? So they want me to pay them a pile of money and then take classes on how to use their product which, in essence, should be a simple advertisement?
I asked about 70 more times for the manager and finally I was put on hold for a good spell and then, no surprise, disconnected. I called again, and finally got a supervisor whose tone wasn't as bad. But she, too, did a full-court press, telling me what I was missing by leaving. Again-- I am so stupid sometimes-- I took the bait and told her how their competition, Wedding Wire, was just way easier to use and yielded me much better results.
It was like I'd set a jealous, negligent lover into a rage. I got a lecture on all that I'd be missing by leaving. I repeated I was leaving. I was sent a follow-up email listing point for point how badly my life was going to turn out if I walked away. I responded, reiterating that I was done, and that I was better off spending my advertising dollars elsewhere. In this last note, I mentioned that Wedding Wire sends me 90 million leads.
I'll spare y'all the entire email exchange, but let's pick up with where the supervisor sends me a note back asking me to back up this claim of 90 million leads, shall we?
One thing I forgot to ask. Can you please explain the 90 million leads from Wedding Wire? Are those actual brides that are interested in YOUR specific services, or are you receiving a list of brides that are joining WeddingWire? That seems like a lot…just curious
You're fucking kidding me, right? Let me spell it out for you-- I specifically chose the number 90 million because it is, in fact, a preposterous number. Armed, as I am, with an English degree from the prestigious University of South Florida, I do, from time to time, whip out my poet's license and engage in what is known as hyperbole. If you are unfamiliar, this is a rhetorical device in which the writer or speaker (in this instance me) conveys to the reader or listener (in this case you) a point by using great exaggeration. You can go here to find a ton* of other examples of hyperbole.
Since you're holding my feet to the fire in your demand that I substantiate my claim of 90 million leads, I will take still more time I don't have educating you. The truth is-- and I hope you're sitting down-- that Wedding Wire does not in fact send me 90 million leads. They do send me A LOT of leads. Far, far more than The Knot sends me. Exponentially more.
I want you to know that yesterday, when I placed the call to your company, I did have it in mind to ask about possibly just suspending my account and seeing if that made a significant difference in my leads. I figured it wouldn't, but keeping my options open to resume advertising a few months down the line seemed like not a bad idea. Now that I have had to deal with Belligerent B____, and have been lectured by you both on the phone and in multiple follow-up emails, you can be certain that I will not be back at the Knot. I would sooner wear a sandwich board with nothing underneath it and parade around those ridiculous "Bridal Extravaganzas" than work with a company that uses client bullying as a technique.
I recently purchased the url WeddingsAreARacket.com, which I am planning to use to expose people in the business who exist to convince brides that if they don't have fifty million accoutrements (that's French) their wedding will suck and they will live unhappily ever after. Lucky for you I am so busy performing weddings right now that I probably won't get around to starting that website for awhile. But I'd like to thank you and especially B___, for offering me fodder for my first post. I love coming out of the gates strong, and I'm sure the story of my experience with y'all will easily help me toward that end.
I ask now that you cease and desist with your ridiculous emails. I am going outside to play in the sunshine and revel in the fact that I am not in one of your webinars.
*in this instance, "a ton" is also an example of hyperbole. Clever, right? And since we're swapping education tips-- you on the importance of me continuing to pay money for advertising that doesn't work, and me on the amazing wonders of the English language-- let me teach you one more thing. When I use hyperbole in my definition of hyperbole, this is called being meta. I'm going to let you look that one up on your own.
p.s. Yes, this note does, in fact, contain some sarcasm, yet another rhetorical device, although in New Jersey it's just how they talk regularly.
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 9:56 AM
Saturday, March 16, 2013
|Ashley and Me|
I try hard to focus on the fact that, never mind the posers and the pecker heads, so many of the people who descend upon SXSW really do so out of a pure love for music. Sing it with me, people-- Music is the universal language and love is the key...
Okay, okay, enough of that. What I'm trying to say is that this time of year always reminds me of my personal history with music, and the power of the same, and how maybe a better anthem for me than that sap about about the universal language is Last Night the DJ Saved My Life. From the weekly 45s my otherwise miserable father brought home for us every week, to the DJs on WMMR in Philly that turned me on to Elvis Costello and Rockpile and all the rest of it and yeah, okay, some stuff I could've done without... all of that changed and saved my life. Gave me something to sink my angsty teeth and troubled heart and eager ears into. Taught me to remember you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need. And also that one day we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny. And also the power of words, and how to turn phrases, and the mightiness of metaphor, and the pure inspiration of a broken heart.
This past week, I got to look back a solid twenty-four years, just about half a lifetime ago, and reflect on a time iwhen perhaps my greatest single Music Educator appeared in my life. I was living in Knoxville in the late 80's. I'd blown off my office editing job in favor of freelance writing, waiting tables, and getting way too wasted way too often. Somewhere in the midst of all this-- talk about good timing-- my former editor boss told me he was investing in a new little nightclub and did I want a gig slinging cocktails.
|Big Red and Henry Mowgli (Popular Culture) & Me. Henry, dad and I had our first date thanks to Ashley. You can thank him for more than your musical education.|
Ashley also taught me about acts that didn't play the club. Most notably, he called me in his office one day and said, "Listen to this," and proceeded to play me Leonard Cohen for the first time-- it was Tower of Song from I'm Your Man, the record that would become my soundtrack for love as I blasted a cassette version of it on my Walkman as each day I walked to the Post Office to drop off or retrieve (or both) a letter to/from Big Red, who lived far away.
Ella's is also where I began, oh-so-slowly, to hone my own stage presence, thanks to Ashley's generous heart and certainly not my skill set at the time. And it's also the place I left when I moved to St. Louis to be with Big Red. We returned the following summer for a couple of months, and I got my old job back. I was pregnant with Henry then, and carrying a big tray while trying to squeeze between patrons' chairs was a growing challenge. Still, I loved it. I remember the night one of the dudes in NRBQ sneaked up behind me and tickled me.
Surely Henry's exposure to music in utero, and that NRBQ tickle, and all the music Ashley introduced me to, had a tremendous impact on him. Of course so did growing up in Austin, going to shows as an infant and toddler and pre-teen and teen. And so did his mentors. And so did whatever pure passion he had (and has) in him for music. And all those gigs he played in backyards and clubs and in laundrymats and on bridges and, once, in a Taco Bell.
|Popular Culture at Farewell Books. Hands down my favorite SXSW performance ever.|
As for Ashley, he went on to form an entertainment company after Ella's closed. And this led to him putting on a little annual event you might've heard of-- it's called Bonnaroo. Seeing as that's his day job, I figured SXSW was a part of his work. Not sure why, but it only occurred to me this year to call him and see about reconnecting when he was in town. He said sure.
We didn't manage to have the long, luxurious lunch we talked about-- like everyone else attending SXSW Ashley got sucked into the vortex and I, overwhelmed by a single day of stuff, hid away from the rest. But Ashley did come out to catch Henry's short day set at Farewell Books on Wednesday. This made my heart soar-- to have the man who taught me so much about music see the amazing ripple effect his schooling has had on my son.
Thanks Ashley, for the amazing education, and for catching the show. Now get some rest. See you next year.
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 9:22 PM
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Warren and I dedicated Wednesday to visiting five Austin cemeteries. I love, love, love cemeteries and have been photographing them informally, around the country (and later around the world) probably since 1988. Cemeteries have a lot going for them. Unlike, say, SXSW, you rarely run into a lot of people, unless you count the permanent residents. And while—if it is true our hair continues to grow post-mortem—surely those occupants now sport facial hair configurations wacky enough to put even the most facially hairy hipster to shame, happily we’ll never know. Also, they don't offer commentary and judgement, though they do offer a pretty direct reminder that it is definitely okay-- and really actually better than okay-- to not check email constantly.
So, yeah, a nice quiet place for a cheap date. I love the monuments we erect to the dead-- just last week I was checking out Ann Richards' especially badass headstone, which quite resembles her famous hairdo. I am a huge fan of the super simple as well as the wildly ornate. Massive phallic memorials amuse me. Tiny infant tombstones make me sad.
|This cemetery has to be the smallest in Austin, maybe in Texas. You have to park on the shoulder of 183 and dash across the feeder road to reach it.|
Taking in all the tributes, I am always reminded of two headstones-- one of which I never saw with my own eyes, and neither of which was to be found in a graveyard. The first of these I spotted in the dumpy rental house my old friend Chuck Dean, American (that's what he called himself) lived in on Duval, back in the 90s. Chuck is sadly no longer with us (fuck you heroin). But when he was alive, he lived a very interesting life. Without comment or hullabaloo, he had placed in his living room a small marker upon which there was just one word, but it spoke volumes: DADDY. I don't recall asking Chuck for details about it. Besides, I had a story of my own to impose on that polished rock.
The other headstone, the one I never saw… well dang, I just gave away the punchline. So years ago, one of my editors told me the story of how, when she was a teen, one year she saw beneath the Christmas tree a big package, placed there weeks before the actual holiday. Curious for clues, she tried picking it up to shake it. Wouldn't budge. Birthday of Jesus arrives and she tears away the wrapping to reveal, yes, a headstone featuring her birth date with a blank for her death date. Her mother gave her this, announcing, "I knew you'd never get around to it." (I guess it could've been creepier-- if there had been a death date included, too, as hunch or warning.)
|Inside the tiniest cemetery, Warren attempts to straighten up a grave marker.|
Warren and I find there is no end to a game we call Cemetery Math, which allows you to figure out how old someone was when they died (don’t forget to factor in if they died before their birthday to come up with the proper answer). You can also whistle through your teeth at the age differences in the May-December marriages. And then there is the math of figuring out how many years ago these folks walked the streets of Austin—some of them well over a hundred years ago.
Beyond all those numbers, there are plenty of pun opportunities, abundant gallows humor offerings, reading between the lines (e.g. when it says He was a beloved brother, son, uncle and friend, this very likely means gay, am I right?) For language fanatics like us, a decent number of typos offers the additional joy of discovery. But then there really isn’t whiteout or delete when working in granite and, depending how far along you’ve gotten and how small your future audience will be, what’s an occasional oops here and there?
|A Mexican cemetery in South Austin on Circle S Road. Really beautiful and bursting with colorful memorials.|
There doesn't seem to be much information out there about Austin cemeteries, something I already knew from past trips. This didn't stop me from trying though. So when we got to the Greenwood Cemetery, a relatively small place over on 183 near the airport, I decided to whip out my smart phone (when will I ever learn?) and see what I could find. As I suspected, there was not a hell of a lot. But something did catch my eye. It was this quote:
And your oh, so nutty chocolate covering. You're not like the others. You like the same things I do: Wax paper. Boiled football leather. Dog breath. We're not hitchhiking anymore. We're riding!
"Whoa!" I said to Warren. "Check it out! There is a tombstone here that says…" and I read him the quote. This excited us both. I love people that carry a lifetime of wackiness with them to the end. (I myself imagine a headstone that reads: Skinny At Last.)
The search was on. Another clue I found from the same forum discussing Greenwood said: Lies just in front of runway 17R at KAUS.
Well we walked around that cemetery for over an hour, first together, then dividing in the hopes of conquering. Around and around I looped, looking at fronts and backs of markers, looking for markers that might be flat on the ground, hidden in tall grass, trying to find on Google maps where 17R runway was so I could figure out which markers faced it.
We were stumped. I got out my phone a few more times-- I'm usually a pretty good researcher-- and tried typing in various combinations of keywords. Finally, after lots and lots of searching in the real world and in the ether, I decided to plug the actual quote into Google (duh, why didn't I think of that first?) and what came back to me was even more delightful.
That quote? It's from Ren & Stimpy! Another clue! The grave marker would have to be relatively recent, at least not from the 1800's. I eagerly shouted the good news to Warren. Our enthusiasm renewed, we looped around again.
I'm not sure when it occurred to me, but at some point, I went back to the original forum. I looked a little closer, squinting through my polarized glasses past the glare of the blinding sun beating down on the tiny screen. And then it dawned on me. By now, Warren was sitting in the car, taking a little break.
"Um, I think maybe I figured it out," I said.
"You know what a sig file is?" I said (worried, just a little, that this sounded too much like sig heil).
"Huh? Oh, a signature, file?"
Let me cut to the chase here and just say that some nameless person posted on a Austin Cemetery Bulletin Board simply noting that there is a cemetery facing a runway. This person never said there is a grave marker with a Ren & Stimpy quote on it. I just jumped to that conclusion. The truth is that the nameless person simply had a Ren & Stimpy quote as part of his/her sig file. That's all. The marker we sought existed only in our hopeful minds.
Warren says not to worry-- he's going to outlive me and make me a headstone that conveys to all future visitors that I made him wander for hours looking for a epitaph that does not exist involving wax paper and boiled football leather.
Thank you, dear. And please, please-- include the entire quote. And make it face a runway.
|There is life in the cemetery.|
|I really dig it that people still honor the dead. Feels like a lost art, almost. But some folks still visit gravesides and leave lovely decorations.|
|That's a butterfly flying over the redbud. Lucky shot.|
Posted by Spike Gillespie at 2:38 PM