Saturday, February 27, 2010

Note: I’m no longer reviewing theater for The Austinist, but from time to time will post reviews here. Toward that end, here’s my take on The Atheist, a play by Irish playwright Ronan Noone, currently playing at the Hyde Park Theatre. The Atheist, a one-man show, stars Joey Hood and is directed by Ken Webster. It runs about 90 minutes and there’s a ten-minute intermission.

The six of you who read this blog with regularity— thank you— likely already know I’m a huge fan of Ken Webster and the Hyde Park Theatre. Selfishly speaking, I love the space because that’s where the Dick Monologues played for two years. But I also love Ken’s taste in plays (wicked, dark, sardonic), and I know that when I go to see a show at HPT, I am in for an evening of outstanding acting.

So I went to see The Atheist pretty certain it would be another great show. And it was. Though I wasn’t totally in love with Noone’s writing (more on that later), Joey Hood took the piece and masterfully made it his own. I’ve seen Hood in a few shows now and he always delivers. I especially dug his performance as a great manipulator in last fall’s The Collection, a Harold Pinter play also at HPT. In The Atheist, he’s back in the role of big-time string puller, master of manipulation. This time, he plays Augustine Early, a Midwestern journalist suffering from a severe lack of morals. The set is sparse—just Early, his desk, a table, and a video camera. Let’s just say that, ala Chekov, one of these items serves as the old first-act loaded gun and, since I am anti-spoiler, leave it at that.

I will tell you that Early opens up his monologue with a little stage-setting anecdote about a moment in his childhood where he learned— at the expense of being made a bit of a fool— that you can present a piece of information one way, understand that this information is purposefully confusing to the recipient, and use it in your favor. In the case of the childhood incident, the event seems innocent enough— a little word sleight played by a trash collector on the impressionable Early. But the message sticks with the character as he grows up, renounces God, and decides he’s going to be the master of his own destiny.

Early turns the video camera on at the start of the performance, and his image is projected, live, on the top left side of a wall. It didn’t occur to me until late in the show, but anytime the audience wants to look this rather despicable character in the eye, they must look at the projected image, the one floating up above like—yes, you got it—a sort of god. Because Hood-as-Early directs his actual attention directly on the camera, focused on the task at hand, making a permanent record of his version of a very strange series of events that finds him stirring up an awful lot of shit for an awful lot of people.

In fact, if we believe Early, he is responsible for at least one man’s death, another woman’s momentary glory, and yet another woman’s sudden launch to fame. The word “machinations” rolls off his tongue more than once. It’s not a common usage word, and each time he said it, my head called up deus ex machina, which, yep, has a reference to god in it. Bear in mind, holding a degree in English lit from a mediocre university has given me just enough literary interpretation skills to be dangerous. But I’d say that Noone seems to want us to see Early as the character seems to see himself: an atheist in relation to any “traditional” god, yes, but when it comes right down to it, a man who thinks himself godlike, one responsible not just for his own destiny.

(And now, it’s wacky tangent time. Let’s get a little meta here and say that in Hood’s performance, there are definitely echoes of Ken Webster. I mean that as the highest form of praise, not a suggestion of a derivative performance. Webster, who just floored me in his one-man performance of Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), knows exactly how to deliver a perfectly nuanced one-guy-on-the-stage-the-entire-time show. That Hood rises to the occasion of The Atheist and, in my opinion, rises above some serious Noone-related limitations, is a testament to his own hard work, but also a tribute to Webster’s direction. Should we look into God symbolism here, too? Well, just if we want to have some added fun.)

As for the plot of The Atheist—Noone really wants us to super-duper suspend our disbelief. I’m not incapable of this and still there were times when I thought, “Oh, come on Noone, that’s playwriting 101—there’s no fucking way any of that could unfold like that, it’s way too contrived…”

And yet. Whatever criticism-of-plot came to me as I watched the show, I did notice my brain latch on to parts of the story—a journalist using his medium to get what he thinks he wants—and it made me think. Journalism has shifted so much with the advent of the Internet, and what we can and cannot write and publish as journalists has shifted, too. For example, I can tell you at the top of this review that I have a personal love of HPT, which in another place and time might mean recusing myself from reviewing shows there. But now, I can do what I want. And I can even not reveal my relationship to the theater if I so choose. That was hardly the only example from real life that came to mind as I thought about Noone’s message.

Though Augustine Early works in the print world, his adventures there mirror much of what is going on with journalism today. Sure no one is now or ever has been fully objective— hello and welcome to the human race. But for whatever flaws I saw in Noone’s plot, I can’t deny that he offers a quick lesson on how careers and aspirations can be built and torn down, nearly instantaneously, by the cruel god that is mass communication courtesy of technology— anyone can make a movie and distribute it, for example— combined with rampant narcissism and the growing delight so many people take in other people’s dirty laundry. We’re starving for filth—Noone knows it, Early knows it, and Hood brings it home, inhabiting a host of characters as the tale unfolds.

Food for thought? Check. Fantastic acting? Check. Excellent Directing? Check. The Atheist won’t convert anyone to the Church of Journalism, but it certainly does provoke.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fashion Camp is ON! Important Info!

I am delighted to announce that Fashion Camp (Plus!!) will be held at the Hyde Park Theatre in lovely Hyde Park, on 43rd street, immediately west of Guadalupe. This means we have a stage for our fashion show-- yay.

We will absolutely for certain have camp these two weeks:
June 14 - 18
June 21 - 25

We are hoping to also get enough interested fashionistas to hold camp these two weeks:
July 12 - 16
July 19 - 23

Some details:
Each session is one week, from 9 am til Noon, culminating in a fabulous Fashion Show on Friday morning at 11:30 am.

Ages: 8 - 12.

Cost: $200 includes everything-- camp, supplies, snacks.

Payment/Hold a Spot: If you would like to reserve a spot, please email me ( and let me know. I will get the registration forms out soon. In the meanwhile, I'll send a confirmation email and you will have a guaranteed slot (unless we sell out, so let me know soon). Once I do send you the form, if you'll get it back to me with a deposit that'd be great.

And Finally! (For now): Would y'all please, please help me get the word out to friends who might be interested? Just have them email me for details. We did get a late start this year and I sure could use help letting folks know that Fashion Camp is ON!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Because today I'm just too lazy for words.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

About Camp...

Christine-- thanks for the comment on the Just Saying No... post. This is a response to the question-- Will I be holding writing and fashion camps this summer? Definitely YES to Fashion Camp 2010. Still a maybe for Writing Camp. I've got a pretty full plate now with my regular JetBlue gig but am aiming to work in four weeks of half-day camps for fashion & crafts. I should've sent out invitations by now to past and future campers but we've run up against a venue issue. For many years, the fabulous Griffin School in Hyde Park has hosted camps. Looks like that's not going to be an option this year so I'm shopping for venue options. I think I have one lined up and will know for sure next week. Meanwhile, if any of y'all have any suggestions for churches/schools/community spaces that might be good for me to check into, please let me know.

Those of you who want to hold a place in Fashion Camp, which will likely run from late June to late July, can email me at and I'll hold a space for you child(ren).

More very, very soon...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Let's Get It On

Well, well, well, just like that the time to enjoy Free Sex in Public with me and my friends is just about on top of us like a [fill in your own euphemism here]. That's right folks, this Sunday, February 14th-- which some of you insist on calling "Valentine's Day" and attaching ridiculous expectations upon-- I will be hosting a spectacular event at BookPeople. Please Note:


So, 8 pm, BookPeople at 6th & Lamar. On the second floor. This event is free but likely it will "sell out," by which I mean we're expecting a crowd. please get there by 7:45 if you can. On the other hand, don't let running late keep you from showing up at all. We've got a dozen or so performers, mostly from the Dick Monologues, and-- talk about the element of surprise-- even I'm not sure what folks are going to be reading but/so it promises to be a very fun ride.

BookPeople will be providing some tasty Free-Sex/Valentine themed snacks. Feel free to BYOB, chocolate, whatever. No date needed. We're encouraging hookups to take place spontaneously at the show, and phone numbers and email information may be exchanged over in the kids' section which, conveniently, is adjacent to where we'll be reading.

Please, please, tell your friends. I'm so excited to be res-erecting the show. Can't wait to see you all. Let's get it on.

Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY!!
xo, spike

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just Saying No

I've been writing a grumpy post in my head for a week or so now. But I realize if I try to voice the grumpiness I'm going to sound like an ungrateful asshole. See, I realize that for the past thirty years I've been working to get my writing noticed, to garner attention, to shout PICK ME louder than everyone else. And now I am suffering from a great case of Be careful what you wish for. These days, my inbox fills regularly with so many requests I just can't handle it anymore. Garreth is suggesting I outsource, hire someone in India to send out form letters saying, "No." Because whenever I get a request, almost always, even if I want to say "no," I think that wouldn't be very nice. Or I wonder how I might fit one more thing in. Or I remember the good turns others have done for me. And then I think maybe I should say "yes."

For now, I'm letting this post be my blanket "no" to all requests for the foreseeable future. I am declaring 2010 the year of utter selfishness. Any good deeds I do I will do on my own, when I feel like it, and they will be of the small-good-deeds variety, where I open doors for people, and try to use good manners, and say nice things to dogs. Beyond that, I am politely requesting no more emails imploring me to read manuscripts, volunteer my time, give copies of my books to silent auctions, or emcee events for groups I've never even heard of. Last week, I got a note from someone who doesn't know me, who heard that maybe I run fashion camps, and asked me to come on out to a junior high school to teach girls not to let their thong panties hang out of their jeans. I am not exaggerating. Yes, an administrator made a thong-related request. I suppose I could've said yes, and gone and shared my secrets of how to dress comfortable, like a seventies lesbian, which is always going to be my favorite style. But I had the good sense to decline.

Along these lines, I also resigned as a theater reviewer for the Austinist. Part of me felt very reluctant to put in my resignation. There's an awful lot of good theater here and I love to spotlight shows worth seeing. I've decided that from now on, I'm going to just see shows I want to see and, if I like them a lot, I'll recommend them here. If I hate them, I won't say a word. Being a reviewer-- a responsible reviewer-- is proving just too tricky. Because I really do believe that, overwhelmingly, the majority of folks who stage a show are truly putting their all into it. I do not want to be one of those gleeful reviewers who looks for opportunities to bash others, to point out the flaws, to get all haughty. Then again, I don't want to recommend a show that I really don't think is worth seeing, no matter how hard folks worked to put it together.

Now, here is something haughty for y'all: something else that made me reluctant to give up that post is that I think there aren't enough good reviewers in this town. Or maybe I should say there are enough bad reviewers-- pompous jackasses so in love with their own words and self-important belief that their own shit doesn't stink-- that I liked to think I was counter-balancing that in my attempts to highlight the good parts I was seeing even in mediocre performances. I read an interview with a local theater reviewer recently in which this guy went on about how great his own performances are and then dismissed, out-of-hand, EVERY performance at a particular venue here. Really, with an attitude like that, he needs to recuse himself from all reviews. Okay, so everything is not everyone's cup of tea, but if you're going to flat out admit that you hate a show in advance of seeing it, by virtue of the physical location in which it's performed, well... just shut your piehole and send another reviewer to those shows, okay?

No really, I do apologize for being so cranky lately. And I am grateful for all of the good words people offer me for my own efforts. But I am really weary of getting dozens of weekly requests to be the publicist/editor/mentor/whatever. I've said yes a million times and it is cutting into my own writing time. And to those of you I'm actually still working with-- you know who you are-- this isn't addressed to you. This is for the rest of you, who want me to do your work for you. I'm sorry, I can't.

And that is all I have to say for today's cranky, selfish, bitchy installment. I wish you all well in your endeavors to banish thongs, sell your manuscripts, and get thousands of people out to see your show. If you have something coming up that would genuinely fit into my JetBlue blog, by all means send me a brief press release and I'll see what I can do. But for the foreseeable future, I'm holing my cranky ass up over here and I'm going to ignore the unsolicited requests, get my ass back on the meditation cushion, and work on my own shit.

Thanks to all six of you for listening.