These smart, incisive, and probing reviews of the NYC 1980s performance scene seem like dispatches from another lifetime. Cynthia Carr proves an ideal...moreThese smart, incisive, and probing reviews of the NYC 1980s performance scene seem like dispatches from another lifetime. Cynthia Carr proves an ideal guide to this wild terrain, an adventurous critic with a well-honed bullshit detector. "On Edge" brims with colorful accounts of extreme events featuring The Kipper Kids, GG Allin, Ann Magnuson, Diamanda Galas, the Neoists, and many more. Some names are now forgotten while others like Maria Abramovic, John Jesrun, and Karen Finley were just beginning to make their mark. On the flip side, the essays about the culture wars, censorship, and multiculturalism sadly remain as relevant as ever. The frontline "as it happens" view of the gentrification of NYC real estate and the marginalization of the arts scene is also enlightening, demonstrating how the ending of this continuing story was written long ago. Hard to believe writing this consistently vibrant and well-wrought appeared every week in The Village Voice for years. Highly recommended. (less)
An invaluable resource for anyone interested in the delirious world of Shuji Terayama - the taboo-smashing poet, playwright, director, designer, photo...moreAn invaluable resource for anyone interested in the delirious world of Shuji Terayama - the taboo-smashing poet, playwright, director, designer, photographer, filmmaker, and all-around cultural provocateur. "Unspeakable Acts" focuses on his theater activities with translations of several key plays and his writings on stagecraft. His most radical works included street theater that strategically rampaged across an entire city, one production that ended with actors setting fire to the sets, and another that sparked fistfights between the cast, audience, and even critics. Other celebrated productions such as "Mink Marie" and "The Hunchback of Aomori" traveled to the U.S. and Europe.
I'm most familiar with Terayama's films - including "Pastoral: To Die in Country" and "Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets" - which are the wildest films in the entire Japanese New Wave. Their visuals still retain the ability to stop you in your tracks. Sadly, the films are mostly beyond the purview of this book, but then you would need several tomes to do justice to Terayama's sprawling output. It's not surprising a virtual Terayama industry thrives in Japan - including a museum dedicated to his work.
My only reservation is this is primarily an academic text, mostly concerned with examining only a few plays and constructing an analysis of his aesthetic, including interpretations involving his troubled relationship with his mother. Rather than providing a comprehensive biography or describing many of his unorthodox productions, the author is speaking to her colleagues in Japanese theater studies and trying to situate Terayama's true achievements in that sphere. Large chunks of this won't interest the Terayama novice, but it's still a serious boon this book even exists. (less)
A great cross section of eye-popping and often psychedelic Japanese theater posters from the 1960s and 70s by graphic artists like Tadanori Yokoo. The...moreA great cross section of eye-popping and often psychedelic Japanese theater posters from the 1960s and 70s by graphic artists like Tadanori Yokoo. The detail and radical design is often dizzying, far outstripping American concert posters of the same era. The artists were often integrated into the theater companies and their avant garde aesthetic reflected the productions they advertised, including "Virgin City," "Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets," and "The Man-Powered Airplane, Solomon." The book includes a concise overview of the period, the main companies, and a synopsis of each play. I wish some of the posters had been reproduced at a larger size, but this is an excellent introduction to a fertile moment in theater and graphic design. (less)
This is a companion to the excellent documentary "Absolute Wilson" - and if you're not familiar with Robert Wilson's visionary theater work or his fas...moreThis is a companion to the excellent documentary "Absolute Wilson" - and if you're not familiar with Robert Wilson's visionary theater work or his fascinating life, then I recommend checking that out first. It's streaming now on Netflix.
This book is a lavishly illustrated oral history cum coffee table tome. There are numerous interviews with Wilson and various collaborators and critics that aren't included in the documentary and scores of striking images that haven't appeared elsewhere. It's especially rich on Wilson's early silent dream plays with the Byrd Hoffmann School of Byrds - including his epic 7 day play performed in the mountains of Iran during the early '70s. (less)
This play caused riots back in the day and its celebration of the benefits of patricide might still raise plenty of eyebrows today. It took me a while...moreThis play caused riots back in the day and its celebration of the benefits of patricide might still raise plenty of eyebrows today. It took me a while to get accustomed to the mix of rural Irish dialect and poetic phrases, but there's a real richness to the language once you're properly immersed. Synge described his play as somewhere between 'comedy, tragedy, and extravaganza' which nicely sums up its constantly shifting emotional tones and dramatic registers, ultimately the work's strongest suit. It can be laugh out loud funny one moment and genuinely morose the next, veering from subtle complexities to outright farce. My one reservation is that there's some broad bits of business at the end that require too many hairpin turns to work. Or maybe they play out better by the footlights than on the page. (less)