Monthly Archives: November 2008

Attack on Patriotism, True Love, and Motherhood

I admit it. I did not know that Mumbai was Bombay. That was just part of the shock of it all– the surreal turn from being happily drowsy on too much turkey and wine, to seeing the graphic imagery of what was transpiring on the other side of the world. Mumbai is Bombay. Bombay? Why would they want to hurt Bombay? Bombay is the biggest exporter of love, song, and respect for one’s mother that exists: Bombay is the home of Bollywood.

Most Americans tend not to like Hindi movies, finding them too melodramatic, too full of songs, too cheesy. But I defy you to watch one from start to finish and remain unmoved. It is impossible. They are unironic and they defy you to judge them. They are full of songs of true love and of sorrow. Everything that is important is said through song, as if the feelings were too powerful to just say plainly. I now present 44 seconds from the end of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Make sure the sound is up.

All of this sadness and death does not belong in that picture. I’ve had a very hard time reading and looking at the images from the city. But its made me want to see it with my own eyes more than ever. If you have the time, you should read Suketo Mehta’s piece in the New York Times. It made some sense of why Mumbai was targeted, and why its very heart made it vulnerable to attack:

Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.

Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds.




Filed under In the World

Shakespeare’s Lost Play?

Hat Tip:

A literary detective believes he has evidence that links an 18th Century play, Double Falsehood, to a lost work by Shakespeare.

The idea of there being another Shakespeare play is sort of the direct opposite of there no longer being nine planets in our solar system.  The kind of mental shift you feel in your sternum.

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Filed under Shakespeare Junkie

The Rachel Variations

The Nina Variations by Gobotrick Theatre Company

The Nina Variations by Gobotrick Theatre Company

Last Friday night I had a chance to catch my friend Rachel in the penultimate performance of The Nina Variations with Gobotrick Theatre Company. When I first heard the premise of the play, I’ll admit, I was a little reluctant to believe it would be even mildly tolerable.  The Nina Variations revisits the last scene of Chekhov’s The Seagull.  You know the one right before Treplev blows his brains out. The play begins with Treplev at his desk and Nina making her slow way to the door.  Once she crosses the threshold, the first of over forty different variations of what could have transpired instead begins, complete with a running onstage counter to help you keep track of them all (also to help mark what are sometimes very subtle transitions between variations). This concept just smacked of the sort of pretentiousness I associate with assistant theatre professors who wear black wool turtlenecks even in the summer. I mean, after forty-something retreads of the same depressing scene I thought I’d want to blow my brains out.  I went though because my friend Rachel McGinnis was performing the role of Nina.

Rachel in her fancy actress hat.

Rachel in Nina's fancy actress hat.

I would see Rachel in anything.  The last show I saw her in left me weepy for three days.  I mean, it was Crimes of the Heart which is sort of the Terms of Endearment of the theatre world so you should give me a pass on that one but still. She is amazing. I met her doing The New Jersey Book of the Dead with the Vestige Group.  I played her girlfriend Cass, and got to look into her eyes as she recited some of the worst lines ever said on stage with complete heart and conviction.  (Yeah, so I’m not a huge fan of Jason Grote. TNJBotD is a deeply flawed, if not truly horrible, play. It involved shamantic trances, onstage masturbation, one scene repeated at least three times, setting a homeless man on fire, and oh yeah, GRAPHIC IMAGERY FROM 9/11. Don’t you want to rush out and see that? And that’s after Susie killed the completely confusing time-traveling scenes into ancient Greece or the pyramids, and also the dildo I was supposed to present to Rachel’s character on a pillow. Enough? I thought so. I’ll stop now.) Waiting for the show to start, I saw her boyfriend Dave a few rows back. He was the aforementioned onstage masturbator. Sometime during or after that performance, they fell in love.

But I digress.  This was an exceptional show. Every element of the production was carefully considered and executed.  Rachel was unsurprisingly, a wonderful Nina – smiles and bossy flirtation in one variation, pure sorrowful longing in the next. Aaron Hallaway as Treplev possessed such innate naturalistic abilities that it was shocking how a performance that was sometimes so subtle worked so perfectly onstage. It was the elegant and simple staging that fostered this intimacy and made the audience care so much about what seemed in theory (at least to my cynical mind) to be an academic exercise for Chekhov fans, or maybe its own form of onstage masturbation.

Nina and Treplev sitting in a tree... no its much more complex than that.

Nina and Treplev sitting in a tree... no its much, much more complex than that.

One last thing, In an old Chronicle in our selection of er, bathroom reading,  I learned that the play was in fact written by a professor. Steven Dietz teaches playwriting and screenwriting at UT. Something tells me he doesn’t wear black turtlenecks though. I mean its really hot here.


Filed under Reviews

Internet, I am inside of you.

I’m not sure what possessed me to start a blog about my acting experiences in Austin.  B pointed out that I “already have a website” implying that maybe more self-promotion would be, I don’t know, gratutious?   He is not an actor so I’ll forgive him for not knowing that an actor can never have enough promotion, unless it is of the Corey Haim in Variety variety. Also ironically, that website of mine has not been updated in quite some time.  The email link will bounce.  The resume is outdated.  The headshot is my Katie Holmes look circa 2006 (the Dawson’s Creek Katie, not the “Scientology sucked the life out of my half-paralyzed face Katie”) I say “ironically” because B and I run a web design firm, which leaves me really with no excuse. In my defense, I was going to update my website instead of starting a blog but I can’t find my original files. I’m pretty sure they are on B’s old hard drive, covered in cobwebs, in a closet where old hard drives go to die. I’m not sure I feel like tomb raider right now, so this blog is what you get.

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