Sam Gross in The New Yorker
Penny Arcade, the definition of underground performance artist, creator of dozens of killer performance pieces over the last thirty plus years, including her current worldwide theatrical hit, Longing Lasts Longer, spoke with me in a wise and funny radio interview, broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express program on WBAI.
Click on the grey triangle above to hear the wonderful Penny talk about her performance roots, the downtown art scene, why it gets better, cupcakes, gentrification of the mind, and the pursuit of approval.
More than the great subway settings and the heartfelt sentiments, this Roy Zimmerman tune is probably the only song you’ll hear today that uses the word Weltschmerz. (For those like me, who had to look it up, ever-reliable Wikipedia tells us that Weltschmerz means “world-weariness, the kind of feeling experienced by someone who believes that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind.)
More Roy at RoyZimmerman
Okay, Monday morning, granted that maybe you have the Bob Mackie gowns hanging in your wardrobe, like Cher; and granted that maybe you have the glam wigs sitting on your dresser, like Cher; and granted, too, that maybe you even have the adoring audience, like Cher; but what you don’t have, Buddy, that Cher has, is the set of freakin’ dancers, bouncing insanely above you, suspended on bungee cords.
Cher with the first ever auto-tuned hit.
Thanks to YouTuber CherLiveInConcert
I wonder how some people can talk so much. For me, it’s really difficult. I mean, if I must, I can, but it’s a big effort. Now it’s true that I am used to speaking in public, and I am used to being on a stage; but that’s script reading, not talking; it’s a world of difference. And the same with writing: some writers cannot stop writing. They keep their detailed diaries and journals, often from a young age, with an enviable fluency. On the other hand, writers like myself have to be chained to the chair and desk while writing. I kind of understand this difference in writers. With a writer, the voluble ones have the advantage of being able to get that first draft done quickly, and they don’t agonize over every word. But, still, those writers understand that a first draft is just a first draft. They know and accept that it’s not going to come out right that first time. But what I don’t understand is how some people can keep talking, since it’s not just a first draft, and there’s no chance to edit it once it’s out there. It’s already published–in a matter of speaking. Or is that it? Do they simply trust that they can keep talking and revise themselves in the moment?
I don’t know what I am writing until I write it. This essay itself has gone through many drafts (not enough!), and each time I’m discovering what it is I want to say. But I almost never allow myself that same luxury as a speaker. I almost never surprise myself as a speaker. Do others?
When I do radio I much prefer to edit interviews than do live radio, because I think the listener deserves more than my unedited wanderings. I am not a fan of poetry that reads like unedited diary musings. That seems inartistic to me. I don’t expect anyone to make any sense of my first drafts. The only time that I allow myself to speak without thinking first is during an acting improv, because to me, the stage is a very safe place, and I never have to take responsibility for what a character says.
But real life? No, I will not allow that. Do the talkers do what I do in an improv and silence their inner critic (or does it not exist for them)? Or does the inner critic work so quickly that they don’t worry about what comes out? Or are they confident that they can just keep talking, and in so doing revise as they talk? Maybe that’s what explains the compulsive quality of some of the non-stop talkers I’ve known. Are they revising, revising, and refusing to stop until the final product seems right? Or is it that they simply do not care that there may be some unwanted leakage? In the end, my attempts to manage myself are futile anyway, and maybe I just feel more wary and ashamed than I need to feel. The talkers have such a trust in themselves and their ideas, and there seems to be no border between their inside and outside. I don’t know how to be so transparent.
But I also see that talking is used as a defense, just as silence is used as a defense. Is it that the talker cannot imagine silence being used as a defense any more than the quiet one can understand the use of talking as a defense? Choose your weapon.
Still, I don’t even understand the biology and physics of the non-stop talker. How, I wonder to myself, is it physically possible for a person to be like a record player, putting the needle on the phonograph record and having it play straight through non-stop? Is the person doing in public what I am doing privately in my head all the time? Maybe those words are not meant for the public but for the talker? Is it that the talker cannot hear his or her own self-talk unless it’s spoken out loud?
Shakespeare talks a lot about talking. And his characters can certainly talk–to themselves and to others. But he makes fun of Polonius for babbling too much, and the silky flowing words of the King, Claudius, are treacherous ones. Yet Hamlet, who speaks more lines than any other character in Shakespeare, speaks with restraint in public. When questioned about his malaise he offers up only, “I am too much in the sun,” and “I lack advancement,” and, of course, his succinct book review: “Words, words, words.” The true bulk of his lines are thoughts which he shares only with himself–and the audience who paid to hear them.
I think that even if I wanted to change the way I was, I could not do it.
Is the truth in the stream of consciousness or the reflection upon it? Which is our deepest self?
Monday morning and you don’t even realize it yet, down to the last drop of the last bottle. Marisoul of La Santa Cecilia and Eugenia Leon sing “En El Ultimo Trago”:
Because desperate times call for desperate measures, Monday morning we overcome the blues by leaping and bounding out of bed into the arms of Paul Quinichette on tenor sax.
When I was a college student I would often go to the West End bar near Columbia University to listen to the Brooks Kerr trio. A young Phil Schapp was the host, and an equally young prodigy, Brooks Kerr, played a very tasteful stride piano, but it was the saxophone player, Paul Quinichette, who absolutely tore up the place every time.
Thanks to Youtuber rujazzka