But, as in the Anita Bryant song, they’re only artificial. Each rose is made from just two pieces of paper: one color for the flower and petals, and a green one for the leaves and stems. Worth looking at these as enlarged as you can get it.
Derek DelGaudio is a troubled and troubling man. And I mean that in the best possible way. DelGaudio’s low key demeanor may be studied, but he is not a man to be underestimated. In Derek DelGaudio’s one-man performance piece, In & Of Itself, he tells the familiar story of the six blind men confronted with an elephant, each of whom can only identify the elephant from his own perspective: the man at the elephant’s side perceives a wall, the man at the tail perceives a rope, the man at the legs feels a tree trunk, and so on. For the audience at any performance of DelGaudio’s play, they are facing an elephant.
For some it will be performance art, and for some it will be a play with inexplicable magic. For some it will be a meditation on identity and the process of labeling, while for others it will be a story about the power of stories. For others still, it will be a play about memory, and how the images that remain with us shape the rest of our lives.
Peter Brook in his short but influential book, The Empty Space, wrote this about live performance:
“When a performance is over, what remains?…The event scorches on to the memory an outline, a taste, a trace, a smell—a picture. It is the play’s central image that remains, its silhouette, and if the elements are highly blended this silhouette will be its meaning, this shape will be the essence of what it has to say.”
Derek DelGaudio takes this advice to heart. His stage setting is a space in which the back wall consists of six windows, each with a strong image: a gold mechanical head and torso with a gun in its hand; a bottle atop a pile of sand; a dog—or is it a wolf?—with a pack of cards in its mouth; a golden brick; a mailbox full of letters; and a set of scales. Each image takes DelGaudio further into the story of his lives and identities. He is generous enough and clever enough to make those of us in the audience take our own journey as well.
If this sounds vague, obscure, it is for a few reasons. To give away any of the specifics of the…experience—I think I’ll settle on that as the label for what happened on Saturday—would be to dilute the experience for others. And I’m not just talking about the magic components. In fact, the strongest aspect of DelGaudio’s piece for me was not even the magic, extraordinary as that was. It was DelGaudio’s view about the elephant story that resonated most for me—a perspective that goes beyond most re-tellings of that story and made me see the parable in an entirely different light. Would it be too strong to say that it has me off-balance still?
What is this thing? Well that’s what the show is about, and it’s hard to put a label on it. Well, imagine if Spalding Gray did sleight of hand…that would be two views of the elephant. DelGaudio is probably best known as a magician’s magician, but unlike many other magicians, you won’t see his work plastered all over YouTube. I do know that he and director Frank Oz have used all their skill to do something that most magicians never dream of. Derren Brown, the British magician and mentalist, in his recent US outing had a show called Secrets, which was a very good compilation of his greatest hits. It was clear, however, from Brown’s introductory remarks that he was reaching for something more, to explore the inner secrets of self. But Brown was not able to pull it off, and stayed safely within his skill set of stage magician. DelGaudio on the other hand, manages to convey the true feeling of revealing secrets—and not the ones that magicians keep locked up in some empty safe. He talks about the personal dilemma of having as a magician great skill that is never meant to be shown, and the personal toll that that takes; he talks about the secret of his childhood; he talks about what we can allow ourselves to know about ourselves. He talks about both the liberatory freedom and excruciating restraint that an affixed label gives a person.
But DelGaudio’s biggest trick is not just that he talks about it for himself, but in a stunning few moments near the end of the piece, a substantial portion of the audience gets the experience of deeply feeling their true and perceived identities.
Remember the opening to The Glass Menagerie? The narrator, Tom says, ““Yes, I have tricks in my pocket; I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”
That’s Derek DelGaudio. He is only playing until August 19th at the Daryl Roth Theater in NYC. If anything in this review sparked your interest, I would urge you to see him before it ends. There’s not going to be another one of his like again.
Monday morning, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart’s band, Eurythmics, with their world-beating song. According to Ever-Reliable Wikipedia, Lennox claimed “The lyrics reflected the unhappy time after the break up of [their former band] The Tourists…’Sweet dreams are made of this’ is basically me saying: ‘Look at the state of us. How can it get worse? I was feeling very vulnerable. The song was an expression of how I felt: hopeless and nihilistic.’ Stewart however thought the lyrics too depressing, and added the ‘hold your head up, moving on’ line to make it more uplifting.
“Lennox also said that people had misinterpreted lines like ‘Some of them want to use you … some of them want to be abused’ to be about sex or S&M when that was not the intent.”
Author Philip Roth died yesterday. I can’t think of a novelist who has had more of an effect on me than Roth. Indeed, I don’t think I fully understood what a novel could be, and what a writer did, before I read Roth. When I am writing and I can’t figure out what to do, I ask myself WWRD–what would Roth do. The work ethic, the imagination, the dead-on ear for human speech and obfuscation, the love of language, all made him my favorite American author.
Above is an interview Roth did in 2004, where he talks about the obligations of writing. He also makes a startling prediction about the fate of novels in the near future. I hope he is wrong.
Masercot of the very funny humor blog Potatoes and The Promise of More Potatoes has tagged me to play the blog game “Quote Tag.” The way it works is this: a blogger nominates from three to six other bloggers; then each blogger has to name a 19th-century author and provide three to nine quotes from that author. In order to keep the game going, each blogger subsequently nominates three to six other bloggers.
I’m going to cheat a little by picking George Bernard Shaw as my choice of author. His 94-year-old vegetarian life spanned across the 19th and 20th centuries—see that’s what happens when your diet is based on kale smoothies. The great thing about Shaw is that practically everything he ever wrote or said is quotable, so for lazy me, it’s an easy post.
So here we go:
1. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
2. “There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.”
3. “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
4. “We learn from experience that men never learn anything from experience.”
5. “My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.”
6. “Forgive him, for he believes that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature!”
7. “In literature the ambition of the novice is to acquire the literary language; the struggle of the adept is to get rid of it.”
8. “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
And here are the names of some bloggers for whom I’d like to pass the game onto (and whose blogs you may very well enjoy visiting):
Learn Fun Facts: Edmark Law’s daily blog of historical, mathematical, and lexical facts
In 1972, while visiting California, a friend of a friend got me into an A&M recording session. The singer in the studio was Paul Williams who was primarily known at the time as a songwriter for other singers, notably The Carpenters. They had just had a big hit with one of his songs, so Williams decided to record an album of his own version of his songs. This was the song he was working on the day I visited. It’s a perfect Monday song.
The stage version of the cards across magic trick has always struck me as something less than compelling, but this performance by magician Billy Ray [aka anesthesiologist Dr. Millard Brooks] has got to be one of the most entertaining magic acts I’ve seen.
Monday morning, The Austrian MonaLisa Twins again with a very good cover of The Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back.”
I always liked this song because it seemed to be structured differently from a lot of the pop songs of the time. There was a haunting quality to it as well. I never had enough musical knowledge to understand what was really going on, but these paragraphs from Wikipedia made it clear:
“Unusually for a pop song it oscillates between major and minor keys; it appears to have two different bridges and lacks a chorus. The fade-out ending also arrives unexpectedly, being a half stanza premature.
The metric structure also is unusual. The verse is in 6-measure phrases in 4/4 time. The first and third bridges have a four-measure phrase in 4/4 followed by a phrase with 2 measures of 4/4 and one of 2/4; the second bridge has a 4-measure phrase followed by 5 measures of 4/4 and one of 2/4.”
Legend has it that “Buster” Keaton was given his monicker by Harry Houdini after he saw the young vaudevillian Joe Keaton being knocked around and taking pratfalls in his family stage act. Keaton always had a fondness for magic, and in 1936 he did a short two-reeler called Mixed Magic. The little known film, which can be difficult to track down, had Buster playing a magician’s assistant. The movie was a talkie and made after Buster’s great silent films of the twenties.
Frankly, the movie is not very good. While watching, I was lamenting the lost comic opportunities that Buster would have taken in the early days. There he is, Buster backstage holding onto a stage curtain rope, trying to save his sweetheart up in the flies; think of the great daring, acrobatic, athletic possibilities that Buster would have taken advantage of in the golden era. But they never happen. Instead there are just anemic cutaway shots that make me shake my head. Well, to be fair, there are actually a couple of good laughs, and those interested in magic and magicians will be especially interested in the posters and apparatus depicted. So with those limitations in mind, take a look at Buster Keaton in Mixed Magic.