Poets Theater Night 4

Dust by Robert Ashley, Directed by Alex Waterman

“Imagine a street corner anywhere in the world, where those who live on the fringes of society gather to talk, to each other and to themselves, about life-changing events, missed opportunities, memory, loss and regret. Five ‘street people’ recount the memories and experiences of one of their group, a man who has lost his legs in some unnamed war. As part of the experience of losing his legs, he began a conversation with God, under the influence of the morphine he was given to ease his pain. Now he wishes that the conversation, which was interrupted when the morphine wore off, could be continued so that he could get the ‘secret word’ that would stop all wars and suffering.” — Robert Ashley

Alex Waterman is a cellist, composer, and musicologist. He studied cello with Andor Toth Jr. and Frances Marie Uitti, and composition with Konrad Boehmer and Richard Barrett. He was a founding member of the Plus Minus Ensemble, based in Brussels and London and has performed with Champs d’Action, Q-O2, Either/Or Ensemble and Argento Ensemble. His duo with choreographer and improviser Michael Schumacher was featured in the Lyons Biennale, Holland Dance Festival, and recently in the Strut Festival in Perth, Australia. As a sound artist his installation works have been exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the Serpentine Gallery, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, and the Bonnefantenmuseum. He has produced three books with Will Holder:Agape, Between Thought and Sound, and most recently their book on Robert Ashley:Yes, But is it Edible? (New Documents, 2014). Alex has scored and co-directed several award winning films including A Necessary Music, which won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2009. He has also written soundtracks for the films/videos of Shannon Ebner, Cameron Gainer, Ricardo Valentim, and Allen S. Weiss. Waterman was an artist in the 2014 Whitney Biennial where he directed 3 operas by Robert Ashley. He received his PhD in musicology in 2015, and has taught at New York University, the Bard College MFA program, and the Banff Centre for the Arts. He is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University.

“Turn on the Heat, by A A Fair” by Dodie Bellamy, Directed by Kevin Killian

‘Turn On the Heat,” by the hard-boiled novelist A.A. Fair, was a paperback found on the nightstand of the poet Jack Spicer (1925-1965) at his death, and when novelist Dodie Bellamy thumbed through Spicer’s copy in the Special Collections Library at Simon Fraser University, she decided to read all 21 novels in the series, which feature a pugnacious, but undersized dick called Donald Lam, and his boss, the oversized, tyrannical widow Bertha Cool. Donald narrates all the books and he’s always helping one dame while lusting after several others. In Bellamy’s dramatization all the male characters are eliminated from the story, and Donald is addressed only as “you,” while a trench coat and a fedora hang from a coat hanger or a coatstand in center stage, and somehow the byzantine plot gets itself told—at least the parts of it that the women know about. This play premiered in San Francisco in January 2010, and the female poets and artists of Vancouver acted in a new revival of it in the summer of 2014. Now it is Chicago’s turn to experience this puzzling, flamboyant production.

This is Dodie Bellamy‘s second play, following the success of Orgasm (2006), which had both men and women in it, and was directed by Margaret Tedesco.

Gardener of Stars, an Opera by Carla Harryman and Jon Raskin w/ Tania Chen and Cris Cheek

Gardener of Stars, an Opera is adapted from Carla Harryman’s poets novel Gardener of Stars, the libretto serves as a verbal score for structured improvisation with speaking voices, musical instrumentation, and singing. The relationship of unique speaking voices to music is explored as a polyvocal event that yet sustains a high degree of separation between the performing voices. Speaking voices and musical instrumentation create space for verbal language as a central character of the work, while the music likewise sustains an identity that resists blending sound with voice. The setting of the opera is one of a “post-plague” world, the references for which are situated in actual and fantastic sources including the AIDS plague, the demise of the automobile, and contradictory tropes of feminist utopia. Gardener of Stars, an Opera is a volatile exploration of the paradises and wastelands of utopian desire, an inquiry into questions of boundaries and borders in the physical world and states of mind, and an evocation of “a land where erotic impulses, social hierarchies, alternative cultivation and a death god’s radar mix with a moral ambivalence that recalls Lewis Carroll and a violence and artistry that recalls Lautréamont and Samuel R. Delany. The work features cris cheek (speaking voice), Tania Chen (prepared piano, singing and speaking voice), Carla Harryman (speaking voice), Jon Raskin (micro electronics, concertina, saxophone, speaking voice). Chicago artist Julia Klein is the artistic director.

Carla Harryman is known for her genre-disrupting experimental performances and writings. Her many books include Adorno’s Noise (Essay Press, 2008), W—/M— (Split/Level 2013), Baby (Adventures in Poetry, 2005), There Never Was a Rose Without a Thorn (City Lights, 1995); experimental novels such as Gardener of Stars (Atelos 2002) and The Words, after Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories and Jean-Paul Sartre (O Books, 1994); and the book-length poem Open Box (Belladonna, 2007). Critical writings include essays on innovative performance, gender, and postmodern literature. She co-edited Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker (Verso, 2006) and is editor of a special issue on “non/narrative,” from The Journal of Narrative Theory (2011). Collaborations include The Grand Piano (Mode D, 2006-2010), an experiment in autobiography situated between 1975 and 1980 and authored by 10 writers identified with San Francisco language poetry; The Wide Road with Lyn Hejinian (Belladonna, 2011); and Open Box, a sound/music/text cd with Jon Raskin and the Jon Raskin Quartet (Tzadik 2012). Gardener of Stars, an Opera, for speaking voices, microelectronics, and prepared piano is her most recent collaboration with Raskin. In 2012 she presented Occupying Theodore W. Adorno’s Music and New Music, a closing keynote performance for speaking voice (Harryman) and prepared piano (Magda Mayas) at dOCUMENTA 13. An innovator of poets theater, her avant-garde theater and polyvocal performance works have been presented in San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, New York, Montreal, Auckland, the United Kingdom, Austria, and Germany. Sue in Berlin, a collection of performance writing and poets theater plays is forthcoming in French and English volumes from the To series of the University of Rouen Press in 2017. During the academic year, she serves as Professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University, where she currently coordinates EMU’s interdisciplinary creative writing program. She also serves on the MFA faculty of the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College. She has received grants and awards from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Opera America: Next Stage, The Fund forPoetry, The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, and an NEA/New Langton Arts Consortium Playwright Commission.

Jon Raskin is a composer and multi-instrumental improviser. He has over thirty recordings with Rova Saxophone Quartet of which he is a founding member.http://www.jonraskin.com/rova/

His current CD’s include Let’s go Juke Box Suite (Not Two) with the Rova Saxophone Quartet , JR Quartet (Rastascan) with Liz Allbee, George Cremaschi and Gino Robair, Music One (Rastascan) an improvisation compendium for improvisers to play along with, Kaolithic Music recorded in a 587 Gallon Vase (Evander Music), and “Open Box,” a collaboration with poet Carla Harryman with music by Jon Raskin Quartet and performances by Roham Shikhaini, Aurora Josephson, and Carla Harryman.

Other recording projects include: Anthony Braxton, Eight ( 3) Tristano Compositions For Warne Marsh and The Bass & the Bird Pond with Tim Berne, Wavelength Infinity- A Sun Ra Tribute, Between Spaces with Phillip Gelb, Dana Reason & Pauline Oliveros, Terry Riley’s In C 25th Anniversary, and solo work on the Art Ship Series.

He has received numerous grants and commissions including: NEA composer grant for Poison Hotel, a theater production by Soon 3 (1988); Reader’s Digest/Meet the Composer (1992 & 2000); Berkeley Symphony commission (1995) and Headland Center for the Arts Residency 2009.

Julia Klein’s work has been exhibited in solo and two-person exhibitions in Brooklyn, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York City, Philadelphia, and Hammond, Indiana. She has also participated in a number of artist residencies. She received a BFA from the University of Michigan and an MFA in Sculpture from the Bard College Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts. Since 2009, Klein has run Soberscove Press, which produces art-related materials that fill a gap in the literature or are difficult to access, as well as artists’ books.