About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

To Be Beautiful and Upsetting

So this isn't exactly the most timely post, but I was feeling particularly inspired this morning. My very thoughtful and intelligent parents noticed my post on Mark Morris's The Hard Nut and bought me the DVD for Christmas.

There's a great little documentary in the bonus features, and my favorite part come when Morris is talking about his inspiration, and why he wanted to work with comic artist Charles Burns, and he describes his work as "beautiful and upsetting." I heard that and thought, how marvelous! I would love to create something beautiful and upsetting. I think that's a fantastic goal for an artist.

As I expected, there were things I understood and appreciated about the show that I didn't pick up on when I was younger. For example, I was excited and amused when I realized, as a child, that the maid/nurse is played by a man (on pointe, no less). Now coming at it as an adult, I realized that there's tons of roles in the show that are played by the opposite sex, such as Fritz and Mrs. Stahlbaum/the Queen. Also, the snow and flower ensembles are completely mixed gender because, to quote Morris, "Nature means everyone". That makes a ton of sense to me!

The reason that I was inspired today is I was reading this New York Times article about the book "Apollo's Angels", and the following quote jumped out at me:

"My own main alarm about ballet...is that its dependence on pointwork for women and partnering by men proposes a dichotomizing view of the sexes that is at best outmoded and at worst repellently sexist."

And that blew my mind, because it's exactly the thing that I realized I was noticing for the first time about The Hard Nut. It's incredibly equal-opportunity: men partner men, whole groups partner each other, and the men are on pointe as often as the women are. Morris makes the choice which is most appropriate for the music or the character, whether that's using an "ugly" step instead of a more graceful one, or putting a man in pointe shoes.

One thing that always bothered me about traditional versions of The Nutcracker is that the second act doesn't have a plot. They go to the Land of Sweets and party. Instead, The Hard Nut takes the opportunity to actually use the original Hoffman story, and explain how Drosselmeier's nephew came to be transformed into a nutcracker. This also gives more stage time to Drosselmeier, who is my favorite character in the show. On the DVD he's played by Rob Besserer, who I discovered has worked with the Metropolitan Opera lately in silent character/pantomime roles. As it happens, this spring he'll be appearing in Le Comte Ory, which I was planning to see anyway, so that's an added bonus.

Speaking of the Met's live transmissions, I wonder if this would be an effective tool for ballet, as well? Thoughts?

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