Sunday, 23 September 2012

September mini-reviews

Celeste and Jesse Forever
Andy Samberg is smoking hot (almost as hot as Michael Pitt who plays the ever kissable pouting Jimmy Darmody on Boardwalk Empire SPOILER ALERT I’m so depressed Michael Pitt got shot at the end of the second season. Is there any way he can come back to life – as a semi-naked ghost in a see through nightshirt and that deliriously sexy haircut -- in the third season?). Yes and the movie was okay too.

The Words
Ughg. Um why are great writers always supposed to be like Ernest Hemingway (drunk, smoking, fucked up, straight) not like Tennessee Williams (drunk, smoking, fucked up, gay)?
You tell me.

The Master
Wow. Joaquin Phoenix. Wow.

Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky
It’s kinda depressing to see all those great performers sucking up to a shyster producer just because they want a job from him when he gets out of jail

Wagner and Me
Double ughh. Stephen Fry trying to show us how cultured he is. For old ladies who don’t go out much.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Yes! Shit Girls Say IS Offensive!

It was a tough one coming up with an opinion about Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey’s Shit Girls Say. Someone sent me the link ages ago; I found it funny-ish, but nothing to write home about. I didn’t think about it much, because it was one of those silly viral videos that I figured was viral for faggots alone. But low and behold, it gets shown at TIFF -- and suddenly women are getting offended. And everyone is wondering if Shit Girls Say is misogynistic.
Someone has to call a spade a spade. Because behind all this (although no one is talking about it) is the idea that gay men are by nature misogynistic, and, of course, that drag is inherently misogynistic too. Let me say it now, once and for all, gay men are not misogynistic and neither are drag queens -- at least not more so than anyone else.  Men don’t prefer to have sex with men because they dislike women. In fact a lot of gay men I know like women a lot better than men. (Is this news to you? We don’t always LIKE who we screw….). I would venture to say that nothing could match the misogyny that you would be privy to if you happened to eavesdrop on a bunch of young straight dudes discussing their girlfriends. But the fact of the matter is that our entire culture is racist, sexist and homophobic. So I don’t think you can blame anybody in particular, just patriarchy in general.
But, although neither gay men nor drag queens are essentially misogynistic, Shit Girls Say IS.
So ahh…how did that happen?
Do Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey hate women?
We’ll never really know. But I think what has happened here is very interesting. This ruckus all has to do with the mainstreaming of gay culture.
I don’t think Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey are particularly misogynistic, but I would say that they know how to make a buck, and they sure know how to get their names in the paper. Beyond that they aren’t too thoughtful.
You see, Shit Girls Say is camp humour. It’s about how silly and stupid women are. This kind of thing belongs is in a gay bar on a drag stage; it belongs ONLY there.  Straight men don’t need to see demonstrations of how stupid women are. Why? Because, unfortunately, they are all too often quite eager to believe it’s the truth. The oppression of women is based on the idea that women are dumb; that oppression is still alive and well.
Everything depends on context. Who watches drag shows in gay bars? Well -- gay men, lesbians, straight women, and the occasional straight guy who stumbles in (supposedly by mistake). If you’ve ever seen one of Toronto’s great, nay brilliant drag performers – queens like Keith Cole, Donnarama, Miss Conception or Georgy Girl -- you would notice that despite the outrageous things they do and say, they create an atmosphere that is inclusive (and equally abusive) to everyone -- male, female, straight, gay, white, and non-white.
But more importantly, gay men have a special relationship to women and to femininity, which is directly related to homophobia. As much as we try, we will never in our lifetimes be ‘real men’ in the eyes of straights – who will never forgive us for all the sexual acts that make us appear essentially feminine in their eyes. Camp culture is about owning our femininity – rather than having it hurled at us accusingly or gossiped about behind our backs.
What Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey have done is taken camp – true camp (it’s as serious as it is funny, and involves devotion to women as well as making fun of them) and drop it into the middle of straight culture, saying – ‘we’re all the same, aren’t we, and we all laugh at the same things, don’t we?’
Well sorry to repeat myself yet again, but -- we’re not, and we don’t. Nothing distorts and misrepresents gay culture quite as much as yanking it out of context and dropping it into straight culture and hoping straight people will like it.  It’s like taking your mother to the backroom of the Eagle on a Saturday night.
Am I saying gay culture SHOULD be a secret? No. I’m simply saying that like it or not, it IS a secret, and always will be, as long as there’s gay and there’s straight.
Probably Kyle and Graydon are just hopelessly optimistic -- like a lot of gay men are right now. They think they’re doing gay men a favour by pulling our culture out of a darkened gay bar and into the light.
It’s an unfortunate but true fact about oppression that none of us are ready for that.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Why is the Avant-garde so Over?

                        J. Kelly Nestruck’s recent article about ‘one person audiences’ certainly made me think.
Toronto’s Globe and Mail theatre critic talks about the rising number of shows that feature performers acting before a single audience member, sometimes behind closed doors. Many have treated this trend as a particularly new and experimental form of theatre. (And if that is not said outright, it is certainly implied.)
            Well I doubt this is anything new. After all, there is nothing new under the sun. I remember performing a one man show directed by Hrant Alianak many years ago in the Poor Alex Theatre. The play was a monologue about s/m sex (oddly enough NOT written by me) in which I talked for a good hour about graphic s/m sexual experiences. Well that Sunday matinee only one person turned up for the show (gee…I wonder why….). I dutifully performed, and Hrant watched from the wings. When it was done I duly stepped forward for my little bow and the single audience member just sat there looking at me. Afterwards in the dressing room Hrant shook his head: “The least that bastard could have done was clapped!”
            Alright, so my experience with ‘one person audiences’ may be by accident and not particularly positive -- but I’m sure there must have been intentional ‘one person audiences’ before this. I know that Clare Coulter used to go to people’s houses to perform a Wallace Shawn play years ago. I’m pretty certain there were at least two ‘innovative’ things going on there – after all few people would be watching the performance, and in their own home.
            But what really irks me is the notion that these ‘one person audience’ shows are experimental or avant-garde. One problem is that they seem to be all form and no content. For instance, Adrian Howells at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 wrapped his audience ‘in a towel and hugged them.’ Isn’t this pretty much the emotional and intellectual equivalent of The Sound of Music?
            Earlier this year I was asked to invent a ‘one person audience’ show. I refused, for two reasons. I said that I was just a little bit famous in Toronto, and I therefore feared ending up alone in a room with A Sky Hater. But this fear of mine – along with the fact that apparently a lot of these ‘one audience shows’ involve bigger celebrities than me, made me think that the whole idea is not so much about creating a challenging theatre experience as it is about creating an opportunity to be alone with a celebrity.
            But also, my definition of avant-garde theatre involves a performance that --instead of confirming each audience member’s cherished and most closely held beliefs –- causes audience members to question their premises. When I was asked to do a ‘one person audience’ show it immediately occurred to me that I could, possibly a) get naked b) take a shit on the floor c) say some really horrible stuff about myself d) commit a sexual act with myself e) just fucking swear for awhile.
All this may come as no surprise. A critic once said “Sky Gilbert’s work is all about saying ‘screw  you!’ to Mommy and Daddy.” Well, I prefer to think of it as sticking the proverbial finger up the ass of the patriarchy. 
            So, to be honest, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t trust the potential single audience member with me; I didn’t trust myself with that single audience member.
 I think the kind of spectacle that makes theatre interesting involves acts that would get you arrested if you imposed them, behind closed doors, on a stranger. However, if instead those things are done on a stage in front of lots of people with a ‘4th wall’ in between, well, you usually don’t get arrested -- you just end up offending a lot of people -- cuz it’s a play.
            No. I am convinced that much of what is being touted as ‘new’ and ‘experimental’ these days is actually a chance to meet celebrities and hang out with your cool friends. Or else, frankly, Punchdrunk’s New York City megahit Sleep No More wouldn’t be so popular.  Yes, yes, I too have hung out in the preshow bar watching all the trendoid New York fashionistas trying to pick each other up at Sleep No More. And  -- as fun as that is to do, and as fun as it is to watch -- Tamara (1981) by John Krizanc, directed by Richard Rose, was a lot more avant-garde.
            I’ll say it: maybe capitalism has devoured the avant-garde like it has devoured everything else. Maybe that money-munching technology we all love so much has driven us to imagine that giving people a hug while surrounding them with a towel is somehow revolutionary.
 Maybe there just is no avant-garde anymore.
            Oh well.