Nov 17 2014

Tis a Pity — My last night in London

My favorite moment in London came my last night before flying home, when I went to see Tis a Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

The playhouse alone is fantastic. Associated with the Shakespeare’s Globe replica, it has been built according to the plans for a 17th century style indoor theater. The theater is small and the stage performances are candlelit, making it feel intimate.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Interior of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as pictured in the program.

In addition to the amazing setting, Tis a Pity She’s a Whore was one of the best performed plays I’ve ever seen. The play, which I read in college as part of a Shakespeare’s contemporaries class, is about a young man who falls in love with his sister. When he comes to her to confess his love, begging her to kill him or love him, she matches his love and the two begin an incestuous affair.

Meanwhile, the sister is being courted by three different suitors. As the tale unfolds and the desires of each of the characters overlaps and conflicts, several plot lines of revenge evolve and unfold into bloodshed.

The play was funnier than I remember it being in college, as dry reading on the page bears less life than what was brought to the stage with these amazing actors and well planned direction. The result felt like a 17th century version of a campy horror flick with plenty of well punctuated humor and pools of blood puddling onto the stage. Though no campy horror flick could have featured the resonance and complexity of this story, which presents an even handed look at the brother and sister’s relationship. Although, I found the concept disturbing, I also found myself wanting the brother and sister to be protected from the doom coming for them.

The candle lit atmosphere fit the story perfectly. The playhouse had candelabras that could be raised and lowered during the performance, allowing changes of setting to be indicated and at one point for the candle light to be doused entirely to present a night scene, at which point the actors lit themselves with handheld candles.

Though the play was three hours long, it never once dragged. I left the playhouse feeling elated, having seen an amazing performance.

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Tis a Pity She’s a Whore featured a scene with nudity.

The program was also the best put together booklet I’ve seen, providing not just a synopsis of the play and a list of the actors, but also a look at the influences of the play when it was written, a biography on John Ford, a critical analysis of the storyline, and a historical look at house incest was perceived in the 17th century compared to today. It also provides information on the historical style of the playhouse and how the modern replica was built. The program was worth every penny of the four pounds I played for it.

I would almost travel back to London just to see another performance at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse — it was that good.


Nov 17 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas – Poppies at the Tower of London

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During my trip to London, I was fortunate to be able to visit the Tower while the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies was on display. Each of the 888,246 poppies that fills the moat represented a British military fatality during the WWI.

The view of the poppies pouring out of one of the Tower windows and filling the moat with bright red is inspiring, whether you know the meaning or not. It’s an installation to make passersby stop and take pause, and it’s no wonder that every walkway surrounding the Tower was thick with people doing just that.

The moat has since been emptied of the poppies and I am grateful for the lucky timing that allowed me to witness this spectacular remembrance of fallen soldiers.

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Nov 16 2014

What makes a story a story and other thoughts at the Tate Modern

Untitled Painting by

Untitled Painting (1965) by Michael Baldwin

As I was walking through the Tate Modern, I came upon “Untitled Painting” (1965) by Michael Baldwin, which is a work with a mirror attached to a canvas. The description noted that historically painting has often been referred to as window to the world, a perspective captured within the frame. However, the mirror in this piece shifts the gaze of the window, revealing the viewer in the act of viewing rather than an image the artist made themselves. In addition to being the viewer, you also become the subject of the painting as well.

As I stood observing myself, now the living and temporary subject of the painting, I started to think about the nature of art and the artists who create it. Since it’s been years since I’ve taken an art history class and I don’t tend to speak critically of art, bear with me as I may misinterpret some things.

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Nov 12 2014

If all else fails, write a poem about being unable to write

After sitting alone
at a corner table, drinking
a bland yellow beer,
I return to my hotel room
to pace. I don’t know
where to put myself, so
I turn on a movie
in which love is a
sparkling vampire with
really great hair. My suitcase
discards a constellation
of clothing, scraps of paper,
cords, and toiletries.
The laptop is open,
closed, open, closed.
Some nights are empty
of stars and full of rain
instead. Words
won’t come. I write
them anyway.

* * *


Nov 11 2014

Imaginary Architectures

When I walk through an art museum, I seek out works that move me, pieces of art that resonate in some way or in some way make me stop in my tracks and consider it further. The art that moves me is not always the most famous or most popular art. It may capture my imagination, sending me off into a story, or it may provide and emotional gut check.

I especially look for this in modern art museums, such as the Tate in London. I’m drawn more to modern art (much of the older art prior to the 18th century can sometimes all look the same to me no matter how beautiful), so local modern art museums are always a must when I travel .

The Tate has many great works of art in a variety of styles, from cubism to minimalism and everything in between. There are a few Picassos there among other well known artists.

However, one set of pieces that stood out for me were the imaginary architectures from the Projects series of Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin, which presented dreamlike architectural imagery in old style etchings that had me imagining steampunk landscapes and Victorian industrial and fantastical cities. I would love to post some images of the art here, but I’m not sure what the copyright rules are. You can see one of the intricately detailed images on the Tate Modern website.

More can be found posted here.

Both artists are “paper architects” who created seemingly impossible designs out of paper. I plan to follow up and learn more about both of these artists and their work. But in the meantime, I think I’m going to have to go back to the Tate later this week and buy a print from their Projects series for my wall.