What I’m building this week: I got a boat for an upcoming performance of “A Tempest.” The actors and I are going to build it into a vessel which will introduce the story and show. There is also a good chance that I will be directing a number of shows that have a boat or water in them: Pirates of Penzance, Peter Pan, Fisherman and His Wife, O’Niel’s Plays of the Sea…

What I bought this week: I bought the rights to a private city garden. My “dzailka” is very close to my flat. I have been spending most of my holiday outside trying to get it ready for planting. Soon I’ll be getting a grill and relaxing there in the summer time.

New medical fact: I had surgery on a tooth which had developed an infection 8 years after my root canal. A little bacteria was sitting at the root of the tooth for 8 years until it made itself known with a little pimple on my gum. It amazed me that a bacteria could stay alive for that long and win. Patient little bacteria. I won’t describe the surgical procedure. Let’s just say I look like a lopsided chipmunk.

Book I’m reading this week: “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” by Louis Sachar. This could quite possibly be future source material for Character Studies. Each chapter is a different character from this sideways school. It was supposed to be a school with one floor and thirty rooms. But the builders were holding the blueprints sideways and so there are thirty floors with one room each floor.

What I’m listening to: Lin Manuel Miranda demos. Recently a friend (that I recommended Hamilton to) just discovered how great it is. So I went back to watch the original video of the Poetry and Spoken word event at the White House, and I cried. One of the first people to tell me about Hamilton then sent me the Soundcloud demos. Now I have spiraled and back on the habit of nonstop listening. Check the demos out. Hamilton will definitely be a part of any future unit I teach on musical theater.

Art Making

This month I am directing A Tempest with students in my Shakespeare Club. Our final performance will be in May.

Teaching

Students in my 8th grade class are studying Commedia dell Arte. The unit is unfolding slowly. Each week students choose a commedia character to do research about and to sketch some masks for.

Producing

This month I have put together a presentation for a Summer Arts Camp. Soon I will present it to the Board of Directors at my school.

What I’m reading this week: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggars. I got it for 2zl at the Wroclaw International School book fair. It has been on the list for a long time.

TV show I watched this week: Girls Series Finale. There were times that I thought this TV show was about four young women who really didn’t like one another. There were episodes in which the characters were so angry at one another and that bothered me. When I discovered the show Broad City I found a show about young funny women who really love one another and support each other. But at the end of Girls, I remembered how bold and daring a writer Lena Dunham is. The series regulars (actors who are on the show regularly) were all fantastic. While there were stretches of the series that I found hard to appreciate, in the end, it is a pretty amazing body of work. “What is a normal day, anyway?”

What I’m eating this week: Well, it was Easter and Poland has a lot of delicious traditional food around the holidays. My favorite – I’m not sure what it is called – the salad with carrot, peas, corn lots of mayonnaise and pickles, or pickled herring.

More stuff I’m watching: Charlie Chaplain’s Modern Times. Meyerhold (see week before) was such a big fan at the end of his career that I thought I should watch it for a refresher.

Best compliment I got this week: “Nice deck!” I made my first power point presentation (only not with Microsoft Power Point). I gave an informal presentation and I think it was an effective tool. I don’t think of myself as a power point kind of guy but maybe I’ll use it more often to express my ideas.

What I’m looking at this week: The Best Polish Press Illustrators. Artists like Tomasz Broda, Joanna Concejo, Paula Dudek, Jan Kallwejt, and Rafal Szczepaniak.

What theater maker I’m studying this week: Vsevolod Meyerhold. He lived in Russia (1874-1940) during turbulent times. He was quite fascinated with the traditions of commedia del arte. The ideas of stylized, grotesque, music hall, were early inspirations for him. Eventually he based his entire system of acting on principles connected with silent films and its masters like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Meyerhold loved music and was quite provocative in his choices and style. He worked in a laboratory setting to develop his ideas. He was a pupil of Constantin Stanislavsky and worked with Anton Chekhov and Dimitri Shostakovich.

What I’m reading this week: Alice in Wonderland. The edition I am reading is beautiful and filled with artwork by Yayoi Kusama.

Poem I’m reading out loud this month: (It is national poetry month) The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti.

Movie I want to see: Mr. Gaga

Tip of the week: After reading dozens of responses to questions such as “What does it feel like to breathe? What parts of the body move when we breathe?” I suggest you actually try it out. Breathe. For five minutes. And then answer the question in your own words. Answers that felt authentic received the highest marks.

What theater I saw this week: I went to the Wroclawski Teatr Pantomimy to see Batory trans directed by Martyna Majewska. The music was great. There were a few interesting images and moments but I cannot recommend this performance. Hopefully we will find something spectacular to go to.

What music I’m listening to: I’ve been listening to come contemporary classical music this week looking for new sounds to bring to class. I like John Laurence Adams “Like Ocean.”

What play I’m working on: The Tempest by William Shakespeare. I am adapting this story with 7-11 year olds. We have been working since October and the kids have just been given their parts.

What app I’m using: Overcast is an iOS app for podcasts. Podcasts are one of my favorite things about the Internet. Since I live so far away from home they are my main source of news, entertainment, and culture. A few websites say Overcast is the best podcast player. I agree. My most played podcasts are Democracy Now (a progressive news channel), Song Exploder (each episode is an inside how popular songs get made), The Business with Kim Masters (a behind the scenes look at Hollywood business and movie making), and Design Matters with Debbie Millman (interviews with lots of different artists and designers). What podcasts do you listen to? Tell me after class someday

What book I’m reading: Backwards and Forwards By David Ball. It calls itself a technical manual for reading plays. It takes a very focused view of drama as being an art of action. The author suggests that the key to unlocking how plays work is to focus on what the characters do and what they say to get what they want. It creates a set of vocabulary that seems useful to describe other parts of plays and their function. For example stasis, intrusion, obstacle, conflict are all clearly defined and used to break down classic modern play scripts.

What play I’m reading: Ghosts by Heinrik Ibsen. To try out the ideas in Backwards and Forwards, I’m going to read some old plays. This week I found a used text book of modern plays at an English bookstore. The first play in the book is Ghosts. I honestly didn’t remember much from the first time I read this play as a student. I enjoyed reading it this time. The character of Oswald reminds me of Edmund from Long Day’s Journey Into Night. I like Ibsen’s side burns (see below).

What I’m playing: My family was visiting for the holidays and almost every night we played either Jenga or Wsiąść Do Pociągu (Ticket to Ride). While we were visiting Krakow I found a very cool new place – Pinball Arcade Museum. Check them on Facebook at: Krakow Pinball Museum – Interaktywne Muzeum Flipperów.

fWhat I’m listening to: Moon Shaped Pool by Radio Head.

What movie I watched: Harold and Maude directed by Hal Ashby. Maude: “Everybody should be able to make some music. That’s the cosmic dance.”

Here is a full list of all the shows I saw this year as part of the Theatre Olympics held in Wroclaw from 14 October – 14 November 2016. I didn’t see everything and really wish I could have attended more of the talks and performances from the “More Than Theatre” line. The festival was divided into different “lines” Main Section – the masters, Eastern Line – young independent theater from Eastern Europe, Grotowski Institute’s Programme – emerging artists who have worked through the Institute, Lower Silesian Theatre Platform – regional work; More Than Theatre – centers around artistic and social issues relating to the art of people with disabilities.

Main Line

The Trojan Women

Suzuki Company of Toga

Japan

Dir Tadashi Suzuki

Kuszenie cichej Weroniki (The Temptation of Quiet Veronika)

Teatr Polski we Wroclawiu

Poland

dir. Krystian Lupa

Life Between Heaven and Earth

Zhejiang Drama Ensemble

China

dir. Liu Libin

Masquerade: Recollections of the Future

Alexandrinsky Theatre

Russia

dir. Valery Fokin

Medee: On Getting Across

Teatr Zar

Poland

dir. Jaroslław Fret

The Tree

Odin Teatret

Denmark

dir. Eugenio Barba

Go Down Moses

Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio

Italy

dir. Romeo Castellucci

Max Black, or 62 Ways of Supporting the Head with a Hand

The Snanislavski Electrotheatre

Russia

dir. Heiner Goebbels

Dziady (Forefathers’ Eve)

Teatr Narodowy w Warszawie

Poland

dir. Eimuntas Nekrošius

Krapps’ Last Tape

Change Performing Arts

Italy

dir. Robert Wilson

Attends, attends, attends… (pour mon père)

Troubleyn/Jan Fabre

Belgium

dir. Jan Fabre

Prometheus Bound

Attis Theatre

Greece

dir. Theodoros Terzopoulous

Amor

Attis Theatre

Greece

dir. Theodoros Terzopoulous

Battlefield

C.I.C.T. – Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord

France

dir. Peter Brook, Marie-Hélène Estienne

Eastern Line

Disconnected

Farm in the Cave

Czech Republic

Boi

ProFitArt/Studio Matejka

Czech Republic

Scores of Reality

Body Snatchers Theatre

Poland

Sczelina (The Crack)

Teatr Chorea

Poland

Teatr Kana

Projekt Matka (Project: Mother)

Poland

The Muzzle of Silence

Aftab Theatre Company

Iran

Gospels of Childhood

Teatr Zar

Poland

Songs of Lear

Pieśń Kozła

Poland

Insenso

Alexandra Kazazou

Greece

 

Presenting Shakespeare is an encyclopedic book that collects 1100 theatrical posters of Shakespeare’s plays. It includes designs from as far back as 1860 with over 50 countries and hundreds of artists represented. On the 400th anniversary of his death this tome highlights the fact that Shakespeare can be reexamined, reinterpreted and re-imagined in ways that reflect the time and culture.

Theater managers have always had to find ways to announce performances connecting the art to the public. This has taken several forms, one of which is the theatrical poster. The poster evolved to become less of an announcement and more of a visual representation of the work. Today, the best designs strike a balance between conveying information, setting the expectations for the audience, attracting attention, and being a piece of art on its own terms.

In their introduction, the editors suggest that Shakespeare became renowned in part because of printing technologies which made his plays widely available first as Quartos and eventually in the First Folio. They further propose that “works of art and design” – which include theatrical posters and re-creations of historical tableaux and Shakespearean imagery – wove together a “sophisticated public relations” campaign which helped preserve Shakespeare’s legacy through the ages. I prefer the more humanist view that it is Shakespeare’s ability to create characters who developed, his universal appeal and his juicy poetry that centered him in the Western canon. His cultural significance is undeniable and this book visually catalogues Shakespeare’s international impact.

This collection is a visual delight which I think will fit nicely in any library whether you are a scholar, student, designer, theater artist, fan of Shakespeare, or poster design enthusiast. It is cleverly organized by play (or sets of plays). It has an impressive number of examples from recent productions which serves the double purpose of presenting contemporary posters but also providing a survey of companies who are actively producing Shakespeare plays. Rightfully there is a substantial focus on Polish designs. Companies from the UK and the US get plenty of coverage notably the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Public (who presented the first New York Shakespeare Festival in 1954). Africa, South America and Asia are under represented. The research could have been a bit more extensive (they selected the final 1100 from only 1500 choices) and an index would be helpful. But the end result is thoroughly inspiring.