Shakespeare Club is back in 2018. We are expanding to open activities up for younger students (6-7) in Shakespeare Fun and we will be creating a space for adults to come and learn a bit about Shakespeare through The Bard Book Club… And we will be taking an international field trip…

What: Two drama groups for 6-7 year olds and 8-15 year olds. The older group will present an original adaptation of a Shakespeare play and will travel during spring break to Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.

When: 8-15 group Tuesdays 4:30-6:00 6-7 group Thursdays 3:00-4:00

Where: the American School of Wrocław, Partynicka 29-37, 53-031

Why: Lots of reasons. Shakespeare can be fun and lead to a whole lifetime of enjoyment. Giving primary students the mindset that they can read and understand Shakespeare before they get to higher grades gives them a head start and builds confidence. Performing is a great outlet for students with lots of energy and even for those who are more timid but want to take safe risks. And finally, imagine your six year old quoting Shakespeare on a bus. Bragging rights.

How much: 50zl per session.

Contact: Interested families should send an email to hello[at]aardvarkarts.org

In order to really feel in charge of my days, weeks, and months, I need to start making clearer goals for myself. Bullet Journaling perhaps? Gratefulness meditation? I’m going to have to come up with something.

Art Making

This month a teacher brought in some sculptured dolls she made which were inspired by Alice In Wonderland. She said I could play with them. So I made a 20 minute performance which had a moral of treating other people with kindness.

Teaching

Neutral Masks. I am not sure how this unit is going. But my middle school students have had real physical breakthroughs.

Producing

The wheels are turning on a Commedia work. It surrounds a Polish company who are sent to Empress Anna of Russia in honor of her coronation. Loosely base on Jan Potocki’s “Pageantries.”

This week I saw five outstanding performances. Four of these shows were a part of the Dialog Festival 9th edition and the fifth was from Los Angeles at the invitation from the Grotowski Institute. Here are just some brief notes and impressions from these shows:

“En avant, marche!”

les ballets C de la B (Ghent, Belgium)

Dir. Alain Platel, Frank Van Laecke

What sweet music. I want a playlist of these songs. It was the story of a man who was dying and had to come to terms with leaving his brass orchestra in the hands of younger artists. This was presented in several languages and joyfully enlisted the help of local musicians. The movement was fabulous. A drum solo became a two man expression of the manic life of a young artist. So much joy and vitality in this story about facing our end.

An Enemy of the People

Dir. Jan Klata Poland

The director says he does not reenact classic plays but rather makes “remixes and covers of literature.” I have never seen this play and have been recently keen on Ibsen. The production had plenty of reimaginings that fit perfectly with the original themes. The show features pop music interludes and a heavy metal loving Morten Kiil. The updates of both music, set, and costuming were perfectly tuned. In the middle of the show the main actor, the brilliant Juliusz Chrząstowski, takes liberty to speak on the current political situation in Poland (and the world). Even with the knowledge that he may be preaching to the choir, this show brought urgent attention to the fact that the mechanisms Ibsen wrote about over a century ago are still at work. It was a perfect fit in this festival as the theme of this year is: “Onward – but where to?!”

“nicht schlafen”

les ballets C de la B (Ghent, Belgium)

Dir. Alain Platel

This was the most challenging of all the performances I saw. It was a dance piece set to the music of Gustav Mahler. The director vaguely points to a vision of an apocalyptic future. There are elements of violence and ritual but there are very few answers. It is a reminder for me to be present and to appreciate each movement in isolation. I love shows that allow me to have my own experience, that let my imagination wander. Whatever it is about for me is what it is about. The ability of a company or director to create these conditions, like Teatr Zar, is part of the reason I am in Wroclaw. Though I couldn’t help but feel a certain discomfort with how les ballets C de la B appropriated the culture of the black dancers and enacted violence upon the one woman dancer. While these are examples of my “contemporary fear, uncertainty [and] omnipresent violence” I felt like much of it was unexplained, unexplored and unresolved. I like being challenged to question my needs as an audience member (the need for story, character and context for example) but the movements by themselves were unfulfilling. If it is going to be about movement, and the thread of relationships or story will be constantly snipped, then why have a dead horse as your scenographic centerpiece?

“Jeden gest” (One Gesture)

Dir. Wojtek Ziemilski Poland

This was a highlight of the week. It reminded me of how Teatr Kana’s “Projekt: Matka” (Project Mother) simplified all of the avant-urges swirling about the Theater Olympics Last Year. One Gesture was a refreshing breeze of simple storytelling. It opened my eyes wider onto the deaf community in Poland and invited me to question the nature of Deafness and performance. There are debates which divide the Deaf community and this performance was a call to unite. There was an outstanding moment in the show when a deaf actor was rigged with body microphones and created a soundscape which then scored a mash up of anime videos.

The director of the show has a very healthy attitude towards theater that I fully embrace: “When I go to the theatre, to a place that is supposed to be different, that has laboratory conditions and can study the world, I expect to see in this space something that is an experiment, an event. And what will emerge as a result is not supposed to happen only on stage but also – above all! – within me as a spectator. That I, by experiencing this, experience something that places me elsewhere in the reality. […] It’s not that a theatrical performance has to be a religious experience for me. It does not have to be great, but evidently should change something. Make the spectators feel. It is enough for me to feel as if I were getting to know someone or something new. And theatre has excellent conditions to do just that.” -“Eksperyment dzieje się w głowie” [An experiment takes place inside the head”], Agnieszka Kobroń, an interview with Wojtek Ziemilski, Afisz teatralny

“Theatre, a place that… can study the world.” I love that.

“Asyerion”

Ghost Rad Company (Los Angeles, USA)

Dir. Katharine Noon

Last but not least, Asyerion by some new friends from Los Angeles. I lived in LA for seven years and did not see any work by Ghost Road Company. They are a devised theater company  who create their works over time. From everything I have heard about them and their own point of view on cultural production, they are a wonderful example of the kind of Small Art Theater I relish. I was extremely excited to see their touring production “Asyerion” which was based on the myth of the Minotaur. (Lucky for me I had just finished Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth, so I was imaginatively prepped.) The show was swift and powerful. There was a relentless quality about the piece and overall, the story, the characters, and the movement all felt heavy. Not finessed. There were of course, exceptions peppered throughout, moments of relationships, tenderness, blended with dynamic and subtle movement. This is not a prescription about the work of the company or of this production. I liked it. The shows I typically like the best are those that give me something to critique and talk about. “Asyeron” left me with appreciation for the work where it is in its life cycle and left me wanting more. I met with the lighting designer Brandon Baruch before the show and got caught up on LA theater scene. I can honestly say it was the best lighting design I have seen in the Grotowski Institute. And the music which was introduced in the most recent phase of development was beautiful. Thank you Ghost Road for bringing your style to Wroclaw. We need more of it!

Two websites that shocked me this week: How Many Slaves Work for You? Click here to find out.
Not one of the richest people in the world? Me neither, See where you fit in the global rich list. Click here and you might be surprised.

Best comedian I just discovered: James Veitch. I love his storytelling style. I asked him what tech he used to make his presentations and he said it was Keynote. Now if I could only find the sweet tech for a clicker… Watch this bit on Conan and if you like it, look up his Ted talks!

Quote about the future that got me thinking: Richard Branson said in a recent interview “I suspect … we’ll actually look back on the wholesale slaughter of animals, and the way we did it, and be slightly embarrassed about that.”

What podcast I’m listening to: This interview on Democracy Now! with Muhammad Yunus. He was the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and he talked about his new book, The World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions. His response when asked what we need to do to effect change caught my ear – “We have to teach our children in school that … we [can] live in a way so that our enjoying life will not harm the enjoyment of life of another country or other children… Then children will learn what are the things that I do harms and affects negatively on the children of other countries and so on, so that I become aware that there’s a link between what I do, what I consume, what lifestyle I have, on the other people’s lifestyle.

New You Tube channels I subscribed to: Nerdwriter, Just Write, and Swoozie

 

Next week a special edition of Five Bullets will be Five Plays. I am attending the Dialog Theater Festival in Wroclaw. There is some juicy art-money-politics background on this event that I will try to write down.

Thing that moved me this week: Story Corps is a national treasure. They consistently remind me how amazing our every day lives really are.

Thing I’m listening to: Louis CK is at the top of his game. This is known. I love this old quote about the years of hard work it took to get there: “give it a minute!” This week I just heard his reflection on being interviewed by a critic who suggested HBO cancel his first show Lucky Louie. He wanted to write a mean letter in response but he didn’t. Listen to this five minute clip from Fresh Air to hear why.

Books I’m reading this week: Sea of Monsters and Titan’s Curse. That’s the kind of week it’s been.

Art work I’m inspired by: A colleague at work let me use some of her sculptures in a few storytelling sessions I had at school for Mad Hatter’s day. So I came up with a 20 minute adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. When teachers see my library sessions they come up to me after and say, “Wow, you could be an actor.” Check out the amazing work of Liudmyla Bezusko here. Maybe this will start a bigger collaboration.

New movie I’m excited for: New Wes. New Wes.

Honorable mention of awesomeness that stands the test of time: I’m in the middle of a Harry Potter home film festival and Prisoner of Azkaban, directed by Alfonso Cuarón is still an awesome movie. I was a projectionist when that came out and I can remember so many frames of that film. It is a beautiful fusion of storytelling and filmmmaking; an emotional roller coaster full of craft and subtlety. As the young child actors started getting better at longer scenes, Cuarón didn’t overwhelm them with carrying too much dialogue in his long takes. It seems as though he put them with some of the older, more skilled actors, and told the children to just listen. That’s a great acting lesson.

Art Making

This month I learned a song and played with the violinist Natalia Czerska. It was for a video project that will be a message to friends at a nearby Jewish school.

Teaching

I’m clarifying a lot of my ideas of how drama fits in the IB program with a new academic coordinator. Unit planners, inquiry questions, assessments…

Producing

Life. I’m producing life. Taxes. Housing update. Passport renewal. Library.

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.

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.