Theater Farts

How Changing a Minor Key Could Become a Major Improvement or What One Could Learn about Theater While Listening to a Christmas Song

Oh my dear darlings, I know you missed me like last year’s Christmas, I know. I missed myself too. Only a few days have passed after New Year’s smashing celebrations and I am already singing Christmas songs in the shower for you. Darlings, I missed being important as much as I missed Christmas. You don’t believe me? Oh, you’re so sweet. What do you think I do on those lonely nights being away from theater and all these artistic endeavors? Well, of course, I write blogs and critique others. It helps me to get my importance back, so get ready to hear something you could use if you are as smart as I am, that is. Besides, it’s winter, what else one does but listens to SirGay’s salty balls jingle in the wind while he shines his unbelievable intelligence while living on a mountain somewhere upstate New York.

Christmas to me is like this show I am forced to watch every day every year for two months. It is like a broken record stuck on the same song. God wrote a play called Christmas and nobody can change any word or scene in it. This is precisely how I feel about some theater shows and some playwrights who are running skitters when a director or an actor wants to change a line or a scene in their written play. Playwright is God. Everyone else is just a decoration. Or is it?

Many times I would hear some playwrights complain how one or another director or actor changed something in their play. They would make it sound as if the world is just about to collapse. I don’t know why I am so concentrated on these poor playwrights. Maybe that is because I care about them and I want to prove to them that if a creative mind decides to change something in their work that change is a really good thing.

For some reason musicians are less uptight about somebody else covering and changing their music. Maybe that is the nature of music or maybe they are smoking too much MJ in studios, who knows. The point is that most musicians welcome interpretations of their music by other artists, be it another composer, a singer or a DJ. Why there is this uptightness in theater, I ask?

Before I prove my point that any change improves your work, dear playwrights, I want you to listen to two versions of the same Christmas song. I actually bought one of them to listen for my own pleasure. What the what? I am asking this myself too. I can’t believe I bought a song called “All I Want for Christmas Is You?” I must have lost my mind somewhere in my sweaty ass-crack. The song which inspired this entry is the Mariah Carey song, but here is a twist, the version of the song I purchased is Chase Holfelder’s. There is a major change in the song and the change is – the minor key. Before I go further please listen to both versions here.

Mariah Carey’s version

Chase Holfelder’s version

No, you really need to listen to them before continuing reading what I have to say about theater and playwrights. Listen! I said (smiley face).

Now, remember my rant about how some playwrights are just (insert a curse word here), because they believe that “if anything is changed in their plays they are going to be somehow destroyed and what not?” Remember that letter I wrote to them? Well, if you don’t remember it, here is a quick break down for ya.

For some reason there is this notion that if a director or actor or any creator but a playwright changes anything in a play, the play becomes like that herpes everybody is afraid to claim to have. My darlings, herpes has nothing to do with it, smell your farts. It is quite challenging to explain to today’s self proclaimed Shakespeares that Shakespeare’s works actually improved by all these cuts and different interpretations throughout these years Shakespearian plays have been performed.

But let’s not distract ourselves from the Christmas songs I presented to you here. Even though Chase Holfelder’s version of the song is almost unrecognizable and eerie as Christmas is to me, for some “weird” reason it is still the same song. The same way a Shakespearean play is still a Shakespearean play even though Romeo and Juliet are played by two boys in some productions. Well, of course, if you know the history of theater you know that there were no female actors allowed on the stage at the time Shakespeare wrote his plays. All the female roles were played by men only. To see two men play Romeo and Juliet nowadays is somehow innovative while the biggest innovation of the play happened at the time when women stormed onto the stages and the role of Juliet was given to a female actress. Do you see what I have done here, or you are still thinking about herpes?

In any case my dear theater people, especially you my darling playwrights, every time you are not sure if you like an interpretation of your play just remember Christmas and Mariah Carey, then remember that killing is not an answer ever! Enjoy those different takes of your work made by other creative minds and just let it be even if your jingle bells are up your ass and you want to vomit flowers. Believe when I say this, because of that Christmas song I forgave you all. I found my old/new love and you will find it too.

I’ll point it out to you and say it again; anybody who is inspired to give their take on your work is only improving your work? Anyone who is able to find something worth changing/interpreting in your play is giving you a great compliment. Your work could tremendously improve if you just let another creative soul to be creative with it. You could reap a major success by letting it happen. Enjoy and let it be.

Ciao-cacao and don’t forget to flush after you do your do-dos. Oh yeah and you should take care of that herpes!

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Theater Farts, Unsolicited Solicitations

Lord Has Smiled at the Orchard of Rimas Tuminas

Oh my sagging balls, why oh why is it so hard to write this next blog entry? I could put the blame on my pretentious writing genius who needs to get drunk to be able to give you all that, whatever that is that you are reading right now, but… I would be telling you lies. The bar is fully stacked. I can’t find any excuse for staying sober and for not being able to write something spectacular about the next theater director I have been having dreams about. I should tell you the truth, I forget about any need to be artificially intoxicated when I watch theater works directed by Rimas Tuminas. His works are just that good. I feel a natural buzz and my soul gets that needed je ne sais quoi to survive in this age of consumerism.

I saw his Cherry Orchard for the first time more than twenty years ago and… I became his lifetime fan. I could just write: Rimas Tuminas is perfect in what he does in theater and that would be it, so why do I need to write anything else about him while “perfect” defines everything he touches creatively? You know what? I should just put a bunch of videos with his work here and say, see this? This is how theater should be made. End of story! Plastikoff is besides himself. He is not able to say anything clever. No, no, no, no this is not me! I have to find a way to tell you about this tremendous theater director who is becoming better and better like this wine which with time turns into an expensive Cognac.

That Rimas Tuminas is one of the greatest theater directors is not even a question. The question is: how does he do it? Is there some kind of drug one needs to take to be able to release all this wonderful madness? Do I need to dip myself into some kind of magic lake and kiss a frog or something? I don’t know. This really kills me! I want to be just like him. That’s right, I said it, so deal with it.

As a young actor I grew artistically watching shows directed by Tuminas. I was broken as Ranevskaya in his Cherry Orchard. I traveled to Vilnius like Ephraim in his Smile at Us, Oh Lord. I got frozen into a statue from love while watching his Masquerade. I feel like Tania from his Eugene Onegin in the scene where she tells to her nanny how much she loves Eugene when I talk about Tuminas. I can recall almost every scene from these shows, even though I saw some of them, that’s right, more than twenty years ago.

Rimas Tuminas is able to “open” actors and their creativity. He makes them feel secure on the stage. Every single piece, directed by Rimas Tuminas I saw, has stuck into my brain like some kind of spell. As it often happens when one begins to talk about a great director one finds himself talking about ideas, feelings, emotions. One finds himself talking about meaning of life and… damn where is that port I need so much right about now? You know what? Instead of talking about Tuminas I am going to talk about his actors and their work on stage. They might be that magic potion Tuminas drinks before bed every night to become this fantastic.

A Lady Bug (Bozhya Korovka in Russian = Little Cow of Gods) just landed on my finger and Lord smiled at me (this I am going to count as my smiley face, no?)

Cherry Orchard and Sigitas Račkys

I believe we would have not known how good Sigitas Račkys is if not for Tuminas. Lopachin was his first break through role in Cherry Orchard. It seems like Cherry Orchard was a break through show for many actors of Little Theater of Vilnius whose Artistic director Rimas Tuminas still is to this day, even though he has also become the Artistic director of Vakhtangov theatre in Moscow.

A side note: it is said that Cherry Orchard almost didn’t happen. The little gossip gnomes of theater have told me that the show was literally created a day before opening. Apparently Tuminas was so unhappy with the way the show was going that he scratched almost all of it a day before opening and built a brand new version that is still running to this day. Is it true? I don’t care to know. I love stories like that. They create the needed drama and mystery. Theater loves s**t like that.

Who knew that Cherry Orchard would become the defining moment of Tuminas’ creative life as well. The show has all the elements Tuminas is famous of: a great quiet opening which turns into a large movement later, little scenes defining every character, a slow pace which builds up into a dramatic emotional explosion and, of course, a quiet ending which leaves your soul burning long after the show is over.

I decided to tell you about Tuminas’ creative genius through his actors for a reason. First, of course, you needed to be reminded about how great Plastikoff is and second… well this makes me more excited about writing and the process of connecting the dots. I know, of course, that for some of you connecting what Račkys’ acting has to do with Tuminas way of directing might be challenging, but… I believe in you. I am not going to write about each character and actor in every production Tuminas directed, no. Are you crazy? That would take me days and days with no end to finish. I decided to cherry pick (see what I have done here?) actors from some of his shows and just concentrate on their work highlighting certain specifics in Tuminas productions. Sorry, but you will need to find those dots yourself. I apologize in advance to those actors I haven’t picked. I promise to redeem myself later somehow. Maybe I will just come and put a show with you or something?

As you already have guessed from the name of this part, I am concentrating on Sigitas Račkys while talking about Cherry Orchard. It seems like Račkys really understood Tuminas and vise versa. After Cherry Orchard Sigitas became one of the leading actors of Tuminas’ productions. I am so glad that they found each other. This relationship gave birth to Galileo Galileo and Smile at Us, Oh Lord, two of Tuminas’ shows where Račkys leads the gang.

I could be clever and say that Račkys bought Tuminas’ attention the way, his created Lopachin, bought Cherry Orchard, but I digress. Nobody was buying anybody. This collaboration became one of the greatest collaborations seen on theater stage. I should say that you all are a very lucky bunch because you can watch the whole show right here:

http://www.vmt.lt/lt/video/view/?id=17

http://www.vmt.lt/lt/video/view/?id=19

Vytautas Šapranauskas and his Jewish nose

About Vytautas Šapranauskas one needs to write a book or several of them for that matter. The way this guy lived on the stage and made everything even the most tragic scenes comic is uncanny. There is no comparison to him in Inspector General and in Smile at Us, Oh Lord.

While a student I experienced this great theater moment. I got a comp to watch Smile at Us, Oh Lord. There was absolutely no space anywhere in the audience even to stand. The only way to watch the show was to stand in the sound booth on tiptoes holding your breath. Just before Šapranauskas came onto the stage I found myself surrounded by actors who just finished a scene I just watched. Later I realized that they all came to the booth to watch the mastery of Šapranauskas. One could only wish to be honored like this by their colleagues. Šapranauskas was Tuminas’ actor. It felt like Tuminas just let Šapranauskas play in his sand box called theater. You can see Šapranauskas almost in every production of Tuminas. Here I am giving you Smile at Us, Oh Lord.

http://www.lrt.lt/mediateka/irasas/15965

http://www.lrt.lt/mediateka/irasas/15970

Eglė Gabrėnaitė

There is a lot to say about Eglė Gabrėnaitė, but instead I’ll say nothing. If you already watched through Cherry Orchard you already know that this actress is one you are not going to forget. I am presenting here excerpts from Inspector General to remind you that she is as great in a comedic role as she is in a dramatic one. Enjoy! Oh yeah, watch Vytautas Šapranauskas and Arūnas Sakalauskas do their magic there too. My mouth is salivating from all of this wonderful madness.

http://www.vmt.lt/lt/video/view/?id=29

http://www.vmt.lt/lt/video/view/?id=30

I could continue writing, but I am just too lazy. Besides you have all this tremendous gorgeousness of theater to watch and connect the dots. Who knows, I might return to Tuminas some other day and tell you why I cherry picked these three specific actors, but… maybe we could discuss that in the comments section?

To end this entry I am leaving you with a link to Vilnius Little Theater. Get familiar with the place where a lot of the above mentioned magic was born.

http://www.vmt.lt/lt/video

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Re-Views, Theater Farts, Unsolicited Solicitations

Not So “Delicate Dis-Balance” of SirGay’s Salty Balls

Last weekend I had quite an event. My friends took me to see a show on Broadway. Oh my goodness, I thought, I am going to see a Broadway show. Like a good boy (in my case a man, I am not trying to kid anyone anymore) I put my fancy pants and went.

Damn it, I knew I needed to have a drink beforehand…

I sensed that there was something wrong with the show as soon as it started. After twenty minutes into the “action,” for some reason, I wanted to storm onto the stage and scream at everyone, like, and what is wrong with all of you people here? But then I realized, I was surrounded by rich white people and the exit was way too far.

Well, darlings, even though I had only thirty five cents in my pocket, I remembered that I am white too, so I blended in. My whiteness saved me from being looked at, like, and what the f*ck are you doing here watching white people talk on a couch for three hours and… oh my gog… they were drinking too.

As soon as I saw by whom I was surrounded, I put my tailbone on my seat, sat on it and patiently watched the whole damn show. I just kept thinking, my friends spent their two day’s paycheck just to have me with them, so I better behave or the next time… well there would be no next time for my tailbone on any Broadway theater’s cushioned seat if I don’t behave.

Being a true (emphasis on “true”) theater artist I kept thinking, is this what you need to put on stage if you want to be on Broadway? I thought that you need to sleep with somebody there to get a part, or… or, wait, is this what you do to get a part in Hollywood? I always mix these two. The feeling that grabbed me by my balls was not the most pleasant. (Disclaimer: SirGay’s more detailed descriptions of events involving his balls, Broadway theater seats and what not were edited out, we decided not to dilute real problems with such descriptions) I just kept thinking, what is it I am watching now? Watching a show that had a bunch of rich white people drinking around a couch and having all these drunk conversations about their, so called, “problems” was kinda… I don’t know… I just don’t know. I kept looking at the audience and the huge chandelier on the stage which probably cost more than five or six shows to mount Off-Broadway, an amount which could pay full salaries to everyone involved with these Off-Broadway shows and still have some leftovers for some Off-Off-Broadway performance to make. The chandelier mesmerized me and then something else happened… (The description about SirGay’s salty sweat dripping down his crotch was edited out. Yes, it involved his balls.)

There is a reason why I want to avoid naming actors involved in the production. Yep, like a real Broadway show there were big names attached to this show. Why have they agreed to be in this production? I don’t know. I didn’t have time to ask them that. I was too busy with my own important busyness of being appalled. I just kept thinking, would the show have the same amount of people sitting in the audience if the show would have been made with less known actors? I asked my friends, if they would see the same show if not for these stars? My friends almost in unison said, no. I knew it. It was another conspiracy against me and my art. (Where do I put my smiley face?)

What bothered me in this show was the absence of enlightenment and inspiration. Pff, no. What bothered me was that the show was built by the rich, for the rich, with the rich actors. And it was, of course, about rich people’s “problems,” like, why can’t I sleep in my room while there are at least fifteen other rooms available in the house? God damn it, I’d take any of them, as long as I don’t pay the rent. Absurd? Ummm… I don’t think they (meaning rich) thought it was absurd. You might say, maybe that was the point of the show, to show how absurd it is to be rich and not to be able to sleep in your room. Ummm… that can’t be true, but then you see the audience of predominantly white and no doubt rich and then you go, and who the f*ck if not white and rich can afford to buy tickets to Broadway shows today? Damn it. How the heck was I excluded from this VIP club? (I think I want to hug my pillow and cry myself to sleep now.)

When you see the audience of old white people in a Broadway theater, that nobody can afford to rent, with the stars, who have as much money as these people in the audience, talk and talk and talk about nothing, you might start thinking that you were abducted and were made to sit and listen how “bad” these rich people have. How absolutely terrifying it is not to know where the coffee beans are in the house, because you’ve never made a cup of coffee yourself before. I kept thinking, maybe at some point actors were going to go into a song or into something more absurd and the set would suddenly change into… well, more exciting than this piece of rich people’s house full of expensive chandeliers and furniture. I kept thinking and why the f*ck am I watching these white rich people drink expensive drinks in their expensive house when I, ze Plastikoff himself, cannot afford the cheapest Port anymore, why? And then it donned on me, I was there to see how Broadway really works. If you are not in the club of these one percent people who own everything, don’t even think to dream to have anything on Broadway. But if that is the supposed dream, I want to wake up. This terrified me more than the last year’s ass contest started by Kim Kay, yes, that’s how you supposed to say, Kim Kay.

Somewhere by the end of act two I started feeling nauseous. I could not take it anymore. The status quo of a poor artist “surviving” in the city was so obvious to me that I… wait, what did I do? Oh, I went to see act three. I understood that my nausea was also provoked by my (description about the state of sweaty balls was edited out).

Suddenly I saw Mr. Albee sitting on his couch and getting drunk to the point of oblivion and saying (maybe to himself), oh you want a play about rich people for rich people? Okay, I am going to give you that. Let me write something while I am still drunk. The play would make no sense to most of poor (who needs them on Broadway anyway?), but would absolutely tickle rich people’s egos. You see, they would say, there is a show on Broadway about us. See how important our problems are. These other (meaning poor) people will never understand what it means to be this filthy rich when you literally can start drinking whenever you like and just keep drinking, because there is nothing else more dramatic to do. And why don’t they (meaning poor) understand how hard our lives are? Thankfully we know how to squeeze fresh orange juice for an early morning drink. Screw you all, I am having a screwdriver now…

I am afraid my dear darlings that after this review I might be banned from all Broadway theaters, because how do I dare to say anything bad about rich people’s entertainment and even more, about white rich people’s entertainment, which only they are entitled to enjoy. You know what, my darlings, there is nothing for me to lose. I am going to sacrifice myself for the humanity. See how selfless and heroic Serge Plastikoff is? You haven’t heard from him for such a long time and now he is ready to put his well white being on the chopping block for you. You might want to ask me, what was happening with you our dearest SirGay? Why weren’t you sharing your wisdom with us for such a long time? Darlings, I was on a break, on a break from all these things that matter to you. I went to Broadway to find that it is so broad, this so called Broadway, that there is no place for anybody who is not rich there.

I feel like I need to put some lemon juice on my balls and spray it with pepper spray now. But talking about spraying my (edited)… so tha-dha for tonight. There is nothing else I want to tell you today.

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Theater Farts, Unsolicited Solicitations

Running after Nekrošius’s Nose

Okay my dear darlings, I finally got home from my night of smoked fishing on Brighton Beach. Let me tell ya, those stray cats were ready to eat me alive there. I never knew that there were so many of them running around. I guess neighborhood restaurants are doing great in these times of hunger, since there is no need for that specific cat meet on the market.

But let me leave the cat meat for another entry. Maybe it will be more appropriate to talk about its tenderness while discussing the differences between Bulgakov’s cat Begemot in his “Master and Margarita” and Sharik of his “Dog’s Heart,” who knows? This could be quite an interesting subject to discuss considering that people love cats and dogs. And shhhhh… (whispers) sometimes they eat them without knowing that they are actually doing it.

But these are not the things I want to talk with you about on this pre-winter-vertex night of cozy dreams, no. Suddenly (well not so suddenly, but okay, I’ll leave it here for the suspense’s purpose) I got this need to tell you about my biggest influences of my life.

There are a few directors in Lithuania who made this country boy fall in love with all things theater. These directors not only changed how I see theater now but also they were able to influence the future theater audiences and audiences alike.

Going to theater in Soviet countries at that time when I was growing up was equals to being educated and intelligent. If you haven’t seen one or another production everybody was talking about, you were not interesting enough to be invited to parties. So, yeah, people saw a lot of theater in these times of red and sickle and yes, most of it was really good.

Okay, so there is this Lithuanian theater director Eimuntas Nekrošius who changed a lot about Lithuanian theater, right. There are books written about him. Funny, but he is probably more popular in Italy than in Lithuania though. Why is it so, don’t ask me that, because the point is not about being popular. The point is that he was one of those directors who revolutionized theater arts.

The breaking point in Nekrošius carrier happened when he put a production of “Uncle Vanya” in 1986 on one of Lithuanian’s most famous stages. With this production he completely changed how classics were put on the stage.

Well, of course, when I say to you things like that out of the blue they mean nothing to you. You say, who cares about some theater in some Eastern European country nobody knows about, and why suddenly we should care about it?

…and you are right. There is nothing for you to care about, because firstly there is almost no way to see that production today and secondly, why should I care about you carrying? The change is understood only when it is physically lived and emotionally experienced live.

Well, my dear darlings, Nekrošius introduced to the audiences another way of “reading” classics. Classic plays became relevant again. Nekrošius got rid of heaviness of Naturalistic Theater by having the form speak the text. Naturalistic Theater became very boring. Director’s Theater started growing in popularity.

Of course saying that Nekrošius invented another type of theater is the same as saying that Madonna invented Vogueing. The change in theater was happening way before Nekrošius put that famous “Uncle Vanya” on the stage.

My theater revolution happened when I saw Nekrošius’s Nose. Well, it was something else I saw on the stage, not the actual nose of Nekrošius, you understand that, of course? Nekrošius adapted Gogol’s “The Nose” making the nose a character which represented another organ on a male body which is to this day dangling in between legs if not supervised.

It was a show about an organ men keep in their pants most of the time. In Nekrošius’s case it was out and about in the open revealing some facts about the Soviet culture. With this production it was obvious that Nekrošius was exposing way more than the organ itself.

The Nose became that simpleton intelligentsia was embarrassed to talk about. I still remember that famous scene where the character of Nose and Major Kovalyov, the character whose “nose” was cut off, went to the theater. The simpleton Nose watched a performance and absorbed it through his simpleton’s brains. He was reacting through his baser instincts watching ballerinas perform a classical dance. Ballerinas by the end of their performance were wearing heavy soldier boots instead of pointe shoes and dancing Can-Can to Nose’s entertainment. They were being groped by whom else but Nose himself after he got bored sitting in one place. Fun times, I say!

This production of “The Nose” was an absolute genius. No wonder that after it Nekrošius kind of disappeared from theater. Was he afraid that he would not be able to top his nose (pun intended) with anything else? We will, most likely, never know.

The audiences were waiting for Nekrošius’s next production as thirsty cats for that milk. Nekrošius released Pushkin’s “Little Tragedies” after “The Nose”…

…there is still that one production nobody will ever see, because it never reached audiences. It only stayed in rehearsals.

Nekrošius was rehearsing “Carmen” after releasing his “Little Tragedies” which won him a National Prize as the Best Director of the Year. Something happened with him during that period. He was not able to finish “Carmen” even though everyone was constantly talking about it.

Later we learned that Nekrošius went to rest his genius in a house nobody is proud to talk about in Lithuania. I don’t think anybody knew if Nekrošius really went to a crazy house or not, but those were the details that made my mind spin. Who doesn’t want to hear stories like that? These stories about genius artists need to be overly dramatic. We are talking theater here, so of course normal equals boring.

What came out of him after his “retreat” was absolutely mesmerizing and breathtaking. His “Hamlet” and “Three Sisters” completely shut the doors to the old ways of reading and performing any play in Lithuania’s theaters. I believe that there was no actor who didn’t want to work with Nekrošius at that time. Yes, I was one of those actors too, but don’t mention that to Nekrošius. I am still planning on playing that soldier in that play by that author (smiley face).

More importantly there were stories going around about how Nekrošius worked with his actors. We saw with our own eyes how actors spent their most famous scenes under dripping ice cube chandeliers, or under coffins, hanged above their heads, full of heavy stones dropping to the ground, or trapped inside of huge rugs from which was no way to escape. These stories were as entertaining as productions itself. They were very physical and oh so good.

This is an image from “Macbeth” where boulders were falling down while Kostas Smoriginas as Macbeth was acting on the stage:

Macbeh_02

Nekrošius’s Hamlet played by Andrius Mamontovas had to get his dagger from a huge frozen ice cube:

Mamontovas_Hamletas

He had to stand with a shirt made out of paper under a dripping chandelier made from actual steal saws and ice cubes in his “to be or not to be” scene. Here are some excerpts from “Hamlet” with Mamontovas:

It was magic. No, Nekrošius was not using some tricks or gimmicks to make audiences gasp, no. Nekrošius was removing Shakespearean text and making it speak through the actions of actors and visuals, so you “heard” the text while listening to those drops dripping on Hamlet’s back revealing his “naked” soul.

291498_10150755975645501_1731825_o

Of course there were many audience members who couldn’t understand what was going on in front of their eyes. Many of them complained that Nekrošius was way too symbolic and “too cold” because of that symbolism.

The thing is that you really needed to know those plays before going to see his productions. That’s why it became a must to read those classics before going to see how those classics Nekrošius interpreted.

Thankfully, because of the almighty Internet, you all can see a few clips from his productions. There are a few of my all time favorites there. Get familiar with them and I promise you, you will never read another Shakespearean play the way you used to.

Nekrošius is a director of form. He directs a human body on the stage in such a way that the body becomes that medium between the text and the audience. The form and what an actor does is more important for Nekrošius than what an actor says with the text. Nekrošius is very specific about what and how props and sets work in conjunction with a human body. He is very good at finding where to place objects on the stage and finding that certain movement for actors to express the text to the fullest. He marries the form with the text and an actor is that connection.

Nekrošius uses familiar objects to create new meanings for them. He selects what needs to be used with uncanny precision.

Othello used houseplants and pots to create a grave for Desdemona after killing her. Here is that scene:

But my favorite from his “Othello” is a scene where Desdemona is saying goodbye to Othello. Nekrošius chose a prima ballerina, Eglė Špokaitė, to play Desdemona confirming to me that he chooses movement and form over acting and text. Here is that clip which still gives me shivers and goosebumps:

You can catch Nekrošius’s productions around Europe for sure. Here is a link to his theater’s website:

Meno Fortas

If Nekrošius comes to your town, do yourself a favor, go and see his work, but, of course, read those plays beforehand.

Yes, you might find yourself completely lost during his productions, but believe me, those productions will stick with you for a long time. You might figure them out much later than you thought you would. Be prepared to sit in a chair for three or four hours. It might be long but it will be worth it! Have a drink before hand and you should be fine dissecting all this beauty on the stage.

To say that Nekrošius hasn’t influenced me is the same as saying that I’ve never sang in the shower. Do I sing in the shower? I guess you will never know, unless I get a glass of Port and reveal it to you with gross details sometime later. I am going to leave you with that open, never ending nose. Take your time catching it, but catch it while it is still around!

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Theater Farts

Gone Fishing or Something about Stalin

Well okay my dear darlings, I have to write this entry in a subway car as some kind of alternative-ass-writing artist. It’s late, alright, and I got drunk in the city, so sue me. I haven’t had my Port for quite some time now, so whatever you say, I do not care. I just got abused by a drag queen, kissed by somebody I was and I think still am attracted to, so, of course, I am drunk, what do you expect me to be after spending the night surrounded by all these high heels on the rocks, I mean… oh never mind… This should be a perfect time for me to write all those five reasons why you should wear heels at least once in your lifetime, but I won’t be doing that, because, my dears, I just got some Mexican musicians entertain my loneliness in this subway car, and… And what the heck are they doing here, at this hour, singing in a subway? Oh wait, it’s already New Year and I believe it’s bright outside. So, of course, it must be another day. So my dears, I will just get another sip from my strategically covered water bottle which holds a residue of some kind of alcohol, but I digress saying that. And I digress not because I am drunk at 9AM on a Monday morning, no. I digress because the alcohol I am drinking right now is not alcohol anymore; I am pretty sure about that. It tastes as some kind of weirdly flavored liquid that came out from those ice cubes I got into my drink just before I left that place I had to leave many hours before I got myself this unbelievably drunk. Wait, what is that? A finger nail? Oh whatever, I will just pretend that it’s a cherry in my drink, but enough about it. There are many more important things to discuss here, like, for example, world hunger or what dress one or another celebrity wore at one or another Globe or whatever they’re called now.

Alright, Plastikoff decided to ride this train to the very end, just because he suddenly realized that he needs some smoked fish that goes perfectly well with all this drunken debauchery. And you can get that particular smoked fish on Coney Island only. Why only there? I do not know. Maybe because the ocean is right there if suddenly you feel very adventurous after eating that fish.

Okay, I got the fish and I poured another glass of Port into my water bottle just because I can. Mondays are dark in theaters, so I don’t feel guilty drinking at this hour. Got it? Good.

The alcohol level in my system is high enough to be able to speak about serious art and when I say that, I really mean it. To understand the Russian soul you really need to get drunk to the point that you don’t remember yourself. And when you don’t remember yourself, you remember things that matter the most. There was a reason why Stalin made all of his ministers drunk at his parties. He would listen to them. Some of them, of course, would not show up at the next party or anywhere else for that matter, because, my dears, Stalin would make them disappear as that smoke on an early morning blown by the wind and I am not talking about that kind of smoke you smoke your fish in. In Vino Veritas, that’s right, and for most of them that “veritas” ended up in Siberia. And why the heck I am speaking about Siberia all of a sudden? Is this because its winter and I feel quite cold sitting here all by myself on Brighton Beach? Or is it that there is something else I want to tell you about the Russian soul?

Now why my dear darlings am I bubbling so much about drinking, Stalin and Siberia you’d ask? Well because that was the time when theater in Soviet countries was booming. This was the time when the greatest theater traditions were born.

Since everything was censored greatly and there was literally no book in press that would not use a quote from Marx or Engels, yes, that’s true, a quote had to be included somewhere in the beginning of any book going to press otherwise it would be not released, artists were becoming very creative about how and what they wanted to say to their audiences. People started looking for alternative ways of getting information they were missing because of the censorship. Artists during that time began learning how to speak and create “in codes.” Nothing would get passed through Soviet censorship, you know that already. It’s almost like in today’s United Sates where every camera on your computers is regulated by that invisible man who oh so wants to get into your naked business. Why else would you use your camera for? (Smiley face?)

But returning to the Soviet times, there were, of course, certain authors that would not pass the censorship even with those quotes, but this entry is not about them. We are talking about theater now. There were theater directors who put a classic play (let’s say something Shakespearean) with some hidden messages in it critiquing the Soviet regime. This is where a tradition of a theater-director-who-was-able-to-tell-something-else-“in code”-while-putting-up-a-much-known-play-at-the-time was born. People flocked to theaters to watch those shows and “read” those hidden messages inside performances. People literally had to wait in line over night in freezing cold to get those tickets to see one or another play. Tickets were sold out the very first day of the month when theaters would release those seats for sell. If you missed that first day, you had to wait for another month to see one or another production. If you were lucky, you were able to snatch a ticket for a show which would happen sometime at the end of the month. Those tickets, most likely, were for standing-in-the-isle “seats” only. This was the time when Director’s Theater was born. A director was the story teller, the stage was his/her canvas/book and audiences came to see what a director wanted to say to them about the situation they were living in.

What happened next with theater in Soviet countries and why you most likely will hear a director’s name attached to a production there first, I am going to discuss in my later entries when I am less drunk and not as cold as I am right now. For some reason I am still entertaining an idea of a winter swim in the ocean, but let me get that fish eaten first before my neighborhood cats realize what’s happening here.

The fish is done but for some reason I still feel like I need to add something before I get completely surrounded by those cats. I will just say blatantly, today is a perfect time for the United States to catch up on all that lost time when Director’s Theater was cultivated in those Soviet countries “everybody” here still calls Russia. I am going to elaborate about it a little bit more in other entries but for now I am leaving you with this fishy smell. Tah-dah

Should I still go for a swim?

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Theater Farts, Unsolicited Solicitations

My 3 Spent Kopeks or an Open Letter (sort of) to Play Writers

Okay, my Dear Darlings, I kept myself quiet for way too long, listening to your (something) whining about this and that. Today is the day for me to give you the 3 kopeks I still have about writing for theater.

You all seem so bitter and too serious about your craft, my Dear Writers. Have a drink or something and let’s discuss why your ego and lack of flexibility hurt us all.

I see that some of you might not really know how theater really works. You get all worked up about your genius ideas and ze words you write in your plays. There is a lot I want to say about all that ego business it seems you have when it comes to producing your play. The thing is, my Dear Darlings, nobody wants to work in theater with anybody who has a big ego, unless, of course, it’s Serge Plastikoff himself, then all is forgiven.

There are oh so many things that bother me about American theater, but I will keep that for another entry, when I am less drunk, besides America is not ze country I grew up in, so I need to show some class I might never have (smiley face).

The American theater is strangely stuck on this imaginary belief that what is written should always stay in the production. No, my Dear Darlings, a play or script is a blueprint for a production, simple as that. Why do so many directors return to Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov or Ibsen? Because all these writers left their plays as blueprints with written ideas in it. The most successful play writers will be the ones who write their plays leaving space for interpretation.

When I take on a play to direct, first I look for how I could express what hurts me now and the society. I ask the question: “Is this play relevant today?” I read plays as drafts to express something other than what is written. It is sometimes very tedious work to do, but every director looks for that perfect blueprint to be able to build a house which is the play/performance/show.

Let me say it straight: if you don’t trust directors, actors, designers, composers and all the collaborative effort that goes into producing your play, then don’t ducking do it. Write a novel or a short story or something. Theater is collaboration; nobody wants to deal with your big ego. If you know how your play should be done, then do it yourself, by yourself and to yourself because you will never have a great production when collaboration is absent.

After reading a few thoughts you expressed, My Dear Writers, on one message board or another I got this strange feeling that you are missing something very important about theater arts. I will repeat: it sounds like some of you don’t even know how theater actually works. Have you made any effort to research and read about successful theater groups? Have you asked yourself why certain authors and their plays are being produced year after year after year? What makes a great play? Have you researched how Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Ibsen wrote their works?

Oh, I know I will be attacked as another one who doesn’t respect the sacredness of writers and their works. Darlings, I don’t care, there are plenty of works that just wait for my drunken mind to get mixed in. You should look forward to seeing productions that make your work exciting, because they open something you hadn’t thought while writing it. All those different interpretations and the decisions others make while working with your play should be your priority, not the offensive mess you see when a director decides to remove one or another scene or word.

How many times were the works of Shakespeare, Molière, Ibsen, Chekhov cut, rearranged, or rewritten? All that business only made their plays more interesting and exciting even in some high school productions. There were/are so many interpretations of “Hamlet” alone that a play writer who wrote a play like this could live for hundreds of years on stage. Oh, that’s right, Shakespeare did it and he is somehow still relevant. Point blank, if you want to be as good as Shakespeare, be prepared to see your favorite scenes, words and what not cut from your play, because somebody saw something else in your work.

A play is incomplete without a live performance. Without that live breath it is nothing. It should inspire directors, actors, designers, musicians and other writers to come back to it time and time again, unless you want to be a legend in your own living room (thank you, Madame Lennox).

Directors are not your enemies. They are messengers who decipher your message and deliver it to the audiences, through the actors and production.

Actors are not invaders of your plays. They are the ones who give your words life. You should cherish and trust them. They take your characters on themselves and live the life you wrote for them on the stage.

Designers and musicians dress and move your written words with their imagination.

In short, you all should strive to have as many different approaches to your work as possible and let go of your ego. The tree which is the most flexible survives the many storms ahead.

Do you need more convincing? Okay, let’s see how Shakespeare became who she/he/they became.

You see, to this day it is unclear if it was one writer who wrote all these plays. What we know is that somebody recorded the text. Shakespeare’s success is in a collaborative process that was developed on the stage. The texts allow us to re-imagine who one or another character was. Romeo and Juliet have been a boy and a girl, a boy and a boy, a girl and a girl, or a giraffe and an elephant in many productions since the actual work was written. Still, “Romeo and Juliet” is and will always be “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare could care less if his/her/their text is re-arranged and re-imagined by generations and generations to come. It is still an ageless story, a blueprint many directors will return to for many years.

Let’s look at Molière now. He wrote his plays while performing and directing them himself. He “borrowed” from Commedia dell’Arte, Marlowe and what and who not. He made those plays his own, because he was not afraid to let his ego go when there were audiences involved. What he cared about was the performance.

Chekhov had Stanislavski himself to direct his plays. I don’t need to tell you what it meant to him when Nemirovich-Danchenko, after “The Seagull” (my favorite play by Chekhov, by the way) flopped, told Stanislavski that he should direct the play. The production directed by Stanislavski returned Chekhov to fame in theater. Do you think it is an accident? Oh Darlings, you haven’t experienced theater the way it is with all its magic and…

And here comes Ibsen, the one that has been produced as often as Shakespeare. While employed at Det Norske Theater in Bergen, Ibsen was involved in many plays as writer, director, and producer, and even though he didn’t become a successful playwright at that time, all this collaborative experience helped in his writings later on. When actors speak the words I wrote, I feel where I made mistakes and I let them correct me with their inner voices.

Sometimes, when I am tremendously bored with directing I become an actor… or is it the other way around, I don’t remember now. I show my doubts while working on one or another character in a play. One day I decided to write my own play and, on top of it, I decided to direct that play too. I had one of my bastard actors question the words I had written the same way I was questioning somebody else’s work when I was acting. I let him change my words the way he felt it fit his character, just later for him to realize that what I wrote was correct and he wanted to return to that original text. I took it, of course, as a huge compliment, but still let him know that I was “open” for his interpretation, because he was “feeling” my words on the stage. I know I know I am so giving and forgiving. You can put your flower into my limo. Thank you!

So, My Dear Darlings, if you get offended by somebody interpreting your written words on the stage you should probably choose another way of expressing yourself, because theater is fluid, theater is flexible and most importantly, theater is collaborative. Boom! The news splash for you? I hope not!

You want to be another Ibsen, Chekhov, Molière or Shakespeare? Meet the live theater and people who are eager to change your written words. Believe me, you will gain a lot from it and who knows, collaborations might make you another great playwright. Break a leg and keep it broken in appreciation that somebody is inspired by your writings. Plastikoff’s out. No, I mean I am out of Port. Tah-da!

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Theater Farts

My Confession to Cate Blanchett’s Uncle

Okay, My Dear Darlings, today I am going to reveal something about Plastikoff, that is to say, about myself. I don’t know how many of you want to know anything about me, but the reason for my openness is not what you think it is.

I usually say something about my drinking and s**t like that at the beginning of my blog but not today. Today I want to put a Freudian hat and dissect my bitterness and itch to be inappropriate (sometimes) in public.

I should say that a part of this entry was written last summer, but I decided to release it today. I think the time is right and besides I am ready to open another bottle of Port right now (smiley face).

Cate Blanchett, Anton Chekhov and My Confession

I am sure that not so many of you were able to catch a production of “Uncle Vanya” with Cate Blanchett at City Center last summer. It ran only for a few days and, of course, the ticket prices were way too, but somehow understandably, steep for any theater lover to be able to afford it. I was one of the lucky ones who got a ticket because of my theater loving friends who let themselves splurge on theater time after time. I barely can afford to buy a chicken wing at some fried food place, so to spend more than twenty dollars on anything was just too utopian considering my today’s salary. I am actually quite annoyed that only some “privileged” people can see theater in the city nowadays. Art is an escape and art is needed for all the people. Well, but that is quite a different topic to talk about and maybe I will return to it in another entry which, most likely, will be alcohol induced… okay, okay I will not go there today, so let me go straight to describing those feelings I had when I was watching the production of the Sydney Theater Company at City Center.

Yesterday, it happened so, I sent my supporting materials for a residency in a theater. Yes, that’s right, Plastikoff sometimes sends things out like that. (Beats his fists to his chest) I am an artist who needs somebody’s approval too. You know, I can’t survive on one chicken wing a month. I need some potatoes with it. Well, okay I will cut my spending on alcohol, but (he beats his fists even greater) I need it for my creative juices to flow and who the duck are you telling me what I should and what I shouldn’t do? (Gets himself together) Ups, sorry, I got a little carried away. I hope you’ll understand.

As always, as it is with me, everything was coming down to the last minute. This whole mad rush made my concentration work to the fullest. This last minute business always feels like the last day before a show is released. It is stressful but when it’s done, it feels like I have accomplished something. I thought I did well (Update: no, I didn’t get the residency (sad face)). Of course there is always place for improvement. I also understand that my understanding of what is good not always coincides with other people’s understanding of the same. That is okay, because at the end of the day I am the one who is going to judge my work from my point of view and my point of view might be very different from your point of view, so in Plastikoff’s head Plastikoff is always right (smiley face).

So let me go deeper into that ducklingly ducked Plasikoff’s mind and see how, for example, I found myself critiquing THE “Uncle Vanya” with THE Cate Blanchett on the same day I was refused the residency.

Okay, here it is, my confession:

I don’t know what got into me, but I found myself hating the production of “Uncle Vanya” last summer. After I was awarded with a ticket, which cost close to two hundred dollars, I was farting cranberries in my seat while watching it. What “bothered” me was not the production but the fact that I was sitting in the audience watching “Uncle Vanya” while my whole body screamed how badly I wanted to be involved with the show or be the one who wrote the play. Well, “Uncle Vanya” is not my favorite Chekov’s play. Why the heck it gets produced so many times, I have no idea? I was farting pancakes and believe me nobody should be in the same room when I do that. You would understand me if you wore my shoes but since I can’t afford to buy them I’ll leave you here with what went through my mind after the show.

There were a few elements that “bothered” me when I was watching the production. I know it feels weird when I say this this way but I like dissecting myself and see who I really am when I talk about somebody else’s work. We all see imperfections in others because we have the same weak points ourselves. We discuss and hate the very thing we dislike in our work and in… well, you got the poin. I am not a saint (pffff, sorry that was Port talking) I have many problems and flaws.

Now, when I say that “Uncle Vanya” is still not my favorite Chekov’s play what I am really saying is this: “Damn, this Chekov’s thing is being produced all over the world nonstop for more than a hundred years. Why can’t I achieve this kind of greatness; instead I am sitting in the audience and watching this play which was written by some dead Russian in the nineteenth century. Are people still finding this works amazing? Just think about it, there were three productions of “Uncle Vanya” in New York City alone last year. Why? Why can’t I be the one who gets produced at the City Center? Why?”

Chekov is a case to envy about. He is a writer that every playwright dreams to become during their lifetime. I am not alone in thinking how the duck did he do it?

This was my first realization of why I was feeling angry about the production and Chekov.

Of course, the production was great, there is no question about it, but there was apparently something that blew my mind. The thing that hit me the most was the fact that I was still to achieve the greatness of Chekov (it is funny that I am already thinking about my “greatness” while I have done none of my writings I should’ve had done).

Another part of my “dissatisfaction” with the show was that I “have” or “had” problems with Cate Blanchett’s performance. Bullocks, I had no problems with her performance whatsoever. I think she is one of the greatest actresses. What bothered my psyche in this case was the fact that Cate Blanchett has already achieved a real star status with her work on film and on stage. I want to be where she is right now and that was what my eyes caught first when I saw her on the stage. My inner voice was screaming: “Why not me, why I am not Yelena?” (ups, sorry.)

While watching somebody perform on the stage, you realize that this is a real person, right now, performing in front of you. I was looking for imperfections in Blanchett’s works as if saying to myself: “See, she is not perfect too.” I was demeaning her in a certain way that satisfied my status at that moment.

There was another discovery that came to me that night. I think this one was harder to catch since it involved a great director and his production of “Uncle Vanya” I saw back at my home country while being a theater student. Eimuntas Nekrošius’s production of “Uncle Vanya” I saw a very long time ago left a deep dent in me. He was one of the first directors who put a Chekhov’s play not the way everybody used to see it. Nekrošius put his own twist on it and Director’s Theater was born. The Naturalistic Theater died and nobody showed up for the funeral. There is no way to see the production again, but if anything directed by E. Nekrošius comes to your town, go see it. There are a few clips on Youtube for you to get a taste of his genius. Go and find them!

I want to be where Eimuntas Nekrošius and Cate Blanchett are. Yes, there, I said it. That night I was watching and comparing things that were not comparable. E. Nekrošius’s production and the production with Cate Blanchett were very different but both were professionally staged. They both had amazing actors in it and none of them was me. I was ripping those productions apart as a hungry coyote in winter because they reminded me of who I want to be and what I want to achieve. Phew, that might be a little too much, but thank god I am drunk right now to fully understand it.

I applaud Cate Blanchett. She keeps herself grounded and goes to do theater while money wise she could be better doing film. I don’t believe that she is not getting at least ten scripts a day from various writers, directors, producers who want to work with her and who appreciate her talent. (Update: go and see Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine” (film by Woody Allen). Blanche = Blanchett (“Streetcar Named Desire”) – you will get the reference after the film! Terrific!)

I guess my confession is quite clear here. I am glad that I am able to say these things openly. One thing I know for sure, I don’t want to be one of those people that moan about other people’s successes while sitting and doing nothing. I like that this discovery energizes me to keep doing what I love doing, work in theater, in film and just create. So, I should say, thank you Cate and Anton for giving me the opportunity to discover something about myself.

Ah so nice, must be the Port talking (smiley face).

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