Showing posts with label Coho Productions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coho Productions. Show all posts

Mea Culpa

I need to apologize to our readers, to artists and to all who support the inclusion of arts funding in the economic stimulus package. Like you, I’ve been reading about how the “batshit crazy” rightwing anti-culturalists have been maligning arts funding as non-stimulative pork. I was just as disappointed as you to learn that Senators Wyden and Merkley voted for a stimulus bill that included this egregious amendment from Senator Coburn:

None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.

I was dismayed to learn that a recent editorial in the National Review sarcastically opined that increased funding for the NEA would mean that "the unemployed can fill their days attending abstract-film festivals and sitar concerts."

Then it all started to sound vaguely familiar. I got a sinking feeling that I may have inadvertently contributed to the problem. A quick scan of my files brought the memory back and verified my complicity: Just last year I wrote a grant proposal to the NEA on behalf of a regional arts organization. (Professional ethics and common decency bar me from revealing the client's name). The proposal must have been leaked to the Republicans by a disgruntled grant panelist! Since the project is unlikely to be funded, I will share a synopsis of the proposal:

Describe the Project: [NAME REDACTED], Oregon’s leading collective of multidisciplinary dance, theater and abstract film artists, seeks NEA funding for a project through which it will engage the community in dialogue that will inform a co-creative process of examining, exploring and explicating the multidimensional intersections and interstices between consumer culture, Wall Street fraud and organized religion. The site-specific, time-based performative project will draw upon influences as diverse as Andres Serrano, Karen Finley and Robert Mapplethorpe. Seminal materials will be used. We mean urine.

The project’s artistic collaborators will construct a temporary public art installation on the eighteenth hole of the Bandon Springs Golf Resort. This site was selected to provide opportunities for broad-based cultural access to underserved rural communities. The installation will consist of two vitrines to be fabricated, in situ, by 48 glass artists using recycled wine bottles melted in massive anagama kilns. Each vitrine will measure 20’ x 20’ x 20’ (8,000 cubic feet) and will be filled with liquid.

The first vitrine will represent the primeval ocean from which all life evolved. It will be filled with sweat collected from 800 dance artists commissioned to perform an extended choreographic masterwork in a giant dry heat sauna to be constructed in the abandoned warehouses of Laika Studios. At risk youth from inner-city neighborhoods will be employed to scrape the sweat from the dancer’s bodies over the course of the 18-month dance performance.

Once the vitrine is filled with the salty fluid, hundreds of chinook salmon will be released into it. Their futile attempts to migrate and spawn will be accompanied by a techno-industrial score performed by a 32 piece sitar orchestra and four dozen unemployed construction workers with jackhammers. The salmon will then be slaughtered by marauding sea lions in a bloody orgy of classist oppression.

A live video feed will be sent by fiber optic cable to a state-of-the art Imax theater to be constructed at a remodeled Oregon Aquarium (Newport). Simultaneous video feeds will be sent to Spirit Mountain Casino (Grand Ronde) and Chinook Winds Casino (Lincoln City), where spectators will view the salmon slaughter on big screen televisions while placing bets on which fish will be the last to survive. To highlight the interconnectedness between the project sites, Highway 101 (Newport to Lincoln City) and Highway 18 (Lincoln City to Grand Ronde) will be beautified by a nighttime display of rotating pastel lights as well as abstract film.

The second vitrine will be filled with urine. Members of Portland’s burgeoning creative class will be invited to a three-day outdoor concert at which free PBR and Stumptown coffee will be served. Participants will then urinate into special holding tanks. (Many participants may choose to kiss each other while doing so). They will also be encouraged to ride bicycles to the concert site.

Once this vitrine is filled, a figure of Jesus Christ suspended in a zero-gravity chair will be smeared with dung and chocolate and submerged. The vitrine will be lit by more rotating pastel lights (or perhaps primary colors this time). The artistic co-creators will initiate intra-, extra- and inter-community dialoguing sessions to find, create and shape meaning.

The proposed project budget of $2.75 million will leverage an estimated $18.7 million in direct spending in the region, as well as an additional bunch of fiscal stimulus through the economic multiplier effect we’re always talking about. The project will create at least 1,500 family-wage jobs for artists, as well as employing construction workers and teenagers who would just as soon cut you. The long-term infrastructural improvements to roads, fiber optic networks, casinos and art centers (did we mention art centers?) are incalculable, but are sure to be sustainable. Letters of support from the big screen television, rotating light and zero-gravity chair industries are attached.

The Receptionist -- Too Late!

We finally got a chance to see “The Receptionist” at Coho on Thursday night. Had I attended earlier in the run, I would have been touting this show like crazy. Since the production closes this weekend, and is reportedly sold out, I’ll just say, “Too bad if you missed it!” Full disclosure: I’m biased since I have friends and colleagues associated with the show. (But who among Culture Shock readers doesn’t)?

Rose Riordan’s direction and design are impeccable, demonstrating an astonishing attention to detail in conjuring the daily, drabness of the office place--from a burbling coffee maker to a pathetic, shriveled house plant. Sharonlee McLean’s portrayal of Beverly, the receptionist of the title, is perfectly rendered with 80 minutes of nuanced stage business, gestures and vocal inflections that are thoroughly engaging, belying the fact that nothing of import is really happening for much of the first half of the play. Like many Portland theater fans, I’ve admired every role Sharonlee has played since she first appeared in “All in the Timing” for Portland Rep under Dennis Bigelow’s direction in the 1994-95 season.

Laura Faye Smith plays Lorraine with verve, conveying a professional woman whose life is (mixing metaphors here) a train wreck dancing on the razor’s edge of a meltdown in a pinball factory made out of funhouse mirrors. Laura deftly moves from coquette to basketcase, showing a true knack for physical comedy and fearlessness in every choice she makes. Indelibly etched in my memory bank of theater moments will be the image of Laura stuffing her cheeks, chipmunk-like, with wad upon wad of salt water taffy as she delivers a passionate, mascara-smeared, drooling tirade. Classy.

Gary Norman is excellent as the beaten-down shlub, Mr. Raymond, whose heart just isn’t in the dirty business at hand any more, and Chris Murray is all innocent, young charmer as the enigmatic Mr. Dart ...until he isn’t.

Playwright Adam Bock’s script accurately captures the day-to-day, mundane dialogue of the corporate office. My quibble with the play is that I liked it best when it was exposing the quotidian in precise detail more than when it brought out the message hammer. My complaint about Bock’s “The Thugs” (which PCS produced last year with much of the same artistic team) was that the lurking threat was too subtle, making the play more of an amusing sit-com about the life of temps than the allegory I think he meant it to be. With “The Receptionist,” I thought Bock overadjusted. I wanted the menace to be sneakier – more Harold Pinter and less Rod Serling. (Other critics have made the apt comparison of “The Receptionist” to an episode of “The Twilight Zone”). Still, even though the play delivers chilling ideas with a cudgel, its message is certainly thought-provoking and timely, and I look forward to whatever Mr. Bock comes up with next.

Drammy nods for production, direction and/or acting? Magic 8-Ball says, "Most Certainly!"