What Jeremy Barker’s Been Up To

WaxFactory's "PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!" Photo by Maria Baranova

WaxFactory’s “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!” Photo by Maria Baranova

What an exhausting few weeks it’s been! I’ve been to Austin, Toronto, and out and about in NYC. This weekend I head to Chicago for a business trip. And in between I celebrated my birthday with a lovely pub-and-bookstore crawl across Brooklyn. So I’m rather tired. But with all that said, I wanted to share what I’d been up to.

The 2016 Fusebox Festival in Austin. I made my second trip to Austin for the annual Fusebox Festival last month, and wrote about the festival for them. This website played host to the project, which included my new friend and acquaintance Christine Gwillim, who helped me cover the events. All of work can be found here on the Deeply Fascinating @ Fusebox page. I also wrote an archival round-up for the festival, published on Storify, which can be found here. And finally, I joined Lindsay Barenz of Maxamoo, a weekly theater and performance podcast, wrapping it up here. So, exhaust yourself with our exhaustive coverage of Fusebox.

Devising Process in the Brooklyn Rail. I made my premier in the Brooklyn Rail this month (May) with a piece on WaxFactory’s latest; you can check it out here. The show, PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER! #montage, at 3LD May 18-19, is the fourth in a series of studies the company is putting forward as it devises a contemporary version of Chekhov’s The Seagull. The article grew out of a dialogue between Ivan Talijancic and me about the relationship of process to art, inspired by a similar project I was involved in with Seattle dance/performance company zoe|juniper, called “No Ideas But In Things,” which you can read part of on the company’s website and a essay-length piece on in Chance 5.

May Previews! I returned to Maxamoo just this week to talk about what’s up in May, touching on the Wooster Group, the aforementioned WaxFactory presentation, Hadestown at NYTW, and finally Jim Findlay’s Vine of the Dead, a piece I was amazed by last fall and am stoked to see at the Invisible Dog May 26-28 at 9 pm. It’s a strange, wonderful, bizarre experience, and I highly recommend it. Continue reading

On Enthusiasm (or the Lack Thereof) For Arts Writing

Radiohole's "Tarzana." Photo by Maria Baranova

Radiohole’s “Tarzana.” Photo by Maria Baranova

A couple days ago, I got a funny text message from Andy Horwitz out in sunny San Diego. It read simply, “OMG my head is going to explode.” He pointed me to a Facebook discussion initiated mainly by Andrew Dinwiddie, who was lamenting the news that Time Out New York may be completely folding its dance page due to lack of interest. It’s not surprising, nor is it new news: that’s probably been in the works since Gia Kourlas left months ago, leaving Helen Shaw as the publication’s part-time dance writer. The Village Voice, of course, axed its dance coverage a couple years ago. Not much real estate left for dance writing in NYC.

I couldn’t help but think about this when my latest article for Culturebot went up this morning. It’s a 4,500-word profile of Parabasis blogger Isaac Butler. It covers nearly 15 years of New York theater history. It’s very long, and I suspect few people will read it.

A couple years ago, Brian Rogers told me one of the reasons he appreciated what we do at Culturebot is because it’s the closest we have today to what C. Carr used to do for performance in the ’80s and ’90s in her long reviews for the Voice. The writing is a record of ephemeral events, a living, ever-developing history of contemporary performance in New York (and, insofar as we can, elsewhere). I appreciated Brian’s point and took it to heart. I read Carr’s collection On Edge and did my best to be inspired by it. Continue reading

Everything Shook to Shake Brooklyn

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Weekend note: This Friday night June 29, I’m off to Trash Bar in Williamsburg for a midnight performance by the Dublin-based electronic/experimental band Everything Shook, which apparently (I vaguely recall this a few years ago…) I may have helped name in conversation with their bassist Aine Stapleton. Anyway, feel free to join. They’ve just released their debut EP Argento Nights, and my personal favorite track is “Misericord.” There’s also a music video.

Things On My Radar

4c5c3660ca1c4b7eea57a7174b3aa8bdThe life of a writer is a miserable, solitary one. Or something. Actually, I tend to find life to be exciting and interpersonal interaction filled, which is perhaps why I’m not quite the writer I sometimes wish I was. But trust me–I’ll take friendship and human interaction over suicidal loneliness and depression any day. That said, there are some things I’m writing about, or have recently written about, or that you should know about, and this is a blog post that just slaps it all down. Welcome to the confusion of my mind.

  • What does the 1955 New American Machinist Handbook have to do with Susan Sontag, James Agee, and the ever-present tension in socially or politically engaged art between call-to-action and aesthetic seduction? I have no idea, personally, but these seem to be the questions Sibyl Kempson is grappling with in Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag, which opens this coming week at Abrons Arts Center, and constitutes the debut of her new theater company.
  • David Herskovits of Target Margin Theater is one of those people whose positivity and relentless optimism always blow me away. Not many directors think like him anymore: His TMT Lab series, an ongoing laboratory and incubator for exploring dramaturgical strategies for grappling with concepts, aesthetics, and ideas, has provoked me many times in the past, particularly with his last round dealing with the legacy of LES Yiddish theater from the early 2oth century. The next round is still in progress, tackling the work of Gertrude Stein. Whose work I’ve only seen staged once, by Heiner Goebbels. Who liked the bizarre interview I wrote up enough to have it republished in program notes for the show around Europe.
  • Jim Neu’s The Floatones. Which will be staged this May, by Catherine Galasso, at La Mama (where it premiered in 1995), with Jess Barbagallo, Greg Zuccolo, Joshua William Gelb, and Larissa Velez-Jackson. Someone pitched it to me as a series of “performance crushes,” which made me jealous because my performance crushes!
  • Raja Feather Kelly. Tonight and tomorrow are your last chances to catch Andy Warhol’s 15 (Color Me, Warhol) at Dixon Place. This is what I thought. Other people thought different things. Decide for yourself. And be impressed.
  • Catch at the Invisible Dog. If I haven’t seen you for a while, say hi at the Invisible Dog tomorrow where I will be a Catch. Which I haven’t been to for a while. NYC is playing host to Philly artists for iteration no. 67, so let’s give them a friendly Brooklyn welcome. I love Philly.

Continue reading

On Not Asking the Right Questions in LA (or Anywhere)

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Yesterday, I finally punched out some very quick thoughts on the controversial move by Actors’ Equity Association to make radical changes to LA’s 99-seat showcase code, and I felt like I should come back to it to more fully address what strike me as the most important issues raised by what’s going on there.

To briefly recap, Equity has proposed changes which essentially make it impossible for members to take part in small indie productions by requiring those producers to pay at least minimum wage for Equity members’ labor. This radically increases production costs and presents an existential threat to the health of a vibrant small theater community. On the other hand, it appears that LA’s more flexible existing showcase code has permitted some small theaters (particularly those most critically recognized) to grow much larger and robustly funded than, say, their New York counterparts.

While it seems clear that Equity’s move is overkill–throwing the baby out with the bathwater–the controversy nevertheless reveals the pernicious degree to which the devaluation of performers’ labor has become endemic in American theater. This is hardly limited to LA. Continue reading