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Dog Act Review: NeoAdamite, All That Chat

Monday, February 21, 2011 0 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: The cart, moments before it leaves the stage for China)

What a closing weekend! Two out of the three final shows sold out; two out of three with standing ovations; all three shows among our best. I think it was the strongest we've ever closed a show (though to quote Szymborska, "My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first".)

It seems appropriate then, in the middle of this post show glow, to share an especially moving review posted on Stage Grade and All That Chat. While this person may wish to remain unnamed, I had a lovely post closing chat with him, and am so grateful for this response (and for the fact he came back a second time!)

My favorite quote:
Anyway, I called this a miracle because if any one component--writer, director, actors--had delivered even five percent less, this might have been interminable instead of a joy. But it is a joy, and life's too short to miss it.
So read the whole review here, and then vote for the artists and play at the New York Innovative Theater Awards, and then leave your own thoughts here. Read the full story

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Dog Act Review: Helen Shaw, Time Out New York

Sunday, February 20, 2011 1 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Liz Douglas, Chris Wight, Becky Byers)
Helen Shaw's review for Time Out New York is out! We'd been hoping to lure one of the 3 regular TONY reviewers to our shows for some time now, as they have a great track record of championing artists off the beaten path (Cote for Young Jean Lee, Feldman for The Amoralists, and Shaw herself most recently for Tina Satter). We were thrilled when Shaw's name appeared on our press schedule.

On the other hand, her brilliant take-down post on the legacy of Samuel Beckett did not make her seem the ideal candidate to review a play that in many ways feels like a direct heir to Waiting For Godot. Knowing that she ended her call to puncture the cult of Beckett by meeting him "cheerfully on the road with this bit of Buddhist wisdom: Some things are far too serious to be taken seriously"; I looked forward to seeing how she would respond to a play that does exactly that.

You have to take some delight in a review that makes three canine puns before even beginning: on an Obama campaign slogan, an R.E.M. song, and a famous Vietnam film. Once begun, her review is a mingled yarn of the some of praise and criticism the show has already received: concern over the play's repetitions and length, questions about the production's broader comic choices, and praise for the imaginative language and some of the performances. I wish she would have elaborated on statements like, "as expositor, she stays almost dangerously aloof" (I'm honestly not sure what that means, but it sounds like a question about how clearly Liz's authorial voice manifests itself - thoughts?)

The review also inspires several interesting questions: how polished should the vaudevillians be? Let's say you were able to assemble a cast that could not only handle all of the other challenges in the text, but also had serious chops in the vaudeville tradition: how would you balance that polish against the demands of setting and character? Like the worn costumes and battered cart, I suspect the play works better if those things come first.

Secondly, it's important to consider that for these characters, entertainment is literally a matter of survival. A certain amount of desperation is present in every performance; despair is a failed patter away. The routines should feel a little effortful; success can not be a given or the miracle at the end loses its bite. For me, the real charm lies not in the "love of all things theatrical" but in the temporary, conditional, fragile triumph over despair their act of theatre makes possible.

I look forward to (hopefully) continuing the conversation with Shaw and the other TONY reviewers at future Flux productions. Read the whole review here, and then get your tix for our final performance, and then leave your own thoughts on the play here. Read the full story


Dog Act Response: Shawn Harris, RVC Bard

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 3 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet, Chris Wight)

Shawn C. Harris, the playwright of Tulpa, or Anne & Me, uses Dog Act as a springboard to consider the power of naming, particularly as it concerns the ongoing development of her queer Black womanist liberation poiesis. It's a great read, with this whole irreducible paragraph at the heart of it:
The most potent use of voice is the power of naming. Through naming, we not only identify but manifest what is possible. Naming, of course, is not a moral process. Its power can be used for good and/or ill, to oppress and/or to liberate. An oppressive use of naming acts as power over - especially as manifest as power over others. A liberating use of naming is more like power of - especially as manifest as power of oneself. In Dog Act, for instance, there is power over dogs but power of story. It's a subtle but crucial distinction. Both in the play and in life, power over brings ignorance, enslavement, and suffering, whereas power of leads to the potential for wisdom, freedom, and happiness.
The movement of Dog in the play from suffering to freedom is indelibly linked to this power of naming, and I'm excited to see where Shawn goes with her poesis, and grateful for riff on the play! Often, the critical response focuses on the form and execution of the play, and rarely on what the play is actually about. Shawn's post is a nice reminder (Sean Williams' response to Lesser Seductions is another example) of how satisfying that difference can be.

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Dog Act Review: Mateo Moreno; Big Vision, Empty Wallet

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Liz Douglas, Becky Byers)
I hadn't heard of Big Vision, Empty Wallet (though I connect a wee bit with the concept) and so was psyched that Mateo Moreno's review was not only good, but introduced me to a new website! It's a combo review with Beirut, another play that imagines the future, and though there are many quotes I like, I was particularly struck by this:
Liz Douglas is an intriguing villain, where the villain isn’t really a villain. Her Vera is simply looking out for herself, and won’t be left out alone in the cold again.
I like this because I think Liz does an excellent job at tapping into the grief and desperation of Vera without ever diminishing her power.

So, (you know how this song goes by now), read the whole review, then get your tix, and then leave your own thoughts on the play here.
Read the full story

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Dog Act Review: John Peacock, Flavorpill

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbum. Pictured: Zack Robidas, Julian Stetkevych)

John Peacock has made Flavorpill an Editor Pick! Though short, it certainly is sweet, and I'm happy to choose this as my favorite quote:
A brilliant blend of savagery and poignancy, the play succeeds in being humorous and thoughtful in equal measures, an elegy for humanity and a rollicking road story.
Now that is a nice pill to swallow as we smell the sea in the air and know we are close to the end of our road.

Read the full story

#NEA365 and Flux

At TCG (my goodly employer) yesterday, we posted this call to action on the proposed cuts/zeroing of the NEA in the FY11 budget. The post inspired the goodly David J. Loehr to propose #NEA365, an online compendium of at least 365 projects that would not have been possible without support from the NEA.

Flux receives support from NYSCA, which has received support from the NEA, so indirectly, we've been supported by this besieged agency (and while the grant amount may seem small, to us it truly is essential).

But the impact of the NEA on Flux is more profound than that. It was on an NEA-sponsored Shakespeare tour at Theater at Monmouth that I met Flux co-founder Jason Paradine. Flux would literally not exist without Jason - it was Jason who (inadvertently) named Flux (not to mention, Jason who provided essential leadership and production heroism in these first years). There might be a theatre company, but it wouldn't be called Flux, and it probably wouldn't feel much like Flux, either.

I believe the NEA's real impact is like that: nearly invisible to the millions of lives that it has touched. If the NEA met an angel named Clarence, we wouldn't like the look of Pottersville. I believe that every theatre artist has been touched by the NEA even if they don't know it. Like the work it funds, that impact is as deep and profound as it is hard to see; there are no new highways built by NEA funding, but the road I'm on is paved with its support.

This battle is as old as the Federal Theatre Project, but as Hallie Flanagan said:

“Here is one necessity for our theatre—that it help reshape our American life. Nor do we work, hereafter, alone. We work not in isolated centers, but in a nationwide Federal Theatre. From that union we should gain tremendous strength….Through it we shall mutually create a theatre which need not be just the frosting on the cake. It may be the yeast which makes the bread rise."

The NEA has helped reshape my life; and if the work of Flux matters to you, than it has touched yours. Don't let any worthy criticisms of the NEA obscure the profound impact this agency has had on our country's life; now is the time to live up to Hallie's vision of a nationwide union of theatres with tremendous strength; contact your representatives, and share your stories of how the NEA has impacted you life and community here, there, on your own blogs, and on Twitter with #NEA365.

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Dog Act Review: Will Kenton, Cultural Capitol

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 0 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet, Chris Wight)

Will Kenton's review is up at Cultural Capitol! As you may recall, I appreciated the wider angle he brought to his Jacob's House review, and he brings the same insights to the this review, perhaps best exemplified by this great quote:
The play is a riff on two genres: the futuristic dystopia and the Restoration comedy of manners, kind of like Aphra Behn’s The Rover crossed with Waiting for Godot. It is a fruitful crossbreed: both of the genres are deeply ingrained in our cultural psyche, and Ms. Adams deftly manipulates both the generic plot elements of the two forms and the verbal modulation between poetic and absurd.
That tension between the poetic and absurd has run through all of the reviews, with some reviewers feeling more connected to one aspect than the other. I'm happy this review sees them as both essential, and also love his take on Kelly's direction and Lori's performance.

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Dog Act Review: Karen Tortora-Lee, The Happiest Medium

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Liz Douglas, Becky Byers)
Karen Tortora-Lee's review is out at The Happiest Medium! Karen is another one of our long time reviewers, so we always look forward to her take on our work. I lover her comparison of Zetta to Quixote (and the stories within stories structure of both make the comparison apt), and her Zetta-like phrasing on "singing upbeat songs of high-hoped hereafter."

But my favorite quote is her whole paragraph describing the music of each character's unique voice, especially:
And Byers’s Jo-Jo crackles throughout like the crash of a cymbal – she is electric not only when performing her monologues, but even when sitting to the side, muttering.
So, read the whole review here, then get your tix, and then leave your own thoughts on the play here.
Read the full story

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Dog Act Review: Aaron Grunfeld, Metromix

Monday, February 14, 2011 0 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Chris Wight, Lori E. Parquet)
Aaron Grunfeld returns to Flux for his Metromix review: the last (and only) time he reviewed us was for Pretty Theft, and I was especially interested his structural questions regarding the middle of the play (after many months, I think the decisive factor was our inability to pull of the wrenches moment. Not wanting to spoil a key moment in the play, I believe that if we'd been able to make that happen, it would have torn open greater stylistic space in the fabric of the world for Joe's more dreamlike scenes, making them feel more like an inevitable piece of the play).

But that long ago, and we doing fine and fine, and we're glad to welcome him back. Unfortunately, he doesn't get as many words writing for Metromix as on The Fifth Wall, so he's unable to elaborate on his criticism on the more broadly physical choices of some of the characters. Still, it makes for an interesting juxtaposition with Joshua Bambino's concern about the acting becoming too naturalistic; that tension is one of the exciting things about the play, and something I'd love for us to keep fine tuning when we have an actual long run and preview process...presumably when we reach China.

My favorite quote:
Their speech has echoes of old frontier style: they're not just “tired,” they're “bare-ragged and foot-fagged.” It's a funky patois that lead actress Lori Parquet speaks like it's the most natural way in the world to talk.
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Dog Act Review: Will Fulton, nytheatre.com

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet, Becky Byers, Liz Douglas)

Will Fulton's review for nytheatre.com is out. As a reviewer who is new to me, I checked out his bio and discovered he has both worked with 500 Clown and has a B.A. in Comparative Literature, which may be an ideal combination for a Dog Act reviewer.

And it's a great review! There are a lot of great quotes here - be sure to appreciate his description of Jo-Jo - but remembering this post, I've chosen his final sentence as my favorite quote:
Exceedingly well executed on all fronts, this is a play that feels both contemporary and timeless, and I imagine will take its well-deserved place in the canon.
Read the full story

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Dog Act Review: Aaron Riccio, That Sounds Cool

Sunday, February 13, 2011 0 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet, Chris Wight)

Aaron Riccio's review over at That Sounds Cool is out! Aaron's review are always helpfully specific - he's willing to take the time to lift the hood and prowl around in the engine of the play. He has some interesting thoughts about the structure of the second act - I myself find the song around the fire the final bonding experience that allows for the critical balance shift between Vera, Jo-Jo and Zetta - what do you think?

There's a lot of quotes I like here, but I particularly like this:
Most impressive -- and practically worth its own review, given all the intricacies that went into it -- is Jason Paradine's set -- Zetta's giant cart - which serves as a colorful repository of the meaningless elements of the past (like an iBook) and an unfurling stage for the indefatigable presence of the present. Likewise, Lara de Bruijn's costumes are the best-looking clothes, despite and because of their patchwork nature, that Flux has ever had, for they provide the characters with both apocalyptic context and basic utility in a time that skips in flashes from winter to summer and back.
The second sentence reveals the advantage of having a sustained relationship with a reviewer - Aaron puts the play into the deeper context of our whole body of work.

So, read the whole review here, then get your tix, and then leave your own thoughts on the play here.

We're more than halfway through the run now! Trying not to think about the rapidly approaching final performance... Read the full story

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Dog Act Review: Claudia La Rocco, New York Times

Saturday, February 12, 2011 3 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured:Zack Robidas, Becky Byers, Julian Stetkevych)

In a way, I completely understand where Claudia La Rocco is coming from (oh, her review in The New York Times is out). The first time I encountered the play, way back at the 2002 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, I loved it, but harbored reservations about some of its comic extremities; and thought the play might work better if it crashed at the end, instead of pulling up its nose at the last miraculous instant.

Of course, I was wrong. I was still of an age then where I thought seriousness meant suffering and complexity meant confusion. But as I lived with the play, turning it over and over in my mind, it nagged at me (like the sea does the land, Mam) and changed me. I saw the silliness of the play as a gambit towards a deeper seriousness. I learned (and am still learning) that true complexity is as clear as the surface of water; seemingly simple, until it's touched a little, and then it reshapes its meaning endlessly.

After we read through the play at our 2006 retreat, I saw Dog Act for what it really is: not just an entertaining play, but a necessary one, saying something unique about how we survive - that "implacability of the life force", as Wendy Caster put it. It is much closer to Waiting For Godot than Cormac McCarthy's The Road (an odd inclusion for a smart reviewer); Dog Act is an heir and possible answer to Beckett's unanswerable end of a play.

Any response to a Times review must reckon with its (alleged) outsize influence. In producing this play that has obsessed me for nearly ten years, I did so in part because I needed to see it, and needed to share it with the audience I love. But I also wanted to help move the play into that contested territory we call the canon, to be produced again and again; not just because I think Dog Act deserves it, but because I think we need this play right now. I'm grateful the Times came, but disappointed this well-written review wasn't the rave that might have made that fate more possible.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of scrambled seasons from now, La Rocco revises her opinion; either from seeing a more perfect production, or from having the play nag at her mind as it did mine. And I'm not so worried about the play's future: as Dog Act reminds us, in the end it is the players themselves who determine what plays live on, and what plays are forgotten. I think Dog, Zetta, Vera, Jo-Jo and our foul-mouthed scavenger friends are too irresistible a temptation to play to stay dark for long.

After all, Zetta and her cart have survived scavengers, critters, hunger, bad water, earthquakes, plagues, and our moon falling away into darkness; she can survive a production that wears its heart on the hilt; and she can shake off a middling review like sweeping a half eaten squish from her plate.

Or at least, I very much hope she can. We're not the first to move this cart of "the sacred-freaking-flame of the olden days and ways" forward; and I pray we will not be the last. Years from now, when Claudia and I are broken up to spare parts (praise our usefulness!), it does me good to think Dog and Zetta will still be walking to China, carrying their unique and necessary hope along with them.

So, read the whole review here, then get your tix, and then leave your own thoughts on the play here.

Read the full story

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Dog Act Review: Wendy Caster, Show Showdown

Friday, February 11, 2011 0 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet, Becky Byers)

Wendy Caster's review is up at Show Showdown, and it is a moving one, especially as I read it next to the image of Patrick Lee. Choosing my favorite quote is hard - I'm particularly touched by the last paragraph - but her description of the play's themes is really special:
Dog Act is a meditation on religion, civilization, responsibility, morals, the implacability of the life force, and how the arts/media bring meaning to people's lives. It's also extremely entertaining, breathtakingly imaginative, and quite funny (especially in the second act).
The thematic ambition of the play is easy to miss in how frequently funny it is, and I especially love her phrase, "the implacability of the life force". That might just be one of the unsaid themes of every Flux play, actually...

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Dog Act Review: Scott Brown, New York Magazine

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Julian Stetkevych, Zack Robidas)

Our third review is out, as part of an anti-Spiderman round up from New York Magazine's Scott Brown. My favorite quote this time is easy to pull:
"playwright Liz Duffy Adams has a few tricks that put her a notch above your average Brechtswept wasteland: A genuinely crystalline ear for rough, poetic dialogue; a handful of simple, honest themes--possibilities for kindness in a savage world, guilt as a luxury and a form of selfishness--in lieu of sprawling world-building; and, most crucially, the savage talents of the Flux Theater Ensemble."
Yoi, savage talents! He also challenges the length of the play, and while you could perhaps cut some and not loose the plot, doing so might take away some of my favorite parts - Zetta's story of Jem and the sea, or Vera's tales of the warring tribes - and I'm happy to sacrifice some speed for greater richness. How about you?
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Dog Act Review: Jon Sobel, Blogcritics

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 1 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Liz Douglas, Lori E. Parquet, Becky Byers, Chris Wight)

Review #2 is out! Job Sobel from Blogcritics has a lot of good things to say, and choosing my favorite quote here is tricky, but this shout-out to our amazing design team seems worth singling out:
Baleful lighting (by Kia Rogers) and season-shifting crashes of unearthly thunder (sound design by Elizabeth Rhodes) are all that's needed to evoke the dreary landscape; the actors' cart, which also serves as their rough stage, constitutes the entire set (by Jason Paradine), and it's spectacular.
You should read the whole thing - his description of Liz's language (and celebration of force of nature Becky Byers) are well worth the clicking.

So, read the full review here, then get your tix (still some $14 tix with the code "FUGHAT" for the 9th and 10th), and then leave your own thoughts on the play here.

Wang tang that wallow!
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Dog Act Review: Joshua Bambino, Theatre Is Easy

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenabum. Pictured: Liz Douglas, Becky Byers)

Our first review is out! Not a moment too soon, as our all-too-short run is nearing its midway point at frightening speed. Joshua Bambino's positive review on Theatre Is Easy is a great read, and he asks some interesting questions about the balance of naturalism and heightened language that are well worth pondering.

My favorite quote:
This is a play that revels in theatre and storytelling, viscerally imparting a message about its ritual power to build community and restore humanity through primal arts.
Preach! I also like that he notices the Godot resonances - that's something I've been thinking about a lot the last few runs I've watched.

So, read the full review here, then get your tix (still some $14 tix with the code "FUGHAT" for the 9th and 10th), and then leave your own thoughts on the play here.

Onward to China!
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Audience Response to DOG ACT

Monday, February 7, 2011 13 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet, Chris Wight)
This is an open thread for our community of artists and audience to respond to Dog Act. We have tried this for both The Lesser Seductions of History and Jacob's House, and the comments were very insightful. When you see the show, please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in the comments field below.

A few rules of the game: this is a safe space, so while respectful criticism is as welcome as joyful praise, snark and hostility are not. A good rule of thumb is simply to write things you'd feel comfortable saying face to face. While you can choose to post as anonymous, we encourage you to take ownership of your thoughts.

Our sincere thanks, and see you at the theatre! Read the full story


Sonnet For A Short Run, DOG ACT Edition

Sunday, February 6, 2011 0 comments

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Chris Wight. Liz Douglas)
Thanks to everyone who came out and made opening weekend so lovely! As we have done for past shows, we share with you our Sonnet For A Short Run. If it inspires you to not wait and buy tix now, there are $14 tix available with the code "FUGHAT" through Thursday, 2/10.

So you say you're going to see our show-
Thanks! We know the demands on your attention
Are great - TV, films, books, not to mention
Social media - still, you've said you'll go.

But when? Now the matter grows uncertain;
Not this week but for sure the next, until
Next pours itself into your cup and spills
Over, and you rush to miss that last curtain.

Then, ah! the sorrows and regrets! The vows
Of next time; though we know missed plays, like failed leaps,
Like lost love and other games played for keeps
Get no nexts; but get gone by the last bows.

Tomorrow starts before we're ready for today;
But make time for us and we'll stop time with our play.
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Dog Act Photos And Opening Night!

Saturday, February 5, 2011 0 comments

Dog Act opens tonight to a sold our house! After a great rehearsal period and (ongoing) intense tech week, we're thrilled to share this play with you.

First things first: if you haven't already purchased your tickets, you can do so here, and use the code "FUGHAT" for $14 tickets for shows on the 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th.

Now on the pictures! All are courtesy of the ever amazing Isaiah Tanenbaum, and we'll be sharing more of the dress run and tech as we go on.

Zetta tells Dog about China (Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet, Chris Wight)
Scavengers! (Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Julian Stetkevych, Zack Robidas)

Zetta shows the scavengers she is a protected vaudevillian (Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Lori E. Parquet)
Dog plays a snake in the Mortality Play. (Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Becky Byers, Chris Wight)

Vera Similitude sings your favorite standard, Weed World. (Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Chris Wight, Liz Douglas, Becky Byers)
Jo-Jo the Baldfaced Liar tells one of the stories in her teeming brain. (Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Becky Byers) Heather Cohn makes Kristy Caldwell's sign design come to vivid life. (Pictured: Heather Cohn)
MVP Tiffany Clementi gives some costume loving to Julian. (Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Pictured: Julian Stetkevych, Becky Byers, Tiffany Clementi)

So get your tix now, and we'll see you at theatre! Read the full story