Let us now praise serious men, seriously luxe boats, and set design that is seriously beautiful. Taking a cue from artist/curator Bruce Helander, who says to “look for the art in everything” that’s what I did last week. When you start to look at the world that way, it changes you – it’s there for a reason, and whether form follows function or the other way around, the art of something is always there.
Friday night’s premiere of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child at Dramaworks was dramatic in several ways. This prize winning play is not for the faint of heart as it’s heavy themes of a family torn apart by a deeply buried secret – both literally and figuratively – resonate long after the final scene.
A monsoon like rain swept through downtown prior to the opening, casting a dark and stormy air about the night. The three-act play, winner of Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1979, takes a macabre look at one American Midwestern family. The story is this -Vince brings his girlfriend, Shelly, home to meet his family, she is at first charmed by the “normal” looking farm house but then she actually meets his crazy family–his ranting, alcoholic grandparents (Dodge and Halie) and their two sons: Tilden, a hulking semi-idiot, and Bradley, who has lost one leg to a chain saw. They don’t seem to remember Vince and mysteriously talk about something evil and awful from the past. Years ago Dodge, the grandfather, buried an unwanted newborn (possibly – horrors – the product of an incestual relationship between Tilden and his mother) in the backyard. Tilden keeps bringing in things he dug up from the yard – corn, carrots – and wanders the stage in pants covered in mud up to his knees. By the third act he digs up the baby skeleton as the grandfather dies right on stage and the grandson Vince seems to take his ranting, drunken place on the ratty sofa.
The set itself is a character in the play, with it’s bare bones dustiness, TV with decades old rabbit ears and staircase that leads to a pivotal but unseen vantage point. The best design element was a small but important one – the outlines on the dirty wall where many family photos used to hang. This alone told much of the story – the lost, hidden or just plain missing in action family that lives there.
It may sound like quite the downer but the critics over the decades have praised the show, The Nation saying “Yet there is a swing to it all, a vagrant freedom, a tattered song. Something is coming to an end, yet on the other side of disaster there is hope. From the bottom there is nowhere to go but up.”
The LA Times compared it to Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Glass Menagerie for its “evocative intricacy and culminating emotional impact.”
Dramaworks does it proud, with strong performances and guts for staging it at all.
Playwright Shepard is an across the creative board genius, still writing, acting and directing from his horse farm office where he refuses to use a computer, the internet or email. All that technology kills his art he says.
From Sam Shepard to Shepard Fairey – after the dark intensity of the play the next day I was in the lush Orchestra section of the Kravis Center waiting for the hotly anticipated premiere of their new ballet Heatscape. Choreographed by 27 year old wunderkind Justin Peck and featuring set design by red hot street artist Shepard Fairey, this has been one of the most buzzed about debuts of the year.
And it did not disappoint – from the moment the giant red velvet curtain went up there was an audible Oooohhhh from the audience as Fairey’s floor to ceiling gorgeous intricate backdrop was revealed. The upper part of the design featured a large radiating mandala in red and gold and orange, the lower section was blue and cream and had four smaller mandalas and a flying bird in the center. The design plays a major part in how the ballet was structured, as Peck took his cue for how to direct the dancers in circles and spirals, their fluid bodies arcing up toward the sunny light and then weaving their arms upwards as if swimming from under the water. The dancers recline as if on the beach, meet up and then dissipate like flocks of birds or fleeting youth. A fresh and beautiful ballet, an exotic visual vacation. The ballet garnered rave reviews the next day from the Miami Herald and the NY Times.
Fairey has been taking his street art to some wondrous places – book covers, huge wall murals in Miami’s Wynwood, and I collaborated with him and John Densmore of The Doors on a 12-inch vinyl release last year to benefit a group that funds Native American art and artists called Honor the Treaties. Sunday was Boat Show day, an overwhelming trip to another floating world. These things are clean and sculptural, one had dragon sculptures on the front hull, others had intricate teak wood decks and bright, flapping flags.
My friend Leanne has worked on some of these big beauties, she gave me a tour of Never Say Never, a 122 foot luxury yacht that has seen some serious pop culture action. With it’s sleek lines and smart, edgy design, it has hosted stars such as Pharrell “Happy” Williams who held his wedding reception onboard; Jennifer Lopez cruised away a breakup heartache; and comedian Andy Sandberg used it in a hysterical music video with rapper T Pain called “I’m on a Boat” that ran on Saturday Night Live.
The yacht has a Jacuzzi, jet skis that lower off the back deck, elegant dining room and bars everywhere. It has an unusual long oval window design and a bit of a 60s vibe with black and white striped leather couches and bright acid orange lounge chairs that makes you feel like you’re on a James Bond movie set.
Worlds collide when you see the art in everything.[fruitful_sep]