Sunday, December 03, 2006

swivel chair 101

as stupid as this sounds, i can't really write about what's going on. i've actually attempted several times in the past few weeks to write here but find myself impossibly frustrated and stumped. too sad, too many sensitive people and situations and it just plain fucking sucks.

i'm trying to put something longer and more articulate together for later, but i'll just say: the last few weeks have been the hardest of the past few years, harder than touring, harder than anything. i've had to watch this play/project that i've been working on for over two years take a direction that is out of my control...hours of brain and soul work lost. the show still emerges, but under someone else's somewhat alien wing. it's been painful in a deep way, like a creative miscarriage and a forced adoption on top. whatever. the worst hopefully came and went four or five days ago and i'm on the mend, no more tears, ready to see if i can at least make sense of this story. the adult theater world. the big. real. theater world. it's....different.

stories are helpful. here's one.

four days ago i went to see a theater project put on by the American Repertory Theater Institute students who are part of our play (the onion cellar) which goes up next week. they are acting students. a group of 15 of them put on a performance in the theater that our show will be held. it was a really well-rehearsed, directed, lit and staged set of solo or duo vignettes called "object exercises" in which the students had been given 6 weeks or so to create a physical performance using a simple object. the actor plus a broom, plus a trash can, plus a water bottle, etc. you get it. one performer did a piece using a black office swivel chair, you know the type, adjustable back, 6-forked swivel bottom, cheap-ass upholstery. he dressed in a tux, knee pads and elbow pads and did a performance/dance with the chair using the james bond theme. he slid around on it, danced with it and under it, bounded, glided, generally become one with it. it was amazing, astounding even.

tonight i went to my friend andrew's house. greg was there. we drank malt liquor forties and break-danced to wu-tang and run DMC for 3 hours non-stop. at one point, i was taking a breather in the kitchen and greg collapsed in a black office swivel chair next to me. andrew came in and force-wheeled greg back onto the living room dance floor. greg went mad, dancing with the swivel chair and doing moves heretofore unknown by any break-dancer.

no plan. no rehearsals. no director. no set designer. no dramaturgs. no assistant dramaturgs. no office and no xerox machines. no ten-minute breaks every hour and fifty minutes. no stage manager. no assistant stage managers. no assistant to the assistant stage managers. no lighting designer. no speech coach.

it was better.

metaphor digested.


cross-posted to


Anonymous said...

Amanda-you are the biggest music legend along with Brian of our time-we are so lucky to have you-the trouble is-yout too pure in your creativness for this media fuelled world. The spontaniouse power that the dancer was doing-is purity, it is free, just the way you are-you can bring a play of sheer genius together-I know it, and when you do, I will be there to throw roses on the stage, All my love Ally, your biggest fan'ess

ainsley said...

I love your blogs. Last night, I actually had a dream that you mentioned me in one of them..? It was an odd dream. Then again, what dream isn't. I'm sorry your creative control over the onion cellar has somewhat been diminished. I'm sure the original brilliance from which it came will still shine through. I tried to vote for your guys' video on the MTV website..though I couldn't figure out how. I'll try again.

Thank you for your blogs. They're one of the things that keep me going. Thank you for your music. Yet, another thing.


m. said...

Moments like that are fantastic. I'm sorry you are having trouble with the show, I hope it works out and best of luck!

andrea said...

you know, it's just one of those things that you've had an idea for for so long, and you've planned, and you've imagined, and it's become your baby. And then it finally grows up, starts to become something, but it doesn't always turn out how you imagined. But things always come full circle and reveal their true lessons. It will probably never exactly be what you want it to be, but at least it IS.

all my love,


Anonymous said...

That's a great metaphor to digest.

Completely off topic, but I recommend that you go see "The Fountain," if you have not, already.

APandBV said...

I hope everything gets put back on track for you Amanda. Stressful situations are the worst. But you know, whatever it turns out to be it will still be amazing, and YOUR work. So everybody will love it, I promise! I wish more than anything I could get up there to see it, but I just live to far. Maybe you guys will travel with it? I think thats a good idea.

I fall in love with you all over again everyday.

Last night I was watching the Dresden Dolls live dvd where you played in paradise. My grandma kept walking in and out, and commenting on it. I could tell she was interested. :] I was like, Do you like the Dresden Dolls? She didn't want to admit it.

Love you guys.

June Miller said...

'break-danced to wu-tang'

Thank you. This day was shit. You posted a journal and it had that phrase in it. I feel so much better.

However, check out "Judgement Day" by Method Man. You'll probably dig it.

June Miller said...

P.S. I hope you listened to Dre or Snoop at some point during the evening. 40s without The Chronic doesn't seem right.

atonalruss said...

Artistic collaborations are often the most difficult. It really sucks to have something you've put your heart and soul into fucked with by someone who doesn't get it. It happened to me this past month at a premiere of a new work. The conductor just didn't get it. The audience loved it - I'm still in a depression over how awful it was. You might well have a similar experience.


Anonymous said...


sending you a (virtual) shiny red drum

let grown ups do what they do best ;o)
...and you keep on drumming&shrieking!

we'll see you on saturday. in boston.
~alles wird gut~
maybe it has to be that way? (?!)

with love from duesseldorf.

ps: & sincere apologies for making you sign a tube map @roundhouse ;o) 'piece of evidence' of what was my first 'dresden dolls encouter' & truly a life changing experience.

Hunger For The Great Light said...

I'm sorry things have been shitty. I suppose it's a kind of cosmic ying-yang thing in a way. You are on cloud nine after the Roundhouse shows, and then the universe (and what a hardcore bitch the universe is) decides to balance it out. Fuck balance, I'd rather be happy.
Anyway. I know how you feel about the play. It's happened to every artist in the world. Vision, Manifestation of said vision, Sharing of vision, People fucking with vision, Distorted final product. Don't worry though. Sometimes it comes out smelling like a rose anyway.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, I was quite involved in theatre. I loved it. Nothing quite like acting. Walking out on that stage and being someone else, feeling happiness, sorrow and fear that was not your own and could easily be escaped every night. It was great.

Then something that sounds similar to what you went through happened. Someone took that fun and turned it into a business and creativity took a seat to presentation and profitability. It's the double-edged sword of art. You can be in it for nothing more than the honest creativity and expansion of thought part and be poor. Or you could be in it for the money and compromise any expression or creativity in order to profit.

In crude terms, it's the difference between the nymphomaniac and the whore. One is in it for the rush and beauty of the action...the other is looking for a quick buck. Sadly our world is dominated by the whores.

Editorial said...

Exactly the point made in Kleist's 'On The Marionette Theatre':

UKAnthony said...

i liked your story, it made me laugh and want to try out swivel chair dancing too! sorry to hear about the play taking a turn for the worse, that's gotta be hard.

p.s. witch's web = quite possibly the best ...trail of dead song ever!!

[Lucent][Victrola] said...

I'm so sorry about the Onion Cellar, but hopefully it will turn out alright.

In 7th grade (yeah, I was young, but it was still important to me), our Chinese class planned a trip to the Arizona Language Fair, and we were required to recite a piece of poetry or prose in Chinese, and encouraged to write and perform in a Chinese play. I wrote a short play called "In The Shade Of The Bamboo Tree" for my friends and I to perform. It was about a young, troubled girl named Ping You (peeng yoh) who commits suicide, and is narrated by Yin and Yang, her "shoulder angels" who go back through her memories to show why she died. There was emotion and internal conflict and beauty to it, and what did my friends (and the principal) do? They ruined it. First of all, I was required by the principal of my school to censor out the "extreme" scenes (which really were nothing bad at all, I was to kneel beneath the bamboo tree, break off a piece of bamboo and "sharpen it" as I recited a soliloquy, and whisper "goodbye" as the curtain fell.), and was pressured to take out the idea of suicide entirely, and make Ping You run away from home or "cut all her hair off." I took out the scene, but kept the suicide, just implying it through me being covered with a white sheet at the beginning of the play. Then my friends decided to be comic relief, adding in impromptu slapstick and not taking it seriously at all. It killed me inside to find that my creative baby was being mangled. It was definitely more low-scale than your play, but I kind of know how you must feel.

The thing about professional performances, such as the swivel-chair performance you were talking about, is that although they are clean and pristine, they almost never have the energy and spontenaity of things done at the spur of the moment. In my experience, when it involves good actors, the cold reading of a script is almost always better than the actual show, just because it lacks that dry, over-rehearsed air that final performances often have draped over them. That is why I love your live shows, or at least what I've seen of them on Youtube, since I have yet to have the pleasure of going to one; it burns bright and never feels rehearsed or tired, it's a beautiful thing being created right there before the audience's eyes.

<3 Miranda

entropyartist said...

As much as I'm sure it doesn't help right now, I've always found that just as things are as terrible as can possibly be imagined, something else takes a turn for the better; light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel. I suppose it is that blind hope that keeps us going.
I hope things turn for you.

silky said...

perhaps if you can't articulate waht you want to now, or if it's something you don't want to directly expose, then at least it may become fodder for some kind of creative outlet.

silver linings and all that shit.

(and yeah, the roundhouse shows were really something else. worth almost missing the last train home for!)

Anonymous said...

Spontaneous dances are always the best and the most fun. And I don't like the real theater world that much, it is very harsh. I hope that everything works out with that play.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Dramaturg a fun word? Annoy word.

Sometimes, the input you resist so wildly, the mangling of babies, can turn out for the better.

I know I quite like some of my mangled babies.

Some of them i want to set fire to however...

I hope you don't want to set fire to the onion cellar.


Aubergine Dreams said...

I added you to your Myspace. And it's really nice that you have these kind of stuffs it makes us feel it's important for you to connect with us through these. It's really something.

maia got new stitches said...

i hate that. dislocation from what is yours.
the gap. which grows
things are getting scary now.

vitamin_joe said...

hi amanda, been meaning to send u this for a while, cos i thought it might make you smile. (i finally dropped the caps btw- the big 'I' is the hardest to let go of!

anyways, i first heard you and brian on the mark radcliffe show in manchester- i think it was the song 'sex changes' where i really sat up and went 'wow!' and then this thought came to me 'OMG, they're the scary Carpenters!' i thought you'd like that.

i went to see u in manchester, there was a lot of morrissey fans abroad on that night, but some of the guys i spoke to actually seemed impressed that i was going to see you guys instead! there was a good atmosphere in manchester that night...

ok, i don't have anything else to say- love and peace to you and to everyone, v

Chris said...

I know the feeling, it's like you carried this baby, nurtured it well and just after you did all the hard work and it's toilet trained, someone whisks it away to reprogram it to be raised how THEY want it. (yeah, you can tell I have kids). So sorry to hear that happened. Cheers lady!

Len Tower MIT '71 said...


you blogged:

"the adult theater world. the big. real. theater world. it's....different."

and ART is only one part of it. each company is different, ...

i go to ART not for the performances or to have my heart touched, but for sets, costumes. staging, and the professionalism. (Though on occasion, like the pas-de-deux in Wings of Desire, i'm touched, though the p-d-d in the ART inst set of pieces you saw with swivel chair was better)

The ART institute does better, but student perfomances like HRDC and those down at MIT , BU, Emerson, ... have regularly far out shone ART, Broadway, ... Fewer constraints, different goals

You and Brian shine that way admist the ARTism of The Onion Cellar.

thanks -len

PS: If you like the Bard, and haven't caught them yet, see a "Actors Shakespeare Project" show.

Jose Ramon said...

Madmoiselle Amanda ... Monsier Brian I Remember the first time that listens to its wonderful voice was something magical I bewitch when i hear you voice was incredible almost indecriptible I insist my English is not very good Im come from venezuela and it costs much to understand the letters to me of some songs immediately but after listening to it a pair of times to got it the hope to me of which they sometimes touch in Venezuela this every day which I listen to some song of you

Que fresa fue eso ~.~ espero lo lean y les de algo de curiosidad Kisses Tous =* Muack

Jose Ramon said...

To another thing that I forget to me The Covers fuckinabsolutely Amazing Baby

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