183 – 196

 

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All that matters is this tarte tatin…

 

 

To say it’s been a while would be an understatement.

 

 

It’s not that I’ve lost the inspiration to write, it’s more that things just started piling on one right after the other, and I kept just pushing all of this back further and further, saying I’d get to it. Eventually.

 

Eventually is almost 20 days later, apparently.

 

The one good thing about this though is that other than a few shows to write on/other significant events, the past few days weren’t incredibly overloaded with things to the point where writing about them would be impossible. For the sake of time, however, I’m going to keep things brief again.

 

Let’s start with the first of the two shows I saw over the course of the past few days, Le Récit d’un homme inconnu at the MC93.

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Those familiar with Checkhov (and who also know French) might recognize the title, as the play is an adaptation of one of his stories. The plot can basically be summed up as follows:

  • Young woman in an unfulfilling marriage leaves her husband to seek refuge at the house of her lover – a young, rich playboy type – who really had no idea she was serious when she said she was going to leave her husband for him and is thus rather surprised to find her at his door.

 

  • Said young man has in his employ a valet – the titular unknown man – who is not quite what he seems. You see, he is not merely a valet. No. He is a revolutionary, one who has taken up the position as valet in order to obtain information on the young man’s father : a prominent political figure and, I should note, someone who never appears on stage. He quickly realizes the futility of this, as his employer only seems interested in half-reading books while laughing to himself like someone on the verge of transforming into a Bond villain. However, the valet also develops a liking for the young woman.

 

  • As these things usually go, the young woman falls pregnant. The young man casts her out – not knowing that she was pregnant – , and the valet, because he just really likes her, whisks her away to Italy where they live blissfully in Venice for a few months before the young woman goes into labor. She has the baby – a girl – and then dies immediately after, likely by suicide. The play ends some years later with the now disillusioned valet returning to his former employer to deliver him his daughter, who he is now responsible for.

Unlike the dance piece I saw at this theatre a few months ago, this piece was staged in their smaller salle transformable or transformable space (think a large black box). Upstage was a long white partition divided by three white doors. A row of empty wine and champagne lined the front of said partition. Hanging from the ceiling was what looked like a closed blue umbrella (this was, of course, opened later when the young woman and the valet flee to Venice). Given the smaller size of the space, most of the seats were raked, but there were a few placed on the ground, on the same level as the playing space, shaped in a sort of proscenium arch.

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Manage to snap this on my way out…

The staging remained more or less frontal, with a few exceptions. First, at the start of the second act, the valet began by reciting a long monologue about how he came to work in the house, culminating with the reading of a rather bellicose letter he wrote to his former employer. At one point during the reading, the actor pulled out actual copies of the letter and began distributing them amongst various audience members. Think of it as a way of bringing us partially into his world – the monologue was addressed to the audience as well -, thus a first sort of spatial-temporal blending that would occur in this production.

 

The second involved the use of a video projector onto which was shown a pre-recorded video of the valet and the young woman in Venice. At first corresponding somewhat in ‘real time’ to the events being narrated by the valet (yeah…it was a long monologue), the temporality of the video soon began to distance itself from the narrative being crafted on stage, creating a second fictional space within the framework of the principle one.

 

Though not even this twisting and folding of spatial-temporality could distract from the fact that this was a four hour play that could have easily been condensed down to two – at most three. Not really helping was the fact that the actors spoke in an affective manner that over-emphasized the passage and rhythm of time.

 

 

The second show I saw though was more like a homecoming than anything.

 

 

Let me preface: when I was a freshman in high school, I was cast in a workshop production of Complicité’s Mnemonic. To say this show changed my life might sound a bit cliché, but it’s true. This was the first time I fully immersed myself in something truly experimental and ensemble-based (because listen, when you live in the suburbs, it can sometimes feel like it’s musical theatre or nothing which…merits a post of its own because I have so many thoughts, too many, to fit here), and I can say that my fervor for all things theatrically strange and daring could find their roots here.

 

Anyway, on Friday, March 30, I saw Simon McBurney’s The Encounter at Odéon.

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This was pretty much a one man show – or well, one man plus an absolutely intense team of sound designers and engineers that he actually took the time to acknowledge, something not many do, at least not in speech – but the premise was more about a crossing of narratives. During a talkback the seminar I’m taking had with McBurney the afternoon before the show, one of the things he emphasized was how we are all storytellers. That storytelling was at the heart of his theatre practice. This play had at its center the recounting of photographer Loren McIntyre’s 1969 expedition into the Amazon and subsequent contact with the Mayoruna tribe. What starts as an attempt to document them through photographs to later be sold to National Geographic later turns into an exploration on the very notion of time, and the nature of those moments that photography seeks to suspend, to pull from a timeline (or time-wheel) to remain in stillness.

 

Rather than telling McIntyre’s story in one go, McBurney punctuated it with moments of interruption by his daughter, who – via a pre-recorded voice-over – kept entering her father’s workspace, asking him why he was still up working so late, and whether he could tell her another story to help her fall asleep. And really, in the end, this little girl who both was and was not there becomes the most important thing, this potential future that has the potential to respond to the mistakes of those that came before her. Though, unlike the most recent of Mouawad’s plays, this almost ecological message was not hammered into our faces.

 

I should go back to the presence/non-presence thing because the most fantastic thing about this show was without a doubt the way it played with sound. Upon taking their seat, each member of the audience found a pair of headphones attached to the back of their chairs. Oh yes, we wore headphones throughout the entire show – and this was almost mandatory, as taking them off would have plunged you into almost complete silence and torn you out of what was in the process of being crafted on stage. And really, I don’t think I could say enough about the sound design because there were moments when I honestly could not tell if what I was hearing was happening on stage or if it was something/one in the house. Granted, having this kind of experience means in part giving yourself over entirely to what is happening, and opening yourself up to be affected, but really, it is incredibly difficult not to. Hell, I was sitting in the second row of the first mezzanine, and I found myself leaning over, wanting more than anything to dive in even further.

 

Anyway, enough of the theatrics. On to other things!

 

Namely, food-related things.

 

I’m happy to say I have two new restaurants to add to my ever-growing list of places I like going out to eat here. Coincidentally, both of these places involve small-plates dining.

 

First, L’Arbre Jaune, or, what happens when you and your dining companion (but really, mostly you because your hunger makes you indecisive) can’t decide on where to go for dinner, and end up making a last-minute reservation on the one place you’ve managed to find that lets you do that online.

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We started with an order of chicken liver pâté and saucisson, then moved on to a cauliflower velouté, clams, beef cheeks, pig’s trotters in filo, and finally concluded with cheese (yeah…the problem with this having been two or so weeks ago, I cannot remember what cheese we had). All of it washed down with a nice half bottle of red that I also can’t remember the name of because I don’t take notes on this thing, and there is obviously a reason why I don’t blog about food.

 

As someone who usually does quite a bit of reasearch before going out to eat, I was slightly apprehensive about coming here at first. Thankfully, my fears were assuaged with a more than pleasant meal (holy shit those beef cheeks were amazing), that came out to a more than reasonable price (less than 40eu per person for all we had).

 

The second food adventure though was one that was a very long time coming – and one that I got to share with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while.

 

This past week, one of my very good friends from high school came to visit me (!), and other than the usual pastry/coffee/cheese/charcuterie stops I usually take visitors on, we decided to treat ourselves to one night of indulgence. So I made reservations this past Tuesday at Au Passage.

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Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to schedule this meal on a Tuesday, as it sort of set the precedent rather high for the rest of the week, but when eating here has been something of a goal for the past few years, all of that nonsense pretty much gets thrown out the window. We had a bit of trouble deciding what to order at first – everything looked so good, and I don’t doubt that any choice we made would’ve been a good one -, but then our waitress mentioned that they only had two portions of the scallops left for the night. Thus our choices were made: terrine, radishes and butter to start, followed by roasted carrots and chèvre, then asparagus, ramps, and lardon, then the famous scallops with celery, celeriac purée and saffron, and finally papardelle with lamb ragout. As to the wine, the thing I do remember is that it was a red from the southwest and that it, like all their wines, was biodynamic. I never claimed to be an expert on these things, so I’m going to chalk up remembering this much for a win. Maybe next time I’ll remember the cépage…

 

And so began a week filled with insanely long walks (of course), consumption of viennoiseries, and picnicking during the first legitimately nice day of spring (yeah it started to sprinkle on us – and just us – a bit towards the end of our picnic lunch on Saturday, but that’s what umbrellas are for).

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Of course we stopped at La Fontaine de Belleville for some wine
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Also, special shout-out to this IPA from Paname Brewing Co.

And since I started this post by speaking about theatre, I’m going to end it with theatre as well, but this time on something that directly involves me.

 

A few weeks ago, I put out word on Facebook that I really missed performing (which…yeah the back and forth I do with myself sometimes over whether or not I should have tried balancing performing more with my research is still a thing that happens relatively often). One of my facebook friends (whose show I had seen in the beginning of the fall) here reached out and mentioned they had a friend coming into the city soon who would be starting up a workshop, and would I be interested in learning more/possibly be involved? I said yes, connected with the workshop director via sending in an intro video , and things jived well enough to the point that last night I was back in a studio playing with a group of other performers, something I haven’t done in far too long. Really, I felt like I was coming home again in a room of (mostly) strangers. Sometimes I get a bit of anxiety when meeting new people. Theatre – and actually rehearsal spaces more specifically – is the only place where that does not happen.

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And it’s getting a bit late now, so I’ll close with a quick note on a discussion I attended this evening on architecture and the banlieues that also incorporated the question of theatre (in part because it was held in a theatre, but also because one of the panelists was theatre director Karim Bel Kacem). I’m still sort of processing this one, since it literally just happened, but I’ll just give a little shout-out here to a boyfriend who was very on-point with this recommendation.

 

 

 

175 – 182

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I like long walks…and symmetry

 

Yes, yes, I know I’ve been silent for a while but things have been…hectic…to say the least (blame in part the practice baccalaureate exams my seniors had to take + the fact that I have to grade them).

 

But I did see quite a bit of theatre this week, so let’s just speed through all that. Yes, it’s the return of bullet point thoughts.

 

 

First: La Démangeaison des ailes at Nanterre (not pictured because for some reason the photo won’t transfer from my phone, and I don’t have the energy to figure out why).

  • This show just happened to fall on the last day it snowed and of course to enter the theatre we had to go around the back. Meaning, we had to wait outside. There was a point to all this, as the idea was to have the audience enter from backstage, cross through the set (in a way that mimicked the way that other actors would enter on stage) and then find our seats, but I just found it hilarious that of course it was snowing.

 

  • There’s no real plot to hash out here, since this thing was more of a mix between theatre, performance art, and art installation (the use of multimedia elements contributed to this last bit the most). Just…a lot of wings and…flapping about.

 

  • Oh and there was a dog. An adorable little papillon (or papillon-corgi mix maybe) named Salsa.

 

 

On to the next!

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The movies come to the theatre

 

  • M comme Méliès at the Théâtre National de Chaillot. Yes, a love-letter to cinema in play form. Overall, cute. For a show designed for young audiences, the energy was a bit low for a good part of the beginning, which is a shame since a large part of it was devoted to trying to re-capture the playfulness and whimsy found in Méliès’s films. They did have some fun with mirrors though which was…nice. And it made me remember why I fell in love with Méliès/that time period in general.

 

And now, this.

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This week is about new things…

 

  • One thing I’ve never done in my life is walk out of a show. Usually it’s because I figure that I basically paid a decent amount to be there, I might as well get my money’s worth (need I remind anyone how annoyingly expensive theatre tickets can get in the States?). The great thing about living here is that because going to the theatre is actually more or less affordable, any of that sort of guilt has essentially been washed away. And thank goodness because…oh boy.

 

  • Those who can read French will note the listed run time as just under 4.5 hours. To be more precise, that’s 4.5 hours without intermission. I mean, there’s definitely a bit of daring in that, but you’d think that if you were going to ask people to sit for over four hours you’d give them something stimulating to distract from the time passing. No. This was like watching molasses run through a river of mud. I left after an hour. Did I feel a little bit of remorse? Maybe. Who knows? Perhaps it got more interesting. But I had work to do, and I wasn’t in the mood to stay up until who knows when finishing it.

 

In other news, I had some other friends in town this week that I got to show around a bit, which was an excellent change from my normal routine. Research-wise, still waiting on word back about the second draft of my prospectus I sent out about a week ago. In other words…feeling in a bit of a rut. But that happens.

169 – 174

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On tonight’s edition of ‘How to Deal with Snow’…

 

We all thought it was over, that winter would finally give way to (a rather grey but still sometimes sunny) spring. We were wrong.

 

Today, Saturday March 17, 2018, it snowed. Big, fluffy snowflakes. Just plopping down from the sky in little ploofs. Silly mocking ploofs. Thankfully, I didn’t really have anywhere to be until later this evening when I met up with friends for dinner at Ahssi (see photo of sizzling pork bibimbap above), so I got to glare at the fluffy white puffs from the inside of my warm apartment. With tea. A big mug of it.

 

Enough of that though. On to this week’s theatre recap.

 

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Never thought anything would ever get me to like Madame Bovary. Then this happened.

 

I honestly feel like I’m just going to go ahead and add the Théâtre de la Bastille to my list of theatres I’ll be focusing on for my thesis just based on the mere fact that I really like going to shows there. Yes, the set-up is essentially frontal and whatever, but the sheer immensity of the stage and its almost lack of separation from the (at least to me) smaller audience space lends the whole room a sort of intimacy and coziness that I haven’t really seen replicated in other theatres here yet. Really, it’s almost as if the actors are standing right on top of you, as if at any moment any semblance of a line between their space and ours as audience members is blurred, prodded, torn, and just generally fucked with. I love that.

 

And to tell the truth, I wasn’t expecting to like this show. Actually, I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect, as the only thing I knew going in was that the director (who is Portuguese, I believe) had quite a good reputation. Judging from the very packed house on Monday evening, I’d say I’d agree with that assessment.

 

Instead of being a direct adaptation of Madame Bovary (a novel that, I will confess, I am not a fan of), this play takes as its starting point the trial over the book’s publication. As we filed in and took our seats, the actors were already on the stage, scattering about pages of Flaubert’s manuscript, the words that soon were to be put on trial for their potential to incite immoral thoughts and disturb the public order.

 

Funny how some things never change.

 

 

Anyway, the actor playing Flaubert eventually spoke, reciting a letter sent to a friend that at the same time acted as a direct address to the audience. It was here that he specified that during his own trial, he would not be allowed to speak to defend himself (only his lawyer could do that). Instead, his words, the text, the words that came from his mind onto the page would speak for him – the novel as both direct descendant and link to the author (Barthes would have a fucking field day with this one). And this is how the story of Madame Bovary was woven in. Quite frankly, the retelling here was much more raunchy, dark, disturbing, sad and exciting than what I remember reading in class. Then again, as Flaubert remarked in another letter to his friend towards the last third of the play, the prosecution was right: this book is full of quite a bit of naughty things. Maybe our focus – in the act of ignoring the naughtiness to try and ‘rise above’ it or prove a ‘moral high ground’ – has just been slightly off.

 

I don’t know if I can put into words completely what it was that made me really like this, so I’m just going to copy (and translate because this conversation was happening in French) below what I sent to my boyfriend when he asked me why I liked it so much:

 

“The energy, the humor [and oh yes, this play was indeed very funny]…there was just this ludicness about it all that I really appreciated [side note: at one point, someone’s cell phone started ringing. Instead of carrying on and trying to ignore it, the actors started rifling through their pockets, as if to check and see if it wasn’t one of theirs that had gone off. Result: not only have they now officially brought forward the very plural nature of their position on stage – existing, as they do, in between our present and the fiction in the process of being constructed, one foot in each but never completely one nor the other – , they have also enveloped us as audience in it. Yes, the relationship remains essentially frontal between ‘us’ in the house and ‘them’ on stage, but our worlds converged in that moment. That’s one of the things I mean when I reference the possibility for intimacy in this space.]

 

“Indeed the whole thing basically played with a certain kind of plurality that is very specific to the world of theatre – that makes theatre what it is. Actors are on stage in the process of becoming their characters (Madame Bovary et al are called up and (re)created in the course of the trial), but at no point is there any attempt at temporal ‘vraisemblance’ or cohesion. That is to say, there is a constant back and forth between the narrative in the novel, and the trial itself. The actress who played Madame Bovary, for instance, at times would directly call out Flaubert for what he wrote about her, for how he – her ‘creator’ – crafted her story. And then Flaubert, who was denied the right to speak during his own trial, could only ‘speak’ through his novel, itself the product of his ‘act’ of writing. And of course, throughout all this, they are very aware that there is an audience in front of them, watching.”

 

Audience awareness took on another meaning on Friday night with Wajdi Mouawad’s newest creation, Notre Innocence at La Colline.

 

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This was the night I also found out I could sprint from my apartment to the theatre in under 7 minutes

 

The premise here: a group of about 20 actors – all between the ages of 20 and 30, so…millenials – gather together the morning following the suicide (through jumping out of a window) of one of their classmates at their acting conservatory. Questions abound: what was her motivation? Did anyone know she was thinking about this? Did anyone provoke her? What was to be done about her 9 year old daughter? Etc. Tensions are high. The group begins to tear at the seams, ripping apart over accusations not just of who – if anyone – could be held responsible, but over everyone’s individual attitudes, and how the girl, Victoire, should be mourned (or maybe she was too flawed to be mourned right away and thus had to be torn up again, verbally, first…grief does interesting things to people).

 

This, however, wasn’t the most interesting part of the show. No, the most interesting came at the very beginning when all the actors were on stage speaking in unison for about a half hour. Imagine 20 voices chanting at you in perfect synchronization, the closest thing to a classical chorus I have seen in recent memory. And just like a chorus, they are a reflection of the polis, or at least a part of it. Namely, people my age…those of us who sometimes think we are a new lost generation thanks to the actions of the generations before us. We, as the chorus chanted, have to deal with the possibility of never being extraordinary, the impossibility of reaching mythological, legendary status, of becoming something beyond ourselves. We were robbed of that, in a way.

 

And this bit might make more sense in the French context because while in the States, whenever the question of millenials gets brought up, it’s almost always done in comparison/contrast with the Baby Boomer Generation – the generation that made the mess we have to deal with. The generation that left their mark so brutally in both extraordinarily good and extraordinarily bad ways that to surmount it is unthinkable. And yet, we are often asked why we cannot be like them, why we cannot reproduce the same gestures they did, knowing full well that the world can no longer sustain those gestures. That we need something different.

 

In France, the generation that was taken to task that night was that of May 1968. The former revolutionaries…actors of a movement that some say succeeded in some ways, but that many also say ultimately failed, becoming a shadow, a myth of what it really was. Imagine being in this room, this room filled not just with other 20/30-somethings, but with those who were definitely part of that movement 50 years ago and hearing this wall of words, of criticisms come at you. Talk of the ‘revolution’ is sick if you use it to refuse to acknowledge the complete bullshit engrained in the whole act of reminiscing over how ‘wonderful’ and promising everything was then, how wonderful you all are in your political acts compared with this new generation who is seemingly so ‘unaware’ about everything. This generation is not unaware. This generation has been betrayed. The wall of twenty voices pushed outwards into the house, and for a moment, in sensing the energy around me as the barrage of insults (that were quite frankly, not that far off) kept coming, I thought that, should this keep going, and going further, it might end up inciting something.

 

It didn’t though, and then after a bit, the narrative described above took over. To be honest, as much as I found moments of the main narrative interesting, I feel as thought the thing could’ve just stopped right after the insults were done and just left us with that. That’s it. No lesson to ponder, no possible solutions to put forth. No moral to think on. I mean, the play itself closes with Victoire’s daughter, Alabama – who may or may not actually be real, and instead be a sort of allegorical stand-in for all children, that is, the future generation waiting in the wings to see what ours is doing – claiming her ascendance to the rise of ‘mythical’ figure, reminding the group of friends around her that she and those of her generation were watching them, that we have, in a way a responsibility to them.

 

And I really wish this bit was ironic – hell, maybe it was and I just missed the point – because for one thing, if anyone wants to talk about theatre and ascendance to figuration, Genet has probably some of the best examples of this, and another, why does this moralizing need to happen when the whole first third of the piece (rightly) called out the very dangers of this sort of intergenerational relationship and behavior?

 

 

So anyway, yeah I guess you could say I liked the first half better than the second.

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The Hurricane at Lulu White

 

Sometimes I feel as though I get into these sort of slumps where writing feels more like a chore than something I actually really look forward to doing. Maybe that explains why I felt like I had to drag myself to update this thing today. Granted, I did come off just finishing a preliminary bibliography – including small (and large…very large) paragraphs to accompany each text I read – so the thought of typing out anything didn’t exactly seem very appealing. Thankfully, weekends exist to help with the whole recuperating process.

 

 

I’m one of those grad students who basically treats what I’m doing as my job and, as such, I hold weekends – particularly Friday nights and Saturdays – pretty sacred, as in, I’m not going to touch anything related with my work unless I absolutely have to. Experience (and let me just take a minute here to process the fact that I’m currently in my sixth, yes sixth, year of graduate school right now) has sort of taught me that the best ideas come after I shove everything to the side for a minute and think on other things. Or  simply just try and be in the world instead of thinking about it from an ‘outside’/theoretical perspective.

 

Friday night thus found me back at Lulu White’s where I discovered that they occasionally play live music. It’s kind of surprising to think that they can pull this off to be honest, given how small the space is, but let’s be honest, if your Friday night doesn’t occasionally involve you cozying up to a three-piece jazz combo (as well as one or two small clusters of individuals who, immediately after admitting they aren’t experts on jazz, try to offer their opinions on what is happening to everyone else within earshot while taking on an insipid air of ‘expertise’…) are you really living?

 

Honestly though, the music was a really nice addition to the night. Coincidently, so was the hurricane cocktail that I ordered. Nice and rather potent.

 

 

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CalArts comes to Paris

 

Saturday was a bit more chill compared to Friday, in part because a good chunk of my afternoon was spent at the theatre (my one exception to the no work on weekends ‘rule’ – going to see a show…because it’s fun). This was my second time at the Théâtre des Abbesses, and I think I can honestly say that I’m not incredibly keen on seeing a show in this space again, unless I happen to be sitting in the orchestra. I was talking this over with my companion for the afternoon, and we both agreed that we were right to take the opportunity to move to the orchestra from our original seats in the mezzanine, mostly because even before anything started, the distance between our section and the stage coupled with the fact that the proscenium arch – and thus the stage itself – is not particularly tall, made it feel as though we were too far removed from it all. Honestly, I think the space would be better served with keeping things relatively intimate, but then again, theatres – even ones supported by the State – need to survive somehow. Capitalism…

 

Moving on to the show itself, the reason why I wanted to try and squeeze this one in to my rather full March schedule is mostly because it is a partial retelling of the Orestia, and I’m due to attend a conference around notions of power and theatrical representations/retellings of the Agamemnon myth throughout history. The fact that the show is not only a coproduction between CalArts and La Comédie de Saint-Étienne – and cross-cultural theatrical collaborations interest me – but also is a production of a text written by a female playwright of color (Alesha Harris) kind of gave me the last convincing push I needed to buy my ticket.

 

At its core, the play tackles the question of what makes us a society through the examination of two different families: the Halburtons, a political family lead by a matriarch with ‘lofty’ aspirations (and I mean this literally because her dream, as she lays out in her opening speech, is to build a great tower that will house all of society), and  the family of Agamemnon (here portrayed as a military general recently returned from war), his wife Clytemnestra and their son Orestes, a very shy, awkward fifteen year-old. There’s no direct mention of any of Agamemnon’s daughters (Iphigenia and Electra), though at one point Clytemnestra does evoke a female baby that she remembers holding in her arms before it disappeared (could we say a reference to Iphigenia perhaps…?). The play opens, however, not with a presentation of the two families, but with one of the actresses from the ‘chorus’ delivering a soliloquy on memory, the dead, and the evocation of ghosts.

 

I’m going to be upfront and say I was *slightly* disappointed in this production, but only because my expectations were so high after this first monologue. As the play was performed entirely in English – though the actors were a mix of French and American performers – the expectation was that there would be a screen of some sort set up for the surtitles in French. Imagine my very pleasant surprise when, instead of just a rectangular screen with ordered lines of text, the words were projected directly onto the curtain behind the actress, sometimes with print so large that the projection crossed over onto her body. These were not static words, they were rhythmic, lively playful words, words that appeared and disappeared in a rhythm evoking the spoken-word pace of the text being voiced. Call it an addition of vocality onto an otherwise silent form, or a way to  create an active form of reading text. I almost expected this to be brought back again, but unfortunately, instead of being a sort of throughline – and I should be specific here, I mean this in the case of both the alternative surtitles and the spoken-word style of the text itself – all this  manner of approaching speech and translation was reserved just for this opening prologue, though the themes of ghosts and reviving the dead came back again briefly. Instead, the overall structure returned to a slightly more traditional approach with regards to the surtitles, clean orderly lines replacing active and bordering on musical playfulness.

 

I will say though that the set design was probably my favorite overall element of the show. Created in a way so as to both keep a trace of a fourth wall – one thing that stood out to me as I was reading the dossier pédagogique  before going in to see the show was set designer Carlo Maghirang’s comments that he wanted the space to evoke that of a prison, with the cells stacked atop one another – as well as imagine the existence of possibilities beyond said fourth wall, the action was confined to two floors of the aforementioned tower, each one representing an apartment of one of the families. Verticality, I find, is something that is often not quite taken advantage of as much as it could be, and it was interesting watching the constant up and down shift of focus from one apartment to the next, making moments in which someone did actually cross the stage horizontally that much more impactful.

 

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Sun’s back…time for ice cream

 

The rest of Saturday consisted of a long walk home – the weather had finally taken a turn for the better so there was no way that was not happening – followed by a dinner featuring very smelly cheese (aka the best kind of cheese). I had originally intended to stay in on Sunday and spend the day tackling one or two chores that needed doing, but then the morning of, a friend put out the call to grab a coffee and given how nice it was out (sun! Finally!), I really could not resist.

 

And so I spent the day in the great sunny, yet still a tad crisp, outdoors walking. Oh, and eating the above ice cream cone.

 

 

Have I mentioned I’m really ready for spring and summer to get here? Because I am.

163 – 164

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“Les vrais dadas sont contre DADA”

 

I’ve got a pretty loaded program this month in terms of shows I’m seeing, including several for the seminar I’m taking. What this has meant is that I’ve had to make some interesting choices in terms of scheduling when I’m seeing everything, and today was no exception.

 

 

I went to a matinee. On a Wednesday.

 

 

 

For those unfamiliar, French elementary school children don’t have class on Wednesdays, spending the day either at home with a parent/caretaker, or in a school-sponsored daycare program. If it’s the latter, often whoever’s in charge of the program will organize outings for the children, including to cultural centers such as museums and – oh yes – the theatre.

 

Let’s take a minute to guess at the average age of 3/4 of the audience members. If you answered 6, you are correct.

 

Here’s the thing though, even though the energy in the room was a lot more – exuberant – than what one normally encounters at the theatre, I didn’t actually mind it. Yeah, even when the kids were shouting at the stage, which they did…very often. This was a DADAist show after all, and if there is anything suited perfectly for kids, it’s this. Of course this has a lot to do with the fact that DADAism can trace some of its origins back to a sort of ‘rediscovery’ of childlike forms of play and a completely wonderful disregard for established order and logic, but what I found absolutely delightful this afternoon was the fact that without using any forms of speech but relying solely on gesture and spatial dynamics, the performers were able to engage the kids right away and keep them interested and curious as to what was happening for the next hour.

 

What really worked to the production’s advantage was keeping the house lights on for the first third of the show. Honestly, I almost wish they had kept them on for the entire show, as once the house lights went down, there was an almost default back to a purely frontal relationship, a distancing of the audience from what was happening on stage whereas before, we were invited in.

 

And it’s a shame that this distancing happened because, from what I could sense (and hear), the kids wanted to keep being ‘invited in’. And they didn’t give in to the new spatial order easily, exclaiming, shouting, launching short comments on what was happening as it was happening. There is no hard and fast rule, other than social norms and a general sense that one must conform to them, that says one must always remain completely silent during a show. Hell, for most of its history, the experience of going to the theatre included the expectation of a sort of vocal back-and-forth between the audience and what was going on onstage. Thankfully, these kids were still at that age where you really don’t care what other people think of them so the disruption ran wild (and was actually rather fun – and encouraging – to hear).

 

 

155 – 162

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I like to push my limits sometimes

 

I learned a new thing about myself this week. Despite my eternal and unwavering love of all things spicy, I may have finally met my match: spice level 4 at Trois Fois Plus de Piment.

 

(For reference, the spice level goes up to 5. I’m just going to go on the record now and say that I probably won’t be attempting that any time soon…at least not yet.)

 

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This is the face of someone who is both very determined and somewhat apprehensive.

 

I figured since I had, on several occasions, devoured bowls at level 3 with little difficulty, a 4 would present a welcome, but doable, challenge. Let’s just say that although I was able to – very slowly – finish my noodles and pork, the rest of the broth remained untouched (a shame really, because even though the burning sensation lingered for what seemed like forever after each bite, the broth was just too flavorful to not keep eating. There’s a word for this kind of behavior: masochism).

 

Honestly, I have no shame in saying that maybe I found my limit. On the contrary, if anything it almost makes me more determined to surpass it. Mostly, I find it hilarious that this new discovery happened in Paris of all places, considering how spice-averse many people still think the city is.

 

You know what else helped my coming down from what I can only describe as spice nirvana? This:

 

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Other great discovery of the week: Glaces Bachir is literally a minute away.

 

Other than the fact that Paris felt more like the upper ends of Siberia this week – what with winter making a last-minute appearance to remind us that no, spring wasn’t here quite yet – , not too much to report in terms of significant events. The week was mostly spent shuttling my sister + her boyfriend around to various (mostly food-related) places, though I did extract myself from the grading and whatnot I left for the last minute (yay!) to join them on a visit to the Pompidou.

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The temptation to jump into this was
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An ostrich on wheels…literal nightmare fodder…

 

I also finally consumed something at La Fontaine de Belleville that wasn’t coffee or a sablé…

 

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Carrot soup is always a good idea.

 

I even stole a couple of bites of my sister’s (very delicious) croque-monsieur, so at least now I can say that lunch here is definitely a good idea (for those who may have been curious).

 

And as with most visits, when it all came to an end on Saturday, looking back on the week that was felt like staring a whirlwind in the face. But that’s just what happens when you change up an otherwise regular routine.

 

Speaking of which, class was back in session today. Going to have to get used to running at high energy on little sleep again. Oh and finish drafting up my first version of a bibliography for my prospectus tomorrow.

 

Bring it on, March. Bring. It. On.

 

148 – 154

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Well…it’s certainly been a while

 

I forget sometimes how tricky it is to blog when one has visitors over. Suddenly going from routine, and at times dull activity to a flurry of things makes it difficult to keep up with what happened when. In lieu of trying to revisit every detail, I’ll just go through some of the highlights (also known as: things I actually took photos of).

 

Tuesday

 

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  • I want to start off with this bit, not just because it came first chronologically, but also because I really feel as though I need to mark this rather monumentous occasion in which I actually convinced my sister – who neither speaks nor understands a word of French – to come see a show with me. Granted, I actually had a copy of this play (Martin Crimp’s The Treatment, for those wondering) in English from when I worked on Crimp in a class for my Master 2 at Paris IV a few years ago that I gave her to read beforehand, but there is definitely a difference between reading a text and having to sit through hearing it being performed to you in a language you don’t understand.

 

  • The title of the play is used primarily in reference to what, in the film industry, would be the name for the outline of a screenplay, but certain other connotations – notably, ‘treatment’ as in a means to curing an ailment as well as ‘treatment’ as in how one behaves towards another – are evoked as well. The narrative revolves around a woman, Anne, who at the play’s opening is seen telling her story to two New York film producers. Said producers – a married couple – are rather fixated on a portion of Anne’s story in which she recounts how, occasionally, her husband would tie her to a chair, tape her mouth shut and just speak to her. They ask Anne if she struggles, if he beats her, berates her, touches or assaults her during these episodes. She answers no. It quickly becomes clear, however, that the producers are not very satisfied with this “No”, and here marks the moment in which Anne’s story starts to become no longer entirely ‘hers’, where Anne’s person is no longer ‘hers’, where it is in the process of ‘becoming-creation’ or ‘becoming-character’, ready to be re-embodied – and I mean this in the almost vampyristic sense that Method actors use to talk about their process of transforming into a role. Deprived of her story in the sense that she no longer has exclusive autonomous control over its presentation or interpretation, Anne is slowly reduced to object – a means through which the producers could reach their final product: a successful cinematic experience.

 

  • Given how central the art of filmmaking is to the arc of this play, it’s not that surprising that the staging and technical elements – especially in terms of the ever-present use of projections, with title cards, and even scrolling credits at the end – borrowed very heavily from cinematic tropes/language. Beyond that though, the play itself seemed very…traditional, I guess. Frontal, of course. Moments of stage violence were performed using gestures/choreography that would be very familiar to actors or even anyone who has ever sat in on a stage combat class (there was, for instance, a slap that was telegraphed to the point where I had to wonder if eliminating the illusion of it by making the choreography big enough to notice that it was, indeed, choreography, was not a deliberate choice). Really, to be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure what more I have to say about this. It was…fine…I suppose, but I feel as though I’ve seen enough examples (notably Dans la peau de Don Quichotte) of theatre that used video projection/cinematic elements in ways that allowed the two forms to engage or dialogue with one another rather than just having the latter be…there. Ah well. At least we had excellent tacos at El Nopal before the show (mmmmm).

 

Wednesday

 

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Don’t let the bright colors fool you…it was freeeeeeeezing outside

 

  • Back to the BNF for another day of reading before I start to put together something resembling a lit review for my eventual prospectus. Honestly, given what a long mess my notes doc is starting to look like, I’m pretty amazed at how much reading I’ve been able to get done/how easy it’s been to fall back into old research habits (namely: if the thing doesn’t seem like it’s going to work, put it down, and shove it to the side. No use in trying to force anything).

 

  • Another cold front has hit Paris this week (and will continue into next…yay), but that didn’t stop my sister and me (and what looked like literally everyone else in the city…seriously, what in the world were all those people doing there) from heading over to the Grande Mosquée de Paris for some tea and pastries. Ideally, the time to come here would be when the weather is a bit nicer so that one could actually sit and enjoy the garden, but…eh, beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, no one should really complain when the (really excellent) mint tea costs only 2eur (the pastries are 2eur each as well).

 

Thursday

 

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Happy hour…round 1

 

  • If you guessed today started out with yet another trip to the BNF, you’d be absolutely correct. See, even with people visiting my life is sometimes annoyingly predictable.

 

  • The evening though did end up being pretty epic, what with meeting up with a friend for Happy Hour at l’Ours Bar (hello 6eur cocktails), then a quick stop at Urfa Durum for Kurdish pitas (holy shit the lamb one was so gooooooood) before going to some other bar for dancing (the name of the place still escapes me. I blame the pita…yeah that was it). Really though, any night that ends with a ride back on not one but two night buses is one that definitely deserves to be marked as a good one.

 

Friday

  • Saw Black Panther (yay!), then went back to Mamma Primi for dinner (another buratta pillow…double yay!). Otherwise kept things relatively low-key.

 

Saturday

 

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Dim sum…also round 1

 

  • This may (or may not, for those who know me really well) come as a surprise to you, but when my sister finally confirmed the dates of her visit, one of the first things I thought was ‘Yes, finally I have an excuse to go get dim sum.’ Not that one needs an excuse per-say, but it’s definitely more fun when there are multiple people involved. The same friend who we met up with on Thursday also tagged along, and together the three of us trekked allllllll the way down to the 13th arrondissement to the institution that is Tricotin. I first came here about five years ago with an acquaintance who I had met up with to watch the Chinese New Year’s Day parade near Hôtel de Ville. It was freezing (like today), snowing (unlike today), and both of us really craved a big bowl of noodles in scorching hot broth. She suggested Tricotin, and I followed. When I arrived and saw that not only did they have a large selection of soups but dim sum as well, I was sold. It helps that it all tasted really good too.

 

  • I won’t lie though, I was a bit worried about going back there today, as it had been a couple years since I had last eaten there, and the restaurant had undergone a renovation project in that time. Needless to say, my fears were promptly assuaged as the three of us quickly polished off: bbq pork spare ribs, pork and shrimp dumplings, bbq pork buns, beef in a rice noodle crêpe, those same five-spice and pork fried dumplings that my friend and I had gotten at Le Pacifique a few weeks ago (though the ones here were slightly less successful) and sticky rice and chicken steamed in a lotus leaf. Someday, I’ll try and get a more substantial group together to see if we could order the whole menu of dim sum offerings at once, but for now, I’m content with working through the thing slowly. Given that we each only paid around 10eur for the meal, I don’t think my wallet will complain too much (and honestly, knowing how much the ‘trendier’ dim sum places around here charge, there’s really no other reason to be going anywhere else).

 

Sunday

 

  • Today marked the arrival of my sister’s boyfriend from Chicago, and so began another day of walking. Or semi-day, rather. The plan was to start near the Eiffel Tower (hence the photo at the top of the post) and then make our way back towards Hôtel de Ville while walking along the river, but as they seemed keen on visiting the Musée de l’Armée (and as I had no interest in spending money on a ticket), the walk was cut a bit short on my end. Ah well, not too much to complain about. The annoyingly biting cold has made the whole idea of walking rather unappealing to me lately. Spring seriously cannot come soon enough…

 

 

 

141 – 147

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Shepard Fairey wall at L’Aérosol

 

I’m going to call these next two weeks “The weeks of catching up on as much sleep as I can, although this could be determined by the loudness of the hammering next door”.

 

Anyway

 

 

Overall, other than a rather…strange…incident on Monday in which I walked into my premiere (junior) class only to be greeted with a broken-English version of ‘Happy Birthday’ (no idea where they got this idea, or why…also, my birthday’s in November), the beginning of the week was relatively quiet. This may, however, have something to do with the fact that I purposely planned a very low-key week for my students, what with the holidays coming up.

 

Moving on to Thursday:

 

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Back at Cité U once again…

 

  • I never saw a show at the Cité U theatre when I was a resident there, though this would be very much in keeping with this strange thing I do of not frequenting places that are insanely close to where I live. Maybe it’s my affinity for walks, but I always preferred venturing out a bit to a destination. But I digress…

 

  • In keeping with the whole ‘international’ vibe of the place, this particular play was produced by the New York City-based Nature Theatre of Oaklahoma, an independent company primarily focused on producing experimental work. (Though…is it really still that experimental if everything is kept frontal? Then again, this is a touring production, and budgets and constraints have to be respected). The basic premise – at least in the first thirty minutes – was an incredibly stylized scene set in a saloon, employing many of the codes and mannerisms associated with Hollywood’s vision of the Old West. Characters would stare one another – and at times, the audience – down, burst into violent fights seemingly at random, spit tobacco into a spittoon, all while musing over the nature of happiness, and the conditions that may have to be in place to attain it.

 

  • I’ll be honest, I was a bit skeptical about this show during the opening act, mostly because, given how stylized it was, things moved very slowly, deliberately, and my energy level was not at a point where keeping up for two more hours would be a real possibility. Then the rest of the show happened.

 

  • At around the 30-minute walk, the actor playing the bartender, who, up until that point had remained silent, called his brawling customers to attention and pulled out a screenplay he had been working on. This, he said, was his masterpiece, and he would very much like to get some feedback on it. The next hour and twenty minutes (oh yes) essentially consisted of him monologuing, telling the story of a troupe of dancers (who ‘coincidentally’ shared the same names as the performers on stage…who were also collectively part of a dance troupe back in Ljubljana) who went off to Irak to settle the conflict between the insurgents and UN/US soldiers through dance and performance. Needless to say, it did not end well for them, but the level of absolute absurdity being displayed on stage made me almost forget how close to falling asleep I was during the first part of the show.

 

  • After the performance ended, there was a talkback with the directors and the cast organized by the professor of the seminar I am taking this term. A couple of take-aways from this: first, none of the actors performing that evening had actually ever spoken on stage prior to doing this show. They were all dancers, and thus more accustomed to using their bodies to communicate with their audiences. As the directors specified, though, part of what they seek to do with their theatre is find moments of tension and discontinuity (the deeply existential text coupled with the Old West aesthetic and gestures in the first part of the performance is a reflection of this as well), so for them it was a deliberate choice to take this element of performance entirely unfamiliar with their actors and make them not only confront it but work to become more comfortable with it.

 

  • Second, and also related to the notion of speech and performance, none of these actors were native English speakers (I picked up on this almost immediately when they started speaking – the show was entirely in English, by the way – but on the metro ride back afterwards, some of my fellow classmates pointed out that it took them a bit to pick up on that. Accents, markers of foreign/otherness, are funny that way). When asked about the experience of premiering the show in New York, one of the performers mentioned she felt a bit strange at first doing so because – to an American audience – these people on stage were not only co-opting – or ‘stealing’, as she said later – their language, they were playing with it, breaking it down, bending its codes. Quite frankly, given the current sociopolitical climate in the United States, a play performed in English by non-English speakers could not be more perfect or timely.

 

Friday was rather quiet – a much-needed moment of decompressing before the holidays really set in.

 

Saturday

  • The photo at the top of this post is taken from the museum portion of L’Aérosol, a repurposed space in the upper part of the 18th now dedicated not only to the preservation (or rather ‘museumification’) of notable street art/artists, but also to the ever-constant creation of new works on the outside of the building. I had been wanting to check this place out for a while, and was finally able to coordinate a time with a friend of mine to do so.

 

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  • According to their website, once nicer/warmer weather finally sets in, the outdoor area around the building hosts food trucks, performances, workshops and more for the community and visitors. There’s a lot that can and should be said about the process of taking works/artists that were formerly subversive and, in a way, ‘legitimizing’ them by displaying their works in an organized fashion in an incredibly codified space (and thus layering on to said works the same codification that they were actively created in opposition to), but when the only other option is another abandoned building right next to the Peripherique, a museum and art space is not the worst of things that could happen, particularly when, other than the actual museum which costs 5 euros to visit, the space remains open and easily accessible.

 

  • Then it was off to le 104 for a quick coffee (as well as to watch a guy juggle clubs for a good 45 minutes) before walking down to République to meet some other friends for, yes, another coffee. I don’t think my caffeine intake has been that ridiculous in a while.

 

Sunday

 

  • This morning signaled the arrival of my sister from New Orleans, and the official start of my semi-vacation (punctuated of course by periodic moments of working because not only do I have some exams to grade, I’ve got a bibliography to organize)! We celebrated her arrival in style with brunch at Holybelly (thank goodness she arrived insanely early so we could get there before the crowds truly descended on the place).

 

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No lie, some of the best pancakes I’ve had in recent memory.

 

  • The rest of the day was mostly filled with walking around/attempting to stave off her jet-lag. As far as touristy things go, we did manage to fit in a stroll through Père Lachaise which was pretty nice, given the sunny (yet still cold) weather we’ve been having lately. Now, if only it were sunny and warm…

133 – 140

 

 

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Oh hi….

 

You know who’s really excited there’s only one more week before schools go on a two-week holiday? Me.

 

 

 

In the meantime, the week that was.

 

The theme overall for this week was snow, namely, the 8 or so inches we got on Tuesday. Last time I was here when there was snow that actually stuck around for a while was in winter of 2013, and although there wasn’t quite as much this time as there was then, what we did get made for some nice looking landscapes.

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Just a light dusting…

 

It also meant I got to revive my snowman-on-the-windowsill…thing…from earlier this year.

 

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Featuring black bean eyes and a carrot nose

 

 

Now to the usual breakdown:

 

Sunday

  • Ah the Super Bowl, an event I only half-watch anyway, and almost entirely forgot was happening until I was reminded of it. This year, instead of going to a small bar (likely all the way near Saint-Michel, aka, the other side of the city) to watch the broadcast (which started at 00h30, yeah that’s half past midnight), I had some company to watch it at home.

 

  • You know what’s a fun thing? First, realizing that yes, French people (like two of them) have actually gone to play in the NFL before, and second, the game is actually broadcast on French TV with French commentators. This does mean that you miss out on all the commercials, but being French TV, the broadcast actually doesn’t cut away to ads all that much. It actually makes the pacing of the whole thing a lot less frustrating. Imagine that.

 

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Instead of wings…chicken tenders

 

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I dreamt of this all week.

 

  • On the menu were orange chicken-inspired chicken tenders, carrot and celery sticks, and a skillet cookie for dessert (no ice cream though; forgot to buy it). Oh, and beer. Because America.

 

I passed out pretty much right after halftime, and good thing too because at least I got some amount of sleep before going in to teach on Monday. From the look of some of my terminale’s (senior’s) faces, however, I think some of them may have stayed up watching even past when I did.

 

Tuesday

 

  • You know the movie Quills? The one with Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade? Well, continuing in the tradition of adapting films for the stage, this was the latest in my long list of plays I’ve seen this year.

 

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Unrelated, but everyone should read at least a bit of Sade at least once in their lives if possible.

 

  • The best description I can come up with for this: 1980s new-Romantics, decadent, Robert Mapplethorpe, neon, tantalizing nightmare. Yeah. The stage of La Colline – normally very large and imposing – was shortened from above with an overhanging set of lights, giving the whole scene a rather squat, rectangular look. On the stage itself was a platform flanked by two large mirrored panels who, at their apex came together on a circular part of the platform that periodically rotated to signal a change in setting. Actually, the use of the mirrors – two-way mirrors, to be more precise – was perhaps the most intriguing part of the production aesthetic, as at times, the fact that the lighting could be used to illuminate (either partially or fully) a person or persons on the other side of the mirror made for some rather marked spatiotemporal traversals. Flashbacks, for instance, saw the image of an actor physically onstage reflected in the mirror, interacting with the physical body of another actor on the other side of that mirror, present but approaching the illusion of ‘image’ by virtue of the lighting design not completely highlighting certain facial/corporal features. Further, although this was another frontal show – to be expected from pieces that are designed to go on tour and thus be easily adaptable – the fact that the mirrors, when the two-way feature was not in use, reflected the audience back at ourselves created, in the first place, an illusion of theatre in the round. Secondly, given that the play takes place in a mental hospital, I could not help but liken the almost pit-like effect created on stage by the coupling of image of the audience with the actual layout of the room to that of a surgical theatre. Knowing how the play ends – that is, with the continued dismemberment of Sade’s body to deprive him from writing – I wonder if this was intentional.

 

Jumping ahead to Friday…

 

  • The big event this weekend was, without question, the wedding of a good friend and former Cité U housemate of mine to his girlfriend of five years (who he met when a bunch of us crashed her friend’s Halloween party…funny how life is sometimes). Friday saw the arrival of another of our Cité U comrades from Grenoble, and as she was staying with me, I decided to take the afternoon off to check out an expo with her.

 

  • The expo in question – dialoguing the works of Sophie Calle and Serena Carone – was held at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (or the Museum of Hunting and Nature), à museum I had been curious about for a while, but had yet to visit. The photo at the top of this post is from said museum, and hints at its rather extensive and…eclectic collection of taxidermied animals. Aside from a room on the ground floor dedicated exclusively to Calle and Carone’s works/pieces, the expo itself was interwoven amongst the permanent collection of the museum, making it something of a ‘hunt’ to walk through to try and find all the objects/texts, in other words, everything that did not necessarily belong, inserted among everything else.

 

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A literal interpretation of feeling trapped in a relationship…

 

  • Part autobiography, part fiction, the expo explored questions of life, death (which…makes perfect sense given the setting), and the relationship we have to ourselves, our bodies, and those closest to us. My absolute favorite part, however, came at the end when Calle posted a compilation of personal ads through the ages – written by men seeking women, or rather, hunting for them -, which were at once hilarious and unsurprising in terms of how much they reinforced the fact that although the modes of male objectification of the female body have changed through the ages, the basic structure of said objectification has not really gone anywhere (a woman ‘sans tache’ or unstained at the turn of the century became a woman with an ‘ample bosom’ in the 1980s). I will say though that the panel featuring statements culled from Tinder profiles that rounded out this section kept my friend and I laughing for quite a bit (photo below, but be warned…it’s in French).

 

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Should note how much proximity has risen to prominence in these sorts of interactions

 

  • Dinner that night was somewhat strategic: eat enough to feel pretty full to the extent that a small breakfast and perhaps a snack would tide us over until the feast that awaited us Saturday night. As such, we went out to Crêperie Josselin near Montparnasse (side note: yes, this is my favorite crêpe place in this city).

 

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There’s chèvre, spinach and cream stuffed in that buckwheat galette, and it’s beautiful

 

Saturday

  • After a quick breakfast of tartines with butter and jam, coffee, and a pear, it was off to Poissy (spare croissants in our bags for an afternoon snack) for part one of the wedding festivities. In France, weddings take on a decidedly civil affair, with the legal ceremony taking place in the town hall, presided over by the mayor (couples can then choose to hold an additional ceremony at a church if they wish). The majority of the talking is done by the mayor, as well as, at times, by another civil servant, who, among other things such as mentioning one or two points about the couple and their history, reads the portion of the French civil code relating to the statute of marriage. Thankfully, this means that the whole thing went by pretty quickly, and before we knew it, our friend – the second in our group – was a married man.

 

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After the ceremony…yes, we were freezing

 

  • Following the ceremony, we had some down time before we headed 40km out of Poissy to the reception venue, so we headed to a café to caffeinate ourselves up in preparation for the evening ahead. Then it was off to the Domaine des Clos Vallées for a night filled with food, wine and dancing. We got back into the city at around 4am. I promptly passed out upon reaching my bed. What a marvelous way to spend an evening reunited among old friends!

 

Sunday

  • And because I never take a break from anything, this afternoon saw a trip to the Théâtre du Rond Point to see Emma Danté’s Bestie di Scena (Bêtes de scène).
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A rarity these days: a show with a run-time shorter than 2 hours

 

  • You know how in the opening number of A Chorus Line, the actors end by forming a line downstage, holding their headshots over their faces, vulnerable under the lights in front of an unseen, but vocally present, director? Imagine that but the actors, as they come downstage, start to disrobe, ending up naked and attempting to cover themselves up against the stares of the audience. As the name suggests, this show has, at its center, the notion of actors as performers, as bodies that are both watching and, notably being watched, observed, judged in some cases based on their capacity to entertain and thus sometimes reduced to performing animals instead of being recognized for what they are – human beings with their own opinions, projects, agendas, insecurities. An actor, in sum, is never just a shell for a character to inhabit; an actor occupies that in between space of being in the process of both leaving and retaining themselves, being doubly-present. But, what if, for an hour, the actor fully descended into animality, into pure physicality, slowly leaving behind any corporal insecurity to stare down openly, frontally, those who watch them?

 

  • There were also times when, while watching this, I was reminded of my time doing Viewpoints workshops at Irvine (minus the whole being naked thing), what with the way the ensemble moved together through the space, the dynamics of their relationships to one another, and the fact that the show felt at once both choreographed and partially improvised. Ah to be back doing that again…

 

 

 

 

 

 

127 – 132

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Instagram @effie143

 

Another weekly breakdown. Let’s do this:

 

 

Monday

  • You know what’s fun? Showing up to yoga only to find everyone standing outside the studio looking confused. No, class was not cancelled. Train delays (caused, in part, because of the Seine overflowing into some of the lines) meant that the girl who was usually at the front desk was…not at the front desk. And our instructor did not have her keys. Normally this would not have been an issue for me, but I was counting on class ending relatively close to on time that evening, as I had to run to a show after and needed to figure out my dinner situation. Thankfully, one of the owners of the studio – who lives like two doors down – was just reaching home and came running down with the keys, cutting a potential 30 minute delay down to 15.

 

  • I decided to stick around anyway – even though I was going to be cutting it pretty close in terms of being able to eat something. We practiced head stands. I…almost got it this time haha.

 

  • Staying did, however, mean I had to book it over to the Théâtre de la Bastille afterwords, but at some point during my post-yoga sprint, I remembered that there was a small café/bar on the premises. This being France, I assumed – correctly, thank goodness – that they would be serving some sort of actual food there, and that it probably wouldn’t be too expensive. The (very generously-portioned) quiche and salad pictured below cost me 6 euros. Just going to add this to the list of reasons as to why allocating a good portion government funding to theatre/the arts is a good thing (along with ridiculously affordable ticket prices).

 

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  • The show I saw that evening – Quoi/Maintenant – was something of a social satire, and probably one of the only outright comedies I have seen since being here. Premise: rich, bourgeoise, liberalist/capitalist family hires a maid to look after their house/their 12 year-old son. The matriarch of this family also fancies herself an artist, and works as an assistant for some eccentric painter/sculptor who she also probably slept with at some point. In the end, the maid kills the family with the bouillabaisse.

 

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  • Oh and the son and painter are both played by the same actor – an older, bearded gentleman who, although he did not look like a 12 year-old, had the same boundless energy and mischievous playfulness of one.

 

  • And I think that was my biggest takeaway from this performance: how just plain fun it was. There were moments when it became evident that one of the actors fudged up a bit, but instead of trying to cover it up, they just rolled with it – one of the advantages of satire, you can actually get away with this sometimes if you’re already a pretty solid ensemble to begin with – drawing the audience in to their world as they did so. This isn’t groundbreaking theatre or anything. But sometimes it’s just good to have a bit of cheeky fun with it all.

 

Thursday (yeah, Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty quiet)

  • I have a feeling a new tradition may have started today: Thursday evening drinks with a new friend, who also happens to be a PhD. Tonight’s edition was held at Red House, and I can safely say that I and my _____ negronis really welcomed the moment of relaxation after another long week of teaching and BNF…ing.

 

Friday

  • Right, now to the photo at the top of this post. Back when I first moved back, I had taken my mom to grab food at this place called Pizzeria Popolare, one of several restaurants run by the Big Mamma group. Although our meal was very good, I still wasn’t convinced that I understood the hype around this and all the other ‘Mamma’ restaurants that justified nightly hours-long waits. Well, the meal I had this evening changed that. I understand the hype now.

 

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The hype is this burrata pillow.

 

  • The night before, I was invited by some friends to join them for dinner Friday night at Mamma Primi, located in the 17th arrondissement and, as the name suggests, heavily focused on primi piatti, aka pastas. As we were five – and this restaurant, like all their restaurants, does not take reservations – we made sure to show up early, like 45 minutes early, to get our places in line before the restaurant opened at 19h00. We were originally thinking of showing up at 18h30. Let me tell you, those 15 minutes made a huge difference.

 

  • I’m going to skip over the décor and whatnot, except to say that the whole place was very tastefully decorated with a keen eye for the fact that literally everyone would be taking multiple pictures of everything during their meal (and yeah, I’m including myself in this too….whatever). On to more important things, namely, the food. We started the meal off with cocktails – for me, a twist on a gin fizz with gin infused with eucalyptus that provided a nice counterbalance to the drop in temperature outside to make me wish it were summer again – as well as some parmesan and olives (top photo) and that bouncy, bulging burrata ball pictured just above. Then came the main courses – and wine, of course – and this is where I had my little ‘epiphany’. And it came in the form of pasta with braised rabbit.

 

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I can almost taste this again just from looking at it.

 

  • The minute I saw rabbit on the menu (which, being seasonal, changes relatively often), I knew I had to have it. I actually quite like rabbit – surprising, I know, given that I used to have a pet bunny -, but it’s not really something I usually make for myself at home, since my preferred way of eating it involves the kind of low and slow cooking that demands a few hours of one’s time. This one was served with fresh, homemade pasta with a sort of sweet/sour sauce. I’m not lying when I say I had to struggle a bit to keep from devouring this thing in one fell swoop. The rabbit was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the pasta perfectly al denté, the sauce layered with a depth and complexity of flavor that almost makes you want to run your finger along your empty plate to pick up any stray drops. Hell, this thing almost made me miss American-sized ridiculously gargantuan portions at Italian restaurants. I say almost because first, quality generally outweighs quantity in my book when it comes to food, and second, having correctly-portioned food meant that I was able to make it through all the courses feeling pleasantly satisfied but not overstuffed to the point of bursting.

 

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Splitting this tiramisu helped in the not-feeling-full factor.

 

  • We ended the evening with some cocktails and dancing at Lulu White, whose playlist was pretty on-point that night, what with all the 80s Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson (among others) they were playing. It helped also that we were incredibly lucky to snag a table, thus able to set our things off to the side while we danced off our dinner.

 

Saturday

 

  • So for the past couple of weeks, the people in the apartment next to mine have been embarking on a big renovation project. Given that I’m usually away teaching/at the library in the mornings, I haven’t been subject too much to the nonsense that comes along with these sort of things. Until today. That’s right everyone, 09h30 found me being woken up by a hammer banging something on the wall directly on the other side of my bedroom. Sigh.

 

  • As a way of consoling my annoyance, after doing my weekly market run, I ventured out to le Caféothèque (yeah, wanted to get pretty far from the noise…) to grade some exams over a hot chocolate, the universal cure-all. The night ended with some drinks at a bar near Ménilmontant, as well as the hope that Sunday morning would not result in another rude wake-up call.