223 – 230

Memory is an odd thing, especially when it comes to theatre.

 

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately for several reasons, chief of which is the fact that, as it is the 50th anniversary – to the month – of May 1968, several events and expositions have been popping up around the city commemorating this very pivotal moment in Parisian/French history.

 

But what does commemoration serve when an event of this kind is concerned? An event rooted primarily in anti-establishment rhetoric, crying for change in the way things are done, cries that – yes – turned violent, but when is that not the case when the people dare to speak out and law enforcement answers with guns and batons (we can add tear gas to this now, useless canisters of tear gas flung into otherwise peaceful clusters of protesters who dare to sit down in the shade for a minute). I don’t think it would be too far-fetched to say that, ultimately, the wished-for upending of the status-quo was never truly realized. Not really. Instead what we get now is neat repackaging of slogans and posters at 5eu a pop, and perhaps a fleeting moment in front of an image of a student alone in a deserted street throwing a paving stone at a cloud of smoke and the mechanized enemy behind it, imagining that we too could imbibe some of his Force™, his Fervor™, his Revolutionary Spirit™.

 

Last Monday, May 8th, the Odéon theatre held a ‘restaging’ (link to an article, in French, for those who want to know more) of sorts of its occupation by students and artists in May of 1968. The idea was to re-evoke the spirit of the event – a giant happening of sorts – while paying tribute both to the event that was, and arts (especially theatre’s) central role in it. The audience gathered, pleasantly, tickets in hand, for what promised to be an otherwise non-eventful evening of nostalgia and ‘playing-at’ revolutionary occupation.

 

And then, when the spirit of 1968 came to them in a form of a group of current university students – many of whom are still on strike protesting against proposed reforms in university admissions, among other things – who attempted to pass the metal barriers surrounding the theatre in order to enter into the space, but ultimately resigned themselves to remaining outside (security guards were rather on point that night), the tone shifted. Several speakers and invitees began to question whether or not it was not a bit obscene to be celebrating this way when, in a weird twist of fate, 1968 came to find them again. Would it not be best to invite the students in, let the new generation speak on its desire, its attempts to create, as the event organizers evoked of the protesters of 1968, a new sort of utopia?

 

No. It would be too risky for the theatre, at least according to management.

 

I wanted to start off by evoking this event before getting into the show I saw this week at Nanterre. As part of their spring festival (this one titled Mondes Possibles, or Possible Worlds), the theatre programmed a reprisal/adaptation of a rather legendary 1968 production : Paradise Now, staged by the Living Theatre in Avignon, and rendered rather infamous at the time for the scandal it provoked.

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Rather than go into a plot breakdown – because really, there isn’t one – I’ll just briefly sum up the general gist of it as being a sort of giant happening. The idea is to eventually bring the audience in through several ritualistic, trance-like ‘movements’. Late-60s spiritualism (rife with cultural appropriation and all) is very much present here.

 

This production was originally programmed to be staged outdoors, but given the rather unpredictable weather (last weekends sunny skies quickly gave way to clouds and rain again this week), was instead staged inside the rest design shop. As we all filed in and took our places around a makeshift stage (a large, white, painted floor flanked at the back by a large black curtain acting as a sort of flimsy wall between this space and the space of the shop), the actors began to move about us, then began speaking, repeating phrases such as “I do not have the right to travel without a passport”, “I do not need money” and “I am forbidden from taking off my clothes”, first calmly, neutrally, then with increasing fervor and anger.

 

As you can probably imagine, eventually the point came when the actors stripped down to their underwear (or entirely), and it was at this point that the following phrase “Théâtre Libre! Faites ce que vous voulez!” (“A free theatre! Do whatever you want!”) was pronounced for the first of what turned out to be many times. Each time the phrase was chanted throughout the 1h50min production, the actors all stopped, looking around at us, as though waiting for someone to answer the call.

 

And though there was a part of me that did feel a bit of a tug to react, I also couldn’t help but wonder whether they actually meant what they were saying, in the literal sense (my friend that accompanied me confessed to feeling similarly). The idea behind the phrase was, of course, to divest oneself of cultural norms and obligations, to throw aside established order and convention in the embracing of spontaneity, of creation, of a return to something more utopian, more human. But was the intention behind the phrase really to spur this into action? If this was an actual happening, with no time limit to adhere to – and if it was not weighted down by the memory, history, the rhythms of what came before it – I would say that maybe, yes, yes it was. Give people enough time, and maybe the change will happen. But see, there was a wall clock directly across from me, a wall clock that I glanced at from time to time, and that served as a reminder of the fact that this little ‘revolution’ was only temporary.

 

So, what was this then? A return of sorts, yes, but, at least for me, a somewhat hollow one. 1968 repackaged again. Perhaps some of this had to do with the fact that I was familiar enough with the original production to know what ‘beats’ to look out for in this revival, and therefore couldn’t get into the spirit of things. I would contest though that the format of a 1960s ‘happening’ itself no longer corresponds to the way we interact anymore, how we form connections with one another. It’s not inconceivable to imagine a similar kind of event that corresponds better to life as we live it now in 2018, but this was not necessarily it.

 

And anyway, there was actually a moment where it could have been done, a definitive break with convention, a step towards the ‘revolution anarchiste’ the piece also called for. Upon the performance’s conclusion, we were all lead outside by the actors into the parking lot that is itself adjacent to a very large – and at the time rather empty – park. The spirit of the crowd and the actors had turned jovial again, everyone was dancing together, clapping and humming along to a rhythm that had been established an hour beforehand. If only, at that moment, instead of heading back inside and signaling that the time for theatre was over, they had all lead us into the park and let whatever wanted to happen, happen. But this time sincerely letting it.

 

To be clear, I am very glad I attended this show. Honestly, even though I saw it on Friday, I’m still trying to think it over in my head a bit (which is to say…apologies in advance for the rambling haha).

Anyway, other than that, the week was rather quiet, with the exception of an unexpected but very pleasant reunion with a former supervisor of mine from the theatre camp I used to work at over drinks on Thursday, pie-baking on Saturday, and generally doing a lot of nothing, something I haven’t done in a rather long time.

 

 

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213 – 222

 

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Iced coffee season is back…finally!

 

 

So I guess I needed a week to process seeing Hamilton before writing about it.

 

Let me get right to it though: I loved this show. Hands down, definitely deserves all the hype that is still surrounding it. Really, I can’t think of what else to say about this that hasn’t already been repeated ad infinitum, other than, yes, it was definitely worth avoiding listening to the cast recording so that I could experience everything fresh in real time.

 

 

And yes, I want to recommend everyone who hasn’t yet had the chance to see it to grab a ticket, but this show is still incredibly prohibitively expensive. Welcome to one of the (many) problems I have with the musical theatre industry in the United States. The other major one of course being the fact that one gets the impression – especially when one doesn’t live in a major theatre city like New York (hell, especially New York) – that musical theatre is theatre in the US. That is, that to be a theatre-lover is necessarily to like and want to do that kind of theatre. Granted, when musical theatre is some of the only kind of theatre most people have access to – if they have access to any theatre at all -, it is easy to get the impression that that’s all there is. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people here where I’ve had to say that no, I have not heard of such-and-such underground company in New York. Why? Because I never lived in New York, nor do I go there often enough to be able to take the time to discover/stumble upon such-and-such group. Aside from visiting family back east, whereupon a visit to New York would almost always include a ticket to a matinee, my theatre exposure was, other than what we did in school, whatever came through the local community theatre stage. And nine times out of ten, that was musicals. Musicals, especially the old standbys, make money. And when you’re constantly teetering on the edge of the abyss in terms of funding, getting butts in seats is pretty essential to survival, so creativity and innovation kind of goes out the window. It also leads to the creation of a sort of gatekeeping culture, in which being a ‘theatre kid’ means having memorized the entire catalogue to every show ever, and being able to belt out the latest show tunes at the drop of a hat.

 

 

Honestly, there’s only so many times you can hear “La Vie Bohème” or “The Bitch of Living” before you want to tear your hair out. But maybe that’s because for a long time I felt out of place because I wanted to do something, to follow something other than all that.

 

 

As imperfect as the system is, I will say that a major advantage of the French system of funding and subsidizing the arts is that situations like those seen with Hamilton where an $800+ ticket became almost normal don’t happen. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had conversations with people here before about the effects of the incredible lack of State support for the arts in the United States, and even though Hamilton is something of an anomaly even by American standards, there is something rather disturbing about the fact that throwing down just over $100 to see a Broadway musical is almost expected.

 

Anyway.

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London scenes

Speaking of things being prohibitively expensive…I’m pretty proud of myself for how not expensive this little trip to London turned out to be. Staying in a hostel helped. Eating on the cheap was even better.

 

Not going to lie though, I think one of my favorite things was this tiropita + Greek coffee combo I had at Ergon with my cousin just after I arrived. There aren’t really any Greek cafés in Paris (pity…), and although there are numerous places where I could buy Greek products, sometimes I do wish there was a place where I could grab one of my preferred indulgent breakfast treats of tiropita + frappé. Of course, until I decide in a moment of pure impulse to drop everything and throw myself full-force into opening one, I’ll settle for this.

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This is my heaven.

Ok fine, the next morning, my friend, Caitlin, who came down from Sweden to join me in this little adventure, and I hit up another Greek café, although this time instead of another Greek pastry, we split a cinnamon roll.

 

Other food highlights include: dinner on the first night at Yalla Yalla, a Lebanese restaurant located down an alley in Soho that also provided a bit of entertainment in the form of a woman doing what looked like moving her furniture into her apartment via several back and forth trips on a pedicab.

 

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All the tapas…

 

An Ethiopian curry lunch at Borough Market the next day before the show, followed by some wonderfully spicy lamb vindaloo and an assortment of other curries later that night for dinner definitely helped fight off the (annoying but also kind of expected because…London) cold.

 

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Only 6 pounds too!

 

And of course, because it’s London, we had to stop at a pub for some fish and chips.

 

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Another wonderful thing about London, free museums. We took advantage of this on our last day there, first by checking out the Tate Modern.

 

 

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Then by heading over to the National Portrait Gallery, where I finally got to see a portrait I had been wanting to see for a long time.

 

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And also one that, let’s just be honest, I wasn’t quite expecting.

 

 

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Surpriiiiiiise

 

 

Some people might wonder if going from one major city to another really counts as a vacation, but honestly, considering I hadn’t been out of Paris since I went to California over the Christmas holidays, I was pretty much down for anything at this point. Besides, getting out of the city to go…anywhere…is a recharging act in and of itself. Hell, even the fact that my return train back to Paris was delayed by 90min (no, not because of the ongoing strikes; an electrical problem), meaning I had to sprint to make sure I caught the trains I needed, couldn’t put a damper on my little holiday.

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We’re cool

 

And then of course it was back to work. We’re in the home stretch at the high school now, which is fantastic on the one had because soon I’ll have even more time to get back to my own work, but chaos on the other hand because I did a silly thing and assigned mini writing assignments to all my classes to turn in after the break that I now have to grade…oops.

 

 

Tuesday the theatre workshop I’ve been involved in for the past month had our final presentation, but hopefully I’ll find a way to fill that little performance-void in my life again soon. It’s hard to stay away for long anyway.

 

 

 

A new art space opened up in Paris a few weeks ago, that I had been wanting to check out with another friend of mine, but our schedules kept getting crossed until finally we were able to head over on Friday night. The Atelier des Lumières is located in a former ironworks factory on rue St Maur in the 11th arrondissement. Its aim: render artistic works more immersive and accessible through the use of digital technology. While I can definitely get behind the immersive aspect, I’m not sure the 11,50eu price tag was really worth it, considering all the expo consisted of was a room that projected a (admittedly rather impressive) digital art expo on almost every exposed surface. Currently on view is an exhibit on Klimt, which, if you want to inaugurate an immersive art space, was a rather good choice in subject. We definitely enjoyed exploring the space as the different art works projected above, below, around, on and over us, but the lack of visible informational context to accompany the projections was a bit disappointing (the informational panels that were available for consultation, were a bit hidden in a random corner of the mezzanine area, and could have perhaps served better were they placed in the lobby before the exhibition entrance).

 

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After the expo finished, we ended up grabbing dinner at a small restaurant nearby, and chatted with the owner a bit about his new neighbor. Apparently, before its official opening, the Atelier (which is run by a private company, hence the ticket prices) invited local business owners and families for a visit. The restaurant owner and his wife attended along with their young daughter. While we all agreed that in general, the ticket prices left something to be desired, he did mention that his daughter was now pointing out all the posters advertising the gallery space and exclaiming excitedly that she recognized the Klimt painting depicted on them (“The Kiss”, for those wondering). So, if nothing else, at least it’s getting kids excited about something they might not have been exposed to otherwise.

 

 

Saturday was a bit quiet (and yes, this does count the little demonstration against the current occupant of the Élysée Palace), and today was rather on the relaxing side as well, starting with brunch at L’Heure Gourmande with Anne.

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Followed by a stroll up to La Fontaine de Belleville for an iced coffee to accompany my grading spree (which, yes, was actually incredibly productive).

 

 

197 – 212

 

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Spring!

 

 

 

 

The usual two+ week not writing gap continues, only this time I can definitely say it has more than a little to do with the fact that I’ve spent the last two weeks doing a whole lot of nothing (other than reading + workshop rehearsals + occasionally going outside…last week was insanely gorgeous). We’re coming up to the end of spring break here though, meaning that come Monday it’s back to teaching, only this time with heightened levels of senioritis to tackle from my Terminales (can’t say that I blame them though).

I will say though, being outside as much as I have, not just with all the walking I’m doing again, but simple things like reading my books in the park instead of at the library, has been positively magnificent for all the recharging I wanted to do.

 

 

 

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A café en terrasse at La Fontaine also helps…

For the most part, though, I think the word I’d use to really describe what the past couple weeks have been like is patience. To be more precise: relearning patience. I had spent the better part of a good number of days constantly refreshing my email, waiting for responses/feedback on the new version of my prospectus (yeah, I know, I’m a bit behind…technically…in getting this approved, but that’s what happens when your project gets a much-needed giant overhaul). Thankfully some incredibly constructive feedback came (and honestly, given how I wrote the thing when I was feeling pretty blocked and just sort of hammered things out, I’m surprised that there wasn’t more noticed paid as to how very obviously rushed it was haha), but there was a point where I just had to mentally take a step back and remind myself that I could (I should) just keep pushing on as though getting feedback was a non-issue. We can call this an attempt to regain control over how my life goes.

 

Thinking back, I’ve also realized I haven’t really been writing too much about my dissertation specifically, which is funny, considering that it’s such a big part of my life right now. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, other than going to see shows (more on a recent one I saw in a minute), the majority of the work takes place sitting in the reading room at the BNF. Not exactly the most exciting of times.

 

Really though, it also has to somewhat do with the fact that I’ve always felt a bit nervous about publicly sharing my intellectual/academic work. Call it another manifestation of imposter syndrome, but I’ve always been someone who likes to get this kind of work out little by little to people I trust to give me feedback instead of just shoving it out there like a baby bird out of a nest. This is also a bit funny to think about because when it comes to performing, I literally have no issues putting myself out there, or being vulnerable in front of an audience. Might have something to do with the sense of power that I have doing that. Or if not, then with the fact that oftentimes I still don’t trust words completely to get across what I’m thinking/feeling. I find abstract (or not so abstract) gesture to be more conducive to that, as far as my own means of expression are concerned.

 

 

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This has nothing to do with the above…just some chickens I met on the way to rehearsal a couple weeks ago

 

Anyway, on to the show I saw.

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Jusque dans vos bras is a satire on the notion of identity, and French identity in particular. Taking a humorous look back at the history of France and some of its major players, the play puts front and center a question that pretty much characterized the tone of the last presidential elections : what does it mean to be French?

 

As someone who is definitely not French, I will say it was interesting being in the audience as a sort of outsider, especially given the fact that a good portion of the beginning of the show involved a direct address wherein the audience was (unless I’m misremembering) addressed not only as being of French origin, but also of a certain socioeconomic demographic that is characterized by the fact that they all (myself included here) took the metro from Paris to get to the theatre that evening (the MC93 in Bobigny). Generally though, a good satire should be able to transcend these sociocultural/-ethnic bounds – and I will commend the piece for starting off almost immediately with a sketch that put front and center questions of Frenchness with regards to ethnicity, race, religious affiliation, etc. -, but I’m not entirely sure this one quite got there, given how specific some of its jokes and references were to a certain cultural understanding. Honestly though, I did feel pretty proud of myself for being able to pick up some of the more subtle digs at the current president.

 

A high point: during one of the sketches (there wasn’t really a through-line in this piece), the actors are wheeled out on a raft, which is then parked up center stage. A rope is thrown out. The actors are tired, weary. One of them stands and stretches out their hand asking for help being pulled to shore (downstage). This, of course, is an explicit reference to the current refugee crisis, but at the same time it also interrogated the relationship and ‘gap’ between the fiction being played out on stage and the audience. After the initial request was made, no one moved. The actor pleaded again for help, and then when no one in the audience still climbed up on stage to grab the rope, said actor, plus a few others, started making cheeky remarks about how heartless everyone was, and really they were sure that being in Bobigny (which is a historically left-leaning area) would mean that people would be scrambling to do something. It was at this point that the audience understood that yes, they were meant to take that step and cross the gap between themselves and the stage, inserting themselves into the fiction being played out before them. And yeah, this is going to be a bit silly, but almost immediately after people scrambled up to help – it never ceases to amaze me how eager people get to participate only the minute they are assured that it’s ok and no, they won’t be breaking any rules -, two other actors wearing silly shark costumes came up to attack. I died.

 

Oh and at one point there was also an inflatable dancing bull.

 

 

Low point: the blackface.

 

Oh yes. That happened.

 

 

« But, Effie, » you might be asking, « they painted their faces/hands red, not black, and besides isn’t there a completely different cultural context here that you have to take into account? »

 

No, there isn’t. I don’t care if the whole point of the sketch was for skewering white families for taking in immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa (a good chunk of which was, let us remember, colonized by France), and then making backhanded comments to try and demonstrate a level of cultural superiority, thereby in a sense reconstructing the colonizer/colonized dynamic. There are ways to do that without painting white actors’ faces. End of story.

 

I’m going to end this post with just a short note that on the evening of April 26, I officially added a new restaurant to my list of ones I readily recommend to people who come visit. Unlike the other restaurants on my list, however, this one happens to also be vegan. Given that I always like to be aware of friends’ diet concerns/preferences, I’m more than happy to say that Le Potager de Charlotte is a restaurant that anyone can enjoy!

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The only time I will eat a deviled egg…when it’s an avocado and there are no eggs involved.

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I’m off to London now to meet a friend for a last weekend of adventure (and rain), which also includes seeing a show I’ve been waiting to see for years. Three guesses as to which one…

 

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.

165 – 168

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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…