Festival of Poets Theater
Festival of Poets Theater
Between December 2nd and December 5th Green Lantern Press and Kenning Editions–with support from Poets and Writers–will present a Festival of Poets Theater. The festival features 3-4 events each evening beginning at 7pm and a symposium on Saturday afternoon beginning at 2:30pm. All events are free.
Poets theater is a genre of porous borders, one that emerges about the same time, and involving many of the same artists, as performance art, performance poetry (“spoken word”), conceptual and “intermedia” art. But poets have long been playwrights, either primarily (Sophocles, Shakespeare) or as a platform for postmodern literary experimentation (the operas and page plays of Gertrude Stein, for example). The Festival of Poets Theater will feature performances, screenings and readings over four nights, plus an afternoon of talks on the genre and salient examples of it. The festival is curated by Devin King and Patrick Durgin.
Partial Schedule / Order Subject to Change
Wednesday, December 2nd
7:00 pm Ordinary Isadora: Often called the mother of modern dance, Isadora Duncan is now mostly remembered for her unusual death, her scandalous life, and, perhaps, her outre costuming (Duncan dancers still wear tunics). But Duncan’s dance is built on ordinary movements: walking, skipping, running, as well as moments of interaction–touching, looking, pushing, reaching–between people, objects, and atmospheres within scenes. Her work also asks us to think about the ordinary in historical ways; to think, that is, more deeply about the historicity of bodies developed in Marcel Mauss’s notion of “body techniques.” This performance talk by Ingrid Becker and Hannah Brooks-Motl, currently studying Duncan dance (and in the PhD program in English at the University of Chicago) will address Duncan and ordinariness through both movement and discussion.
7:30 pm I Am American: I Speak English, by Josh Rios and Anthony Romero, explores the historical changes of status certain languages undergo in the US and the effects this shift has on subsequent generations. Translation, multilingualism, interpretation, and mediated events of language acquisition are the points from which the performance begins. Language exceeds mere communication; it is a symbol in itself; it is a place of respite, a method of resistance, and a marker of difference. Configured to challenge authenticity as rooted in a way of speaking while lamenting the systematic erasure of native tongues I Am American: I Speak English attempts to deal with the conditions under which ways of speaking become lost and then found?
8:15 pm Playing with cliched feminine personae, Eleanor Antin in The Adventures of a Nurse (1976) manipulates cut-out paper dolls to tell the story of innocent Nurse Eleanor who meets one gorgeous, intriguing, and available man after another. Nurse Eleanor is the fantasy creation of Antin, who is costumed as a nurse. Staged on a bedspread and acted by a cast of one, The Adventures of a Nurse moves through successive layers of irony to unravel a childlike, self-enclosed fantasy of a young woman’s life. (Description from Video Data Bank)
Thursday, December 3rd
7:00 pm Adaptation of Quraysh Ali Lansana’s book of poems, The Walmart Republic, directed by Emily Hooper Lansana.
7:30 pm El Gato Pussycat Proteja Your Gringo Cheese, a neo-benshi piece by Daniel Borzutzky, investigates manifestations of violence and cultural imperialism on the Southwestern border as depicted in early pop-culture images of Mexicans in and outside of the US.
8:00 pm Who Is React? is an early “Flarf” composition by K. Silem Mohammad, directed for the festival by Sharon Lanza. The Flarf e-mail list, populated by myself, Gary Sullivan, Nada Gordon, Drew Gardner, Sharon Mesmer, Jordan Davis, Katie Degentesh, Maria Damon, and others, was active during the aughts, when we would send poems to each other that we wrote by various methods, most conspicuously by collaging together scraps of language taken from Google search page results. As was typical of these early pieces, the googled language in “React” underwent minimal editing, and great care was taken not to take great care with arrangement, continuity, or coherence. It has been performed at the Small Press Traffic Poets’ Theater Jamboree in 2004 in San Francisco and the first Flarf Festival at the Medicine Show Theater in 2006 in New York City.
Friday, December 4th
7:00 pm Nero’s Ghosts is a combination of translations of Seneca by Kristina Chew and John Tipton. As a pre-eminent stoic philosopher focused on small acts of impoverished virtue who lived a life of opulence as an advisor to the hedonistic Nero, Seneca’s contradictions mark him as one of the great representatives of Roman life. While his philosophical influence can be tracked in Dante and Montaigne, amongst others, his work as a playwright looms large over Renaissance theater. Seneca’s plays—updates of Greek myths that are generally assumed to have been written to be recited amongst friends in a salon environment—are strange, tortured works of heavy violence and psychological turmoil. This performance takes as its beginning a scene between Nero and Seneca himself from Octavia—a play long attributed to Seneca but now known to be written by someone else—and moves to combine sections from a few of Seneca’s different works. Reminiscent of 1001 Nights—though trading a bedroom setting for a sterile office—this performance reflects upon how myth interprets and fulfills state sanctioned bodily harm.
7:45 pm In his directorial debut, poet/performer avery r. young explores light, sound and language in the late Amiri Baraka’s play, Home On the Range. Within an evening of watching television, a family is confronted by an intruder. In this interactive presentation, young will rely on both performer and audience in this inspection of stereotypes, imagery and sonic shifting. Co-presented by the Red Rover Series with performers: Dan Godston, Shadell Jameson, Jennifer Karmin, Kortney Morrow, Analeah Rosen, and Nate Russell.
8:30 pm The Arm Collector by TRAUMA DOG (Cassandra Troyan & Rachel Ellison) is a stage for uncovering the erotics of competitive objectification. We prepare for battle; on the pole, in the octagon, on the field, in the air, in the wilderness. Self-realization, attained by victory and satisfaction, is enacting on this terrain of desirous drama. 1: “It’s like anything else: I’ve done all of my life. I would never stop training no matter what.” 2: “The environment is perfect for celebrating. Plenty of room to sit and great view from all directions.” 1: “Put that together…it hits you a lot.” 2: “The dancers were high energy and very good at their routine.” 1: “You don’t want to hear the critics sometimes but still — I’m a sensitive guy and it still hits you, hits you and you are never good enough.” 2: “Doors open at 7 pm. Bring extra dollars for the men, they are very entertaining and real gentlemen. The drinks are great and the talent is so adorable.”
Saturday December 5th
2:30 pm Carla Harryman’s talk, Towards a Poets Theater, will approach Poets Theater from the perspective of a practitioner, focusing on full-length works since 2000 that explore polyvocality, bilingual translation, interdisciplinary collaboration, sound-text experiment, multi-authorship, site and physical context in the realization of non/narrative “poetic” plays. These works include “Performing Objects Stationed in the Sub World,” “Mirror Play,” “Sue,” and “Gardener of Stars, the Opera,” most of which are written as autonomous text that are radically open to interpretation by any given performing group. Harryman will also give a brief account of the “language-centered” Bay Area Poets Theater from the late 1970’s through mid 1980’s to establish a context for the development of later works, and to show the potential of a yet-to-be fully realized theater within and beyond her own practice.
3:15 pm Heidi R. Bean’s talk: Capturing the Scene of Amiri Baraka’s Home on the Range: In 1968 Amiri Baraka’s play Home on the Range seemed destined for an auspicious career. Despite being a strange little one-act in which the white characters speak in what one prominent critic deemed “unintelligible gibberish,” it toured nationally, played before an audience of 2600 as part of a high-profile Black Panther benefit that was widely covered by the media, and was published in the celebrated 1968 Black Theatre issue of The Drama Review. And yet the play soon fell into obscurity, with no productions on record after 1970 and no reprint for thirty years. So what happened? More than most plays, this talk argues, Home on the Range enjoyed a moment precisely because it captured a scene. It was both product and victim of its own competing interests—a clash of pro-textual avant-garde poetics, anti-textual performativity associated with American theater of the 1960s, Black Nationalist ideology, and the emerging sense of cultural performativity Baraka championed, all coming together at a particularly activist moment in African American cultural history.
3:45 John Beer’s talk: “Just People”: The Actor in Poets’ Theatre: David Buuck, in his “Some Remarks on Poets Theater,” characterizes the form as “Anti illusionism…”Actors” are not their roles but just people (or, if you can’t get any people, poets.)” Buuck’s remark (which seems accurate as a characterization of at least one major strand of poets’ theater) recalls the longstanding avant-garde goal of abolishing the boundary between life and art. It also seems an instance, or perhaps better an effect, of what Martin Puchner has characterized as “the constitutive anti-theatrical dynamic within modernism.” What’s at stake in the effacement of the actor in this theater? How might that shape the relation of poets’ theater to other forms of theatrical experimentation? I’ll think through these questions with reference to texts and performances of texts by Gertrude Stein, Ntozake Shange, Rodrigo Toscano, and Richard Maxwell.
6:30 pm Interference is a remote controlled performance piece by Patrick Durgin taking cues from Scott Burton’s infamous “Behavior Tableaux.” See if you can find it.
7:00 pm In The Gunfight, by Brent Cunningham, a war of weapons between The Kid and Tex turns into a war of words, then into a war of words about words, then–almost thankfully–back into a war of weapons. The Gunfight was originally performed as part of Poets Theater at Small Press Traffic in 2007 with Dan Fisher as The Kid, Lauren Shufran as Tex, and Brandon Brown as the Sheriff. Since then it has been performed at the Yockadot Poetics Theater Festival (2007) and at The Rogue Theater in Tucson, Arizona as part of the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s Poetry Off the Page Event (2012).
7:30 pm Figures of Speech and Figures of Thought (re-visited): Encounters from David Antin’s 80 Langdon Street talk re-performed // David Antin’s aborted talk piece “Figures of Speech and Figures of Thought” was originally presented in May 1978 as part of the “Talk” series poet Bob Perelman ran at the San Francisco art space 80 Langdon Street. Approximating the spatial and temporal conditions of the original event, Ira S. Murfin, together with the audience, re-performs transcribed audio recordings of those moments when the talk was diverted from its intended format by audience intervention. In general, Antin’s talk poems begin as extemporaneous lectures before live audiences that are then recorded, transcribed, edited and published as poetry. In this case, key members of the audience at 80 Langdon, including poet Ron Silliman, Perelman, and Antin’s wife, the artist Eleanor Antin, intervened in Antin’s talk to debate the limits of the performance as an artwork, who controls when, or if, the talk would become a poem, and what it would ultimately include. Though the talk piece itself was never published, accounts of the incident have appeared from Antin, Perelman, and the artist Ellen Zweig, who was in the audience. Murfin resumes the interrupted process of entextualization and uses that material to re-inhabit the parts of the performance when its monologic status was dialogically called into question. Using simple tools and a shared occasion, Murfin facilitates a re-performance that gives Antin’s self-reflexive unpublished talk a new temporal, voiced, and embodied life in the present and off the page.
8:30 pm The Birth of the Poet, directed by Richard Foreman, is a production of a play written by downtown legend Kathy Acker, with music by Peter Gordon and sets by David Salle. Part of 1985’s Next Wave Festival, The Birth of the Poet was reviled at its premiere: the audience (those who hadn’t already walked out) barraged the actors with boos, and the next day’s reviews unanimously echoed the audience’s rage. The Birth of the Poet is still considered one of the most panned shows of the Next Wave. (From BAM blog)
Eleanor Antin works in photography, video, film, installation, drawing, performance, and writing. Many one-woman exhibitions include the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum and a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art which traveled to St. Louis and toured the UK. As both a performing and exhibiting artist she has appeared in venues around the world including the Venice Biennale, the Sydney Biennale and Opera House and Documenta 12. She has written, directed and produced many videotapes and films, among them the cult feature, “The Man Without a World”, 1991, (Berlin Film Fest., U.S.A. Film Fest., Ghent Film Fest., London Jewish Film Fest, etc.) She is represented by the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York. Her work is represented in many major public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, the Beaubourg, the Verbund Collection, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, etc. She has written 5 books, BEING ANTINOVA (Astro Artz), ELEANORA ANTINOVA PLAYS (Sun & Moon), 100 BOOTS (Running Press), “MAN WITHOUT A WORLD: a Screenplay” (Green Integer, Sun&Moon Press) and most recently “CONVERSATIONS WITH STALIN” (Green Integer). She has just completed a new book “An Artist’s Life by Eleanora Antinova” (to be published by Hirmerverlag, Munich) along with a re-publication of “Being Antinova”. Major monographs on her work include The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “ELEANOR ANTIN” and “HISTORICAL TAKES” (Prestel) and “MULTIPLE OCCUPANCY: ELEANOR ANTIN’S SELVES” (Columbia University, N.Y.) She received many awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 from the Women’s Caucus of the College Art Association, 2 Best Show AICA Awards (International Assoc. of Art Critics), a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture Media Achievement Award and an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is an emeritus Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California at San Diego.
Heidi R. Bean is Assistant Professor of English (specializing in modern and contemporary drama) at Bridgewater State University. She is co-editor, with Mike Chasar, of Poetry after Cultural Studies (University of Iowa Press, 2011) and co-editor, with Laura Hinton, of a special issue of Postmodern Culture devoted to the topic of poets theater since the 1960s. She has published articles, reviews, and interviews at the intersection of poetry and theater in a number of journals, and her account of Bunny Lang’s work with the Poets’ Theatre in the 1950s is forthcoming in Beat Drama: Playwrights and Performances of the “Howl” Generation, edited by Deborah Geis (Methuen). She is currently at work on a critical history of American poets theater since WWII.
Ingrid Becker is a graduate student thinking about 20th century American literature and culture at the University of Chicago. Over the last year, she has been rediscovering the relationships between brain and body, sound and gesture, individual and environment through the Duncan Dance tradition.
Daniel Borzutzky is the author of In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (2015), The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011), The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2007) and Arbitrary Tale (2005) His work has been anthologized in, among others, A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years, Seriously Funny, and Malditos Latinos Malditos Sudacas: Poesia Iberoamericana Made in USA. He has also translated books of poetry from Spanish. He lives in Chicago.
Hannah Brooks-Motl is the author of the poetry collections The New Years (Rescue Press, 2014) and the forthcoming M (The Song Cave, 2015). She has been studying Duncan Dance in Chicago since October 2014, and has recently started to explore the potential of movement and performance in her own critical and creative practice.
Brent Cunningham is a writer, publisher and visual artist living in Oakland, California. He has published two books of poetry, Bird & Forest (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2005) and Journey to the Sun (Atelos, 2012). He currently works as the Operations Director at Small Press Distribution in Berkeley. Along with Kevin Killian, Camille Roy, and Elizabeth Treadwell he was one of the founders of the Poets Theater festival at Small Press Traffic in San Francisco, which has been running annually since 2001. He and Neil Alger are the co-founders of Hooke Press, a chapbook press dedicated to publishing short runs of poetry, criticism, theory, writing and ephemera. For longer than any writer should ever, ever admit, he has been working on a novel.
Patrick Durgin is the author of PQRS (2013), The Route (2008, with Jen Hofer), Color Music (2002), and Imitation Poems (2006). His artist books are Singles (2014) and Daughter (2013). He edited the selected works of Hannah Weiner as Hannah Weiner’s Open House and is currently writing a book about Weiner’s life and career, entitled Useful Information. He teaches in three departments of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Rachel Ellison is an artist, writer, and sculptor of experiences based in Chicago. Rachel creates performance-events called Rehearsals for Ways of Being using strategies to rethink, recontextualize, and reperform scenes of everyday life. The performances pull from an evolving register of forms to highlight the significance of gesture, politics of the personal, and fantasy in relation to a multiplicity of subjectivities. They often bring people together in unusual ways to engage, speak, watch, think, and feel. She received her MFA in Visual Arts from the University of Chicago where she met collaborator Cassandra Troyan, the other half of Trauma Dog (formerly known as JIMMYBROOKS). You can find Rachel at rachelellisonhappyforever.com and at @YesJewess.
Carla Harryman is an innovator in interdisciplinary performance, poetry, and prose. She has authored seventeen books including W— /M— (2013), Adorno’s Noise (2008), Memory Play (1994) Animal Instincts: Prose, Plays, Essays (1989) and the multi-authored work The Grand Piano, an Experiment in Autobiography: San Francisco, 1975-1980. Open Box (with Jon Raskin), a CD of music and text performances was released on the Tzadik label in 2012. Her Poets Theater, interdisciplinary, and bi-lingual performances have been presented nationally and internationally and have been featured at the Hölderlinturm, Université de Montréal, and the Wels Music Festival, Austria. Over the past ten years, her work has increasingly emphasized music-text collaboration and bilingual performance. Recent performances include the work-in-progress “Gardener of Stars, the Opera” presented with Jon Raskin at &NOW 2015 Festival at Cal Arts; “Open Box” and “Disk” presented at the San Francisco Outsound Music Festival (with Gino Robair and Jon Raskin, 2012), new work for speaking voices and instruments at The Center for New Music, San Francisco (2013), “Mirror Play” performed as a dialogue in Czech and English (Prague Micro-festival, 2011), and Occupying Theodore W. Adorno’s “Music and New Music,” a keynote lecture-performance (with pianist Magda Mayas) presented at dOCUMENTA 13 (2012). In addition to “Gardener of Stars, the Opera,” she is currently writing a new work for Poets Theater, “Two Hannahs,” that, focused in feminism, explores the concept of global culture shock. She serves on the faculty of Eastern Michigan University interdisciplinary creative writing program and on the summer faculty for the MFA program of the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College.
Devin King is the co-director of Sector 2337 and the poetry editor at Green Lantern Press. He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Quraysh Ali Lansana is author of eight poetry books, three textbooks, a children’s book, editor of eight anthologies, and coauthor of a book of pedagogy. He is a faculty member of the Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is also a former faculty member of the Drama Division of The Juilliard School. Lansana served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, where he was also Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing until 2014. Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (with Georgia A. Popoff) was published in March 2011 by Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee. His most recent books include The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop w/Kevin Coval and Nate Marshall (Haymarket Books, 2015) and The Walmart Republic w/ Christopher Stewart (Mongrel Empire Press, September 2014). Forthcoming titles include The Whiskey of Our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience and Change Agent (Haymarket Books, 2017) and Revise the Psalm: Poems Inspired by the work of Gwendolyn Brooks (Curbside Splendor, 2017).
K. Silem Mohammad is a professor in the Creative Writing BFA program at the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University. He is the author of several books of poetry, including Deer Head Nation (Tougher Disguises, 2003), Breathalyzer (Edge Books, 2008), and The Front (Roof Books, 2009). He also edits the poetry magazine Abraham Lincoln.
Ira S. Murfin is a writer, theatre artist and scholar completing a doctoral dissertation, Talk Performance: Artistic Discipline, Extemporaneous Speech, and Media in the Post-1960s American Avant-garde, in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre & Drama at Northwestern University. His artistic and academic work focuses on the relationship between talk, text, and the performance event. Criticism and scholarship has appeared in Theatre Topics, Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International, Review of Contemporary Fiction, and Chicago Arts Journal. Solo and collaborative performance work has been seen at MCA Chicago, Links Hall, Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, Sector 2337, and Chicago Cultural Center, among other venues. In addition, Ira makes work with two theatrical laboratories: The Laboratory for Enthusiastic Collaboration and the Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials. He is currently a Chicago Shakespeare Theatre PreAmble Lecturer, Performance Editor for the literary journal Requited, and the Graduate Assistant in Public Humanities with the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern.
Anthony Romero and Josh Rios, both originally from south Texas, now live and work in Chicago. Over the past several years they have been developing various performances, 2 and 3 dimensional works, curatorial projects, installations, writings, and screenings that deal with the key experiences of being Mexican-origin in the US. Broadly speaking, their projects center on contemporary Chicana/o aesthetics, elided histories, and the larger themes of US/Mexico relations. In November they will be artists in residence at Harold Washington College. Their collaborative performances and projects have been most recently featured at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Texas State University, Art in these Times, Sector 2337, and Andrea Meislin Gallery.
John Tipton’s translations include Sophocles’ Ajax and Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes. A new collection of poems, Paramnesia, is forthcoming from Flood Editions.
Cassandra Troyan is a writer, ex-artist, and pétroleuse whose writing, described by Blake Butler, “takes the Sade-ian end of the oversharing shtick, turning one’s own private human pain into a diorama reflecting the environments and brains that birthed it.” Their work demarcates spaces for experience through exploration of myths, normative (gender) roles, historical legacies, and cultural influence as a means to re-organizing agency in the disorganization of daily life. As a desirous voyeur wanting to reanimate the most gorgeous impulses in the unlikeliest of places, they are a trans-historical operator deriving pleasure and power from situations of submission, violence, labor, queer romance, sex work, horror, and capital. They are the author of THRONE OF BLOOD (Solar Luxuriance, 2013), BLACKEN ME BLACKEN ME, GROWLED (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2014), KILL MANUAL (Artifice Books, 2014) and the chapbook HATRED OF WOMEN (Solar Luxuriance, 2014). Forthcoming in 2016 is a chapbook from Kenning Editions’ Ordinance series, entitled “FREEDOM & PROSTITUTION.” They received their MFA in Visual Arts from the University of Chicago in 2012 and currently live in the bay. http://onemurderleadstoanother.com/
Multidisciplinary artist avery r. young is a 3Arts Award winning teaching-artist, composer and producer with work that spans the genres of music, performance, visual arts and literature. Examining and celebrating Black American history and culture, his work also focuses in the areas of social justice, equity, queer identity, misogyny and body consciousness. As a writer, this Cave Canem alum has work featured The Breakbeat Poets, Coon Bidness, to be left with the body and Make Magazine. He has also written curriculum and essay on arts education which appear in Teaching Artist Journal and A.I.M. Print. Dubbed “sunday mornin jook joint,” his performance and work in sound design merges spiritual and secular aesthetics with dramatic and comedic sensibilities. He has performed in the Hip Hop Theater Festival, Wordstock and Lollapalooza. Has recorded with house producers Anthony Nicholson, Charlie Dark and is featured on recordings such as, New World Reveal-A-Solution, Audio Truism, Catfish Haven’s Devastator and New Skool Poetiks. His new full-length release, booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid, features songs and other sound designed created during his artist residency with the University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life initiative. It was during w as as during a during this residency that he worked worked on sound design design and concrete poems called cullud sign(s). Through voice, sound, visual art and performance, young is constantly exploring the forms in which poetry can exist. His work moves through these genres seamlessly and presents a human with multiple identities. He currently is a coach for the youth Poetry Ensemble, Rebirth and working on his first full manuscript of poems.