Tag Archives: jill alexander essbaum

The First Lull

21 Mar

It was inevitable. Writing work kicked up, I was asked to organize a poetry reading, and I missed a blog week. Sigh. I had such good intentions. Anyway, this is me checking in, rather informally, to give an update on my current projects and send out feelers, without a fully-fashioned post. I hope to be back next week with something more ambitious.

As I said, I spent a bunch of time last week organizing and publicizing a Poetry Reading/Open Mic I’m planning for South Shore Arts. It’s at the Crown Point Community Arts Center {Map} on March 25th, 6-9 pm. This event coincides with the final days of the (M)others exhibit, on display until March 26th. I’m still interested in hearing from poets who would like to be added to the reading list before the open mic sign-up starts. Everyone is invited. Everyone.

I’m also compiling an email mailing list for anyone who’d like to stay up to date on literary events in Northwest Indiana, so if that’s you, drop me a line.

Two other events occupied my attention last week. On Wednesday, I heard Jill Alexander Essbaum read her poetry at Valparaiso University’s Brauer Museum. She writes beautiful, lyrical poems with sometimes shocking, definitely evocative themes: sex, death and religion — often all at once. She’s warm, down-to-earth, funny, self-effacing and clearly proud of her work. If her name is new to you, I recommend her to your attention.

The other wonderful, wonderful, wonderful event I enjoyed last week was Thursday’s live broadcast of the National Theater’s production of Frankenstein.

Click Here for the Trailer

I’d read a few reviews, but I always take reviews with a mountain of salt. I rarely agree with them. (Brainy women like to make up their own minds.) None of the reviews prepared me for how much I’d love this show. It’s disturbing, harrowing, and uncomfortable. The murderous creature is the hero of this production, and we cannot help but sympathize with him even as he commits horrible crimes. (For perhaps the first time?) we hear his voice, experience his agony and loneliness, and feel his suffering. If we cannot excuse his actions, at least we understand he acts out of despair and rage.

This show could easily have been a ridiculous melodrama, and in the hands of lesser lead actors or a more timid director, it would have been. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller are amazing, though. I can’t overstate this. They make this production possible. Watching a man thrash about and screech for ten minutes should be mind-numbing, but instead it is engrossing. The newborn creature’s tension and discomfort enters your body and chest right in those first moments of the play, and there it stays for the next two hours.

Visually, the play is remarkable. The lighting is of course really, really cool, but I also loved the rotating stage floor, the brilliant colors, the use of scrims and the slanted floor of the Frankenstein mansion. I did have some reservations about the plotting which is odd at times, even while it makes narrative sense. (We just don’t get enough of Victor’s point of view to appreciate his struggles and motivations.) The dialogue is a bit heavy-handed in places, too, double-emphasizing the play’s themes verbally when subtlety would work better. Some of the supporting cast seemed a bit off as well. But overall Frankenstein rocked. The play is being re-broadcast soon (the dates vary,) with the lead actors switching roles. Find out when it plays near you on the National Theater Live US Venues site. If you get a chance to see it, absolutely do.

So, that’s it until next week when I write something pithy and deep. Possibly. Or maybe not.

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