Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Saturday, April 19, 2014


A Cup Of Joe At The Iffy Fish
Written by Scott Stephen Kegler
Directed by Scott J. Hoffman
Hole In the Wall Theatre
19 April - 10 May 2014

The Iffy Fish is a greasy spoon café out on the great highway.  It is populated by a strange group of characters: vampires, ghosts, zombies, federal agents and creatures from outer space.  “On my planet I’m considered the female of the species.”

The play takes place in a run down greasy spoon that brings to mind the 1912 David Belasco production, The Governor’s Lady, where he reproduced a Childes Restaurant kitchen in which actors actually cooked and prepared food during the play.
Theatre repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
The detail in the set is amazing and yet there are sections where there are black curtains the way one might find them on a multi-set TV production of the 1950s and 1960s.
I suspect this has to do with the Rod Serling like character who addresses the audience from time to time to introduce the play and other dramatic developments.

Director Scott J. Hoffman does an excellent job of blocking the actors, evoking the emotional moments, and redirecting the focus among a large group of performers.  He moves the audience and the actors from scene to scene in parallel worlds that seem to pierce each other at moments when characters can interact across time and space.
Between the excellent writing and directing we feel that there is an explanation for these bazaar goings on but we are not quite sure of what it is.

Kelley Mountzoures plays a touching and lovely Gretchen.  James, DeMarco lurches about as Maurice with a mix of danger and absurdity.  Michael Vernon Davis makes Rod an interlocutor who brings us back to the Golden Age of Television.  Elizabeth Bernard, who plays Darla, doesn’t have a lot of lines but we can’t take our eyes off her when she is on stage. Samantha Baker as Agent Scott has eyes that can cut through steel.  Heather Auden, Aunt Tee, plays a line, pauses, and then casts a glance that speaks volumes. Nathan St. Martin, Mike, can play it straight or make it funny, sometime both simultaneously.  Ryan Wantroba is a terrific physical actor.  Shane Kegler is threatening and powerful as Murphy.  Johnny Peifer, Agent Franklin, is a cross between a “man in black” and a monster from outer space. 

Near the end of the play the character Claude is mentioned by name by Murphy (Shane Kegler).  Claude is thrilled to be remembered and he says, “I knew he would remember me.  I’m part of the story, not just a gimmick.”
The kissing scenes at the finalé are spectacular and disturbing.
The whole production has a Grand Guignol quality that is over the top but still under control.
Scot Stephen Kegler has written a script that moves quickly, keeps us on the edge of our seats, and is often bazaar but never dull. 

This is a world premiere of a play that has legs and will, no doubt be seen again.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Donna Johnson: Writer fo Knoxville Metro Pulse

You should check out Donna Johnson who writes for Knoxville Metro Pulse.
Donna truly has her own voice.  I am amazed that there is a newspaper willing to carry such insightful and poignant writing.  Knoxville is lucky to have her.   And Metro Pulse will someday point with pride to a writer to whom they gave some ink before she became famous.

"Easter" is a time of forgiving and opening the gates of love.  I love it when Donna says, “It was a great deal of responsibility for a 9-year-old child, to keep all those people from dying and going to hell, but somebody had to do it.”  And I share her problem with fire and brimstone preachers who condemn so many people to hell.

Doobie Hunters” is gross and fascinating, sad and funny.   And the closing with the 3 of them in bed is really warm and nice.

Ghosts” holds my attention because I am not sure where it is going to go and what the writer thinks of her friend who sleeps in the cemetery, who loves her mother, and who can also get the voices in her head to stop if she bangs it really hard.  “Until we were nearly poisoned with candy from the Easter baskets.”  What a terrific writer.   

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Saturday, March 01, 2014

Books & Puppets at Co-Op Opening

The UConn Co-op Book Store, Le Petit Marche Café, and The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry are destined to be the cultural center of Downtown Storrs  They had their grand opening on Saturday 1 March 2014, at Storrs Center.  A little girl, about 5 years old and knee high to a grasshopper, was seen following her father from the café area into the book store.  She tugged at her father’s coast and said, “I didn’t know this library had food.”

The co-op had surprises for all of us. The puppet museum had colorful and historically important exhibits, the book store was chock full, not only with books but also with authors, and the food from Le Petit Marché was excellent. 

As well as exhibits, the Museum of Puppetry had two performances of Reverse Cascade by Anna Fitzgerald.
Among the many authors present were, novelist and editor of the writing program at the woman’s prison in Niantic, Wally Lamb; children’s author Pegi Deitz-Shea; children’s authors Wendell and Florence Minor; young adult author Barbara McClintock; fiction author David Johnson, prolific writer and inspiration of the Dead Poets Society, Sam Pickering, physicist Ron Mallett, and novelist Ellen Litman.  Music was provided by a piano Bass duo and a woman’s acapella group

Suzy Stubach and her staff at the bookstore put together a wonderful afternoon of puppetry, music, and literature.  Rumors of the death of the codex have been greatly exaggerated.  Books are thriving at the UConn Co-op.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Testimony: Connecticut General Assembly Appropriations Committee 2/24/14

File:Connecticut House of Representatives.jpg

Senator Bye, Representative Walker, and Members of the Appropriations Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and for the hard work you do in trying to keep Connecticut both financially solvent and a place where families can raise their children with hope for the future. My name is Edmond Chibeau and I teach writing in the Communication Department of Eastern Connecticut State University.  I am here to testify regarding Transform CSCU 2020.

On the Transform CSCU 2020 web page the vision statement states that:
“Connecticut will have a high-quality, accessible, and affordable post-secondary education that enables students to achieve their life and career goals and make Connecticut a place of engaged, globally competitive communities.”

The Board of Regents Goals call upon the schools of higher education to:
“Cultivate innovation and economic growth.”

I commend you on your work and I embrace the vision and goals of the Board of Regents.  But the devil is in the details.

If we are to have a higher education system that supports the people of Connecticut the system must be funded and that system must have the autonomy to create programs that respond to the needs of the people.

I have been working with a group of dedicated scholars to develop a major in New Information Technologies at Eastern.

I am impressed with the dedication of my colleagues and with their knowledge of how new digital technologies can be taught and what the trajectory of such a program might be. 

But we have neither the budget to hire professors nor the funds to continue their education at conferences.  It is difficult to keep up to date in the field.  It is a challenge to find funding to go to seminars because only a small number of our requests for travel are funded.  Going to a conference is often only possible if the professor is going to spend his or her own money to get there.  This does not appear to be the case at the University of Connecticut.

Because the faculty has autonomy we are able to develop a cross-departmental major in new electronic technologies.

We are trying to give the students of the Connecticut State College and University System an education that is in step with the world of the 21st century.

To do that we need enough professors to inspire the student population, and those professors must be familiar enough with their field to keep their students apprised of current trends in business, employment and research.

I am not too many years from retirement; the funding I am asking for is not something I will be able to use, but is for the intellectual improvement of the faculty that will come after me, and the students they will teach.  And finally, if we believe that education enriches the whole community, then the strengthening of the CSCU system will make Connecticut “a place of engaged, globally competitive communities” where families wish to live, contribute, and raise their children. 

Where I teach, in the CSCU system, we call that, “Civitas.”

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Amiri Baraka dead at 79

Amiri Baraka 2007 NYT

I recently saw Dutchman by LeRoi Jones, Directed by Jamie Taylor with Nicole Conlon-McCombe as Lula, and Aaron Andrade as Clay at the 62nd annual convention of the New England Theatre Conference.  
I remembered reading the play when it came out and being amazed.  In high school I had already read The Baptism and The ToiletThe Toilet takes place in a bathroom in a High School.  The scene is very much like the scene in the real bathroom at DeWitt Clinton High School where I was co-editor-in-chief of “The Magpie” literary magazine.  Our advisor was Mrs. Whalen.  She had been the advisor when James Baldwin and Richard Avedon were co-editors of “The Magpie”
Amiri Baraka and I have read at several events, including one at the home of Bob Holman, lots of great people that night including Pedro Pietri.  
The man had fire in his belly and in his words. I don’t always agree with everything Baraka says, especially the World Trade Center poem, “Somebody Blew Up America,” but he was a great writer and a great performer.  Years ago Kenneth Rexroth claimed that Baraka had betrayed his great talent and lost his poetry to become a gadfly and race provocateur.  Rexroth said, “His loss to literature is more serious than any literary casualty of the Second War.”
Amiri Baraka: 7 October 1934 - 9 January 2014.  Peace.

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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nelson Mandela fought for Justice

Nelson Mandela fought for us all and lived for us all.  On his first visit to the USA I followed him to City Hall Park  and then a day later 125th St.  Spike Lee was at both events as were Betty Shabazz Winnie Madikizela Mandela and a large number of others involved in the ongoing struggle for justice.  It was a glorious couple of days.  He live an important life.  And will be remembered. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Wave Rocks Jorgensen

Elvis Costello
Jorgensen Auditorium
21 November 2013
by Edmond Chibeau

 Of flailing arms and the bad man, he sings!  New Wave rocker, more than a decade deep in a New Century, makes the words sing.  He writes the history of desire with a poet’s soul, chooses just the right word, then crushes it between his teeth.

 Tone is not a simple matter of frequency.  Tone is that elusive vibe that keeps us listening even when we aren’t sure what we are listening to.
Elvis Costello sings the song he is singing, not the one we are listening to. 

The fingerprints on his reputation are all his own.

The music has a narrative and the words have melody.  He translates his synesthesia so that we can partake of that transformation with him.  He helps us taste the bitter sound of love gone cold.  Communicates in living color the aural disaster inside him and makes us feel it.  He says the theme for the evening is, “Love… betrayal, deceit and shame.”

 He’s a bad man with a bad attitude and he makes good performance.
They say all you need it three chords and an attitude.  He keeps the attitude but he doesn’t stop at three chords.

Two hours and fifteen minutes.  One performer. No intermission.The show started strong and got better and better.  His aim is true.

The stage set is spare.  There were always 5 guitars behind him on stage, but they were often switched out with the help of two roadie/stage managers. There was also an electric keyboard but that wasn’t used until the encores.  How many encores?  I lost count but at least half an hour’s worth.
 Six down-lights on the cyclorama, and two signs: an “On Air” sign mid-stage right, and a lighted arrow pointing to the wing mid-stage left. Two large video screens mounted to the left and right that were fed by three cameras.  Nothing special by way of sets and lights.  This show is one performer alone on stage, or it is nothing at all.  Elvis Costello played a wide range of songs and styles and kept us rocking throughout.

 If you want to know the name of the songs he sings, or the cords he uses, check his website.  It’s all there.  If you want to know how his music feels then you’ve got to press your chest against his sound, let it vibrate against your sternum.  He’s on tour, go listen.

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