Friday, March 30, 2007

Tell It Like It Is

Stephanie McKay was presented at Joe's Pub last weekend by Roberta Flack. She's hometown, from up in the Bronx, and she's telling it like it is. Download the title song here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Just Because

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rambling Man

Devon Allman brought some Southern Rock to Joe's late Saturday night. It was the Allman Brother's after party, so everyone was ready for a rowdy crowd. But, you know, the fans may have been lost in the memory of a two drummer jam and missed the stop. At any rate, those of us who were there--me, the waitresses, the lovely girlfriends of the band and the guy with the video camera--totally rocked out.

Purple Rain as Southern rock encore anthem; what'll they think of next, these kids and their rock and roll?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Slings and Arrows

So, the other day Henry asked me how it went after all was said and done.


I'd like to thank Jacqulyn Buglisi for letting me be a part of her season. A few years ago, Chris and Terese told me I should come in and draw her company, so I did and look what happened.

I could talk more about it, but it was theatre; you had to be there.

If you had been last Saturday, you'd have gotten to see me draw these in front of 500 people or so . . .

Of course, on opening night, it rather looked like this:

Everything's got a learning curve . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One Of These Things First

Dancers, when learning a new piece, speak about "getting it in their body." They mean that they're teaching themselves a sort of muscle memory. I've seen dancers who haven't danced a piece in years, walk into a studio and suddenly partner with someone as if they'd danced it yesterday because it's in their body. I guess it's like learning a song; once the melody and the words are there in your head, it could pop in at any time.

There were several new things about doing this work for me. I had to get the dance in my body--or at least in my hand--so I could draw it quickly. I had to reduce my daydream period, the part where I just stare at dancers and lose myself in the music and wait for the drawing to happen. I had to know this dance like I was dancing it.

I had to rehearse.

Whenever I doodle, when I let go of the need to create a nice finished drawing that I can sign and look at, I get a little crazy. Drawing is the one thing I know I can depend on--me and an empty piece of paper can make something happen. The only condition is that I can't have any expectations.

There's a paradox in this, of course. Usually, I'm pretty confident that the drawing will turn out alright; But, I also have to believe that it won't, and either way, it's going to surprise me. But the perfectionist in me expects results--a drawing that is good and that I can sign.

Well, I like doodling. I like letting loose and seeing what will happen. But I also like finishing things. I like the safety of accomplishing something concrete at the end of a day. There's a reason I draw in sketchbooks where I don't tear out the pages and I try to finish every drawing I start.

There's a reason I stopped pursuing being an actor and ended up doing this drawing thing instead.

I have control issues.

And rehearsal is a challenge for people with control issues. Just ask any single person in a rehearsal.

Martine asked me if I was going to plan the drawing or just let it happen every performance and I said I was going to spend weeks overthinking it, learning the dance and the themes inside and out, practicing it over and over and then letting it all go when it came time to perform and seeing what would happen.

But, that's not exactly the way it went . . .

Monday, March 19, 2007

See How They Fly

Before every performance I would practice my dancing walruses . . .

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy . . .

There's a review in the New York Times.

Now, here's the thing. This ain't video, people; it's a live event. The review says "a video served as set, depicting a hand drawing a picture by Michael Arthur." Now, leaving aside the fact that I am sitting in a place of prominence, between the audience and the stage, dressed in a tuxedo, with a large, brightly lit machine supporting my drawing pad under a camera, where did The Times imagine we found a hand that could draw a Michael Arthur drawing and not have it be actually connected to my arm?

But, I digress with a rant.

And I will continue.

I think it has something to do with how the eye is lulled by tradition, that it doesn't recognize NEW THING HAPPENING even when it's right in front of the nose. By this, I mean that, during this performance, I am sitting down near the musicians and--since I am wearing a tuxedo and this is a dance--I "read" as a conductor, despite the fact that there's projection equipment and I am not, in fact, conducting. Audiences are generally lazy, not because they aren't good people wanting a taste of something different--bless their hearts--but, because they so infrequently get a genuine taste of something different.

On the plus side, I am complaining (in strongly cliched language) about a review I received in the New York Times.

So . . . That's progress, right?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Can't Get There From Here

This is the very first drawing I ever did of a dancer:

And this is from this week's New Yorker:

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Night Before

We tech tonight. And tomorrow we open.

Here's the difference between tech rehearsals in the theatre and tech rehearsals in the dance world. In theatre, tech happens more than a day before you open and then you preview to work out the kinks; in dance, tech happens sometimes on the actual day you open. On Broadway, there is probably an hour to an hour and a half of tech for every minute of the play, minimum. On Broadway, they use infra-red cameras to choreograph scene changes in the dark. On Broadway they work it until they've got it right.

Broadway is for pussies.

First un-interrupted run with the costumes and lights and sound and everything? Probably tomorrow, with the gala audience.

I've watched dancers and been amazed by this a lot over the years. Sometimes it's like watching a scary movie and thinking, "Wow, no WAY I would do that."

I take it back.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Everybody's In Show-Biz

A lot of shows rehearse at the New 42nd. It's right there on 42nd between Broadway and 8th.

My favorite thing about the place--I mean other than the actual work--is the elevator ride. First you have to go by the desk/security guys, who--despite the fact that you pass them every day and say a polite "hello" or "jeez, it's cold out" or "I see you cut your hair"--always ask for your pass.

You know you're in show biz when you're working at the New 42nd.

Also, you ride up in the elevator with Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman on their way to Young Frankenstein. Or you go out into the hall and wait in line with Brian Dennehy and Christopher Plummer for the bathroom. Or you go visit Lindsey because she works there all the time.

My favorite In-Showbiz-The-Grass-Is-Always-Greener story happened about two years ago. I was working with The Martha Graham Company and we were rehearsing next door to Denzel Washington and company as they were getting ready to take Julius Caesar to Broadway. I used to start a drawing in the dance studio and then sit in the hall, working on it, wishing I could be in the studio with Denzel.

So, I'm sitting there and Caesar is on break and I'm drawing away furiously, hoping to be discovered (again) and the cast next door is milling about, looking in the windows at the Graham dancers and Denzel turns to that guy from the Shawshank Redemption and says, "Wow. Can you believe we're rehearsing next door to The Martha Graham Company?".

So, I get up, say "excuse me" and go back in . . .

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

After The Fire

From last night . . .

Tobias Froberg:


The Last Town Chorus:

Listen to their version of "Modern Love" over here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I'm on Fire

Joe's Pub caught on fire tonight, prompting a halt to the benefit for Waterwell Theatre Company, or, as the guy on stage called it, "intermission."

I gotta say, I felt something visceral watching the firefighters tear up the back seating area and listening to the water flowing; it felt like my home was being screwed with. The waitresses felt something as well, but, watching them watching the firefighters go at it, it mostly seemed like lust.

But, the show must go on and Joe's will be open for business tomorrow.

Monday, March 05, 2007

If You Don't Know Where You're Going, Any Road Will Take You There

During the day, I mostly sit in the studio, watching the piece come together, trying to learn the music and the movement as if I'm a dancer. Afterwards--between anxiety attacks--I sleep or find myself absent in conversations with people with whom I hate being absent in conversation.

Susan asked how it was going and I said, "I find myself acting like a drama queen." And she said, "what good is being a star if you can't be a drama queen?" And I told her, "but, I don't like drama queens." It's just that everything in my life at the moment is preparation for something I've never done and won't have done until after I've done it. My hand is twitching, my mind is racing, I am overthinking.

But, at night, I get to go over to the Pub and listen to music and fade into the woodwork, curl up with a clip-light and practice the quick sketch.

Then I go sleep some more.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Brokenhearted Smile

Elvis Perkins played Joe's Pub last night.

Chromewaves has a concise summary of his (rather gripping) story and links to other articles, along with some MP3's . . .

The set before was by Glen Phillips, who also played a beautiful set.