Medea in Kolchis

April 27, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

Last Thursday I saw a production of Robert Duncan’s Medea in Kolchis as part of the Poetry Project’s Robert Duncan Symposium. I loved it. We had to RSVP to get the address–an empty where house space across the street from The Hideout. The room was empty, about 20 people came. Being a spring evening it was quite cold. We sat in an assortment of folding chairs in the center of the otherwise plain space. And then, the players came out–I made some video clips of the evening and you might get a sense for things.

You might ask what the play is about. The truth is, I’m not exactly sure. I don’t know that I was supposed to understand that, even. I think instead I was there to absorb an impression, to take on the intuitions of performance and language. I know it is about a king (Arthur, played by Sandra Lim) who is interested in fiction. He names his daughter (who I think is played by 2 women–Monica Fambrough & Sara Gothard, though only ever referred to as 1) Medea and is always waiting for a “Jason” to come and take her hand. Arthur has fabricated an object he calls the golden fleece. He is a poet at the end of his life. Central to the play is the wonderfully lascivious nursemaid, Garrow, (played by John Beer, who also directed the piece), she goes between all of the characters serving them in their needs as much as she functions as the meta-glue between the play’s movements; a regular discussion of her age and the romantic exploits of her youth make into a kind of time signature for the whole piece. Jason (played by Patrick Culliton) arrives with whom I think is his tutor, The Doctor (Travis Nichols) who seems to represent a hard-fast reason, arguing against the self-indulgent Arthur. Doctor point’s to the way in which Arthur manipulates the people around him in order to make poems out of them. Jason as though to comiserate says, (what made me laugh out loud) “I don’t think [Arthur] likes my poetry.” Meantime the doctor continues to woo (and fail) and old flame, Edna (Nicole Wilson) who has terrific intuitions and believes in mystical things–I felt like her character probably listened to some combination of Joanna Newsom and Animal Collective–wanted Romance, not love (an interesting and curious distinction). The performers read from their scripts and sometimes read from cards, reflecting Duncan’s discussion of self-awareness (i.e. the emperor as one who makes fiction into real life in order to mythologize his experience). As you’ll see from the following clip, Arthur does a good job of his stretching exercises, what all emperors should do when imparting truth onto youths.

One of my favorite moments was when all the performers read their different lines out loud, at once, different characters overlapping cacuaphony and intermittent silence. At any rate, Medea (only ever dressed in white night dresses–one of them victorian, the other a kind of sweatshirt/cotton–the ruffles on the victorian one created a kind of focal point for me, which I found interesting to think about, i.e. what does it mean if a woman’s nightdress is a focal point in a play, especially if the surrounding action is so much larger and maybe that’s what those victorian ruffles were always supposed to do), falls for Jason and wants to seduce/marry him, Garrow tells them that in order to do so Jason must kill the serpant, Jason wants the golden fleece and in order to get the golden fleece must kill the emperor (Arthur), except he can’t at the last minute and so Medea kills him (Arthur/her father) instead. In the end, the Doctor tries to get back with Edna who refuses because he does not believe and cannot relate to her terrific imagination.  It wouldn’t be fair to say that the Victorian nightdress was the only focal point. Garrow was another, perhaps more obvious, counterpoint–and perfectly suited, I think, as the cross-dressing old wo/man, kind of like a sexy Tieresias, who’s experience and exploits and dark dress contrast with Medea’s own Virgin Suicide innocence.

Can you believe that this all happened in a tiny, unknown, cold little room in the city? It’s amazing! I love these sorts of situations because they seem to bring work I would not otherwise see to life–this kind of project seems very like the apartment gallery project, where much work goes into it, and the payoff comes in the sense of community and creative expression that results in an instant, i.e. the instant that the public sees the performance, (or art). There is no measurable affect that endures beyond that moment…it’s brilliant, I think. And always makes me very happy.

posted by caroline picard

You can read the article in its entirety by going here.

Chicago, Ep. 5

DateThursday, December 31, 2009 at 11:00PM

The Literary Death Match return to The Hideout was an April Fool’s evening rife with surprise, as Caroline Picard of Green Lantern Gallery & Press outdueled The Encyclopedia Show’s Robbie Q. Telfer in the strangest, most un-finale finale ever (detailed below), to take home the Literary Death Match championship.

But before the finale April Fool’d anyone, the night began with Picard leading off against Opium9 250-Word Bookmark Contest finalist Kevin Leahy. Picard threw the first punch, moving through a tale that had the audience and judges gripped, before Leahy read a short piece about Pac-Man’s struggles as he turns 30.

The hosts — Opium’s Todd Zuniga & Comedy Central blogger Dennis Diclaudio — then handed the mic over to the judges — Zach Dodson (featherproof books), Trap Door Theatre’s Tiffany Joy Ross, and hilaritress Cameron Esposito — were then handed the mic, where they blurted affectionate critique, with Leahy’s workday shirt undoing his chances, and Picard was chosen as the night’s first finalist.

After a booze-fueld intermission and a commercial break hyping Opium Live’s iTunes channel, the second round led off with Telfer going up against Uncalled For’s Tim Jones-Yelvington. Telfer, a slam poet extraordinaire thrilled with three poems — the first: a man’s one-sided conversation in which he wanted his neighbor’s bear out of his yard. Then up stepped Jones-Yelvington, dressed for battle in a black, sequined shirt and sequins on his face, who’s pitch-perfectly-performed story featured the use of a real-life Taylor Lautner standee.

posted by caroline picard

This was originally published by Newcity. You can read the entire article by going here.

Lonesome Dove: Casiotoner Owen Ashworth sets his sights on children

By Caroline Picard

The Casiotone SK-1 is the instrument of choice for Owen Ashworth. It has been dubbed the “poor man’s sampler” and you can see old Ferris-Beuler-style commercials circa 1985 online. If anything, the ad is worth looking up because the thirty-two piano keys are so small. Popularized in the 1990s as an affordable (at the time, $100) household instrument for the family, the Casiotone is known for its lo-fi aesthetic—offering immediate entertainment in as much as one might record the squeal of a sneaker (among other things) and then play “Three Blind Mice” with said sound byte. Thus, using the SK-1 as a centerpiece for a band is pretty awesome.

Owen Ashworth has been making music under the moniker Casiotone For the Painfully Alone since 1997. During that time he has released an impressive collection of seven records, not the least of which are his latest two, a compilation “Advance Battery Base Life” and new full-length “Vs. Children.” Originally all of the music was produced on the small battery-powered keyboard. Upon discovering “the organ sound,” the built-in drum machine and an introductory piano class at San Francisco State University, Ashworth started writing songs. “I only played the songs for a few people, but one of my friends liked them enough to coax me into opening a show that she had booked for a few other local bands…the next thing I knew I had a band.”

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone plays May 28 at the Hideout.

THESE ARE POWERS @ the hideout

by Rachel Shine

Totally sexy. First impression: obnoxiouspretentious as they set up multineoncolored camoflage. But no – she (vocals + tamborine + hand cymbals + noisebeats) has a smooth, powerful voice (and a big, pretty mouth), he (drums + keys + backing powervocals + electronoise) is passion, electricity in keyboard, drum, pedal circle, he (bass guitar + backing vocals + claps + between song up-ups) shreds, stomps, shakes. she smiles, wicked outfit, bromance confessor. do. not. miss. these are powers.

posted and written by Caroline Picard



Plenty of you probably know this, but at the moment the literary world of Chicago is in marvelous tizzy about the American Writers & Writer’s Program Conference that is, as we speak, taking place at the Hilton on 720 s. Michigan. I’ve been there all day — it’s probably the best excuse I have for my recent delinquency at blog posts. Nevertheless, if you’ve any interest whatever, I suggest coming to check it out. On Saturday the book fair portion is open to the public and it’s astounding just how many indy presses are out there making good things happen.

Come and find us! We’re not on the map, but we’re at table 366 in what I believe is the Northwest corner (?) not sure about that though…I’m pretty sure but not totally sure.

I’ll try and post a couple of updates over the next couple of days with favorite conversations, but for the moment, I’m going to post what I plan to read at THE HIDEOUT tonight, as part of MAKE Magazine’s showcase reading/band/dance party extravaganza. That way, if you can’t make it, you can be there in spirit; or even, if you’d rather, you can read along with me, at 8:30 chicago time and it’ll be like you’re there too.

What I’ve chosen to read is an excerpt from a novella I’m working on; I’ve posted other excerpts in the past. The gist of the story is this: younger brother drops out of school in the early spring semester because he just lost his youngest brother and mother and father in a car accident. He leaves school to go to Philadelphia, where his older brother, Fletcher lives. This story takes place on the evening of his arrival. He has not had a chance to go back to his brother’s place yet, and so continues to cart all of his earthly belongings (what fit neatly in 2 duffel bags and a backpack) throughout the city, as he and his brother trot around to various bars with the hipster company his brother keeps. thus…that’s the premise. They have not yet spoken about the deaths in their family.

Tobias, the younger brother, is at the Trocadero, having just stumbled into their annual karaoke contest.


When Tobias finally makes it to the edge of the stage, to put his name on the list, it is two in the morning. The master of ceremonies tells him that they’re not taking any more singers, but Tobias, using whatever wit hasn’t already soured from liquor, promises that he has the best karaoke song that anyone has ever seen. “Way better than Whitney Housten, I swear.”
“Alright then,” dude says. “I’ll put you on last, but you may not be eligible for any prizes.
“That’s no problem. I really just do it for the art anyway.”
They smile at each other.
“So you’ll call my name?” Tobias asks.
“Totally. Just hang out around the stage and we’ll get you right on in about fifteen minutes or so. Say, are you old enough? How old are you?”
“Man, I’m getting old,” the dude says. “Kids are looking younger and younger every day.”
“I hear you,” Toby shakes his head. “I can’t get over the freshman in college!”

On stage at last, Tobias blinks in the lights. It is impossible to make out any distinct features and his heart is in his throat. He feels it beating there, feathery and wet. He feels very dry. This has happened before. When he used to sing in front of his family, he would get the same way, even when he was six. He will sweat like crazy after, probably for the next few hours, just a compulsive bleeding of water from his pores. For the next few minutes however, and with the exception of the back of his throat, he will only feel dry. He adjusts his grasp on the microphone.
And the music begins.
In theory, he doesn’t entirely trust his voice. But after the random interaction with the Master of Ceremonies, after the whole long day—rousing himself at five in the morning the sky still dark and heavy with the last of the night, picking his bags and getting to the train station, leaving college behind without so much as a farewell to anybody, he feels like he’s got to go balls out and sing the bejesus out of this stupid song. Don’t cry for me Argetina. He feels his arm, the one that isn’t holding the microphone moving. It rises out, as though to grasp at the audience. He imagines Madonna. He closes his fist on the people he imagines out there, and pulls them into his solar plexus. The truth is I never Left You. He waits. All through my wild day—he isn’t thinking of the words, but he’s comfortable as hell somehow. More comfortable than he’s been in ages, maybe since puberty, but he can’t help thinking it’s got something to do with the accident and not having parents anymore. He knows that everyone in the audience will like this song because it titillates their irony button, but he means it, and probably that’s why they’ll like it even more. My mad existence. I kept my promise? He’s raising himself up on the balls of his feet, he means to pirouette; he’s taking up the whole stage, feeling the extent and bounds of his whole bulky teenage body—what has been foreign to him for so many years now, it seems to be coming back together and he loves it and he loves the audience and he thinks maybe instead of getting married he’ll be an actor, go on star search and become a celebrity that they put on cigarette boxes. He does a John Travolta move, and then all at once surprises himself on his knees, Don’t keep your distance, not afraid of the possibility of his voice cracking, he’s sure it’ll be better if it does and when he does he knows it is better and he just goes all out, almost like he’s about to cry and loving every moment of mockery, making a mockery of himself in front of so many people in such a concentrated way, especially after he just made such a giant sad pathetic show of himself in front of everyone else he knows at school—leaving them. Leaving his professors who liked to tell him he had so much promise. He sings that promise here, because in front of a room of strangers he has nothing to answer to.
Philadelphia must indeed be a promised land, he thinks, a place where your brother can’t take care of you at all, because he doesn’t know how to make you a stupid meal and tuck you up in bed because he’s not your mom, it’s nevertheless a place where no one cares dick from Adam and he can carry all of his stupid bags around the whole stupid town and it still means something. He hopes Fletcher is crying. He hopes that he is devastating Fletcher with his over-the-top earnestness to such an extent that Fletcher is stealing away to the gross man-trough bathroom and crying his fucking dumb ass eyes out.
Tobias smiles, suddenly at home in the world.
And then the song is over.

He wins one of the prizes. Since he went last, after the  competition is called, they give him a booby prize. He gets two free tickets to a boxing match which one of the bartenders offers up—he is that good.

And then, outside, on the stoop with all of his dumb bags all over again, everyone else inside because they aren’t ready to leave yet, Tobias just starts to cry. Finally. And he can’t get up even though he feels stupid crying in the midst this city, and all its people—all its pretty people with funny clothes and fancy tattoos and stylish jokes—all of his fans, he can’t help but cry and when he finally does he can’t stop until Fletcher finally finds him in the eaves of a doorway to a store that’s closed for the night. And then Fletcher finally hugs him and tells him that it’s going to be alright. I promise, buddy, we’ll get through this.
Tobias almost believes him too, until he feels a strange pressure on his thigh and pulls away, disconcerted by his brother’s erection.
“What the fuck?”
“Oh.” Fletcher is drunk. He’s slobbering drunk, but he’s laughing. “I’m so sorry dude.” He shakes his head, he’s laughing so hard he’s crying himself. Fletcher looks at his pants. “It was a joke. It was a joke like ages ago. I took a Viagra on a dare. It’s got nothing to do with you.”