Sunday, April 19, 2009

Every Little Step

Just watched Every Little Step at the Arclight, a documentary about dancers auditioning for a show about dancers auditioning for a show. I saw a community theater version of A Chorus Line with Catherine Ho in high school. I left the theater and ran to the Borders across the street hunting for the CD.

The most interesting thing about the film, I thought, was how it revealed the lineage of each character in the show as auditionees attempted to capture the essence of the roles. One thing I didn't know about A Chorus Line was that it began as a taped interview, Michael Bennett assembling a group of dancers one night to talk about their lives.

All great theatre is an experiment. A Chorus Line was based on the lives of real dancers, and in the original, those dancers played themselves. So what's interesting about the revival is how the auditionees are vying for roles that were originally created from and inhabited by other real dancers. Asian-American dancers auditioned for Baayork Lee--not just the original "Connie Wong," but the woman on whom "Connie Wong" is based. "Cassie" hopefuls danced to "The Music and the Mirror," a song tailored to Donna McKechnie's unusually large range.

What I liked about the film was its communion with the past, with the original actors and the actors who reprized their roles.

Cote Smith's "Hurt People"

Just finished reading the latest issue of One Story: "Hurt People," a debut story from Cote Smith.

The story is amazing. Eerie, elegant, chilling, a tale of two brothers in a town "with more prisons than restaurants." Smith's interview on was very interesting as well. He talks about refining stories on the sentence level, going for the understated instead of the over-the-top. Here's a snippet from the interview:

"I had been writing stories that I didn't really like and I couldn't pinpoint why. Thinking about the stories, I liked the ideas, but I didn't like the actual story. I finally figured out it was the over-the-top, sentence-level writing that turned me off. How I figured this out was I read two short story collections, Twenty Grand by Rebecca Curtis, and The First Hurt, by Rachel Sherman. Those two books showed me how someone can write beautiful, engaging, and surprising stories using nicely measured sentences with basic syntax and structure. So I decided to write a story in which I just showed as much as possible, in simple, hopefully beautiful sentences. The first sentence I wrote was, 'The town had more prisons than restaurants.' The story took off from there."

I think that this "over-the-topness" is something that often happens in my writing. I'm going to check out the collections from Curtis and Sherman and want to experiment with a more measured approach in the new Spork project I'm working on.

Can't wait to read more from Cote Smith.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Staglevision: Birthday update

Dear friends,

Happy spring! I've got some exciting news to share with you:

FILM - "Street Kid Book Factory" Airing on Current TV
The short documentary I shot with Sarah Gilbert in Buenos Aires last year is finally playing on Current TV! Here's a synopsis and the link:

Eloisa Cartonera is an independent book publisher in Buenos Aires that sells recycled, handpainted books written by some of Latin America's most dynamic young writers. In this pod, VC2 producers Steven Tagle and Sarah Gilbert profile the publisher's founder and interview some of the young street kids who collect the cardboard and paint the books.

Watch "Street Kid Book Factory" and let me know what you think:

WRITING - Spork Piece in Progress
I've begun writing a piece for Spork, a literary magazine edited and constructed by Richard Siken and Drew Burk. Siken has been one of my favorite poets since I read his debut collection, Crush, in college. I emailed Spork asking how I could get involved, and Drew very generously, very quirkily invited me to write a piece. I think that's all I can divulge for now, but with luck, you'll soon be seeing me in one of Spork's beautifully bound hardback issues! This will be my very first publication.

See what Spork is all about:

LIFE IN LA - Birthday Brunch and Beach, 4/26/09
Next Sunday, April 26, I'll be celebrating my 24th birthday at Panini Garden in Santa Monica. I discovered Panini Garden a few weekends back on a writing adventure with Amy Aniobi and Reena Magsarili. They have a Secret Garden-esque backyard patio and a breakfast panini with a side of fresh fruit that makes my mouth water.

If you're in town and want to spend an afternoon brunching and hanging out at the beach, I'd love to see you there.

Date: Sunday, April 26, 2009
Time: 12:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: Panini Garden then Santa Monica Beach
Street: 2715 Main Street (at Hill St.)
City/Town: Santa Monica, CA
Parking: There's free street parking around 6th and Hill,
or use the Farmer's Market beach parking.

Hope to see you next Sunday!