Three things 6 – 18 February 2012

Slightly longer entry tonight, because I have a little more to say than usual.

1. Just in time for my visit to Art in the Park, or more precisely just after I left the park, I finally saw my piece talking about the Vinyl anniversary. This is of course a much distilled summary of the two days that we encountered both Tara and Vinyl, and I enjoyed writing it. I also liked the way it began in its final form, and I must take note of that next time.

I chose some pictures from the photos Fully Booked’s PR people sent, and fortunately one of them was a crowd shot taken from a higher point at Vinyl. It has become common practice for me to take those shots every opening night, but tonight I am in no mood to put up a compilation, yet. Maybe after the next opening. I can tell you that the one for McPherson’s 2010 visit (see below) and the one for this year is somewhat the same in terms of volume.

Crowd shot taken from Vinyl on Vinyl balcony, 7 August 2010. Photo by the author.

2. Meanwhile, two reviews of the Philippine Educational Theater Association’s recent production of Haring Lear were visited by what seemed to be the same commentator, pointing out that the reviewers, one of whom was myself, did not “get” the ending–which was helpfully pointed out to be the last few lines of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” (An online version from Bartleby’s can be found here.) We await the responses of the commentator, who unhelpfully refused to own one’s opinions by using their real name/s. I might as well declare this a policy on my site.

I might as well unpack one of my problems with the play, and after a conversation last night I had with someone who has worked with Padilla before, with the way the director proceeds.

The ending–and indeed the cabaret numbers which were all Noel Coward songs to my knowledge–had me wondering whether he was writing for an audience who were steeped in British literature and culture, or at least had a course in poetry where they read “The Waste Land.” To be honest, I cannot recall any English teacher ever asking me to read “The Waste Land,” though I will do so as a Lenten discipline, and my bias is for the “Four Quartets,” which has some choice passages, especially the one that begins “The wounded surgeon plies the steel…” and of course, its very last lines. I do understand that the director was trying to make a point, but it did not turn out well for me as a viewer.

Portia (the other reviewer) had a much sharper reply, and I agree with her on how “The Waste Land” did not work, but also on one key point. She has identified an issue that I feel should be understood by people in the performing arts scene–I can best summarize this in the Latin phrase from the Summa Theologica:

Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.

In other words, what we receive is received in a way suited to the receiver. Edward Schillebeecx recounts that he gave this as an answer to a question asked by a devout Thomist about the meaning of hermeneutics. In reviewing a performance, the role of a reviewer is less about trying to discern authorial or dramaturgical intent (though a well-informed reviewer is aware that these things can be considered, but not always), but more about how a performance elicits certain reactions from people at the time. It is a question of how one reacts, to the best of their awareness.

I think it was David Edelstein, the film critic at New York Magazine, who put it best. In his year-in-review interview with Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air, he said that when he reviewed a film, it was based on how he reacted at the time, and perhaps he would change his mind later, but the review stood. In short, a reviewer may show buyer’s remorse, but in the end must have no regrets. (I also have some things to say about the matter of criticism, which I can now disclose were written in the aftermath of Haring Lear.) I have something more to say about this soon, with respect to the music matters I have published.

3. We now go to Art in the Park itself. It is an affair I have positively compared to another art event that takes place later in the year, with its utter pretentiousness, etc. I met a lot of people I knew today, and in the case of two of them, I got to see them for the first time in a year–also at Art in the Park!

Affordable art is the name of the game here, and the upper limit is currently PHP 30,000 per piece or USD 714 roughly. But far from being a place to get cheap art, sometimes from the brightest stars in the local art firmament, for me it is a chance to encounter a much different crowd than what I am used to seeing. There were, of course, people I knew, but in many cases these were people I knew from different contexts.

But I did enjoy the art. There was, once again, the icons from Bohol finally on sale this year, but my favorite was not available. I also found Leeroy New’s new costume pieces interesting, and of course I must cite Veronica Laurel’s visual pun on books and wood that was sold at Art Informal. She is a relatively new visual artist; I first knew her as a writer. I am looking forward to her first show, which she told me may be most likely be in 2013.

Of course, by then, I would wonder how things would have changed  since 18 February 2012…let us all hope it would be for the better.

And for visitors to Art in the Park, what did you think of this year’s event?

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