Thursday, February 26, 2009

Long live Pere Ubu!

(Note! That's not our set!)

Like a lot of people my age--easing from high school to college as Pistols-era punk rock evolved into post-punk--I first became aware of Ubu Roi through the legendary avant-noise rock of Pere Ubu. The band is still around, more than 30 years later, albeit with an ever-changing lineup, and it's kinda surprising that it took them until 2008 to get around to actually staging Jarry's play.

The production, described here, sounds pretty interesting--and quite far from our own handling of the same material. Visual elements are by the Brothers Quay, and lead singer/songwriter/play adapter David Thomas performs as Pa Ubu himself--the role he was obviously born to play. Here's a sample:

(You can download a free MP3 of the same song here, or buy the whole album shortly.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'll drink to that

Can we have robobartenders in the "lobby" before the show, Uncle Stuart? Can we can we can we?

(found here)

Actually, I think being subjected to such humiliations as producing alcoholic beverages through one's simulated genitals and parroting whatever naughty talk intoxicated humans demand may well be what leads the roboslaves of today to rise up against us tomorrow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Roombas of Doom

Several of us humans were talking about this clip from a recent Daily Show, which makes our own Robot War scene seem like a glimpse into the near future:

PS. Having trouble seeing the clip? You can also click here.

Robots reprise

Did I say that robots can't improvise? Well, once again I was terribly wrong. Somewhere there's some excellent footage of just how...uh, spontaneous and impassioned robots can be. Next time, I'll bring little, mechanical cigarettes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday night's rehearsal--live!

Here, simply because I have the technology and the spare time, is a live report from tonight's rehearsal. (I probably got the idea because just now we were running the "Killing of King W" scene, in which my barker character is a newscaster giving a play-by-play account of Ubu and McNure's fight with Wenceslas and Boggerlas.) It's almost 9 PM, and the Ubu cast has been rehearsing some of its greenscreen scenes sans Pa Ubu and the Woyzeck cast.

I've been out of town for most of the last 2 weeks of rehearsal, and am still dead tired from my travels, but all the scheming and battling (mostly Pa's, as I've been filling in for him tonight) woke me, and all of us Dream Cabbers, right up.

As Holly (Ma Ubu to you) put it earlier tonight, the more somber and (for lack of a better word) dramatic the Woyzeck play becomes, the bigger and more carnivalesque we Ubu-ites need to be. Ours is a very physical, over-the-top production, which is tricky given that our scenes are all performed for the camera in a very limited space--so it is taking a while to figure out how to make things look interesting onscreen to the audience watching from the other side of the wall. (I'm fairly convinced that the bizarreness of us acting for the rectangular frame of the camera will be intriguing for audience members who watch on the Ubu side of the wall.)

In the photo above you see Holly (Ma) and Josh (Boggerlas/Tail) on the Ubu side of the wall, Sarah (our director) in motion, and Dave P (I forget his title, but I think of him as master of technology) setting up video projections on the Woyzeck side. As I've been typing this entry, they've all been talking through the tech of future greenscreen scenes; the Woyzeck cast has arrived, and after a brief break we're back to business.

Words cannot express how unlike a conventional Dream Cab rehearsal all of this is (learning lines a month before we open?! blocking?! character motivation?! preposterous!), but that's in no way a complaint. It's very exciting to be finding a way to work with "real" theater artists (and equally real robot designers) while still retaining our essential Cabaretness.


My first time rehearsing the robots. Much fun; much of people typing and looking at robots moving. I do love the fact that I can set blocking and the robots remember it (mostly). I only wish robots could improvise. Most likely, though, we'll be able to create an environment in which both the robots and the actors take cues from each other, though inevitably we'll rely on the actors to improvise around the robots as necessary.

As a side note, and not unrelated, NPR ran a story about the potential for computer images to replace live actors in films, such as the digitization of Brad Pitt in the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. One of the people in the story commented on the sense of relief when the "real" Brad Pitt emerges on screen, a reaction I also had. But I wonder if we would have such a strong reaction if the actor in question weren't already so well known to us. If we, like the character of Daisy (Cate Blanchett) saw the young image for the first time, occurring as a revelation, rather than a memory.

In terms of WoyUbu, I return to the central question of the tech "wow" factor in live performance. Does the digital image foster a sense of relief when we encounter the flesh and blood being? Will the rise of digital realism on screen, as one of our group speculated last night, return us to the arena of live performance? Or, are the two becoming so entwined that they will not be easily separated?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Human Rehearsals

After a couple of weeks of rehearsal on the Woyzeck parts of the play, last night we started putting the physical parts of Woyzeck with readings of Ubu. Despite the radical differences between the two plays, there's something oddly resonant between them. I'm still not quite sure how it will all hang together, but it's a pretty interesting process watching it unfold.

Two questions, as I'm thinking about the show:

1) How to make Marie's role clear, both in terms of Woyzeck's construction/fantasy of her.

2) How to make Woyzeck's relation to the Ubu images clear. There's a great line in the doctor scene, in which the Doctor identifies Woyzeck as having an aberratio. In the most basic medical sense, this is literally a diversion of the brain. Right now, we're working on the idea that Ubu is an evolving series of hallucinations and psychotic breaks. I'm not sure this is totally clear.

Also of note, is our rip-off of...I mean, homage to Pina Bausch in the violent pas de deux. Still in progress, but promising. On Friday, we'll start to put all the pieces of the show together to see where the gaps are.

3D Scene

One scene is to be performed in Unreal Tournament. Today Dave M. and Tao showed me the castle Tao designed in the game engine. In the scene Ubu and Ma regally receive a message. At the moment UT bots kill them within seconds. But it looks GOOD. By rehearsal Dave will - we hope - have stopped those bots spawning and killing.

Wednesday Read-Through

Dishing the Dirt

One of themes of one of the roboturgs (robot dramaturgs) is gossip - so I have been looking for gossip on Jarry and Buchner. Such as:

Jarry used to run around Paris with a green umbrella (symbol of the bourgeoisie), carrying pistols and talking in a falsetto voice (like Ubu).

Pablo Picasso used to get all his weapons from Jarry.