Madeline Sayet in Where We Belong. Photo credit: Jon Burklund, Zanni Productions.
As all of us Canadians dig in and digest what it means to be us in the midst of National Indigenous History Month, a time for all Indigenous, non-Indigenous, and newcomers here in the glorious country I was born in to reflect upon and learn the history, sacrifices, cultures, contributions, and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, the current new cycle overflows with shocking (but not) reports of the deadly happenings in the backyards of this nation’s Indigenous Residencial Schools. It’s impossibly hard to take in and hold, especially as my mother, who is Mohawk, looks back and wonders if that was the reason her parents moved the family off the reservation so many years ago when she was in grade school. She or one of her siblings could have been one of the many children snatched up by the RCMP on the way home from school, and ‘reassigned’ to live in one of the many residential schools that dotted this country. It’s a horrendous construct to contemplate, that history, our history. Designed strictly to ‘teach’ the culture and language out from under their skin, that conversation needs, once again to be brought forth with strength and determination. The atrocities that happened in those schools are a complicated idea to wrap one’s head around (one that I write a bit about when discussing the documentary “The Fruit Machine“, Canada’s other dark secret, their horrific treatment of LGBTQ+ populations – click here), but not a surprising one. The only surprise here is that it took this long for the discovery and knowledge to be taken seriously in the light of day, and seen for the horror it truly is.
The upset sits uncomfortably inside my belly as I study my own Indigenous Status Card, knowing full well that this card has granted me so much in today’s world, but it is also a reminder of my personal shame, pointing out how little I know about that side of my family tree, the Mohawks. My mother, though, was nothing like the playwright and performer, Madeline Sayet’s mother, a central and passionate figure who constantly preaches to her daughter to stand up for authenticity in the telling of the Indigenous worldview and colonial history in Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company strong production of Sayet’s solo show, Where We Belong. I don’t fault my mother for that in the least, as she lived through a certain brand of prejudice and racism that I have not had to deal with directly. Homophobia, I guess, is my brand to contend with, but deep inside this streamed production, one that is partnered with Folger Shakespeare Library, a spiritual connection to the Indigenous Worldview is laid out and unpacked with a solid smart precision that will inspire and demand your upmost attention, from beginning to end, winding its way forward and back through Indigenous history to this moment in time.
Directed with a curving depiction of authenticity and truth by Mei Ann Teo (Belgium’s Festival de Liege’s Lyrics From Lockdown), Where We Belong streams out for us all to embrace, made available for digital streaming June 2021. Filmed on Woolly Mammoth‘s wide-open stage, assisted by a creative team comprised of Production Designer Hao Bai, Costume Designer Asa Benally, Sound Designer Erik Schilke, and Dramaturg Vera Starbard, Mohegan theatre-maker/director Sayet (Delaware Shakespeare’s As You Like It), lays out her wide-winged cultural journey as she flies onward to England to study Shakespeare. It’s a complex layering of ideas catapulting out inside the sharp meticulously designed structure of the play, formulated intrinsically in a country that refuses to even acknowledge colonialism in any way, shape, or higher form that makes sense, just as the Brexit vote sends shivers through Europe and beyond. “Most people don’t like to talk about colonialism,” she tells us wisely, as she dissects her Ph.D. studies, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the character Caliban. This is all while studying inside a learned institution that is working so very hard at keeping that particular English playwright’s language alive and well, all the while shelving and dismantling Indigenous culture into boxes in the back, mislabeled as unimportant and irrelevant. The imbalanced injustice is deliberate and intense, filled to overflowing with wise parallels and twisted turns of logic and history combined, that echoes, most insightfully, a journey to England that was braved by Native ancestors back in the 1700s in a futile attempt to peacefully discuss treatise betrayals.
The lines drawn are impeccable and well crafted, with intricate portrayals filled with smart assertions by Sayet as she dutifully weaves together ideas that both acknowledge history alongside modern equivalence and conceptualizations. This is especially true when she dives first hand into the depiction of The Tempest‘s Caliban, a character typically described as “half-human, half-monster“, a “wild man“, a “deformed man, or a beast man“, or even “a tortoise“. She sets forth the idea that he could be more wisely seen and directed as an Indigenous man, standing bent over within the context and under the weight of colonization. He is the only human inhabitant on this tempestuous island that is otherwise “not honour’d with a human shape” (Prospero, I.2.283) and is forced into slavery. It is a powerful place for this solo piece to begin the difficult, complex, and intimate examination of Indigenous language and culture, especially from a constructed colonial world that in all honesty “wanted it gone.”
Where We Belong asks its tuned-in audience to ‘think again’ about the history of the Mohegan people and the violence inflicted on all Indigenous people due to colonization, while also unpacking the stories Shakespeare tells about the Indigenous and the way we contend with and comprehend those stories today. “Words mean more,” Sayet states, and the spiritual threads all add up in this thoughtful piece of theatrical storytelling, a subject I am currently studying within the University of Alberta’s free online “Indigenous Canada” Worldview course (for information, click here) that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada by exploring key issues that face Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. It’s compelling stuff, and in that similar, well-constructed framework, Sayet has a way of asking questions that feel so simple but are drenched in complexities that are in desperate need to unwind before flight can happen. In one particular spellbinding moment, Sayet is thrown back, faced with someone least expected stepping into the stance her mother forever taught her to take. That casino jackpot struck a strong deliberate and winning chord proposes a simple but profound idea; ‘Could they have been defending us all this time?’ It’s not difficult to know what the right answer or the safe side is, but It does depend on “which line you’re trying to cross.” Sayet states this idea of border control at the beginning of this many-layered fascinating play, giving us space to try to unravel and understand our tangled histories. Ultimately, we know in our hearts that the answer is yes. But what follows is more disturbing; as it is all in the ‘why-nots’. To understand that, we must also come face to face and acknowledge colonial violence, greed, racism, and a desire like we are seeing proof of in the papers today in Canada, a historic and colonial desire to wipe the Indigenous, and their languages away from their ancestral lands. They do in fact belong in this place that is physically a part of their being. It is where they belong. Let’s hope that idea, and the words of this play fly high and wide across a world that should be hungry for this ideal.
Where We Belong features Playwright Madeline Sayet and premiered at Shakespeare’s
Globe in London in 2019 as part of Border Crossings’ ORIGINS Festival, the UK’s only large-scale multidisciplinary festival of Indigenous arts and culture. While at Woolly Mammoth, Madeline has been adapting the original piece for the digital realm with Director Mei Ann Teo. Where We Belong will also be featured as part of The International Festival of Arts & Ideas 2021 Festival season, themed around IMAGINE.
The performance will be featured as part of the Festival’s key programming, available on-demand to virtual audiences June 24-27. For more information, go to www.artidea.org.
Where We Belong will be available for streaming on-demand June 2021.
For tickets starting at $15.99, reserve online at woollymammoth.net, by phone at (202) 393-3939 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This film has closed captioning available.
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TAP 2 — (Via Rock Cellar) Doubling down after a May 2022 report that indicated everything was a go for a sequel to 1984’s classic comedy/music industry satire This Is Spinal Tap, filmmaker Rob Reiner has now confirmed that plans are taking shape in a big way.
Not only is the sequel on tap (pun intended) to begin filming in early 2024, but Reiner recently told comedian/podcast host Richard Herring that “everybody’s back” for the sequel. This no doubt refers to principal cast members Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, though Tony Hendra (who portrayed the band’s manager, Ian Faith, passed away in 2021).
The U.K.’s Guardian notes that the plot will reportedly center on Faith’s death, after which his widow inherits a contract that requires the band to do one last concert. Reiner is also due to return in the character of film-maker Marty DiBergi, a figure supposedly based on Martin Scorsese, who had directed celebrated music documentary The Last Waltz in 1976.
What’s more, Reiner also spilled the beans that appearances from Sirs Paul McCartney and Elton John and Garth Brooks are in the works too, among what one must assume will be a million other amusing cameos. After all, a film as beloved and influential as the original This Is Spinal Tap counts pretty much every living musician as a fan (give or take), so you know the sequel will hold nothing back when it comes to the entertainment factor.
In the podcast, Reiner also talked about This Is Spinal Tap’s remarkable afterlife, culminating in selection for the National Film Registry in 2002, after its initially unfavourable reception on its first release. “To wind up in the National Film Registry, that’s bizarre,” Reiner said. “We previewed it in a theatre in Dallas, Texas, and the people didn’t know what the heck they were looking at. They came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I don’t understand, why would you make a movie about a band that no one has ever heard of, and they are so bad? Why would you ever do that? Why don’t you make a movie about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?’ I would say, ‘It’s satire,’ and I tried to explain. But over the years people got it, and started to like it.”
Personally, I found the 1984 original movie just hilarious. Aside from a great send-up of the music biz, the cameos were just fascinating: Paul Shaffer as PR-man Artie Fufkin; Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal as ‘mime’ waiters; Fred Willard; Anjelica Houston; Russ Kunkel; Danny Kortchmar and Fran Drescher as promo-gal Bobbi Fleckman … all just inspired.
Reiner’s on a roll – his Albert Brooks doc Defending My Life is sensational. A must-see.
Maybe an update of The Monkees’ HEAD next?
SHORT TAKES — Mark Bego’s Joe Cocker tome hit #4 on theAmazon charts this week. Here’s a great review from Goldmine on the book by their Lee Zimmerman: https://l.messenger.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goldminemag.com%2Freviews%2Fjoe-cocker-book-shines-light-on-unfortunate-undercurrents-of-a-stars-career&h=AT2zaG2QKuxuHdpJO1nPHKaiO7IWkbAHCBRAeq3m4-J45axSc_wBott7ABve8Wcd7GpQC13gybDWb2Hale6D809pTdtqqmpDoxC4u6FLA7SNNJ2jHbVKKpSaH1kxX4Ide1AyXDJXSZL2idNWvOch4A
… Micky Dolenz sang “Silly Love Songs” at Monday’s Troubadour benefit for Denny Laine and our spy said he really rocked it. Maybe a Dolenz Sings McCartney album is next? … So, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is authentic? Interesting choice for sure …
Writer and reporter Pablo Guzman passed this last weekend. An original member of The Young Lords, Guzman was a fierce fighter and brilliant writer. On Fox 5/Good Day NY for decades, he most recently was a reporter at WCBS. Here’s the Daily News take: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12799071/Legendary-NYC-news-anchor-Pablo-Guzman-dies-aged-73-Big-Apple-veteran-reporter-dubbed-son-Bronx-founded-Puerto-Rican-activist-group-Young-Lords-journalist.html …
And it’s official, the NY-launch for the Mark Bego Joe Cocker book will be Tuesday, January 9 at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Sara Gore; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Daryl Estrea; Tony King; Ace Shortly; Kjersti and Jeremy Long; Debbie Gibson; Van Dean; Liz Skollar; Maude Adams; Robert Vaughn; Steve McQueen; Zach Martin; Coati Mundi; Avery Sharp; Steve Walter; Gary Gershoff; Jane Blunkell; Kimberly Cornell; Paul Iorio; Lee Jeske; MArt Ostrow; Peter Shendell; Sharon White; and ZIGGY!
Avengers Tower Sets Meet And Greet With Signing
C. B. Cebulski, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, and The LEGO Group Senior Graphic Designer Mark Tranter will be at the Fifth Ave LEGO Store this Friday, December 1st from 5pm-6pm signing the Avengers Tower set—the most iconic building in the Avengers Universe, with 5,201 pieces and an all-star cast of 31 figures.
The Avengers Tower, formerly known as Stark Tower, was a high-rise building complex located in Manhattan. Constructed by Tony Stark, the tower was powered by an Arc Reactor that made it capable of running itself for over a year. The top ten floors housed the research and development initiatives.
Following the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark Tower became the main headquarters of the Avengers. However, after the Ultron Offensive, Stark refurbished a Stark Industries warehouse upstate into the Avengers Compound to use as their primary base while Avengers Tower was repurposed for Stark Industries’ use. In the aftermath of the Avengers Civil War, Stark sold the tower and moved all of its equipment to the Avengers Compound.
By 2024, the tower, under its new ownership, had gone through extensive construction and renovation.
A CHER STEAL — This year’s 97th edition of the Macy’s Day Parade was a rather underwhelming one, save for Chicago – inexplicably singing “Your My Inspiration” – and the always, indefatigable Cher, singing a track “DJ Play a Christmas Song” off her new holiday-themed album. The first few bars will terribly auto-tuned, but that seemed to disappear and Cher’s vocals rang full and bold.
She was, typically, a pro. Mixing effortlessly and emotionally with the dancers in a terrific set. Some pundits reported the clip was shot days earlier, but she was live and, just sensational. I wish more of today’s performers possessed her vigor and skills. That’s why most of the current acts, here today, will be gone tomorrow.
As we went to press, we learned that this parade was Macy’s most-watched edition ever! Congrats.
HALL VS. OATES — Some terrible news appeared in Wednesday’s media that Daryl Hall had taken out a TRO against partner-John Oates. I’ve loved what these two have done for decades and I loved Hall’s solo albums; especially the one he did with Robert Fripp in 1977 Sacred Songs. His record company at the time (RCA) hated it so much, they held up its release for three years.
I also well remember them in the 80’s when it seemed you could’t turn on a radio without hearing their music. 29 of their 33 singles were major chart hits on Billboard. But I do go back to them even in the 70’s, with their terrific “She’s Gone” which basically launched them. And, my favorite album of their War Babies, produced by Todd Rundgren. Quick note: That album sounds as good and relevant as it did when it came out in 1974.
The problem seems to arise from Oates wanting to sell his portion of certain songs to Primary Wave Artists – which ironically owns several of their songs already. It’s a small point, but that seems to be the issue. In all actuality, it’s another case of a classic-rocker selling his music.
In Oates’ book several years ago (Change of Seasons: A Memoir), he hardly mentioned Hall and regrettably that animus has apparently reared its angry head. They’re Philly boys, I’m from Philly and it’s just an awful coda to what was one of music’s major success stories. Sad all around.
SHORT TAKES — Terrific article in this week’s Closer on Micky Dolenz. Check it out here: https://www.closerweekly.com/posts/micky-dolenz-on-telling-stories-on-stage-and-in-his-book/
btw: Dolenz tapes KTLA’s Countdown To 2024 this week in LA …
I first met Phil Quartararo in the lobby of the old Mondrian Hotel in LA with John Sykes and we struck up a friendship that lasted until he passed last week. He was at Virgin for a time and worked with the artists there including The Spice Girls and Paul Abdul. In these fast-changing-times in the music business, he remained somewhat behind the scenes of late, but admitted he missed working with the artists. Phil was a guy you never ever heard a bad word about. Huge loss. Here’s Billboard’s take on Phil:
… As you’ve not doubt read, there is trouble in the Marvel-comic kingdom. The latest Captain Marvel movie (The Marvels) didn’t perform nearly as well as everyone hoped for and their newest star, Jonathan Majors as Kang, is tied up in several court matters.
So, we hear that Kang is out and Doctor Doom is in. Stay tuned …
And Forbes’ James M. Clash has released Amplified; culled from his terrific interviews with the icons of rock ‘n roll; including Grace Slick; Art Garfunkel; Ginger Baker; Micky Dolenz; and Roger Daltry. Here’s the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CNJZYW2J?ref_=cm_sw_r_apan_dp_WKCSH7AC0ZTK18RZF4ED&language=en-US NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Leeds; Kate Hyman; Bono; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Peter Abraham; Bobby Bank; Dina Pitenis; Frank DiLella; Donnie Kehr; Steve Leber; Don Wardell; Anne Adams; Billy Smith; John Boulos; Kimberly Cornell; Sam Rubin; Nexstar; and ZIGGY!
Midnight Moment For December: Doku: Digital Reincarnation
The shape-shifting protagonist in this five-channel work is Doku – the name derived from the phrase “Dokusho Dokushi,” which translates to “We are born alone, and we die alone,” and references a canonical Buddhist scripture. While sharing Lu Yang’s facial expressions and features, the nonbinary character was generated from an amalgamation of various dancers and musicians, and created in collaboration with a team of scientists, 3D animators, and digital technicians using the latest in motion capture technology. Through this repeated incarnation, the artist is reborn as an ever-present avatar, endowed with talents surpassing physical limitations – uniting ancient concepts such as reincarnation with the latest technological innovations.
Lu Yang is a Shanghai-based artist who creates work exploring themes and formats, inspired by both traditional Chinese medicine and contemporary digital cultures. Through the medium of video, installation and performance, Lu Yang explores the fluidity of gender representation through 3D animated works inspired by Japanese manga and gaming subcultures. With a fascination with the human body and neurology, Lu Yang’s work bridges the scientific and the technological with aesthetics drawn from popular youth culture creating new visions of China in the face of modernity.
Born in 1986 in Shanghai where they are currently based, Lu Yang prefers to play with pronouns and insists she “lives on the internet” to further confuse fixed notions of identity. They attended the China Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou, BFA and MFA, under the tutelage of Zhang Peili, the godfather of Chinese video art. A 2019 winner of the BMW Art Journey award, she has shown internationally including the M Woods Museum in Beijing, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne, and in many other shows, including the Asia Society Triennial in New York.
NINA CHASE LIVES! — (Via Deadline) Shantal VanSanten is moving from FBI to FBI: Most Wanted for the latter show’s fifth season. She will reprise the role of Special Agent Nina Chase.
Nina is a well-seasoned FBI agent who is strong-willed, sharp and used to working undercover. The character was first introduced on the mothership series toward the end of Season 4 and she continued her recurring role in various episodes of Season 5 which concluded in May. Nina remains in a relationship with FBI’s Stuart Scola (John Boyd) as they raise their infant son Douglas together.
VanSanten is joining the cast following Alexa Davalos’ exit from FBI: Most Wanted, which Deadline reported exclusively in August. Their new season will debut on Tuesday, February 13.
The show is part of the massive Dick Wolff-empire and is actually a rather brilliant move; as the character has established itself on the other show and should fit nicely with Dylan McDermott and cast. The Wolff-machine just lost Jeffrey Donovan from Law & Order and recently installed their fifth showrunner on the much-troubled Law & Order: Organized Crime with Christopher Meloni; which is due to start their fourth season next year.
VanSanten also portrayed Karen Baldwin in the Apple TV+ show For All Mankind and was just terrific. Never heard of her before that show, but just a stunningly good performance, Nina Chase.
SHORT TAKES — Always read the posts. Loved this one: I was so confused! In Australia the show is called Morning Wars. And, yes, they were talking about Apple TV+’s Morning Show. That would be a more apt title … Looks like the NYC-launch for Mark Bego’s Joe Cocker-tome will be Tuesday, January 9 at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room. And Bego does an 11-city radio tour next week for Premiere Radio … Micky Dolenz’s R.E.M. cover of “Shiny Happy People hit #5 of the Heritage Chart in the U.K. … Every six months or so I read something about how The Starship’s “We Built This City” is the worst record of all time. Being home-bound for a time, I began hearing it regularly on my iHeart Hits of the 80’s and began to like it. Here’s a terrific summary of the song by Rob Tannenbaum. It’s actually hilarious: https://www.gq.com/story/oral-history-we-built-this-city-worst-song-of-all-time …
Deadline reported that NBC’s La Brea will end with a six-episode season next year. This is the show about a massive sinkhole in Hollywood that tuns into a time-travel escapade. Crazy writing, but somehow addictive. I found it a guilty-pleasure. Here’s the story: https://deadline.com/2023/11/la-brea-canceled-season-3-1235630123/ …
Sad that CBS’ Blue Bloods is ending after a spectacular 14-season run. I watched it when it started, then was out for a few seasons, but came back after Steve Schirripa joined the cast. Costs indeed did the show in, but you have to admit those family dinners which closed out each episode were sensational. Selleck, an icon. There’s not another show like this on TV right now; smart writing and brilliant acting. Treat Williams had a re-occurring role as an old mate of Selleck’s. Hope they do a proper tribute to him as he was stellar. Will be missed for sure … A 16-date Rolling Stones tour was announced Tuesday. Sponsored by AARP no less. Stones Tour 24 …
NY-Nightlife-Mayor Eric Adams seems to walking a tightrope – what with the ongoing FBI probe and city budget-cuts … Wintercon’s Frank Patz is interviewed for Medium today. It’s December 2 and 3 … Happy Thanksgiving!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Richard Johnson; Ian Mohr; Harvey Levin; Kimberly Cornell; Plastic EP; Jane Blunkell; Tony King; Dave Mason; Michael McDonald; Kenny Loggins; Fortune Benatar; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Race Taylor; Jim Kerr; Ken Dashow; Plastic EP; Brad Balfour; Frank Patz; and ZIGGY!
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