Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Astrid Bas finds the music of La Musica Deuxième

Elegant and Classic Reading Duras

Astrid Bas

notes by Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

French actor Astrid Bas, who often graces the stage of Paris's renown Theatre de L'Odeon, and American actor Daniel Pettrow, a veteran of many European productions, read Marguerite Duras' La Musica Deuxième at Boyle Heights' Casa 0101 Monday March 31 as part of a U.S. tour highlighting actors' special relationships to authors.

The classic beauty and supple poetic phrasing of Mme Bas won most of the exchanges. Mme Bas' located all the poetry implicit to her role as the wife of a man whom she is about to divorce after three years of separation from him. Her pauses and sense of music within the text lent the air of a Greek tragedy to the reading.

A graduate of the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique, Paris, and Ecole Nationale du Théâtre de Strasbourg, Mme Bas most notably worked with George Lavaudant at Theatre de L'Odeon in much classic drama. Lavaudant's sense of gravitas has been a perfect match for the elegant figure and chiseled perfection of Mme Bas, whose unadorned face can assume and sustain looks both of feminine maturity and teenage mischievousness.

Mr. Pettrow's role of husband was dignified and desperate; he also reached for poetic scansion in his outpourings of measured grief, managing his brokenness through ellipsis and curt short syllables. While Mme Bas brought lyricism to her role, Mr. Pettrow brought halting desperation to his.

I asked Mme Bas if she chose the text in part because it is so uncharacteristic of Duras, in whose work women often feel powerless, a symptom of Duras' own often tragic biography. In this text, most of the power resides in the woman.

"Oh, yes, very definitely," Mme Bas said. "The character here is different and she does have a lot of control."

The text of the play, abridged, was read in English and French, and also projected in supertitles. Casa 0101, a recent private venture within Boyle Heights' Adelante redevelopment zone, was filled to capacity for the reading.

More information on the text and other French culture is available here at

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Richard Serra at LACMA

The world's best-known sculptor owes it to---dance.

torqued and cramped

notes by Joseph Mailander

Richard Serra had a fireside chat with about 400 Wilshire boulevardiers at LACMA Wednesday, and surprised his audience with a few nonplussed responses.

Serra described his hanging around the contemporary dance scene in New York City in the early 1970's as informing the way that he might conceive volume in a room. He reminisced about a particular performance in which a series of people, perhaps thirty, were jumping off of the roof of a two-storey building---from inside, as they dropped past a window, they created a motion-picture effect.

Frame is a large issue with Serra, and how a piece might reside in a room is of utmost concern to him---he doesn't, for instance, favor MoMA's featuring of works of his that weigh-in at substantial tonnage on the second floor---it's counterintuitive to the massing.

Corb's Ronchamp church is also an influence, and at one point he hung his arms out like a crucifix and asked his interviewer about "that piece down the road from it"---he meant the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, which has complicated panels including crucifixion and resurrection and has a sculptural presence although it's known as a painting. Early in his talk, he hauled out Ad Reinhardt's famous canard that "modern sculpture is what you back into when looking at modern painting."

And he took some credit for ushering in Bilbao to the cosmopolitan world. As a docker's city, it appealed to his workman's side; and he also acknowledged the influence of ETA on a trip there: he was assured that if he spoke to university students his work would be removed from the museum. He did, and it was. He admonished sculptors to take all commissions and work on whatever they can in between, because commissions are just too undependable over time.