skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (cosmia)
[personal profile] skygiants
I have never read Dhalgren or indeed any Samuel R. Delaney. However, as of yesterday I have at least had a Dhalgren Experience, thanks to [personal profile] aamcnamara, who turned up a local theatrical-dance-music-light-'architectural puppetry' performance of something called Dhalgren: Sunrise this weekend.

Dhalgren: Sunrise is comprised of bits of text from what I assume is Dhalgren the book, accompanied by dance, light, and music, almost all of it improvised. Also, some of the music was performed on imaginary instruments. "That must be a theremin!" I thought brightly to myself on seeing one of the instruments, mostly because I don't know what a theremin looks like and therefore I assume that any instrument I don't recognize is a theremin. But it turns out it was not a theremin, because there was a credit in the program for 'invented instruments,' though I don't know whether the one I saw was the Diddly Bow, the Bass Llamelophone, or the Autospring.

Anyway, so my new understanding of Dhalgren is that it is about a city in which Weird, Fraught and Inexplicable Things Are Happening. This is not a very thorough understanding, but it's still more of an understanding than I had before. The show is composed of seven scene-vignettes:

Prelude: A brief reading of [what I assume to be] the book's introduction.

Orchid: Three women dance on a bridge and a man acquires a prosthetic hand-weapon-implement. The director at the end gave special thanks to the dude who made it, understandably so, because it very effectively exuded Aura of Sinister!

Scorpions: Gang members dance and fight in front of a building? Alien gang members? Just aliens? Anyway, some entities wrapped in glowing lights have a dance fight in front of a building; the text is from the point of view of a worried inhabitant of the building who Has Concerns.

Moons: The moon has a new secondary moon friend named George. The dancing in this section was one of my favorite bits -- the Moon did some amazing things with her light-strung hula hoop. [personal profile] aamcnamara pointed out later that the narration in this bit, which featured a wry and dubious radio announcer, seemed like a perhaps-intentional echo of Welcome to Night Vale. I have never actually listened to Welcome to Night Vale, but from my cultural osmosis knowledge this seems about right.

Fire: The light show took front and center in this bit about everything being on fire and also, simultaneously, not on fire. The maintenance man doing the narration is very plaintive about all of this. There may also have been dancing in this bit but I don't remember what anyone was doing.

Sex: The guy with the sinister prosthesis has an intimate encounter with two other people inside a blanket fort. I always like the blanket-fort method of showing sex onstage, it hints appropriately while allowing actors not to have to do anything they're uncomfortable with. At some point in this process the sinister prosthesis is removed for the first time, which I expect symbolizes something about human connection.

Sunrise: The characters who have previously just had sex emerge from the building and now seem to have a difference of opinion about whether the sunrise is just normal, or whether the earth is actually falling into the sun. Eventually all the characters are onstage being distressed, along with the music and the lighting -- again, really cool light effects here, especially the final overwhelming projection of light followed by and darkness.

It's a one-hour show without intermission, which we all agreed afterwards was for the best; the deeply weird mood and atmosphere would have been difficult to slip back into if one could get up in the middle to go to the bathroom. For those of you who have actually read Dhalgren, I will leave you with [personal profile] aamcnamara's sum-up: "It was a strange experience, but honestly could have been stranger."

Date: 2017-06-25 07:23 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
For those of you who have actually read Dhalgren, I will leave you with aamcnamara's sum-up: "It was a strange experience, but honestly could have been stranger."

I still think it's great that Dhalgren, which I do not think anyone would call the world's most adaptable book, can support multiple theatrical interpretations.

Date: 2017-06-25 07:45 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
That sounds like a pretty fascinating adaptation (and potentially, indeed, an iteration or two stranger than ours.)

I enjoyed it very much! It did not, for what it's worth, feature either a Diddly Bow or puppets.

Date: 2017-06-25 07:35 pm (UTC)
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
From: [personal profile] raven
That must be a theremin!" I thought brightly to myself on seeing one of the instruments, mostly because I don't know what a theremin looks like and therefore I assume that any instrument I don't recognize is a theremin. But it turns out it was not a theremin, because there was a credit in the program for 'invented instruments,' though I don't know whether the one I saw was the Diddly Bow, the Bass Llamelophone, or the Autospring.

This paragraph has killed me.

Date: 2017-06-25 07:45 pm (UTC)
sovay: (I Claudius)
From: [personal profile] sovay
There was also a Spoke Protector Metallophone, a Nu Tuba Mouthpiece, and a Trident Horn.

Could you tell what any of these were by sound?

Date: 2017-06-26 02:18 am (UTC)
aedifica: Me looking down at laptop (off screen).  Short hair. (Default)
From: [personal profile] aedifica
This interview with one of the show's originators shows the Harrow and the Autospring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDElONP2Bs8 . I don't know if we get to hear the Autospring, but we do hear the Harrow as well as see a bit of the final scene.

Date: 2017-06-25 08:33 pm (UTC)
marginaliana: Buddy the dog carries Bobo the toy (Default)
From: [personal profile] marginaliana
This sounds amazing. I have in fact read Dhalgren, but to be honest I didn't understand it, really, so I suspect that this would have seemed fairly accurate as an adaptation.

Date: 2017-06-25 09:12 pm (UTC)
vass: sepia-toned poster detail of navy captain holding a guitar (To thee I sing)
From: [personal profile] vass
So you'll know next time: a theremin looks like a radio with an antenna on top and a metal loop on one end and is played by waving your hands near it.

Date: 2017-06-26 08:08 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Yep, if someone's waving their hands in mid-air, it's a theremin.

Date: 2017-06-25 10:04 pm (UTC)
agonistes: (candygram)
From: [personal profile] agonistes
And another instrument note: a diddley bow is a very real instrument. Lonnie Pitchford puts it in action at about 5:10. It's one of the most direct descendants of West African cultural practices in the Mississippi Delta and in Mississippi hill country, and clearly the best iteration of it is the kind that gets nailed directly onto the side of the house.

Date: 2017-06-25 10:23 pm (UTC)
schulman: (Default)
From: [personal profile] schulman
Oh my God that's where Bo Diddley's name comes from

(mind blown)

Edited Date: 2017-06-25 10:24 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-06-25 10:05 pm (UTC)
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
From: [personal profile] onyxlynx
  1. "Diddly Bow" *giggle*
  2. The sinister prosthesis is called an "orchid." That's pretty good memory retrieval for something I haven't reread in 30 years.
  3. Cool that they included George.

Date: 2017-06-25 11:08 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
This does not sound as weird as Dhalgren, but it sounds congruent in a lot of ways.

Date: 2017-06-27 02:50 am (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
And technically Dhalgren is infinitely long...

Date: 2017-06-26 12:15 am (UTC)
starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)
From: [personal profile] starlady
You know, I have read the book, many years ago, and definitely all of these parts are in there.

But not, evidently, my favorite part and the one that does stick with me, which is the party in the series of interlinked gardens named after the months of the year with weird unpredictable cut-throughs between them like the Ikea showroom.

Date: 2017-06-26 02:15 am (UTC)
aedifica: Photo of me playing my trombone at the Renaissance Festival (Fest 2008 with trombone)
From: [personal profile] aedifica
...it is! The first time I read the book I hadn't been to an Ikea, so I didn't notice, but you're right!

P.S. By "it is" I mean it is like an Ikea, not it is in the show. It wasn't in the show.
Edited Date: 2017-06-26 02:21 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-06-26 02:14 am (UTC)
aedifica: Photo of me playing my trombone at the Renaissance Festival (Fest 2008 with trombone)
From: [personal profile] aedifica
Hi, this is Liza! I wanted to apologize for just walking off without saying goodbye--I thought you were taking the same train with the rest of us, so I thought I was just getting a head start as the slowest walker of the group. I enjoyed reading your description of the show!

As I mentioned last night, there are videos on YouTube of cats playing theremin. Here's one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0SZLAm6WYY (One of the other videos freaked out my cat with a high-pitched tone. This one didn't seem to bother him though.)

Also I turned up this interview with one of the show's originators, who also described (and showed) some of the instruments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDElONP2Bs8

Date: 2017-06-26 03:11 am (UTC)
nextian: From below, a woman and a flock of birds. (Default)
From: [personal profile] nextian
I'd expect that the narration from Dhalgren is one of the inspirations for Night Vale--I actually don't remember a radio sequence specifically, but there's a stand-out wry newspaper as a plot element and the moon is one of the things it covers. Cool to see it come full circle, which is very appropriate for Dhalgren, which is a comment that means nothing to you, lmao.

Date: 2017-06-26 08:23 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Sounds like an interesting experience, but mixed feelings about 'sinister prosthetics'.

Date: 2017-06-27 08:01 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
it's not a replacement for a missing hand, but a weapon that attaches onto an existing one.

Aha!

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