updates connected to the book Idylls for a Bare Stage
& to performances of the Idylls
& other initiatives related to the Art of the Poetic Monologue

Thursday, December 27, 2012

and now towards 2013

Parading with the Idylls into the New Year!

Much in the works, and I'm finding myself orienting to the coming year in a number of ways with regard to the Idylls, and with regard to its (currently informal) framework for performance approaches to the form, and beyond: SiGiLPAL (Sui Generis Literary Performing Arts Lab).

Right around the corner, as mentioned in previous posts: Happenings at the Harman will host an Idylls showcase on March 20th.

As also mentioned in this space, "Murder on the Bare Stage" debuted at Bloombars the weekend before Halloween.  It is definitely a show - upon the experience of that night, we've applied to take it to Fringe this summer.  The intermixing of the Idyll form and Stephen Mead's specialty in dramatic recitation brought out the contours and distinctive effects of each approach, for an intense impact on the audience.  This, in service of the chilling nature of the theme.

Thus began our collaboration with Bloombars, a wonderful community arts space in Columbia Heights led by John Chambers, with poetry-related programming managed by Gowri Koneswaran, both incredible people to work with.   Upcoming soon there: I'm holding a workshop on the performance technique of the Idyll, titled Power of the Poetic Monologue, on January 13th, 2:30pm. This is an introductory version of the 3-part workshops I did at the D.C. Actors' Center in 2011, developing the acting and theatrical approach to the form.  The workshop also functions as an audition for performers interested in the possibility of paid performance opportunities through the Idylls/SiGiLPAL projects. More information about the workshops/audition at the following links...

Furthermore, I'm excited by the upcoming appearance of my introduction to Idylls for a Bare Stage in the journal Nerve Lantern, edited by the painstaking, thorough, and wonderfully sensitive-to-detail Ellen Redbird.

For the purposes of this publication, the introduction is titled "Imagination and Performance."

Idylls for a Bare Stage exists as a book (you can order it here), and also as a complete theatrical piece to be performed in order, all twelve idylls; at the same time individual idylls have been and can be performed on their own, part of what I've been doing on my own initiative, and as reflected in this blog.  Also, the book can function for actors as a high end source for audition monologues. 

Yet, beyond the work as a book and piece(s) for theater, there is the idea of the idyll, and its concomitant theory and techniques for acting and theater - the idea of the Idyll as a form, the re-interpretation of an ancient form for contemporary purposes.

This is what the introduction to the book (and its upcoming incarnation as an essay, "Imagination and Performance") offers; and this is what I'm trying for in the workshops/audition, "Power of the Poetic Monologue" - to activate an idea of, and for, performance which addresses  the question, what does live theater still have to offer uniquely in competition with every other form of media?

Well, for one thing, the word.  The live word, the living embodied in-person delivery of charged language.  The "poetic," in the flesh. Live bodies, bare stage - rather than going for expensive spectacle, I'm going for portable essence.

In developing the Idylls approach, there has been much honing in on a contemporary standard for the stage (or sidewalk) delivery of poetic language: much to avoid in both the theater world and the poetry reading world, all the varieties of pretension from staginess to "wispiness," from the overly intoned to the monotone...  an essential aspect of the idylls technique is a trust in the intrinsic power of words.  Each word speaks itself, if you let it.

From there - and this goes deeper into the nature of the form, delving into the etymologies of the ancient Greek word idyll and its cousins, as I do in the essay/book introduction - an exploration of the living invisible, basically: the relationship of imagination to performance.

We are actually working with the invisible, or the heretofore or nearly invisible: invisible, because imagined - conscious workings of the imagination, live.  This is something that cannot be done when involved with the intermediary of screens.

The Idyll form consciously works on at least three levels of reality (and part of the art is to make this conscious both to artist and audience):  the actor on the stage, the body/performer on the stage (visible); the imagined stage setting as created by the actor in character (actually invisible, but the audience sees it!); and then also, the character's internal life conveyed to the audience through the shared imagining - this is almost all invisible, but creates an unmistakable impact on the performance, one can tell when an actor is truly "seeing" whatever memory or projection she or he is putting to words.

The actor must actually imagine what he or she is thinking about, and the audience can perceive that - it is all apparently invisible, though likely we find clues and our brains put it all together from facial expressions, position of the bodies, even style of breathing...  the art - its artistic intention, its relevance and magic - is in revealing these levels of reality, making them manifest and conscious. 

I could also say, entry into this "shared imagining" is evolutionary for humans, a circumscribed engagement in group telepathy; at the very least, it opens up a temporary space for communion.

Anyway, the Idyll in performance is equivalent to some other modes of art demonstrating - or,
demon-starting (as I have it elsewhere, following my daimon) - phenomena.

The Idylls in performance and their uses/denial/phenomenology of invisibility might have resonance with one of my poems from Verb Sap, a poem also included in the 10th edition of Pearson Longman's textbook anthology of English, Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing...

Empirical / Imperial Demonstration

             The difference between
                    what is seen                                                  and what is not seen
                           what is heard                                                           and unheard
                                      what is touched                                                and intangible 

             isn't the difference between
                            what is there                                                and


Friday, December 14, 2012

Poetry in Community vid featuring Idylls on a Baltimore sidewalk


Check out this video on Baltimore-based Poetry in the Community.

PiC was one of the hosts of the 7th Annuel Cruellest Month Poetry and Performance Festival (CruMoPoPerFest) last spring.

As you'll find in the April archives, scenes from the idylls were performed as part of the wrap-up celebration of poetry month in Baltimore.  Idylls actors Stephen Mead, Genna Davidson, and Sue Struve performed in front of the Waverly branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Saturday, April 28th, 2012.

All three of them show up in this video, created by Evan Bartos.

Stephen Mead is there at the start, in the midst of his rendition of  "A Street-Merchant Imagines his Riches to Come" from Idylls for a Bare Stage.

Sue Struve is seen in action doing "A Native Chief's Captive Woman Guards One Freshly Caught" beginning at :38.

And you can see and hear a moment of Genna Davidson's Antigone at :50.

More glimpses of each of them throughout...

Join Poetry in Community on Facebook here 

 My daughter Hero Magnus is in the video as well, beatboxing and singing at the open mic (she's in a black and white striped shirt);  you can hear her voice early on, and my own - I had a chance to mention how performance can create that temporary community of audience and artist (as driven by a shared imagining).

Overall, you might get some hint from this video of what an idylls performance is like live, on the street, and certainly it provides striking glimpses of the intensity and excellence Stephen, Genna, and Sue bring to their performances.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Dramatic Recitation" and the Idylls form

This Friday, the collaborative and juxtaposing Murder on the Bare Stage (subject of my entry earlier this month) - in addition to providing chills and thrills, entertainment and suspense, for the weekend before Halloween - has the capability to demonstrate, highlight, and edge defining contours to the Idylls form, through comparison of similar and complementary approaches.

The show is a collaboration with actor Stephen Mead (profiled elsewhere on this blog), combining his specialty in "Dramatic Recitation" of Victorian-era authors - here, violent nerve-wracking scenes from Poe and Dickens and more - with three of my idylls relevant to the overall theme of murder.

Both approaches - "Dramatic Recitation" and the Idyll form - conceive of the verbal element as essential to what live theater still has to offer uniquely, the tingly pleasure of hearing words well-spoken, fantastically-spoken, virtuosity in the delivery of charged language, towards the release in real-time of the power of words.

Murder on the Bare Stage
8pm Friday, October 26th 


3222 11th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

And yet, even with emphasis on the verbal as a mutual starting point for the collaboration, there's variety and illuminating contrasts between "dramatic recitation" and the "shared imagining" approach to the Idyll, as between prose and poetry, and indeed, as between storytelling and poet's theater - or a mixture of it all, contrasts, and combinations.

Here's what to expect for Friday's show, contours highlighted by what's place side by side.

 Murder on the Bare Stage

ACT I: Verse and Blood

3 Victorian Era poets
    W.S. Gilbert "Gentle Alice Brown"
    Lewis Carroll "The Walrus and the Carpenter"
    Edward Lear  5 Limericks

Idyll - "An Old Soldier Cleans his Rifle for the Last Time" 
(vide Walt Whitman)  

"The Murder of Nancy" from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  As adapted for dramatic recitation by Dickens himself, and further adapted by Stephen Mead.

ACT II: How Can a Crime Be Concealed?

Idyll - "A Bandit Plots a Murder by the Road"

Macbeth/Lady Macbeth

"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe

Idyll - "A Reveler Walks Home to his Family by Moonlight" 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Murder on the Bare Stage

Announcing a new show - just in time for Halloween - at Bloombars in Columbia Heights

This show combines the "Shared Imagining" approach to the Idyll and the Idyll form with actor Stephen Mead's expertise in dramatic recitation - produced in collaboration with Bloombars

Murder on the Bare Stage

Thrills! Chills! 
perfect for the Halloween Season 

Art of the Poetic Monologue/ A One-Man Show
on the theme of Murder!

A literary-poetic program combining actor Stephen Mead's specialty 
in dramatic recitations of Poe and Dickens with writer Magus Magnus' 
approach to the "Idyll" (poetic monologue designed for performance)
from his book Idylls for a Bare Stage 

Devised by Magus Magnus and Stephen Mead 

8pm, Friday October 26th at Bloombars 

starring Stephen Mead

 Spine-tingling! Enactments of Poe's “The Tell-Tale Heart”
and “The Murder of Nancy” from Dickens’ Oliver Twist 
The Mindscape of a killer, and more, from Magus Magnus 
Black Humor and Bloody wit from Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, W.S. Gilbert, and More

Suggested Donation of $10 to support Bloombars and the show

Murder on the Bare Stage is a collaborative production by Bloombars  
and Magus Magnus' SiGiLPAL (Sui Generis Literary Performing Arts Lab)


3222 11th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

Murder on the Bare Stage
8pm Friday October 26th  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Upcoming in the 2012/2013 Season: Happenings at the Harman

Shakespeare Theatre Company will host an Idylls Showcase this Spring at Sidney Harman Hall.

Shakespeare Theatre Company's Happenings at the Harman

Click on the March tab under "Happenings at the Harman Lunchtime Performances."

Idylls Showcase

Mindscapes – whether the inner worlds of killers or saints, soldiers or sorceresses, Antigone, Caliban, a dancer stretching her legs, or a mother feeling her estranged daughter’s labor pains – spill into the theatrical space as actor and audience collaborate to create “a shared imagining” more vivid than any stage set.  D.C.-based actors perform the technique of the “idyll,” character-driven poetic monologue as theater, with selections from poet and playwright Magus Magnus’ Idylls for a Bare Stage.

Save the Date!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Slideshow for April 28th, CruMoPoPerFest in Waverly neighborhood, Balto

The links below can give you a feel for the course of the whole day in Waverly: Idylls with Stephen Mead, Sue Struve, and Genna Davidson; beatboxing with Max Bent; open mic poetry and music; plus sidewalk and side-of-building chalk drawing and writing. (My daughter Hero shows up frequently throughout the day, on the mic, and with the chalk).

Documentation by Douglas Mowbray, publisher of twentythreebooks, publisher of Idylls for a Bare Stage.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Laurel Arts Festival Photos

Idylls in Action at the C Street Arts Festival in Laurel, Maryland              
June 9th, 2012

              The following are pics by Lew Lorton Photography, taken during the midday Idylls Sequence featuring Stephen Mead and Sue Struve.

Stephen Mead in "A Bandit Plots a Murder by the Road"
Sue Struve in "A Native Chief's Captive Woman Guards One Freshly Caught" 
(vide Jorge Luis Borges)
Stephen Mead in "A Reveler Walks Home to his Family by Moonlight"

              On that Saturday, I had the somewhat strange pleasure of being two places at once, for the first time.  In the flesh, in Philly, doing a reading for Furniture Press, publisher of my Heraclitean Pride and the forthcoming book-length poem, The Re-echoes.  Also, here at the Laurel C Street Arts Festival, in spirit, and through the presence of wonderful performers who've given great time and energy towards mastering the idylls form.

Sue Struve

                Sue introduced the set;  with a copy of Idylls for a Bare Stage in hand, she conveyed to the Theatre Tent audience her experience of the book, the theatrical piece, and the overall concept of the idyll as a form, and as an approach to acting and theatre.

Stephen Mead as the Bandit

Since I wasn't there,  I can only extrapolate based on rehearsals and the suggestion of the gesture, and his facial expressions, where Stephen might be in the piece.  I'd say, near to hearing the screech of an owl. Or, somewhere within the delivery of lines such as "Other people's money.  They'd have me slave and scrape for it all my life's worth, when I can steal it with self-respect."

"...with that dumb, complacent smirk of contentment I loathe - that type deserves to be victimized."
? Maybe?

And then, Sue Struve as the Captive Woman...

"I'm recovering them, these dream words..." perhaps?

"Don't be so scared!"

                Stephen also performed earlier in the day, and Harlie Sponaugle did "A Mother Feels her Estranged Daughter's Labor Pains" (vide Colette) later that afternoon.  Here's a shot of Harlie from one of the many outdoor rehearsals we did along the way.  Photo by Jeanne Cherner.

Harlie Sponaugle

Thursday, June 14, 2012

IDYLLS FOR A BARE STAGE Now Available at SPD books

New Arrival this week at Small Press Distribution:   Idylls for a Bare Stage 

Congratulations to publisher Douglas Mowbray and twentythreebooks;  the press expands into national distribution.  check out twentythreebooks' offerings on the SPD website.

Here's where you'll find all of my books currently available through SPD, including
Idylls for a Bare Stage

Friday, June 1, 2012

Coming June 9th: Idylls at the C Street Arts Festival in Laurel

Weekend after this!
The Inaugural C Street Arts Festival
 (on C Street, in Laurel, Maryland 20707)

Laurel's new street festival includes a theatre tent, along with artists' exhibitions, music, food, and poetry.

Several Idylls will be presented throughout the day:

11:15 am.    Stephen Mead
in "A Street-Merchant Imagines his Riches to Come" 
(after an anonymous author of The Arabian Nights)
1:30 pm Idylls Sequence
Stephen Mead in "A Bandit Plots a Murder by the Road"
Sue Struve in "A Native Chief's Captive Woman Guards One Freshly Caught" 
(vide Jorge Luis Borges)
Stephen Mead in "A Reveler Walks Home to his Family by Moonlight"

 3:30 pm.  Harlie Sponaugle
in "A Mother Feels Her Estranged Daughter's Labor Pains"
(vide Colette)

Deborah Randall, founder of Venus Theatre, runs the Theatre Tent for this event;  many thanks to Deb for including the idylls in the line-up!

Monday, May 7, 2012

More Proof in Concept

On the one hand, my intentions with this project are artistic.

On the other, my artistic intentions overall refuse to make a distinction between the work and life - it all has to do with life, daily life as much as anything else, as much as anything highlighted or set off as "work," the art has to be inseparable from living, or what's the point...

Life, daily life, also Lifetime/the Aion, as it was formulated (with reference to Heraclitus) in my book Heraclitean Pride.

This is related to the idea of the idylls being able to be done anywhere;  the work can be done anywhere, suitable for proscenium or the street, in an embrace of the interplay of text, subtext, and context.

text (the work as its written)
subtext (meanings spoken and unspoken, tacit and explicit, while part of the role of performance is to engage and activate certain subtleties, ambivalences, and undercuttings here)
context (where art interacts with life, the surroundings, the moment, with potential to explode the given)

Anyways, Saturday (weekend before last, April 28th) was a wild ride.
That was the wrap up of CruMoPoPerFest in front of Waverly library in Baltimore, and Idylls performers had to contend with a number of truly exciting challenges, among them: threatening rain; loud drumming from the grassy median right across from them, where a local high school marching band raised money by holding buckets out to cars lined up at the traffic light; and, during what was almost a mellow period of the afternoon, a belligerent, incoherent, clearly mentally ill man shouting and trying to interfere with the performances.

Nevertheless, each performer was imperturbable, and even during the loudest part of the drumming, an inner circle of "performer-created performance space" held its own, the audience hanging in there, intent on the proceedings.  The day as a whole had a satisfying sense of rhythm to it.  Proof in concept, thanks to the skills, powers of concentration, and bare-stage presences of Genna Davidson, Sue Struve, and Stephen Mead.

I'll post pics, recordings, vids from the event, when they come in - I think we'll be receiving all three.

There was a phrase that jingled back and forth between Christophe Casamassima (as co-founder of Poetry in Community, one of the organizers of CruMoPoPerFest) and my 12-yr-old daughter, Hero.
(Hero was an active participant, learning beatboxing with Max Bent, and singing pop songs during open mic sessions, including - ! - Kelly Clarkson's treatment of the Nietzsche quote, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger").   I'll pass along what Christophe repeated back to me by email last week...

This Saturday,

It may not have be
An Ideal environment
But it certainly was
An Idyll environment

So much fun. And sheer anxiety! Hope the actors had fun too.

Derived from street and marketplace theatre in ancient Greece, the idyll form creates its own ideal theatrical space; added to that, recently came across Guy Davenport's statement in his essay collection, Every Force Evolves a Form, that not only was this sort of theatre done in street, agora, and private homes (salons) - but also in what he describes as "wine shops"...  a relevant idea somehow, to keep in mind for another time  - wine and idylls...

As intriguing as Saturday was, the day before - a cold blustery Friday - Genna and I rehearsed her Antigone on the National Mall - this was Genna's intrepid idea, and it was incredibly instructive and favorable of possibility.  We were near the Smithsonian metro stop, in front of the Castle.  She did not perform, but rehearsed, and yet somehow that fact was communicated to passers-by - the issue of subtext and context again.  What were the cues that so unmistakably distinguished performance from rehearsal?  ...for further inquiry, intimately connected with the idylls theory and practice of performance, and spillage of art into life.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CruMoPoPerFest this Saturday in Baltimore - Idylls Line-Up

Exciting to be a part of this event:
7th Annual Cruellest Month Poetry and Performance Festival (CruMoPoPerFest)

Saturday, April 28th 11am-4pm
Baltimore's National Poetry Month Celebration wraps up
at the Waverly branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library
400 East 33rd Street, Baltimore Maryland 21218  

Scenes from Idylls for a Bare Stage will be interspersed with open mic sets and a special performance by Outside the Box, an interactive exploration of the Elements of Music through beatboxing, led by Max Bent, Waverly resident and Young Audiences of Maryland Teaching Artist.

Performers Stephen Mead, Sue Struve, Harlie Sponaugle, and Genna Davidson (each profiled elsewhere in this blog - please check out the archives) present individual Idylls throughout the day.  Here's their schedule...

Idylls Line-Up

11:00 am. Stephen Mead
in "A Street-Merchant Imagines his Riches to Come" 
(after an anonymous author of The Arabian Nights)

Stephen Mead

12 noon. Idylls Sequence
Stephen Mead in "A Bandit Plots a Murder by the Road"
Sue Struve in "A Native Chief's Captive Woman Guards One Freshly Caught" 
(vide Jorge Luis Borges)
Stephen Mead in "A Reveler Walks Home to his Family by Moonlight"

Sue Struve

1:45 pm.  Harlie Sponaugle
in "A Mother Feels Her Estranged Daughter's Labor Pains"
(vide Colette)

Harlie Sponaugle

 2:30 pm. Genna Davidson 
in "Antigone Buries Her Brother's Body Against Orders of the King"
(after Sophocles)

Genna Davidson

Here's the complete schedule, with Idylls, Open Mic (sign-ups available throughout the day), and Max Bent's Outside the Box:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

SPD and PiC: Strength of the Small Presses

Good news for Idylls for a Bare Stage:  Small Press Distribution accepted twentythreebooks as an SPD publisher, so soon the idylls book will be available through bookstores and outlets nationwide, and you'll be able to find it with my other published books at http://www.spdbooks.org

The SPD website is an excellent resource for readers to explore what's going on in independent publishing.

About the unparalleled level of support and dedication only possible through the small presses, one picture (even in a literary context) says it all.  I wasn't there, but here's twentythreebooks publisher Douglas Mowbray at  Baltimore's CityLit Festival - where else but with the indies can an author find such personal publisher attentiveness to a book?

Doug Mowbray with the Idylls in hand

And it goes beyond promotion and marketing, this attentiveness of people involved in the independent publishing world:  it starts, and follows through, and makes an end of itself of the creative process itself, with energies squarely pressed into the service of artistic values above all. Thus, with regard to such personal publisher involvement in the poetics and purposes of the work, Doug recently posted a quote about the Idylls from another publisher of mine, Christophe Casamassima. 
When the arts, the approaches to art, the interpretation of art—poesis, or the subjective—and the world in its totality of forms, genres, disciplines—the objective worldview—are in sync, then life and art disintegrate into ways of thinking and knowing. Idylls for a Bare Stage is the only book in which poetry, theatre, philosophy, philology, psychology, myth, history take precedence—an always spiraling inward precedence with no one discipline taking the foreground. No other book does this so eloquently and purposively. This is the soul of the Idylls—an exploration of knowing and how to know with the knower at the center point, struggling with being and meaning and what it is to know. It is not empirical. It is not quantifiable. And for the sake of students and humans everywhere, it’s time to unveil the cloak that keeps us rooted, no, subjugated, to the past. Let the Idylls open the way, compassionately and expansively.

-Christophe Casamassima, poet; proprietor, Furniture Press Books; co-founder, Poetry in Community
Acts and Words:  these are serious, energetic, outspoken instances of (multiple) publisher support for an author and the work - the intense take, interpretation and belief exhibited here are an above-and-beyond engagement with the book's artistic intention.  Nothing less has been my experience with both publishers as publishers, Mowbray for Idylls for a Bare Stage, and Casamassima for Heraclitean Pride and my soon-to-be-published book-length poem The Re-echoes.

The quote above was posted on a Facebook group page for Poetry in Community; and you can join the group on Facebook PiC page on Facebook; Mowbray and Casamassima worked together to create Poetry in Community, devoted to poetry as a way of life and living and knowing.  Or, as it says on the PiC page itself, "Poetry in Community will be both a physical center of activity (a meeting place, workshop, classroom, event space, library) and a virtual center of activity (web presence, catalogue, blog, forum) dedicated to creating and coordinating a community that will sustain the aesthetic and professional endeavors of emergent poets and publishers. Poetry in the Community will work with local communities—at the street, block, and neighborhood level—as a partner in community growth and sustainability efforts. Poetry in Community will create a more expansive tradition in which the whole of the community is invited to be present and represented. Poetry in Community will foster poetic practices as a collaborative effort to foster creative literacy and personal growth."

PiC is Baltimore-based, as are all of my publishers so far (although I'm based in the D.C. metro area):
Douglas Mowbray, twentythreebooks
Christophe Casamassima Furniture Press
and Justin Sirois (author of the Iraqi war novel Falcons on the Floor, just out!), Lauren Bender, and Jamie Gaughran-Perez, all three of Narrow House
I don't know what it is about Baltimore, but it has fostered an incredible scene for lit, and nourishing soil for what I do...

and so it's fitting The Idylls will come to Baltimore in a week and a half,
to wrap up the Cruellest Month Poetry and Performance Festival (CruMoPoPerFest)
on April 28th at the Waverly branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library
400 East 33rd Street, Baltimore Maryland 21218    11-4pm
I'll post the cast list and exact Idylls performance schedule soon...