Saturday: Wayne Koestenbaum: The Anatomy of Harpo Marx
Koestenbaum is a poet and cultural critic, and, in addition to his well-known, The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire
, has written books about Andy Warhol and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He's interested in celebrity. Now he's taken on Harpo Marx. This was an odd lecture. He began by saying he was going to "over-analyze" moments from Harpo's work. And he sure did. The thing is, though, that it was hard to tell if he was kidding or not! I and a couple of people near me were in stitches the whole time. It reminded me rather of the book, "Why Paint Cats", that send-up of art criticism that so many people took seriously.Ars Antigua: Musical Jokes of the Baroque
This was fun! Drunken night watchmen, cuckoos and frogs and such, all set to lovely baroque music.
In between these two events, I had a bit of time, so I went over to the Art Institute to see the Caravaggio, "The Supper at Emmaus", which is there on loan from the National Gallery in London. It's displayed along with a number of the AIOCs own “Caravaggesque” paintings. (Thank you, London! We're sending you "The Crucifixion" by Francisco de Zurbarán in return. Enjoy!) I also saw the exhibit of Victorian photocollage
, which was very interesting, indeed.
Sunday:Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South Tell Their Stories
E. Patrick Johnson, professor, chair, and director of graduate studies in the department of performance studies and professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University, presented through performance bits of the interviews he conducted for the book of that name, and talked about the process of writing it (finding informants, etc.). A southerner himself, Johnson shows that what you think you know about the south isn't necessarily accurate. He notes that certain behaviors that in the the north would be considered markers of homosexuality (for instance, a man calling other men "darlin'") are just the way things are in the south. He made a similar observation to what Florence King said in her essay, "The Gay Confederation", that gay men "often maintain surprisingly high profiles in our allegedly homophobic region". Not to say all is peaches and cream, though.Commedia dell'arte: Managing Chaos
A marvelous discourse about, and performance of, commedia dell'arte
. The performers showed how, with very little in the way of script, stock characters and stock jokes can be transformed through improvisation into wildly funny comedy.
Friday was the annual dinner of the Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. We honored Randy Stone, former Cook County Public Defender (and the guy who really raised the bar at that office, turned into a truly professional law office instead of a home for political hacks) and former head of the University of Chicago Law School's clinical program (where he still teaches). A good time was had by all, and the speakers were uniformly funny, and, more important, brief! I saw lots of folks I hadn't seen in a while, so there was a lot of indiscriminate hugging.
Sunday, after the CHF stuff, I went to the Court Theatre's production of Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep
which was great fun. Five roles played by two actors, with incredibly quick costume changes (the backstage folks got huge applause at the end). I'd seen the play a few years ago, but I sure didn't mind seeing it again.
On Monday, instead of our regular Italian class, most of us went to hear Italian author and activist Clara Sereni reading from her book, Casalinghitudine
, which has recently been translated into English as Keeping House
. She read in Italian and her translator then read the passages in English, followed by a Q&A and then some food and wine.
Yesterday, I went over to campus for the first Artspeaks program of the season. Dawn Upshaw, with members of eighth blackbird
and some other musicians, performed Osvaldo Golijov's song cycle, "Ayre", which was inspired by Luciano Berio's "Folk Songs". The piece draws largely on Al-Andalus, that period of time in southern Spain when the three Abrahamic religions coexisted in relative harmony. The texts were in Spanish, Ladino, Arabic, Hebrew, some traditional music and texts reworked, some contemporary music and poetry. It was gorgeous. Following the performance, Golijov and the musicians were interviewed by Shulamit Ran, who, like Golijov, has been a composer-in-residence at the Chicago Symphony.
Tonight I didn't go anywhere except grocery shopping.
I've been catching up on back issues of The New Yorker
, and found a little something for the bookstore and library employees among you.