Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Josef Svoboda "described a scenography for a proposed production of Faust in 1970 with director Alfred Radok, in which a crucial conceptual understanding was that Mephistopheles and Wagner, Faust's student and domestic servant, were one and the same person, and, of course, one and the same actor. The stage box was an empty and seemingly void space, shaped only by huge, very dark brown, barely distinguishable wall surfaces to the back and sides. The stage floor was steeply raked and apparently flagged with stone. A crucial feature of this floor was that beneath the stage were to be fitted felt-covered 'dampers' that could, by the action of the silently operating pistons, be made to press against the under-surface of the stage and render it silent. As Faust prepared his occult pentagram down stage to 'conjure' diabolic forces, the stage would echo with the sound of his and Wagner's footsteps. Wagner, however, would not engage or assist in Faust's conjuring practices; he would turn and make to elave, walking up stage, and his echoing foosteps would be heard. As he reached the farthest limit of the stage he would turn and walk back down the stage in total silent to stand before Faust – everyone in the theatre would know that in that transition of sound from echoing noise to silence he had become Mephistopheles."

from Theatre, Performance and Technology by Christopher Baugh

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Paris in the 17th century:

"A politician called Jean-Jacques Rounuard de Villayer, tired of sending servants to deliver messages and money across the expanding city, came up with the idea of a postal service and postboxes began to spring up in the well-heeled parts of town. The first properly run public transport systems had apepared earlier in the century – a carriage for hire by several citizens at once and called a carrosse had been invented by an enterprising carpenter called Nicolas Sauvage in around 1654. By the 1660s, more than twenty or so of these carriages could regularly be found lined up for hire at the church of Saint-Fiacre (they were nicknamed fiacres thereafter) and a decade or so later, following itineraries dvised by the philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, for 5 sous, the Parisian could travel in some comfort from the Palais de Luxembourg to the Pont-Neuf to the Louvre and back again."

from Paris: The Secret History by Andrew Hussey

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

"The Harvard Aesthetes of 1916 were trying to create in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an after-image of Oxford in the 1890s. They read the Yellow Book, they read Casanova's memoirs and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, both in French, and Petronius in Latin; they gathered at teatime in one another's rooms, or at punches in the office of the Harvard Monthly; they drank, instead of weak punch, seidels of straight gin topped with a maraschino cherry; they discussed the harmonies of Pater, the rhythms of Aubrey Beardsley and, growing louder, the voluptuousness of the Church, the essential virtue of prostitution. They had crucifixes in their bedrooms, and ticket stubs from last Saturday's burlesque show at the Old Howard. They wrote, too; dozens of them were prematurely decayed poets, each with his invocation to AntinoĆ¼s, his mournful descriptions of Venetian lagoons, his sonnets to a chorus girl in which he addressed her as 'little painted poem of God.' In spite of these beginnings, a few of them became good writer."

from Exile's Return by Malcolm Cowley

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

"Halfway across the stone bridge I was so struck by the beauty of the view that I sat down on the low wall and gave myself up to contemplation. A similarly extensive view of life was what I lacked. I was still distracted and engrossed by every detail, I could see every hair and pimple on a human face, without seeing the face itself. I had, morever, no experience of anything but ecstasy. I had never known despair or anguish, which I looked on as literary expressions. I had not endured hunger, frustration, illness, or chastity; these were the afflictions of others. I had nothing on my conscience and had never wept except from loneliness, fright, or boredom. How then was I qualified to write? Could I go on treating life as an amusing spectacle, a kind of joke? the only serious emotions I had were connected with my sense of the hideously fleeting passage of my own happiness, of the mortal beauty of everything I saw, of the inexorable progress of my own body to decay and death; but the conclusions to be drawn from these seemed neither original nor profound. I was at last faced with the fact that the only thing bothering me was not having enough money and that all I desired in the literary way was not to be a bore."

from Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco