Wednesday, February 13, 2013

'The Sound of Despair, Played on a Door'


The New Group’s “Clive” makes music out of trash and doorframes

The characters in Clive come and go abruptly, usually driven away by the toxic narcissism of the titular character, played with a peroxided snarl by star and director Ethan Hawke. But the doors through which Clive’s compatriots, enemies, and conquests enter and exit are more than just portals in and out of Clive’s drunken fiefdom; they also serve as unlikely instruments, sound sculptures designed by art world duo GAINES.

The most prominent of those sculptures looks like a deconstructed piano. The strings are pulled taut in front of the audience, and piano hammers lie against them waiting to be thwacked by an actor. Other doors serve as echo chambers, boasting bowls into which performers can murmur, croon, and shout. All of them serve to underscore this adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s first play Baal, written by Jonathan Marc Sherman and transplanted from 1920s Germany to 1990s Manhattan. Baal becomes Clive, a dissolute rock star who uses and destroys people with the casualness of a sociopath. As he begins to flail, the doors contribute an increasingly melancholy and haunting soundtrack to his self-destruction.

Brothers Latham and Shelby Gaines first collaborated with Hawke when the latter was directing The New Group’s revival of Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind. For that production, the two musicians were on stage, but only their work shares the spotlight with Hawke this time around. “We had fun in our little cubbyhole of Lie of the Mind, Shelby Gaines says. “But when you’re in the show you never see the show, so this was much different and very satisfying.”

For the brothers, part of Clive‘s appeal was the chance to experience their work played by other people. The cast turns to the seven onstage doors and coaxes Americana songs from them—including “Aura Lee,” “I Shall Not Be Moved,” and, in a nod to the Brechtian origins and possibly a wink at The Doors, “Alabama Song”—a stark contrast to the skinny-pants-clad punk that Clive embodies.

“That was a massive part of the job, trying to get the actors to understand how the instruments work and getting them to play,” says Latham Gaines. “But Ethan cast very musical people, and they were very keen, very interested to learn.”

The idea of turning doors into instruments first struck the brothers over a year ago while they were in a group art show, and the idea also appealed to set designer Derek McLane. But the actual instruments and sounds were dictated not by GAINES but by the doors themselves.

“Our experience has been that we could never build the same thing twice,” says Latham Gaines. “Whatever the wood is, the thickness, the history of the door, all these factors make it so we don’t know what we’re going to get. We love that aspect of it. They kinda do what they do, and that’s just how they came out.”

As for crafting the sound sculptures, the brothers start with junk. Really. “It changes depending on the project, but it’s usually a process of finding a big pile of junk and then going through and finding something that speaks to us,” Shelby Gaines says. “It’s a visual thing to start with. And in the back of your mind you’re looking at a structure [and thinking,] ‘Would it be suitable to be strung? Does it have an acoustic quality as well?’”

The onstage results supply the soundtrack to a resolutely dark look at selfishness and sexual despair, filled with death and rape. Hearing and seeing music emanating from battered and weathered doors in real time adds a layer of authentic grime to the proceedings as they play out amidst a sea of booze and waves of regret. As Latham Gaines says, “Was it Edison who said you just need a pile of junk and some imagination to be an inventor?”

Mark Peikert is N.Y. Bureau Chief at Backstage Magazine
Photo by Monique Carboni

Video: Vincent D'Onofrio in 'Spirit of Blue' PSA

Public Service Announcement Features “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” Actor Vincent D’Onofrio

CHICAGO, Feb. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — The Spirit of Blue Foundation announced that it has partnered with Outdoor Channel, America’s Leader In Outdoor TV, on an initiative to raise awareness for the safety concerns of the law enforcement community.  This partnership coincides with Outdoor Channel’s successful launch of its new original series, “Elite Tactical Unit: S.W.A.T.” (ETU).  This one-hour, adrenaline-fueled reality program provides viewers with a glimpse into the mentally rigorous and physically dangerous conditions that professional S.W.A.T. teams are faced with, covering a variety of tactical disciplines from high-risk helicopter rescue missions to close quarters combat.

By airing public service announcements (PSA’s), hosting web banners across their online properties and sharing updates about the Spirit of Blue’s important work through social media, Outdoor Channel will be educating its viewers on the safety concerns of the law enforcement community and assisting the Spirit of Blue with fund raising efforts.  To watch the Spirit of Blue PSA, which features Emmy-nominated actor Vincent D’Onofrio (“Law & Order: Criminal Intent”), visitwww.youtube.com/spiritofbluecharity.

“As tax revenues decrease nearly everywhere, and agency funding is becoming tighter, we believe that the public and industry together have a responsibility to step in and close the gap,” commented Todd Parola, Spirit of Blue Co-Founder and Chairman.  “We can’t allow funding levels to affect an officer’s safety on the job and, with the assistance of Outdoor Channel, we are committed to making a tremendous positive impact.”

“Through our show, ‘Elite Tactical Unit: S.W.A.T’ and the PSA’s, we hope to bring to light the extreme danger that these brave men and women who are part of America’s S.W.A.T. teams face on a daily basis,” said Tom Hornish, President and CEO, Outdoor Channel.  ”We are proud to partner with Spirit of Blue to honor the law enforcement officials that keep us safe every day.”
The Spirit of Blue Foundation works nationally to support the Law Enforcement community through the award of Safety Equipment Grants, funded by both private and corporate donations.  The Foundation is excited to add Outdoor Channel to its growing list of partners, which already includes: Amped Software, Blue Force Gear, Bushmaster Firearms, Magpul Industries, Leupold Tactical Optics, Combat Medical Systems, L3-EOTech, A-TACS Camo, and SentrySafe.  Together, the Foundation and its partners hope to realize a dramatic impact in the safety of the nation’s law enforcement officers.

2012 statistics released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, in conjunction with Concerns of Police Survivors, revealed the number of U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty totaled 129, a 22% percent decrease from 2011. Firearm-related deaths reached 49, a decrease of 32% for the same period. While progress is being made, the reality of these statistics and the increasing number of underfunded law enforcement agencies across the country fuel the Spirit of Blue safety grant initiative.

The Spirit of Blue Foundation actively encourages the public at large to honor and appreciate law enforcement officers who serve to protect our communities.  By supporting the Spirit of Blue Foundation, the public can make an impact in the lives of law enforcement officers every day. To learn more about the Spirit of Blue or make a donation, visit www.spiritofblue.com.

About The Spirit of Blue, Inc.The Spirit of Blue, Inc., based out of Chicago, IL, is a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to the enhancement of officer safety and vitality throughout the law enforcement community by promoting public awareness for their protection and fulfilling safety equipment and training needs.  The Spirit of Blue Foundation develops and executes fundraising campaigns nationally with the support of partner non-profits, corporate sponsors and private equipment manufacturers.  Fundraising proceeds are distributed in the form of Safety Equipment Grants to law enforcement agencies from local to federal levels.  Donations can be made be made anytime atwww.spiritofblue.com or by texting “BLUE” to 41444.