Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why Poets Theatre Now?

Here is my review-essay of The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater 1945-1985, ed. David Brazil and Kevin Killian, at PAJ: art + performance.

My initiatory experience of “poets theatre” occurred in the fall of 2002. Writers, scholars and artists were gathered at SUNY-Buffalo for a conference called Prose Acts, which focused on the West Coast literary and cultural movement now commonly referred to as New Narrative. Among the participants in the conference, organized by music and art critic Brandon Stosuy, were Dennis Cooper, Eileen Myles, Robert Gluck, kari edwards, Matthew Stadler, Lawrence Ytzhak Braithwaite, Dodie Bellamy, and Kevin Killian. At the close of the conference, Kevin Killian staged his play The Vegetable Kingdom (co-written with the San Francisco-based designer, Rex Ray). In The Vegetable Kingdom, the participants of a game show with the same name as the play, go in search of Linda McCartney who one of the participants claims to be her biological mother. On the way, the game show’s co-hosts attempt to pit McCartney against her arch-nemesis, Yoko Ono. This attempt culminates in a hilarious scene in which a stoned-out-of-her-mind McCartney and super mystical Ono face-off. The dialogue is peppered with witty plays on pop cultural reference (one of Killian’s signatures) and high camp humor. The result is a carnivalesque, topsy-turvy post-identity politics play paved by critical intelligence.

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