‘A Christmas Carol’ returns to Actors Theatre Saturday, Nov 22 2014
Copper & Kings hosts ‘A Family Affair’ to benefit Family Scholar House on Friday, Nov. 21 Thursday, Nov 20 2014
Fictionalized Oppression Made Real: Ben Park Directs Harold Pinter’s Mountain Language Tuesday, Nov 18 2014
I awoke on Saturday morning, November 15th, with what felt like a helicopter buzzing in my head. My friend dragged me out the door and we went to grab breakfast at a crisp 9:00 AM. After that, I meandered around, reveling in the sunlight and wondering what I was to do that day. It was a nagging feeling until about noon when I messaged my friend Noah Park, asking him to meet me at Reynolds Grocery. On the phone, he told me that he was playing music for a play at Walden Theatre that afternoon. And then it hit me!
This past Saturday I had the opportunity to see the play, called Mountain Language, which was written by Harold Pinter and directed by Ben Park. The play was written in 1988, after Pinter travelled to Turkey with Arthur Miller. It focuses on the oppression of the mountain people and their language and the abuse and torture they face. The power of language is absolutely essential within this play. Pinter was deeply affected by the war going on between Russia and Turkey while writing Mountain Language, but unlike some of his other plays, Mountain Language relies on open metaphor rather than an obvious message. The oppression laid at the audience’s feet is ambiguous. These events could be taking place in America, Great Britain; anywhere. The audience is left sweaty, nervous, mouths gaping.
In an interview from One for the Road, Pinter says that, “In order to protect the realm, anything is justified. It is also, however, true that many of the natural sadistic qualities, which we all possess, are given free rein in the play. The audience felt fear- but what was it fear of? Fear not only of being in the position of the given victim, but a fear also born of recognition of themselves as an interrogator. Because think of the joy of having absolute power” (Pinter, 17).
As the audience, we are forced into the dark, into the terrifying mindsets of oppressor and the oppressed. We are made faceless, just as the oppressors make their victims.
Many interesting choices were made by director Ben Park, and one of the most mesmerizing ones was the live score performed and written by Ben’s brother Noah. When asked about the music Noah described the score as, “pretty ominous, definitely some Godspeed You! Black Emperor-influenced stuff but also a little noisy. It’s dark, brooding and loud and I think it’s a little scary.” Additionally, the lighting system was not utilized at all throughout the duration of the play. Instead, the actors utilized small flashlights and one light bulb positioned under a monstrous ladder, in order to create an atmosphere that was both visually jarring and anxiety-inducing. Mood and atmosphere are tightly controlled and maneuvered by the use of light and music. Just as you are watching the two lovers embrace, they are heart-wrenchingly pulled apart as the lights flicker and the music cascades into distorted madness.
The cast consisted of Tony Pike as the Sergeant, Melinda Beck as The Young Woman/Sara Johnson, Natalie Fields as The Mother, Elliot Cornett as Guard, Eliot Zellers as Guard, Bryce Bashford as The Prisoner/Charlie and Ben Park as The Officer. Each actor and actress was faced with a unique challenge: act without a face. Convey emotional turmoil and utter terror without being able to fully shed light on their facial disposition. It was so surreal to watch, as if an image from Raymond Roussel’s worst nightmare (but still mind-boggling) had come to life right in front of you.
Cornett and Zellers as the Guards was an incredible experience to watch. The grand, strange chaos they bring to the stage during some of the narrative’s crucial turning points is absolutely absurd to watch and oddly comforting. That’s not to say the play isn’t utterly sad. It’s hard to watch, and the things you’re seeing unfold are very difficult to stomach sometimes. It’s oppression at its worst. Running rampant for 40 minutes, this oppressive imagery screaming in front of you is abrasive, yet crucial. These are things which people need to see; not the camera videos on major news channels, not the blurbs of information we only hear on the radio in the car, but the raw display of the horrors of oppression. Tony Pike said on his role as The Sergeant, “it’s captivating to play the opposite and fun to play a person who’s not yourself. The challenge is definitely there to commit to that person. It’s difficult.” Pike commands the stage with his presence, looming in the dark and booming orders out. His acting was perhaps some of my favorite of the play, as his role, along with Ben Park as The Officer, is some of the hardest stuff to see during the play’s duration. The wickedness of these roles is mentally-trying, but so very captivating to watch.
The Mother, played by Natalie Fields, was another highpoint of the play. Her role calls mostly for silence (due to political protest, as she is not allowed to speak her own language), until parts where she is under extreme duress, where she begins to yelp out, “I have bread! I have apples! I have bread!” These moments are heart-wrenching; that only a few words stand between the fates of this woman and her imprisoned son is devastating. Fields’s emotional investment in the role really shines throughout.
Melinda Beck, as Sarah Johnson, and Bryce Bashford, as Charlie Johnson/The Prisoner, are the centerpiece of the narrative. Bryce Bashford is beaten down, dragged across the floor, and sentenced to moments of pure, free happiness until the guards return to continue his torture. And this is all while Sarah and The Mother are forced to watch a loved one be emotionally and physically destroyed right in front of them. All of this for using illegal language. Bashford does an excellent job in bringing his Prisoner’s pains to life. Many a time I was brought to tears watching him perform instances of such awful circumstances. Beck reciprocates this pain with Sarah Johnson’s undying love and support. Sarah Johnson is willing to put everything on the line, including her body, in order to save the person she loves. The word tragic would not be proper enough to describe what the audience voyeuristically gazes at during Mountain Language. Finally, Ben Park’s crazed, mad-with-power Officer is another highlight. As he saunters around the stage, threatening this and questioning that, chills are sent up the spine. This man exudes confidence and power while embodying the horrors of oppression. “Ben takes responsibility for violent imagery”, Beck said before the show, and this responsibility was evident. The passion shown by every actor was felt coming off of the stage, and not only that but the responsibility of what they were showing the audience was felt too.
Mountain Language is playing this week at the Slant Culture Festival hosted at Walden Theatre. The Walden Theatre Alumni Company is presenting Mountain Language, and make sure to catch one of their shows coming up this week, either Thursday November 20th at 9PM or the following Friday, November 21st at 11PM. I highly recommend everyone go see this play. However, as we will be addressing below in an interview with director/actor Ben Park, The Slant Culture Festival will not be the last time to see Park’s production of Mountain Language. For more information about Slant, there are links at the end of the article. Mountain Language is certainly not for the faint of heart, but it is something that you must see. Its display of the power of language and oppression is parallel to what we are watching take place all around us. These are not invisible issues. They need to be discussed and thought about.
Here, I got the chance to ask director and actor Ben Park a few questions about his role in the play, and what he hoped to accomplish through presenting it. Keep reading and check it out!
LouKY: Why the choice to include live scoring/music?
Ben Park: The show is very ambiguous. Music helps to capture the show’s atmosphere.
LouKY: What was it like getting into the Officer’s mindset?
BP: He truly doesn’t care for these people. Not out of hatred, but more from systematic hate. It’s what’s been taught by the regime. I’m not the regime. I’m a part of it. Like a puppet. Who killed the first Jew or gypsy in the Holocaust? Taking in the years of violence and oppression, what would I have done?
LouKY: What was your fascination with Pinter?
BP: [Mountain Language] is a very important play to do right now. It’s hard to watch this play and that’s why we do it. People need to see it. This is happening all around us. It’s not just us. It’s everybody. They need to see this, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them.
LouKY: Have you wanted to do this play for a while?
BP: Since March I’ve wanted to do this play.
LouKY: Why did you choose to do without the theatre’s lighting system?
BP: From day one, the choice about lighting was set. We weren’t going to use the theatre’s lighting system and wanted to maintain a minimalist approach. So, light as metaphor. With the lighting, there was an element of spectacle, but it really worked to create an atmosphere of oppression.
LouKY: Do you have any plans for Mountain Language after its run is finished at Slant?
BP: I’m definitely planning on taking it in new directions. There might be interest in filming it as well.
Mountain Language is Ben Park’s first attempt at a nonlocal playwright. It marks the 8th play he’s directed and the first one with live scoring. Previously he’s directed Lydia and Prometheus Io, both written by Dakota Parobek. At the last Slant Festival, Ben directed Play: A Comedy. Be sure to stop by The Slant Culture Festival this week, at Walden Theatre located on 1123 Payne Street, on November 20th at 9M or November 21st at 11PM to catch the last showings of Mountain Language.
Slant Culture Festival website: http://www.slantculture.com/
Catch them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/SlantCulture
A short interview with Harold Pinter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69Jfp7zvypI
PNC Broadway Series brings ‘Newsies’ to town Sunday, Nov 16 2014
Extra! Extra! Read all about “Newsies” coming to the Kentucky Center stage! And we won’t even charge you a nickel for the information! In conjunction with Disney Theatrical Productions, the Tony Award-winning play will be in town from Nov. 18-23 … Continue reading
Morning Motivational on Monday Tuesday, Nov 11 2014
Dick Wilson and I can’t figure out how many years we’ve been doing the Breakfast of Champions, but it’s somewhere between five and eight years. We’re guessing.
We finished our 2014 series yesterday, with GLI president and former Rusty Satellite Show guest Kent Oyler giving the group a positive message about the future of the region’s efforts to attract and retain jobs. We had around 50 people there.
I was asked why we don’t do more to promote it, to get bigger crowds. Dick and I both said the same thing – because we don’t want a hundred people there. From the start, it’s been about attracting people who want to get up and get going on a Monday morning, who want to fill their brain with valuable info about their city and their belly with a nice breakfast. Our most difficult decision was moving the start time back a half hour a few years back to make it easier for some to attend.
In other words, if you make it a little bit difficult, by hosting it early Monday morning on the second Monday of odd-numbered months, you know the people who show up are motivated to be there. It makes for a lively morning. It’s not for everybody.
Below, you can see pictures of the ghosts we’ve had over the years, courtesy of our partner Katie Gaughan, with its movers and shakers from politics, sports and the arts and business.
Jennifer Lawrence hosts advance screening of next ‘Hunger Games’ to benefit Boys & Girls Club of Kentuckiana Monday, Nov 10 2014
Journal: Luke’s Three-Day Week; Homecoming with the Pikes Sunday, Nov 9 2014
LUKE: Entry for 11/6 thru 11/7. This week was a short week so my teachers see this and decide “We need to give them enough work for a 5 day week isntead of 3.” So I’ve been very busy with not only schoolwork but also this is a fairly important time for my game. This is because on midnight Monday the “season” ends and you can no longer climb up the competitive ladder for that season. I want to get the highest rank of diamond but I’m fairly far away so I have been very busy with that and schoolwork.
RICK: We had a big crowd in Bowling Green for Homecoming at WKU. By that, I mean we had a gang of my PiKA fraternity brothers converging on campus. We came with our graying hair, growing waistlines and either our 1st, 2nd or 3rd wives, girlfriends or just our selves. And we hung out, calling each other by nicknames earned in college — “Otis, my man!” — and telling all of those not in on the jokes how crazy we were three decades ago.
We saw the new Pike house, a structure way cooler than the ramshackle place we remembered at 1366 College Street. Oddly, there was a composite photo from my freshman year on the wall, so we had to rush over and take pictures. As current students rushed by us in front of Diddle, we ate and drank at a tailgate party, stopping people we knew on the way in. We watched the Hilltoppers conquer UTEP in exciting fashion in a fancy, half-empty stadium. I can’t understand what it is people in Bowling Green do that they don’t fill this wonderful place up 6 times a year. And they sell beer at the games.
There were 35 of us at dinner in downtown Bowling Green. Conversations weren’t about what we’re doing with our lives, but what we did in our college lives. We talked about the dozens of brothers who didn’t make this trip, and what all those guys were doing. And we hugged each other, laughed and told stories on each other. We replayed embarrassing escapades I can’t imagine any of the current Pikes doing.
When I was pledging back in the fall of 1978, I remember being impressed by what some alumnus told me — enjoy your college years because it’s the only time in your life you can drink like an alcoholic and not be called one — and that the guys you’re living with in the fraternity will be in your life until you die. Truth.
Pam Tillis stars in ‘A Kentucky Christmas Dinner Show’ at the Galt House Sunday, Nov 9 2014
Writer’s Block Festival celebrates love of reading and writing Saturday, Nov 1 2014
Day 14: League of Legends and Watching the World Series Wednesday, Oct 29 2014
Journal Day 14:
Today was just a blur to be honest. Every class was just a slog of a bunch of work or notes. Lots of rain so the walk home was quite crummy. My teachers were nice and didn’t hit me with a whole of homework. So when I got home I was able to play a lot of my favorite game League of Legends, a moba game. Basically it’s a 5v5 game where you fight to destroy the enemy base.
I was among the few Americans watching the World Series last night. Google “World Series TV Ratings” and you see a series of stories about how baseball can’t get its groove back, how the annual showcase of the game’s ratings are sliding, because Americans are more interested in football, or The Voice or have other things to do than watching teams from Kansas City and San Francisco blow each other out. There’s a Game 7 Wednesday after KC won 10-0 on Tuesday.
It wasn’t always like this. During my childhood the Series was a special event that everyone discussed. We knew about the Amazing Mets of ’69. Those crazy Oakland A’s, the Big Red Machine, I remember them all, even the starting lineups. The Series was the only time all year that baseball games were on TV more than once a week.
We couldn’t get enough information about players like Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Catfish Hunter or even Cesar Geronimo. Can you name anyone on the Royals or Giants?
Game 7 is tonight, but I don’t imagine you are arranging your schedule around the game.