Monday, July 23, 2012


It just occurred to me that "spectacles" and "spectacles" are a pleasing pair of homonyms. Things to look at, things to help you see what you're looking at. I could carry it further, go all metaphorical, talk about how some spectacles of the show or performance stripe might help us see the things we look at while we go about living life. Or, I could revel in word geekery and point out how "spectacles" and "spectacles" are inevitable, simple children of Latin's spectare, which means, of course, to look.

(I feel compelled to share the fact that my dictionary of word histories has, on the same page as "spectacle," four entries for the word "spell." Though, I've never used that word to refer to a splinter of wood, despite its apparently respectable lineage from Old Norse.)

(I have now destroyed any illusions of coolness that I may have possessed.)

Spectacle #1:

Shan and I went to a show that Amanda Palmer played at Public Works. We got to see the lovely Neil Gaiman, which is always a pleasure, and give him a hug, and ask him about a project that we want to do for Sharp & Fine. In the near-ish future, we're planning to do a dance adaptation of Neil's poem "Queen of Knives." I've wanted to do some version of this for several years, and it finally seems like the right thing to do next. Neil says we can do whatever we like, as long as we vanish a lady out of a box onstage. I'm thrilled.

Amanda's shows are astonishing. She walks onstage, in her silk kimono and crazy makeup, and the audience throws their arms into the air. They love her. Truly and absolutely. She sings, and they nod their heads and mouth the words and the whole room bends toward her. They don't watch passively. They feel. They link arms and shuffle-dance. Around the edges, there are those stoic people holding drinks in their hands and watching with their backs against the wall and expressions of tame amusement, but they're very few. Mostly, people are on fire with how much they're enjoying themselves and enjoying her. Their masks slide off their faces and it's a humbling pleasure to watch them watch her.

Spectacle #2:

On Thursday, very early in the morning, I drove over to Oakland to meet my friend, the fantastic Harry Bolles. We drove out to Clayton and spent an hour or so pretending to be a trapeze artist (me) and a ringmaster (Harry) for a short film called Emily and Billy. It's directed by the wonderful Ari Sigal and is about a girl who can't recognize faces and a boy who has no facial features. Harry and I were part of the circus that tries to recruit Billy for the sideshow. I wore sparkles and held my leg in the air and Harry did a magic trick. It was fun.

When I was a kid, I fantasized about (1) being an orca trainer at Sea World, (2) riding in steeplechase races, and (3) running away to join the circus.

Spectacle #3:

This afternoon, I saw a performance of Malinda LaVelle's Urge. I'm still chewing through the piece in my head, but I have to say that I admire, so very much, the honesty and humor with which Malinda and her dancers put awkward, uncomfortable, unsettling things on stage and make them both compelling to watch and completely true. 


Atavist said...

When I was a kid my father would tease me with homonistic (?) Koans such as "Did you take your lunch to school this week or did you take the bus?"This kind of titteringly tumbling wordplay is what lead me to write a story about a child who found it hard to distinguish homonyms and made irrelevant correlations between definitions, like having a right and wrong side etc. I think that enjoying and playfully dissembling language and grammar does not make you less cool, it simply makes you capable of expressing why you are more so. I very much enjoy your writing style.

Kat Howard said...

YES. Best new project ever. So excited for it.

Megan Kurashige said...

Atavist: Thank you! "Did you take you lunch to school this week or did you take the bus?" is pretty darn clever.

Kat: I am so excited for the new project too! So excited.