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THE POET'S LIFE
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photo credit above, Tim Lachina
Cleveland poet and performer Ray McNiece is on stage in the Cleveland Public Theatre's debut production of "Open Mind Firmament," a play about William Butler Yeats, and most specifically focussed on Yeats' Cuchulain cycle, a series of short plays about incidents in the life of the mythic Irish hero Cú Chulainn (the pronunciation of whose name, by the way, is a subject of some scholarly debate: Yeats prefered the pronunciation "ku-HOO-lin").
Yeats was himself intimately involved with the theater (along with friends, he established the Irish Literary Theatre to produce Irish and Celtic plays), on a mission to produce a form of theatre that avoided "vulgar realism" in favor of an avant-garde theatre emphasizing symbolism, nuance, and poetry.
this production "visually compelling"-- I'll agree with that; the
stagecraft (on a very nearly empty stage) is magnificent. This is a
performance combining symbolism, dance, scholarly analysis, and Irish
song. I think Yeats would be proud. And Ray McNiece is brilliant in the
role of Cuchulain.
Lives of a Poet
The Lives of a Poet
Written by Ray McNiece
Through Linked poems, songs and monologues, Ray McNiece presents, The Lives of a Poet, a Memoir on Stage depicting the many facets of his life as a performer. Live music and ancestral images help him tell the tales of a poet whose words have carried him from the rusty crucible of Cleveland across the wide world.
From first finding his callings not as a preacher but as a poet in the hills and hollers of Appalachia to the working class crucible of Cleveland that forged his hard edged colloquial verse, Ray McNiece takes the audience on a poetic journey through the wonders of words that have carried him from stages in 49 of the United States to international performances in Europe, Russia and Asia.
Whether if be though drama, song or poem, this poet has been making a living by living his making through language. The significant creations that make up this memoir on stage will be linked by the back stories that provided their genesis.
Al Moses provides musical accompaniment for original songs and created sound-scapes to accentuate the poems and monologues that make up these various lives. Jordan Davis directs and conceptualizes the ancestral images and voices that guide a poet walking in the footsteps of endless others. A poet is the sum total of all those met, all those voices heard, and all those lives lived.
DIS: Voices from a Shelter
This 75 minute, one-act series of linked monologues, poems and songs is a visceral and poignant portrait of disrespected people --the homeless. A dozen characters covering a cross-section of the street population, including a Vietnam vet, a Native American, a de-institutionalized mental patient, and an elderly woman, present their thoughts and feeling with riveting insight. The monologues are composites of the stories and experiences told by the guests of the Boston Night Center, an all-night drop-in center near Boston's theatre district.
The video version of this show was produced by
WGBH-Boston and aired on PBS
nationally. In a review of DIS from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, London's
Stage and Television Today said, "The energy he has for each character is
impressive and he never fails to surprise with the variety packed into the
show." The Edinburgh Scotsman reported, "McNiece's characters are
acutely observed, the speech patterns and mannerisms perfectly caught. In a
review in dialogue, arts in the Midwest, John Stickney wrote, "McNiece
lends these victims a face with a voice and words, not full of pity but with
individual dignity." [ 75 minutes ]
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