A Play by Charles Busch
Produced by the Otherworld Theatre Company
Directed by Tiffany Keane
Running until June 28, 2015
On the stage at City Lit Theatre (2nd Floor)
1020 W Bryn Mawr Avenue
$20.00 Tickets - Purchase Here
The Otherworld Theatre Company puts on the best gender transgressive '80s/'90s fantasy b-style dialectical reluctant hero's origin story entrenched in a mythical revenge tragedy theatre production I've ever seen. Suffice to say, I have seen none other. Queen Amarantha made for a fun night at the theatre, no matter my level of experience in the genre.
Charles Busch's screenplay follows a fairly standard plot arc. Otherworld provides the following synopsis:
Headstrong and transgressive, Amarantha is far from a meek and mild medieval monarch. Yet, when her enemies destroy her reputation, she abdicates and runs away from her duties. The throne then falls to her hopelessly weak ward, Roderigo, and soon the kingdom is imperiled, forcing Amarantha to choose between her freedom and saving the country.The two-act play runs 2 1/2 hours, a fair length paled by mainly modern epic science fiction and fantasy motion pictures. At least Amarantha provides an intermission for a bathroom break.
The first act expends much of its time setting the stage for the frenetic pace of the second act. Act one maintains your attention but takes its time introducing a lot of details in the form of dialogue exposition.
Unfortunately, it engages the head more than it resonates with the heart. It makes sense as a stand in for the struggles of an alienated youth without their own voice dealing the pressures of the world.
Even with all that time, though, Amerantha doesn't allow itself to breath to let the feeling of the people and setting settle. Fact after fact comes, the feelings also coming as fact rather than drama.
All the exposition has its purpose. The play already stretches to 2 1/2 hours. Expanding on the main characters or adding more dramatic scenes would add a whole lot of time. It could stretch easily to 4 hours by dramatizing more of the characters or even a whole season of a television show. We already have enough trouble managing our time.
The first act, nonetheless, still feels like the narrative forcing the characters to move forward. Blame can't fall too hard on anyone. Audiences generally want familiar narratives, this one being the coronation of a peculiar leader, their fall then rise again to restore the natural order of things.
Unlike the first act, the action of part two avalanches inevitably to its conclusion where the two main women, Amarantha and Thalia, face off with swords in the climax. The second act doesn't feel forced, the audience gets pulled along for the ride. Instead of getting lost in all the exposition of facts, the audience gets lost in the moment, just trying to keep up with the action.
Act two also counteracts the first act by having time to breath. One of the most memorable moments comes during an argument between Amarantha and her partner as she heads toward her chosen destiny. He wants to pull her back to freedom away from the path of justice.
In her maturity, though, she has come to appreciate a variation on feminity, which she had detested previously. This variation has a tougher edge, but it doesn't go as far as her partner who wants her more radical expression.
This gives the audience a touching experience as Amarantha comes closer to her real self acting out radically because it's opposite of what everyone else expects. The softening of Mona Begale's portrayal of Amarantha feels palpable here, reaching out to the audience, even as everyone in the room has to grit their teeth, knowing that Amarantha has to harden herself for the battle ahead.
All the while in the court, Thalia, takes it over, both in political power and dramatic presence. She becomes more erratic, paranoid and wretched, drunk with power and fearful that everyone else wants to take it from her.
Mary-Kate Arnold channels Thalia's perverted force, commanding the stage and towering over the weak-willed Roderigo who used to act as the dilletante and the politicians who use to try bullying the unsure Amarantha. Elliot Sowards, David Servillo and Dylan Schaefer all subdue their characters into their just humiliation, as they have all brought it upon themselves.
The end dance of sword play between so many characters highlights the fight directing of Kai Young and the intimidation of Justin Veistiaete's Champion, who stood in the background for most of the play. Now, though, he faced three enemies, nearly besting them all, showing that his swordmanship equaled his intimidation.
Among all this action, the real transgressor, the jester, the radical, the noble feeling savage becomes embodied in Adrian, portrayed by Brendan Stallings. He starts as an assassin who falls in love with Amarantha then tries to tempt her with peaceful isolation from civilization. An interesting quirk: he prefers Amarantha when she cross dresses with a beard and has a masculine edge.
In all but a couple parts, Adrians transgresses traditional norms with ease that most everyone else fights against or struggles to break away from. Even in our contemporary age, when accepting such subversions, we wonder if we should embrace it with tons of attention or to brush over it, treat it like a norm but to do so in such a way that it gets disempowered.
Adrian feels refreshing because for most of the play, the other characters accept him as a person with an identity. These subverting characteristics of his just come off as an expression of him, not as features assigned to him by others.
Even Adrian can disappoint, though, and fall into the complacency of his identity. His feelings for for Amarantha cause him to exert his will over her environment, controlling what information reaches her and what doesn't. In his fight against the majority culture defining him, he comes to exert unjust power over Amarantha, who has allowed herself to become vulnerable to him.
In the same scene that Amarantha softens into finding herself, Brendan Stallings expresses Adrian's disappointment with himself by simple silence. Masterful ease when things matter little becomes sad awkwardness along with all the other characters' wondering about their own identities or covering up their own emotional voids by exerting control over those around them.
His joining the assault on the castle felt surprising. I thought he would disappear into the woods, trying to keep a hold of his freedom. He proved a standup guy, though, showing that even transgressors have to support a mature natural order to allow for true freedom.
The lack of denouement and getting no answers feels disappointing at first. When the dramatic conflict ends, the victor takes their spoils, and the play ends. The audience never becomes privy to the actual final synthesis or any final answers.
Sometimes creative works should do just that. They should open frontiers, not close them. As with Amarantha, we need to exprience things on our own, through success and failure then think on our own to find our own mature answers and identity. Maybe it means exalting in the undefined wild or return to civilization on our terms, using what works for us and discarding what doesn't.
I think my initial uneasy reaction to the seemingly formulaic Queen Amarantha came from my own desire to be led into an "innovative" formula that I had never seen before. Finding on the surface a seemingly unoriginal plot arc that sacrificed answers for still somewhat controversial issues, I had felt the narrative strangling the interesting parts to please everyone for the cost of not making anyone happy.
For a play written 18 years ago, though, it can still give an open mind something to think about. We may have same-sex marriage gaining support more everyday, but when that becomes fully accepted without question, how do we define ourselves after the fight?
Wasn't there something out there about Barack Obama getting into office meant we entered a post-racial world? But now, eight years later, some of the biggest news out there is Ferguson, Baltimore, white cops of privilege having unconscious against black people contributing with their ease to shoot and put black people into dangerous strangleholds.
We, as human beings, have a lot of maturing and growing to do, both as individuals, as societies and as a world. We need to ask a lot of questions to ourselves and the world around us to find out who we all are. Sometimes we may have to for the identities, justice and surivival of ourselves and others at the expense of those who try to overdefine everything else around them.
Like the ambiguity at the end of Queen Amarantha, we have to get used to uncertainty. All the questioning and seeking will have its slow times and other moments of progression that we have a hard time keeping pace alongside but gets our dopamine and blood pumping. We can't give up on the battle of the human spirit, though. We have to keep pushing for a more just world.
Tiffany Keane, artistic director and founder of Otherworld Theatre made a good choice with Queen Amarantha for getting this energy out there. A theatre company focused on putting science fiction and fantasy onto the stage makes for a fitting vehicle to do so (even though I can't help but express some disappointment in some in the wider SFF community for pushing more for a closed off, overly defined world).
The cast and crew seem to agree with Keane on this decision. Passion emanated from them both during and after the productions. Congratulations on a job well done!
I now very much regret missing out on their production of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. After all, that book very much inspired the creative path that I now find myself. Ah well. Such is life. We all miss out on things we would have liked to witness.
Don't worry, though. I'll be keeping my eyes open for future Otherworld Theatre products.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Increasing Workflow Productivity and The Misnomered 80/20 Rule/Pareto Principle: More Process, Less Projects
I have a philosophy about establishing processes in workflows rather than looking at every task as its own individual project. Addressing each task as an individual project might help highlight unique situations that can become problematic in the future. Maybe addressing the issue before it becomes a problem can cut down on stress later.
Nonetheless, those unique situations come up rarely compared to the norm. The misnomer of the Pareto principle ("80/20 rule") applies here. 80% of our attention goes to 20% of the load. Nuance can make the principle more complicated, but while working on that 20% difficult load, the other 80% of the load gets ignored. Either tasks pile up or people get pushed aside, making routine tasks that should take a relatively short time to address become part of the problematic load.
Making as many things into processes vs treating every single thing as a project can increase overall productivity. It may make those unique situations a little more difficult and taxing at the time. A process heavy workflow, however, reduces escalating routine tasks into problematic projects.
That being said: Always keep eyes open for when problematic situations become routine enough to warrant a routine process to address. Making identification of the problematic as part process help integrate it into the routine. If you don't, someone else will, either the competition or the client/prospect. Whoever makes the problem into a process will win. You will lose. Don't let your competition take away clients because of bad workflow habits.
Please note this approach can have problematic issues on the social, cultural and sociological level. In light of social justice, this approach causes problems. Integrating a proper routine for recognizing problematic injustice (in yourself and others), identifying it as injustice and addressing it as a project that requires proper attention can prove a valuable skill to yourself and the world. Productivity does not give an excuse to treat people like shit and as not human in your eyes. Don't be surprised if you feel like they treat you horribly. They're just giving back what they're giving.
[I expect this entry to get long. I don't want to post a series, so I'm posting it piecemeal. If you find it at this stage, cool, thanks for coming by. Hopefully you find some useful tips. Keep coming back to find more. Given time, I'll finish listing all my tips and post a link to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Follow me on one or all those social media sites if you'd rather wait until I'm done to get all these tips at once.]
Our computers have a lifespan longer than four and half years. Yet, on average, home computers get replaced that frequently.
With proper maintenance, however, our Windows PCs can last quite awhile. This blog entry will provide tips on maintaining your computer for speed and performance. I stay away from manual adjustments to the Windows Registry and other sophisticated hackery. That type of stuff can make the computer unusable, so I don't want go near that type of advice.
These types come from a Windows 7-centric viewpoint. I will base all instructions on Windows. I think Vista and 8 will have some type equivalent structure. Some features may have been added or removed between Vista, 7 and 8, though, so I wouldn't worry too much if you can't find what I'm talking about. If you can't find it after 10 or 15 minutes, I suggest moving onto the next tip.
I'll stay away from Apple computers, too. I've seen Macs last almost a decade without any tweaking. I don't know enough about Apple products, either, to provide this type of advice.
Some of these tweaks, I discovered myself. Others, I found on the Internet. Considering a couple posts I've posted on Facebook elicited a few responses from frustrated Windows PC users, I think The Lextopia makes for a great place to provide these tips. I also don't think I've seen all the tips I'll provide all in the same place, either.
TIP #1 SEE HOW MUCH VIDEO MEMORY YOU HAVE
This tip has more the point of getting information. Some of the first few tips I provide might not worth your while if you have a lot of video memory. I don't really know how much is little and how much is a lot. I've fiddled around with computers with anywhere between 16 MB to, I think, about 128 MB.
That whole range of video memory proved too feeble for many of the graphical features that come with a Windows PC that you bring home from the store at factory settings. I don't why Microsoft or the computer manufacturers send these systems out with the implicit impression that they have the optimum configuration. They don't.
Anything with a higher video memory than 128 MB might work fine, for all I know. I just know that up to that point, eliminating a lot of graphic features encourages better performance in a Window's PC.
Find out your graphics memory by:
I don't know at what level video memory makes for a good amount. My next few tips have the goal removing and downgrading graphical features to free up resources. You're free to use what you want and discard the rest. High video memory might make the tips pointless.
Some people prefer the nice graphics over a high performance computer. They, and you, have that right. These are all tips, after all, not commands.
TIP #2 TURN OFF AEROS
I'll admit, the Windows Aeros graphics features make for a pretty interface. It's enjoyable to watch. It also provides some useful tricks to help with human memory, like when you put the pointer over an active icon on the taskbar, it will show the active screens for different documents, web pages and what have you. It's cool and useful if you prefer visuals. It slows your computer down a lot, though.
Turn off Aeros by doing the following:
After changing to a non-Aeros theme, I like to find a memorable picture from a relaxing vacation to put on my desktop. Do that by:
The Aeros themes are under "Aeros Themes." For my home computer, though, my "Installed Theme" from the manufacturer is an Aeros theme, but it's not under the "Aeros Themes" category. Each selection has two or more simulated screens. if there are more than two, it's definitely Aeros. If it's two screens but the front one is transparent, it's still Aeros.
If the front screen is opaque and has a couple lines, it's non-Aeros. You can be sure that the options under "Basic and High Contrast Themes" are not Aeros.
TIP #3 ADJUST YOUR GRAPHICS CARD TO PREFER PERFORMANCE OVER QUALITY
Per my previous spiels, this blog entry focuses on increasing performance, not graphics. That said, adjusting this setting at home and work has only improved performance and my computing experience. Adjust your graphics card for performance, not quality, by doing the following:
TIP #4 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN INTERNET BROWSERS
We're still gearing down those graphics! Hardware accelaration has the intent of offloading the heavy lifting of graphics onto the graphics card. Problem comes down to with little video memory, the graphics card really can't handle too many things at once.
At this point, your computer's CPU ends up doing a lot of work organizing and mediating what work and jobs go to the graphics card at any time, put not so urgent graphics information into regular memory and switches between the all these jobs. . .all the while handling non-graphics calculations and actions.
By turning off hardware acceleration, your computer's CPU doesn't offload the work to the graphics card. That doesn't sound like a good idea at first. Why have the CPU do all that work when you have a graphics card that should do it?
In the long run, turning off hardware acceleration takes a step out of the process. Your computer then can use the resources it had been using to shuffle data onto the graphics for actually processing the graphic data. Having your CPU process this data ends up more efficient than a graphics card doing it.
This status may not prove true with a powerful graphics card. Experiment a little if you have a powerful graphics. I plan to when I get my next laptop that will have a more powerful graphics card.
Turning off hardware acceleration in Internet Explorer 11 (obviously this advice will become obsolete in a year or so when Microsoft stops producing and supporting IE):
Turning off hardware acceleration in Mozilla Firefox:
Turning off hardware acceleration in Google Chrome:
TIP #5 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN MICROSOFT OFFICE
Turning off hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office has the same goals as turning it off in Internet browsers. Specific directions can help a lot of people.
These directions will apply for Microsoft 2010. With a couple adjustments, though, you should be able to figure out how to make these adjustments for later versions. I don't know if earlier versions have the options available.
Without further ado, here are some directions:
I have yet to find a hardware acceleration option in Microsoft Outlook. If you find one, don't hesitate to point it out to me.
Disabling hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office won't necessarily speed up general performance of your computer. If you use Microsoft Office a lot, though, it can help a lot.
TIP #6 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION AND LOAD AFTER COMPUTER BOOT IN SPOTIFY
As with Microsoft Outlook, turning off hardware acceleration only really makes a difference if you use Spotify on a regular basis, like I do.
Telling the program to not load after boot will help a lot, though. Note that a later tip will provide directions on not loading Spotify at startup, also. Both these steps should be done.
I'm providing specific directions in different places, however, because they're options in totally different programs. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Windows has multiple places to turn the same thing and off.
The directions for within Spotify:
TIP #7 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN INTERNET BROWSERS
Extensions add functionality to browsers and the computer. I like having Facebook Chat and Google Hangouts available without having the respective Websites open.
The downside: Those extensions use up valuable resources, downgrading computer performance. A bunch of random extensions get installed onto the browsers, also, especially onto Internet Explorer.
Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Internet Explorer:
Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Mozilla Firefox:
Disabling/Removing Extensions in Google Chrome:
I like Chrome because it makes turning Extensions on and off easy. As I said above, I like to use Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts when I'm not on the webpages. In the Extensions page, I turn them on and off.
If you find yourself unfamiliar with an Add-On and Extension, I suggest researching it online before disabling or removing it. It might be useful when you least expect it.
This point provides a good time to start doing this kind of research, too. Names of programs, apps, extensions and Add-ons can start becoming esoteric at this point. Learning some research skills now will prove invaluable for the rest of these tips and for as long as you're using a computer. Get good at it!
TIP #8 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN MICROSOFT OFFICE PRODUCTS
Turn off these extensions has the same rationale for turning them off in Internet browsers. Let's just get right to it.
Microsoft Outlook 2010:
I will add more to this tip section later. I got distracted with another blog entry inspired by this one. Oops!
My rationale: I use the search function infrequently in comparison to my overall Outlook use. More often than not, I'm more concerned about going through my e-mail boxes linearly to clean them out than finding particular e-mails or e-mails that fit a particular search string. Indexing uses so much resources all the time that it destroys my productivity on a regular overall basis compared to the ad hoc frustration and time used for particular times. I'm willing to suffer occasional increased frustration and impatience rather than suffer it all the time for infrequent convenience.