Monday, February 23, 2009

Catclaw Open House Party!

Please attend one - or both - of these Open House events at the
Mellwood, dear friends!

Friday, February 27, 5:00pm to 11:00pm:

For the F.A.T. Friday Hop, Catclaw Theatre Company invites the public
to come up and visit our costume/props workshop! There will be free
refreshments and interesting items for sale, so please come out, bring
a friend, and help support the cause to which we are all so devoted!
There will also be clearly marked signs and indicators to get you to
our space (Unit #250) in the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center,
1860 Mellwood Avenue.

Saturday, February 28, 2:00pm to 11:00pm:

A more informal Open House than the Friday night party. All afternoon
and evening long, we'll be keeping the place open for visitors,
providing snacks and drinks, and hawking all sorts of collectible
items that we're letting go super cheap - all to set us towards our
goal of having our own brick-and-mortar theatre by this time next

Jeffrey Scott Holland,
Artistic Director
Catclaw Theatre Company
Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center
1860 Mellwood Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Voraxica Fiber!

Jeffrey Scott Holland's Appalachian Voodoo Fibers has a new fiber batt (that's a big loaf of specially drum-carded fibers for craftsters to spin their own yarn from) named in honor of our chosen genre, theatre au service de la revolution, Voraxica.

Support Catclaw and The Voraxium and buy some fluff!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Birth of Merlin

After Toulouse-inations finished its run in August 2008, the Catclaw Theatre Company was immediately supposed to go right into production of The Birth of Merlin, an "apocryphal" Shakespeare play whose authorship has been contested by various scholars and know-it-alls. Delays and setbacks have kept pushing the date back, but things are all-systems-go again - just with one major change.

It's now going to be a live puppet show. With puppets so large that the show may be forced to be held outdoors to accomodate them. More details about that in weeks to come.

Here's what that sporadically truthy "encyclopedia" called Wikipedia has to say about The Birth of Merlin:

"The Birth of Merlin" possesses a three-level plot, a structure common in plays of its era. On the first level, the main plot, the characters are royal and their concerns are those of statecraft and national welfare; in the second-level plot, the characters are aristocratic and genteel and their concerns are those of personal values and personal fulfillment; and on the level of the comic subplot, the characters are common and their concerns are largely sensual.

Unusually, the play begins on its second level: the opening scene introduces the nobleman Donobert, his daughters Constantia and Modestia, and their suitors Cador and Edwin, and begins the story of Modestia's conflict between her desire for a religious vocation versus social pressures to marry. The famous characters of Arthurian romance do not appear until the second scene, which introduces King Aurelius and his royal court.

The first scene in Act II introduces the otherwise-unnamed Clown and his very pregnant sister, Joan Go-to't. References through the play identify the Clown a typical Rowleian fat clown, the type of role that Rowley repeatedly wrote for himself to play. The Clown's sister has gotten herself pregnant by yielding to the advances of a mysterious stranger; she and the Clown are now wandering through the forest, searching for the father of the child, or at least a father for the child.

In a cave in a forest, the Devil summons Lucina and the Fates to attend Joan as she gives birth to Merlin. The Clown catches up, to meet his sister and his new-born nephew, a fully-grown Merlin the Magician. Merlin introduces his Clown-uncle to his Devil-father; the Devil predicts a dramatic future for his newborn son.

The play is rich with visual effects of varying types, including devils and magic and masque-like spectacles. It was clearly designed to provide broad, colorful, fast-paced entertainment.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Margot Eskens

Margot Eskens is a Schlager-pop singer who, as a dental assistant, gained a record contract with Polydor Records in 1954 after performing the song "Moulin Rouge" at a talent show. She had many hit records in the 50s, 60s and 70s including "Ich möchte heut ausgehn", "Mamatschi", "Cindy Oh Cindy", "Das Leben ist schön", "Himmelblaue Serenade", and "Tiritomba".

View: Margot Eskens - "Die Zeiger der Uhr" (1966)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Magda Schneider

Magda may be best known in some circles as the mother of actress Romy Schneider, but to us it's her own career that's more interesting. She did theatre in Munich and Augsburg in the 1920s, then went on to a successful film career making over 40 movies during the 30s, 40s and 50s.

According to her daughter, from their house they could see Hitler's holiday domicile, Obersalzberg, where the Fuhrer often received them, later declaring Magda to be his favourite actress. Romy would later claim her mother and Hitler had had an affair. After her death in 1996, she was buried in Berchtesgaden.

View: Scene from Liebelei (1933)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Incoherents

In 1882, a group of actors, artists, writers, and performers calling themselves Les Incohérents began invading cabarets and bars like Le Chat Noir and Quat'z'Arts in Montmartre, Paris. They brought an extremely anarchic and iconoclastic approach to entertainment with their philosophy of fumisme.

Fumisme was an attitude of mockery toward the norms, values and morals of conventional society. It was a barrage of satire and mischief, which attacked social mores but also was very self-deprecating. Although the French word "fumisme" literally means "chimney sweep", it can also mean crackpot or fraud.

The Incoherents were forerunners of Dadaism and Surrealism, and it is impossible that Tristan Tzara, Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp could have been unaware of them. The Dadaists and Surrealists completely stole their routine from the Incoherents, and merely dressed it up with pseudo-intellectual pomp.

From this same Fumisme scene came Alfred Jarry (author of Ubu Roi and founder of ’Pataphysics) and the great animation pioneer Emile Cohl.

View: Emile Cohl - The Hasher's Delirium (1910)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Le Chat Noir

Most people, even those dwelling in trailers in Tennessee or living under a rock in Utah, are at least peripherally aware of Le Chat Noir, thanks to the ubiquitousness of the poster designed for it by Art Nouveau printmaker Théophile Steinlen. The image appears on t-shirts, postcards, calendars, mugs, and posters at even the most unsophisticated shopping malls.

But what was it exactly?

Le Chat Noir was the ultimate French cabaret experience. Though not as depraved and decadent as the horrific events that took place on stages in Berlin, the acts at Le Chat Noir were reportedly wide-ranging in their variety. The list of names of those who frequented the joint make it sound like a hotbed of creativity: Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Jane Avril, Aristide Bruant, Yvette Guilbert, August Strindberg, and many many more.

Located in the Montmartre district of Paris, Le Chat Noir had a relatively short but sweet existence: it opened its doors in 1881 and closed for good in 1897. In that time, all manner of entertainment graced its stage, some of which revolutionized Owner and master of ceremonies Rodolph Salis said of his establishment:

"The Chat Noir is the most extraordinary cabaret in the world. You rub shoulders with the most famous men of Paris, meeting there with foreigners from every corner of the world."

Many have borrowed the Le Chat Noir concept and tried to duplicate it today, but they're seemingly missing the point, and have taken on little more than the name. There's a Le Chat Noir in Augusta, GA, for instance, and in Washington, DC and in New Orleans. While we're sure they're all fine places to drink and see a show, they lack the prerequisite timelessness and taste-transcending "no limits" attitude that Catclaw and The Voraxium exude in spades.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lux Interior: Aloha From Hell

Lux Interior of The Cramps has moved on to a planet a galaxy away.

At the age of 62, Lux passed away due to what the papers are calling only "a pre-existing heart condition". For those of you who are only peripherally aware of His Luxitude, he and his lovely wife Poison Ivy fronted one of the greatest rock and roll bands in history, one whose self-determinism knew no boundaries.

Some quotations from Chairman Lux:

"I can teach you how to read the book of life,
you can just look at the pictures if you like."

- "Thee Most Exalted Potentate of Love"

"They say that virtue is its own reward
But when that sun comes in I'm gonna get my board
I got my own ideas about the righteous kick
You can keep the rewards, I'd just as soon stay sick."

- "Bikini Girls with Machine Guns"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Black Mass Radio Drama

Although Theater Five was one of the last radio programs to carry the tattered flag of radio plays into the post-Television era, it wasn't the only. From 1963 to 1967, a show called Black Mass aired sporadically on radio station KPFA in Berkeley and KPFK in Los Angeles.

Black Mass offered radio dramatizations of dark stories from the likes of Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Saki, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Bram Stoker, and even Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Thankfully, their productions are not completely lost: 31 installments of the show are preserved online.

Listen: 31 Episodes of Black Mass

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Theater Five

Almost immediately after the invention of radio, one of the first things people started doing with it was staging radio plays. The genre of radio theatre enjoyed its heyday during the 20s, 30s and 40s.

By 1964 however, radio dramas were all but unheard of. That's what made the ABC radio network's Theater Five so interesting, as it tried creatively (but unsuccessfully) to keep the theatre of the airwaves alive.

In so doing, they painted a rather odd and idiosyncratic view of the world which comes into focus as you step back and look at the totality of subjects they chose to portray. Science fiction and outer space themes were common, and coexisted alongside detective stories, psychological dramas, and just plain uncategorizable tales. In order to cram a lot of plot into their short time slot (half hour programs, including commercials), they used a lot of extreme storytelling shorthand, giving some of the episodes a fascinatingly incongruous feel.

Listen: 256 complete episodes of Theater Five

Sunday, February 1, 2009


  • Morning in a City by Edward Hopper, 1944, oil on canvas.

  • Chop Suey by Edward Hopper, 1929, oil on canvas.