Kevin Kline, Performance Art, Men in Skirts, And the Theater…

I am not a natural in front of the camera. Set up a still or video shoot, put me anywhere in the frame and I get that deer-in-the-headlights look paired with a stiffness in the joints that makes me look kind of like a walking, talking cadaver.Not good. Really not good.

 (Want proof? Just look at the lovely video which Giulia Frati was kind enough to make for me – posters look great, gallery looks great, video looks great – me, uh, not so much…. watch the video here!

Which is why I have such admiration for folks who can not only get up and speak in public, but who can perform music, dance, theater, night after night and do it with ease and panache. This month is Performing Arts Month on posterromance, and we are going to be featuring selections from our collection which have to do with theater, movies, opera, Jazz, ballet…. Anything that falls into the rather large definition of performance art.

Except maybe for this Marina Abramovic performance.

First off, the thee-a-ter. The idea of ʻgoing out to the theaterʼ began centuries ago in Ancient Greece. In fact the very word theater is derived from an ancient Greek word that means ʻto observeʼ or a ʻplace to observeʼ. Many of the plays (and most likely movies) we see today still come from basic plots and ideas set to stone (sorry, canʼt help it…) eons ago in places likes Athens and Sparta.

The Mikado - Gilbert & Sullivan Play
The Mikado – Gilbert & Sullivan Play
The Pirates Of Penzance - Gilbert & Sullivan Play
The Pirates Of Penzance – Gilbert & Sullivan Play

The challenge of modern theater (and in this I include theater of the last two hundred years) is to create something which remains relevant, interesting and of-the-moment. Take Gilbert + Sullivanʼs Pirates of Penzance, a classic play written by two gentleman roughly 100 years ago. At the time, their plays were THE thing: they included created fanciful “topsy-turvy” worlds where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion—fairies rub elbows with British lords, flirting is a capital offence, gondoliers ascend to the monarchy, and pirates turn out to be noblemen who have gone wrong.

Kevin Kline
Kevin Kline

Everyone from Kevin Kline  to Mordin (in Mass Effects 2) has taken a shot at being a model of a modern major general – with varying amount of success. (It’s hard being an operatic star when you’re an extraterrestrial I suppose… ) It only goes to show that when a theatrical piece becomes a classic, it almost becomes part of a cultural lexicon – no matter how far away that culture is…

Parisiana T'en Aura, 1903 - Damare
Parisiana T’en Aura, 1903 – Damare

Some of the posters we have from the turn of the century are so quirky that we
can only imagine how bizarre the shows themselves were… but because ephemera
is often the only trace left of theatrical performances, the clues are few and far
between. The beauty of posters like these is that the show is almost irrelevant –
what is important is the art and artifacts they left behind…

Gosse de riche
Gosse De Riche, 1920s – Clerice Freres
La Divorcee - Dorival
La Divorcee, 1900s – Dorival

The L’Affichiste collection of theater posters includes some well known pieces,
as well as others which we haven’t seen elsewhere. Each of them pays tribute
to a show, or an actor, or an idea – and each of them is, in it’s own right, special,
spectacular and show-stopping. Kind of like an extra terrestrial singing Gilbert +

One comment

  1. Please do your research. Kevin Kline did not play the Modern Major-General in Pirates of Penzance, rather, he was the Pirate King! Lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s