Wednesday, May 18, 2011

All Spirits - Dead and Alive

Still raining here in Manhattan as I work on the rundown for this year's Radio Bloomsday, our seven hour broadcast of excerpts from James Joyce's Ulysses. When I first started working on creating epic Bloomsday celebrations about a decade ago, I would frequently convene planning meetings and rehearsals at bars and beer gardens. One of my favorite locations was the backgarden at Rudy's in midtown Manhattan where you can still get a picture of watery beer for under ten dollars. That year, we scored and staged the Cyclops episode of the novel which of course takes place in a bar and ends famously with the one-eyed fenian, The Citizen, dinging a biscuit tin in the direction of Bloom's head because Bloom dared to list Jesus, Mercadante and Spinoza among famous world changing Jews. Frank McCourt played the narrator, Malachy McCourt was the citizen and Aaron Beall played Bloom.

Alas, my bar rehearsals are no more and I fully admit to being a failed hedonist. Recently, I have traded one sort of spirits for another and have started meditating to focus my energy and calm my mind. With that in mind, I have been particularly enjoying all of the metaphysical references in the novel from Bloom's meditation on the decomposing body in Hades to Molly's questioning of the meaning of metempsychosis, the movement of the soul to another body once its host body dies, at the top of the Calypso episode. The novelist Anne Enright and the playwright Wallace Shawn will be performing that episode in its entirety around 8pm on June 16. The Victorians were very into seances and the occult and Joyce riffs on this both in theme and writing style. There is a hilarious parody of a description of a seance in the Cyclops episode that the lovely actress Judy Graubart performed last year.

Another favorite excerpts from last year's broadcast was the vocal acrobat Zeroboy performing an excerpt from the Hades episode of the Ulysses. The scene takes place at Paddy Dignam's funeral, which is of course the purported main event of Bloom's day and leads to all sorts of thinking about this life and the next. You can hear an excerpt from Zeroboy's performance in the video above. Zeroboy will be performing a new excerpt for us this year. Don't forget to tune in this June 16th, to hear him live. Special Thanks to the wonderful website for their help with this video.

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