About brendonobrien

Spoken Word poet, playwright, director, Founder and Artistic Director of the.art.IS Performing Arts Company, activist, recovering workaholic.

Can’t Help But Love ‘Her’

Image

The average romance film is not very special. In fact, they maybe come in just three varieties; the manic pixie dream, star-crossed love or pure accident. What I’m saying is, if you’ve seen ‘Titanic’, ‘Garden State’ and any adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, you can switch to action films.

And that would be true…except you haven’t seen ‘Her’ yet… Continue reading

“The Wolf of Wall Street” Bites Off Just Enough To Chew

Image

There are maybe a few hundreds of billions of reasons for the average person to despise the white collar rich man. As far as we understand those creatures, they’ve pillaged and plundered their way into the bank accounts of the poor and caused financial crisis after crisis. The brilliant documentary ‘Inside Job’ put it together nicely for us back in 2010. And if that was too cut and dry for you, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is the narrative to accompany that analysis. Continue reading

The Body Barrier Chronicles – For De Pips

The gang’s back together for a second run of the play ‘Body=Barrier’. And we had an interesting conversation about what the characters were really up to, and what was their motivations for doing the things that they were up to. These things are always meaningful parts of the rehearsal process, not only because you get to hear what the actors think about the folks that they are playing, but because you get to hear how people are interacting with the character and what they receive. Most of the cast, I thought, would say that the humans in the play were interested in compensating for a Love or a longing of some sort. They didn’t.
Instead, they said that what the characters do is nothing more than an image statement.

Now, I’m not sure whether I agree with them. Angela, for instance, isn’t really that egotistic…but they’re on to something to some degree. After all, Angela has every opportunity to admit to herself that she’s not interested in the same things as her classmates, and just leave it at that. But she always finds herself wanting to go back, simply because she wants the attention of these people.
So many people around us are simply doing things for the image value of the thing – what we Trinis call ‘pips’. We don’t smoke weed because we think that it’s got spiritual value or will heighten an experience of some sort. We smoke it because it’s got some social value to us. We think it helps us have more fun, and connect to a group of people we want to connect to more. we smoke it because of the culture and community it connects us to, regardless of the fact that the community probably doesn’t benefit us in a great many ways…

It’s the same way that young people approach a lot of things in this world today, at least from what my cast and I imagine. What most people don’t realize is that the teenage years are the ones where community and association are incredibly important. In fact, how we make friends in high school determines what we think about ourselves and even who we think we are. And beyond the fact that we know that it’s not healthy, we still do most of our things to fit in with the mindless mob.

When you look at it that way, it’s very likely that everyone’s a victim, isn’t it? The bullies, cool kids, troublemakers…all the cliques you remember making your life difficult in school, they were just trying to get by in a system that is manoeuvred by a person’s social standing in the group. And we’d do anything not to have our lives made difficult. So we try to get with the cool kids, or sometimes we become bullies and troublemakers. We do what they do, and try to do it how they do it, so that we can get where they are.
Angela, the main character of ‘Body=Barrier’, is a complex character. In my heart of hearts, I think that she knows that she has no right in this place, with these people. She’s not into the things that these people are into. But the problem is, the place that she is truly supposed to be isn’t physical. So she’s…trapped there, in a sense, trying to make the best out of a place where she simply does not fit in. And, considering how the human psyche works, everyone needs community, even Angela. So she tries to find it in this place, even though it’s not what she needs. It’s about Angela feeling Loved. But, maybe more importantly, it’s about her feeling as though she’s here, and that it matters that she’s here.

I want the play to break that system playing in young kids’ minds – that they have to do things they’re not ready for or aren’t supposed to do simply because the folks in school are doing it and they seem to be having a good time. Good times don’t determine good things. Good work and good reasons do. And I want all the Angelas that see the play to find good reasons for themselves and their lives and the people they allow into them, not just ‘for de pips’.

The Body Barrier Chronicles: Channeling Spirits

A character is the heaviest burden in the world to carry. It’s someone that sometimes thinks and moves and feels things that you have absolutely no reference for, that you need to empathize with and cater for and allow to move through you. That always creates some room for some awkward moments, for the performer that is figuring out how someone else can move in their body, and for the director, who almost always sees something get to someone in a serious way. I’ve dealt with a lot of folks who have personal issues that they were afraid to reveal, or had some hangups about revealing too much of themselves in a character or getting into a character that was so far removed. I’ve had people cry big bad tears in the middle of rehearsals and not be able to truly stop crying until the entire play was over. And I’ve as of recently, had some folks who couldn’t make a single step into character. Continue reading

Bodies and Barriers and Beginnings

So, a few months ago I embarked on my own solo playwriting project, called “Body=Barrier”. After working on yet another faith-based play, as well as getting a little directing and acting experience in the process, and after creating a few other things in the process, I finally managed to finish it. But just when I thought that I would get a breather, I found something else to do.

Right after I finished writing it, I decided that I’d try to direct it. For a show just short of two months later. Because I’m crazy.

And now here I am, one month away from my first staged solo directorial debut, for a play that I wrote myself, at the National Drama Association’s national theatre event, ‘The Festival’. Not only will I be performing on the same stage with the person I’ve co-directed with for the past three years, but I’ll also be sharing the title of ‘director’ with three of my directing and performance mentors. Because you can never have enough pressure.

The entire idea is to build an opportunity for me and some of the other passionate young thespians I’ve been sharing space with for the past few years to have a place that they can built and experiment and challenge and critique through their art. Because that’s exactly what art is – constructive, experimental, challenging, critical… Interestingly enough, that’s exactly what we want to create – artIS…but more on that in a future post…

Anyway, just letting you folks know I’m in the coliseum, taking some friends with me, fighting the lion. And as Basdeo Panday once said, “When you see me and the lion fighting, doh feel sorry for me…”

Leaving The Burning Building – The Toughest Piece I Ever Won With

For those who haven’t heard the great news, I just recently won the No Ifs No Butts Tobacco-Free Poetry Slam. Yeah, I imagine it sounds like something straight out of a sitcom, but I guarantee I took it completely seriously.

Seriously enough, that the night before the slam I was close to tears about the thought of even entering. Serious.

Me, performing my piece "Burning Bodies" at the Tobacco-Free Poetry Slam

Me, performing my piece “Burning Bodies” at the Tobacco-Free Poetry Slam

Continue reading

Why I Love Luther….And What That Really Means

Promotional photo for the BBC crime drama ‘Luther’

When I first saw Luther, I was honestly just intrigued by the idea of seeing Idris Elba on a television series. I had missed every single episode of The Wire and had no intention of catching up on an entire two years of BET drama, but I’d seen him in film after film and in him I was well pleased. So when the very first thing I saw was Detective Chief Inspector John Luther standing menacingly over a serial pedophile, watching the man dangle dangerously from a piece of broken catwalk over a dark pit of rusty steel, leaving him to fall to his doom, I was shocked. I was appalled. And I was in Love. Continue reading