creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

creative consulting for the art of life by Jason Jenn

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cocteau & Colette

The cast & creators of the event "Cocteau & Colette at the Grand Véfour": Jason Jenn, Chevalier Tony Clark, R.SKY Palkowitz, & William Emboden

June 23 proved to be a highly charged evening - as the remarkable figures and friendship of Jean Cocteau and Colette were honored in a staged reading at the West Hollywood Public Meeting Room and Council Chambers. We had a packed audience and a warm round of applause. Chevalier Tony Clark, the organizing of the exhibition of Cocteau's artwork gave some opening remarks and introduced author/producer William Emboden, who gave a brief explanation behind the play.

Below are a few stills from the event. Thanks to Orit Harpaz for videography and post production pictures, and Karen Semanak and Tony Clark for their photography. All photos here are by Karen Semanak.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Who was Colette? Writer, Performer, Lover

The show is called Cocteau & Colette at the Grand Véfour, a two-person play that shares an intimate portrait of these two remarkable figures of 20th Century France and their unique friendship that blossomed over their years living as neighbors in the Palais Royal. The staged reading of the new play by William Emboden, will take place on June 23 at 7pm in the West Hollywood Public Meeting Room & Council Chambers.

I’ve known and admired Cocteau over the years, and now I am becoming more familiar with the incredible talent and spirit of Colette, who is considered by some as France’s greatest female writer.

Colette was indeed a very accomplished and prolific author. You may have had contact with some of her works, like that of “Gigi” which was made into a Lerner-Loewe musical and Oscar-winning film of the same name. There was also a recent film of “Cheri” starring Michelle Pfieffer. But those works watered down the full power of her material, and the bold, revealing and mostly autobiographical based accounts of her experiences as a woman who defined herself and her sexuality in her own terms.
It took her years of struggle to gain her status in the world, but she earned it through the array of ground-breaking literary works. During her first marriage to “Willy” she was locked in her room and forced  to write. He published these “collaborations” under his name alone. She finally broke free of the relationship, and changed her name solely to that of Colette (she was born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette). During her life praise and scorn were equally directed her way. But by 1945, she was the first woman to receive a chair with the Academie Goncourt, a high honor in the literary world. 

Although she married three husbands and bore a child with her second, she details many of her lesbian affairs in her writings as the loves of her life. In her younger years she was an accomplished stage actress and a performer in the Music Halls. There she met and loved a fellow dancer, Polaire, and the cross-dressing Missy. Colette herself was known for wearing a man’s suit before Marlene Detrich was internationally known for it. She was called a "vile creature of the flesh" for publishing "Les Plasiers" and her book "The Pure and the Impure" gave readers what she called "an investigation into the nature and laws of the erotic life." She was a brave woman, and truly revolutionary as an early feminist before the larger movement.

William Emboden’s script does a fantastic job of introducing both characters to unfamiliar audience. And R. SKY Palkowitz does a wonderful job of embodying her daring spirit. It's a role that seems quite suited for the Delusional Diva, a unique character herself! I’ll leave you now with a couple quotes that can give you sense of Colette’s spirit:
"When I love anything, I love it utterly. If you knew how I embellish everything I love, and all the pleasure I get out of loving! If you could understand the wonderful mixture of strength and weakness with which the things I love fill me! It's what I call the caress of happiness." - Colette

I also found this quote very amusing to me - it is from Colette's second husband, Henry de Jouvenal, toward the decline of their relationship: "You cannot imagine what it is like to live with a woman who always has bare feet." (alluding to Colette's preferred wearing of sandals). I guess he and I would not have hit it off so well.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Introducing: Cocteau & Colette at the Grand Véfour

click image for larger view

I am pleased to be performing as a creative hero of mine, Jean Cocteau, for a staged reading of a brand new play by William Emboden on June 23, at 7pm at the West Hollywood Public Meeting Room & Council Chambers (the brand new stage and multi-use space located below the library).

Making the play doubly exciting for me is the opportunity to perform alongside my longtime friend and artistic collaborator, R. SKY Palkowitz, who will be playing the French author, Colette. The play is an exploration of the close bond and friendship between these remarkable creative figures of 20th Century France. The special one-time production is also part of a two-month celebration of Cocteau’s artwork sponsored by the City of West Hollywood, and several rare pieces are on display in a gorgeous exhibition in the West Hollywood Library through July. I will be posting several blogs over the next few weeks about the show and the iconic figures — so be sure to check back in to periodically for more.

My own experience of Cocteau began many years ago while in college at the University of Iowa as a double major in Theatre Arts and Film. His name came up during my studies, although the time we spent on him was brief. In my theatre history classes he was mentioned as making posters and designing productions for the Ballet Russes. In my film history classes he was mentioned as making ground-breaking films like “Blood of a Poet”, “Orpheus” and “Beauty and the Beast”.

As I read up more about his diverse career, I was quite fascinated by just how many different creative outlets he had and as I discovered more about his persona, he became a hero for me in several ways. I was still newly coming to terms with my own sexuality at the time, he became an early example of both an openly homosexual man and creative force.

While I profiled him in a blog last year (see here) as a great example of being a “Jack-of-all-trades” his lover Jean Marais proclaimed that no matter what Cocteau did in his life, he was always a poet in those mediums. In interviews Cocteau believes that when he draws, he is making poetry with the strokes of the brush and in the lines of the pencil.

 It is both an honor and a challenge to embody the role of Cocteau for this production. There are several examples available of Cocteau speaking in interviews or within his own films.  He possesses a very distinct and unusual cadence in his voice, but more than merely imitating his style of speaking, I am given the task of interpreting his character for a modern audience who will mostly have very little experience. He can be a playful trickster of a man, who loves to entertain people with stories. He can also be deeply intellectual and serious. He was a larger than life at times to be sure and the line between characterization and human portrayal is a delicate one.

I am very fortunate to have the support of a beautiful script by Cocteau scholar Emboden, which possess many scrumptious lines befitting Cocteau in that they read like poetry. The process of doing this production is allowing me to become closer Cocteau, and I am quite humbled by the task of representing a man I so admire.

More to come about the other great figure of this play: Colette!