“Synetic Theatre takes us all to hell”

“Pushing a performer’s body to its limits has always been a Synetic hallmark, along with an eagerness to incorporate elements of whatever other art forms can help to embroider an evening’s subject. Classic mime, movie horror, military formation all come into play in Synetic’s interpretation of the “Inferno” portion of Dante Alighieri’s allegorical epic poem the Divine Comedy. (The production’s title has been changed from the original ‘Dante’ and then later, ‘Dante’s Divine Comedy.’)

“What remains is a narrative that skims the surface of the poem, as Dante himself, in the guise of the Tsikurishvilis’ red-cloaked gymnast son, Vato, ventures through the circles of hell with Virgil (Alex Mills). In Synetic’s version, Dante, suffering from writer’s block, is in pursuit of an afterlife reunion with his love and muse, Beatrice (an angelic Tori Bertocci).

“The story provides the Tsikurishvilis and their longtime collaborators, set and costume designer Anastasia Simes and soundscape composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze, with a canvas for some ghoulishly sinister stuff — another popular Synetic motif. Simes’s hell is decked out like some really durable parlor of sadomasochism, with demons in studs and leather and Lucifer (Philip Fletcher) looking like a sexy roadie for Marilyn Manson.” [. . .]    –Peter Marks, The Washington Post, October 5, 2016.

You can read more about Synetic Theatre and get tickets for their current season here.

Monster Children – The Gates of Hell

monster-children-the-gates-of-hell

Photo by Kealan Shilling

Rumour has it, this entrance leads to seven layers of interconnecting tunnels (the seven layers of hell) and that somewhere within them, is a room where you come face to face with Lucifer himself.

The ‘Gates of Hell,’ is a series of water runoffs and underground tunnels located in Clifton, about an hour outside of downtown Manhattan.

“We passed several dry, smaller openings and eventually we came to a larger room with three tunnels, one of which smells a bit and is marked comedically, ‘…not the gate to hell…'”    — Kealan Shilling, Monster Children, May 25, 2016

Dante’s 10th Circle of Hell Is Yoga Sculpt

“I don’t like horror movies. I think it’s because I don’t find violence or death to be that entertaining. I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou – I just really, really dislike being scared.

“It’s probably because I’m scared all the time, anyway (it’s a byproduct of my anxiety. Basically, any time I’m alone and anything happens, I freak out). So when I see people paying for the privilege of being scared out of their minds, I am incredibly confused, and also start wondering if people would pay for the VR-experience of being Geraldine. I once had a panic attack because of a Boston Terrier. A Boston Terrier. IT’S BASICALLY THE YODA OF THE DOG WORLD AND I WAS SO SCARED I COULDN’T BREATHE. There has to be money in that, right?” […]    –Geraldine DeRuiter, The Everywhereist, January 16, 2016

What Rod Dreher Ought to Know About Dante and Same-Sex Love

“Dante saved my life,” testifies Rod Dreher, senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative, in his recent book, How Dante Can Save Your Life (Simon & Schuster, 2015) about how the poet’s Divine Comedy can save yours as well. His soul-baring account of how Dante Alighieri and two other spiritual guides — a Christian Orthodox priest and an evangelical therapist –helped him escape a dark wood of stress-induced depression and physical illness is smart, moving, and thoroughly engaging. Dreher’s Dante, like Virgil in the poem, does the lion’s share of the guiding, and so earns top billing and occupies most of the narrative’s prime real estate. In showing how the poem brought deeper understanding of himself and his relationships with his father, sister, and God, and in sharing the substance of those life lessons with readers (mostly in appendices to the chapters), the author does not disappoint.

“For those of us who have studied, taught, and written on Dante’s works and their legacy over many years, Dreher’s understanding and use of the Commedia will undoubtedly raise legitimate doubts and objections. However, I found myself more often than not nodding in recognition at his deft discussion of characters, scenes, and themes of the poem. Most of his sharpest points pierce the surface of famous inhabitants of Hell — amorous Francesca, proud Farinata, worldly Brunetto, and megalomaniacal Ulysses are among the highlights; oddly for a book on rescuing lives and souls, he devotes fewer words to the saved individuals in Purgatory and Paradise.” […]    –Guy P. Raffa, Pop Matters, January 21, 2016

President Obama Compares Election to Dante’s Inferno

“At his final state dinner Tuesday, President Barack Obama compared the current presidential election to a trip through hell.

“Obama, who was hosting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, used a classic work of Italian literature to draw the comparison. ‘Some days our presidential campaign can seem like Dante’s Inferno,’ President Obama said in reference to the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, according to the Washington Post. The rest of the speech celebrated the relationship between the U.S. and Italy.” […]    –Daniel White, TIME, October 19, 2016

The 9 Rings of Donald Trump’s Administrative Hell

“In Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy, the titular character is guided through the nine circles of hell. The darker your crimes, the lower the levels of hell you descend to until you meet up with Satan himself, trapped at the center of it all.

“At the top are crimes such as heresy and failure to believe; at the bottom, closer to the devil himself, are the rings of treachery and violence. Reflecting on a campaign season during which Donald Trump literally called Hillary Clinton the devil and threatened to put her in chains, you have to wonder whether he wasn’t subconsciously projecting, given the hellish landscape he has turned his early administration into. However, it’s not the nether regions that should concern most Americans but those condemned to the outer rings for lesser crimes.

“Trump may not actually be the vision of Satan portrayed in Inferno, even if he staffs his new administration like the rings of hell. Inferno describes Satan as a ghastly creature trapped by his own vanity with three faces: one red, one yellow and one black. The fact that Trump is now in a position that he has lusted after for years but is equally overwhelmed and unprepared for is strangely apropos.

“While Trump does not have leather wings, he is banishing those who dared not believe in him to limbo, and surrounding himself with white nationalists, terror sympathizers and warmongers. Anyone thinking that perhaps Trump’s own erratic tendencies would be balanced out by some sort of smart team of rivals should take note of the entryway to hell: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” […]    –Jason Johnson, The Root, November 26, 2016

The Nine Circles of Survey Research Hell

“When Dante Alighieri was composing the Inferno section of his epic poem, the Divine Comedy, he was surely thinking of online survey content and execution. Okay, maybe he was thinking of something else. Nonetheless, Dante’s visionary landscape of falling into a place where everything around you burns to ruin can apply to various situations. It certainly applies to how shoddy survey research can incinerate your market research. Let’s keep it heavenly then, by avoiding these survey circle hells.”

“First Circle (Limbo): This place (or state of being) is not that bad. It’s full of nice gardens where pagans like Plato, Virgil and Julius Caesar hang out. They never had a chance to convert to Dante’s religion, but get a pass for being notable and thus hang out in blandness for eternity.

“Here on earth, that’s the problem when it comes to market research. Nothing happens. You’ve released a survey, and it’s as quiet as a Nickelback internet fan site. Response rates are low. Why is this happening?

“How to get out of this hell: There are many explanations, as you will see, found by plunging deeper into the rest of the survey circle hells.” […]   –qSample, qSample, April 4, 2016

Why Dante’s Inferno Stays Relevant After 700 Years

“The 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri couldn’t have foreseen contemporary forms of hideous, malicious behavior—the Holocaust, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, genocide committed by ISIS.

“Yet, Dante’s nearly 700-year-old, three-part epic poem, the Divine Comedy—of which Inferno is the initial part—remains an influential piece of literature in exploring the origins of evil.

“Dante’s work has influenced or inspired music, novels, films, mobile apps, and even video games. Medieval manuscript illuminators and artists, including Sandro Botticelli and Salvador Dalí, have produced paintings mirroring stories Dante told. Most recently, Dante’s work was adapted for the crime and mystery film Inferno, starring Tom Hanks.

“When you have an actor like Tom Hanks starring in a movie adapted from best-selling novelist Dan Brown, you’re bound to get more questions about Dante than usual,” says Fabian Alfie, a professor in the University of Arizona department of French and Italian.

“But interest in Dante has never waned in the 700 years since he died,” Alfie says. “There is an unbroken tradition of Dante’s influence in Western culture since the 14th century. Dante has never stopped being popular because his poem deals with questions that are always relevant.”

“Ultimately, Alfie says, Dante was attempting to address the “big questions” associated with being: “What is evil? What is human nature? What is redemption, goodness, sanctity?” […]   –Monica Everett-Haynes, University of Arizona, Futurity, November 17, 2016

The Tenth Circle of Advertising Hell

“Actual transcript from a Danimals commercial:

Girl: “What’s with the cool music?”
Boy: “We’ve been squeezefaced!”
Girl: “Squeezefaced?”
Boy: “From the deliciousness of Danimals Squeezables! Wanna get your squeeze on?”
Girl: “Bring it on!”
Boy: “Whoa! Cool!”
Girl: “It’s so good!”
Boy: “This is awesome!”
Boy: “Double squeezeface!”
Girl: “Look!”
Boy: “Whoa!”
Girl: “Wanna try one?”
Principal: “Wow!”
Boy and Girl: “School rocks!”
Girl: “New Danimals Squeezables!”
Boy: “Squeeze more fun into lunch!”

When I’m feeling sad, I simply remember that I don’t work on the Dannon Danimals account and then I don’t feel so bad.”    –Clayton Hove, adtothebone, February 14, 2016

Kateřina Machytková, paintings (2016)


Paradiso 28.
See Kateřina Machytková’s website for her illustrations of the Commedia.