Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Looking for a female actor of Inuit descent who can play and look in their mid to late teens. Can speak Inuit or Eskimo-Aleut is a plus.
If we learn nothing else from the last standing of the great geniuses of the 20th century stage, let it be the following two items. First, to start always with an empty stage, to build nothing but what’s needed to bolster the work at hand. Second, that “tradition, in the sense we use the word, means ‘frozen’” and that “all form is deadly”.
To see an effortless, elegant institution of these two great insights, one can encounter Brook’s Love is My Sin, the subtle and surprising etude of the master at peace. In under an hour of legato grace, the piece lilts through some twenty or so of Shakespeare’s sonnets performed as a vibrant and active memory play by two frank theatrical domestics Natasha Parry and Michael Pennington.
If you want to make an enormous mistake, you should purchase the little booklet that includes the text of the sonnets and follow along on the page. To do this (as too many at Friday night’s performance) misses most directly the handsome magic of their performance. At once presentational and deeply felt, you can see onstage a century of theatrical training on hand at every word, glance, gesture or breath.
The trouble with performing sonnets is that there are essentially two imperfect options. Either you can chop at them, parse them, and divide them between actors, or you can give them as whole thoughts. The trouble with the first form is that they are more dynamic for being the struggles of a single author; externalizing their arguments makes their conclusions feel forced: either a victory or a loss than an insight or a resolution. The trouble with leaving them all as soliloquies is that their form is so strict and predictable, that barring trance-like repetition, the formulaic back-and-forth of the performers becomes more like the world’s calmest tennis match than a piece of theater.
But Brook is too smart, and the performers are too great for either of these to be significant hurdles. The form of the piece is primarily of the volley option, but the memory structure allows for the performative, rhetorical sense of the sonnets to evoke examples of feelings felt and opinions held, argued for convincingly, re-created honestly, but not necessarily of the present. And then: an ultimate transcendence of accord concludes the work, and liberates, subverts, and ennobles the preceding form. I’m covered with waves goose-bumps just recalling it; I am literally fighting a flood of tears in an Au Bon Pain in La Guardia. Sure, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, and Good God, that ever the only reason for tears was perfect theater, but Love is My Sin is unequivocally perfect theater, short of breath, long on depth, huge of heart; worthy of tears. I will hold it close.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
...a lot of plays take a long time to get to what the "plot" is going to be. We spend much of the first act meeting the characters only to be presented with the "problem" of the play just before the intermission. The audience activity of the first act is replaced with the passivity of events unfurling in the second act, and this seems a shame.Well, doesn't it? When a play shifts to get "down to business" all we've learned of it so far changes from sum to background. The work we've done - audience participation in the real sense - becomes a down payment to the furtherance of a narrative we didn't demand. It's not that I don't like narrative, it's that I don't like this shift. I don't like being told to turn off. I don't need to watch a writer pat his own back for tying up all his loose ends. I just don't care. If you want to tell a story, tell a story. If you want to create a world and present problems, do that. If you want to do them both, do them both at once. But if you believe that you HAVE to resolve a story or you haven't made a play, you are wrong. Free yourself.
I think that a lot of the terms you mention theatre being about in the last paragraph imply a resolution, by their very nature. "Entertainment" seems to almost require a resolution--one of the primal points of storytelling seems to be the desire to give a narrative shape to life. Any work of narrative, even documentary, by its nature is shaped. It may not have an ending that perfectly satisfies (not all narratives are "Law & Order"), but it comes to something. To deny that primal desire seems perverse.
And if the purpose of theatre is to transport, doesn't that imply a destination? Most people taken on a trip wouldn't appreciate being kicked off the bus halfway through. If that's a conscious choice, it's one thing (some plays use that kind of dislocation very effectively), but it being negligence seems bizarre.
Now, that's not to deny that a good resolution is very hard to do well. Asking questions that are interesting through plot action is difficult enough. Resolving them in a satisfying way is rare. But simply the fact that resolutions are rarely done well seems like an insufficient reason to chuck them--plays are rarely done well, period.
Wilson Wants It All (and were you reviewing it? I'd love to read your thoughts in more depth.) is a pretty good example of a play where the ideas, the world, the staging, and the acting were all more compelling than the actual plot structure. Indeed, there were some pretty big plot and logic holes. At the time I saw it, they didn't bother me that much, but later thinking brought them out. I would still recommend the show--there's more to theatre than narrative--but that would certainly be a caveat.
So I guess my questions to you are: do you have a problem with resolutions as such, or just with poorly developed plots? And what would the art and the audience gain by not having them?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Eich said the playhouse had pinned its hopes on finding a donor who would give $5 million to have the 684-seat main stage named in his or her honor, but that never materialized.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Er, I think he was being ironic...
As there can have been no reason for posting it at all other than in recognition of the irony, I assume what Terry means to point out is that he's in on the joke, which is not actually surprising but is pleasing, I suppose.
I'm sure Mr. Techout does not recall - and I don't fault him for it - but part of the reason I started this blog was on his suggestion. I sent him an essay I thought he'd like, and he suggested that I get one of my own going. I don't think it was meant to be a vote of confidence, but anyway I took it as such and here we are.
But as one who is non-ironically young and eager, I found it profoundly difficult to get too worked up over this. And believe me I tried. Of course I think it's incredibly interesting, and we all want to know what it could mean that a certain number of plays get produced more than any other, what connects them, what - I suppose - we can do to change it or what we can do to replicate them and their success. That said I found both of the responses I linked to (Mr. Teachout's and Mr. Kissel's) to be more programmatic than explicative.
Terry is upset at his perceived lack of classic plays. But the problem with "Classic" plays is that there are so damn many of them. My gut says there were plenty of "classic" productions just not more than 22 of any given one. How could that be a bad thing? Sure if every theatre around the country all did a given play in a given year and if everyone went and saw it, what a congress that would be! What a proclamation about our shared inheritance! But it won't happen, and anyway: how could we decide?
Kissel's response suggests without mentioning a real problem in the theater today. Indeed, the saddest and most unsustainable facet of American theater is the education but not really in the way he means. I had the pleasure of helping an Eastern European friend prepare her CV recently and was amazed to learn that she went to the only degree-granting theater program in Hungary. Every year 2,000 kids apply and between 12 and 20 are chosen (14 her year). But anyway even most of them can't actually make a living doing theater. In America, education is big business, and so people will continue to dole out degrees to the young and eager in exchange for a cool $40,000 or even to as much as $160,000, putting thousands of hopeful theater-makers in more debt than they can ever, ever surmount. That is, in fact, why they go to Hollywood. If it were true that the joy of writing were including as many characters as possible I'm sure we'd see a lot more plays like that, and if it were true that writers write for television so they can finally see some good acting I imagine there'd be a lot less horseshit on TV.
I think Kissel is more correct that the emphasis is on plays that are "cool," that seem new without being so, that are remarkable for being well-known. But this neither upsets nor surprises me. Sell tickets, everyone needs to, then build the rest of your season.
I'd also like to point out that the one play Mr. Kissel hasn't heard of (Drawer Boy) is the one that didn't pass through New York on its rise to the top. The impact of New York is larger and more complicated than a lot of people – New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and all Americans – want to talk about. First, as Chicagoans have disturbingly become aware, Broadway means more to Chicagaons in terms of selling tickets than does the idea of Chicago. When the touring production of August: Osage County arrives in a few months it will do so without any mention of Chicago in its publicity information. A way a lot of regional theaters sell tickets is by counting Tonys and Pulitzers and even Obies, I promise none of the materials for August will talk about the Jeffs it got.
But there's another facet to the New York impact on American productions: performance rights. If a New York show is in the works, most of the time publishers will freeze the performance rights for the rest of the country. When Broadway does American Buffalo, Perseverance waits. How much of an impact this has made I can’t really quantify, but it’s enough to make an impact.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Mom: You should try using a beard trimmer, Benno.Me: I tried Dad's once, but it was the most painful thing I ever did.Mom: You know it's for your face right?Dad: Can I get a new beard trimmer?