Anyway, when we use 'meta' to mean a thing that comments on itself I like that onstage. It's such great gymnastics to see it work well: to demand disbelief and belief at the same time. Fantastic. This is good also, because unlike a lot of uses of 'meta' this is one that engages the audience rather than celebrates the makers.
I don't blog about blogging, and I don't like movies about moviemaking (with the exception of State and Main, which is so joyously spiteful it just makes me ecstatic). I hate poetry about poets, I'm always disappointed when the main character in something is a writer. There are, of course, an awful lot of plays about playmaking. And my gut reaction is to dismiss them, but I think I might be crazy.
Why do I think this? I heard an ad on the radio today for the new Miller Lite Home Draft system. This is a keg for your fridge that is "CO2 Pressurized" to keep your beer tasting fresh etc. etc.
Why don't they just say 'pressurized'? I don't know how CO2 works. Isn't CO2 poisonous? A little bit? But Miller Lite's millionaire ad executives decided it was worth pointing out to me. Why?
I think it's because now I feel like an expert. I admit that when I first heard the ad on the radio I thought, "well how does this stay fresh?" Now I know. I guess. What they've done is commodified the process. What I imagine is a pretty mundane scientific technique has been turned into a selling point. The logic goes, one of the neat things about this is the way that it's done.
I suppose this is what the appeal is - to an audience - of musicals like Kiss Me Kate, Chorus Line, 42nd Street, etc. The argument is inclusiveness, shedding light on the way a beloved thing is made. Extending an opportunity to "be an expert" on Broadway musicals in the way that I'm an expert in CO2 Pressurizing or, frankly, Broadway musicals. Now when someone who has seen 42nd Street goes to see another play they'll be doing so with an understanding - fictional as it may be - of how it came to the stage. That's actually meaningful, I think.
I still don't like these plays, and I don't think this realization will change my opinion. I just find them so sickeningly self-glorifying. Perversely, in High School I was in three plays like this. Kiss Me Kate, 42nd Street, and Moon Over Buffalo. Isn't that odd? But the thing is, doing those plays made us feel like we were a part of the action, the big-town big-budget action. That self-glorification was, perhaps, exactly the point.