Posts Tagged ‘criticism’

From the Editor’s Perch…

January 19, 2014
Core Curriculum Takes Another Local School.

Core Curriculum Takes Another Local School.

Core Curriculum: an Anarchist’s Viewpoint

 

            When I was much younger, the notion that it was much wiser to learn concepts rather than facts and information of all sorts made sense.  After all, we could always look up the facts, but wasn’t it the task of intelligence to organize these facts into a coherent, usable bit of wisdom one could carry around and use as a mental tool to examine and mine more facts and information to determine meaning?  Wasn’t the point of learning to absorb ways of looking and seeing so that the world became a comprehensible and useable?  Shouldn’t education spread the acquired wisdom of the history of all endeavors?  Otherwise, what’s to keep us from being superseded by the computer?

 

With experience came a different point of view.  When it came to arguing a point, I found facts and examples to be much more powerful tools than concepts.  Arguing from a ‘concept’ was about as effective as pounding a Bible.  Concepts are useful when you are preaching to the choir.  But otherwise, no one has time for yours.  Concepts are something you can fight with, but it’s facts and examples which do the hard work.  People generally hold concepts to be a lot like opinions (and assholes); everybody has one.  About all a concept will do is to start a fight.

Which brought me to my second, more rebellious, notion, which is that a concept is really just a prejudice about reality.   Some say that the facts organize themselves this way.  Others say that the facts organize themselves that way.  In fact, the facts do not do any organizing at all.  It’s the people who have organized everything.  So, when we discuss education, and learning, the question is: how ‘organized’ do we want this education to be’.  The Core Curriculum people (and those who would keep their jobs by enforcing these positions) would maintain (albeit tacitly) that we want it very organized, and from the top down.

 

In essence, what the Core Curriculum demands a student do is to observe the world with prejudice, rather than as it is.  And they would insist that this prejudice be extreme and all-encompassing, and – by the way, created by those far away from you who will ‘know better’.

For goodness sakes, if we are going to have prejudices, shouldn’t they be our own?  How in the world are we ever to change a prejudice, if it isn’t even ours?

Since time immemorial, the populace has yearned for consistency, and has sought to enforce it through force.  But since time immemorial, wisdom has taught us the errors of placing all of our eggs in one basket.  The reason facts occur without prejudice is because life occurs without prejudice.  The only thing which occurs with complete prejudice is death.  Yes, death is restful.  Death is peaceful.  Death will silence all of your questions and anxieties.  The Core Curriculum is a big step towards this ideal state.  And they would start with our children.

Photo from Google Images

Travelling Expenses…

January 17, 2014

Paul Eenhoorn Surfaces in Iceland!

Editor’s Note:  I’ll bet none of you who have been wondering what Paul Eenhoorn is up to, guessed that he might be shooting a new movie in Iceland!  He’s ripping it up onscreen as one of a pair of old duffers out to celebrate a friendship in a quite out of the way place.  Look for it at Sundance!

Land Ho!’ Poster Premiere: This Is the Sundance Movie You Definitely Want to Party With

By  Jan 13, 2014

Two ex-brothers-in-law (This Is Martin Bonner’s Paul Eenhoorn and Eastbound & Down’s Earl Lynn Nelson) set off on an Iceland vacation to reclaim their youth; dipping their toes in the Reykjavik nightclub scene, visiting trendy spas, dining at daring restaurants and communing at rugged campsites. What starts as a raucous adventure becomes a journey of self-discovery.

Land Ho! is the latest producing project from lyrical indie-film favorite David Gordon Green, directed by Martha Stephens (Pilgrim SongPassenger Pigeons) and Aaron Katz (Cold WeatherQuiet City). The endearing tale is part 1980s raucous road comedy, part sensitive and charming portrait of aging à la an edgier Strangers in Good Company for men. Interestingly enough, Nelson, who wasn’t formally trained as an actor, plays a brazen surgeon in the film. He’s also a practicing surgeon in his offscreen life as well. Nelson’s improvisational, naturalistic style caught the eye of Green when he appeared in Stephens’ Passenger Pigeons.

We have the poster premiere for Land Ho!, which teases a bit of that lovely Icelandic landscape and the refreshingly genuine and fun bond Eenhoorn and Nelson share throughout the film. The witty work will make its debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival on January 19.

From the Editor’s Perch…

January 12, 2014

Lady Gaga2

Fashion

 

            In the book, Fascism versus Capitalism, Llwellyn Rockwell Jr. mentions the Harvard philosopher, Santayana’s observation “that ideas aren’t usually abandoned because they have been refuted; they are abandoned when they become unfashionable.”  Most people reading this who have tried to introduce an unfashionable notion probably have suffered this observation.  You either find yourself socially isolated.   Or you are made to feel as if you are speaking in a foreign tongue, as if, as a woman at a theater rehearsal once told me (regarding my thoughts):  “I feel as if I am talking to someone from the moon.”  Thoughts judged to be unfashionable are simply left to die alone while conversing to the backs and sides of heads, and thence to float away, detached and withered, into the cold outer reaches.

The most dramatic example I’ve run across of this phenomenon is from the same book as mentioned above.  Henry Hazlitt was an editorial writer for the New York Times from 1934 till 1945 who backed a return to the gold standard.  He was finally sacked for his editorials in opposition to the Breton Woods agreement of 1945 establishing the World Bank.   Hazlitt wrote: “it would be difficult to think of a more serious threat to world stability and full production than the continual prospect of a uniform world inflation to which the politicians of every country would be so easily tempted.”  Throughout his tenure, no one, as far as can be seen, joined him in his warnings.  He could not even generate a credible opposition.  His opposition around the Breton Woods agreement ignored him, claiming a world catastrophe if the measure were not passed.

History has proved Henry Hazlitt correct.  And millions of lives perhaps need not have been lost to the devastations of WWII if the advent of rampant inflation had not been there to fuel the rise of fascist philosophies.  But no matter.  WWII did occur.  The Times has never apologized.  (Don’t hold your breath!)  And Henry Hazlitt lost his job.  John Maynard Keynes ideas appeared to be new.  Henry Hazlitt’s appeared to be old.  To be included in a current conversation you must be perceived to be ‘new’ – otherwise, the argument goes, why have one?   Though there was no factual basis of incompetence for firing Henry Hazlitt, by 1945 the Times publisher,  Arthur Sulzberger, “had had enough.”  “When 43 governments sign an agreement, I don’t see how the Times can any longer combat this,” he said.

 

“How important is sound money?  The whole of civilization depends on it,” says Llewellyn Rockwell.  Nevertheless, fashion trumps it.

 

            If these anecdotes don’t arouse you, then I give up.  I can’t reach you with a sharp pin.

 

But fashion itself is a fascinating topic.  It seems to move and change on its own timeline, without regard for events.  (Which, I would suppose is as we should expect, given its impervious nature.)  In my younger years I lived in a home I’d purchased on the cheap in the Rainier Valley area of Seattle.   This section of Seattle contained (and still does) the most diversified population in terms of race and ethnicity of any area in King County.  While I lived there, gang violence was endemic.  I still remember my neighbor arguing loudly in the middle of our street with his son not to join the gang which was waiting for him on the corner.  I had passed the years watching this decent kid grow from a toddler, to the middle school aged youngster who now apparently had been judged old enough to join the gang.  I also remember a neighborhood friend relating the tale of going to pick up her son at school and having to hug the floor of her car outside of the school to escape the exchange of bullets passing overhead.  Our community and the city government tried this and they tried that.  Then, after it seemed I had given up hope and had moved on anyway, it just ended.  No more violence.  No more gangs on the corner.  And yet everything else was the same.  Same people.  Same laws.  Same police.   Same homes.  Same everything.  Only the people who did that sort of thing, didn’t do it anymore.  As near as I could tell, it just passed out of fashion.

Photo is Lady Gaga from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

November 23, 2013
Looking at it from the Devil's, Devil's Advocate's Position

Looking at it from the Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate’s Position

The Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate

On Failure: the Final Installment

 

            Well, you can get tired of anything – especially writing and thinking about failure.  On the upside – or downside, depending upon your point of view – a person could go on investigating and writing about failure forever, and still not get anywhere… except for acquiring those deepest feelings of abandonment and self-disgust which mark a real gut feeling for the topic.              After all, we’re probably all hardwired to seek success.  Humans are a hierarchical animal.  As soon as we enter a room the question is “Who’s in Charge?”  Then we arrange ourselves in such a way as makes us most comfortable around power.  Some of us try to be in charge.  Some of us evade being in charge.  Some of us don’t want to have anything to do with the whole scenario.  But, for the most part, if you are going to socialize, then when people listen to you, their first priority in granting you their attention is whether or not you sound ‘in charge’ of whatever it is you are saying.    If you don’t, their attention drifts elsewhere.  This is probably why we all seek success – even if it is never to be granted us, and we know so.  We simply can’t stop.  It’s like wanting sex.

 

A little thinking about failure is a good thing, I’d say, because we fail much more often than we succeed.  Most people are a marbled confection of a few successes and many failures.  It’s rare we can be gifted in every way.  So understanding the strategies of the failure and utilizing them at times can be helpful.

The thing to remember though, I think, is that failure and success are really quite different animals.  And it’s a mistake to view one as somehow evolving into the other; that if you were to train your dachshund long enough, it would become a greyhound.  Don’t be a fool.  Recognize what you are.  And then move towards the light.  Even a paramecium understands this.  But humans, with their complex ways and books on social theory, often don’t think to do it.  Don’t get stuck.  “Show me the money!” Can be good advice.

 

These posts about the upside of failure have also been the Devil’s Advocate’s position.  Now, to bring it full circle, I’ll add the Devil’s, Devil’s Advocate position with this observation from a Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck  (who probably didn’t intend this in the way I have it spun):

“Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing.             They thought they were learning.”

–        Carol Dweck,  “Mindset: The Psychology of Success”

 

How many ‘smarter than anyone else’ failures do you know?  Quite a few, I’d reckon.  Don’t be a fool and think the same thing.  In this fast paced world, more often than not, winning is winning and losing is losing.  That’s it.  That’s all.  End of game.

Photo by Carl Nelson of Jeremy January of Theater Comique

From the Editor’s Perch…

July 29, 2013

Criticism

Criticism is Always of Freedom

 

            Recently I happened upon this North Korean video which a visitor to South Korea claimed was clandestinely slipped to her.  http://superchief.tv/leaked-north-korean-documentary-exposes-western-propaganda-and-its-scary-how-true-it-is/  As you can read from the title, this is a “leaked North Korean documentary which exposes Western propaganda and it’s scary how true it is”.

Well, I’ve watched this one video (there’s a package of them on the internet), and I wouldn’t call it Western propaganda.  I’d call it snippets from a Western lifestyle.  And I wouldn’t call it scary.  But, aside from a rather twisted view of racial matters, I’d say a lot of the footage is accurate.  The United States – at least in the media – often looks like this.  They talk a bit about Paris Hilton.  I’ve never met her.  They criticize Madonna, (three cheers!).  But I’ve never met her, either.

            How can the North Koreans know us so well?  It’s not like they get out and about so much.  I’d say it’s most likely they are repeating what the Left Wing has to say about the United States on a day to day basis in our own media.  The North Koreans find much to admire in the Left Wing’s criticism of the United States.  And the Left Wing, in return, finds the North Koreans’ criticisms uncannily accurate.    You have to smile.  The Left Wing and North Korea share so many beliefs.  Why can’t we all just get along?

Indeed.

            It’s been said by parasitologists that if you somehow did away with the flesh and bones of most animals and only saw the parasites that inhabit them, the animal would still be readily identifiable.  This probably could also be said about human beings and their sins.    Given unlimited freedom, a human being could probably be identified as much by the innumerable sins he/she commits as by their fingerprints.  Sin thrives in flesh like a virus.  It’s in the nature of being human to sin (or, if you’re not a Believer, to ‘act poorly’).

When you have a ‘free’ country, it would be unnatural not to see all the sins of humankind flourish and be displayed widely.  When our worst natures are given free reign to flourish and to describe us, they do – to a point.  The beauty of the United States is that a person can see themselves – and others – as they descend to become, or by determined self-criticism and effort can make themselves to be, and collectively, through self-imposed laws, continually re-create the free nation we enjoy.

The Left Wing would criticize us and our freedoms until we are beyond something lifelike… until we have become something that only criticism can create, like North Korea.  The Left Wing would take the term ‘puritanical’ to a new level… a North Korean level.  And why not?  They have so much in common.   It’s uncanny.

Cartoon taken from Google Images

From the Editor’s Post…

October 28, 2012

Editor’s Note:  I was thinking a little bit about plays…

From “Saving Harry” with Chuck Brastrup and Daniel Woods.

Getting ‘Stupid’ Right

The most important part of crafting a play is getting ‘stupid’ right.   Plays can have great dialogue, ready wit, sparkling language, lots of drama, but if they don’t get ‘stupid’ right, there’s a good chance it will not be a hit.  ‘Stupid’ is that thing below all the language which makes everything move.  Some playwrights are born getting ‘stupid’ right and some have to really work at it.  ‘Stupid’ is what young people drink to become.  ‘Stupid’ is what happens in extreme situations.  ‘Stupid’ is what the young woman who has the handsome software engineer boyfriend over for dinner says, after she’s heard about Moore’s Law for what seems the fifteenth reference, as she pours him some wine, “I think,  tonight, I’m going to have to get you a liiitttttle stupid.”

Responding to stupid is something everyday audiences are good at; cultural mandarins sadly, not so good.  Cultural mandarins (and many critics) are like alcoholics; it’s hard to get them drunk; it takes a lot, and when you do it’s often on stuff which will make you go blind.

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 20, 2012

Monolithic Local Theater Continued…

LEVEL ORANGE

If you’ve ever had a job, you can understand how water runs uphill.  The boss points it out, and the workers all nod and marvel.

This is a bit how I felt after reading in this past week’s Puget Sound Business Journal:  “The Seattle area has a long history of supporting new theatrical works, often with great success on Broadway and elsewhere.  Now the drive that built that legacy is gaining momentum with new programs and investment in cultivating art at its earliest stages.”  (I shake my head and marvel.)

“It’s part of a strategy that brings money back to local theaters that own the rights to the new works,” continues Valerie Bauman, staff writer.  “For example, 5th Avenue’s “Hairspray” has generated more than $1 million in royalties since it was picked up on Broadway.”  (I shake my head this time, with greater understanding…)

I have to say that it’s all part of a strategy that’s beginning to take on a form, here in Seattle, as the local News continues to fluff it up.

In my first piece here in The Editor’s Perch on “Our Monolithic Theater”, I pointed out that regional theaters here and elsewhere have no record of ever producing a mailed play script – unless that playwright first had a relationship with the theater.  It was also shown that our local theaters refused to pick up local shows which were clear hits, responding that they had never found one which was right for their theater.

Now, it’s becoming plainer what makes a play ‘right for their theater’.  It’s pretty simple, really: THEY own the rights.  (And they get the million dollars.)

In return, as was covered in our last piece, the playwright gets to talk to other playwrights, access to their copy machine, and also a reading… if monies can be found, and patience is acquired.  All these things, I repeat, which could be accomplished (and probably has been accomplished) by the playwright him/herself within a few days around here – even if they were living out of a box on the street.

The New Works Program at the 5th Avenue Theater, however,  is promising a little more: “The program also provides an opportunity for artists to get feedback and exposure at the earliest phase of creating a script, a song or a performance.  Along the way, they’re paid for their work.  (This is a pleasant sounding way of saying, along the way you are selling your rights to the work for peanuts, so that we get the royalty money and write the plays destiny.)”

 

This is the Brave New World to be of our Regional Theater.  And it gripes me.

I try to get my son to eat more naturally made bread, but he likes white bread.  I point out to him that bread with all sorts of whole wheat and grains still has much of the natural nutrition you should seek in a meal.  But he points out to me the laundry list of nutritional additions, almost as long as his forearm, listed on the side of the white bread plastic sack – while my list is ever so small.

Institutions are like my son.  They prefer white bread.  It’s soft; it goes down easy; it hits that golden mean and it’s got all of its benefits listed right there on the side for all to see.  It has ‘proof’ that’s it’s nutritional sound and will build your body in “12 different ways.”  All ‘natural’  bread has is that it’s natural.  Its list of ingredients is very short.

Not long ago I saw a matinee production of the “Pullman Porter Blues” by Cheryl L. West produced by the Seattle Rep.  The set was good; the acting was good; the direction was good; and the writing was good.  But the story was boiler plate liberal.  The regional theaters have been refining this formula for as long as I have been alive.  The play was 4 years in development.  And I imagine in 4 years a regional theater could really leach out all the natural nutrition a fresh script provides and replace it with politically pure proven supplements.  You may have experienced the audience this sort of racial testimony play attracts: a lot of White people who nod and say, “aaahhh!”, as they notice each of the ingredients the playwright has posted on the side of the package.  And then there is a smattering of well-dressed somber Black people.  And God knows what they are thinking.

Playwright Thomas Bradshaw / Photo by Sara Krulwich NY Times

Contrast this with the plays of another Black playwright, Tyler Perry, whose plays went from small church productions to major venues which attracted Black people by the droves.  His plays weren’t right for the regional theaters.  Or more recently contrast this with the plays of Black playwright Thomas Bradshaw, whose “Job” now runs at the Flea Theater –  a private theater run by the husband of the actress Sigourney Weaver – through November 3rd in New York City.  His material “is best described as life with all the ghastly extremes – incest, rape, racially motivated murder – added back in and depicted in a deadpan style that has prompted both big laughs and angry walkouts,” says the New York Times.  I’m doubting this play had 4 years of development.  It sounds like it was popped right out of the oven… or rather it grew beyond all bounds in the writing and shoved its way out on its own.

Being a writer, all I really want is to have my say, and I’ve had it.   I can’t say I’ve attracted either the audience or critical approval to fill a larger venue, even if one of our regional theaters were to approach me.   I’ll practice my craft elsewhere, thank you.  As long as people love to perform there will be live theater.  So look around, I may be there.  All we need is “two boards and a trestle.”

From the Editor’s Perch

October 1, 2012

Does Christianity Help Us to Think Better?

(It’s what the evidence may say.)

 

It seemed to be a tradition of the Great Poets such as Blake and Yeats to fashion a personal cosmos of irrational actors and energies to describe underfuries of the real world; that is, the cosmological subtext.  And Poets various as Donne, Dickinson, Milton, Hopkins, and Elliot have used the testimony of religion to inspire and vivify their writing. And whereas we all expect of Poets a little irrationality, it’s little noted that the Great Sir Isaac Newton was a practicing Alchemist nearly all his life.  Or that Kepler, Voltaire, Paine, Washington, Franklin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Edison, Gandhi and Duchamp held beliefs quite at odds with the modernist society they helped to create.

Einstein is famously quoted to have said, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”  All these personages held a belief in the irrational which is scorned in our scientific and atheistically oriented age.  But I wonder if such belief does not help us to realize on a grander scale and to orient our thinking towards what might be most successful?

Neurologists have found something contrary to what is nominally believed, which is that rational thought gives us our best decisions.  In fact, on the contrary, when the affective portion of our brains is severed from our rational thinking processes, the brain can reach no conclusions at all.  The person’s thinking is greatly impaired.  Apparently we need our emotions to orient and to direct us.  So, it would seem to follow, that some experience navigating irrational thoughts would be of benefit to the mind in its entirety.  So that rather than being just a useful tool to balance the checkbook, the mind can achieve its grander purpose, which is genius.

A lot of modern thinkers are repelled by the chaos of irrational thought and by the infinitely ambiguous quality of myth, as if it were contemptible to contemplate whatever is fanciful with a process less than ‘scientific’ and more than ambiguous.  But if we want our thinking to take us somewhere, doesn’t it make more sense to anchor our ‘vessel’ to a current, no matter how deceptive and inexplicable, than a fixed buoy?  How can we to travel to somewhere new, if we insist so upon knowing exactly where we are at each instant?

A Religion’s great benefit (aside from possibly being True J) is allowing the Believer to know where they are, even when their rational mind cannot identify any landmarks.  Religion lowers the anxiety threshold.  A strong faith helps us to endure when we find ourselves in strange terrain.  A great Religion is like a great river explorers follow, because they figure correctly that the river best knows the landscape.

It’s often said that all religions are the same, and so should be equally respected.  This is most often said, in my experience, by people who have very little respect for religion at all.  In truth, there are great differences between various religions; and some are better than others.  And how do we know which is which?  It is the age-old problem of locating the false prophets.  “By their fruits ye shall know them.”  What could be more practical – or even ‘scientifically minded’ for that matter – that to measure things by their results?

By this gage, Islam right now is looking like a few desiccated, blackened figs which smell of cordite.  Buddhism is still hunkered around its rice bowl in many poorer areas of the world, while pretending its mind is elsewhere.  And Christianity is looking for all intents and purposes to be in the lead.

Of course all of history is not yet written.  But if you want to use your mind to its best advantage, to gain the best life possible, it currently looks like Christianity is the best river from which to chart the landscape.  Why?

Don’t know for sure.  But it’s what the evidence may say.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Addendum:  After mulling the responses, I’m thinking…  Hey, conflict is fun.  But mostly, this tiny essay’s urge is just to toss this thought (which had occurred to me) out there:  That all of experience and happening is like rain falling on the landscape of our brains.  And the channels these experiences exploit and the rivers of thought they create say something about how the brain has found best to handle this overwhelming onslaught of experiential data which rains down upon it every day and night since time immemorial.  And the great religions might be thought of as the great rivers which move and channel this experience through our brains towards some productive end.  And if these religions mark the best way to drain these watersheds of experience; perhaps they also give us an insight into how best to follow a current of thought to its most successful conclusion… any thought.

From the Editor’s Perch

September 28, 2012

Keeping our head straight; thinking right…

Photo of Actor/Playwright John Ruoff by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

September 16, 2012

Our Monolithic Local Theater

As a playwright of 15 years experience, I’ve become conditioned to having my the hairs on the back of my brain stand up whenever I hear a theater worker gush about how much they respect playwrights.  I imagine it’s something in the realm of how an African-American reacts wherever someone remarks, “Oh, I just love Black people!”  They suspect that somewhere in this person’s experience there has been a great black maid… truly one of the family

Because my experience in the Theater has been that most theaters like their playwrights either dead or out of town.  Directors will declare it can’t “be done” that way.  Dramaturges will insist that ignoring their advice is tantamount to intentionally blemishing their career.  And the Producers will say that if they do not get their way, although they love the play so much!! the production will be cancelled; the play will be dropped.  If the playwright is not dead, or out of town – they may soon want to be.

 This is because most mid to high end theater nowadays is not creative.  They are production entities.  They are like the copyists of the old-time Louvre.  Known, established hits of the recent season are imported, and the theaters’ job is not to fuck them up.  The critics report on how well they have done this.  “Yes!  In this production they magically recreate the flair of Titian’s brushwork.”  It’s educational.

Copyists

 WELL, all that has changed!  according to a recent article in the Seattle Times by theater critic Misha Berson:  “Move over, coffee: It’s playwrights’ day in the sun in Seattle”.  The larger theaters all say so!  And, apparently, it’s all come upon us quite suddenly.   

 Three months ago in a meeting of the Dramatists Guild at the ACT Theater, representatives from the Rep, ACT, Issaquah’s Village Theatre, and the 5th Avenue, announced that they were now intent upon establishing playwriting entities within their theater’s organizations in order to foster the creation, work shopping and perhaps production of New Plays.  

I asked them a number of questions then.  First, why all of a sudden?  Local playwrights have been doing everything short of tossing bombs at their doors for the past 15 years of my experience in an effort to make just this sort of thing happen.  Their non-committal answer was just a general shrug and a few general statements to the effect that, the time seems to be right, or it seems to be what is currently in the air.

Well, who can really say?

 (This writer suspects that it is the money.  You want to understand any organization, you follow the money.  And major theater in this town has seen patrons and income steadily decrease in numbers over the past many years.  At the next Dramatists Guild meeting the Artistic Director of another major theater in the area said that she had had to let all of her assistants go.  If this is true throughout the industry, then the next jobs to be lost are going to be those of the very people who were  speaking to us.  This can be a motivator.

 

But why, suddenly, are they so chummy with Playwrights?  WE haven’t any money.  Trust me. 

 I suspect it’s either due to a major change in grant or funding priorities among the philanthropic entities, though your erstwhile reporter here has come up blank.  Perhaps they are just getting desperate and are casting about wildly in their death throes like large animals.  Or perhaps, when you take the money away, people become creative… or at least open themselves up to the idea.)

 Well, part of the answer is that they are not really chumming up.  They are allowing the playwrights into their theater.  When asked the benefits of this, the lone playwright of the group who was part of this newly hatched program said, “Well, I get to talk to other playwrights.”  He thought for a while.  “And I get to use the copy machine.”

Let’s see. “I get to use the copier machine.”

(Hallelujah!  I thought.  I have to say, this whole charade was getting me pissed.)

 They all made it very clear that they were not just opening the theater doors ala carte.  They planned to contact select writers with invitations.  These writers would then be allowed to work and talk with other writers somewhere on the theater grounds.  And out of all of this, if the powers that be deemed the product of sufficient quality –  some portion of this would at some point have scheduled readings – when they could be arranged, if the budget was there for them.  And hopefully from this might come some productions.  (Smiles all around.)

 (I was steaming.  ‘I could scratch something out today, have it read down at the Odd Duck tonight, and in a show there, or in the TPS Theater by the end of the next month!’  My ears were blowing smoke.   ‘And all without having budgeted a dime’.  A street person could DO this.)

 And in case they had qualms about the dubious quality of such work coming out of a rundown place such as the Odd Duck?  I would remind them that the two playwrights they so prized, and had produced upon their own stages, and had been just now passing congratulations back and forth about – had passed through just such a scenario at the Odd Duck, in years past, themselves.)

 So I asked them, “Why not just save your selves a lot of time and effort and money and just cut to the chase?  Go see the shows produced around here which have done well and give them a leg up?”

 (I didn’t add, “Because that’s what you do already!)

 It was not just a question of quality, was their answer.  It was also finding the show which was right for their theater.

 “But in ten years you haven’t yet found a show which was right for your theater?” I asked.

 Believe us, we’ve looked, was their answer.

 (This kind of shit just makes your jaw drop.)

 “But Joe Boling, an independent fellow who had tried to see how much theater he could attend within the Seattle area within a year, by attending every day… (They all nodded their heads and smiled.  They all knew the guy.)  …found he couldn’t see all of the productions, within a year, there were so many!  You couldn’t find one success out of all of those produced scripts, over the past 10 years which was suitable?”  I asked again.

??????

Believe us, we’ve looked, was their answer. 

They didn’t blink.  They didn’t break ranks.  You’ve got to hand it to them, when it comes to p0litical playbook, these folks know their way around.  They appear when they are invited, and then they come bearing gifts – to mute any criticism which might rear its ugly head.  That would be unseemly.  And it had muted me.  What I should have continued on to ask was this:

(“Let me phrase this question another way – since it seems you have to be hit on the head with a big stick!   If local theater producing new, local plays has created audience with a series of hits – while your theaters have been steadily losing audience…  Wouldn’t it be more logical to say that perhaps your theatre is not ‘right’ for this town?”)

 But they propped their sagging tits of an argument up this time with a few anecdotes about how time consuming and taxing watching new theater could be.  Which led to the condolences passed amongst themselves, (they were all on good relations), regarding sacrifices that a person makes for the theater… 

 So I figured that was enough questions from me for a while.  Since no other playwrights attending followed up on my queries, I just sat and simmered. 

 The other playwrights asked questions about how one became picked by a theater; how one should best submit their work to the theater, and on and on; just dogs, basically, who were sitting on their hind legs asking politely what the protocol was to be for chasing the bone.  And one thing the panelists agreed upon was that there was no equation to give!  They were looking for quality, and then something which tugged at their heart.  But one thing we could do was to research the theater we were sending our scripts to.

 (A little background here:  The Dramatists Guild recently supported a study of the state of live theater in this country, which caused somewhat of a sensation when it came out around a year ago.  Not only was it shocking how little even quite ‘successful’ playwrights made from their theatrical productions (not even close to a livable income).  What struck closest to many of us (especially me!) was the finding that there were no scripts produced in major theaters around the country from mailings.  The playwrights in all cases that were produced had a personal relationship with that theater.)

 For example, said the fellow from the largest theater.  If I receive a script and it has blah, blah, blahs name on it.  I know that that person hasn’t researched our theater at all, because they haven’t been the literary manager here in several years.  So into the round file it goes…

“You’re kidding me. The guy thinks HE’s still the Literary Manager?”

 (The arrogance of these people just twists me in knots.  At ten cents a sheet, the playwright may have spent $12.00 for the copy, another several dollars for the binder, maybe $3.00-$6.00 for the postage, and then double that amount for the return envelope and postage.  This is not to mention the year (or years) and turmoil spent to write it.)

 So I had to ask:  “So, after you have produced a new play, how do you go about selling it to the other major theaters.  Do you just make sure you get the names correct and mail it to them?” 

 (And even though a person would need be an idiot not to suspect the answer, they were either too blindsided, arrogant or stupid not to suspect I was being arch.  Because they said…)

 Oh no, no.  We try in every way we can to get them here to see it!!! 

 About this they all agreed.

 And then it was pretty much over.  I left without speaking.  If I did start talking, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop.  And also, it was pretty clear that neither the panelists nor the other playwrights were much interested in what I might have to say, might be.

 But to finish up, I think I’ll just say what I have to say right here:

 I agree with Jon Jory (founder of the Humana Festival) that the future of live theater is probably at the amateur, semi-professional level of production.  What I see happening here are the deaths throes of a large, monolithic creation which is currently stumbling under its own weight, and fighting to retain what employment there is.  Large theater as we know it is going down… It’s getting re-sized, re-packaged.  Who knows, maybe even chopped up for its parts…

 (An administrator’s head… maybe an arm?   Here’s a thumb.  Maybe get it bronzed?  Ha, ha.)

 But theater as it’s about to be will be coming to your block.  And who knows?  Maybe soon.

And more about that, later. 

Photos by Carl Nelson of Person and Actors whose sentiments may very well not be mine.


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