Posts Tagged ‘theater’

Cara Blouin

I want to say that maybe Rapture, Blister, Burn is the feminist play we deserve, but I’ve been trying not to blame myself for the bad things that happen to me. It’s one of the many struggles that I go through as a living human female, an experience that, by the way, I regularly complain about not seeing portrayed on stage. I like to blame *that* on the glut of white male playwrights who dominate the art. “I am sick,” I whine, “of seeing female characters who are just cardboard cutouts who don’t have real feelings or motivations written by jerk dudes who don’t know what it is like to be a lady.”

So it’s hard to know how to feel about the paper dolls that Gina Gionfriddo has cut out to use as mouthpieces for her barely thought out ideas in Rapture, Blister, Burn. I think it’s worse. It’s one thing to be alienated by someone who can’t understand your experience. It’s a curious betrayal to be alienated by someone who presumably should be able to.

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I am taking a break from expounding my LIFE PHILOSOPHY to talk about some other things, as a kind of intellectual palate-cleanser.  Today’s subject on which I will now go on at length, pulled randomly from the heaps of garbage that I read every day, is this article by Colin McEnroe over at Salon.

For whatever reason, I find I’m always more exercised by running into junk like this at sites I read regularly, as opposed to sites like the New Yorker, where I only once in a while check-in.  It seems to me that not only is the thing itself wrong, but that it’s also a kind of betrayal that they published it in the first place — not necessarily because I don’t agree with it (though, I’ll be honest here – as we all should strive for honesty in every one of our doings — that’s probably a big part of it), but because it seems like the kind of thing an editor should have looked at and said, “Nope, too dumb.  Send it back.”

(Well, I know, it’s Salon, obviously that wasn’t going to happen, come on.)

Anyway, the piece is for the most part some fussy hand-wringing about Kids Today, and I think that all articles about Kids Today should be answered not necessarily due to their merits, but just for the sake of having the counter-argument exist, in the hopes that this generation will, at long last, be the generation that beats back the idea of Kids Today, if not forever, at least for now, a momentary peace in a world constantly under threat.

It’s mostly fussiness, but it takes at its heart Ira Glass’s apparent disinterest in Shakespeare: “I think I’m realizing: Shakespeare sucks?”  And then seeks to take him to task on the grounds that Shakespeare self-evidently does NOT suck, and Ira Glass is somehow representative of a generation of increasingly-stupid children who don’t seem to realize that.

Well.

Before I get into it, let me just be clear: I like Shakespeare, as a reader, as an actor, and as a speaker of English. I’m also GOOD at Shakespeare; ask anyone, I’ve got a knack for this kind of stuff. If I was willing to live a little more in poverty, I could probably work consistently just doing Shakespeare. Shakespeare often speaks to me in a way that I find deeply intuitive and affecting. I have, in other words, a vested interest in seeing Shakespeare maintain his position as the most important playwright in the English language, and in seeing all of us remain idolators to his genius.

But.

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I caught this article from Gabriel Valdez’s Wednesday Collective in a sort of a roundabout way – it’s a defense of something like “The Expert Review”, in which a reviewer criticizes a work of fiction with some level of expertise – pointing out historical errors and the like. Some people think the Expert Review should die; this Historian who goes to the movies makes a pretty good case for it.

For the purpose of contributing to this consideration, I’d like to suggest that there’s a bright line we can draw between historical errors that matter and historical errors that don’t, and that actually we’ve got two ways of looking at a narrative’s relationship to the past. For the sake of argument, let’s call these two things History and Historicity.

History, we all know what history is, but just for the purpose of this article I’d like you to accept the following definition, even if it’s not how you’d usually define it: “History is a complex set of narratives, evaluated in the present, encompassing more or fewer artifacts from previous time periods, generally established for the purpose of creating, destroying, or reinforcing a cultural or political identity.” In this case, we might say that a history that encompasses very few artifacts from a previous time period is a bad history, but creating a narrative based on them is still the process of history, however we might like to wish it isn’t. And you’ve noticed, I’m sure, the interesting feature about history being evaluated always in the present, and what this means for all previous histories – don’t worry, we’ll get to it.

Historicity might be something that I made up (or, alternately, a real thing that I am describing incorrectly), but for the sake of this article let’s work with this definition: “Historicity is the quality of resembling one point in history or another.” I don’t think that his necessarily means that something with a high degree of historicity is historically accurate – I think that as we go forward, I’m going to show that “historical accuracy” can fall into one or the other category – but I do think that something with a high degree of historicity has a lot of details that are meant to make it resemble something that is historically accurate.

So, here is what I am proposing: historical details matter when we’re talking about history; historical details do NOT matter when we’re talking about historicity.

Here, let me do a few examples.

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Christopher Durang – America’s most beloved author of community theater audition monologues – has a new play called Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.  In 2013 it won the Tony Award for Outstanding New Play.  It won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Production, the Drama League Award for Best Production of a Play, the Drama Desk Award for Best Play, the Outer Circle Critics Award for Best Play and the Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Play.  Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike prominently features a Magical Negro housekeeper who has the power of Voodoo.

If, after reading that, you think to yourself, “That’s enough.  This is the 21st century and I have no interest in racial caricatures of any kind.  Nothing in this play could possibly make up for this conspicuous, shameful, and easily avoidable failure; I am happy to condemn this play to company with the rest of the detritus of civilization left behind as humanity continues on its long moral arc, without hearing another word about it,” well, then, I agree with you.  You can ignore this play for the rest of your life, and not be one degree the worse for it; go forth, and be not bothered by Christopher Durang.

In criticism, though, as in life, it is important to be thorough.

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braak

My play, “Afterlife” is going to be in the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival this year.  Casey Conan, Hero of Art, has made this poster for it.

AFTERLIFE_2

You may recall that I had a play in this festival LAST year.  Many of you were not able to come to NEW YORK CITY in order to see it, so I decided NOT to win that one, and will instead win this year.

We’re Friday, July 26th at 8:00.  Tell your friends.  Also, here is the festival website.

Cara Blouin

Shakespeare was supposed to have written all of his plays in one draft, each of them bursting perfectly formed into the world like the goddess Athena from the skull of Zeus. I don’t currently know any writers who can do that, but the model that playwrights have access to is either apathetic, disingenuous or expects exactly this sort of miraculous birth.

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braak

Yesterday, I saw “Future Fest”, which is a Luna Theater production of short “science fiction plays”, themed around time travel (I guess, kind of?), which whole thing is part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. I haven’t been doing a lot of reviews of theater lately, for a lot of reasons, but I saw these plays and because they are plays performed in a theater, and because Luna Theater is selling tickets to them, and because it is a part of a cultural even that I, as a Philadelphian, am ostensibly meant to be interested in (“The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts”, which, I don’t know if that’s a festival of international arts? Or is the festival itself international? Whatever. The point is, it’s not a couple skits some cats were doing in their backyard just for the heck of it), I have decided to write about this.

We need to talk about these plays, guys.

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