Posts Tagged ‘theater’

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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Cara Blouin

Theater, Dan Hodge muses, is an impermanent art form, and he stays up nights wondering why he labors so long to produce something so temporary.

He is directing Timon of Athens for PAC at Broad Street now and it is probably wonderful- I’ll be the second to speculate and respond without having yet seen it, as Adrienne Mackey has been railing against some inane reviews of the show this week, as well.

Hodge comes to the conclusion that to perform classic plays is to become part of a larger heritage. And it soothes him to step into that line of history and, although briefly, take hold of an heirloom handed through from Shakespeare’s time to ours, and then to pass it on.

I don’t find the idea quite as reassuring; I’m still wide awake at night.
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This is a very long essay, and it probably constitutes the end of my interest in NBC’s SMASH. I know that most of you will be happy to hear that.

The second season of Smash begins with Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee), dressed as Marilyn Monroe, onstage and singing a song called “Cut, Print… Moving On.” Like all the songs on Smash, it is utterly devoid of context; like all the songs on Smash, it seems impossible that there’s any way to combine it with any of the other songs to form something even resembling a comprehensible musical. All pretense that the in-story show, Bombshell, is really a play that people might actually want to watch is abandoned. The song could have easily been called “Here Is the Beginning of the Second Season, We Have a New Creative Team, We Noticed It Too; Aren’t We All Very Clever?”

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So, the Republican Theater Festival occurred, and all in all, it was really not that big a deal. No fights broke out; I was not required to do karate on disruptively rowdy patrons; I was not asked to use the power of my atomic intellect to rhetorically break a man down into his component parts. So, some disappointments, obviously. But for what had ostensibly seemed like it was going to be a pretty controversial event — one that filled up listservs and email inboxes with hatemail and poorly-worded screeds — it turned out to be a surprisingly non-controversial night on the town.

I am now going to write some things about the plays, and you may consider that, unless I say otherwise, I’m generally just not including the play that I worked on (“Running Amok,” by Quinn D. Eli) in my analysis, for no reason other than I don’t expect you to find my analysis of it objective. Good or bad or what, it’s pretty much off the table. So.

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Yeah, I know.  This is a real thing, anyway, and the number one reason that I’m working on it is that hardly anyone every invites me to direct (and by “hardly anyone” I mean “no one”), so I am going to take the opportunities that come my way.  But despite my base craving for acclaim and attention, I was still hesitant to touch this one with anything short of a very long pole, and so sat down and did some soul-searching, trying to reason my way through it.  This is what I came up with.

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My play, Glossolalia, is one of the 40 finalists in the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival (SFOOBSPF, I guess?).  My friend Casey made me a poster to help advertise it.

I like it.  My understanding is that I will actually have to battle in a kind of Thunderdome-style competition with the other playwrights, so I am practicing my swinging-a-chainsaw-while-attached-to-bungee-cords as we speak.

UPDATE!

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