Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So I went to this group thing,

the one I talked about yesterday. And I’m not sure. I’ll go again and talk to the woman who runs it, I don’t exactly know what I’ll say to her. I should have talked to her today, but I just didn’t or couldn’t, I don’t know. They have my contact info. I gave notes which I shouldn’t have done because I was a visitor and didn’t really have the right, but it was good to be back in a workshop, I’d missed it and I couldn’t help myself.

All the writers were considerably older, the actors where either older men or women my age, the woman who ran it assured us that there were often more people. The work was kind of old. I think that's what I'm not sure about. I'm so used to being with writers my own age and my playwriting teachers of the last two years were in their early thirties and both pretty new wave. This work felt stodgy. The critiques were on point, the guy whose scene was pretentious and didn't have anything at stake was told so, as was the guy whose play was endless and actionless, and the one with two many characters to keep straight. It's not that I think I'm so great, or so avant gaurde, or so free from the shackles of exposition, that's not what I'm saying... it just felt wrong. It was good to be in a workshop again, it felt good to hear cold readings and feel insightful, but it didn't feel right. Their whole aesthetic just felt wrong to me, too expository, or naturalistic, too demanding of full sets, people who look related, and psychiatrists without prolems of their own. I heard parts of five plays; exactly one character swore, and it was a big deal in the play that she did. Maybe they deserve another chance, but I couldn't imagine bringing my work into that room.

So, I don't know, I just don't know if I should go back.

Plans for the incredibly near future

I spent some time looking for playwrights' opportunities in the city. There were some decent leads, I’ll do more with them. Anyway, tomorrow I’m going to go to a meeting of the NYCPlaywrights group. They meet every week, you have to submit work and be accepted, then you have to pay $60 for a five month membership which gives you free tickets and some perks but mostly it means that you can get your work read. The meetings are open so tomorrow (today, I guess) I’m going to go as a visitor and I'll apply if I like like the atmosphere. usually I wouldn’t talk about this until tomorrow but, in light of terminal issues with motivation, I thought it would be best to post about it now so I’ll feel obligated to attend. More info to come.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ambivalent reading expirience: concluded

It seems I can’t get my act together until midnight these days and for that I apologize. I suspect that comes from the hope that more will be accomplished if I just wait, as if I’m not the one I’m waiting for.

I finished the Alexander Plays. I think that on the whole I liked them, or at least there were very few things that stuck out as problems and they made me think, which isn’t quite the same thing as liking something but it’s certainly not nothing. All four plays center around Suzanne Alexander who is fictional, at first I was determined not to look this up, to just view the plays as plays without getting bogged down in the historical stuff that usually makes me not like things. However, in one of the plays the main character referred to She Talks to Beethoven as her best known play, written about when her husband disappeared. I got incredibly, embarrassingly disoriented by this, I found myself talking (in my head) like every character at the climax a farce with identical twins, because, of course, that’s the name and subject of the fist play in this collection. So, the character was claiming to have written another play in the book, of which she was the lead, one in which she was not writing a play about herself and didn’t seem to be aware of the audience. I found it disorienting and started to wonder if she was a real person, or the author's name was a pseudonym, or what was going on, then I felt like I was being fucked with and then I felt stupid. So, I guess I’m not sure how I feel about that particular dramatic device, after all it did have an effect.

The other thing I want to talk about is how she used found text, or source material, or the public domain, or the classics or whatever you want to call it. This is one of those things you see sometimes, I guess it’s natural. Writers are intelligent, over-educated, romantically self involved people, of course they feel the need to draw literary and historical parallels that elevate and explain their characters. Kennedy does it well, in The Ohio State Murders she weaves Tess of the d'Urbervilles into the story of Suzanne Alexander as a young black student at the newly desecrated Ohio State who’s daughters are are murdered by the white professor who fathered them. In The Film Club, a monologue about her waiting for her husband after a second disappearance, during which it turns out that he was imprisoned and tortured, she incorporates Bram Stroker’s Dracula and Diop’s poetry. The Dramatic Circle covers the same time and adds the letters of Napoleon and Josephine to the mix. It’s a technique I’ve never been tempted to use, not because I don’t think it can be effective but because it’s not really in keeping with how I work or think. I’m not sure why I just made that personal but let’s move on. The effect is not heavy (it could easily have been heavy) but weighty, it gave this woman’s life a context, and a feeling of importance and belonging among the great tragic love stories. I think it worked mostly because we saw her looking to these texts consciously for comfort and guidance and the feeling that she wasn’t alone. I think it worked because it came from the character rather than being slapped on top by the writer.

All that said, I’m glad I read these plays but I just didn’t enjoy them. I guess enjoyment isn’t everything.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ambivalent about plays

I read half of Adrienne Kennedy’s The Alexander Plays today (I know, yesterday, but cut me some slack; I just got home) and I’m not sure how I feel about them. I certainly respect what she’s doing but I don’t know that I like it. I’m not sure whether this was Sally’s recommendation or Jordan’s but I know I heard about it at school and I don’t know what I’m going to do when when run out of names to remember when I see them on library shelves. Anyway, She Talks to Beethoven incorporated the often problematic historical-figure-brings-wisdom-to-another-time trope, which I’m not such a big fan of. However the fact that he was sent by the main character’s husband to be with her during his disappearance, and that he was bond between them who they had argued about the morning he left, gave it some legitimate emotional weight. The other play, The Ohio State Murders, I haven’t finished so I shouldn’t really write about it, but I do appreciate the ambition of a play in the past tense and although I don’t know if I like it I think it uses memory more skillfully than most. Also it makes me suspect that Jordan Harrison was the one who recommended it because his play Doris to Darlene was pretty obviously influenced by it (I liked his better though).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving forwards/backwards

I applied for an internship at Ensemble Studio Theater today. It’s unpaid and I said I could work 30-40 hours. I just want to get involved again at this point and stuff like this is what makes the most sense. It’s one of the most respected new works theaters around, they run a writers group I was recently rejected from but would like to have another crack at next year, if I get it (and I think I might finally be over-qualified for something) I’ll be reading new works and maybe have an active role in development. This would be good for me. Not financially of course but, you know... something. And if I do something like this then it’ll be a lot easier for me to stomach getting a mindless part time job. When I came here I said that I was sick of working for nothing but a pat on the head, that I would get a job that was actually a job, but here I am, applying for internships, same when I was in school.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Some promises and some pretension

Okay. I need to be back. I need to really do this, commit to keeping up with my blog. Even if I don’t hit the deadlines I set for myself, even if I don’t get a job, no matter what, I need to start doing this again and I will. I am back, back to daily updates, back to thinking seriously and doing something theatre related five days a week. If on any day I fail to do something theatre related I will at least write about something theatre-y that’s on my mind. Even if it’s about how I feel about the format of published plays, musings on how many layers of black paint are on the average stage, the difference between “theatre” and “theater” or something else equally inane, I will post.

On that note, here’s something:
While I was on the train to return books to the library I read Beckett’s Happy Days. I read half of it really, then I sat in Bryant Park and read the other half. I hadn’t been reading my Beckett because it’s not easy, he gives you so much, such precise language, grammar, stage directions but really it’s nothing at all. I mean it’s amazing, but without information it can be hard to get a grip on something. Beckett is a master of essence (at least that’s what Albee said in his intro), he’s a master of making you feel something, or love, or hate, or pity a character without you ever knowing why. He makes you feel like you know a person without biography or history, without names really, he seems to posit that you can learn more about a person from hearing them describe a particularly good ham sandwich than you can from hearing them describe their father’s death, and it seems like he’s right. I can’t tell you what was beautiful about Happy Days but I know it was there, I know that play had something in it. I returned my copy of Beckett’s plays to the library, its better that way, it’s better for me to read them one at a time, not to be able to go back, not to be able to try to decode them. Meanwhile a copy of Waiting for Godot and a copy of Krapp’s Last Tape burn a hole in my bookshelf and become less magical every time I read them. It’s better for their lightness to be preserved and for me to remember that knowing everything is the worst way to understand something.