Thursday, September 01, 2005

Bill Marx Notices The Lack of Celebration

In his column this week, Mr. Marx makes note of how New England stages are giving Shaw, Beckett, and Ibsen the snub on their birthdays. As George Hunka has pointed out, he could also add that the cold shoulder treatment is being extended to Brecht on the 50th anniversary of his death.

After giving props to the area theatres for staging some of these playwrights over the years, Mr. Marx falls into uncharacteristic aimless musing:

Why Williams and Chekhov rather than Ibsen and Shaw? Playwrights go in and out of fashion for unpredictable reasons. The razor-thin pleasantries of Somerset Maugham are making a comeback, while some masters, such as Strindberg and Pirandello, have never really caught on.

This pondering is a little refreshing to tell the truth. They are perhaps unanswerable questions, but fascinating to contemplate. On my vacation I read James T. Farrell's Studs Lonigan, and in the introduction by Charles Fanning I discovered the massive ouevre that is is Farrell's legacy. Like Marx, I wondered, Why Hemingway? Why Fitzgerald? Harold Bloom doesn't even list a single Farrell volume in his Western Canon appendix.

We can actually break down some of the playwrights themselves and ask similar quaestions about their own canons. Springboarding off of Marx's mention of Suddenly Last Summer, I wonder, why Streetcar, or Glass Menagerie, and not Summer and Smoke, or Orpheus Descending?

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