Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Be Poor?

From a Nation interview with acclaimed playwright Young Jean Lee:

You have a deal to write a movie for Paramount. What does all this mean for you as a writer?

I worked for two years on The Shipment, and a few thousand people saw it. I don't want to stop doing theater--there is definitely something in the live-performance experience that could never be replaced by film. I was talking to Tim Etchells, from a company called Forced Entertainment in England, who's been doing this since the '80s. I asked him, "How do you become you?" He said, "You just survive. You keep making shows no matter what happens." Everybody of the older generation still making experimental theater today, they are such rock stars because they've weathered so many ups and downs. I'm almost 35, and all my life I've never cared about money at all. I made almost nothing--people can't believe what I live on--and I've never cared. And now I'm almost 35, and suddenly, for the first time, I don't want to be poor. That's how you lose people.

H/T Mike Daisey


Thomas Garvey said...

Well, I'm sure we're all greatly relieved to learn she'll soon be moving on from this "most backward" of art forms and headed out to Hollywood. Hope the door doesn't hit her in the ass on the way out.

Ian Thal said...

Does she think Hollywood wants to put millions of dollars into the sort of work she's been putting on stage? If she's having problems with theatre audiences understanding her "irony", she's not going to do much better with the major studios.

Daniel Bourque said...

I have to say that I think both of you are being a little hard on Young Jean Lee. I can't personally say anything about her work since I've never seen or read any of it, but I think what she was saying about American Theatre wasn't a slight towards the art or the people involved in it but more about the place that it occupies in the American cultural landscape and the limiting effects this has on theatre as a whole. Sam Shepard once famously said, "You can’t make a living as a playwright. You can barely scrape by” and you could pretty much apply that to anyone working in American Theatre these days- actors, directors, whatever. Just look at the slow-motion collapse of the LORT system if you don't believe me. So she's contemplating writing for film or television in order to pay the rent. Big deal. I don't see any shame in her wanting to make a living or be paid for what she does, and I don't think it makes her any less of an artist.

Thomas Garvey said...

Dan, did you actually read her comments in full? She's obviously a head case. I'm not criticizing her for going after the cash; I'm ridiculing her bipolar stance of "money doesn't matter to me, but I'm off to La-La Land, and btw, as an art form theatre sucks."

Scott Walters said...

The key here is the first sentence, which is a revealing non sequitir. Is it about money or fame?

The current system doesn't work. So fix it. But she, like so many others, won't commit to that, but instead just abandon it trailing excuses along the way.

Ian Thal said...

I don't begrudge her making money by going into film. I just doubt that the sort of work she says she likes to do (and for which she has won acclaim) would be something for which Hollywood would be willing to pay the big bucks.

But then again, maybe there's a side of her artistic output she's not put on the stage that's more "marketable."