Friday, May 27, 2011

Missed the Boston Theatre Marathon? Recaps Available...

Unfortunately, I had to miss the Boston Theatre Marathon this year. I've directed and performed in the Marathon in different years, and I have also sat through the whole day as an audience member many times.

If you missed the event, in which 50 ten minute plays are performed all day long at the Calderwood Pavillion, make sure you put it on your calendar for next year.

In the meantime, Larry Stark has put together his play by play observations over at the Theater Mirror.

Also, local playwright Patrick Gabridge sat through the entire festivities and has posted some of his thoughts at his blog The Writing Life x3.

The Globe's short review of the event by Sandy MacDonald is here.

This year, the Marathon included a day of staged readings of full length plays that they called The Warm Up Laps.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More on Mamet's Conservative Conversion

There are two posts out there that call attention to some interesting paradoxes in David Mamet's new found conservatism, which is outlined in Andrew Ferguson's piece on the Pulitzer Prize Winning playwright in The Weekly Standard.

In that piece, as you can read here, Mamet credits the catalyst of his conversiion to an examination of the dichotomy of playwright Bertolt Brecht's personal life and his theater work.

Rob Weinhert-Kendt, writing on his blog, The Wicked Stage, wonders why Mamet didn't use a couple of targets closer to home:

The more I think about it, the more this feels like a bit of sleight of hand. Is Brecht really a relevant "father" for Mamet? Why not tackle two influences closer to home, like, say, Arthur Miller or Harold Pinter? Mamet owes each a huge debt as a dramatist, and both were men of the left. Not card-carrying Communists who eagerly submitted to living in a Soviet client state, mind you, just garden-variety lefties (with Pinter, by the end, representing a particularly thistly variety) who, while critical of Western democracies and capitalism, lived reasonably happy and productive lives within them.

Why, I wonder, wouldn't Mamet apply his newfangled rightwingery on two forebears so much closer to him aesthetically than the German epic poet? I can't say for sure, but I can venture a guess.

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, George Hunka, writing at his blog Superfluities Redux points out some hypocrisy in Mamet's newfound embrace of the free market as the cure for the theater's woes.

All well and good — and quite consistent with Mamet’s recent turn of thought. On the other hand, if Mamet accuses Brecht of hypocritically biting the hand that feeds him — well, physician, heal thyself. If it were not for this non-profit, state-subsidized theatre, it’s unlikely that Mamet would even have a career, in the theatre or anywhere else. Almost all of his early plays were premiered in non-profit and state-subsidized institutions — American Buffalo received its mainstage premiere at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 1976, The Water Engine at New York’s Public Theater in 1977, and Glengarry Glen Ross in 1983 at the mother of all English-language state-subsidized theatres, London’s National — well insulated from the demands of the marketplace (at least then, in those happy days before regional and non-profit theatres sought to become more and more like their commercial cousins). So we await a statement from Mamet repudiating these earlier “pseudodramas” of his.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Boston Theatre Marathon Twitter Feed

I added a Twitter feed to the top of my right column.

It is comprised of tweets from the Boston Theater Marathon today.

Theatrical Avant Garde - What is it anyway?

The Village Voice interviewed some theater artists about what Avant Garde means today, or if such a thing even exists:

Nick Jones, Playwright

Anybody truly radical is probably working on the fringe. And by the fringe, I don’t mean Downtown; I mean outside of theaters entirely, in contexts where no one is pursuing a career, and there are no reviewers (and possibly no audience). There is a huge DIY culture of performance in the United States, and it’s probably the closest thing to avant-garde that exists, in that it’s beholden to nothing and no one.

Mike Daisey, Monologist

Does a theatrical avant-garde still exist? I can think in the space of three minutes of a whole list of things I could say from stage when the lights come up at my performance this evening that would result in a riot: an exquisitely detailed, loving description of how I recently raped a child who was asking for it, an honest accounting of how pleased I am pissing into my lover's mouth. Over time you find how words can can still achieve disruption but be less outré—the right epithet, landed precisely, a choice or unchoice image that opens up the subconscious.

You can read more from such artists as Rude Mechanicals, Elevator Repair Service and Young Jean Lee here.

Over at The Playgoer blog, Garret Eisler has some thoughts on the Voice's collection of quotes:

Indeed, is the term still appropriate? "Front ranks" of what? Are weirdo artists necessarily always "ahead" of everyone else? As for "experimental"--what's the experiment? (And what's the "result"?)

Many of those surveyed say it all basically comes down to taboos and norms--i.e. breaking them. But I'm not sure the main difference between something you see on Broadway and something at St Anne's Warehouse is that one might have more naked people or audience participation than the other.

And breaking one set of conventions doesn't mean you don't have conventions of your own. A performance at Dixon Place might ignore some taboos--but aren't there a different set of rules in their place? A moment of unabashed sincerity or tearjerking sentimentality for instance, might be pretty "rule breaking" at a Radiohole or Wooster Group performance!

An event with no rules is not necessarily "edgy" theatre--it's actually not theatre.

He ends with a pretty funny quip about Richard Foreman.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Boston Theater - Off to the Races...

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 21 is the Boston Theater Marathon. Bring a bag lunch and get a good night of sleep before you head to the Calderwood Pavillion.

The full lineup of plays is at the Playwright's Perspective blog.

Have fun, and don't lose your seat.

Mamet - Is The Conversion Complete?

I am sure there will be a lot of discussion about Andrew Ferguson's article "Converting Mamet" - a recap of the various steps in the movement of playwright David Mamet from the liberal mindset to the conservative one.

Ferguson writes that in Mamet's new book, The Secret Knowledge:On the Dismantling of American Culture, the Pulitzer winning writer reveals that a close examination of Brecht's personal conduct provided a catalyst for his own political transformation:

For most of his career Mamet revered Brecht too: It was the thing to do. The reverence came to an end when he finally noticed an incongruity between Brecht’s politics and his life. Although a cold-blooded—indeed bloody-minded—advocate for public ownership of the means of production and state confiscation of private wealth, he always took care to copyright his plays. More, he made sure the royalties were deposited in a Swiss bank account far from the clutches of East Germany, where he was nominally a citizen.

“His protestations [against capitalism] were not borne out by his actions, nor could they be,” Mamet writes. “Why, then, did he profess Communism? Because it sold. .  .  . The public’s endorsement of his plays kept him alive; as Marx was kept alive by the fortune Engels’s family had made selling furniture; as universities, established and funded by the Free Enterprise system .  .  . support and coddle generations of the young in their dissertations on the evils of America.”


And then Mamet thought some more, and looked in the mirror.

“I never questioned my tribal assumption that Capitalism was bad,” he writes now, “although I, simultaneously, never acted upon these feelings.” He was always happy to cash a royalty check and made sure to insist on a licensing fee. “I supported myself, as do all those not on the government dole, through the operation of the Free Market.”

He saw he was Talking Left and Living Right, a condition common among American liberals, particularly the wealthy among them, who can, for instance, want to impose diversity requirements on private companies while living in monochromatic neighborhoods, or vote against school vouchers while sending their kids to prep school, or shelter their income while advocating higher tax rates.

For more of a context, you can start with Mamet's now famous 2008 essay in the Village Voice, "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal"

In that essay, he informs us that he started thinking about these political things at the time he was writing his play November.

Some critics and writers examined the play in the context of Mamet's self proclaimed conversion. Here is Robert Volicky writing on Hotreview:

This is not to say that the man can't say exactly what's on his mind and own it as his personal "truth," but his most recent work for the stage does not wholly reflect his alleged retreat to the ancient binarism of "reason/faith," "tragedy/perfectionism." Even his pairings (reason and the tragic versus faith and the perfectionist) are deceptively rigid and at odds with one another. Mamet's conscious effort to reason his position in the world--also common in his other essays and prose works--reminded me, here, of Arthur Miller. Miller's theorizing about his works never quite matched what his plays were doing. The theorizing often fell short of the works' depth and breadth.

But unlike Miller, who would refer specifically to his plays, Mamet does not explicitly apply his new political thinking to November. The essay works as an implied context within which to think about this play, and also to reconsider his complete canon. If the reader decides to map Mamet's thinking in March 2008 onto November, then so be it. The trouble is, such thinking would align the author's allegiance with his character President Smith, the corrupt executive running for a second term.

Monday, May 02, 2011

We're Going to Nantucket! Our Film is an Official Selection!

The short film I co-wrote with my wife, Amanda, and made with some friends is an Official Selection of the Nantucket Film Festival!

We are extremely excited as this was our first submission of The Oblique Sector anywhere, and it is an honor to be appearing at this premiere festival.

I'll get back to theater posting soon, I promise, but between our film and volunteering and attending the Independent Film Festival of Boston this past weekend, I've just been living at the movies.