Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jackie Beat

is on the front page of the LATimes Home section this morning!

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Jackie talks about her Highland Park bungalow. The whole thing is divinely kitchy; I especially love the dining room. My favorite part of the article is her description of growing up in Scottsdale, AZ.
Beat grew up as Kent Fuher, living in a 1960s split-level house in Scottsdale, Ariz. His nautical-themed bedroom was red, white and blue.

"I did not decorate it that way," Beat says. "My sister's room was the room to be jealous of. It had white, fun, fur carpeting, gorgeous, and foil and green fern wallpaper, and lots of white macramé and wicker. I used to sneak in there and read her copy of 'Helter Skelter.'"
As a campy bonus, there's also an Amy Sedaris Q&A. Enjoy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Clint McCance's apology



A translation: "My language was harsh. In the future I will use words that are less harsh to communicate my intolerant views. Words like 'unnatural!' Or 'deviant!' Or 'sodomite!' No wait, that went too far. Is 'perversion' still okay?"

Thanks for making Arkansas proud, Clint. More from Max Brantley here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This whole

Clint McCance thing is heinous, but it's nice to see Max Brantley's hard at work on it.



In other news, I finally figured out how to reformat video to fit the page.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I don't really use

direct address anymore.  In fact, I think I only used it in a couple of early plays.  I tried using it with one thing I worked on a few years ago, but that was a big mess and I more or less abandoned it.  I started out with it in my new play, Bumblefuck, AR, but quickly and rightly shed it as I grew more confident in how I needed to tell the story.

I do think some plays benefit from it, but I also find it interesting that my impulse to use it in my own writing often seems to come out of a grappling with how to tell the story and not as a formal necessity.  The one play I've ever used it in with success definitely required it, both in storytelling and in theme.  I do wonder if Isherwood has a point, that it's a device that can be used in an attempt to address, as he puts it, "a problem of structure."  He makes a point to single out "young playwrights," too, which is condescending, but I can't help but find it resonant.  It seems like one of those playful narrative conceits that is particularly attractive to the young, in the same way non-linear narrative is.  There's nothing wrong with that, and it's one of the ways we get exciting new takes on the familiar and one of the ways we discover fresh new voices.

I just wish he didn't finish with this paragraph:
The idea that you have to know the rules – even master them – before you break them seems to have lost some of its currency, because in our post-Beckett theatrical landscape there really are no rules.
First "show, don't tell," and now this old chestnut.  Is this even true?  I mean, we all know it doesn't hurt to study our betters, but I don't exactly know of any textbook well-made Beckett play from his student days helping us understand his mastery of conventional form.  If anything is true about Beckett's plays -- I'm no expert but I have read and seen my share -- it's that there is a clear formal elegance that, even if not Shakespearean in structure, is perfectly sound on its own terms.

I doubt there are no rules in our post-Beckett theatrical landscape; the rules are applied differently, or are just different, from playwright to playwright.  And that is how it's always been.  The lack of a clear standard on which to apply a rubric is a critic's problem, not an artist's.  And for an audience it should be a blessing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

To the audience

I've been thinking a little more about this blog post Isherwood wrote for the NYTimes Friday about how he thinks direct address is overused in today's theater.  I think he makes some intelligent points, and some ridiculous ones that he doesn't even convince me he actually believes (Direct address is so played!  Yeah, I know, The Greeks, Shakespeare, Glass Menagerie, Our Town, Brecht, Beckett, Albee, Churchill, but STILL!).  Either way, the bit that stuck in my craw wasn't really him questioning the legitimacy of using direct address at all (which, just to get out of the way, I think is about as serious as questioning the legitimacy of action, dialogue, sets, lights and props).

Here he is, somewhere mid-lecture:
The art of deploying exposition is a challenging one, but it is a measure of a playwright’s skill. So, too, is the art of establishing character in naturalistic ways. There’s a reason why writing teachers always implore students to show us rather than tell us things: showing is naturally more dynamic, both in prose and in drama.
I find this passage both reasonable  and irritating.  He wisely says "a" rather than "the measure of a playwright's skill," which does let him off the hook somewhat, but I still feel compelled to point out that there are countless ways to measure a playwright's skill that have nothing to do with exposition or "establishing character in naturalistic ways."  To suggest those are of paramount importance implies a hierarchy of style as much as form.  Isherwood is smarter than that, I think, but it's too bad he can't help invoking hackneyed creative writing 101 notes like "show, don't tell."

I went on a rant recently to a playwright friend of mine after receiving a "show, don't tell" note, not because I don't believe in the importance of the rule, but because it's all too often given as a knee-jerk response to work that the critic hasn't bothered to engage in.  I know there's a difference between a colleague giving a note and a critic writing a review (or a crabby blog post about current trends in playwriting), but there is a relationship, particularly in the lack of engagement with the specific use of the device to which the critic takes offense.  Why is a character telling instead of showing?  What is the playwright trying to accomplish in writing in that way?  Can we talk about that, rather than smugly spouting off obvious chestnuts like "show, don't tell" and resting on the certainty that we've got the work all figured out?  Perhaps there is something to be learned about why specific uses of exposition, or direct address, or fill-in-the-blank time-worn theatrical convention is effective or ineffective in its execution in a work.

That's really why I bristle at essays like this.  I understand it's a journalistic commonplace, but to group a handful of very distinct plays together and use them as examples to suggest that some (ancient) theatrical convention that relates them is played out is essentially the feature article version of that guy sitting in the back of the room, folding his arms and crowing "show, don't tell."

Okay, I admit it, other bits stuck in my craw too.  More on those later.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Direct Address

99seats over at Parabasis points out a blog from Isherwood at the NYTimes about his distaste for direct address, to which recent Pulitzer finalist Kristoffer Diaz responds on his blog. I think I have stuff to say about this, although I probably won't get to it until the weekend. Enjoy the linkage for now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sometimes

Barack Obama is so cool.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Apologies

for the light posting. October's been a tough month.

I've been trying to find the online version of Peter Schjeldahl's review of the Abstract Expressionism show at MOMA from the 10/18 issue of the New Yorker, but it's only in abstract form. Figures.

O'Hara is rightly mentioned several times in the article, specifically in regards to a series of irreverent lithographs he did with Larry Rivers. This is my favorite bit from the review:
I like the idea of O'Hara and Rivers goofing on the art world. It breathes an air of hanging out at the center of a movement with one's wits intact enough to sift its grandeur from its grandiosity.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

LAStageblog

is now calling itself LAStageTimes. Steve Julian published an article there a couple of days ago about Gordon Davidson, former head of Center Theatre Group. It's a long piece covering a lot of history and opinion, but my favorite part is at the end, when he talks about his home in Santa Monica.
[B]ehind him stands a two-story cottage, occupying a good chunk of his backyard.

It’s where Bertolt Brecht set up his typewriter. “Back in the ’30s, it was such an extraordinary time,” says Davidson. “It was a time when the intellectuals, mostly Jewish intellectuals and artists, fled Europe and wound up here. I think that’s partly because of the movie business and partly because they could see the ocean down the street.

“Salka Viertel, a pretty famous woman of her time, an actress and screenwriter, and confidante of Greta Garbo, held salons here in this house. They’d meet every Sunday, just like they would in Europe. People were poor then but they would dress formally. They’d talk and argue.” And during Davidson’s long residency, “[British playwright] Christopher Hampton stayed there. Arthur Miller stayed there. They were all here so there are wonderful ghosts in this house.”

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

I love this clip so much

I want to marry it!



Hat tip to joemygod.

Thanks to Dan Savage for getting this off the ground.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Pavement at the Bowl

Great show, great seats. Here are the best two clips I could find on Youtube, filmed on the opposite side of the Pool Circle from me.



Sonic Youth at the Bowl



I always get a kick out of "Death Valley '69." It reminds me of the time I went to a show of Sonic Youth covers in a small bar in Houston in 1999 or 2000, where this rough-looking band played a rendition that was downright scary -- so much so that my friend and I got up from our table near the stage and walked out as it was wrapping up. When we hit the front door the singer announced, "Hey, cut us some slack! It was their first album!"