Friday, March 25, 2011

Also

Lanford Wilson. I liked Criticlasm's post about him so I thought I'd link here.

In grad school we read Talley's Folly and my professor had boxes and boxes of the published manuscript, since he worked at Circle Rep for a while. I was one of the unlucky ones who didn't get handed a signed copy.

Playwright Robert Patrick keeps a blog of Caffe Cino pictures and has a slideshow for Wilson; it includes old programs and other images. It's worth taking a look.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Of course

Virginia Woolf?, but I think I like her in the early ones with Montgomery Clift the best. Both so sad and young and beautiful.





Monday, March 14, 2011

Kevin sent me

this commentary by Bret Easton Ellis about Charlie Sheen that has me tickled. Here's a sample:

In getting himself fired from his hit TV show Two and a Half Men, this privileged child of the media’s sprawling entertainment Empire has now become its most gifted ridiculer. Sheen has embraced post-Empire, making his bid to explain to all of us what celebrity now means. Whether you like it or not is beside the point. It’s where we are, babe. We’re learning something. Rock and roll. Deal with it.
(For extra context, a little more explanation of this whole Empire/Post-Empire dichotomy he's so insistent on is here.)

Anyone who read Rules of Attraction will spot the reference in that paragraph, which strikes me as funny; Ellis surely gets the sad irony in referencing his almost 25-year-old novel while ironically commenting what's so very "now" about everything that's so very "now." Is he being playful and self-deprecating here? Is he rubbing our noses in how ahead of his time he was? I can't decide if he's a genius or merely self-indulgent. Reading Imperial Bedrooms last year makes me think the latter is true. Looking over his Twitter feed -- yes, I follow him on Twitter -- only confirms it. From October 2010:

I'm tired of the debate: "Freedom" is the best social-realist novel written since I started publishing books. Rock and roll. Deal with it.
I went on a brief Bret Easton Ellis bender last year after reading Less Than Zero for the first time. I still don't know if I like it or not, but it's certainly hard to dismiss. I unapologetically LOVE Rules of Attraction; after finishing it I was stoked to read American Psycho but lost patience about 50 pages in. I'd like to get back to it one of these days. Imperial Bedrooms is definitely a ride, but much of it rings false. Then again, that also seems like the point.

Maybe, but Ellis's willingness to level critiques as scathing as they often are only sets him up for closer criticism. It's also incredibly easy to claim one is too Post-Empire to care about such Empire obsessions as "restraint" or "authenticity." As a defense it's pretty meager.

But then I guess suggesting such a thing makes me super Empire.

The comments of this article are entertaining, as well. Seems like a lot of people like to attack Ellis; I suppose his writing is confrontational enough that it demands a passionate response. My favorite comment, from someone named msw444, is more measured, though:

This is an interesting article, but lacks the caring lick of humanity. It basically tags Americans as the audience who cares more about Reality TV, than we do about meaningful values and human pain ...
And with that the commenter has unwittingly stumbled onto the meaning of the whole thing. As well as, from what I can gather, a great deal of Ellis's prose.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gay "Issues"

There's interesting conversation going on at Parabasis; I thought of commenting but I'd rather write up a new theater post over here since I haven't done that in a while.

Jeremy M. Barker over at Culturebot writes about contemporary plays feeling like essays, with the following quote serving to help illustrate his point.

[G]iven the homogeneity of the typical theater artist and audience, we know that a play that starts off about war will have something bad to say about it, that a play that engages with gay issues will be pro-gay. (Someone please name me the last big pro-war or anti-gay play you saw professionally produced.) In this typology, the “narrative,” which is essentially the entire play being produced, exists to narrate a series of points that makes the predictable ending impactful, which we charitably still refer to as catharsis. This is why I generally don’t like contemporary playwriting.
I'm going to write about this from my perspective as a writer who often works in gay "issues," although I think that word is dismissive and problematic.

To reduce a play's gay characters and themes to "issues" and writing about the predictability of such plays not being "anti-gay" suggests an author is required to justify the writing of gay characters and themes the moment he or she sets out to write them. We're not required to argue for the legitimacy of gay themes and characters; we can just write them. If that means they are pro-gay or that our plays are about "issues," then so be it, but I'm under the impression that gay people exist independently of whether or not we can be reduced to a dialectic by people who have opinions about our rights and our behaviors.

I can empathize with a frustration about a propagandistic, nostalgic or overly sentimental presentation of gay themes and characters when supported by a strong argument for gay politics or empathy towards gay people in the writing, but I'm also empathetic to how strongly people feel a necessity to communicate those messages in their writing.

I do also feel challenged by that reality in my own writing. I bristle at the didactic in gay-themed plays, or in plays that present a view of coming out or sexual awakening that seems alien to me. In fact my most recent play was written in part as a reaction to that, as I so often find crowd-pleasing gay theater completely unrelatable to my own experience. I understand its purpose and function, and I might even laugh at some of the jokes, but I much prefer the ambivalence and mystery of truly human stories, which is something I think Barker and I can agree on.

However, I don't understand how conceiving a writing project with an idea one would like to convey automatically guarantees the product will be essayistic. Then again, I'd more accurately describe my process (in the event that I do start with theme over character, place or story) as being interested in exploring an idea rather than merely conveying one. I'm also not actually sure if I ever have started with theme first.

Barker's still exploring his ideas himself; you can check the Parabasis link above and look at the comments for more of his writing on the matter.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hey Joni

JW had 91.5 Classical KUSC on the radio this morning and after yawning my way through Carmina Burana I was surprised to find a string arrangement of "Urge for Going" by Joni Mitchell, which made for a most serene breakfast, and segued into a great youtube spiral while I was brushing my teeth and dressing. Check out what I found.





Several years ago

I wrote a blog post wondering how a heinous crime like the brutal murder of Scotty Joe Weaver and wondering why it wasn't more widely reported.

I don't expect the brutal murder of a young trans woman named Marcal Camero Tye to get widely reported either, but it should be. It's heinous and appalling and I get really tired of these kind of stories coming out of my home state.

Read about it here. The article is interesting also because of issues in reporting trans stories in the media, which is a constant issue in these stories.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

I saw Heartbeats

today at the Sunset 5 and I'm a little obsessed with 21-year-old star/director/writer/editor/costumer Xavier Dolan as a result.

LATimes had a feature about him and the movie in today's paper, so I skipped finally seeing The King's Speech and went to his movie.



Much of it is lush and gorgeous, to the point of being ridiculous. Dolan says something interesting in a youtube interview I found; it goes something like--
I think the visual is as shallow as the love it portrays.



I almost saw his first movie, I Killed My Mother, last year at Outfest and now I could kick myself for skipping it.

Just as a bitchy/funny counterpoint, I did get tickled by a comment on youtube about him; it goes something like--
here in canada we don't hate him because he's gay, we hate him because he's a narcissist hipster.
That may be true, but if so he's a narcissist hipster who got two movies into Cannes in 2 years by age 21.

Okay I have to end with this, because it's kind of how I feel about him right now. And it's from Yekaterinburg.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Queer Harding University

I'm overdue for a new post, and luckily Joe.My.God tipped me off to a controversy brewing in Searcy, Arkansas, that merits our attention.

Harding University is a conservative Christian college affiliated with the Church of Christ, and some of its LGBT students have begun publishing an anonymous 'zine writing about their struggles in life and at school. It went live online and the college responded by having the site blocked as pornographic.

Joe points the way to this post, which is a nice personal essay about the univerity and its discrimination against LGBT students; it also contains a great summary of the contents of the 'zine.

The university responded recently to the controversy, which is reported here.

One can argue the seeming illogic of attempting to be openly gay in a private religious university that openly preaches and teaches an anti-gay message (the New Yorker has good things to say about that), or the university's First Amendment right to preach and teach that message.

What's important to me about this is that Harding is, like most organizations (not to mention governments) that discriminate and advocate discrimination against LGBT people, using its power to silence those people's expression. They're working actively to deny them their voices, to make them invisible. The authors of the 'zine make clear that they will not tolerate it in the first piece, a letter addressed, "Dear Harding:"

We are not asking anything from you. We are here to tell you we exist and will not be silenced.
Hurray for them.

Read some of the 'zine if you get a minute. As political as it (rightly) is, it doesn't read like a screed. It is a presentation of a lot of young people in difficult positions as they earnestly struggle with their faith, attempting to be themselves in an environment that is hostile to them.