Sometimes it is necessary to step back and away from the practice of the practice to see more clearly the why and what to do (and what not to do) of the craft. Here are some thoughts on the business of the art.
Life of the Daily Adequate -- I would say that the course I've followed in my life has consisted of a wrestling match between the daily adequate and what makes the daily adequate completely inadequate as a way of living.
The Midwife's Magic Towel -- For me, aside from the fact that women can bear children and men can't, the differences assigned to men and women all have a cultural origin. And for Americans, this means that gender and all its associated behavioral duties come tailored by a capitalist regime interested in profit.
Doing the Dramaturg -- Yes, the playwright still "owns" the play, but it is so much better if, during the production process, he can let the play, now fully staffed and provisioned, own him, and that everything that he had thought set and cemented had now slipped its moorings and was available for a fresh report.
Rage Rage... -- Perhaps it is art's nature to heal -- but during these meltdown days, I think healing -- useful, purgative, truthful healing -- will only come from rage, honest moral rage at the stupidities, lies, and fuckings-over of the princes in power.
The Curse of the Stage Manager -- My father once said to me that he has always enjoyed handling paper -- (re)arranging it, cataloging it, organizing it. I pointed my finger at him and exclaimed, "So that explains it!" Because I, too, have that same invasive inclination, and I find it such a curse -- call it the Curse of the Stage Manager.
The Theatre of Edward L. Bernays -- The most influential theatre artist of the 20th century was public relations guru Edward L. Bernays, forms of theatrical manipulation far outstripped the influence of any other artist or artistic production, both in breadth (the millions of people) and depth (how we are all, in America, to one degree or another, a mass citizen of a mass culture).
In the Small Hours -- I could say that I make my schedules, but in truth, as is the case with every conscientious drone, the schedules make the person.
In The Macho Zone -- The Macho Zone is a dream, where time and space lose formal shape and all certainties die a welcome death and we are released from the death-grip of a principled life into what can only be called the comfort of having and expecting nothing, otherwise known as grace.
Dogme(fill in the year) -- Dogme95's effort to "force the truth out of [the] characters and setting" was another way of saying this: abjure the tricks of the trade in favor of as unmediated a presentation as possible of the tectonics between the text and subtext of the characters' struggles to make sense of the yet-to-be-sensed. My Dogme(fill in the year) would say the same.
Eros on the Escalator -- Drama -- theatre -- can happen -- often happens best -- in the oddest venues.
On Acting -- All of them hover around the flame, hoping in the same motion to finesse the light and avoid incineration. Why do they do it? Like most things in life, it depends.
Dance -- At the age of 29 I decided to become a dancer. What was I thinking of?"
Raising Consciousness -- A recent discussion on a playwrights' listserv focused on whether plays should or should try to "raise consciousness." I thought they assumed too much when they assumed that people had a consciousness to be raised.
Art in 2008 -- Part of special issue in Scene4 where writers reflected upon the state of art in the coming year.
By Design -- My career as a playwright (and I mean "career" as a mash-up of both its meanings: a "course of continued progress" in "a headlong manner") is to design a theatre to be performed in the built environment of a theatre that, at one and the same time, mimics and dissolves and repatriates the designed theatre of a human's being.
Politics Is An Egg The Theatre Cannot Hatch -- I am in a state of dismal about theatre. It is called "The Coast of Utopia." Part I.
Art v. Commerce -- Apparently, the directors of the O'Neill Playwrights Conference put out the proposition that the Conference might want a share of a play's future earnings (I read that the phrase "in perpetuity" was used) if that play goes on to have future earnings. I didn't feel that what the Conference broached was an entirely bad idea: making money off the work that it does? What's wrong with that?
Original Sin -- As I'm paying and taking back the bagel and change, he gives me a frank look, still smiling, and says, "I like people, I really do, but you know, the problem is original sin -- it made everything bad between everybody." This is my definition of real theatre.
Gallery Going -- This mirrors my own prickly relationship with playwriting and the theatre and my life, where oftentimes I find myself delighting in the act of writing while, at the simultaneous moment, wondering what use can be made of anything I produce, half-believing (and sometimes more than half) that a good compost or a well-baked loaf of bread is better for the world than anything I have to say or do.
Dead Mr. Beckett -- Let's keep the dead hand of copyright off the throat of the living.
The Thrall of the Authentic -- At a recent production of columbinus, the actors announced that it was based on transcripts, interviews, and all the other elements of the "true story" of Columbine High School. And I thought, "So what?"
Digitizing Theatre -- If Google can digitize 5 million books, why can't we digitize theatre?
ThomPain -- Every play needs a "lobby play," the play about the play that the audience talks about when it's hanging around the lobby. I only learned this when speaking to a gentleman after a performance of ThomPain, which he though was going to be about Tom Paine.
Theater That Does Us No Good -- We need fresh, raw, brutish, comedic, desentimentalized portraits of ourselves -- not because they will make us better people but because they won't make us better people, because they will tell us truths and then leave us the fuck alone to figure them out (or not) on our own.
The Rights of the Playwright -- Should a director be able to copyright his or her work? No. But that's not the end of the argument.
Screen Play: Time in Los Angeles -- An account of my sojourn at the Screenwriters Expo 4 from November 11 - 13, 2005.
Good Art Slaps Us In The Face -- In being a volunteer script-reader for theatres, I often seen the tyranny of "The Formula," the strait-jacket narrative technique that drives stories toward pre-ordained ends.
Let Us Now Praise Smaller Theatres -- The Gallery Players in Brooklyn, NY, is an essential refuge for playwrights -- and going on their 39th season.
Howard Barker Strikes Again -- British playwright has written a new book, and the thoughts in it are striking -- and strike deep.
The Weight of Theatre -- What is the meaning of the trend toward shorter full-length plays (90 minutes, no intermission) and earlier start times?
Script (D)reading -- There they sit. The scripts. The entrants to festivals for three different theatres. Each resembles a rampike, the remains of a standing dead tree, a stump.
Argentine Picada -- Spending Chrismtas 2004 in the warm climate of Buenos Aires with family and The Nutcracker: excellent.
Dogville -- Though Lars Van Trier's Dogville is a movie, it presents some of the best theatre a playwright could wish for.
Market -- For a playwright trying out his chops as a screenwriter, attending the IFP Market & Conference to dicker, pitch, and dicker and pitch a screenplay some more was refreshing in a surprising way.
The Sweats -- When the words start coming out of the actors' mouths, panic erupts in a very moist way.
What's A Writer To Do? -- In a time of war and the days of reckoning, what good can a playwright's words do?
Mental Real Estate -- We need to go beyond the "mental real estate" of our ordinary culture in order to create new and exciting theatre.
Beyond The Slice -- Write about what you know? Boring. Writing about something you don't know? Now, that's worth writing about.
Ear Theatre/Eye Theatre -- We talk much about the "text" and the "script," but the truth is, good theatre is for the eye, not the ear.
Black and White -- Outraged in the theatre -- a good thing, yes? Not when it involves the deliberate humiliation of a white audience member by a black actor in the Classic Theatre of Harlem's production of Jean Genet's The Blacks.
Follow Up to "Black and White" -- Correspondence with a funder of the Classic Theatre of Harlem and others about theatre and humiliation.
Antoine's Beef/Luther's Hammer -- When André Antoine hung real carcasses of beef onstage, he wanted to destroy the confected French theatre of his day with heavy doses of Emile Zola's naturalistic approach to art. Today, we need to do the same act of creative destruction to the heavy carcass of realism in today's theatre.
The Fount of Melancholia -- When the blue meanies of the soul strikes, the writing, oddly enough, changes in intensity -- and when they leave, there is, also oddly, a regret and a desire for their return.
Howard Barker's "Theatre of Catastrophe" -- British playwright Howard Barker has been described as "the most terrifying export since the football hooligan." I do not know how much of Barker's notion of a "Theatre of Catastrophe" I agree with, but I know that I have encountered a set of ideas and arguments that I simply cannot dismiss as eccentric or unsuitable for a seat at the table.
Writing Plays In The Time Of War -- This is what it means to create plays in the time of war -- to allow rage its inks and to be ready to scribble down what it divulges while not allowing everything and everywhere to be over-written by its typographies -- to use the art to keep some corner of the soul available to light without denying the "darkness visible" that also pulses there. Both lights shine in us -- plays in the time of war need the illumination of both to be honest, and it is honesty above all -- not patriotism, not revenge, not the "affairs of state" ior the consolidations of power -- that will keep us, momentarily -- momentarily -- secure and healed as human beings.
How Relevant Is Relevance? -- In the end, during and after all the coming mayhem and revenge and blood-spilling, the real relevance of art and artists is this: to remind us of the light, the compassion, the laughter and tender imperfections that make us human and not animals, that make us lovers and not scourges. As long as artists continue to explore and explain this, to make art that makes a difference over the long-haul, their work, and their selves, will always be relevant.
The Song of the Wanderers: Can We Have a Benedictine Theatre? -- I find myself at the moment in the place where I am disturbed by works who purpose is to disturb, where I am unconvinced that darkness is the proper light to shine on human life. Yet I also do not want to create theatre where the impulse to heal is so strong that it dulls the serrations of life that cut us to the quick and betrays how the quick can be quickened by such cuts. I am trying to find a place where where rise and fall is as much about breathing as it is about ambition and pride, where Jeremiah and Buddha can converse.
Adapting A Memoir Into A Play -- In the process of adapting a memoir into a play, I found out that it is not simply a matter of cutting and pasting information from one format into another but involves a transmutation of form and substance.
Political Theatre -- Yes, there can be a political theatre -- but it may not be by dealing directly with politics.
Death to the 10-Minute Play -- While helpful to playwrights to getting their work out, short-play festivals and competitions may not be the best way to nurture the craft of playwriting.
Doing the Homework -- Nothing is more irritating than playwrights who do not pay attention to the details. Everything is in the details.
Reviewing Culture -- Some thoughts on being a reviewer for a local cultural arts council and the tension between "citizen" and "artist" when it comes to public funding of the arts.
Theatre of the Oppressed with the Oppressed: Augusto Boal in Bay State Prison -- An account of theatre work work done by two theatre people and two social workers with a group of male prisonsers at Bay State Prison in Walpole.
The Lightness of Boston Theatre -- Some thoughts on the Boston theatre "scene."
Spanish and Theatre -- Hearing and seeing theatre in a language one does not completely understand gives a whole new perspectives on stagecraft and the power of gesture.
Imagination and Identity -- Multiculturalism (including both race and gender) has re-segregated everyone. Imagination is one way to sabotage the cults of identity and authenticity.
Production Notes on Homeward Bound -- Follow the trials and triumphs of Michael and Maria as they produce their first co-written play.