Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Inspired by Fellow Theatrospherians - I Do My Best to Skin Brendan Kiley Alive!!!

Lately, I have been feeling my theatrospherian passion reawakening, by some of the stuff I have been reading lately. I got back to Travis' blog recently, and was very taken by his point by point digestion of an article by Brendan Kiley in the Seattle Stranger. Oh BTW, did you guys see how many comments this article got? It shadows even Donny Boy's abilities at Provocation.

I actually enjoyed reading some of this stuff (how did that happen?) So, I decided that I would follow suit, but rather than clean and cook the entire beast... I am just going to eat around the parts that initially draw me in and make me feel compelled to respond.

1. Enough with the goddamned Shakespeare already. The greatest playwright in history has become your enabler and your crutch, the man you call when you're timid and out of ideas. It's time for a five-year moratorium—no more high schoolers pecking at Romeo and Juliet, no more NEA funding for Shakespeare in the heartland, and no more fringe companies trying to ennoble themselves with Hamlet. (Or with anything. Fringe theater shouldn't be in the game of ennobling, it should be in the game of debasement.) Stretch yourself. Live a little. Find new, good, weird plays nobody has heard of. Teach your audiences to want surprises, not pacifiers.

I have heard this one before. I have even spoken this one before. So I, like Travis, am sympathetic, but!!! I think that there is a more vital (or maybe merely inflammatory?) way to analyze and attack our psychological dependence upon Shakespeare.

One of the pros to doing Shakespeare that many folks tout is that there are no royalties to worry about. To which I say in a somewhat huffy voice - Fine! However, I'd like to point out that there are also no intellectual property rights to worry about either. So, I would like to see alot less sanctimony regarding the bard's work and hell even his words.

I would like to see productions were Hamlet in mid soliloquy says something totally unheard of before.

I would like to see a production of Macbeth where Lady Macbeth is the actual heroine.

I want to see people bastardize and recombine and roll around and rape and pillage the First Folio with the same gusto and self indulgence an unchecked mashup mixer applies to fellow artists who are still living and breathing.

I want to see vicious over the top rewrites.

I want to see more Luchadore when witnessing Shakespeare (hint... ever see Mexican Wrestling Macbeth?)

The problem with all this Shakespeare is not that he is overdone. I think it is how he is overdone. Give me more crazy over the top Auteurist, Avantist, S/M, post apocalyptic, metal punk, surgical theatre, grand guinol... Or even wholly new genres when tickling at the bard's flavor saver.

If you must take the Bard, then do something completely different than anything you have heard or seen before. The problem isn't Shakespeare, it is the puritanical museum like reverence, the sort of standing in line at the bank approach to his work. Sometimes doing, reading, or having anything to do with Shakespeare feels like (gulp) going to Church. There I said it! I strive to be a good person, hell I even think of myself as a Christian most days, but man-o-man I hate going to Church. Shakespeare has sort of become our 700 club, our Joel Osteen, or even our Benny Hann.

If the work of the bard is damn good then I have to believe that there is something still in there for the disenters, the misfits, the freaks of nature, the snake handlers, the thumb mashers.

Dissent! Dissent! Dissent! Wring out the dissent! Wipe it on a banner with the blood and sweat. Cut out the words that distance you from giving a damn. Then embrace or deconstruct the archetypes that swim in the common mind soup we all bring when confronting the ideas and actions in the bard's work.

Insist on cutting (alot of it). Insist on paraphasing. All these directors who insist they have to have certain freedoms from the totalitarian ambitions of living playwrights (OK hyperbole...but)... divorce your notions of reverence to the Bard's work. Hint, here is the supposed greatest writer in the English langauge and you can do whatever you want to his words!!!! So, do it already!

If a Rose by any other name is still a rose, then we should be much much freer and wilder and hell even destructive in how we approach Bill's stuff. He has got moxie. He can take it.

So, don't just use Bill because he is free from fees. Use Bill because he is one of the few playwrights everyone is usually familiar with that enables freedom of approach to the expression.


Director said...

Sounds good to me. Most of my ideas and stories that I've written lately have been new takes on old stories. I'd love to see aplay where Romeo gets killed by Tybalt and Mercutio gets his revenge and goes on to marry Juliet or something.

Travis Bedard said...



Paul Rekk said...

Totally with you, but I find it odd to hear such extravagance from one who disagrees with mash-up artists and experimentation on living playwrights.

Not a judgement, merely an observation.

Tony Adams said...

I don't know about less Bill..I'd settle for just less Bill done so horribly devoid of life. Which has been a problem with most of the concept productions I've seen as well.

Devilvet said...


He's Dead. He's been dead for ... awhile now.

It is in the public domain.

It is really as simple as that. There is nothing contradictory or "odd" about my views of ethically manipulating works in the public domain versus works where a living artist or immediate relative legally hold intellectual property rights.

I understand that distinction is not to your taste. You and I have back and forthed quite a bit on it.

Paul Rekk said...


Totally with you, [other stuff that clouded the overall intent of my comment].

Devilvet said...

@Tony -

Hopefully we can agree that regardless of concept or cutting ...we all want any theatre piece to NOT be devoid of life. Maybe I'm being combative here with this "How do you convince the populace you aren't Marxist?" leaning question, but... how is 'Devoid of Life' different from bad, boring theatre? Is there a distinction to be drawn?

RLewis said...

Hey Bob, Westside Story is coming back to Broadway. Does that count? lol. And while I'm at it, I hear the Gallery Players in Park Slope are doing a bang up job with a contemp' musical As You Like It.

But seriously, I think every generation needs a healthy dose of Shakespeare and other classics too, so we need to keep doing the Bard; just better. Once you've had enough, just don't go unless it pleases you. But those thespians emerging into our field better know Shakespeare; it's their job to go see 'em; and even though I never want to see Midsummer again; they should.

But what I really want to say is that the Kiley article is about the worst I've seen in a long time. We can all spout off those, "you know what you should do..." Been there, heard that. But actually putting wholey unrealistic manisfestos into play is hell, and Kiley even suggesting such nonsense just burns me up.

Devilvet said...

@Rlewis -

Bastardize Shakespeare and subvert it every chance you get.

Every generation needs to know whose artistic and cultural shoulders they stand on.

But, enough is enough is enough... especially in a world where I can see Lawrence Olivier do Hamlet or Mel Gibson or Ethan Hawke or Kenneth Branaugh... There is a point in this media where the cultural conscious becomes saturated to the point of 'meh'

Sure produce Hamlet if that's your heart's desire... but unless it is unique to my experience as a spectator... or soooo superlative as to be life changing for me the spectator... expect me to read the review, send flowers opening night if I know someone in the show, stop by after the show and buy the actors a beer... just dont expect me to suffer through actually watching the production.