Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tony got me thinking and now look at all this typographical vomit

Tony asks some questions about criteria when it comes to the work one produces for the stage. He also asks how your reading list has changed from college...

What am I on the hunt for...?

In the majority, the past decade has been one of self production for me. Leaving a small city in Northern Florida for NYC in the late 90s, I pretty much realized that I was probably going to have to be a playwright if I was going to have even a small shot of contentment within the medium I had chosen. Most of the heroes, I had acquired a a Florida College were already well produced in NYC.

Some of the heroes from my college reading list?

Mac Wellman
Maria Irene Fornes
Richard Foreman
Robert Wilson
Sam Shepard
Erik Ehn
Susan Lori Parks
Stephen Sondheim

These were often folks who were mostly living breathing and a few of them sometimes even approachable in NYC in the late 90s. They weren't the only vital playwrights, but they were the ones I had read, and the ones I would have probably been heavily producing were I to have remained a Floridian.

Others on that College reading list would include

Sam Beckett, August Strindberg, FT Marinetti along with various Italian Futurists, Bertolt Brecht, the majority of Absurdism, Len Jenkins, Karen Finley, Ellen Blumenthal's book on Julie Taymor (which I mediated on), anything to do with the Bread and Puppet Theatre, any writing about Wooster Group or Mabou Mines, any old 70's issues of TDR (Richard Schenchner period...I think it was...I'll have to look it up later or count on a reader to correct the record), Ibsen (but I was only into a few like Brand, Peer Gynt, and Master Builder).

Typical sorts of stuff you come into at college. New York changed alot of that, but probably in a way that doesn't translate to a college student about to graduate today. This was back when your Grandmother definitely didn't know what the internet was. This was back in the day when independent record stores and used books stores actually had real cache. There were film noirs and classic horror and anime that most the time you actually had to pick up and go to NYC if you wanted to peruse a shelf of that stuff. It was a different time. Nowadays the stuff I had to cross the continent to experience is mostly a few key strokes away. In a relative sense... mind blogging.

But back to what my current reading list is... actually very very few playwrights on the list. If I'm going to read nowadays if is usually not a play... rather it is a novel or non fiction or a graphic novel...but plays I have read lately (the past 2 or 3 years) that I would like to see produced and in a parallel universe maybe even direct?

I love Nilo Cruz. I am intrigued and challenged by Jose Rivera. 3 years ago I would have loved to do a Sarah Kane play (now the thrill is gone). I still love and would never past up the opportunity to work on many (not all but many) of Maria Irene Fornes' plays...she is so known yet so often unproduced (apologies to Sean Graney who did what I hear was an excellent Mud before I got back into Chicago from ATL). I love Adam Rapp (I've been told to frequently this is because I am a white male to which I can only shrug my shoulders).

The stuff I want to see more of though is the unpublished or at the very least self-published stuff. Individuals struggling to bring their own voices to life is the thing that I think is exciting. Smaller scripts that allow shorter rehearsal periods and shorter runs. I want to see people take risks as writers, intelligent calculated risks. I want to see people take literature classic literature even classic poetry and infuse it with action. I want people to tell stories about folks who are in danger, who have something precious at stake that relates to life changing events in the protagonists' existence. I want shorter runs done for less money by true enthusiasts who understand that a strong artistic economic model is worthy, but is not the sole ambition of expression and therefore not the lynch pin to performative demise. Extremes of a Grecian/Roman proportion

I want to see someone adapt Chester Himes on stage. I want to see Harry Crews adapted for the stage. I want cleverly constructed puppets and dark themes. I want to see the struggle between good and evil (even as the notions are challenged and pulled apart via the narrative) done in mythic or hell even psuedo mythic pomp. I want to see Jekyll turn into Hyde right before me. I want villians that make me sincerely hiss and bark uncontrollably. I want children to hold their breath.

that was fun.
Maybe I should do something about it...all these things I want.


Tony Adams said...

Great Title! (Though I'm more accustomed lately to receiving vomit, not causing it.)

How does this: "Smaller scripts that allow shorter rehearsal periods and shorter runs."

Match up with this: "I want cleverly constructed puppets and dark themes. I want to see the struggle between good and evil (even as the notions are challenged and pulled apart via the narrative) done in mythic or hell even psuedo mythic pomp. I want to see Jekyll turn into Hyde right before me. I want villians that make me sincerely hiss and bark uncontrollably. I want children to hold their breath."

Or I guess the short form question would be what do you mean by smaller scripts? And why shorter rehearsal periods?

Devilvet said...

The two ideas you drew out of the post are not mutually exclusive. If you think they are, I'll need you to sort of draw that out for me.

By Smaller Scripts, I mean fewer pages. I mean more one acts, more ten minute plays. I mean finding a way to producing scripts with interesting ideas and saturate each second of stage stage time. I mean that I rarely want to sit through a 2+ hour movie much less a 2+ hour play. I am not opposed to the notion of something epic is length or stature like Wilson's Einstein on the Beach or Trevor Nunn's Nicholas Nickleby. But, my preference is for shorter pieces, in the belief that it allows for greater diversity for the spectator.

Sometimes I perfer a half dozen well told short stories to an entire novel (no matter how good the novel is).

From a producing stand point, these sorts of works can also enable shorter rehearsal periods and fewer rehearsal demands than something operatic in length.

When WNEP theater did RAW, if you were to line up all th rehearsal hours into one big lump...it probably was as much if not more than a company would commit to rehearsing a two act play, but due to the compact nature of each piece performed (and there was a wide variety of pieces from straight forward situational comedy to creepy arty concept monologue) there was greater ease finding spaces that could accomodate pre-tech needs as well as significantly less expense.

Tony Adams said...

hmm . . . I don't know if there's a lack of productions of one-acts.

I wasn't sure if you meant shorter plays or smaller stories. It sounds like you're calling for bigger stories in shorter pieces? (A mythic/hellish battle between good an evil is a far cry from two people on a date wittily discussing the foibles of their day, is what I'm thinking of as a bigger story.)

I wasn't sure if there was a link between shorter scripts and shorter rehearsal time so I asked.

Devilvet said...

"hmm . . . I don't know if there's a lack of productions of one-acts."


Whether or not there is a lack was never my point. You are right in that I want bigger stories in shorter pieces.

In regards "two people on a date ...foibles"... I'm sure you and I dont need to defend or split hairs on the sort of play I dont think Halycon or the Mammals are in any rush to produce.

There is a link between shorter scripts and shorter rehearsal times. However, I am not asking for shorter pieces primarily for that reason. In the main...It is a fringe benefit.

Upon rereading the post, I guess I can see how that sentence might have been tangental... but I prefer those sort of smaller pieces for the "fringe benefits" ... and I think they can also have big stories inside them. I don't think something has to operatic in length in order to achieve something mythic. Perhaps that is clearer?

But, I get the sense that my statement about shorter plays, shorter runs, shorter rehearsals seems to rub against your grain? Am I reading into this?

Tony Adams said...

not rubbing against the grain, just wasn't sure. Smaller plays could mean many things, length of script, scope of story, or less technical a la Grotowski.

I think I get what you mean far better than I did. Though my brain's fried this week so maybe I just didn't get it the first time.

Wasn't accusing ya of getting ready to put up some Durang one-acts, but more trying to clarify what I meant by bigger stories.

I am a fan of more rehearsal time, but that's me.

Don't know about the length of runs. Tough call, some productions should run longer than they do, and some have overstayed their welcome after four weeks.

Devilvet said...

I am an advocate of as much rehearsal time as needed to achieve any artistic goal...and that can be afforded. However, in the end re: rehearsal...to each his/her own... right?

I am attempting to craft a post about this that is tied to some of the points in Kiley's Stranger Article...maybe tomorrow or Friday for that one.