Tuesday, December 05, 2006

manifesto for a theatregoer

The kind of theatre I want to see, the theatre I most enjoy, the theatre I am willing to pay money to see, the theatre I give the benefit of the doubt to even if it’s not all working completely is like this: I like plays where I know the playwright is reaching towards something or struggling with something. I like the playwright who says I am troubled by this and think it should be on the stage. I like it when a play is written about something important to the playwright. I like plays that experiment with language or form. I like visually beautiful and theatrical plays. I like plays in which actors use movement, voice, rhythm in unusual ways. I like funny plays. I like smart plays. I like plays that make me think. I like plays with a lot of heart about people trying to connect with other people. I like plays with tight construction that keep you on the edge of your seat. I like plays that are about something, not plays that pretend to be about something. I like plays that are constantly surprising. I don’t like plays where I don’t learn anything. I don’t like plays where horrible things after horrible things happen to characters and there is no hope. I especially don’t like it when characters do evil things without any real reason. I don’t like it when a play is produced and there are clear problems of consistency or flabby writing that could have been fixed but weren’t. I like plays directed by geniuses. I like plays with quirky characters. I like plays that star actors that are too interesting for Hollywood. Sometimes I like musicals. I like plays that are fun. I don’t like plays about celebrities. Or that star celebrities, especially if that is all the play has going for it. I like witty plays. And clever plays. I like plays that make me think of bright colors. I like ninety minute plays and sixty minute plays. I like plays about love.

11 comments:

Jaime said...

Amen.

P'tit Boo said...

Hee. I love it.

Oh and also I like plays without intermissions.

Christian Right said...

I hate the play, but I love the writer.

Anonymous said...

I Grok this, brother.

Myself, I like when something in a play - or even a whole play, but that's rare - feels naked.

I'm not talking about stage nudity, that's another blog-topic.

I mean some emotional or spiritual rawness that the playwright is revealing - seemingly at the playwright's own dire risk (of exposing one's inner demons, or ostensibly betraying the trust or confidence of loved ones).

Once I saw a reading of a not very good one-act written by a friend. The play had a young woman character very much like the playwright and a mother character very much like the playwright's mother (whom I also knew). It was very pedestrian in every way, except at the end, after an emotional argument, the daughter says to the mother "Why won't you finally die?!" I thought it was an astounding moment, because it come from a very real place. When that playwright is ready to craft a play out of which such a moment can grow organically (she wasn't ready at the time of the reading), she'll be really onto something.

I don't mean to suggest that all plays should have such sturm and drang, but plays are an outlet for what can't be said in the "real world."

The paradox of our times, at least in the media and in the arts, is that we have a culture of extremes, where humiliation and aggression are rampant (Reality TV, Borat, etc.) and at the same time, we remain timid and - I must say it - conservative, when it comes to emotional truth.

The theatre can be a place to rise above our collective fears. The theatre can make us braver, more honest, better collectively than we are alone.

Adam said...

thanks, all. I love a play without an intermission. And I love a play that is above all else truthful. Thanks' anon for bringing that up.

Ben Ellis said...

Great post. I only differ on the "don't like" on plays seemingly without hope. Sometimes play which seem to present a world without hope are implicitly hopeful by attempting to communicate a vision to others, however bleak.

Apart from that, all of the above.

Adam said...

That's a good point Ben. I think I write plays like that sometimes actually. I guess I would modify it to say something like plays in which the playwright seems to have no hope in humanity or something.

Freeman said...

Plays without intermission that are 60-90 minutes?

Ouch.

Always good to see, otherwise, someone come down firmly with something they believe. Go get 'em.

Adam said...

also plays with free beer.

D said...

I like what Anne Bogart calls "moments of theatrical magic" - that is to say, things that would look completely stupid or might not work at all on TV; but are fucking gold in the theater.

Really creative deaths or certain vocal phenomena or choreographic explosions...

I like it when time stops or changes or goes by at mysterious speeds. I like it when I see things I didn't know were there. I like it when a play/performance affects the way I breathe.

I like things that make me gasp and laugh and cry.

D said...

ps

everyone should come see my show this weekend! Saturday and Sunday at 6 in Dodge Hall at Columbia. It's free. It's Vaclav Havel's Memorandum. It's a good time.

I just spammed your blog, Adam.

:)