Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So, hey, I just went to London not so long ago. Like most Bostonians I suspect, I’m a bit of an anglophile, therefore a return to the spiritual homeland is refreshing and inspiring on many counts. While there, I saw very much theatre (shocking, I know), two of which were adaptations of two different classic novels.

A was performed at a small, out of the way theatre with an ensemble cast of about 8. B was at a large West-End house with a star and an ensemble cast of about 8 as well. A was brilliant, B was…not. However, instead of discussing the particular merits or lack-thereof of productions most of you won’t get a chance to see, I thought I’d speak a little broadly about adaptations.

Movies adapt books all the time, and Broadway is now adapting popular film for the stage. We are all looking for good stories, right? And if they’ve already proved themselves successful in one medium, surely they can try a few others? In my humble opinion, some stories lend themselves better to some media then others. I mean, the best way JK Rowling knew how to tell Harry Potter was in several books, Picasso could best express Guernica on canvas, and Shakespeare found his voice on stage. I don’t think this makes adaptation impossible, or a violation of the original intent, but I do think you have to have a means, or an idea, or a reason to move a story to a different medium. There are certain unique-ish characteristics of each mode of expression that have to be confronted in a translation between forms.

Narrative, for example, is the primary means of gaining information in a novel, and often in stage or screen adaptations, we get a Narrator or voice-over to fill the gap. The thing is, a narrator isn’t very “theatrical” because in film and theatre we get information through action – we see stuff happen. Part of why books like Harry Potter and Twilight are so successful in film, is the books are heavy on action, and light on existential reflection.

Now before you start getting upset, I’m not suggesting we abandon think-y books in favor of action ones. However, you have to think about how you are going to make the leap. B didn’t do that – in fact, B did very little thinking, as reinforced by the actors all struggling in their own individual plays, completely separate from one another. Dear lord, there is nothing worse in the theatre- well, few things worse, I suppose.

A, however, fit the narrative of the theatrical world into the framework of the novel. We were in the world of the novel, and were watching a reenactment as cautionary tale about the novel’s hero. By throwing in several Brechtian elements, puppetry and some hilarious pictograms, they made strategic use of the narration all while focusing on the action of the story.

So, the moral of the story is think good and hard, and your audience will be rewarded. Or at least, I will.

Friday, December 18, 2009

On French Braids and Truth or Dare

I saw the new Twilight Movie last night (I know, I know). Basically, in my defense, it’s a cultural phenomenon which, for better or worse, will influence many media for some time to come. I also saw the first one (commence judgment), and haven’t seen a movie in a while.

I’ll say before I begin, I haven’t read the books, nor do I have any plans to (I still haven’t finished Harry Potter, let alone the shelves of “serious” books at home). But I’m interested in the values of these films (and, I’ll assume of the books), how they build on vampire lore and what they say about us today. If you are a loyal adherent to the saga, you probably won’t enjoy this, and if you want the movies or the books to be a surprise, then don’t read any further.

The Heroine
While I appreciate that the character of Bella is an awkward, clumsy, blushy, angsty teen (as I was) I find her lack of agency disappointing. In a post-Buffy universe, I didn’t realize the damsel-in-distress routine was still copasetic. But she’s only human, and in a world of shape-shifters and vampires it’s tough for a girl to compete. However, her only substance seems to be from her all-consuming love for her vampy-beau. The Romantic-era the author apparently takes some of her inspiration certainly permitted less dynamic or engaging ladies, but we’ve come a long way since then, no? Also, two words for you: Jane Austen. Even her more lackluster heroines had depth, dimension and diverse interests. I don’t really get that here (maybe that has something to do with the actor, book-followers?). So, while, yes, I like my ass-kicking ladies, I’d take artistic or bookish or funny or athletic or something.

The Vampires
Each Vampire story I know builds on some of the same principals. Vampires are eternally young and usually beautiful (the appeal), often evil, dangerous and sexy. The sexual metaphor is more overt for some than others. So, while Nosferatu wasn’t as nice to look at as your more contemporary heartthrobs, the sneaking into ladies’ bedrooms at night while they slept to “have your way” with them conveys a similar idea. What’s interesting about Twilight’s vision, is the vampires have no “ugly face” literally and metaphorically. They are always very pretty, and seem to be able to choose if they will be good or evil. Really, being a vampire seems mostly pretty awesome – as opposed to other stories that really play up “the catch” (you have an insatiable urge to kill people, you are a monster, you are damned, you can’t go out in the sun without bursting into flames, no more Italian food, etc).

The Sex
My understanding is that these books (and therefore films) are supposed to, to some extent, extol the virtues of abstinence pre-marriage. So, while the movies portray gleaming, writhing, beautiful youthful bodies, the romance and the appeal is in the longing, not the fulfillment of desire. Sure, anticipation is fun, but do we really need to continue to stigmatism women’s desire for sexual fulfillment? Really? Also, Bella is torn between two men who might eat her, one of which she wants to die for. Because danger is hot, and a true woman can reform a man through her love? Thanks, Victorian era. Seriously, though, I don’t want to sound all, well, mom-ish or puritanical, but isn’t this a bit of a dangerous example to be setting for young girls? I mean, a VERY reductive version of the story could be he hurts her, but he also loves her, and because she really loves him, she’ll stick it out till he kills her. Um, gross. Not to mention 18 seems a tad young to get married, to me, but she literally doesn’t seem to have anything else to do, so why not?

To answer your question preemptively, yes, I probably will see the next two movies, further contributing to the franchise, because I am, in part, an angsty-pre-teen trapped in an adult body. And now that you know all of my secrets, I will go eat some cake.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Interim Update

I’m in Portland, Maine, dear readers. This little city has so much charm, even the guy peeing in the alley is wearing a Polo.

I’ll come up with something more… thoughtful soon, but I wanted to throw this bug in your ear: perhaps the reason Minor League Baseball can get 6000 people to come to the little stadiums is because adorable, furrowed brow mascots do back-flips. True Fact.

Boston Theatre, you may take that idea and run with it free of charge.

An Anti-Ode

It is difficult to avoid the lure of New York, especially as a theatre professional. Even if you aren’t dreaming of Broadway, New York has it all – or so it seems. Think your town has the goods? Maybe, but New York has ten times the goods you do. Communal costume storage. So many theatre festivals they double-up on spaces. And don’t even get me started on the food. Hey, artists have to eat to, and in New York you can eat just about anything you want at almost any time of day.

As I write this, I am being hurled out of the city by Amtrak after spending a truly wonderful few days with New York, some friends and the Fringe Festival. My dearest friends, mostly because we wish we spent more time together, continued a persistent nudging to extend my stay – permanently. There were moments – sipping my first egg cream, devouring a delicious Egyptian meal, tapping my foot to a delicious jazz quartet – when the notion was tempting.

So, I find that I need to take a moment and remind myself – and perhaps you, dear reader, why New York is not the place for everyone.*

  1. Ghosts: Despite being introduced to pockets to the contrary, New York has obliterated the majority of the architecture that indicates it was inhabited prior to the 20th century. I find new, or relatively new, buildings a little unsettling. There are no ghosts. I like imagining the hundreds of lives that have played out in the rooms where I’ve lived. I feel tied to not only a sense of history, but to an extended distant family that I am helping to perpetuate.
  2. What’s that smell?: Seriously. The distinct urban odor that can only come from the unique combination of 7 million people, billions of pounds of trash, exhaust and rodent excrement. Add the heat of summer, and you have a brew you can’t ignore. I only wonder what rotting horse corpses and open sewage added to the stew a century ago.
  3. Oh, I see: Perhaps related to the smell, is the brown-grey grime that cakes every structure, in every neighborhood across the city from stem to stern. Nuff said.
  4. You gonna pay for that: it’s expensive. No, really. The free show expects a two drink minimum, sure, but since you are likely far from home, dinner, transportation, and post-show drinks just jumped the cost of your free night out to endangering next month’s rent.
  5. You can’t get there from here: New York is big – really big. So, even if you live in the same city as some of your dearest friends, don’t expect to seem them unless they live in your neighborhood. When I told my same nudging friends that I could consider living in Brooklyn, they all lamented that they would never see me. Sure, they love me, but Brooklyn? Might as well still live in Boston.
  6. You are one in a million, or 7: For some, I imagine the anonymity is comforting, but I find it isolating. The constant battle for your place on the sidewalk, on the subway platform or anywhere wears on one’s politeness. Before you know it, you are elbowing old ladies and knocking over baby carriages just to get off the subway in time.
  7. The dress code: I’m no fashion plate, but I manage to leave my sweatpants at home most days. But minimal effort is not ok in The Big City. Never have I been given the incredulous label stare as extensively or as often as in New York. Even their ball team has a dress code, for goodness sake!
  8. You have to sleep in your Manolo box: Act now for your own overpriced, under-maintained shoebox. Seriously, bring your checkbook because a 1000 other people are waiting for that cardboard box outside.
  9. Taxes: In addition to your Federal and rather high state taxes, the city of New York charges additional taxes for the pleasure of shopping there.
  10. The privileged: Maybe you too found the elitism displayed in shows like Sex in the City and Seinfeld distasteful. But, not only are New Yorkers better than you, they are better than each other. Friends – dear friends and strangers alike reserve a special disdain for people from New Jersey, people who walk slow, the Bridge and Tunnel crowd, or the worst offenders of all – hipsters.

*This is list is not exhaustive and is highly subjective. I know there are many more things one could say in favor of New York, or to denigrate other cities. I am using a public forum to discuss my current personal emotional state. Nevertheless, I await your rebuttal.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Oh, Boston,

If you aren’t in New York, you should be at FeverFest. Or should have been, at this point. I was there last weekend, and, sure, my company has a show in it, so I’m prolly a little biased, but there is some great local theatre in there.

If, however, you are in New York, you are maybe attending some of the Fringe Festival. I know I am. I could write “reviews” of what I’m seeing, but you know that’s not my style (for those keeping track, 4 plays in a day and a half, 2 more today). I want to talk about matinees.

Matinees have a strange vibe. It’s as if the air of the room hasn’t woken up yet. I saw this pretty magical show in Brooklyn yesterday in a cool club where banquet seating is surrounded by water. At night, this venue was clearly a cool, hip place to be. But, at 3:00 in the afternoon, it lost some of its darker charms. While the company tried to mask the day bleeding through the windows, there was no escaping it. We were at a matinee.

They had an open bar – and booze is becoming much more plentiful at the theatre these days. It loosens the strictures on theatre-going imposed by a snooty German sometime ago. Sit quietly in the dark, and applaud in the breaks. No, thank you. A longing for the rambunctious Elizabethan days can be felt in many a downtown theatre (however much longing one can have for an unwashed mass throwing vegetables and insults at the stage). Booze helps, for those who partake.

But I wonder something else. Actors have a higher social standing then they once did. So, back in the day, you went to the theatre to see people of your status or below, to pick up a prostitute and maybe get out some of the stress of your peasantry. Sure, you were probably perpetually pretty drunk what with water carrying fatal or just unpleasant disease, you have no choice but to drink wine all the time. So, maybe as one stepped into the playhouses of yesteryear, your inhibitions were fairly loose as is, but I have to imagine, the relative freedom one might have felt in the theatre within a rigid class system to come outside themselves. Like the senior stuffing the freshman in a locker because he was stuffed in a locker when he was a freshman.

I’m not suggesting that we relegate actors back to the dregs of society. I believe theatre is the highest art form – if you can even measure things like that – because it most clearly and directly evokes the human experience. I think some Greek guy said something similar. But, part of the magic in the theatre is lost when we divorce ourselves entirely from our dark and seedy past. Perhaps, a way to recapture it is to avoid the deadly matinee, and rekindle our transgressive intentions with more late night shows and open bars.

Of course, the MBTA would need to help us out a little more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


February. Really? I had a show, I moved, I worked 6 jobs, blah-blah…my actual life overtook my virtual one. But now, I am free. Mostly.

In keeping with the spirit of this silly thing, I will use an experience from my theatrical life to wax…didactic. But before I do, I’d like to throw the gauntlet down to my 3 readers (Hi Mom!). At the conclusion of each performance of my show, we had a small dessert reception (or SweetTalk, as we liked to say). During the reception, I would ask the people I didn’t know three questions. I will write my (rather lengthy) responses to these questions in my next entry, but I thought I might take this opportunity to ask you first. Are you ready for this?

1. What brings you out to the theatre? How do you find out what’s playing and how do you decide what to see?

2. Do you go to the theatre often? If so, who do you like in town and why? If not, what do you do for fun?

3. What do you feel Boston is missing? What have you seen other places or not seen at all that you would like to see in town?

PS. I feel the need to expand on my introduction with a small post-script. I am slow, especially as compared to the interwebs. I have yet to reconcile is the immediacy of the web with my desire to my thoughtful (I know what you are thinking – watch it!). Blogs really lend themselves to almost a garbage-dump of information and opinions. I am reluctant to just dump my often offensive and thoughtless remarks in so public a forum. Hence, why I am often delayed. I take a while with this thing. Seriously. Too long? Sure. I’m working on it. I’m going to yet again, attempt a more regular updating strategy, but I also don’t want to write just any old crap. I’d like to reserve this bit of cyberspace for when I actually have something on my mind. Is the internet removing our ability to be slow/thoughtful creatures or will the next generation just be quicker on its feet?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

And Now, a Word from Our Sponsors…

I’m not really an endorsement kind of gal – cheap commercialism ranks low on my list of priorities. But the advent of low-cost, quality bus service like Megabus and Bolt Bus, have changed my life. Or at least changed my relationship to that behemoth to the south. I am able to pop down to New York on a whim, for relatively low dollars, while enjoying free wifi and keeping my lappy happily juiced. Megabus even offers an 11:30PM bus back to Boston, which is perfect for catching a show without having to harass your friends for a place to stay (or taking an extra day off from work). As we speak, I am heading to Nueva York to enjoy the musical stylings of Tally Hall and some piece of theatricalness tomorrow evening. More anon.
(And, yes, should Mega-or-Bolt-Bus decide to compensate me for my endorsement, I will gladly accept it - even artists on the internet need to eat).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You going to pay for that?

I literally wrote most of this post a year ago and only stumbled upon it now. Whoops. I think it is still mostly relevant.

Art and capitalism. Two subjects that have been dominating my conversation lately and with fascinating results. Part of this conversation was played out in a previous post about new work, but I felt like it really deserved a post of its own.

Art is not a natural fit with capitalism. First off, capitalism is about the individual, and Art, particularly Theatre, is about a community. (Does Hamlet die if there is no one there to see him?) Capitalism thrives on consumerism, an exchange of goods and/or services. Art is a different kind of exchange but in a land without subsidy, Art needs your money to happen.

Art invites you to participate, in fact, it needs you to participate to function. The story of a book exists more in your mind than on the page. A book sitting on your shelf doesn't "tell you" what its about - you have to read it, you have to engage with it, participate in it to get the story. Why would this be any different in theatre, where a live audience sits in close proximity to the action on stage?

Theatre requires an audience to be sitting up, to be paying attention, to be engaged. Paula Vogel once said the play isn't what happens on stage, but what happens between the stage and the audience. So, if a play isn't working, it might not just be what's on stage. Part of schism is the theatre's own fault. As a friend of mine pointed out, we don't encourage people to yell at the stage anymore. We usually have the house lights out and expect everyone to watch in respectful silence.

I'm not suggesting throwing rotten fruit and veg is entirely the way to go. But OFTEN I have had the experience (and most often in America) that an audience just sits there, almost combative. "Come on," you can hear their brains' taunting, "just try and entertain me." That production is not going to be enjoyable for anyone. It's understandable. If you just dropped $80 of your hard-earned cash, you want to get $80 of experience - whatever that means to you. But don't you want that to be a good experience? Do you expect it to be good if you dropped a meaningful amount of money?

I guess for some people, a good time is being unhappy. More importantly, this is why art transcends a standard commercial model. Ok, that's elitist and fundamental to the objection Republicans have to the art. I think it is also true. It's why art is subsidized pretty much everywhere but here. Can we get on that, Mr. O?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Will All the Fake People Please Rise?

My boss just handed me an article from the Boston Globe, in which Michael Kranish quotes Rep. Jack Kingston from Georgia expressing doubt that I am a real person. Quote:

“We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA
and pretending that’s going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a
road project is disingenuous.”

My first thought is: FUCK YOU, GEORGIA! But, that’s not really constructive, so here's an attempt at reason. Did Republicans not learn in the last election that arbitrarily dividing the nation between “real” and “fake” people is neither popular nor constructive? Apparently, no.

I am a person, Mr. Kingston. I eat, I breathe, I talk, I walk and I vote (not in Georgia, fortunately for you). But, especially I work. I work roughly 50 hours a week in a university arts department and I work anywhere from 10 – 40 hours a week to make art independently. My friends and I are making a positive cultural contribution to our society. In a thousand years, future generations will look to what we’ve made to find out who we are today. The greatest societies of all time are marked by their art. We wish to be in those ranks.

But, you don’t care about that. You don’t care about future generations, as demonstrated by your reluctance to support constructive environmental policies. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to subsidize the arts when that money could subsidize oil, a clean and renewable energy source that will help future generations thrive…Oh, actually, I don’t understand, cause that’s stupid.

But, again, if postive cultural impact and better lives for this generation and the next aren’t good enough for you, I refer, once again, to the hard numbers provided by the Phoenix editorial staff last year:

“Undeniable too is the economic impact of the nonprofit arts sector. Total
spending exceeds $53 billion by organizations and $80 billion by audiences. The
tax revenues they generate exceed $10 billion for the federal government, $7.3
billion for states, and $6.6 billion for cities and towns. This impact is even
more pronounced in Boston. In 2002, the city’s so-called creative industry — its
seventh largest industry— added $10.7 billion to Boston’s total economic
output, and $12.7 billion to the greater metro area.”

Maybe the reason you are so quick to jump on the “real-fake” bandwagon, is you are having a crisis of conscience, Mr. Kingston. Maybe you realize you have absolutely no connection with reality (which your website supports), therefore endangering your “real” status. Maybe you, sir, are fake?

No, I don’t think so. I think, unless you are revealed to be a synthetically-created robot programmed with all of the worst rhetoric the Republican party has cooked up in the last 75 years, you too are real.

Now that reality has been established, do you think we might elevate the level of debate a little? Maybe with facts and statistics on all sides to make a well-reasoned vote? Or, were you not programmed that way?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ruminations from a Mourner

This past weekend, I made a quick venture south to theatrical mecca to see Stolen Chair's Theatre is Dead and So Are You, a "vaudeville funeral for the stage." I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. However, like all good theatre, my mind was left spinning. Is theatre actually "dead?" One of the actors posits a comparison between theatre today and theatre in the time of Shakespeare when (to paraphrase) audiences fingered oranges and orange-sellers, straining to hear men dressed as women outdoors in overcast London light. And that's when theatre was supposed to be alive?

The actor whose name escapes me makes a good point. I've always found the declaration of theatre's passing a might premature and not terribly apt anyway. It's like saying the nerds were dead in high school. Theatre isn't dead, like colloquial Latin, say. It just doesn't sit with the cool kids at lunch anymore.

But if High School taught us anything, it's that the cool kids weren't very interesting and often don't end up making any important contributions to society. The socially down-trodden, however, motivated by a desire to belong somewhere or their own special brand of crazy-genius, revolutionize the world to their liking (and hopefully, for the better). So, maybe theatre isn't going to fit in with cooler cousins TV and live sports. It doesn't mean it, and we theatre practitioners, can't do some awesome stuff. So, enough of the dead talk, already!

And, frankly, if in the extension of this metaphor, the cool kids are cultural millstones like American Idol or Ultimate Fighting, I think theatre is better off with the weird kids.

(Sorry, once I grab onto a good metaphor, I have to run it into the ground.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Eve of Eves

On the eve of the inauguration of not only a new president but what could be a new era of optimism, I am reading Plato’s Republic. I’m prepping for class in which we will be discussing Aristotle’s Poetics which is (arguably) a response to Plato’s challenge to defend the role of arts in his ideal state. I am in no way an expert on Greek philosophy, and honestly have only ever studied Aristotle as relevant to dramatic structure. That won’t stop me from publicly musing. You’ve been warned.

When Plato wrote, poetry was an essential component of education. Art didn’t need to be championed, as it was the norm in the social order. In fact, art was so not-fragile that it could easily stand Plato’s (reluctant?) criticism as potentially disruptive to the ideal state and a corruption of the populous.

If tomorrow really ushers in a new era, is it folly to think the arts may play a larger role in reshaping our national identity? Our almost-president talks about art more than any president has since Kennedy. He has a task-force and everything.

I don’t mean to suggest that with all the poop the new administration inherits tomorrow, the arts ought to be their top priority, but it sure would be nice if all this change brought about a renaissance of American art. The “greatest” political leaders of history not so coincidentally overlap with the “greatest” artists.

Fingers crossed, B.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Defense of Dramaturgy, Part 1

In a scant few hours I will begin infecting young minds with the art of dramaturgy. As I prepare for the class, and reread all the sordid history of the subject, I am reminded of the shear breadth of the discipline. Some of the earliest uses of the word incorporate the varied aspects of theatrical production into non-theatrical contexts (see Jewish War by Josephus, 75-9 ce). Granted, the uses of the term are not always...complimentary. Nor do they encompass the many tasks of the contemporary American dramaturgy. But, it is this very vagueness, openness that has always attracted me to the field. I think over the next few weeks, I will share what I have learned from class, and what I have imparted on them. A new, ongoing series, if you will, to defend the likes of dramaturgy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Change Like We Used To

A gloomy peace this Monday brings...and news of some homegrown political activism. Our soon-to-be president (which I will rant about sooner or later) as spent his inter-election-inaugural period soliciting the views of the people. He claims he would like a participatory public/government relationship. So, let's call his bluff, shall we?
There is a petition you can sign asking the president-elect to include the arts in his stimulus package - 1% of the package to be precise. We, artists and art-enthusiasts, are not a couple of hippie freaks. We are a major constituency contributing real dollars and jobs, in addition to our immeasurable cultural impact. Don't believe me? Read this article in the Boston Phoenix from last year.
So, sign the petition already!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year's, readers (or Meg).
I hope 2008 ended well for you and that 2009 brings health, wealth and many a good time.
I find something inherently false about New Year's resolutions - this isn't entirely my idea, but the more I think about it, the more I agree. If you REALLY wanted to make a change in your life, you'd make it regardless of what month it is. New Year's resolutions have a whiff of setting yourself up to fail, by setting up pipedreams on an arbitrary day with everyone else.
That being, said, January 1st is a little easier to remember than July 23, so why not set some turg-resolutions here and now? Apparently the trick to a good resolutions is to identify measurable, realistic goals. These aren't very good resolutions by those standards.
First, foremost, and the most obviously, I will write more frequently. Full stop.
Second, I will see more theatre - I will pay to see more theatre. I tend to be a bit of selective (I'm a snob) about what I will see, nevermind pay to see. This frugality is misplaced and doesn't make me a constructive member of the Boston Theatre Community.
Third, I will see more art, music, film and dance and write about it.
Don't think you are getting off that easily. Here are some resolutions I'd like to see for the Boston Theatre Community.
* I would like to see more new work. Brand, spanking new.
* I would like to see more collaboration between companies and between artistic disciplines.
* I would like to see theatres attempt to attract new audiences by trying out different work that might appeal outside their comfort zone.
* I would like audiences demand more from artists and artists demand more from audiences.

To a bold, new year. Salute.