Saturday, March 15, 2014

...the theatre world, in my opinion, is starting to turn its back on simple story telling.

As a playwright, sometimes director, and somebody who's been jockeying around the theatre world for many years, it appears, in New York City anyway, that the theatre world, presently, has gotten too caught up in this idea of creating work that's different or new or untested or experimental. It's not enough to just write a good play that people, human beings, can connect to. The play, whether it be the story or the structure or the presentation, has got to be experimental or has to have some gimmick or trick. This seems to be the norm today. And I get that true artists are trying to test boundaries, push limits, and discover something new about themselves and the world. I consider myself an artist and do try to get at some form of the truth with everything that I produce. But what happened to the days when a playwright could simply write a good story with complex characters that speaks to all of humanity without trying to do something different. Shouldn't that be good enough? I'm all for progress, and some of my work would be considered experimental, but the theatre world, in my opinion, is starting to turn its back on simple story telling. And that's too bad. Because a lot of good work is not being recognized because it doesn't incorporate a lot of smoke and mirrors. I can't help but think that somebody like Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill or even Sam Shepard, just to name a few, may not be recognized or produced today because their work is not considered edgy enough by today's standards. I see play submissions all the time that say we're not looking for the average kitchen sink drama or a story about a traditional dysfunctional family; we're look for the untested or something that pushes boundaries. What does that mean? Why do these advertisements discriminate against good drama, stories, and characters that we can all relate to and still learn from?

I was reading the latest AMERICAN THEATRE magazine this week, and I was very interested in one of the articles, and in that piece, Anna Shapiro is talking about her experience with directing a new Broadway production of OF MICE AND MEN, which I was in as Slim many years ago and remains to be one of my all time favorite plays for many reasons, and her comments on the play and themes really resonate with me and confirm the thoughts that I have expressed here:

"And she has some serious thoughts about the play's political implications. "I think it's a beautiful piece of work-and it's about things that are important to me right now," she allows. "It's a conversation about the American dream and what men are promised- certainly straight white men-and how that lie crushes them later in life. It's about how dangerous it is to let your dream live outside your body; about what friendship is, and the cruelty of a world where utility is all that matters. I don't think there's any time in the history of our country where those themes would be irrelevant.""

From AMERICAN THEATRE magazine/March 2014/Theatre Communications Group

The Anna Shapiro Workout
Sprinting steadily from Steppenwolf to Broadway and back again, the Tony-winning director isn't even out of breath
by Christopher Kompanek

1 comment:

  1. Well said! Also, if Broadway want's edgy and new then why are they turning crappy movies into Broadway productions. Eventually it will be seen that the so called, 'smoke and mirrors' gimmick plays will only work for so long . Did you see the Oscars recently? Seems Hollywood is trying to return to the days of class and glamour. I don't understand why they moved away from it to begin with. Some things are tried and true and will always be constant!