Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Insightful article about the industry known as theatre

I'm not the first to link to this (Frank's Wild Lunch is), but everybody should be reading this.

It's provocative, thoughtful - and respectful - about the organizations it critiques.


Dave Tutin said...

Very interesting.

My take is that Beckett, when he wrote Waiting For Godot (curiously one of only two plays I've ever acted in - the other was The Fire Raisers) was not thinking about money.

Now, whatever they say, everyone thinks about money. It's not enough to be produced it has to 'reach' Broadway and then be made into a movie, as the article says.

But why? Money. Pure and simple. And the voyage down the spiral staircase from 'art' to Hollywood.
From theater to film.

Can you imagine if they made a movie of Waiting For Godot today? They'd set it in space, with one of the lead characters being black and a new role, not in the original, for a woman.

Beckett never expected anyone to "see themselves"
in his play. But this is how everything gets evaluated these days: the more people who can see themselves in a script the more of an audience it might atrract.

Malachy Walsh said...

Okay, 2 things.

First, THAT observation about people seeing themselves in a play is something I hope to always keep in minde while writing anything.

Second, WHAT PART DID YOU PLAY IN GODOT?!!!!? Heather wants to know! (She sends KUDOS in advance for it since it's such a bear to act in.)

Dave Tutin said...

I was in it twice: once as Pozzo and once as Lucky.

I love the play. But I experienced first hand the dangers of it when one night the actor playing Didi got confused by a section of dialogue that was frighteningly similar to an earlier piece and we went over an entire 15 minute section of the play twice!
For a moment it felt like an endless loop we'd never escape from. When we reached the critical point a second time there was the loudest prompt from the side of the stage I've ever heard!

On a third occasion I wasn't in the play but designed the lighting. Something I was very into back then, spending my summers as a lighting assistant at the Nottingham Playhouse. Incidentally this was the theater responsible for the original stage production of The Ruling Class with Peter O'Toole. Many scenes in the amazing movie version were based on the play, I also got to shine my spotlight on Leonard Rossiter in The Heretic. Amazing!!

frank's wild lunch said...

Thanks for the namedrop. And if it means anything, I most certainly can see myself in GODOT. And everyone else, too.

Dave Tutin said...

How right you are to point out my bad choice of words, FWL. Of course Beckett wanted us to recognize elements of ourselves in his characters. I was meaning the 'tokenism' of casting people of every different color and type so that people can literally see themeselves. This is something that plagues advertising as Malachy and I know.

I was trying to say that for me to 'feel' that a character has something in common with me, he or she does not have to physically look like me in any way. I should have been clearer.

Vladimir: Well? Shall we go?
Estragon: Yes, let's go.

(They do not move.)

Malachy Walsh said...

I also took your point to mean that Beckett didn't say to himself as he was writing, "I'll have the character say this so that everyone can see themselves in this play."

And I'm sure he didn't say, "You know, this language is getting a bit dense here, maybe I should simplify it so every one can get it."

I think that's right.

Dave Tutin said...

I don't think any great writers do that. It's an unconscious thing. Greatness comes when you write what you feel and then find that people respond to it.

And yes, because all the creative arts are now controlled by money-men, it's a new curse that they ask the questions about 'appeal' and 'target audience' BEFORE they ask 'is it good?'

An executive at Columbia Records - in explaining why they refused to release one his records (a truly brilliant one as it happens) - once said to Leonard Cohen "Leonard, we know you're great but are you any good?"

What he meant was 'will you make money - will you sell?' Their definition of 'good'.

And this was in the 70s!!! It's only gotten worse.

So, you're right - I meant that although many of us "see ourselves" in Becket, it wasn't the motivating force when he was writing. It was the result of what he wrote.