Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sit. Down!

As you can see, Pete has revamped Jamespeak and set it up on an actual Blogger page. I think he may have been because he was sick of being my damn editor and tired of me nagging him to post the pages faster. Now it’s all up to me [ulp!].

I think the new page looks pretty cool.

Also, Nosedive Productions is getting ready to cast The Adventures of Nervous Boy, our new play, which will go up June 8-10, 15-17, 22-24 (Thursdays through Saturdays) at 8 p.m. at the Gene Frankel Theatre (formerly Juvie Hall) on 24 Bond Street between Lafayette and Bowery. This play will have yours truly make a cameo appearance (my first on-stage appearance in any of the Nosedive shows).

Thirdly, I just finished the rough draft of a brand spankin’ new play: a full-length comedy (with the working title Hot Chicks in Hotpants, although there’s a chance that title may change by the time we stage it). I’m pretty happy with it, especially since this is the first script I’ve written that’s a full-on flat-out comedy that’s over an hour long.

Although I said that the third and final entry for my online dialogue with Mac Rogers would be posted before tax time, it will be coming soon. I just sent him the final question and am hoping we can proof and post it within a couple of days.

And finally, I want to offer delayed kudos to Qui Nguyen for his Off-Broadway debut, Trial By Water. Yet another excellent script, Qui. I for one am really glad I saw it. Congratulations for getting an Off-Broadway production under your belt. (Damn, with Mac Rogers’s Fleet Week: The Musical and Qui Nguyen’s Trial By Water, I realize I’m bein’ left in the damn dust by my peers in the “Big Time Theatre” Game.)

And with the announcements out of the way, let’s get on to me yelling about something…

* * *

One reason for the importance of theatre in this day and age of distractions, constant cell phone interruptions, emails, text messages, media sound bites, podcasts we can fast forward through, DVDs we can skip through and TV shows on digital cable or TiVo we can speed through, is that it’s a form that ceases all self-satisfying distractions. There’s no skip button. There’s no fast-forward. There’s no excerpting from. While watching a play, you can’t chat on your cell phone or text someone. You can’t be wandering around.

In short, theatre forces you to Sit. The Fuck. Down. And Shut. The Fuck. Up.

Sometimes, it forces you to do so for two hours or more.

As a culture — hell, as a species — we need this. In a culture that fosters fidgeting and distraction (and distraction from the distraction) and flat-out dithering, we need to every now and again engage in a medium, in an art form, that forces us to sit still and be quiet (sometimes for an extended period of time).

If we can’t be bothered to — every now and again! — Sit The Fuck Down And Shut The Fuck Up for two hours or so, our minds and souls may be in some serious trouble.

Forgive me for sounding slightly hyperbolic here. Part of it is simply to stress that yes, although theatre is a very unpopular and ignored medium (and although it won’t die out or go the way of the Dodo it will continue to remain a very unpopular and ignored medium), it is still an important art form. A very, very important art form. Another part of it is because it seems that asking people to “sit down and shut up every now and again” is asking a whole lot — possibly too much — nowadays, especially in New York.

Now, I’m not even pointing fingers or naming names. I’m a fidgety guy myself. Although I don’t have an iPod or digital cable, I get a kick out of visiting my fellow Nosedivians who have said toys and getting to play with said toys. I often watch DVDs and abuse the “skip” button. I talk on my cell phone (although honestly not too often, since I’ve never really liked using the phone). And I’m fully-aware that seeing some really bad plays — and boy, there sure are a lot of them out there — make the whole process of sitting still and shutting up all the more arduous. I know that suggesting surrendering control, sitting still, being silent and paying attention for a two hour chunk of time is suggesting attempting a task that requires a Herculean force of will.

(I could — and probably should — place some blame in people’s allergy to theatre on the scores of shitty plays out there, but let’s save that ongoing and possibly never-ending rant for another date.)

Having said that, a great, good or hell, even passable play can be a cathartic and calming experience (or at the very least, a damn good head rush).

And let me be blunt: we’re adults, goddammit. Surrendering control, sitting still, being silent and paying attention every so often is not the Herculean task we believe it to be.

This train of thought occurred to me after seeing Trial By Water, a two-hour play that had no intermission. After the show ended, I walked out to the lobby, and was reminded how a good two-hour intermission-less play effects your brain and your body. It took me a good five minutes after the show ended to regain my ability to return to the “real world” of polite post-show chit-chat and talks of where to go for a post-show beer and wondering if I got any voice messages. My imagination was soaring and simultaneously my mind was calm. For all you yoga-addicts reading this, you know what I’m describing. Although I would venture that the crucial difference is that my thoughts were not focused inward — as is what happens often with intense meditation and yoga — but on the outside stimulus of the play I had just witnessed.

[Slight digression: Has anyone actually noticed that the people who practice yoga generally seem to be the singly most stressed, spastic and scatterbrained people?]

I’m not saying anything you don’t already know. We’ve become a very infantilized culture, a culture that demands immediate gratification (and demands it all the time), a people that can’t sit still unless it’s when we’re in front of the TV (and even then we can’t go a full episode of Lost without needing a bathroom break, rummaging through the fridge, or surfing the channels with the remote during commercials). We’re letting our imaginative and cognitive muscles slowly and steadily atrophy. I’m not naïve in thinking that this trait of ours is going to dissipate. However, this is something we should be aware of, acknowledge and try to curb to some degree.

Neil Postman’s warning that we are amusing ourselves to death has never sounded truer, which is why I’m very grateful for the medium of theatre, one of the few that doesn’t make me feel like I’m being slowly and steadily drained of my imagination and ability to pay attention to complex ideas.

Needing his quiet time,

James “Fidgety” Comtois


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I get the Dish newsletter now and again, and somehow didn't even know you had a blog. (I also haven't been to a Dish meeting in a long time -- I'm the literary manager for Reverie.) I think maybe now and then we've gotten into spirited conversations about things (something tells me one of them was Richard Foreman).

I'm bookmarking this, because hell, not only are you involved in theater, you like BRAZIL and CEREBUS.

Kim (who is "queencallipygos" on livejournal, and only occasionally posts about theater there because I'm a stage manager and that'd be kind of...dull)

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Qui said...

Dude, I love the updated Jamespeak format. Great photos on the Nosedive site - really effin' spectacular. And I can't wait to see NERVOUS BOY. You're a rock god.

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

Finally, an RSS feed! I've only been asking Pete for this for, um, several years.

Give the boy a treat for me.

Anyway, off to do your drawing. No, seriously this time.

10:07 PM  

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