Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Required Reading: Isaac Butler

From Parabasis:

"We have these things that we like. If more theatre is produced that is like those things that we like, we call that the theatre getting better. If fewer things are, we call that the theatre getting worse.

"But this is the thing... really, all we're asking for is that theatre conform to our prejudices, whatever they be. I'm not talking about political or ideological prejudices, I mean our prejudices of taste. Getting moralistic about this whole thing is ultimately futile, worse, it's actually harmful."

Read the whole thing here.

Whenever I've been asked what sort of plays I write, I usually answer: "I write the type of plays I want to see." It's a bit glib, I know, but it's the best answer I can offer to such a question. However, for the longest time I had enough arrogance to think (at least, in the back of my mind) that that meant other people were patently writing plays I didn't want to see.

In other words, part of me felt that, through my writing, I was somehow saving theatre.

(Yes, I know, pathetic and mildly appalling.)

This may have also had something to do with being a bit of an outsider in the theatre world (I didn't go to school for theatre) and feeling simultaneously superior and inferior as a result (that Dostoevskian vertigo, if you will).

It took me a little while to catch on what Isaac's talking about above.

But then again, we all know I'm a bit slow on the uptake, right? (Seriously, don't answer that.)

Hating all theatre that's not made by me,

James "Just Kidding" Comtois

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Blogger parabasis said...

Thanks for the shoutout, James. I appreciate it. I've been wanting to say that for awhile, and I wasn't really able to figure out how to say it until i started re-reading THE OPEN DOOR.

I also just want to say that I kind of hope some peopel disagree with me, because I want to get to know that opposite perspective better.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Sure thing, Isaac.

Oh, I think you'll get some people who will disagree...for the longest time, I would have (the first few years I lived in the city I had very strict criteria of what I tolerated in theatre, which has now definitely "let up").

And on a side note, I am super-sorry to have missed During the Tail End of History They Get Noisier With Each Passing Year. I have been pretty much swamped this past week. I do hope it went well, and I will do my darndest to see your next show.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Manhattan said...

I wouldn't call writing theatre you want to see glib. Toni Morrison once said she wrote her first novel because she wanted to read it.

I write stupid songs because I want to crack myself up. At least I'm amusing someone.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

That's totally true/fair, Sister. But knowing me, someone who stammers incoherently in most conversations, it's definitely glibber than usual. I mean, let's face it: as honest as it is to such a damn-near unanswerable question, it does sound like a hip "sound-byte" interview answer.

Then again, why I'm so self-conscious about that sort of thing I'll really never know.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Malachy Walsh said...

I agree with sister. It's not glib to say you write plays that you'd like to see on stage.

The more seriously taken answer is to describe your plays in intellectual terms and using Greek and Latin words as if they're not yours and no-one will notice.

This will be socially acceptable.

But then you should say, "You know, plays like I write."

10:11 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Manhattan said...

I like this Malchy Walsh.

12:24 PM  

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