From the Citadel: A Response to “The Real Reasons Playwrights Fail” from a Poor, Queer, Emerging Playwright.

Leave a comment

It’s really productive to have passionate discussions about theatre and the current state of things in the theatrical realm. It really is.   Joshua Conkel and Leah Nananko Winkler (two kick-ass theatre artists I REALLY respect) kicked up the dirt with their discussion of class, privledge, and the current state of things, and now, playwright Mat Smart is taking a stab at it. This time, an assault towards “emerging playwrights”.

There is no argument to Smart’s comments about working hard, that’s obvious, and he even makes quite a passionate articulation about the amount of work that goes into crafting a play:

Writing a play, revising it, really working on it, staying open to the good and bad criticism, really reworking it, getting it out there, seeing it through to production, dealing with poor casting, weathering pans or rave reviews, reworking it, getting it done again, reworking it, repeat for the next script, repeat— all this is an act of love. It has to be. In the end, our approach to our own work is the only thing we can control—and I believe that you have to love the doing.

But his assessments about talent and quality of work being the reasons grants, fellowships, and productions are awarded are so infuriating to me as a  poor, queer playwright wearing the label of “emerging”, I almost have to laugh to be sure the article is real.

Smart’s opinions are so blatantly the product of privilege, they’re flowing from the citadel of straight, white men like condescending laughter. I have the same reaction to his opinions I have to members of the radical Tea Party. You mean people actually feel this way?

Regardless of his thinly veiled attempt to avoid peer shrapnel by using “we” to somehow incorporate himself into the “failed emerging playwright” he’s assaulting in his condescension and really has no understanding (or apparently desire to try) in the difficulties of being a minority playwright – whether that be racially, sexually, or other- in today’s theatrical climate.

Smart says (quite reductively) that emerging playwrights need to be more talented to get produced. And who’s judging the talent? Straight. White. Linear. Men.

I think it’s appropriate Smart at one point, addresses “Mr. Artistic Director”. With the current state of American theatre, Mr. Artistic Director, like Smart himself, is probably a straight, white, male with a penchant for linear, Aristotelian structure. With this demographic making up the majority of deciding bodies for fellowships, awards, and production seasons it’s no wonder Mat Smart doesn’t see a broken system.

 

Parenting

Leave a comment

I have been thinking about being a father a lot lately. I want to be one. Badly. I want to be a father. People would see me walking down the street with a little boy or girl and know that I fathered them because we share similar features and I use a loving yet stern tone of voice to teach them things. Things that a father teaches his son.

To that end, here’s a monologue I wrote today. I don’t know the genesis of this piece really, just that I was thinking of Demeter/Persphone. I mean, c’mon, everyone thinks of them on a daily basis, right? This is called

The Daughter of Zeus and Styx

 

DEMETER stands among piles of broken china. She’s barefoot and tall with hair like your mothers. If you don’t have a mother, close your eyes. Her hair looks like that.

She wears a red poppy behind her ear.

DEMETER:

I prefer to eat with my hands.
Especially when I’ve cooked steak- hold the vegetables. They get stuck in my teeth.
Gripping the meat I’m about to eat,
causing the remaining blood that hasn’t been
evaporated out
or
cooked in
to rise up and fall over my fingers like aged Merlot, it reminds me that, yes,
certainty does exist in the world.
In that moment, I am certain that I stand (for I always stand when I eat) at my dinner table gripping a piece of meat.
Then, I take the flank into my mouth, down my throat, passing through acid and tubes until it lands, gracefully. Here.

She pats her stomach as if telling us she’s pregnant. A piece of china, bone white, falls and lands in the pile at her feet.

“Hush little baby, don’t say a word. Momma’s gonna-”
How are we expected to be good parents?

Another piece of china, bone white, falls and lands in the pile at her feet.

I prefer to write letters in ink from India. The permanence ensures me that my words will never be washed away or erased.
Imagine if it had rained during delivery or the letter were to be misplaced?
What happens then?
Indian ink commits the words, the contents, to time, to the ages and that’s what I prefer.

I’m starting to show. My dresses, so lovely before,  considerate of my geography, pull tight here and there…they move against me, unlike before. I can’t escape it.

He came into the kitchen that day, when he had found out, and stood over me as I sat on my chair, at the table,
the same table at which
I eat my flank of steak
and I washing the china when he looked down and breathed a sour breath onto me.
He would have looked beautiful
sexy even
if I didn’t know that in one bite,
like my flank of steak,
he could be devoured.

A bead of sweet sweat leaped from his forehead and landed here, on my tongue, as he told me:

“You’re going to have that baby.
It will be a girl.
And we will name her Kore.”

I dropped the china, a shard bounced back as if out of revenge and sliced my palm. The red beaded up and for a moment, I thought I was eating with my hands. You know, the steak.
Instead I stood up, ran my slice under some warm water and closed me eyes, laughing to myself.
How are we expected to be good parents?
Especially when we couple with those whom we hate?
A  night of him inside of me and we’re responsible for the life of a child. But in a way, responsible for all children. Kore will be pulled from me, like a pineapple pulled through a garden hose, and will meet your daughter on the beach and your son in a store and your child and yours among the flowers, and will hit them and kiss them, buy them birthday presents, teach them to weave, steal their jewlery and offer a blowjob behind the shed and I’m somehow responsible?

Another piece of china, bone white, falls and lands among the piles at her feet.

I left my letter on the bed and I took Kore with me. She was inside me still, almost ready to be born, and I went to a doctor, a great one, and I told him quite simply, that I needed not to be a mother. I delivered her three days later. Into his arms. He was surprisingly unsweaty, and didn’t smell sour, and instead smiled at me and kissed my forehead upon delivery. He gave me painkillers, you know, for the pain nd sent me on my way.
Without Kore.
But with, now, for the first time, a clear head, unclouded by china, or Indian Ink or steak.

 

 

Here’s the Deal

2 Comments

Through a lucky(?) time/place happening, I had the chance to catch Kevin Smith’s new horror(?) film, Red State, at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday night. After the movie, Kevin Smith led a talk-back about the film with the very talented cast, including Melissa Leo and John Goodman. I learned a few things:

1. Kevin Smith loves to hear himself talk. More than he should. With such a talented cast and such an unspectacular (we’ll get to that in a second) film, I was anxiously waiting some words to be spoken that would help me better understand the film, but no. I just heard Kevin Smith talk. For a long time. While his fanboys in the audience sucked his cock. Over and and over again.

2. Kevin Smith has a very different view of a horror film than I.

3. Red State is over-written, unfocused, and sensationalistic.

I was super interested in the movie because of the way it’s being publicized: a horror film about a radical sect of religious crazies (think Fred Phelps and the Westboro clan) kidnapping teenagers. That’s 1/4 of it. Please, do NOT assume, as I perhaps stupidly did, that this movie was going to offer any sort of intelligent insight – satirical or otherwise- about religious fanatsicim or homophobia. It doesn’t. Instead, you’re offered a torture-porn fest that starts off SUPER promising and descends into a cheap thriller without anything interesting.

Q: When does the representation of violence (especially towards minority groups like homosexuals) perpetuate the problem rather than act as a step towards awareness? A: When you’re representing it in the way Kevin Smith does in his new movie. It’s especially unfortunate that the movies comes at a time like it does, with the tragic string of recent teenage suicides.

Don’t kill a gagged and bound gay person (did I mention he’s tied to a cross?) on screen for me to watch the horrible, bloody details of (and in this movie, it’s a HORRIFYING scene) in an attempt to show how awful and terrible the crime is and then try to have me laughing thirty seconds later or more importantly, construct the later 3/4 of your movie in tones, images, and plots totally unrelated to said horrifying death.

Oh, and don’t forget one of the most ridiculously long and tedious monologues ever recorded on film. Oh, there’s also a RIDICOLOUS turn involving large trumpet blasts, a la’ War of the Worlds. No, seriously. But don’t get excited. It’s nowhere near as exciting. Kevin Smith, you were out of your league with this one. Go ride roller coasters you’re tall enough to get on.

And please don’t mistake my passion about this as bitchiness. I wrote a short play called We Happy Animals that makes jokes about having to go down on the barrel in order for a suicide to work properly. But what’s important to consider with this type of “controversial” subject-matter is tone and execution, and I can’t help but declare that Kevin Smith has failed on both accounts.

In other, more important and sadder news, this guy’s extinct. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Eastern Cougar to be extinct, confirming a belief among wildlife biologists that native populations were wiped out by man a century ago.

Also, Shirley Pehlps-Roper has a Twitter. Is that allowed in the bible?