Just to contribute two cents (barely), but Wyatt's point here is much more nuanced and complex than the critical responses are here suggesting. The piece elegantly juxtaposes the complex relationship between the author and her text (and the publication of her next book) and the 'impossible task' that may be, at least for Williams, what is significant about fiction writing itself. It is critical, which does not mean derisive, and part of what is important to the critical approach is an attempt to read and address the complexities of the text and in this case the connection with its author, rather than simply consuming the text like a fast food meal that one 'likes.'
Cilantro stems should never be discarded. They are great, have tons of flavor, and very useful in curries and other dishes where time and heat bring out flavor. Also useful for making chutney.
I agree with Ada on this one. But it may be that what delsbells had in mind is to suggest that theatre that does not conform to a linear narrative explicitly wants you to attend to the questions posed by the theatrical work. It is a matter of emphasis, a matter of situating a reader or spectator. The Bald Soprano, for example, undermines and frustrates certain expectations and modes of reading to which readers and spectators frequently refer. Often what happens when you take away linear narrative or when you construct plot in a way that does not reveal story according to a chronology that is linear is that you then prompt the reader/spectator into thinking about the significance of that decision.
I should also note that I did not want to give the impression that I thought 7 Stages was somehow slacking in the avant-garde department. I hope delsbells was not referring to my comments when he/she stated:
"7 Stages has not cut back on our mission or what we do. We are making several new music-type performances that premier this year and next; and we are also producing Jim Grimsley's lovely story, MR Universe, not exactly a traditional play, but certainly one with experimental roots. And we do continue to present avant garde companies, like this year's Art Spot from New Orleans, and Dah Teatar from Serbia."
I, in fact, pointed out 7 Stages work as a place still dedicated to creating inspiring work. And I have no doubt that they will continue to do so no matter what the economy has in store for us.
I should perhaps mention that what I have suggested is in no way a defense or recommendation of Holman's work as a journalist. It is apparent, after reading several reviews and re-reading tgillesp's comment that there are some issues that exceed my present contribution to this thread.
My assessment of story was based on a comment made by Ashley. I was not criticizing theatre-goers desire for story so much as suggesting that it seems to be the dominant variable that often determines how spectators react to a piece of theatre. I am not necessarily sure what the chocolate smearing has to do with that, but the point about the relationship between sitcom and theatre is that often what gets put on stage looks, smells, and tastes like a sitcom. In other words, plays are appearing more and more like sitcoms. You mention Williams and Shakespeare plays as examples of cases where story is important and that is true. But there is also so much at work in what makes Shakespeare and Williams rich and rewarding playwrights. The poetry, the language, you have to love to speak, you have to love language and want to speak that language rather enact a story line and that love for language (which I think is uniquely theatrical or at least a love that theatre must pursue and has pursued in tragedy as well as avant-garde aesthetics) is also part of what makes someone like Shakespeare so compelling and still read.
I honestly don't really know what audiences want and I am not in a position to really care. I am a writer and a scholar and I tend to work in my own world rather than worry about meeting the sort of financial demands that theatre companies currently face. So with that comes a certain perspective that is privileged not to have to meet those demands. But I never talked about theatre goers desires, but rather about the formal quality and content of what is often produced. I did cite information from the article that discussed such desires so much as I attempted to emphasize a particular vision of theatre that I felt corresponded with the article.
But I will address something that you mentioned and that has popped up on this discussion, which is that it seems as though plays that are deemed classics don't get much play. I too have wondered about this. I wonder if it may have something to do with theatre literacy. Miss Julie is a good example. My guess is that your average theatre goer probably has not read Miss Julie, nor has studied the preface carefully, nor has a well informed understanding of what is at stake in Strindberg's theatre. Learning about those things can enrich your experience of the play and give you a frame within which to interpret productions of the play. Now of course, I may be totally wrong about this and painting things with too broad a brush and I'll admit that what I am saying does generalize a bit...but hey, how great might it be if theatre companies were able to create educational programs that not only taught acting and tech stuff(which seems to be what they do now), but also theatre history so that younger people as well as adults could learn about some of these important plays and 'theatrical movements.' Does this make sense now? In other words, why not fight for this type of theatre, but fight for it in a way that provides a frame for theatre-goers to appreciate the work, rather than, for example, dismiss a play like Miss Julie as just another play where some entitled young lady goes and offs herself.
Sorry for being tangential about this. I hope this brings some clarity.
FYI, there are more than 2 cast members in Miss Julie, but I digress.
It sounds to me like there is a fundamental misunderstanding between what this article is attempting to do and the way in which tgillesp received the article. I think that tgillesp raises an interesting point when arguing that:
"Which brings me back to the larger point of my criticism (the part you didn't bother to reply to): what role you specifically, and theater reviewers in general, can play in making local theaters an economically viable endeavor."
What I think you are trying to say in your criticism of the review is that if the real problem is the manner in which the economy has hurt theatre companies, then theatre critics should rethink their position with respect to those companies. The role of the critic is not one with a stable purpose, but can change over time and according to certain demands, contexts, and issues. I think that this is a compelling point to make.
However, it does somewhat obfuscate the point of the article, which is, at least in my experience, an empirical observation: avant-garde aesthetics and playwrights get little play in Atlanta theatres and the venues where they used to get more play, such as 7 Stages, are currently taking on safer projects. Has the avant-garde disappeared? I don't think so, not entirely. Productions like Theatre du Reve's Le acteur sacrifiant and 7 Stages' work on the Koltes project show that there are pockets where more challenging theatrical works are getting produced. But it is true, avant-garde aesthetics are not as prevalent in Atlanta theatres as they once were.
I think that the article is good to quote Ashley, who states that:
"One of the things that defines avant-garde aesthetics is nonlinear storytelling, or sometimes even focusing less on story than on atmosphere and aesthetics. I think audiences typically respond to well-told stories. Avant-garde theatre will challenge these expectations rather than satisfy them directly."
Now, this is a rather oversimplified account of the avant-garde and it should be noted that the avant-garde does not refer to a single type of theatre practice. But the point seems clear: theatre is turning into a place that tells story. Theatre goers seem to be drawn to theatre that entertains through story, characters, and simple plot. The theatre is turning into a place where sitcoms get staged.
Which brings me to my point and why I thanked the writer for this article: what is the function of theatre in contemporary society? Should it even have a function? Is theatre's only purpose to provide entertainment and tell stories? Personally, I hope not. I feel that theatre is capable of showing truths that would otherwise be unheard and inexpressible and I understand this fluency to be one of theatre’s great powers.
It seems to me that several of tgillesp's criticisms are based on personal experience with this particular critic and I am not privy to what that disagreement many be nor am I going to speculate on how it may have informed the difference of opinion. Regardless of these differences, perhaps it would be wise to think about what the theatre can be, what we want to have at stake when we make theatre, when we write or act or direct. I understand that there is a certain idealism running through my commentary, but I do believe that vision is important and that part of what makes this writer want fucked up theatre is because the writer has found in those pieces something that could only take place in a theatre, something that only the theatre can offer. I believe that it is time to begin to consider this, to consider the theatre as a unique space in which what takes place can only take place in the theatre and I say this not as a blanket statement or under the assumption that this sort of thinking does not take place. I say it in an effort to listen to what I have heard in the article.
Thank you for this article.
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