Theater Farts

How Changing a Minor Key Could Become a Major Improvement or What One Could Learn about Theater While Listening to a Christmas Song

Oh my dear darlings, I know you missed me like last year’s Christmas, I know. I missed myself too. Only a few days have passed after New Year’s smashing celebrations and I am already singing Christmas songs in the shower for you. Darlings, I missed being important as much as I missed Christmas. You don’t believe me? Oh, you’re so sweet. What do you think I do on those lonely nights being away from theater and all these artistic endeavors? Well, of course, I write blogs and critique others. It helps me to get my importance back, so get ready to hear something you could use if you are as smart as I am, that is. Besides, it’s winter, what else one does but listens to SirGay’s salty balls jingle in the wind while he shines his unbelievable intelligence while living on a mountain somewhere upstate New York.

Christmas to me is like this show I am forced to watch every day every year for two months. It is like a broken record stuck on the same song. God wrote a play called Christmas and nobody can change any word or scene in it. This is precisely how I feel about some theater shows and some playwrights who are running skitters when a director or an actor wants to change a line or a scene in their written play. Playwright is God. Everyone else is just a decoration. Or is it?

Many times I would hear some playwrights complain how one or another director or actor changed something in their play. They would make it sound as if the world is just about to collapse. I don’t know why I am so concentrated on these poor playwrights. Maybe that is because I care about them and I want to prove to them that if a creative mind decides to change something in their work that change is a really good thing.

For some reason musicians are less uptight about somebody else covering and changing their music. Maybe that is the nature of music or maybe they are smoking too much MJ in studios, who knows. The point is that most musicians welcome interpretations of their music by other artists, be it another composer, a singer or a DJ. Why there is this uptightness in theater, I ask?

Before I prove my point that any change improves your work, dear playwrights, I want you to listen to two versions of the same Christmas song. I actually bought one of them to listen for my own pleasure. What the what? I am asking this myself too. I can’t believe I bought a song called “All I Want for Christmas Is You?” I must have lost my mind somewhere in my sweaty ass-crack. The song which inspired this entry is the Mariah Carey song, but here is a twist, the version of the song I purchased is Chase Holfelder’s. There is a major change in the song and the change is – the minor key. Before I go further please listen to both versions here.

Mariah Carey’s version

Chase Holfelder’s version

No, you really need to listen to them before continuing reading what I have to say about theater and playwrights. Listen! I said (smiley face).

Now, remember my rant about how some playwrights are just (insert a curse word here), because they believe that “if anything is changed in their plays they are going to be somehow destroyed and what not?” Remember that letter I wrote to them? Well, if you don’t remember it, here is a quick break down for ya.

For some reason there is this notion that if a director or actor or any creator but a playwright changes anything in a play, the play becomes like that herpes everybody is afraid to claim to have. My darlings, herpes has nothing to do with it, smell your farts. It is quite challenging to explain to today’s self proclaimed Shakespeares that Shakespeare’s works actually improved by all these cuts and different interpretations throughout these years Shakespearian plays have been performed.

But let’s not distract ourselves from the Christmas songs I presented to you here. Even though Chase Holfelder’s version of the song is almost unrecognizable and eerie as Christmas is to me, for some “weird” reason it is still the same song. The same way a Shakespearean play is still a Shakespearean play even though Romeo and Juliet are played by two boys in some productions. Well, of course, if you know the history of theater you know that there were no female actors allowed on the stage at the time Shakespeare wrote his plays. All the female roles were played by men only. To see two men play Romeo and Juliet nowadays is somehow innovative while the biggest innovation of the play happened at the time when women stormed onto the stages and the role of Juliet was given to a female actress. Do you see what I have done here, or you are still thinking about herpes?

In any case my dear theater people, especially you my darling playwrights, every time you are not sure if you like an interpretation of your play just remember Christmas and Mariah Carey, then remember that killing is not an answer ever! Enjoy those different takes of your work made by other creative minds and just let it be even if your jingle bells are up your ass and you want to vomit flowers. Believe when I say this, because of that Christmas song I forgave you all. I found my old/new love and you will find it too.

I’ll point it out to you and say it again; anybody who is inspired to give their take on your work is only improving your work? Anyone who is able to find something worth changing/interpreting in your play is giving you a great compliment. Your work could tremendously improve if you just let another creative soul to be creative with it. You could reap a major success by letting it happen. Enjoy and let it be.

Ciao-cacao and don’t forget to flush after you do your do-dos. Oh yeah and you should take care of that herpes!

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Temperamental "T" Battles, Theater

“Deathwatch”-ing “Short Eyes”

Alright my dear darlings, I believe my port is kicking in, because I feel like I need to finish this entry somehow. Of course nobody is going to die if I don’t finish this write up, but if I don’t finish it, the world will miss on Plastikoff’s smarts. I need to move my fingers faster on those clicking buttons that make words. Let’s talk about my value at another time when I am less important to myself, alright? I can’t handle myself at the moment that’s why I decided to give you another “Temperamental “T” Battle.” Umhum thaz right Plastikoff is going to talk theater again after blabbering so much about politics and things of that nature in the previous blog entry.

Politics is theater and theater is politics or whatever, as my good friend Joe Truman would say. Eat rhubarbs if your life is too sweet, if not, there is always Donkey Donuts around the corner somewhere, and no, I haven’t misspelled that. If I eat one more donut, I will definitely turn donkey on you for sure, but about them… oh that’s right I began writing about something else… and now I am craving donuts. Ugh, this damn blog.

Okay darlings, if you were able to follow me to this point, congratulations, because now I am going to demonstrate you how I make myself to like a play which, if not for this blog, one could dismiss as not interesting enough.

Today’s battle is between two writers who spent some time behind the bars. They both loved stealing and toyed with drugs. Well who haven’t, I would ask you? If you read this entry of mine, you know what I am talking about. But this writty-shmitry is not about how to steal or how to “become” a homosexual. What it is about, I don’t know yet myself.

Most of you probably don’t even know how this whole “homo” thing works, unless you have been in jail, as my dear Jean and Miguel were. When you are trapped behind some steel, or whatever they’re called, bars, your real you comes out in all colors of the rainbow and that’s, my dears, is the time when you “become” gay. Ha, do you really believe that (smiley face)?

Okay I should cut this whole gay-shmay talk right now and go to the point. Why is that suddenly I decided to talk about these two authors and these two particular plays?

Well, first of all, they both were/are great writers and, what is even more exciting, they were/are both street smart, which could only mean they didn’t go to any fancy-shmancy university. They got their education from those flees which they collected in those unmarked, full of junkies houses. I truly am impressed by how both of them kept on writing. Even though they both were “criminals,” … f*ck I forgot what I was going to say here, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Let me dissect “Short Eyes” and “Deathwatch” for you instead.

If you have forgotten how the “Temperamental “T” Battles” go, read this entry. I find that entry pretty good, especially when I am drunk.

“Short Eyes” and “Deathwatch” are not produced very often because they deal with very particular situations in very particular places. My work here is to convince you and show you how you, my dear readers, could enjoy a work that doesn’t necessary move you at all.

God, the stuck “t” on my keyboard is driving me crazy.

Now, why would you choose to see a play about convicts? On top of it, why would you want to see a play about murderers, homosexuals, blacks, Latinos, drug addicts and pedophiles, why?

To tell you the truth, I don’t know why, but this is exactly why I decided to write this entry. I want to convince you that beauty is all around you, in all kinds of shapes and forms. Yes, you can read this last sentence sarcastically, if you wish.

No, I am not a fan of pedophilia, no. Oh god, I just imagine all these parents go crazy imagining somebody taking advantage of their children. Even I got sobered up from that thought alone, and no, there is no smiley face at the end of this sentence, no.

But, I should mention to you, that I knew somebody who was wrongfully accused of being sexually involved with a minor. He was an unbelievably talented and free spirited artist. Think Basquiat and Rimbaud in one person. Yes, on top of his free spirit and talent, he also, it happened so, was a homosexual. His story ended in a suicide. He was not able handle the accusations. He was twenty one years old, the boy was sixteen at that time. Yes, that’s true, he was a homosexual, which automatically mean in some countries that you are sick. What also is true, that that person confided in me a night before he ended his life, telling me about the people who made these accusations. He could not understand how anyone could think that he was taking advantage of a young man he was teaching at the time. He really adored his pupil as an artist. They had a very special bond.

Piñero in his play “Short Eyes” is dealing with a somewhat similar situation. There is a man who is jailed and, as later we find out, falsely accused of molesting some young girls. The play painfully reminded me of my friend. The only difference with my friend and Piñero’s character Short Eyes was that my friend was not jailed but living in a society which understood anything homosexual a crime. In my friend’s case society was the jail where being a homosexual meant being a pedophile.

Piñero is raw, Genet is poetic. To compare their writings is like comparing apples to chili peppers, so I am not going to do the comparison. Instead I want to tell you why I decided to spend my time talking about “Short Eyes” and “Deathwatch.

Let’s go to “Deathwatch” now. First of all I should mention that I love Genet, period. “Deathwatch” is not as popular as his “The Maids” is. But “Deathwatch” is worth looking into.

“Deathwatch” takes place in a single jail cell where there are three criminals “residing.” One of them Green Eyes (interesting how the word “eyes” has a huge meaning in jail slang) is waiting for a death sentence. The death happens in the play, but not to the person who is convicted.

I don’t want to go into plot details here. In “Deathwatch” there is almost no plot. What attracted me in the play were inspirations and ideas I got from it.

While I was reading and later watching a film, an adaptation of the play, I found myself thinking about Genet’s genius construction of human psyche using three different characters. I got myself involved with questions like, what and who do these characters represent? To me the jail cell represented a human psyche where there were three conflicting thoughts (three characters). Knowing that Genet was quite often in jail and dealt with situations where he was sexually attracted to other men, it made sense to me that he would write whatever was happening in his mind on paper.

In “Deathwatch” Genet, in a way, is all these three characters: gorgeous looking Green Eyes, secretly in love Lefranc and openly in love with Green Eyes Maurice. They all have their own secrets and they all could represent a jailed human psyche. So, in short, by entering the jail cell we are entering Genet’s mind.

Summing up both plays:

“Deathwatch” gave me perspective of how a play or a performance could be built using characters as representations of different parts of human psyche.

“Short Eyes” hit close to home because somebody I knew ended their life because of a similar accusation.

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Re-Views, Unsolicited Solicitations

How “A Streetcar Named Desire” Took “Blue Jasmine” to the Oscars

I know, I know my darlings, you might get quite bored with me constantly talking about Tennessee Williams and Cate Blanchett, I know, but you know what they say, keep repeating that one thing and you will become a master at it. And darlings, who wouldn’t want to write plays like Tennessee and act like Cate, who? So here comes my next rant which involves another colleague of mine, my dear Woody Allen.

I have had quite a few woodies in my life and there might be some Allens involved with them, but this entry is not about them, even though I wish it would be, because that might have given me a happy ending, but I digress, no really, I do digress not having a happy ending for this entry.

During my breakfast break suddenly I… Well this has happened not so “suddenly” but the use of word “suddenly” reminded me about some writer I read recently who suggested that good writers should remove “suddenly” from all of their writings. His suggestion sounded quite strange because, first of all, who said that I want to be a good writer (this one I believe is a lie) and second of all, just imagine Tennessee Williams, yes, Tennessee Williams himself, removing “suddenly” from the name of his play “Suddenly Last Summer.” It would leave us only with “Last Summer” which would be just sad, because “suddenly” gives that needed kick in the balls and defines the pain which happened that last summer. This entry is not about “Suddenly” and not about “Last Summer” but it has something to do with removing some things and loosing the others because of that change.

While eating my breakfast I was arranging another “Temperamental “T” Battle.” Somewhere in between devouring a leaky egg yolk and a large piece of salt crystal I realized that I have way too much to say about Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” alone. Before I ate that egg I thought that I would compare two films, a great classic “A Streetcar Named Desire” and a new Oscar nominee “Blue Jasmine,” but, after finishing that poor egg I realized that that battle was won way before it even started. Who can compete with Tennessee Williams’ written characters, who? He is one of the best when it comes to it. When somebody wants to rewrite a gorgeous play written by him, it better be good, because whoever attempts to do so unsuccessfully might get a taste of Plastikoff’s testicles on their face. Your big movie name won’t help to avoid this from happening. You should be already aware that Plastikoff knows more than you do, so you must listen to him, otherwise you might get that uneaten egg yolk thrown at you and later smeared on your face by his, above mentioned, testicles. This time Woody Allen is under my radar or, should I say, under my hanging bangers. It is going to be hard (pun intended) to be Woody.

I love you Woody, I truly do. And how could I not love a director and writer who gave me one of my favorite comedy films “Bullets Over Broadway,” how? This will be tough for me to write, because you, my dear Woody, showed me with your “Bullets…” that you know and love theater very much.

The Oscars are literally a few hours away. This year’s nominations are quite forgettable. I don’t think any of the films which are nominated this year will be remembered after thirty years, but since I, ze Plastikoff himself, am living today, I thought I would give another piece of my mind (god, I am so generous, giving my brains and stuff away to ze people) and write another review of a film that has something to do with the Awards. If you haven’t read my take on “her,” you can read it here. This time I am going to go for “Blue Jasmine.”

It’s not a secret anymore that the film industry is going down the drain. There is almost nothing exciting coming out in the past few years and it’s getting worse. When movie theaters are concentrating more on the sale of popcorn and soda, you know you are popped.

This blentry (no, this is not a misspelled word, no, if you know a little Russian you know what “blet” means) is a character and play study where I discuss good versus bad adaptations of very known plays. I am going to concentrate my brain cells that are still left in my head on “A Streetcar Named Desire” and what happened to it when Woody Allen rewrote it into “Blue Jasmine.”

First of all one must be blind not to see that “Blue Jasmine” is “A Streetcar Named Desire.” It is and it is all the things it should not be.

I was quite shocked and taken aback by the fact that there was no mentioning of Tennessee Williams in any way in the credits of “Blue Jasmine.” What I saw was that this script was “originally” written by Woody Allen.

Oy Woody, Woody, yes, of course you gave your own twist to my bellowed play, but to be so blunt and not even say that your script was at least somehow inspired by “…Desire” was a sneaky way to go. You are definitely not winning any points from me on that. Thinking that putting Blanche (Jasmine in your film) in today’s environment would distract me from recognizing the play is a huge miscalculation.

First of all putting a play or adapting a play for today’s environment is nothing new, you know that, Woody. Almost every play has gotten that treatment in theater. Directors take old plays and adapt them constantly. Theater directors (usually) acknowledge original writers leaving their names in credits even though there might be nothing “original” left in their productions.

I recognized that Stella’s home from “A Streetcar Named Desire” is Jasmine sister’s home in San Francisco in your film, my dear Woody. Jasmine from “Blue Jasmine” is broke as it is the original Blanche from “A Streetcar…” when she comes to live with her sister. My dear Woody, you haven’t even escaped saying that Jasmine has a French background, and oh yeah, you think I would not catch where Jasmine’s name originated from? Blanche in “…Desire” mentions her perfume “Jasmine” which is hated by Stanley Kowalski. Is this where the name Jasmine came from in your film? There are many recognizable details as this in your film, Woody, but let me dissect first how “A Streetcar Named Desire’s” characters became “Blue Jasmine’s” characters.

As you know, my dear darlings, I love the fact that I find certain things hidden in films. If you read this review, you know what I am talking about. So here it goes, characters from “Blue Jasmine” and which characters from “A Streetcar Named Desire” I think “inspired” them:

Jasmine is Blanche DuBois
Ginger is Stella
Chili, Augie and Dr. Flicker are Stanley Kowalski
Dwight is Mitch
Hal, Jasmine’s husband, is the boy who killed himself in “…Desire”

I am going to start from Stanley Kowalski. Stanley was broken into three characters in “Blue Jasmine.” This was a very poor decision from you my dear Woody. And this is why.

You lost all the drama that surrounded Blanche by breaking the events and characteristics of Kowalski. All of these men in “Blue Jasmine” became very plain and didn’t contribute to Jasmine’s mind f*ck as Kowalski did in “…Desire.” What was this mess that represented Stanley in your film, Mr. Allen? You flattened Stanley from ”…Desire” so much that I was just plain sorry for the guys who were playing representations of what was once the greatest character in the history of theater.

Augie, played by Andrew Dice Clay, became Stanley whom Blanche met for the first time after arrival to her sister’s home in “A Streetcar…”
The sexy, full of passion and temperament Stanley from “…Desire” became Chili, played by Bobby Cannavale.
The “raping scene Stanley” became Dr. Flicker played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

The three characters created from one became disjointed and without depth. It was very disappointing to watch that happen.

In “A Streetcar…” Blanche’s character remembers a boy she fell in love with, who later on she realized was gay. In your version, Woody, this boy became Jasmine’s husband, Hal, played by Alec Baldwin, who cheated on her and killed himself in jail because of… well I didn’t quite get why did Jasmine’s husband killed himself in jail.

The boy from “…Desire” killed himself because he was a homosexual. Blanche revealed that secret. Jasmine’s husband, on the other hand, killed himself because Jasmine called the FBI and told them about the shady business her husband had been doing. Jasmine was emotionally distressed after finding out about Hal’s cheating. Hal got jailed because of Jasmine. I am not going to tell you in every detail how that happened but if you know “A Streetcar…,” Jasmine as well as Blanche had something to do with the suicides of their husbands.

While I totally understood Blanche’s boy’s suicide, I was not buying Jasmine’s husband’s suicide at all. The story leading to the event was flat and just too weak to be convincing. The way you wrote Hal’s character, my dear Woody, gave me an opposite impression. I couldn’t believe that a man like Hal was able to kill himself this easily.

I understand that you, my dear, wanted to portray these rich, lying people in your “Blue Jasmine,” but you failed it. You rewrote the sensitive boy’s character from “A Streetcar…” who represented Blanche’s feelings into this manipulative, cheating husband of Jasmine’s. Of course I could find some kind of connection there and say that Jasmine’s husband Hal represented Jasmine’s wish to live richly without doing any work to earn any money. That is true, that could be your idea of why Jasmine had her nervous breakdown. But with the decision of writing Hal the way you did you completely removed Jasmine’s fragility. Later on you went to explore that quality of Jasmine’s in other scenes of your film where she’s meeting Dwight, but it was too late.  You already made a cold Jasmine. You removed from her the greatest value, her fragility which was so beautifully developed by Tennessee Williams in Blanche.

My writing of this review is as messy as your film my darling Woody. See what you have done to me?

Yes, you tried to return to the original Blanche with your Jasmine being dependent on rich men. I was waiting for “I depend on the kindness of strangers” come out of Jasmine’s lips the whole film but it never happened. This beautiful quote turned into some mumbling jumble coming out of Jasmine’s lips at the end of the film which was just plainly very disappointing to me. I wanted to kick you in the balls my dear Woody. You had Cate Blanchett saying those meaningless words at the end of your film which actually hurt Cate’s as an actress’ image. She was put in a situation where she was asked to do a very cliché thing, talk into nothing with her lips slightly shivering and leaking through her eye sockets, what appeared to be some kind of liquid called tears. I found myself concentrating on Cate Blanchett’s face without make up rather than “feeling” what she was going through in that particular scene.

Funny, how you, my dear, were not able to escape shower scenes in your film. The shower scenes in “…Desire” were essential. After every one of them something happened to Blanche. Not so much happened to Jasmine in your film, my dear Woody. In “A Streetcar…” Blanche wanted to wash off something that could not be washed off. What you washed off in “Blue Jasmine,” my dear, was Cate Blanchett’s make up and that was it. Yes, with that you revealed how old Jasmine is, but it added almost nothing to the character. Cate Blanchett went quite disheveled and with the runny make up throughout the whole film. You decided to “add” to Blanche’s from “…Desire” character, an oily skin shine and sweaty armpits. This was strange to see happening knowing that the action takes place in San Francisco where the weather is cool. New Orleans’ weather is thick with sweaty armpits and oily skin. That is more appropriate for Tennessee Williams’ play, but I guess you can sweat in any weather if you drink this much alcohol as Jasmine did in your film.

The difference with Stella, Ginger in “Blue Jasmine,” is less obvious. In “Blue Jasmine” Ginger has two children while in “A Streetcar…” Stella is pregnant with her first one. Ginger’s character in “Blue Jasmine” got Blanche’s sexual freedom. Jasmine’s character became even flatter because having Ginger this sexually active removed another great layer beautifully written by Tennessee Williams for Blanche.

Jasmine’s sister, Ginger, goes around sleeping with men. She divorced her first husband for no apparent reason. There was not even a hint why she did it. Then she almost ditched a better looking and more passionate boyfriend/fiancé after she met a balding man, Al, played by Louis C.K., at a party. Ginger’s new interest was apparently cheating with her on his wife. After a phone call to Al’s house and talking with his wife, Ginger, almost instantly, dropped the passionate love for Al and returned to her hot fiancé Chili as if nothing has happened. Ginger switched back to the hotty in literally a second after she learned about Al’s wife. Ugh.

And what was that mess of a scene with Jasmine and Dr. Flicker when he was sexually abusing her in the office? I went, what the duck just happened? This came from nowhere and was so painful to watch that I lost it. This scene was so fake that I think I believed more in drag queen’s fake boobs than Dr. Flicker’s arousal towards Jasmine in that scene.

I am going to end my rant with another quite strange detail about “Blue Jasmine.” The young salesman who came by Stella’s house in “A Streetcar…” and met Blanche there became Jasmine’s son. Weird decision I’d say. With that you, my dear Woody, stripped away from Jasmine her sexual gravitation to younger men which was so crucial in Tennessee Williams’ play. With that you not only said that Jasmine is not sexually attractive, because she has a son, but you also didn’t even suggest that Jasmine could like any of her sister’s lovers.

And here comes the ending punch. The way the character of Mitch from “A Streetcar…” was written in “Blue Jasmine” was so outlandish that you, my dear Woody, didn’t know yourself what to do with him. Dwight, played by Peter Sarsgaard, appears from nowhere like a rich prince on a white horse. He almost instantly proposed to Jasmine, then he dropped her as a plastic bottle in the middle of nowhere after learning that Jasmine was divorced and had a child. It was quite convenient, I should say, to be dropped next to a place where Jasmine’s estranged son was working. Okay, I think I got it, this scene was needed because it was vital for Cate to get a little of California’s sun on her pale skin while walking those few frames, I got it.

The decision for Jasmine and Dwight to get married and break up came so forced and fast in “Blue Jasmine” that one could miss it. Turn your attention for a few moments from the screen and you won’t even know that the proposal even happened.

The dialog between characters were flat and choppy. I was constantly hearing Woody Allen’s voice which was weird because Jasmine is hardly Woody (pun intended). It was painful to listen.

After writing all of this long ass wordy diarrhea I came to a realization that you, my dear Woody, most likely decided to play a game with us. You took “A Streetcar Named Desire” written by Tennessee Williams and decided to rewrite it creating opposite characters to those written by Tennessee Williams. Hmmm, I think you didn’t have enough Port to do that my dear Woody. But I guess it worked out somehow for you, because you got quite a few nominations for the film.

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Temperamental "T" Battles, Theater

“Period of Adjustment” vs. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”

Play reading is challenging for some people. It happens so that I enjoy reading them. Of course it has something to do with me being a theater director, actor, playwright and what not. That’s right, Plastikoff is a very important theater artist, so you always should listen to what, he, ze Plasikoff himself, has to say to you about one or another play. Yes, of course, he has something to say about cats and Port drinking too, but today’s entry is not about that, unless you find a connection between Tennessee Williams and his cats.

If you are in theater arts, you most likely heard questions like, “so what play would you recommend?” Or “what’s in theaters right now?” Most of the people who ask these questions want to take a short cut. I don’t know if I should blame them for that and throw some paint into their faces? Maybe I should just break some vases instead? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be Plastikoff if I would not find some fun in those questions and my play reading.

These dialogs, monologues and short descriptions might get you when you read theater plays. You might say: “how the duck should I imagine how big actress’ boobs are when I read a description like this:

“ISABEL appears before the house, small and white-faced with fatigue, eyes dark-circled, manner dazed and uncertain. She wears a cheap navy-blue cloth coat, caries a shiny new patent-leather purse, has on red wool mittens.”

A fun fact about those boobs: apparently Jane Fonda had to wear fake titties while performing in a film version of Tennessee Williams’ play “Period of Adjustment.” I don’t know if that’s true, but her titties looked pretty real to me.

There are many things directors, actors, composers, stage and costume designers have to imagine while reading those, sometimes never ending, dialogs. I am here to enhance their and your imagination, my darlings. Considering all this challenge you might face reading a play, I want to present to you “The Temperamental “T” Battles” between two plays.

I would like to share with you the insights of how I read plays. To make it more interesting for myself and maybe for you, I am going to compare one play with another and see which one is stronger, which themes and characters are developed better and so on and so forth.

To put a play on the stage requires a lot of time and energy, so you want to find that perfect play which includes everything what you are looking for. My “very important notes” might make you read those plays and, who knows, this might become a reason why you have chosen one or another play for your theater. Yes, you can thank me in your play bills later, just don’t forget to send me some Port after you do that (I think that’s a good place to insert a smiley face, no?).

Here are the rules of the battle. I am going to take two in a way similar plays and playwrights and am going to compare them as if they are break dancing on the street or something. Somebody or something has to win. In no way I want to put down one or another play or playwright. They all are one way or another great, but, just it happens so, I might find one play more appealing to me than another. It could be that by points one play might be loosing the battle, but that would not necessary mean that I am less fond of the loosing play and am dismissing the “weaker” one and not considering it for a possible production. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you will find the same attraction to the plays I find exciting. First of all you are not Plastikoff to find dead things exciting and second of all… well there is no second of all, you are just not Plastikoff and that’s that (smiley face).

Here are the categories I am going to rate the plays in the fight:

  1. Which play has a more appealing/intriguing name?
  2. Are these plays race friendly?
  3. Could they be produced in other countries considering where they were originally written and produced?
  4. What are the weakest points and parts of the fighting plays?
  5. What are the strongest points and parts of the fighting plays?
  6. Was there anything that was censored in the plays?
  7. Is there anything that should be censored now?
  8. What type of plays are they?

a) A Director’s play
b) An Actor’s play (character driven play)
c) Are these plays giving more freedom for visual interpretations for stage designers, choreographers and composers?

And, of course, are there enough of “flying” sentences in the fighting plays to satisfy some similar situations you might find yourself in? You never know when you might need to make some lemonade and borrow some money for the lemons. I am here to do some research for you and help you with that, because we all know that most artist “have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Two points for you if you know where this sentence came from.

I am pretty sure more things will come up later, but for now I am inviting two great American playwrights Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee for the battle of temperamentals. The fight is going to be between “Period of Adjustment” by T. Williams and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” by E. Albee. Let the fight begin.

First, let me tell you in short what these plays are all about.

“Period of Adjustment” is a play about two couples dealing with their marriages. Two men in the play are long time friends. They know each other from the times when they were soldiers during Korean War. One of them, the older one, Ralph, is on the verge of divorcing his wife Dorothea. He married her for her money. Another one, George, just got married. There is something he is hiding from his wife Isabel and the world. There are plenty of hints to suggest that George has some homosexual tendencies. Well, darlings, it wouldn’t be a Tennessee Williams play if you would not have at least something which suggests “the secret.” George has a “performance anxiety.” This might be a code that he doesn’t really like ladies, but is forced to get married to make the town stop talking. His secret is subtly revealed by his placement of his hands on Ralph’s shoulders, his talk about a possibility of buying a ranch together and overly excitement of meeting Ralph again after some years. Considering that he got married to a stunning beauty, the suspicion about his “tendencies” intensifies.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is also about two couples who deal with their relationships. There is an older married couple and a young couple. The young couple gets invited by the older couple to their home for more drinking and debauchery. Constant (drunk) fights between the older couple reveal to us a lot about their relationship.

I don’t want to go deeper into plot details of those two plays, because that would add another four hundred words. You can find the plots on the Internet easily, so I am going to skip on that part and concentrate more on the “fight” and juicy details instead, revealing to you which play gets more points from me and which one is more likely to be produced right now.

First of all, the names of the plays:

Definitely, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is a better title than “Period of Adjustment” which is surprising to me because Tennessee Williams is way better than Edward Albee with names for his plays. Who can compete with names like “A Streetcar Named Desire” or “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?” Nobody. “Period of Adjustment” is not a successful name for this particular play. It could be that because of the name this play is less known than any of Tennessee Williams plays, which is a shame, because I find this play to be a very strong play. I give Albee 5 stars for the name while Williams gets only 2 stars.

Next, are these plays race friendly?

This is going to hit Tennessee Williams into the balls hard, because his play is not race friendly. I understand that the play takes place in the south and that at that time African Americans played servants only, but… I don’t see this play being performed with actors whose skin color is other than white. Also I hardly see this play being successful in other countries like, let’s say, China, Philippines or Nigeria. The play is about white people’s problems in the south of the U.S. of A. and that is quite a shame, because the way characters are written by Mr. Williams is absolutely gorgeous.

On another hand, even though “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” original cast was all white, I can see this play being adapted in other countries and played by actors of different races.

I am giving Tennessee Williams 2 stars and Edward Albee 4 stars for race friendliness.

Now what are the weak points/parts of each of these plays?

“Period of Adjustment” weak points are:

a) The name – Mr. Williams could have found a better name.
b) The overuse of “Period of Adjustment” in dialog between      characters.
c) The use of “colored,” “negro” in the text and African Americans as servants.
d) Too “happy” of an ending considering the undertones explored in the play.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” weak points are:

None.

“POA” strong points are:

a) Strong characters and small cast.
b) Strong and mysterious undertones in the play. There is a very subtle way Williams tells about a possible homosexual attraction between two friends Ralph and George. The subtle arm placement on each other’s shoulders and overly excitement when they see each other for the first time, give me an impression that Ralph and George enjoy each other’s company more than the company of their wives. Mr. Williams uses very strong text to express Ralph’s feelings towards homosexuals. Ralph tells several times how he is not happy about his son being turned into a sissy by his wife. There is a “Brokeback Mountain” moment in the play when Ralph and George are talking about leaving their wives and buying a ranch together somewhere in Texas to grow cattle. Isabel who is married to George feels that there is something wrong with him, because of how he behaved on the first night after the wedding. Latter on Ralph discloses that George didn’t really have sex while in Korea during the Korean War which again suggests that George might be leaning towards homosexual love. A little detail about the car George drives gives us an understanding that his marriage is his coffin.
c) Everything happens during one day, no time lapse.

“WAOVW” strong points are:

a) Strong characters and small cast.
b) Relationship undertones reveal to us in a very peculiar way that the older couple is without children even though they talk a lot about their son. The way the madness between characters progresses during the play is genius.
c) Everything happens during one night, no time lapse either.
d) Also the names of the three acts definitely add to the enjoyment of the play. They are: 1st act “Fun and Games,” 2nd act “Walpurgisnacht” and 3rd act “The Exorcism.”

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” definitely wins this battle, but “Period of Adjustment” with a few edits could become one of the strongest Tennessee Williams plays. Because of the themes in “POA” I tend to choose this play for my future production.

Regarding the censorship, both plays had some censorship happen to them when they were first produced. As almost always as it was with Tennessee Williams’ plays which had homosexual undertones, suggested leanings towards love between two men were removed from productions, be it in film or theater.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” had a few cuts too, but it suffered less than “POA.” The replacements were minor. The word “screw” was completely removed from the film. “Hump the hostess” was retained, but had some headaches happen to a few “good” people involved with censorship of profanity and sexual innuendos.

Both plays are character driven, actor plays, which means that they could be directed by actors and playwrights alike. There is not much for a director to do just to make sure that actors are following the script and character development.

On the ending note, even though “Period of Adjustment” lost this round by points, I should say that this play is as great as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and should be produced more often, maybe just with a few edits.

And now the juicy “flying” sentences for you.

“Period of Adjustment”

Ralph Baitz: The human heart could never pass the drunk test. Take a human heart out of a human body, put legs on it and tell it to walk a straight line, and it couldn’t. The heart could never pass a drunk test.

Ralph Baitz: Who remembers the last war? They’re too busy on the next one.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”

[George takes a corner far too fast, tossing everyone in the car from side to side. Pause]
Martha: Aren’t you going to apologize?
George: Not my fault, the road should’ve been straight.
Martha: No, aren’t you going to apologize for making Honey throw up?
George: I didn’t make her throw up.
Martha: What, you think it was sexy back there? You think he made his own wife sick?
George: Well, you make me sick.
Martha: That’s different.

Martha: I swear, if you existed, I’d divorce you.

George: Martha, in my mind you’re buried in cement right up to the neck. No, up to the nose, it’s much quieter.

George: Martha is 108… years old. She weighs somewhat more than that.

George: Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?

Nick: Who did the painting?
George: Some Greek with a mustache Martha attacked one night.
Nick: It’s got a…
George: Quiet intensity?
Nick: Well, no, a…
George: Well then, a certain noisy relaxed quality maybe?
Nick: No, what I meant was…
George: How about a quietly noisy relaxed intensity?

George: You can sit around with the gin running out of your mouth; you can humiliate me; you can tear me to pieces all night, that’s perfectly okay, that’s all right.
Martha: You can stand it!
George: I cannot stand it!
Martha: You can stand it, you married me for it!

Nick: May I use the… uh… bar?
George: Oh, yes… yes… by all means. Drink away… you’ll need it as the years go on.

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Theater Farts, Unsolicited Solicitations

My 3 Spent Kopeks or an Open Letter (sort of) to Play Writers

Okay, my Dear Darlings, I kept myself quiet for way too long, listening to your (something) whining about this and that. Today is the day for me to give you the 3 kopeks I still have about writing for theater.

You all seem so bitter and too serious about your craft, my Dear Writers. Have a drink or something and let’s discuss why your ego and lack of flexibility hurt us all.

I see that some of you might not really know how theater really works. You get all worked up about your genius ideas and ze words you write in your plays. There is a lot I want to say about all that ego business it seems you have when it comes to producing your play. The thing is, my Dear Darlings, nobody wants to work in theater with anybody who has a big ego, unless, of course, it’s Serge Plastikoff himself, then all is forgiven.

There are oh so many things that bother me about American theater, but I will keep that for another entry, when I am less drunk, besides America is not ze country I grew up in, so I need to show some class I might never have (smiley face).

The American theater is strangely stuck on this imaginary belief that what is written should always stay in the production. No, my Dear Darlings, a play or script is a blueprint for a production, simple as that. Why do so many directors return to Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov or Ibsen? Because all these writers left their plays as blueprints with written ideas in it. The most successful play writers will be the ones who write their plays leaving space for interpretation.

When I take on a play to direct, first I look for how I could express what hurts me now and the society. I ask the question: “Is this play relevant today?” I read plays as drafts to express something other than what is written. It is sometimes very tedious work to do, but every director looks for that perfect blueprint to be able to build a house which is the play/performance/show.

Let me say it straight: if you don’t trust directors, actors, designers, composers and all the collaborative effort that goes into producing your play, then don’t ducking do it. Write a novel or a short story or something. Theater is collaboration; nobody wants to deal with your big ego. If you know how your play should be done, then do it yourself, by yourself and to yourself because you will never have a great production when collaboration is absent.

After reading a few thoughts you expressed, My Dear Writers, on one message board or another I got this strange feeling that you are missing something very important about theater arts. I will repeat: it sounds like some of you don’t even know how theater actually works. Have you made any effort to research and read about successful theater groups? Have you asked yourself why certain authors and their plays are being produced year after year after year? What makes a great play? Have you researched how Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Ibsen wrote their works?

Oh, I know I will be attacked as another one who doesn’t respect the sacredness of writers and their works. Darlings, I don’t care, there are plenty of works that just wait for my drunken mind to get mixed in. You should look forward to seeing productions that make your work exciting, because they open something you hadn’t thought while writing it. All those different interpretations and the decisions others make while working with your play should be your priority, not the offensive mess you see when a director decides to remove one or another scene or word.

How many times were the works of Shakespeare, Molière, Ibsen, Chekhov cut, rearranged, or rewritten? All that business only made their plays more interesting and exciting even in some high school productions. There were/are so many interpretations of “Hamlet” alone that a play writer who wrote a play like this could live for hundreds of years on stage. Oh, that’s right, Shakespeare did it and he is somehow still relevant. Point blank, if you want to be as good as Shakespeare, be prepared to see your favorite scenes, words and what not cut from your play, because somebody saw something else in your work.

A play is incomplete without a live performance. Without that live breath it is nothing. It should inspire directors, actors, designers, musicians and other writers to come back to it time and time again, unless you want to be a legend in your own living room (thank you, Madame Lennox).

Directors are not your enemies. They are messengers who decipher your message and deliver it to the audiences, through the actors and production.

Actors are not invaders of your plays. They are the ones who give your words life. You should cherish and trust them. They take your characters on themselves and live the life you wrote for them on the stage.

Designers and musicians dress and move your written words with their imagination.

In short, you all should strive to have as many different approaches to your work as possible and let go of your ego. The tree which is the most flexible survives the many storms ahead.

Do you need more convincing? Okay, let’s see how Shakespeare became who she/he/they became.

You see, to this day it is unclear if it was one writer who wrote all these plays. What we know is that somebody recorded the text. Shakespeare’s success is in a collaborative process that was developed on the stage. The texts allow us to re-imagine who one or another character was. Romeo and Juliet have been a boy and a girl, a boy and a boy, a girl and a girl, or a giraffe and an elephant in many productions since the actual work was written. Still, “Romeo and Juliet” is and will always be “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare could care less if his/her/their text is re-arranged and re-imagined by generations and generations to come. It is still an ageless story, a blueprint many directors will return to for many years.

Let’s look at Molière now. He wrote his plays while performing and directing them himself. He “borrowed” from Commedia dell’Arte, Marlowe and what and who not. He made those plays his own, because he was not afraid to let his ego go when there were audiences involved. What he cared about was the performance.

Chekhov had Stanislavski himself to direct his plays. I don’t need to tell you what it meant to him when Nemirovich-Danchenko, after “The Seagull” (my favorite play by Chekhov, by the way) flopped, told Stanislavski that he should direct the play. The production directed by Stanislavski returned Chekhov to fame in theater. Do you think it is an accident? Oh Darlings, you haven’t experienced theater the way it is with all its magic and…

And here comes Ibsen, the one that has been produced as often as Shakespeare. While employed at Det Norske Theater in Bergen, Ibsen was involved in many plays as writer, director, and producer, and even though he didn’t become a successful playwright at that time, all this collaborative experience helped in his writings later on. When actors speak the words I wrote, I feel where I made mistakes and I let them correct me with their inner voices.

Sometimes, when I am tremendously bored with directing I become an actor… or is it the other way around, I don’t remember now. I show my doubts while working on one or another character in a play. One day I decided to write my own play and, on top of it, I decided to direct that play too. I had one of my bastard actors question the words I had written the same way I was questioning somebody else’s work when I was acting. I let him change my words the way he felt it fit his character, just later for him to realize that what I wrote was correct and he wanted to return to that original text. I took it, of course, as a huge compliment, but still let him know that I was “open” for his interpretation, because he was “feeling” my words on the stage. I know I know I am so giving and forgiving. You can put your flower into my limo. Thank you!

So, My Dear Darlings, if you get offended by somebody interpreting your written words on the stage you should probably choose another way of expressing yourself, because theater is fluid, theater is flexible and most importantly, theater is collaborative. Boom! The news splash for you? I hope not!

You want to be another Ibsen, Chekhov, Molière or Shakespeare? Meet the live theater and people who are eager to change your written words. Believe me, you will gain a lot from it and who knows, collaborations might make you another great playwright. Break a leg and keep it broken in appreciation that somebody is inspired by your writings. Plastikoff’s out. No, I mean I am out of Port. Tah-da!

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