Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Edward Albee and other distractions

Is anybody reading this? Eh.

I spent most of my afternoon thumbing through course catalogs and schedules, trying to figure out what to do about this upcoming year. The result? Even if I only major in Theatre and get no other minor, I won't be graduating in the spring of 2010. Here's to the class of 2011, I guess. And that's enough about that.

I read a play this week that I found particularly interesting: "The Goat, or Who is Silvia?" by Edward Albee. He also wrote - among many others - "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woof," which I read back in 2007 and would like to read again soon after reading "The Goat." The very small amount of information supplied by my textbook about Albee gave me a bit of insight into his work overall. An absurdist playwright, Albee had an extreme dislike for conventional heterosexual marriage, and, for the most part, all things considered conventional in modern American life. "The Goat" certainly attacks conventional morals and marriage - the play follows Martin, a successful architect, who has just admitted to his best friend that he is having an affair with a goat named Sylvia. Obviously, his best friend is repulsed by this and immediately writes a letter to Martin's wife, Stevie, letting her in on the affair. From there, the play gets pretty bizarre. Emotions run high and irreversible damage is done to their marriage as Martin and Stevie confront the existence of Sylvia. Meanwhile, they deal with their 17 year old gay son, Billy, who is called a stupid faggot by both his father and his father's friend. To make a long story short, nobody comes out of this play remotely happy.

As the play develops, each of the family members (and Martin's friend, Ross) must confront their values and ideals and are left grasping at answers for what is right and what is wrong. They are emotionally charged characters who are torn between instinctual lust (or is it love?) and the restraints that society has put upon them - in this way, Albee seems to be asking his audience to reflect on their own values, too. How can we define love, and how can we define the role of sex within love? Sex, as a symbol, is extremely important in both modern society and in Albee's play, but perhaps for different reasons within each. The play's final scene, in which the son forgives his father for his actions and they share an embrace with evolves into a sensual kiss in front of Ross, is especially heartbreaking and somewhat repulsive, but at the same time it is very poignant. It stirs up a lot of questions and emotions and, for me, the answers are not readily available. The play takes time to digest and, as soon as possible, I hope to find someone else who is familiar with this play so that I can discuss it further.

After reading this play, I feel that I will definitely be reading more of Albee's work this semester as well as adding him to the list of playwrights I want to explore in my independent study I'm planning. It is my hope to work with a few dedicated students this spring on a research project that will examine modern/post-modern theatre in the US and in Europe. I want to compare and contrast their playwrights, styles, and themes, and, as a final project, present some sort of lecture which would include scene work from key playwrights and their respective plays that would represent the body of work we studied as a whole. I'm working with one of my professors, Lisa Kornetsky, on filling in the blanks and coming up with a better angle for this project, but for now that is my main objective. I really enjoy working with classical text, but I've found a niche with modern playwrights that I want to continue researching. I find modern drama to be more immediately relevant to today's issues and am also interested in learning more about how the boundaries of theatre performance are being crossed by current playwrights and their styles.

In other news, my writing has come to a bit of a standstill. I haven't done any writing in the last few days, and it certainly is apparent. I need to get back in the habit of writing a few pages every day to keep my brain well lubricated. I actually just read an article in the paper about Julie Powell, who provides the inspiration for the new film Julie and Julia. The film is based on the book, which is based on the blog written by Powell during the year she decided to cook every single one of Julia Child's recipes within 365 days. In the article, Powell explained that the blog gave her a chance to hone her writing skills and become confident in her writing. She hadn't planned on making a movie, or even being a cook, she just wanted to become a writer and the blog helped her cultivate her talents. I don't really know if I'll see the movie, but I thought the article was interesting anyhow.

I wish I could be a writer, too. But, of course, the best way to become something is to just do what it takes to get there. So, here I am. Something I read in The Gift recently reminds me of my current problem as a writer (I'm nearing the end of the book - hopefully I'll be done by middle of next week). In one section of the book, Hyde discusses the role of will power in the work of an artist. He explains that the initial inspiration for art must arrive when the will is suspended; an artist who forces or wills creation will not develop anything worth while. It is after the inspiration that will power comes into play because, more often than not, inspiration arrives in small snippets without any real coherence. An artist must piece them together to create a cohesive piece.

This is definitely my main problem right now. My play, as an example, came to me over many days of random "inspiration;" scenes and moods popped into my head at the strangest of times, and i often had to scramble to grab pen and paper to scribble them down before they disappeared. Although I saw how they could all fit together, the blanks still needed a bit of filling and, of course, nothing came to me in an order that made sense. I was very excited during this period. I thought I was really on to something and piled up a great deal of ideas, dialogue, and other nonsense. But when I sat down two days ago to begin the process of tieing things together, fleshing out characters, or even creating some sort of throughline for the story, I felt like someone threw a wrench into my machinery and I was all jammed up. I'm up against self-doubt, a short attention span, and many other outside forces that could hinder me from stringing my ideas together. My hope is that I can start writing about a page or two a day for this play, not necessarily in any order, but just expanding sections I've already roughed out, with the hope that it will get easier every day. I may start writing here every day, too. But if I do, I will be cutting back on how much I write. I need to learn to be more succinct - think a thought, develop it, and share it, simply and without too much superfluous language.

Will power, man. Will power.

That's all for now. I hope things get a bit more exciting in the days to come, though I'm sure they won't. Hopefully next week I'll have some short story or section of my play to share here.

Moving back to Racine in about 16 days, though. Weird.

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