Thursday, March 16, 2006

Considering a Break

The blogosphere has turned blood-thirsty of late, and I find myself more and more exhausted by it. Initially, I thought the discussion of the Rachel Corrie controversy interesting and worthwhile, but I more and more I find myself reminded of the scene with the rake-wielding villagers at the end of Frankenstein. Perhaps this is just my own intellectual fatigue. But yesterday, when I hit "Enter" on a snotty reply at George's blog (which he has gracefully removed at my request), I realized that I am out of gas. The past week, I have tried to post things on theatre in general (Maxwell Anderson, Derek Walcott), but I find the environment right now unconducive to these kinds of posts, which are more reflective than impassioned. I click from blog to blog where in the past I found sustenance, and instead I find brawls and howls of outrage repeated ad infinitum. I am out of step, and too tired to present an alternative. It may be time for a break.


parabasis said...

Hey Scott,

It's always good to take breathers when you find the vitriol and bile rising to spill out of your fingers into the interweb. I've created a strict comments policy for myself that demands that I stay respectful at all times, no matter how vigorously I'm disagreeing with someone. This respect is not something I've always extended you here on your site, and i'm sorry about that.

I will say that I disagree with your characterization of our dialogue as "blood thirsty" or of us in the theater blogosphere as "rake wielding villagers". No one has called for boycotts, and no one has called for Jim Nicola to be fired. No one has asked people to write to board members or looked up their home phone numbers, as bloggers have been known to do over political issues in the past. There hasn't even been an organized letter writing campaign. (I will say that of all of this, only the last one would I support). And I only know of one blogger who has expressed a desire to punish NYTW, and they were drunk at the time, so I'm going to discount that one.

People want an explanation, and people want the play to happen. And they are voicing this vigorously. I'm really not trying to pick a fight here with you but I'm curious as to what *specifically* you see as reflective of a violent mob mentality?

The reason why I ask the question is not to ask you to back up your assertion with evidence (there's no reason for you to justify it, it's your opinion and you're entitled to it) but to try to see this through your eyes, and see what it is that's distasteful about it to you, specifically.

Thansk for your time!

Zay Amsbury said...

Come over to my house. We keep things nice there.

Scott Walters said...

Thanks, Isaac, it's a good question. I think what is bothering me is not that people are taking a stand on this issue -- I took one myself that was pretty condemnatory of the decision -- but that there seems to be an expectation that Nicola not only explain the decision, but to explain it in a specific way and announce a specific action. And when his statements are somewhat less than a falling on his sword, the cacophony grows louder and louder. I suspect that there are certain legal issues involving the production that might be leading Nicola to avoid directly admitting error. I have no evidence for this -- just a conjecture. But regardless, it seems that no matter what he says, it isn't good enough for the blogosphere. It feels to me like blogosphere muscle flexing -- like we're intent on getting the attention of what we apparently think of as the Big Boys by raising a hue and cry. I thought it was worthwhile at first -- now it seems self-aggrandizing.

P'tit Boo said...

Scott, I am sorry to hear this. I hope you find ways to recharge.

Isaac said what I wanted to say about the Rachel Corrie issue and also I don't believe anyone is blood thirsty in our little community.
Look at all the great stuff about the new playwright that's floating around ? It's exciting stuff.

And I think George still makes posts that are reflective ( Kate Valk ? ) and others as well.

I love having you as part of the conversation and what I have loved in this blogger community is the diversity of age , experience and opinions.

I understand being tired and needing a break. But please don't blame it on the community. I am pretty sure i can speak for all of us by saying we enjoy having you be a part of it.

Your involvement sure has taken much energy while teaching ! I can't find enough time and energy for everything either sometimes...

Do what you need and come back refreshed !

Scott Walters said...

p-tit boo -- I'm not blaming the blogosphere really, but the level of intensity, on almost every issue, wears me down trying to meet it. The Racel Corrie stuff is just the final, extended scrum that has worn me out. Blogging may be a young person's game, I don't know. Apparently, the theatre blogosphere, through George and Playgoer, have finally gotten recognition from the media, and I guess that's good. We wanted to make a difference. I just wish the difference was about something more positive and nuanced. It is rather sad to see what everyone considers an important theatre brought to its knees over a single decision. It seems short-sighted, somehow. But again, I may be showing my age -- I lived through the sixties, and watched people dismantle and ridicule civility in order to make a point. The point was right, of course, but the long-term effect has been the continued diminishment of civility in discourse. I'm old enough the remember when "Firing Line" not only was intellectual, but civil -- intellectual rapiers, not cudgels accompanied by shouting.

Ah, I'm just tired and depressed. I'll wake tomorrow after a night's sleep and find myself itching to post something again. But today, I feel like curling up with a good book and pondering...

Alison Croggon said...

I too am sorry to hear you sounding dispirited, Scott. May you recharge those batteries! I've enjoyed making a nuisance of myself on your blog; it strikes me as a very successful one. Just as a matter of interest, how old are you? (I realise it's an impertinent question, so you don't need to answer). You often talk about yourself as if you're Methuselah. (For the record, I'm 43. A Woman of a Certain Age...)

Maybe it's because I have seen many many stoushes on poetry lists in the past decade which have been less than edifying, so I know how ugly cyber discussion can get, but one thing I really like about the theatre blogosphere is, in fact, its civility: almost without exception, the people I read here are curious, polite and articulate. Argumentative, sure, but I personally find that stimulating. I've seen hardly any ad hominem: the only one I remember was a post on, I think, Matt Freeman's blog attacking George. I certainly don't get the "waving pitchforks" picture.

Me, I think the difference the blogs are making is positive, but at the moment I am not happy with the status quos of various kinds that I see around me.

Scott Walters said...

Alison -- Thank you for your concern -- I am 47. Not old as Methusaleh, but about this time of the school year I feel as if all the marrow has been sucked out of my bones. This is partly because of the way I teach, which is very much engaged with students through discussion. What often bothers me is the hopelessness and despair I see in young people. I continue to go to my emotional well to try to encourage them to face the world's demons, to have faith in themselves, to find a purpose for their lives as artists and human beings. But about this time of the year, my well starts to go dry.

This year, it is also the demands of the university getting me down. I serve on far too many committees and task forces, and coordinating the box office for my department and overseeing scholarship interviews. All of this keeps me from reading and thinking and writing. By this time of the year, I start to feel used by the institution, and I become frustrated.

My emotions feel very raw right now, so the Rachel Corrie thing is taking a lot out of me. I keep looking for someone who has a positive vision about theatre, one that I can find energy in. But what I mostly find is anger and frustration, and a rejection of the things I hold most dear.

I'm not looking for sympathy, or saying that people should change what they are doing because I'm feeling glum -- I'm just trying to explain where I am right now.

I worry that if I stop writing, I won't come back. The time that I spend reading the blogs and writing will end up sucked up by the administrative and service responsibilities, and not go toward thought.

Like I say, a good night's sleep may restore my equilibrium. Right now, I find myself apprehensive as I visit the blogs, fearing that I will find another broadside that I'm not able to handle right now.

I probably sound pathetic -- certainly not my usual combative self. I've just run out of juice.

Alison Croggon said...

I know that feeling all too well. I was very close to burnout last year. But don't stay away too long...

But I do see a lot of positive energy on the blogs. The current very interesting discussion on poetry in theatre is one example.

Btw, I just wanted to clarify that I didn't mean, in my post above, that Matt F himself attacked George: it was a poster in his comments section. As is, it's rather ambiguous.

John Branch said...

"Sleep...knits up the raveled sleeve of care" (somewhere in Shakespeare). I recommend it.

Freeman said...

George and I actually met for drinks with Isaac Butler one night and buried the hatchet.

Between, of course, each other's eyes.

He's a fine gentlemen. He said he was surprised I wasn't more mean. It's all well and good.

Blogs are an odd thing. We're all figuring it out.

And with that, I return to work.

Scott, you're a good man. One way to feel better is to have your say and then simply don't defend yourself if you don't feel like it. Since when does everyone have to agree?

George Hunka said...

I'm very sorry to hear that you're feeling this way, Scott. If I seem overly vociferous or even hostile on some points, it's largely because I feel it important to indicate that this isn't merely about one theater, one system of thought, one ideology or aesthetic, but because it displays what I see as a systemic dysfunction in the roles that theater plays in this country and community. Not that I am going to save it -- I have no messianic inclinations, and we all know what happens to messiahs -- but only to leave doors open for all work.

And as loud as this has gotten, it has drawn attention to us so that we can now move ahead. As Alison mentioned, those new visitors to Superfluities and our other blogs are now finding, instead of all-Corrie-all-the-time coverage, a terrifically engaging dialogue about tragedy and lyricism. This is not as sensational as the NYTW story, and chances are we won't keep all these new readers, but we will keep some of them. And so the possibility exists for these concerns that they, too, will affect the way people think about theater and its potential in their lives.

Which is why I hope you stay in the mix.

MattJ said...

See how much we love you Scott. 11 Comments on a short post about you considering a hiatus!

But seriously, take the time you need to charge the batteries, it's important. But when you return to us know that we will receive you with open arms, open minds, and a strong desire to colloborate and communicate with you about this wonderful art form we've all chosen as theatre artists.

Why Palestinians Usually Get It Wrong said...

Remembering Rachel Corrie - A Supporter of Terrorism

Three years ago Thursday, Rachel Corrie was accidentally killed by an Israeli bulldozer after she entered a closed Israeli military zone to protect Palestinian homes that were sitting on top of tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to smuggle illegal weapons to be used against Israeli civilians. Rachel Corrie was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISD), a firm supporter of Palestinian terrorism (what the ISD calls “resistance”), “by any means necessary.”

There has been a lot of heated debated about the New York Theater Workshop’s recent postponement of the play, My Name Is Rachel Corrie.Some folks have suggested that the theatre caved intoIsrael supporters. Other, more paranoid types, have suggested that the infamous “Israel Lobby” had something to do with the postponement.

The photogrpahs on the right show Rachel Corrie burning an American flag to show her support of Palestinians and choosing to lay in front of an Israeli Bulldozer in the hopes of protecting tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists to smuggle illegal weapons.

One of the reasons that the Israeli army closed the area that was being bulldozed was because Palestinian snipers often shoot at bulldozer crews. This endagers not only Israelis, but "peace activists" as well. Palestinian terrorism insures that Israeli bulldozers have very litlte visibility because of the need to protect the driver with metal shielding. Ms. Corrie chose to lay down in front of a bulldozer. Her act was not one of peace, but of suicide. Clearly Ms. Corrie spent too much time in the company of suicide killers and their supporters.

Perhaps the New York Theater Workshop simply realized that they did not want to be associated with Rachel Corrie because Ms. Corrie supported terrorism and allowed herself, either knowingly or unknowingly, to protect Palestinian terrorists. Perhaps the theatre company did not want to be associated with Ms. Corrie because she was eager to publicly burn American flags. Or perhaps the theater simply did not want to be associated with the left’s obsession with supporting anti-Semitism.