Showing posts from January 22, 2006

Spirit Shared

Susan Glaspell, quoting George Cook of the Provincetown Players:"On man cannot produce drama. True drama is born only of one feeling animating
all the members of a clan -- a spirit shared by all and expressed by the few for
the all. If there is nothing to take the place of the common religious purpose
and passion of the primitive group, out of which the Dionysian dance was born,
no new vital drama can arise in any people."


Almost twenty years ago, I dropped out of an MFA program because they kept me so busy with production that there was no time to think. I came to the program hoping to learn new ideas, discover new approaches, develop my own unique aesthetic within a larger context. But instead, I found myself stage managing, directing constantly, and learning "technique." I decided this was no way to become an artist, it was just the way to become another cog in the theatrical machinery.

Over at, I find that the non-thinking attitude is still prevalent. I a comment on an admirable post called "Teaching is Power," Lucas Krech writes: "What makes you good is doing it. If you want to be a writer write. If you want to be a director direct. Reading can’t teach you how to write, it can only teach you how other people write, except that writing is a process not a product, so reading only teaches you what other people produce."

Yes, you must practice your craft, but …

Chekhov's Words to His Brother

Stolen from (a blog I recommend highly, and I thank Matt Freeman for pointing me to). A letter from Chekhov to his brother:

You are easy enough to understand…. Others are not to blame if you do not understand yourself….
If you want proof that I understand you, I can even enumerate… In my estimation you are good to a fault, generous, not an egoist; you will share your last kopek with others, you are sincere; you are free from envy and hatred, open-hearted… You have been gifted from above with something most others lack: talent…
You only have one failing. But in it lies the source of your false position, your misery… That failing is an utter lack of culture… Your talent has thrust you into [a] charmed circle, you belong to it, but…you are impelled away from it.
In my opinion people of culture must meet the following reqiusites:
1. They respect the human personality and are therefore always forbearing, gentle, courteous and compliant…
2. They sympathize not only with beggars and…

More on Chekhov

Devilvet (see blogroll) commented on my post below entitled "Chekhov and Condemnation." He writes:

"After more thought, I'm sort of confused at the point of this story or more accurately, how this story proves your point. What you see as accepting, gentle nature...I see as pandering. When I read this story I see a tale about three women who are asking difficult questions that they don't fully grasp, and the person they come to for enlightenment or enabling, giving them an out. 'Ladies you aren't as interested in geo-politics as you should be, so let's talk about candy.'"

He asks more questions, which I will address anon, but let's start with this one. When I read Gorky's story, I see three women who have come to visit the Famous Author and are trying to talk about things they think he would want to talk about -- things that are "important." Chekhov relieves them of this necessity and puts them at their ease by asking them…

Friend and Doctor

Matthew Freeman has done a beautiful, beautiful job elaborating on my post below. Hi spost, "Friend, Doctor, Artist" is most eloquent. I recommend it highly.

Chekhov and Condemnation

The comments on my post below, "Narcotized Stupors," were so thoughtful, insightful, and kind I must move them from the background and into an "up-front" post.

Devilvet wrote: "What's wrong with condemnation? "If that art wakens the spirit only to condemn it...that seems wrong, somehow." What about If that art condemns the absence or bastardization of the spirit in hopes to awaken." And he continued: "I can see how taking the attitude that They with a capital T are narcotized could lead to a position of superiority by the artist that if perceived by the audience would distance them significantly. But is condemnation synonymus with alienation? Can an artistic endevour compartmentize it's condemnation?"

Allison Croggon: "I'm not sure that those who are not awake to (say) the suffering of others can really posit themselves as victims. And some things need to be condemned, because they (by default) condemn others in very re…

Narcotized Stupors

From "The Candy Monkey Raves," by Steve Almond, in the Jan-Feb '06 Utne Magazine:

"But one of the functions of art (yes, even popular art) is to call people out of their narcotized stupors, to raise people's consciousness, to awaken their capacities for compassion. William Faulkner probably put this best in his 1950 Nobel Prize speech: 'The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man; it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.'"

I have been puzzling over this paragraph. I agree heartly with Faulkner, and with Almond's idea that the arts "raise people's consciousness...[and] awaken their capacities for compassion," but I'm uncomfortable with the attitude that the phrase "narcotized stupor" seems to suggest. To some extent, I think it is true -- I think our contemporary society, with its speed and volume, with its lack of time to reflect, its rampant materialism, and its constant pre…

On Exploring, Instead of Arguing

George has taken issue with my post "The Totalitarian Narrative Indeed," and I can't blame him. Lately, he has been posting strong, well-considered statements about his aesthetic preferences, and every time he gets one set up, I come in and try to knock it down. A month ago, I was posting my own such statements, and I became very despondent when the only thing that happened was a series of comments and posts telling me I was wrong and evil. It is difficult to bear one's soul through one's ideas and find that you are attacked and rejected.

Why do we do that? Why do we look at the exchange of ideas as a form of pugilism? When somebody advances an idea, why is our first impulse to look for the weakness and faults, rather than explore the possibilities that the ideas present? Sometimes it seems like we prefer circular firing squads. I certainly am not free of this impulse.

Yes, challenging an idea can cause the original author to think more deeply, and perhaps emerge w…