Friday, February 02, 2007


I am going to be in NYC later this month -- Feb 22 - 25 -- to attend the International Conference on Arts and Society. Any recommendations as to what I ought to see? A few groundrules:

1. No one-person shows. Back in the 90s when I was a grad student, I was really jazzed about one-person plays, because I thought they possessed a more dynamic and flexible theatricality. Now they just seem like theatre done on the cheap. I Am My Own Wife was fascinating, and would have been improved by a few more actors... So no, The Fever is out. In fact, having at least three actors is a definite plus.

2. I'm going to be there with my wife and her cousin, so I'm not looking for obscurity and/or disgust. If it's up to me, Mr. Sleepy can snooze to his heart's content. And anything that looks like this I'll take a rain check on. They are both smart, knowledgeable women -- and each have a wicked tongue when they feel the Emperor is unclad.

3. I do like to see things that display theatrical imagination -- i.e., that take advantage of the fact that there is a live audience, and that the theatre allows a great deal of imagery.

4. I'd lean away from a classic. I teach theatre history every day -- I'd like to see something newish. Unless there is a performance that is absolutely not to be missed.

5. If at all possible, I like to see something that didn't display the artistic version of the attitude of the itinerate evagelical: holier-than-thou preaching. Simplistic piety -- say, The Exonerated -- doesn't do much for me. I like plays that allow as how there might just be two sides to a particular issue, both of which are interesting. I love to discuss plays afterwards, and but it is hard to discuss moral melodramas.

That said, some of my favorite theatre experiences probably contradict the above:

I loved Wooster Group's Three Sisters -- especially the idea of having Solyoni played by televised clips from Godzilla films.

I was totally jazzed by Julie Taymor's Juan Darien.

I saw Mac Wellman's Crowbar multiple times.

I was fascinated by Peter Hall's Long Day's Journey Into Night.

And now you know why it is so hard for me to decide what shows to see -- everything contradicts itself.


David Cote said...

Unless you simply don't like Wallace Shawn's writing or acting, I wouldn't dismiss The Fever so quickly. I found it quite a satisfying theatrical experience. Not your typical one-man show. And you like what the Wooster Group and Wellman wear but call Foreman a naked Emperor? Interesting. My recommendations: The Pod Project (if it extends thru Feb), Translations is lovely and Spring Awakening is tons of fun.

Scott Walters said...

Yes, it is a contradiction. And the Wooster Group and Wellman pieces I mention may be idiosyncratic, and not characteristic examples. By the way, I saw Foreman's production of "Don Juan" at the Guthrie in the 80s, and was blown away, but his own work I find intentionally obscure, and hopelessly hopeless -- the mumblings of Krapp without the humor. Boy, "Spring Awakening" -- tons of fun indeed! *L* I've taught that play, and have a heard time imagining emerging from a performance feeling anything but utter despair. And frankly, I don't want theatre to do that to me. I am more interested in something along the line of Jill Dolan's "utopian performative."

David said...


You might be interested in RUS at HERE Arts Center (Feb 16-19 and 21-24). It's a retelling of the Icarus myth, written and with video by James Scruggs and directed by Kristin Marting (their last collaboration was on DISPOSABLE MEN a year or two back, and going out on tour in March.)

Full disclosure: while I'm not involved with the show, I'm good friends with (and a frequent collaborator of) pretty much everyone associated with the project. So take that for what it's worth.

I think that Kristin and James are doing some pretty interesting things with technology in the theater on this show, having created these "video puppets" -- a rig of 3 flat screen monitors that mount on the head and hands of each puppeteer, and receive video signals wirelessly. The video then functions as additional characters, or setting, or associative storytelling images.

Anyway, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the show.

THE POD PROJECT is also on my own to-see list.


Freeman said...

Interested in dinner?

Praxis Theatre said...

On a separate but somewhat related note comes this from the lastest post on our "Theatre is territory" blog.

Theatre Ideas
Scott Walters is an Associate Professor with the University of North Carolina’s Drama Department. Unlike some other theory blogs we’ve come across, Walters’ insightful "Theater Ideas" finds a nice balance between weighty theoretical discourse and clear and direct language. Frequent posts covering a wide range of theatre-related topics and a lively comments section makes this a worthwhile boomarker.

Scott Walters said...

Thanks for the recommendation! Freeman -- I want to get together with you. Right now, the schedule is unclear.