Showing posts from September 3, 2006

Billy Elliot

This will be a bit more personal a post that readers of this blog are used to... I just finished showing the film Billy Elliot to my freshmen honors colloquium on the Hero's Journey in film. It is an amazing film, and I am certain that it is every bit as amazing onstage. I have seen it before, and each time I find more beautiful details in the performances.

Billy's story is my own. I grew up in an industrial town in Wisconsin surrounded by factories, tool and die shops, and taverns. My mother didn't go beyond the eighth grade, and my father finished high school and worked as a bookkeeper in a small factory that made guns; my grandfather had been a lumberjack when young, then oversaw the power plant at the J. I. Case tractor factory in town until heart problems forced him to retire a few months shy of receiving a pension.

Like Billy, for me the arts were a way to escape. While I did not have to overcome the resistance from the family that Billy did, nevertheless for a b…

Taking Aim At Isherwood

The blogosphere is taking aim, and with reason, at Christopher Isherwood's recent article on political theatre in the NY Times. Garret Eisler, George Hunka, and Isaac Butler each do a fine enough job dismantling Isherwood's woefully broken-backed article (did two different people write the first half and the last half of the article? [I refuse to call it a think piece]) that one is tempted to simply write "ditto" and save the effort it takes to write. As one who teaches theatre history, I am baffled by Isherwood's idea that people go to the theatre solely for "entertainment," and even more inexplicably that "entertainment" is the equivalent of "pleasantness." Is The Oresteia pleasant? Yet thousands of Greeks flocked to see it. Is there anything pleasant about Macbeth or Titus Andronicus or Doctor Faustus or The Duchess of Malfi? Yet the Elizabethans were there en masse. Is there anything jolly about Phaedra or The Cid? Yet…

Is It?

"Is it too much to ask of performance, that it teach us to love and to link us with the world, as well as to see and to think critically about social relations?"

--Jill Dolan, Utopia in Performance