Guardian on SLP 365
Most of the article is stuff that's already been brought up, but the last few
Metzgar and Parks have made the work as accessible as possible. The performance rights cost just $1 a play and all shows must be free to
the public, with most of the cost of mounting a production falling to the performers. The two appear to have tapped into a great need in US theatre: participants seem to value the collaborative aspect above anything else. "I've been working in theatre in San Francisco for 16 years and I'm discovering companies I hadn't heard of," says Lisa Steindler of Z Space.
But in spite of the group-hug dynamic, doubts about the artistic coherence of the whole project have crept in. With low or non- existent production budgets and truncated rehearsal times, there's no guarantee that every production will be as good as the next, or that it will be what Parks intended. "I'm still scared the plays will be badly directed," says Steindler.
Then there's the issue of how audiences will perceive the playwright's work. Parks is known as much for her postmodern approach to language (one play called 9-11 features two characters on stilts saying the German word "nein" 11 times), as she is for her caustic commentary on race, history and myth. As such, while she is often
extremely funny, Parks' work is hardly easy viewing - and the 365 plays, with their references to Chekhov, politics and the dramatist's previous work, are no exception.
Still, no matter how haphazardly the plays are staged and how baffled they leave their audiences, Parks' imprimatur gets them serious attention. "I would be a lot more suspicious of the project if a less gifted and important playwright were involved," says Alisa Solomon, arts journalism professor at Columbia University and former theatre critic for the Village Voice. Plus, there's something rather moving -
sacred even - about Parks' year-long play-writing quest. "I would sit down at my desk," she says, "raise my arms in the air, wiggle my fingers in a gesture I like to call 'tickling the balls of God', and ask myself, 'What is the play today?' And out something would come."
Rustling up a drama every 24 hours wasn't always easy. Parks frequently found herself writing in hotel rooms at 2am, and even penned one play in the security line at Heathrow. At times, the ideas just didn't flow. You can tell the playwright was having a bad day when you come across titles such as Going Through the Motions, Empty, and, most emphatically, This Is Shit. But she kept going. "There were days when I just wasn't feeling it. I'd question my motives, but I'd still do it anyway," she says. "Writing is a spiritual practice. It's only by sticking with it that you get to the good stuff."