Wednesday, November 15, 2006

SLP 365Days with the USA vs Home Truths

On Nov 14, 2006, at 11:56 AM, F. A. asked re: my comments on SLP 365

A distraction from what?
So it's an unconventional way to do a play (or 365 of them). Does
that mean it's a"stunt?" I really believe theatres are involved because they think it's a cool project.

A distraction from our primary mission as a lab for R & D in human consciousness.

Sorry: for me "cool project" and "stunt" seem synonymous. I have seen and enjoyed local productions of some of Parks' plays, and read others. When she is in residence at MIT next year, I hope there will be public presentations that prompt dialogue with the community. But the 365 Project just doesn't seem urgent to me: Why this? Why here? Why now? I want "my" theatre to be original and intensely local-- a face to
face examination of our mutual lives. For Boston to matter in theatre, there must be Boston/Massachusetts matter, and some distinctive Boston/Massachusetts styles. When Red states use Massachusetts or Boston as labels for all that is wrong with America
-- liberalism, elitism, permissiveness, etc... they have an image of us. So do movies like The Departed, set among Southie mobsters, or a TV series like Boston Legal, which draws on the idea of Massachusetts as a place hospitable to intellectual argument and casual sex and hostile to corporations and hypocrisy. We should be holding up the mirror to ourselves, discovering for ourselves what is really here to
celebrate or satirize. What we express with local content within metaphorical structures then becomes "universal" because it serves for comparison. Set it next to "Chicago" theatre and "Irish" and "Jewish" and "Gay" theatre and we're all better able to figure out who we are and how we got that way.
What's peculiar to Boston? Well, our "Barney Frank" is a boogyman conservatives use to scare their constituents into giving money and turning out to vote-- to me Barney, my representative in Congress, is the democratic ideal: a person that I am so confident is devoted to the Common Good that when I discover that I disagree with him on an issue, I assume that I'd better reconsider. What's the local Barney Factor, that makes his public service both possible and fraught? How is it that Massachusetts, proportionally very Catholic, was the first state to legalize gay marriage and continues by a narrow margin to support it? When I moved to Boston in the late 60's, straight out of college, Massachusetts was represented by the first-- and for a long time the only-- African-American senator since Reconstruction: a
Republican. A few years later the bussing crisis revealed unplumbed depths of racist rage and Boston became a city notorious for bigotry. Last week Massachusetts, with a population only 10% black, elected an African-American Governor by a landslide. Where are the plays that chronicle this extraordinary and iconic journey? I have
no doubt that there are playwrights here who have begun work on some--- but where is the local theatre to develop and produce them? 150,000 demonstrators-- out of a population of 500,000-- converged on Boston Common to protest the Iraq war before it began. Why were we, as a community, uniquely right about what would happen if the US
invaded Iraq? Hare's "Stuff Happens" is running here now: sold out and about to be extended. Too bad we didn't produce a home-grown version in 2003, and send it out around the country-- certainly some of us were writing them. What's peculiar about Massachusetts? We have low church membership, yet the lowest divorce rate, and we're
less fat than every one but Oregonians: what is that all about? Like politics, theatre is local. The only way we can address the universal dramatically is by testing the particulars of experience through the "imitation of an action", and judge the consequences in the context of a community. Over time, when people have long term collegial relationships that amount to a continuing conversation, we will develop a common artistic vocabulary. We'll contest, correct, and encourage each other, and begin to be able to tell when we're telling the truth and when we're recycling fashionable crap. Then, maybe, Boston will have a "there" there, and have something to say to the country and the world.

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