Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why don't Americans write big plays anymore?

Why don't Americans write big plays anymore?
I've written 8 big American plays -- which I define as plays that deal with public as well as private concerns and a cast that goes beyond a domestic circle, with subplots.  I've also written 4 modest-sized plays and 2 biggies set in England. Americans can't afford casts the size of Streetcar or Salesman-- the big cast social cross-section plays we get to see today mostly come from England, where they are pre-screened through success in a subsidized production. 

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

American Repertory Theatre appoints a woman AD!

I confess to being stunned by this news.  I have long fulminated that there is not a single female in a decision-making position at ART/Harvard, and the evidence is in the male-and-gay centered stuff-- plays, directors, number and substantiality of acting roles--  that fill their seasons year after year.  I don't know why women buy tickets, except that women are so conditioned to be interested in "people" that they often don't notice when  story tellers treat females as not-quite.
The next season is already far more female-friendly than any in memory, and I'll be watching eagerly to see how this goes.  I fear, of course, that critics will be hostile, audiences dwindle, and the experiment in inclusivity pronounced a failure. Below is the announcement that went out to the ARt email list: 

... exciting news to share with you. Today we named Diane Paulus as our new Artistic Director, the third in our twenty-eight year history. Diane’s relationship with the A.R.T. began over twenty years ago as an undergraduate at Harvard, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. In her words, “I feel my perspective on theatre was shaped by my years attending the A.R.T.” Diane has gone on to direct a distinguished repertoire of work that fuses together the traditional with contemporary and popular culture across a variety of genres, including theatre, opera, rock, musical theatre, and innovative jazz-inflected pieces. Her work has drawn acclaim from remarkably diverse audiences and critics around the world. Diane’s body of work includes:
The Donkey Show, a disco adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which ran for six years Off-Broadway and toured internationally

Another Country, a stage adaptation of the novel by James Baldwin at Riverside Church

Obie-award winning Eli’s Comin’, featuring the music and lyrics of Laura Nyro

40th Anniversary Concert Production of Hair in Central Park for the Public Theatre

Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro, Turn of the Screw, and Cosi Fan Tutte, all for the Chicago Opera Theater

The upcoming Kiss Me, Kate at the Glimmerglass Opera

Diane has asked me to share this statement with you:

“I am deeply honored to be appointed Artistic Director of the A.R.T. When I was a student at Harvard, there was no question A.R.T. was the most exciting and vibrant theater in America.  I am thrilled to build on that legacy, and lead the A.R.T. into the future, creating a home for the next generation of outstanding theatre artists who will redefine and revitalize the meaning of theatre for our society.”

I am both excited and proud to have an artist we helped nurture take the organization into a dynamic new era. Please join me in welcoming Diane into our growing family, and supporting her as she leads us down new artistic paths and reaffirms our dedication to creating the most compelling, thought-provoking theatre in the country.   

On behalf of everyone here at the A.R.T., I want to thank you for your support over the past several years. Now more than ever, we need to hear from you!  So please let us know your thoughts and feelings as we move forward.  And please join us in welcoming Diane back to Cambridge, and in celebrating the start of what promises to be an era of renewed artistic exploration and creativity!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Talk about Hot Actresses makes me hot under the collar

This week a theatre blog where the talk is generally serious got OT onto rating performers on hotness, and some playwrights and directors I have respect for got drawn arguing re: who they fantasize about and who they think is skanky or "past it".  I took  time off my heavy rehearsal schedule to rant against this: 

Must we have this conversation?  It is vulgar and offensive and most of what passes for evidence is junk science.   We just don't know enough about primate sexuality or the brain/body connections in humans to accurately describe what is going on in the parings and rankings we observe-- or even our own responses 

 The folk saying "it is just as easy to love a rich person as a poor one" is is true only so far as assuming any rewarded behavior is "easy".    If "attraction", or "hotness" refers to the sending and reception of hormonal signals (which are probably olfactory) we haven't figured out how to measure it or control for other variables. 

Marilyn Monroe said in an interview that when she was walking around the Village in glasses and a scarf and not "performing" Goddess Marilyn, nobody looked twice at her. Acting is believing is data. I do know that hotness, like other emotional signals, can be acted.  I'm not attractive, but I can play it on stage.  Imagination releases the hormones, and audience-- and scene partner's-- hormones respond.    Our ancestors called it "casting out lures".  Sometimes the effect carries over into "real life".  It happened to me recently: I performed in a show I first did 21 years ago, and managed to cast the necessary sensual spell.  As I walked down the street afterwards, men's heads turned and I felt that response I just don't get in my day to day existence.    I'm in my sixties, and I know what signals are no longer appropriate.  But it was really fun watching a month or two back  Jane Fonda turn them on for Steven Colbert and reduce him to a quivering  mass of  protoplasm.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A request that delights me...

Hi Ms. Horton :

I would very much like my English as second language students to stage (in  class) your plays next session (September 2008).

Students will present in small groups.  As they are Second language students, I thought it might be a good way for them (another way) to speak in English.  My question to you is the following :

Which plays would be best suited for college level students who are looking at themes like censorship, reality TV and mindless entertainment, happiness, ecological footprint, relationships, love… etc…?

Thank you for getting back to me.


ESL teacher

College Edoaurd Montpetit

Longueuil, Quebec

I hope I answered this!  I was in production at the time and very busy...

I'd be delighted for your classes to use my material.  There are short synopses of each play in the alphabetical listing.

No plays about TV, however.  Reality interests me more -- although I'm a fan of David Kelly, laughed myself silly over Allie MacBeal and now watch Boston Legal with great pleasure.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Orphan Works Bill - author's opinion

I'm getting emails urging me o "tOke action"The changes in the copyright laws proposed under the new "Orphan

Works" bill have been released and it will affect your creative career!

Write your Reps and Senators.

Refer to Bill H.R. 5889 when writing a House Rep.

Refer to Bill S. 2913 when writing a Senator.

Same Orphan Works bill, different #'s for Senate and House.

A colleague writes:

"If this is a hoax I want to know, if not-I want to do something.

I just received the email (below my signature) and wondered if anyone else has heard of this. (I am usually the last person to find out stuff or hear gossip.) If this is something that has been discussed, junk the email. If this is new to the rest of you, please check it out and send it on to as many artists and writers and creative people as you possibly can.

It is very disturbing to think that our hard work could be used and claimed by others if this goes through."

BUT:  I'm on the other side of this one: to me these "rights" are Wrong! I think the opposition to this law is from publishers and other middle-men who want to limit what art is available to that which currently makes money for THEM.  Copyright has been extended to a creation-killing degree.  Under this law, once something is out of print and the author cannot be found, it will go to Public Domain-- as all published material did after set term for most of the history of copyright (which is a small part of the history of creativity).  26 years, 52 years, was long enough!  I've been waiting my whole adult life to do a dramatization of a novel written before I was born and out of print for many years-- and each time I think the copyright will expire, lobbyists extend it!  Now I know I will die before that story is free to be used.   Under this new law, IF the author or heir is living and wants to reclaim the Orphan, s/he may do so -- but otherwise the the next generations of artists (and more importantly, readers) will have access to "orphan" work-- as our parents and grandparents and forebears did.  Lengthly copyright is a phenomenon of OUR  deprived generation! Publishers who would be willing to print on-demand a long out of print work by a dead author, composers who would like to adapt it for a musical or opera, are prevented from doing so now because a commercial enterprise "owns" the rights.  No publisher or adapter of an "orphan" will be able to "claim" another's work: the original author will be credited and acknowledged: s/he simply is not around to collect royalties or give permission for adaptations.  It  breaks the "If our company can't make enough money from this work, we won't let anybody else distribute it-- after all, it would be "competing" with the authors we ARE marketing these days!" attitude.    Otherwise, Disney will "own" the fairy tales and stories they stole from Public Domain forever after.  I'm for "copyleft" and a generous Public Domain for our grandchildren. 

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Our Voices Together II

Our Voices Together II
2008 ICWP Showcase of Playwrights' Platform Women Writers's New Work
May 17th, 7:00pm Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre, Wellesley College, MA.
Free and open to the public. See some of the Boston area's best actors in Staged Reading premieres!

7:00 pm Pre-show reception with refreshments.
7:30 pm the short plays:

Russian Master Class by Ludmila Anselm *
Cut by Holly Jensen
Unconditionally by Lida McGirr
Shopping Cart by Regina Ramsey*
The Acolyte by Kelly DuMar *


The Unveiling by Ellen Davis Sullivan
Last Glance by Hortense Gerardo *
Best Practice by G.L. Horton *
Pull a Costner -by Phyllis Rittner

9:15 pm Post-show discussion moderated by Platform board members Chris King and Kelly DuMar.

* members of the International Centre for Women Playwrights, co-sponsor of this second annual celebration.

Web Links:
Stage Page Pod Cast Re: Our Voices Together >
Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre, Wellesley Summer Theatre
International Centre for Women Playwright
Playwrights Platform

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Busy Spring

It's been so long since I've blogged that I've forgotten how!
Now I've retrieved my password I'll do some catching up. I'm in a period of intense production activity, acting and directing in a number of short term projects of co-operative Festival-type presentations that add up to constant busy-ness. I haven't the attention span for serious writing, so it seems a good time to make a record of what I've been up to -- starting with the things that are about to happen, and then going back to fill in the ones recently completed. For instance, April 19 & 20th I was performing Martha Mitchell at the West End Theatre in NYC!

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