Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I know that I am pretty slow when it comes to pop culture current events and I have only recently begun reading all of the hullabaloo concerning a couple of outed (I'm not talking sexual orientation) writers that have made the big news over the past few months. As I haven't ever read anything by JT LeRoy or James Frey, I didn't realize that a controversy had been brewing. Now that I'm caught up, I don't know how I COULD read their books. Fiction or no, I've been severely put off by the notion that it's ok to out and out LIE about yourself in order to sell books. No wonder we elected a liar to a second term and seemly have no problem when confronted with his lies. We love to be lied to.

Now, don't get your panties in a bunch. I know that most of the people that are in my smaller and radiated circles of acquaintance don't actually like to be lied to. I'm talking middle America, here. At election time, back in November, around 50% of the voting public (which certainly does not encompass 50% of the qualified voting public) were happy to elect a liar. And we continue to put liars in office in every state, on all levels. We ignore the liars that run big companies and give 'em a slap on the wrist when they run amok with our 401k's, stocks, electric bills, whatever they can ruin for personal financial gain. We have created an environment where this is simply "OK". If it wasn't alright, wouldn't we scream louder and more forcefully until those wrongs were righted? Ahhhh...Utopia.....

No wonder I read comments that actually shrug off Frey's lies as being the folly of writer's license. Huh. Interesting. It's still a powerful story of triumph over addiction. Well, is it? Like I said, I didn't read the book. I've only read excerpts and plot summaries. Maybe it isn't that big of a deal. No, that doesn't sit well with me; it IS a big deal. Would we be reading that book if he told the truth about his struggles? And would anyone have been as interested in the stories of a child hustler with HIV written by a then 30-something now 40 year old woman? Apparently the publishing companies didn't think so, and they think they know what people will read.

"There is some question as to the identity of this mysterious writer. She has been referred to as "America's best known, unknown playwright". The name Jane Martin is widely believed to be a pseudonym. She has never made any public appearances or spoken" (from the website www.doollee.com).

Is writing under a pseudonym lying? JT LeRoy was a persona, complete with a tragic upbringing and beating the odds to become a successful writer pedigree. That's a story Americans love. If JT LeRoy was simply a name, with no story attached, would it have mattered? Jane Martin is a playwright. She's successful. But we don't really know who she is. Only a name. No back story was created to make us sympathetic to her plight which, in turn, made us want to read, publish and produce her plays. The mystery is kind of fun. Theories abound. Is she really a man? Perhaps the director, Jon Jory? Not knowing who she is bares, I've always felt--though I could be mistaken--little on whether or not her work is produced. Our heart strings and compassionate natures weren't played in order to sell books.

I asked a girlfriend of mine if she'd heard about the whole Frey controversy, thinking we might enter into a discussion on writing ethics. She shrugged it off saying it's a book. You don't have to tell the truth when you write a book. But it's supposed to be a memoir, not fiction. She didn't seem to think the delineation mattered, much. Taking liberties is part of writing. I might have agreed with her, at some point in my life, but today? No. I don't want to be lied to anymore. We all lie, even when we think we don't, or when we think it'll lessen some hurt or get someone off our back. Little white lies are pretty much accepted by one and all. Take a look around and see what that's done to our world. I'm reminded of that anti-drug message where they say one day it's marijuana and the next it's heroin and then an overdose. (Whether that's true or not, I couldn't tell you.) But with the lies, well, maybe it's not so far off. If we live in a culture that accepts the little lie now and again, what's to stop those lies from getting bigger and bigger? Pinocchio's nose looks like a cute little button next to many of our "respected" leaders and those controversial authors.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm a part of a fledgling theatre company that has managed to stay together for...wellllll...if you count our previous incarnation, for about 5 years. Roughly. We haven't a following, not really, and we manage to put on one to two shows a year. Every year that we've been together, I'd say that we lose at least one member. Last Sunday, we lost another. There are a couple of members that appear to be on the edge, as well. HOW DO PEOPLE DO IT?!!! It takes us a bazillion months to mount one production and we never find all the help we need, have lucked out with our meager budgets and enjoyed a small amount of audience appreciation. We don't get reviewed and barely have 1/4 of the house filled during any one production.

We are producing "'night Mother", to open in March. It's not my favorite play, and it's one of those plays that you see so often in scene study classes that you're sure you've seen it a hundred times by the time you're out of college. And then you take classes at acting studios, to continue with the honing of your skills and you see it another hundred times. But have you actually seen it? The whole play? Only the filmed version with Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft, (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090556/--how old fashioned, cut and paste.) I realized, the other day. And, according to our sources, it hasn't been produced in Seattle since the 80's. Of course, another fledgling company could have done it and just not received any press about it...At this point, I don't care. I have a renewed interest in the show, this could be a great production! The company members involved in the directing and acting aspects absolutely LOVE this play and therefore have the necessary passion to infuse it with love and excitement and desire and honesty. Maybe the entire county of King will realize, as I did, that they haven't actually seen this play and by gum and by golly they need to get to the theatre this March! Perhaps this production is the one that will give us that little nudge putting us in the public consciousness? I think it might. I hope it does. I want it to.

So, that's what Sight Nine is doing now. What's next? Well, we'll know that by the time we open "'night Mother". Stay tuned. In the reading phase, right now. And since we lost our last male actor on Sunday, our casting focus has changed. A play with four great roles for women--3 in their 30's, able to play mid-late 20's and one in her 70's, able to play 60's--know any? Know any that AREN'T "Crimes of the Heart" type plays? ugh. Men are allowed, just not as the main roles. There are plenty of plays for men. Why is that? 5M, 2W. 4M, 1W. 8M. 3M. 16M, 3W. Really. I have a stack of about 30 plays sitting on the floor and MOST of the casts are light on the female presence. I know this isn't some kind of breaking news, but it frustrates me no less. How many auditions do I have to go to for plays that are looking for one woman and ten men? 20 men audition and 100 women do. You think I'm exaggerating? HA! ok. Maybe just a little. But it's not far from the truth!!!

Monday, January 16, 2006

It's a jelly belly day. I'm craving them, now, and there are none to be found...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I belong to what I believe is a jaded movie watching society. My experience with film benefits from the age that I live and the progress in story telling techniques, acting, cameras, ideology...I take it for granted. Didn't even consider it until yesterday, quite frankly. We watched "Last Tango in Paris". No, I hadn't seen it before, which I admit freely. One of THOSE movies, you know, the ones that everyone who truly loves film and art and acting, blah blah blah, has seen and studied and can expound on the necessity of its creation and brilliance of its art. I haven't seen all of THOSE movies. There are a lot of them and I can't spend every free moment only watching that type of film. Sometimes, i just want to watch "Some Kind of Wonderful" for the umpteenth time because I really like it. I digress.

"Last Tango..." carried with it, for me, great weight and I had extrememly high expectations going in. You who read this are preparing yourselves for me to say that I was disappointed, or something. That's what this lead in implies, right? Well, I was on the fence. I couldn't say I didn't like it and I couldn't say that "omigosh that was the greatest film ever!!!!!" Brando, yes, was incredible. And I liked the young French woman's--Maria something--ease and unpretentiousness in front of the camera. I'd heard that this was a sexy movie. Highly erotic. Errrrr, erotic? Cruel is more like it. Sexy? Painful in my mind. Cruelty and it dominance in sex do not strike me as erotic, they strike me as the typical male fantasy: domination of sexy young nymph. The film ends and Shawn and I are looking at each other with wide eyes and moderately stunned mouths agape. Neither of us says much. Am I too naive, have too much of the puritan anscestry circulating through my veins, to appreciate the film? Perhaps. Then I got this brilliant idea to check out the original film review in The New Yorker, using my handy dandy Christmas gift extraordinaire, "The Complete New Yorker" (thank you Santa Shawn). Well, bells and whistles disco balls and enormous follow spots! Pauline Kael reviewed "Last Tango" after she saw it at the NY film festival, prior to its release in the United States in 1973. If you have the opportunity to read this review, and have any questions about why this movie is placed on the film making pedestal, I promise she has a pretty convincing argument. EVEN if you don't agree with it. (The mac, though ultra cool, isn't blogger friendlly and I can't figure out how to create links. If anyone can...do tell.) Here is where I realize that I'm jaded. As Kael describes it, this is the first movie she has seen to portray sex in such a realistic context. It's a huge departure from the norm. And how many years ago was this film made? How many years have gone by where other filmmakers can use it as a leaping off point to remind them of the harsh reality that they, too, want to express? It wasn't new to me. I've had the good fortune to live in a time where many films capture the depth, anguish, sorrow, joy, cruelty, kindness, etc., etc., etc. of love and sex and relationships and life. So. Do I like this bit of pioneering cinema? More so after reading P.K.'s review. I get it, now. It matters little whether or not I liked the characters, as characters. I cared about them, even if it meant caring that they got away from one another because they weren't a good match. I believed the cruelty and the desperation. That's the point, I think, to get involved and desire some kind of outcome. Sure, there were some scenes that were confusing and probably even unnecessary--big deal. As a whole I determine that, for me, it IS great cinema. I would much rather watch that story unfold on the screen--that kind of story telling, be it sad or happily ever after-- than a thousand Peter Jackson digitalized dinosaurs and King Kongs. (Look, I like fluff as much as the next person, but if I had to choose, give me "Brokeback Mountain" over "King Kong", without hesitation.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Last night, American Experience aired a biography of Ronald Reagan and I was captivated by it. I missed the first 1/2 hour, where they talked about his childhood, his football years, his Hollywood years and his governor of California years. I barely missed the election against Jimmy Carter. Tuned in just in time to catch the falling our between his daughter, Patti, and himself due to completely differing views on the world. Reagan's presidency was the first one that I remember occurring during my lifetime. Sure, I parroted my parents' views on his win against Carter ( I was only 7), I didn't know any better. When I was young, what I knew about Reagan was that he made some expensive gourmet jelly bean very popular and desirable since it cost a lot and my mom wasn't about to shell out multiple dollars for a few teeny chewy candies. But oh, the mystique. The myriad of flavors. The exclusivity. The jelly belly club that I couldn't get into. Nope. I was stuck with Brach's. I also knew that there was this scary possibility of war with the USSR called Nuclear war and that he had the power to push some red button (was it really as simple as an oversized cartoony red button?) that would make these hidden missiles destroy the world. He pushed our red button, the communists pushed theirs, what was the point? We'd all be dead. Right? 8 years old, 10 years old...during both terms it was as simple as that in my under politically developed brain. Yes, there were treaties and promises to disarm. With my savvy (hah) 32 year old perspective on my 12 year old self, I can claim that treaties gave me no ease as politicians were not to be trusted and just because Reagan and Gorby signed something that said they'd stop threatening each other with the bomb, didn't mean they truly would. I mean, come on! Who are they trying to kid? Not this kid. Realistically, I don't know what I thought. That was a long time ago. Fear of death by Nuclear bomb, that I remember. Especially because I'd read some book in jr. high, that was about the aftermath of a nuclear war and some of the people that managed to survive. (The title escapes me so if any of you 2 or 3 people who read this remembers a book like that, will you tell me?)

I remember the Iran-Contra hearings and Ollie North, though I also remember not knowing what the heck anyone was talking about. It's when I learned what the 5th Amendment was and how to use it. If you take the 5th, then you must not want to tell the truth because it could be damning, right? Right. Most things were that easy to translate, way back then...ahhh...youth. I was in a theatre program at the University of Utah that summer, and the older kids would make fun of the hearings by re-enacting them. We younger tykes would laugh along and pretend we understood the jokes. Any question posed by a fellow TSFY (Theatre School for Youth) student could be responded to with an "I take the fifth," followed by fits of guffawing laughter because weren't we so clever? That was a fun summer.

In my memory, Reagan wasn't a great president or a disaster. He was THE PRESIDENT. If you held that office, then didn't you, by default, have to be good at your job? I mean, you are responsible for this country. (You can't see me, but I am experiencing some fits of that guffawing laughter again.) What I appreciate about this biography, is that I feel like I have a better understanding of what actually happened during his 2 terms. Not so much a black and white issue of good president or bad. There were some pretty amazing accomplishments during his time. Whether he is wholly responsible or not, I couldn't say. Objective perspective is a better place to weigh those debates, and I can too easily get caught up in dismissing a political figure soley based on his/her political party affiliations. I should know better. I DO know better.