When I started this blog a year ago I did not imagine the conversations that it would start. I have received some lovely unexpected emails and comments from artists, fans and critics: all of them exceedingly polite and remarkably encouraging (and I hope I am not jinxing it by saying so--dickheads continue to stay at home, thank you).
Despite being quite feisty on the page, I have never really been one to put my opinions out there for all the world to see. Writing this blog was out of character for me. And I was truly shocked when the world started responding. I wholly underestimated the vanity google and the power of twitter.
I often joke that I hate everything but that's clearly not true. I expect a lot from theater (and film and art) because it means something to me. I believe it says who we are as a people, right now in this very moment and will say something to people in the future when they reflect back on it. It's part of the fabric of our culture. It educates our young and young at heart. It spurs innovation. It changes us. Sometimes one person at a time, sometimes many. It will be there for future generations (assuming no Mr. Burns type meltdown) and provide building blocks for cultural landmarks to come. Theater reminds us of the ephemeral, the transient, the moment we cannot hold in our hands. It's precious, beautiful, exciting. It's important.
I would not write about it if I did not really love it--somewhere deep down beyond the curmudgeonly regions of my heart. And I do. I was smiling like a full-blown crazy-person this weekend at Newsies. Something about that music, those high-flying leaps, and Jeremy Jordan's committed performance just makes something in my inner-teenage heart soar. To the opposite end of the spectrum, in tiny spaces that seemed to be built into railway arches in Edinburgh, I was blown-away by the work of young writers, directors and actors finding their voices and making work that is sophisticated and deeply enriching.
I'm not too worried about the future when young artists are doing such wonderful work.
Art is hard. Being creative is really hard. I remember having to write, direct and shoot five movies in one semester (and work on the crew of 15 other short films). Besides keeping objects in focus and finding people to act in them, I had to come up with five new ideas in a very short time frame. And they were pretty awful if you want to know the truth. I fully appreciate the effort that it takes to get from idea to execution and the massive number of people to help get it there (and the numerous people standing in the way of that as well). But knowing all that, will not stop me from expecting more.
Sometimes with all the money, resources, or talent you can still put on a work that I find appallingly bad (Venus in Fur, Nice Work If You Can Get It, End of the Rainbow). Hopefully others like it. 'Cause I sure did not. And that's okay too.
Isn't that what makes life interesting? If the same work appealed to all of us in the same way what a boring place the world would be. I like a show that divides people. Someone takes risks and makes choices and sometimes they pay off and other times they disappoint. But hopefully that means the artists are trying: pushing and moving the form in a new direction. That's certainly what I look for. Having seen so much "content" in my life (possibly OD'ing on movies when I had basically seen every idea done at least 4 different times at 4 different budget levels), surprising me is hard. But I have seen theater in the last two years that has truly surprised me. It's inspired me. It's awed me while making me laugh. It's made me think about life, art, love, family, friendship, politics, and just exactly how you decapitate a pig. But it's also made me think about form, structure, poetry, lighting, staging, and how dirty your feet can get if you wallow in filth.
There is a lot of interesting, provoking theater our there. I'm not saying everyone should attempt a one-man Macbeth. But I'm glad someone tried. I find it fascinating when artists try to work with established material and make it sing in a new and different way, (Dogfight, Goodbar, Mr. Burns), even if some of those attempts did not work for me (Leap of Faith, Porgy & Bess). And for every new work I have found frustrating or incomplete (Assistance, Rapture, Blister, Burn), I have stumbled upon another that has unexpectedly grabbed me (Tribes, Cock, Uncle Vanya).
Sometimes I am on my strange island of misfit toy opinions all by myself. And occasionally others swim over to join me.
Thank you all for a wonderful first year. I am very grateful (even if sometimes also mildly bitter).