Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Mac Wellman writes today in the Voice about a new wave of playwrights and collaborators. Full disclosure: all the people we know who are working with each other are basically mentioned in this article, and my affiliations with these folks range from close friendship to casual acquaintancehood, but none are strangers to me at all.

I *think* Wellman posits that cross-affiliating is a positive thing for theatre, but I question whether it's new at all--it indicates that a scene is brewing, and a pretty solid one at that, but his article is organized strangely, with a muzzy, overly-wordy setup--he describes the crop of new plays in this way:

This is neither the arch and histrionic skepticism of the absurdists nor the equally histrionic cynicism of what passes for postmodernism. For the best of this new work is more intellectually and emotionally grounded than these earlier movements. Grounded in a paradoxical lack of groundedness.


Then the article devolves into a series of ITEM statements that don't draw connections between them. Given that Wellman has taught half the people in this nascent scene, the ITEM entries almost read like ADVERTISEMENT tags instead.

Don't get me wrong--I love a lot of these folks, and it's a good list of some of the most interesting stuff happening downtown, but a little synthesis would go a long way. A few of his observations near the end on how institutions like the Wooster Group are impossible now are excellent, but the piece really cries out for a good edit and a second try, especially given how truly gifted a lot of the artists he mentions are.

Addendum: There's a piece by Andy over at Culturebot that reacts off another element in the article: the contention that these artists are poverty-stricken, when almost all of them are products of university systems.

I have wrestled with this myself, as I inhabit both worlds--I have a degree from a microivy, but then have spent years toiling in the garage theaters of Seattle where even the idea of a subsidized life in the theater is a joke. Growing up in Maine put me face to face with poverty in ways that are hard to communicate to fellow artists, on a personal's a different universe than NYC, no matter how badass one likes to pretend to be.

I do love Andy's phrase: The Theater of Privilege. That's an excellent expression, and I intend to fucking run with it. Maybe we can make it the new IT thing to say.