more on hello failure
okay so first of all there’s a pretty animated discussion going on in the comments section of The Playgoer’s review of Hello, Failure. I’ve been holding back on commenting but I just want to quickly chime in. I think there are so many things going on here, not least of which is that reviewers came and saw the show too early. One of the big problems with downtown theater -as one of the commenters notes- is that they don’t get weeks and weeks of previews. (this is part of the reason I’m starting my own space, more on that to come). I think if you are familiar with the non-funded development process, particularly with innovative work, you know that these shows change a lot over time. NTUSA, Radiohole, ERS, Nature Theater, Jay Scheib – all the innovative theatermakers I know start with one show and usually end up with something very different. Its like the first time a band plays a song, it takes a while to really live inside it, to learn to navigate it, to know it so well you forget that you know it and inhabit it. So too with real, living theater – not the pre-packaged sitcom-level melodrama crap that passes for theater in most venues.
Also, I have to take issue with Helen Shaw’s somewhat dismissive term “realist whimsy”. Regardless of the similarities (or lack thereof) between Ruhl, Schwartz, Kosmas, Callaghan and Washburn – I think they are all meticulous writers and doing profoundly innovative work with language. To be honest, outside of Richard Maxwell, I don’t see too many male writers who are nearly as audacious or as concerned with the craft of writing – its sounds, rhythms, the implications of silence and ellipses. Is it possible that there is a soft sexism here? I think that the close textual work and the subtlety of the human interactions, the lack of clear resolution, the nuance and the shading, are all characteristic of a decidedly feminine perspective. And not the easily commodifiable feminity of Candace Bushnell but the more intellectual femininity of Gertrude Stein, Jeannette Winterson, Maria Irene Fornes and Virginia Woolf.
All a guy playwright has to do is put a real blowjob onstage and people call him edgy, regardless of his writing chops. Or he can cop a Letterman-esque, Conan O’Brien Ivy League Ironic posture towards High Culture and he’s a “bad boy” of the theater. Or, if all else fails, just throw some video and computers on the stage to dazzle them with technoporn.
Attitude, insouciance and intellect are a quick ticket to “it-boy” status. As a woman, if you write funny sitcom-plays about your dating and apartment problems, you can be a huge success, but if you dare write something that is innovative, articulate, painstakingly crafted and wholly unexpected, you will be questioned and undervalued.
Just a thought…
(oh and just for the record, if you didn’t know, your humble Culturebot editor has not been directly employed by PS122 for some months. So while we will, of course, always continue to support our much-beloved alma mater, please remember that the opinions expressed herein are our own, not those of PS122.)