Oh Really? Really???
Please just fucking kill me.
One generally hesitates before identifying a new trend in the American theatre, largely because language has a tendency to fix and limit the joy one feels at witnessing the stops and starts, the moments of grace, and the moments of awkwardness in the work of a fledgling director, performer, or playwright. One senses, however, that the thirty-four-year-old playwright and director Young Jean Lee wouldn’t be content with inchoate praise for her work—work that is both explicitly political in content and often mundane in tone. Like her contemporaries the up-and-coming playwrights David Adjmi and Thomas Bradshaw (Bradshaw performed in one of Lee’s early pieces), Lee is a facetious provocateur; that is, she does whatever she can to get under our skin—with laughs and with raw, brutal talk that at times feels gratuitous, and is meant to.
Its not that I disagree. I don’t. Its just that this is so “after-the-fact”!
Young Jean Lee & Thomas Bradshaw both studied with Mac Wellman at Brooklyn College. She did a show at the Ontological and Mark Russell booked her at PS122. Mark had left by the time Young Jean’s show was being developed (Pullman, WA) and during that time I got to know both of them. And when Young Jean brought Thomas by the office to talk about his work I pushed it through and supported it and advocated for it with Vallejo who went on to promote and foster both of these artists. During my brief tenure at IRT I gave both Thomas and Young Jean residencies to develop the shows that Als ultimately wrote about in the New Yorker. Not to forget Soho Rep, Little Theater, The Brick, The Flea, BAX and all the other places that have supported these writers along the way and informed the discussions in and around the work.
The larger issue is that these artists, this idea, this “new trend” does not arise in a vacuum. There is a huge, rich, diverse, complicated, underfunded ecosystem where these “trends” are nurtured, explored, devised, discussed and refined. And it is NOT part of the mainstream theater world. I started Culturebot to cover THAT world – and thus I’ve been writing – and talking – about this “new trend in American theatre” for a long time.
Not to mention that both of these writers have been, at different times, featured in PRELUDE and that this past year we also featured Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and others who are totally cutting edge on this.
So okay, first off, Mr. Als – how about doing an article on PRELUDE this year? We would love to discuss current trends in American theater with you. Or how about an article on the ecology of downtown theater/performance where ALL the innovation comes from? How about helping downtown out a little bit by more by enlightening your readership about the essential role that “downtown” plays in the cultivation of new voices and investigation?
Oh and Hey!! David Remnick! I know I didn’t go to an Ivy League school and I don’t have a master’s degree but if you’d like someone to cover the arts from the trenches and not the Ivory Tower, I’d be glad to help out.