Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Favorite Plays of 2009, And Related Anxieties

The theater blogs I read are going full tilt these days and it's enough to make a young artist's head swim, and exacerbate the vague sense of panic that I feel when I wake up some mornings (other source of panic: new decade beginning at the same time that I realize I am now one-quarter of the way through my twenties. chronology can mess with your head). I suppose I'd better read Outrageous Fortune, huh? Instead, I'm in the middle of reading The Play That Changed My Life (h/t Mead Hunter), which is very pleasant and inspirational, but is also working overtime to give the impression that everything is fine with the American theater, and that American playwrights are like one big happy family... it tries to stanch the bleeding, whereas I get the impression that Outrageous Fortune does the opposite--it tears away the bandages and the blindfolds.

And so I think, obviously the system needs fixing, and because I'm young and not yet enmeshed in the system, I can, and should, be part of the generation that helps fix it. Trouble is, what's needed are revolutionaries, and my natural temperament is not that of a revolutionary. I think "I signed up to make art... I didn't sign up for all of this!"

I guess that's what happens when you decide at the age of 16 that you are going to be a playwright, despite never having met any real-life playwrights who could tell it like it is.

And then of course, the other problem is, I can talk all I want to about "signing up to make art," but if the art goes unmade and the theater goes unfixed, then I'm really just getting in the way and creating a lot of hot air! (Which makes me the equivalent of a dirty-coal-burning power plant spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, doesn't it?)

Anyway, all of this is just a preamble to link to/discuss a post on surplus that resonated with me and, it seems, a lot of other bloggers. The post is called "On the Intentional Lack of a 'Top Plays of 2009' Post in These Parts." And the highlight is Jaime proclaiming "I am sick to death of plays... Middle-class white people talking about their problems, having babies and getting divorced and dying and falling in love and talking about it for two hours. Tell me please why that needs to be on a stage?"

I've been asking myself a lot of the big questions lately, trying to formulate an aesthetic philosophy, wondering about the value or the why behind my art... and behind the art I admire... and even behind the very idea of artistic creation! And the question of theatricality, or what makes theater unique as an art form, is tied in with that... so I think I understand where Jaime is coming from.

And more specifically--I realized in 2009 that the theater I enjoyed the most tended not to be the kind of plays that I tend to write. Which creates an obvious conundrum for me. To plagiarize Jaime's format, my favorite theater experiences of 2009 were:
I look at that list and think--so if the kind of plays that excite me most when I see them produced aren't the kind of plays that I am naturally drawn to write--where should I go from here?

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