Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Bother?

Since I'm talking about critics, I suppose I should mention this from Chris Jones. I guess. To be honest...sigh. When I read it on Friday, I got really hot under the collar and started one of those obscenity-laced rants, overloaded with sarcasm and bitchiness. Halfway through, though, I kind of lost steam. A friend suggested a more thorough fisking (get your head out of the gutter) and I started one, but realized that there just isn't too much more to it than "STFU, Playwrights!" and really, how do you fisk that? What's the point? I'm not going to make Chris Jones see the light or realize the error of his ways. Anyone who agrees that the current generation are a bunch of whining, talent-less jerks who are depending on bogus affirmative action claims to get their subpar work performed will continue apace, unabated. Those of us who believe that the current generation (and possibly future generations) of playwrights are being irreparably harmed by an inherently unfair system and that the American theatre is suffering for it will carry on the good fight. In a way, it just becomes so much posturing and chest-thumping, aggressive displays to defend small bits of territories. We're turning into rival clans of mountain gorillas in a dwindling preserve, fighting over who gets to pee in which creek while poachers skin us alive.

I just want to say this about that: If your problem, ultimately, isn't that the complaints and concerns of playwrights aren't legitimate (which Chris readily concedes they are), just that you don't want to hear them...there's not much that anyone can do about that.

Years ago, I took a class on communication and linguistics and one of the things that stuck with me from that was that, when someone writes a letter to you, the third thing in the letter is what they REALLY wanted to talk about; everything else is polite preamble. Someone wants you to pick up their dry cleaning, they send a note that says "Hi! How are you? Hope you're well. Hey, can you pick up my dry cleaning?" or some such thing. Looking at Chris' article, I suspect what he really wanted to talk about was this:
And while interviewees were afforded the kind of anonymity (if you know the players, thinly veiled) that would not pass editorial muster here at Tribune Tower, I recognize some less-than-admiring comments on a critic I suspect is myself (it's the one with all that pompous unsolicited advice). Keep that disclosure in mind.
It's worth noting that the reference he's talking about wasn't made by a playwright, but someone listed only as a "head" of a theatre (the authors of the study take great pains to highlight when the person they're quoting is both a playwright and an artistic director). But the focus of his piece is about how whiny and thin-skinned playwrights are.

All those words, Chris, to call a whole bunch of other people whiny? Really, you could have done it four letters.



Jack Worthing said...

I haven't read the piece yet. But I should point out that Jones is a generous critic. He makes an effort to see and support a lot of new storefront work. Remember that he's writing from Chicago, where in a sense the rules don't apply. People don't slobber after the institutions. They're seen as things to aspire for, but they're not the only games in town. The Chicago way has always been to shut up, get a space and do the play yourself. THAT'S how you get into the Goodman, etc. Those theatres pay attention to what's going on at their front doors and give platforms to good work. And even if they don't, you'll still probably get a notice in the Trib or the Reader and get a pretty good audience.

99 said...

All of that may be true and I'm not contradicting any of that to say that this article is pretty obnoxious and fairly useless.