Those who know me, or who know my general focus for the past few years in this blog, or who read my last entry in particular, must know by now that I’m a life-long professional playgoer – hence the title of this blog – “A View in the Dark.” I was recently reminded it all started when I saw Mary Martin do South Pacific, when I was ten years old. Sadly, I’ve never gotten paid for going to or writing about plays. Quite the contrary: Over a lifetime the habit has cost me a bloody fortune. But I regret neither one cent of the expense, nor one minute of the experience. After sitting in thousands of audiences, I’ve had many a life-changing, gut-wrenching epiphany, as well as a great deal of laughter and tears.
Of course there’ve also been the to-be-expected disappointments, more than a few of which I’ve even walked out of at my earliest opportunity. After all it’s my time and resources we’re wasting when we’re not connecting, and I can be as short on patience as anyone else. My good wife might even say “more so!” Since I’ve also been a director, playwright, actor, and drama teacher, my occasional muttering, cheek-shifting and nit-picking by her side has sometimes been, shall we say, a mite distracting for her. Nonetheless, I learn as much from “bad” theatre (my judgment only) as I do from “good” theatre, albeit without the epiphanies.
It’s been exactly four months since I completed the role of Beverly in the Live Arts production of August: Osage County. It occurs to me that since that time I’ve been privileged to see an awful lot of superb theatre from the other side of the lights again. I have not yet shared most of it on my blog, where the experiences remain as a reminder to myself, and anyone else who cares to chime in, of what enormous potential “good theatre” has to provide insight and laughter, to effect change, and to challenge emotionally. And as Joan and I now sit on a Dulles runway, en route across the pond to see at least five more examples of possibly great theatre, I have considerable catching up to do. So in the next few days and posts, I’ll try to do just that. They are in no particular order, since they are all (but one) now closed, and the chronology is no longer relevant. But I count myself among the lucky to have experienced them, and I’m not quite ready to let go of all this fine work.
In June I slipped up to New York to see The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin at the Roundabout, Assembled Parties, John Guare’s 3 kinds of Exile, and Alan Cummings’ one-man Macbeth. Back in July, Joan and I took in All’s Well that Ends Well over at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, as well as three of the five offerings at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in Shepherdstown, WV: Jane Martin’s H20, Sam Shepard’s Heartless, and Scott & Hem in the Garden of Allah,” by Mark St. Germain, author of Freud’s Last Session. Then there were two superb new plays out at the Steppenwolf in Chicago: Slow Girl, and Amy Herzog’s Belleville, which I managed to squeeze in while attending the Dramatists’ Guild’s Second National Conference. Last month, there was the fascinating Velocity of Autumn, still running to mixed reviews up at the Arena in Washington. Right home in Charlottesville, there was last week’s Mercy Killers, performed and written by Michael Milligan, and brought into Live Arts from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by our fearless leaders Matt Joslyn and Julie Hamberg. And then, finally yesterday afternoon, there was the closing day performance of Detroit, at Washington’s brilliant little Wooly Mammoth Theatre.
I think I’ll get to that one first, in my next entry. I don’t plan to cover all thirteen shows in any detail, but hopefully I’ll get more or less caught up before Friday, when we’ll be seeing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, a much-acclaimed National Theatre production in London, sure to be headed for Broadway in the near future.
Meanwhile, to any new readers, I welcome you to my own view in the dark. And I encourage you to subscribe, and comment freely and often, whether in disagreement or in accord, as well as in the spirit of inquiry. And new readers and old friends alike, please feel free to pass this along to other theatre-obsessive-compulsives you know.