Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Real Theatregoers of New York

A comment on the brilliant Time Out New York review of Wonderland...

The real theatergoers of New York will prove you Communist homosexual perverts who hate wholesome family entertainment wrong--AGAIN!

Now, I assume this person ("Anonymous - Unverified" - if that is their real name), means Broadway theatregoers, in which case, probably correct- most of them are tourists who've come for "culture" and expect to be as bored by theatre as they would be by a museum. The guy texting next to me at Wonderland clearly didn't speak English, there were people crackling bags of whatever food they brought in... The families who are desperate for something they can bring their children to, something they won't have to explain or talk to them about. People who can afford Broadway prices, but don't really care about the shows they see beyond the spectacle all that money can provide. These are the real theatregoers.

Charles Ludlam said in the 1980s:

What's wrong is that Broadway is not the pinnacle of achievement that it should be. It should be something that you long for, that you should want to be on. We all should want this, because it represents achievement and accomplishment and is a fair measure of our talents. Unfortunately, it is not that.

But there should be a wonderful place where you're crowned with laurels if you achieve something in art. That's not good enough in the commercial theatre. It has to be an idea you're sure you can sell, and sell a lot.

I've personally abandoned any hope or dream that a play of mine will actually be on Broadway one day. The "real theatregoers" can keep it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Made myself a personal course of study: to watch movies where I'd read the book and said to myself: "How the HELL could they adapt THAT BOOK into a movie?!"

SO watched The Fountainhead last night. Movie's not bad. The adaptation (also by Ayn Rand) is rather impressive, contracting that long-ass book into 2 hours. A lot of stuff gets relegated to backstory, and Katie disappears entirely. Story focuses on the love drama between Dominique and Roark (and Dominique doesn't marry Peter in the book, she goes right to Gail). Since Dominique is the only character who really changes in the book, very smart to keep the emphasis on her (much like Dolly in Hello, Dolly; the original original text was called The Merchant of Yonkers, referring to the Vandergelder character*); though it's interesting that although the four sections of the book of The Fountainhead are named after the 4 main male characters, Dominique is in all of them.
Storytelling brisk and interesting till it drops dead for Roark's big speech.
Gary Cooper a bit boring as Roark, Patricia Neal is fantastic as Dominique.

Then decided to get out of the way my other personal assignment: The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Though the book is quite cerebral and philosophical, the actual plot events are interesting enough to warrant dropping the fascinating philosophy. Makes the movie a bit more sentimental than the book, in some ways. Acting is great; Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin are fantastic. Baby Daniel-Day Lewis is weirdly un-sexy (to me), though his Informed Sexiness is of course a given in the world of the movie.
Didn't really miss the philosophical stuff (which includes the meaning of the title), because enough of it was dramatized to still be interesting; and some of the philosophy is actually enclosed within the plot, though in the movie it's more "these things happened, draw your own conclusions".
Prague is gorgeous. Cinematography perfect. Mirrors everywhere in the film, commented on and interacted with, or sometimes just there, though of course nothing can be "just there" in a film, working with a mirror you have to be very careful not to get the camera reflected in the shot.
One whole section is dramatically shot with extra grain and switching from color to black and white to integrate new scenes with actual footage of the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia; fascinating.
Didn't realize till I was about an hour in (because I was riveted) that the movie is nearly 3 hours long. After about an hour stopped being riveted, but was still entertained.
As good as the book, but in a different way.

* I was just reading that in previews Vandergelder ended Act I of Hello Dolly! with a song called "Penny in My Pocket", but audiences were loving Dolly so much that the focus shifted, so "Before the Parade Passes By" was written for Dolly (apparently in a couple of hours).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing for the Screen

I was recently commissioned to write my first screenplay. I was given a synopsis and certain characters and asked to write around it. Just finished the first draft and sent it in. Quite pleased with it. I was worried for a bit, but once I got past the halfway mark, the story began to take over and really flow. It's funny how the words just come when you know where you're going.

I've written for the theatre all my life, and it's quite freeing in some ways to be able to essentially follow someone when they leave the stage. I've always said the versatility of theatre is great, because you can have someone stand in a blackbox and say "I'm on the moon", and so they are. But actually writing that someone goes to the moon is another thing entirely when it comes to film, because then someone will have to build a moon set and probably a space suit; probably I'm quite lucky that my first assignment was for an animated feature, it takes some of the onus off me to make things affordable.