Monday, April 18, 2011

theater thrives in a theatrical age

i'm sitting by this lake in nepal, the himalayas rising behind me, indian newlyweds staring at each other: who is this stranger i've married by arrangement? (the high wedding season.) and suddenly i feel full of a definite desire: yes, i want to direct plays.

good gravy, where did that come from? i'd been directing pieces sporadically for forty years, gradually figuring out how to do it. so what's new? i'd wandered halfway around the world to discover i wanted to go back home.

trouble is, i'd experienced this rush of determination before, sitting in children's park watching a family of musicians, right across the street from the blue room theatre. i did end up doing work in this theater. and now it's all come to nothing. the audiences grow smaller and smaller as people retreat into their houses.

lured by the street scenes of the sixties, the vibrant stage effects everywhere, the trenches and dead of vietnam bleeding on the television all night, i felt inspired to write plays. unfortunately, that age of energy petered out with the repression of the media. even when i came to this town thirty years ago, people dressed up lavishly for halloween. clerks in stores played alice and rabbits. the evening filled up with zombies and angels.

alas, the students began getting too drunk, overturning cars and burning them. that led to a crackdown. last time i wandered downtown on halloween, the streets were empty except for undercover cops. one at a time they stood on street corners, faces painted, pretending to play harmonicas. jesus, i had to laugh. they stood out like sore thumbs.

you can get a theater crowd for musicals and cabaret, none of it very substantial. put on a revenger's tragedy or king lear and you're dead in the water. i've studied my whole life to create scenes out of pewter. and that occupation no longer exists.

here's a one-woman piece i did direct several years ago: