Blog to Mortify Mac

The modern theater world is in turmoil for several reasons, and, seemingly for my personal enormous amusement, everyone seems to be writing blogs about it. Go here to start, (that’s Mac, my indentured servant playwright) and see also my brother Ian for the weenie rant on his butt hurting during plays.

I’m gonna talk about the butt hurting bullshit as soon as I calm down, which I haven’t and may never. The “theater is boring” whine is actually charming when Ian writes it, but it won’t stop me from gently applying my size 12s to his ballsac next time I see him.

No, I want to point out that I have been jumping from blog to blog, giggling about the fight between the playwright and the director, knowing the whole time that The Actor has about 87% of the show in his disgusting, vain, egomaniacal, functionally retarded hands. You can talk all you want about shaping a show, but when the audience holds their breath and the lights come up, aint a DAMN THING you can do about it. He’s got your taint hairs in his hand, he’s gonna tug hard, and you’re just wondering when.

Full disclosure, I just finished a show that was an all time low for me in terms of knowing my lines. I think I really got under the skin of the girl playing opposite me because not only was I completely inconsistent with the written dialogue, I also stole the show. If I were her, I’d be furious. I fucking hate being in shows with people who aren’t trying very hard and who somehow manage to still get raves not just from the audience, but from the *WRITERS*. The guys who wrote this show loved what I did, and I didn’t say half of what they wrote.

(Mac just leaned his forehead into his hand and tried not to barf. He still owes me a play, written for *ME*. And he knows I’m gonna screw up the lines in that play too. AHAHAHAHAHAHA.)

The presence of the actor is what makes live theater so thrilling. Every play you’ve written could also be a movie, and if it was it could certainly be shaped and made more interesting by a good director. The reason you go see live theater is because you are in the same room with the guy who’s making the play *as you watch*. A director spends weeks of rehearsal trying to get the actor to be the guy that the play calls for, only after the playwright has spent years trying to create, out of whole cloth, the guy that the play calls for.

And that guy who exists in the play? He’s there in the mind of the actor, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron, but sometimes he slips out. It’s not just lines. He’ll play a scene for laughs. He’ll decide that he wants to cross downstage for something. The audience is horrified and he just can’t commit to the scene anymore, he starts hedging his bets. Seriously, it isn’t just that someone forgets to say “clear as a bell” and instead says “crystal clear”, I mean, that shit’s gonna happen. I’m saying, this dude will just *do* stuff for reasons you, as the playwright or director, will never understand.

(Mac will joke in rehearsal when I mess up, he’ll say “My WORDS! My precious WORDS!” and it’s become a joke. But one time, (and to be fair the only time I can remember, and it was years ago) Mac said a piece of dialogue he had written and the audible shock from the audience made his face change. He kept in character, but I looked in his face and it wasn’t the character looking at me, it was the guy saying “Oh shit, what did I just say?” We ran for a month afterwards, and he played it to the hilt always afterwards, but I doubt he’s forgotten that gasp. It was awesome.)

I don’t know how to break it to you, but unless you’re working with actors who know how to deliver lines and take direction, you’re building statues out of meringue.

And you know what? You get what you deserve. If you hold auditions and you’re casting people based on how calm and collected they are during a two minute monologue, then you get what you’re asking for. Auditions are ridiculous. They reveal who is the coolest, best looking cat in the room, that’s it. Some of these guys who audition well are probably good too, but you can’t count on it.

It’s hilarious, my profession. How many schools of playwriting are there? How many methods of directing? I mean, sure, you can say “He writes like Mamet” of a playwright or “he likes to work outside-in” of a director, but for acting, we have about 16 different bullshit schools. “I’m very Uta” or “we should do Method for this” or “this is all so Meisner” and you need a snorkle just to breathe. Why does an art that is 90% intuitive have to have these fucking *master’s degrees*? My dad’s a conductor, my mom writes symphonies, that shit requires learnin’. My peers are liars, right to their socks.

Actors are, for the most part, handsome people who are desperate to prove they are smart, directors are, for the most part, handsome people who know they are smart but want to prove they are busy and playwrights are, for the most part, less handsome people who want to prove that you don’t have to be handsome to be awesome. So here’s what happens

Playwright writes a play about real people doing real things with an unfortunate amount of verbal dexterity and situations that are either painful to watch or full of hairpin turns that are designed to alarm what the playwright assumes will be a complacent, dull and simple minded audience.

Director takes the play, overanalyzes it, overdevelops it, asks for re-writes on a microscopic level, auditions a billion actors and actresses to find that *perfect* one, creates lighting plots, sounds plots, set designs, rehearsal schedules, costume suggestions (with shoes, hair, make-up, etc.), backstories for the actors, call sheets for the SM, and spends 21 hours a day for weeks and weeks sweating details just so he can have sweat those details when all is said and done.

The actor gets the play, highlights all of his lines, rips out the pages he isn’t in, spends two weeks getting off-book by reciting the lines into the mirror while he plays with different hair designs and hits the treadmill for a five pound weight loss that he doesn’t need and then the lights go up and he says most of his lines. While he isn’t delivering his lines, he’s making a lot of those “I’m listening to every word you say” faces while other people are talking and during scenes where he’s off stage, he’s backstage talking about the fact that Bush is Hitler reincarnate and that there should be a flat tax.

I don’t know, maybe that’s why you hate theater. It is chock full of assholes.

By the way, the above in no way describes any of my friends. Seriously, you guys are awesome.