Archive for March, 2009

I Still Pick UNC, but…

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

My dear friend Jonathan (not his real name) began a campaign with our group of friends to stop using the word “Fag” when we were referencing stuff that was actually just precious or twee or feminine, and not actually homosexual. I didn’t actually roll my eyes, because my friend Jonathan is much bigger than me, and he’s also vastly smarter.

Okay, I admit it. Jonathan is his real name.

But I felt a great deal of power using the word “faggot”, it has a depth and a bite to it that the replacement words don’t. The word “nigger” can also be an extremely powerful word, when used as an endearment. I would never use the word in a racial setting, and I would never consider its use a condemnation. For my friends and I, when the word is used, it’s used the way we hear it used by the artists we admire. It’s a term of endearment, as if we were POWs in the same war. To say, “this is my NI-gah right here”, you were announcing a kind of man love.

Unfortunately, we were using the word “faggot” to denote a different kind, a sort of fawning and weak-kneed man-love. And it has been used ad-nauseum to describe the Duke Men’s Basketball team.

There’s almost no situation you can be in where the passion that these kids have for one another and for their school isn’t condemned as equivalent to being the receiver in anal intercourse. There’s a racial component as well – because the Duke players tend to be white or at least *act* white, and because the black community has shown itself to be less-than progressive when it comes to homosexuality, there is a sense that the tough awesome dark-skinned black players on most college teams are expressing pure esprit de coer when they smack each other on the butt or hug each other after a big shot.

But the white, or light-skinned black, or even dark-skinned black but high-test-score-receiving black kids do the same at Duke University, it’s seen as an act of homosexual love, and therefor beneath rooting for. I’ve seen it a hundred times, guys who would march in a parade for gay rights, guys who love their gay friends and family members deeply, will still mock Duke’s players for being “faggots”.

Now, my friend Jonathan wanted us to stop using that word, and I more or less did. But it didn’t really bother me, in the same way that the N word doesn’t bother me in music or in conversation. But I did find that when I used either word, on the rare occasion when I did, it started to feel… awful. Just awful.

Now, I’m in the theater world, so obviously I’m more involved with gay people that I am with urban black culture. Every black person I know is only black in so far as that’s his *casting*, and the world of hip hop, no matter what people might be trying to do, is still in a different universe than musical theater. So, it could be that the gay stuff rubs me passionately the wrong way.

But I’ll say this – Our first black President has come out against gay marriage. And, while I think that my lifetime will contain watershed moments where homosexuality can be accepted as a natural part of our existence, I do think that our race relations are in a better position than our understanding of one another’s sexual preference. And it chills my blood every time the white guys at Duke are accused of homosexuality. Not because it’s *true*, but because the joke is the most emasculating, most de-humanizing taunt the anti-fans can come up with.

The first time I hear Barnaby use language like that, I won’t know if I will be able to handle the shame. His sense of race is already more even-handed than mine, we have friends and kids in our neighborhood of every stripe, and he sees black men and associates them with heroes, not thieves. But he also sees gay men and women every day, and he knows that they are men and women, to be as trusted and admired as the rest of our friends.

Which might not be much, we can hang with a motley bunch.

Anyway, I don’t think I can push him to be as much an anti-fan of Duke as my friends and I are, because the language that surrounds that stuff is pathetic. I’m not linking to anything on this blog, but do a search, particularly an images-search. If this is what hating Duke is, in any other context it would be shameful. And if being a Carolina fan means behaving this way, I don’t want that for my son.

Turn The Channel

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Family Guy is being GROSS! Call the COPS!

It isn’t possible to watch everything your child is watching all the time. But it is possible to turn the TV off.

My mom had her TV paused at her place, and Barnaby came in the TV room. She un-paused the TV and turned it off, but during that four seconds, a person was being suffocated on screen with a plastic bag. It scared the shit out of Barnaby, he had to curl up in my mom’s lap for two or three minutes to get over it.

So, why do parent’s groups seem to protest the loudest when it’s sex? My son has seen me and his mom, and himself, naked a thousand times, and he doesn’t seem to notice or care. If he had watched the Family Guy episode quoted above, he would have seen a cartoon, and, during the cartoon, he would have watched a baby eat cereal. I don’t know, I just can’t imagine he’d need to curl up in my lap from that.

The world isn’t safe for babies, that’s just the truth. If you want to make it safe for kids, you’re wasting your time and you’re disrespecting your kids. You have two choices you can make when it comes to raising children, and I’ll use handguns as an example. You can either a) tell your kid that a handgun is just about the scariest thing in the world, and there is a trigger that makes bullets come out, and there’s a safety and this is where the bullets go in…

or b) you can pretend there’s no such thing as handguns.

Now, the context for the Family Guy episode demands that you pretend your child will understand that the cereal *might* have horse sperm in it instead of milk. And that your child will know what horse sperm is. And how one gets it. And then equate that with sex with a horse. And then decide that they like beastiality. Or, you can spend one second thinking about the fact that it’s gonna require at least a junior high school level of education in order to even *GET* the joke.

Any kid under ten who watches this clip will see a cartoon baby eating cereal. And they won’t have a CLUE why you’re laughing. And they also won’t have a CLUE as to why you are so offended, you culturally vacuous waste of time.

The Conversation

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I’ve been having conversations with old friends over facebook, and I’ve had to explain how it is that I’m still producing theater when so many of them have given up. The short answer to that is simple, we’ve never made any money, we never will, and so it’s a lot like asking someone why they are still… I don’t know… watching football after all these years. I do it because I like it, and it doesn’t cost too much.

But, the long answer is more complicated than that. We have a wonderful built-in editing device in our company, we’re totally incapable of following through on a good idea. It sucks, and it means we’re not as prolific as we might be, but a good idea will hang around for a while before quietly disappearing. Mac and I had a post-apocalyptic musical, the three of us had some pretty good Mexican Wrestling ideas, and then there was Jordana’s “Lucretia Jones II, Lucretia Journeys To The Center Of The Earth”… all good ideas, but not *great* ones, and none of them lived past the shit-talking phase.

Now, the ideas that really make our nipples hard, the *great* ideas, survive for much the same reason that the good ideas (and the bad ones) show up at all. We’re having a conversation. We’re in the middle of a conversation, and it’s almost always our turn to talk. The New York theater culture is one of the voices that adds to the culture of America. The zeitgeist that pushes our corner of the world may take some time to affect all of America but… But Angels In America ended up on HBO. It happens.

And our culture, the theater of our city, is based on a very specific formula. You make a show, and I make a show, and our friends make shows, and people we hate make shows, and each of these statements pushes the next person to respond. Each performance, and, more importantly, each production is a small ingredient in a larger recipe. If I add baking soda, the cookies will puff up, and if I don’t, they won’t.

Now, the culture of our country is gonna keep happening whether we say anything or not. We don’t have a responsibility to make sure the wheel keeps turning, it’s gonna turn without us. When we *aren’t* producing plays, there are *LOTS* of people who are, and they don’t miss us for a moment when we keep our yaps shut.

But this conversation is our obsession, it is what keeps us doing the myriad other survival things we have to do with the rest of our lives. I see it in Mac and Jordana, I see them experience something and, almost immediately, begin to re-tell the story to themselves as a piece of theater. Understanding that our flaw is that we have no careers, and yes we know it, and yes we’re all, all of us, ashamed that we haven’t done more (even Mac knows he should be doing more, and he’s trying the hardest) – understand that, we still know that our passion for The Story Told trumps that.

And it’s in our plays, it isn’t in our reviews and it isn’t in our blogs or our theater-theories over cocktails. It’s in our plays. Would you like to know who we are? Then come see our plays. Come see our plays.

(Yes, I did, I just wrote in my blog about theater about the fact that our opinion about theater isn’t in our blogs. Yeah, I did that.)

And, here’s the thing. If you don’t come see our plays, then… I don’t know. What can I say? If you have a theory about culture, and you talk about it a lot, either in print or over cocktails, but you don’t come see our plays then you’ve stopped us from having a conversation. It’s a monologue. YOUR monologue.

If I can extend the ingredients metaphor, you aren’t allowing the baking soda to be added. And it’s possible that you don’t care about the baking soda, but you can’t know that without knowing WHAT IT IS. If you’ve seen my play, and you say, “This adds nothing to the conversation”, then I respect that. Believe me, I’ve probably said it about your play too.

But if you aren’t gonna come see my play… then WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME TO COME SEE YOURS? See, I can’t help but feel like you want me to come because you need to sell as many tickets as possible. If you send out a personal plea to *me*, and I buy a ticket and bring a friend, and I tell a lot of the people I know, then you’ll sell more tickets and you’ll have a better chance of covering your nut.

But if you haven’t seen my play, then I have to assume you aren’t all that interested in my opinion of what you do. Because you haven’t listened to my side of the conversation. You haven’t sat across the table and let me have my say. So, let’s take this to the next logical conclusion.

If you want me to come see your play because you’re worried only about ticket sales and not about my opinion, then that had to have factored into your decision when you were picking the play you produced. You can’t have been picking a play based on holding up your end of the conversation because you aren’t *having* one, you must have picked something you thought would sell tickets.

At this point… Look, it’s not that I want artists to starve or suffer. I don’t want us to be poor and miserable, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to get paid for what you’re doing, especially if it is the devotion of your life. But if you’re making decisions based solely on tickets sold (or “units moved”) then why theater?

My GOD, there’s NO MONEY! We had a song in one of our shows called “The Same Twelve People” because the joke is that there are 12 people with $18, and on any given night, eleven of them are at the twelfth’s performance, they just keep passing the same ticket money around to the same people. THERE IS NO MONEY TO BE MADE IN THEATER. The overhead is ridiculous, the return on investment is miniscule, every single artist involved would get paid better if they worked in a different medium, and the product you created literally ceases to exist the very second it comes into being. IT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA.

The only reason to do this is to be part of the conversation. And the conversation matters ENORMOUSLY. What we say in a piece of theater today will affect the world in a matter of time. A fireman will pull you from your burning home and save your life, but six months later, having lost everything in the fire, you will walk into a theater a broken person, and walk out having been SAVED. And you will be saved by spending EIGHTEEN DOLLARS, because the saving is the reason, not the money.

I know you think you need to keep your head above water, but it would be better if you didn’t make plays at all. If you can’t be bothered to talk to the other kids, then why are you at the playground? If you’re just there to sell candy, believe me, the cool kids are gonna figure out REALLY fast, and they aren’t gonna bother with you. Drop your lollipops and get on the swings, man, it’s the only reason we’re all here.

Barnaby and Augie Freak Out

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Obviously, I called this morning to see if I could get dance lessons for the boy.