Theresa Rebeck Explains Why I Don't Go to Plays - Complications Ensue
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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Yeah, this is why I rarely go to new plays, and rarely like them when I do:
I was hosting a session at the Lark, a New York developmental theater that helps playwrights build plays in a workshop setting, and one of the writers presented a beautifully written complete mess of a play. After many people, including myself, praised the grace of the writing, I admitted that I found the play incoherent. The writer nodded and laughed, delighted at my response. "I just wanted to stay away from anything that resembled a plot," she explained.

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13 Comments:

There's this weird heady idea out these days that non-story is more artistic. Narrative seems suspect. It's all very pretentious and annoying. Constructing a good story is so damned hard. It's also the way humans connect emotionally.

By Blogger Eme Kah, at 9:08 AM  

I want to add one more thing: If your audience can't connect emotionally with your work, then you will bore the crap out of them. Period. This is the Great Recession. It is especially effed up to bore people who have paid good money to be entertained.

And by the way, it is also possible to have a story that does not connect emotionally with your audience. This is the way I feel about Inception. Lots of story, no emotional impact. I was bored to tears (but this might be because I am a woman and action scenes don't engage me.)

By Blogger Eme Kah, at 9:27 AM  

And this very reason is why I stay away from most indie dramas... same attitude, different media.

By Blogger Cunningham, at 11:57 AM  

Eme Kah: "but this might be because I am a woman and action scenes don't engage me."

The two are not connected. As far as I know, my wife IS a woman, and action scenes most definitely engage her. Be careful when stereotyping.

By Blogger Tim W., at 12:10 PM  

Execution is everything. I can see it both ways: This woman may have wanted to have a visual/emotional impact with pieces of a story that are open to interpretation. Or she could have been a pretentious jerk. A well crafted narrative is damn hard to create, but it's also the established format. I wonder,is it necessary to master the conventional before testing its limits?

Inception didn't engage me either. I don't think it's because I'm a woman, I think it's because the exposition hit me like a ton of bricks and alienated me from the rest of the film. Action is cool, but it's no substitute for emotional connection.

By Blogger Danielle the Wonderful, at 4:33 PM  

I feel like Inception lost a lot of opportunities. The action sequences could have been revelatory. After all, we're in someone's subconscious. The dreamscape should give us clues about who Cillian Murphy's character is. The action sequences could have been puzzles. Instead, they were just roller coaster rides and/or video game sequences.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 4:47 PM  

That works out perfectly then since I just want to stay away from anything that resembled self indulgent, pointless ego wanking tripe from incompetent story tellers.

I am a writer because I keep coming up with the right thing to say- several minutes after it is the right time to say it.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 6:28 PM  

"I can see it both ways: This woman may have wanted to have a visual/emotional impact with pieces of a story that are open to interpretation. Or she could have been a pretentious jerk."

I apologize for the stereotyping earlier but please don't insult me. I do read the blog regularly. Can we follow the conventions of being at a party given by a generous host and keep from calling each other names? You can always call me a pretentious jerk off-site, when you're riding home and I'm out of earshot.

"A well crafted narrative is damn hard to create, but it's also the established format. I wonder,is it necessary to master the conventional before testing its limits?"

Borges and Cortazar managed to create narratives that engaged the reader and that also tested the limits of conventional narrative. Yes, they still wrote narratives but they managed to be experimental and fresh and terrific fun nonetheless.

By Blogger Eme Kah, at 8:06 AM  

"The two are not connected. As far as I know, my wife IS a woman, and action scenes most definitely engage her. Be careful when stereotyping."

Tim, I apologize. The stereotyping was not intentional. I genuinely wondered if my being a woman was the reason for it. I did say "might be the reason" but I guess the implied question was not enough to keep from offending people.

Either way, it is interesting feedback because now I have to stop to think, Well, why am I usually bored to tears by action sequences? (I actually fall asleep which is strange.) I think the last action sequence that had me genuinely riveted was in Speed.

By Blogger Eme Kah, at 9:42 AM  

I think you can certainly not be engaged by action scenes, but it really has very little to do with whether or not you're a woman. By and large, women tend not to enjoy action as much as men, but as I said, my wife certainly does. My two favourite films from last lear were (500) Days of Summer and Up In The Air. Two movies which I would have very little success trying to get my wife to see. Not enough action.

By Blogger Tim W., at 2:29 PM  

Eme,

I wasn't calling you a jerk. I was speculating about the intentions of the female writer, who didn't want to write anything resembling a plot, from the original post.

Thank you for the reference to Borges and Cortazar I will definitely check them out.

By Blogger Danielle the Wonderful, at 12:55 AM  

Danielle: Hah! Sorry! I'm so sensitive sometimes. To make amends for the confusion, here's The Continuity of Parks by Cortázar: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~scolas/Teaching/Reading%20and%20Class%20Notes/jccontinuity.htm.

It's the narrative equivalent of a Moebius strip.

By Blogger Eme Kah, at 7:14 AM  

Oh, sorry, that link wasn't the short story. Here it is, for real: http://www.continuityofparks.com/by-cortazar/.

By Blogger Eme Kah, at 7:16 AM  

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