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Showing posts from May, 2010

(Smiles back, with a hint of menace)

I recently finished reading Albee’s “A Delicate Balance.” It’s one of those plays that I’ve always meant to read but somehow never got around to. Anyway, finally I did. As I understand it, this was the play that turned his ascendant star on a downward trajectory that would lead to many years in the wilderness in the eyes of the critics. After the raw, brutal brilliance of “Woolf” it’s not hard to see why this play was the cause of some disappointment, and indeed head scratching. It did, however, win the Pulitzer that year…though, as so often happens with Academy Awards, I think this may have been in part something of an atonement for past misjudgments – i.e. “Woolf” not getting it.

However, I found the play to be quite affecting for the most part, and at times rather harrowing. I'm certain that any play he’d written after the huge critical and commercial success of “Woolf” would inevitably have been seen as something of a letdown. Consequently, I don’t think this play has been giv…

Cormorant Comma Rant

Here’s a fine example of why the common-or-garden comma (not just the Oxford variety) should be embraced with open arms. While reading a review by Michael Billington of a play called Madagascar in yesterday’s Guardian, I stumbled (literally) upon this sentence:

"Lillian, speaking five years ago, is a super-civilised American dwelling on her son's defection, possibly to Madagascar."
How, I asked myself, could Lillian be a house? Was it metaphor? Symbolism? Theatre of the absurd? No, it was none of those. It was, of course, the absence of a comma that lay behind my initial confusion. Now, I’m sure there are plenty who would read that sentence for the first time without any misunderstanding or puzzled double-take. But I’m also confident that there are many who, like me, had to reread the line before understanding its intent.

In Mr. Billington’s case, I’m sure this omission was more of an oversight that a conscious decision. But it does highlight what I see as a world that incr…

Folk Tales

Yesterday, Playbill announced that Joan Collins would be making her pantomime debut in “Dick Whittington” at the Birmingham Hippodrome this Christmas. Among the other stars mentioned who will be joining her in this production was the (very funny) comedian Julian Clary. What the article neglected to mention, though, was the fact that when Julian Clary began his career, he went by the stage name (moniker?) “The Joan Collins Fan Club.” And thus a beautiful symmetry was wrought that day and the sun shone just a little bit brighter.

And yet I can’t help feeling I should be applying my focus to more weighty matters.

Hmm…what would Goodluck Jonathan do?

Mr. Jonathan’s Big Day

You might think that the inauguration of a new President in the most populous country in Africa would have considerable global press coverage…but alas, no. Yesterday, this event – whilst obviously a matter of great significance for Nigeria’s 150 million people – slipped by with barely a flicker of acknowledgement from the fourth estate. It seems to me that Western media seem completely uninterested in what happens on that continent unless it relates to war, famine, or disease, and consequently frame and define Africa through such a prism for the more casual observers of world affairs. This is a shame, obviously, but I must confess that the main reason that the swearing in of Nigeria’s new president caught my eye was because of something equally facile…his name: Goodluck Jonathan.

How odd, I thought. And yet, how perfect. His parents, in their infinite wisdom, bestowed upon him from the very moment of his birth, a benediction in perpetuity.

Let’s hope that it bodes well for his …

Recently Cited

I saw this excellent quote from Moss Hart in The Dramatist (the Guild's bi-monthly magazine):

"I was the guy there when the paper was white."

Great stuff. And I think I'm quoting it accurately...but if not, remember the words of Hesketh Pearson:

“Misquotation is ... the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely-read man never quotes accurately for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely.”

Hesketh Pearson (1887 – 1964) English biographer and writer

Thanks, Hesketh, I’ll try to remember that (but not accurately).

What's in a Name?

I just recently finished a short play entitled "A Small Act of Vandalism." It's part of a larger project I've been working on for sometime now - a collection of one-person plays centered around a theme. Yes, I'm aware that this is not exactly an original concept, but let's face it, a four character, two-act play is hardly a groundbreaking idea either, is it?

Anyway, every time I've finished one of these, I've run up against the same problem...what do I label it? Is it a monologue? A one-person play (as noted above)? A monologue play? Or just a play? I hesitate to call them monologues or even monologue plays, even though technically that's what they are, as I think calling it a monologue somehow suggests that it's something less than an actual play. This is not the case, but I think there's a tendency to see them as pieces or extracts rather than complete stories. I've been drawn to the idea of calling them one-person plays, but in anoth…