Transcendent Years

I’m reading Marshall W. Mason’s “The Transcendent Years The Circle Repertory Company and the 1960’s”. For context- I got to see the Broadway production of Lanford Wilson’s “Fifth of July” in 1980 with, movingly, and ironically, Christopher Reeve playing a paraplegic. (See my blog post Happy Lanford Wilson Day)
More about that landmark play another time.
Mason’s book is a history of The Circle Repertory Theatre company and therefore an overview of Wilson’s output as a playwright (and Mason as a director).
So I am slowing down my progress through the memoir by reading the plays of Wilson, as they come up. Many are short one acts. All are unique. Wilson was a trailblazer from the start. His very first plays (“Home Free!” and “The Madness of Lady Bright”) broached, in turn, incest, and the life of a drag queen. Not easy subjects at any time for a writer. That he could humanize them compellingly speaks to his talent.
More to come….

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The Turn of the Screw

Decided to spend October rereading Henry James’s masterful novella. Its sense of dread, suspense and just plain scariness is singular. I’m not surprised it’s been adapted as an opera (not seen) and the movie The Innocents (I own a copy- Criterion, of course.)

I’m reading with the perspective that the demonic possession is in the governess, not the children. Both perspectives work.

I should be done by Hallowe’en.

Testing The Current

I read William Macpherson’s Testing The Current when it came out in the eighties. A believable sustained coming-of-age novel from the point of view of a small boy.

A couple of well-observed gems, thus far:

“One day his mother came home with straws that were pleated like an accordion so they bent easily. Tommy liked those straws, but his mother saved them for when he was sick; he couldn’t use them at other times.”

“[His father’s dress shirt] was as stiff as a board there was so much starch in it, and the front was pique. That’s what they called it. It looked uncomfortable but very fancy.”

“Though [his mother’s] dress was black, it seemed to pick up the light from the lamps in the room and give off a soft shine of its own. His mother said it didn’t shine; it had a sheen, and there is a difference.”

First Day Back

My brother passed this along to me, from a teacher neighbour of his.

For teachers, July is a month of Saturdays; August is a month of Sundays.

I like that- that August is the second half of the long summer weekend- the night before it changes, come September.

It’s Labour Day Weekend. Back to the classroom on Tuesday. Here’s a monologue from my play Put Up Your Hand suited for this time of year: “First Day”. Enjoy.

And my best to all my colleagues back to it on Tuesday. Rested and renewed, I trust, after all those Saturdays and Sundays.
First Day

Edward Albee liked it

Two years ago I performed a monologue from my script “The Good-bye Play” at the hub 14 in Toronto (pictured). The performance was filmed but needed an introduction. Here it is. Thanks to the people and events that inspired it; to videographers Anthony Da Souza (for the performance video) and to Jason Sauernheimer (for the introduction); and thank you to Andrew Gaboury and the Field of Crowns. And of course, Edward Albee.
hub 14

Clock Dance

Thanks to e-reading everywhere I went, I finished Anne Tyler’s latest novel, Clock Dance. (As of this week, it begins to emerge on the NY Times Bestseller list.)
No doubt I’ll review it. For now, a selection of quotes. No one observes quite like Tyler.
*****************

She yanked the closet door open and her reflection vanished.

“Hello?” he asked, in that reluctant, dread-filled voice he always used when he answered the phone, his second syllable trailing away as if he were already preparing to hang up.

Now she settled into the dailiness of grief- … the steady, persistent ache of it, the absence that feels like a presence.

She was the only woman she knew whose prime objective was to be taken for granted.

She had forgotten those whooshing pauses that happened during phone conversations with smokers.

She just loved saguaros, was all. …It felt like a cucumber, cool and smooth and sturdy. It seemed aware of her. She could almost believe it was steadying itself to receive the pressure of her hand.

(She had refused to ask her own seatmate. She didn’t like to discommode people.)

The dark was that half-hearted kind that happens on summer evenings…

It was, in fact, a bare-bones kind of house, its small rooms furnished sparsely, with pieces that seemed to have lead full lives in other houses long before this one.

… she’d felt like a watchful, wary adult housed in a little girl’s body.
And yet nowadays, paradoxically, it often seemed to her that from behind her adult face a child about eleven years old was still gazing out at the world.

Marriage was often a matter of dexterity…

Oh, already she was feeling the limitations of living out of a suitcase.

Now Willa remembered what a boon these young women could be; offering privileged glimpses into her sons’ private lives.

“If you don’t have grandchildren, you won’t have to worry about them going through the death of the planet.”

Home! Even the word was a comfort.

“….he thought it was impolite to pick up a telephone in mid-ring…”

Wit without the Vitriol, Please

I got to see the revival (and Broadway premiere) of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, the benchmark play with the all-gay cast from 50 years ago.
I saw the play in revival in a Toronto production in the 1980’s. I recalled a play of great wit and pain.
The night I went to the Broadway production, the main character (portrayed effectively by Jim Parsons), Michael, descending into his drunken tirade against his party guests, hurling racial and homophobic insults, got empathy for his neediness but not for his drunken slurs. Were they meant to be funny in 1968? Did they amuse in the 1980’s Toronto version? I can hardly print them here- the “N” word; “Coon”, and more. In 2018, they seemed to wound the audience, as well as the characters.
Times are changing. The sarcasm of plays like Boys and its influence- Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – might be out of reach for today’s sensitized audience.
The wit is still appreciated. Maybe not the vitriol?