cloud 9, top girls, the striker, vinegar tom, a number, far away, traps
just a few of my faves by caryl churchill
The other day I saw a play, and it was bad. It was terrible. It was painful to watch.
I see my fair share of new plays. Untested, newly produced plays with living playwrights that may be at the show that I am seeing. These plays are produced by people that I respect, that use the resources that they fight for, the space that they spend time searching for, to put up these never before produced new plays, and I love that.
Full disclosure I write plays, I know a lot of playwrights and I enjoy new plays. The writers that I count as friends are all talented and doing new, innovative work. The ones that I would considered my peers or whose flowering careers I envy are also so very good and I have a great time watching their work. I don’t make enough money or have the amount of time on my hands it would take to see Broadway Theater with any amount of regularity. I am poor (I mentioned that I am a playwright?) and I have a job that makes it impossible to stand in line for rush tickets. So I see a lot of off-off-off-off Broadway Theater. I love these little theaters that are spread around the East Village, the Lower East Side, Midtown and various parts of Brooklyn. I love new plays! I write new plays and cross my fingers that they are good ( I think they are good) and I see new plays and I hope they are great and I am so excited when I learn something new, or when I am inspired by what I see, and that happens often. Once in awhile a stinker gets through. When seeing a bad play I suggest you do the following:
1)Give the play another chance- Sometimes it takes a bit for momentum to build, for the play to get its legs. Don’t just shut down, go with it and see what happens.
2)Find a character that you want to see through what may be a complete train wreck- The structure might be poor but the characters could be alive and full.
3)Fantasize about the actors- I like to think about the actors, what they do backstage, how long it took them to memorize each line, if they go out every night after each show or if they will wait till the very last performance to really let loose and party.
4)Take in the sound and design elements- Is the set interestingly structured? Does it look like a particular set piece was made with love by a stage hand? Is the story reflected in the scenery? The design of a set can sometimes take something mediocre and elevate it to decent. Sound design is the unsung hero of the theater. A good sound designer is hard to find and I know two of the best. I know the amount of effort they put in to every show they work on, even the ones they don’t necessarily enjoy. The sound of water dripping, the mumbles through the wall, those original songs that are piped in for atmosphere, behind all of that is a sound artist and you can lose yourself in their work.
5) If all else fails reflect- Finding time to just meditate and reflect on your day, or your life or how you are feeling is rare. You are in the dark and no matter how good you think a play is you are being confronted with humanity, which naturally makes you think about your own, so go with it, lean in.
I hope that helps. There is nothing worse than seeing a bad play but don’t let that ruin the overall experience of being in a theater and definitely don’t let that be the last play you see. The next one my open your mind to possibilities that you never knew existed; the next one may change you life.
When I was in high school I was walking around Whole Foods, probably drinking a smoothie, when I ran into Maya Rudolph in the produce isle. I froze. At the time I thought she was the funniest person on Saturday Night Live, playing some of my favorite characters and as a “drama nerd”she was one of my idols. My friend’s and I loved reenacting the characters that we saw, and Maya was the best to imitate. We had so much fun imitating her imitations as we wandered the halls of my high school.
Maya Rudolph is the daughter of two musicians, the more famous being her mother Minnie Riperton, the singer of Loving You. At the end of her most well known song she sings “Maya, Maya, Maya” for her young fussy daughter, full of energy. Minnie would die of breast cancer before Maya turned 7.
While on SNL Maya played Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner just to name a few. She sings in almost every role she’s played. Also, and this is a big deal for me, she was in the seminal 90’s band The Rentals! She played keyboard and sang back-up! If I was in a band that is exactly what I would want to do! Oh yea, and her Godmother is Teena Marie ( I L-O-V-E Teena Marie).
Aside from musicians, while on SNL Maya was able to play characters of many different races and ethnicities. She’s played Black, Asian, Middle Eastern and White people. With the change of her wig and the tweak of an accent she is the best kind of chameleon, able to encompass so much humanity.
So I am drinking a smoothie in Whole Foods walking through the produce isle and I see Maya Rudolph and a few not so clever things to say run through my mind, none of them seem right. So I just smiled a big goofy smile at her and she smiled back at me and went back to looking at grapefruit and I was completely satisfied knowing that I shared a tiny moment with one of my favorite comedians.
Maya Rudolph was in The Rentals!!! She truly is a gem.