Disasteroid and the State of Theatre, with beverages to follow.
I meant to write a normal review.
Instead, I ended up making it more of a diary entry and a treatise or some shit on theatre. Fuck it.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a review for Disasteroid: The Musical buried in here somewhere, because I like to review every show I see. It’s just that- well, was it that there wasn’t a lot to review? No. I could have written a short review, right? Wrong. I decided to go off about how I felt that day about theatre, and how I’ve felt since, and about the whole damn world. I used to think I’d start a second blog for my theatre reviews, and keep them separate from my goetic diary entries, but today, I know I made the right decision in keeping them together. Sometimes they contribute to one another.
Now, if you seek only to read the part of my review that covers more technical matters- for I know that’s all Certain souls care about when it comes to reviews (God forbid I should discuss plot with any thought for its use)- you may want to scroll down to the Second Part of this review, marked with asterisks, for the First Part here is, as mentioned, dealing with more Dionysian, philosophical, personal, or impersonal/community-and-world-oriented ideas than most reviews might cover, extensively.
I would’ve indeed written after opening night recommending this show as at least entertaining, but I was unable to do so until now, and the show is now closed. So I’ll simply review it after-the-fact, and you can see it the next time it goes up! At least this time gave me a chance to think- over and over. I would’ve written other things too- more reviews and goetia indeed- but I had a bit of a domestic emergency instead that knocked me all off-kilter. I intervened in some violence, that of one of my abusive, drug-dealing neighbors (yes I had more than one) toward his wife and children. I subsequently became endangered myself, of course, with loud, aggressive, mentally disturbed attempts at violent break-in, and others have been working with me in relocation. What a shame that such things should still be so prevalent in modern society- three out of my six former neighbors beat their wives, and the other three were bachelors. My neighbors and I called the cops regularly, and I finally stood up to one of them when I thought I could get sufficient police action- sadly, not as much as we would all want (we as a society are so often limited from taking action unless we are vigilantes with superpowers), but it is something. (And how odd I found it to be faced again and again with possibly the same policemen who had once marched against me in riot gear!)
Thus, after I’d already spent a month or so hibernating after 26 years of hard work, I then was set back another month (I hate inactivity and lack of progress, despite how it beckons and tempts me!) in moving. And that’s when Everything Fell the Fuck Apart. Amidst the regular stresses of life, there was moving. And thinking too much about the shit for which I moved, and the whole world. And dating. And spell-work to see what I might do to improve the situation. And work (which has become really shitty on their end and my end; there is malaise among everyone thanks to steadily increasing incompetence in my superiors, cut hours, reduced pay, corporate America being evil, etc., and I got called in and basically asked “what the fuck happened to you; you used to be the best and held the team together” whatever like I care). And theatre. And maybe a little too much focus on exercise and yoga, which so nicely shut everything off. And of course I became reacquainted with my old valuable friend, consuming, on average, half a fifth of vodka a day as though I were Masha of The Seagull. Once in a while I indulge Dionysos. Other times, like now, I am afraid I must set certain facets of his aside. The pattern wears itself out and is to be discarded. I’ve returned to fasting as though it were Lent.
Of course, I am also like Allie in that she started her blog when she was totally apathetic and depressed, and posted often, because that’s all she was doing, and had many stories to tell that she didn’t spend as much time on, and was focusing on that rather than her poverty, hunger, and future as a vagrant, as she says. So, like her, now I post less often. Now I try to insert a little more quality. And I have so much theatre to do!
So I shall begin by discussing my day leading up to the show. I had read my Facebook feed as I am wont to do and came across a HuffPo article about theatre shared by a friend. Articles about theatre are often full of pretentious pronouncements and individuals attempting to make ingenious breakthroughs by stating what they think must be some new Fact about why theatre is the way it is- this article did the same, and I won’t hypocritically pretend I am not guilty; mine here is probably doing something like that as well. But you see, so many concern themselves with various negatives as for why they think theatre isn’t working. It’s so trendy to disparage your own art: For instance, this article I speak of concerned itself with what the author considered to be the “Scandalous Failure” of the arts, music, and theatre. It is not the only such article I have read upon fairly well the same topic in the past few months. I’ve read several. I read another a couple of days later, which claimed theatre is not effective anymore, because we, the people of “modern times”, are “desensitized”. I read another a few weeks ago entitled, quite plainly, “Why Theater Sucks”. I read another a few days ago saying that theatre is failing because we “work together” too much, as in, we are too cooperative, too helpful, and try too hard to be a social service, as if that makes any sense WTF that’s our job. And so many more articles will say we are FAILURZ for so many other reasons. A friend had re-posted the “Why Theater Sucks” article on his wall, recommending, “Why Theatre Sucks”, and the author of the article responded, “You misspelled theater” to which my friend who had recommended said article responded in friendly fashion, “You’re a dick.”
Hah, I know many “pretentious” sorts who would insist upon the spelling of “theatre”, myself included. Butchoo kno I dun rly care how nething r speled; languig EVOLVZ- of course, I also enjoy studying ancient language, and so my predilections for the Greek spellings of words such as theatre, Dionysos, and phallos will continue! It is good to know just why language is the way it is. Then you can understand everything on a deeper level. But I digress. Or do I? Surely Dionysos is amused… ah yes: I read yet another article saying that the “Theatre” spellers are the reason theatre does not appeal. IT R 2 INTIMIDATIN’ n forein n snobby n stuf.
I had reproduced one article, “Why Theatre Matters”, in its entirety here on my blog a couple of years ago because it had discussed the theatre festival which my friends had started and with which I began to primarily involve myself overall; again I said I was not sure about certain pronouncements Morris made, but his article still certainly pointed out the function of theatre and the consequences of its not functioning properly in society. It wasn’t as negative as these other articles in saying that we are horrible failures for some reason, but pointed out where we are going if theatre fails. Now back to the particular ARTicle I read before Disasteroid- it says that theatre has failed, and so have the ARTs: The “Scandalous Failure” article.
This “Scandalous Failure” article said that because theatre has failed to do its job, that society has, after a sense, become a failure too: A monster. Theatre does not prevent society’s sins, as it should, and instead of people receiving their therapy, catharsis, and mass healing through theatre (because theatre has failed) they instead receive their input from the mass media which the corporations feed us after the fact- that we process things only as they happen, that we see shootings as they happen, and set up memorials afterward, rather than preventing them.
I say: If that is the case, then theatre has always been a failure. My dear god Dionysos has always been a failure. So too did I discuss this in my own play: In a meta moment, my Ganymede, played by Will McMichael, the same lead as in Disasteroid (who sometimes calls himself Dionysos Will!), was deciding whether or not to create theatre, and was bemoaning that he thought it was pointless, for, “Everyone saw [Aristophanes’] play, but that didn’t stop the war, and Athens was utterly defeated.” We theatre creators have been failing to stop the sins of the world even since the classical height of our art, when it was much more a required and reverenced religious practice. And now, it seems as though we have little funding compared to then, and little education compared to most ages too, though at the same time we have so much more available- better resources, and more education out there to be had even if not seized upon by our school systems. Like some have said, now it seems as though people are trying to squash the arts and squash the thoughts that stop the sins of society. Yet we in theatre struggle on, for what else would be the right thing to do? This “Scandalous Failure” article I read before Disasteroid says we need to get our shit in gear and step up our game to actually finally accomplish theatre’s purpose, which some think is a hopeless cause.
I met with my assistant producer before the show. We had dinner, wine, and coffee at a pleasant café on Sunset. I discussed this article, other theatrical topics, and personal matters with her. We discussed the function of theatre and how we might be able to save the world with it. She said she believes that it is too late to save the world- that the world is too far gone. We happened to see another member of my cast just next door- she was acting as a hostess at a bar, and we promised we’d stop by after the show for drinks. So we did, with said hostess’ boyfriend, and Will of my show and Disasteroid, and others- in fact, my music director happened to stop by as well, making it quite the coincidental CATAMITUS reunion none of us had planned!
My music director, V2 Schneider, half-jokingly said that he thought it has always been too late to save the world- yet he says that is the beauty, and that is what makes it fun, in a Sisyphean sense. I laughed and managed to get my music director and associate producer to debate for a few moments, but we were having far too much fun to do that for long. V2 also thinks- and I’m surely not quoting this right- that people who write articles about this-is-the-reason-why-theatre-is-failing are incorrect and “negative unproductive fucks, and those self-mutilating authors actually in theatre and disregarding their own art are the worst”.
I suppose I do not yet think it is too late. I may agree with V2 that it seems like it’s always been too late to save the world, because I think that the world has been an awful place for… most of time’s existence, in many regards, and sometimes I feel that God has certainly treated much of the world’s populations as cockroaches to torture and upon which to perform experiments- well, at least it seems like that on occasion. It’s crazy to think that I was born in a time in which I felt no discrimination for any gender, or anything racial, or any other kind of bias- at least, for some years. Then one day in fourth grade I wondered why everyone was making a big deal about this word called “faggot” and I learned that the world was not so devoid of discrimination after all.
Yet, for a time, the world seemed a perfect place in terms of equality for everyone. I lived in such a bubble as a child, here as a protected middle-class child in modern America, having no idea of the inequality, having a vague idea that people of various races had been slaves in various countries in various times, but thinking it was all in the past. I knew vaguely that women had once been so subject to men and their societal constructions, but not to the horrific degree that they were, and that they still are, and that men are still out to squash them with icky laws, and so forth. Yet I was born in a time in which… we can taste perfection, as innocent children, even if we don’t have it. And so I think I know that we can have it, and that we can all know that we can have it.
I once, as an innocent child, thought the world was almost perfect, and that God had no further purpose here: That there was no reason to talk to said supposedly-distant deity, and that all there was left to do was return to Eden… many many years later, my ex, in an angry moment, asked me why I did not then immediately dedicate myself to said return to Eden, and why should I have been satisfied with the world the way it was? Well. Disregarding that moment of negativity, there is no reason that anyone even has to do without, except for our own free will; there is enough here for everyone. And I have often hoped that we can reach this state- and I have not thought it impossible, as my assistant producer and music director have.
Yet the world seems increasingly apocalyptic, and certainly it seems so if one pays any attention to articles upon the arts and theatre, or politics, which theatre and the arts are supposed to fix. Indeed if you read that Morris article I mentioned I reproduced a couple of years ago, it also says the world seems vaguely “apocalyptic”- yet it need not be so! It is just that a few people seem to ruin it for everyone; or that is how it seems to me, even if we all ruin it a little bit in our imperfection. I hope we will some day be able to defeat The Black Thing.
Why, this past month as I have more and more been forcing myself to face the world- not just the nice parts as certain Positive Thinkers recommend, when they rightly say that, since the world is our reflection, to whatever we bring our focus, well, that will become the world. Yet it cannot be that we cannot give the dark things our attention- there are those who say we should not. They say that if we give the dark things our attention we will bring more of it into our life. I believe we must face the darkness in order to fix it. We cannot simply ignore it by living in our happy bubbles in our mansions, as I suppose I could have done. Instead, I was forced out of my apartment into a closet next to Skid Row where I constantly listen to the arguments of the mentally ill. You see, Skid Row is where humanity throws itself away- not because it can not, but because it will not take care of itself anymore. When speaking with the police, they told me I ought to move again, so I will- even though my guardian angel guided me to this place. For my own safety, my temple, my sanctum unto Him was destroyed, but I will rebuild my temple elsewhere. When speaking with the police, I found that they have a secret code name for this hotel: The Asylum.
And so in my new makeshift closet, until I move away, and while I have been trying to pretend the world is a nice place by indeed drinking far too much vodka, I have also been facing more and more all the truths out there to be had: Not just the environment immediately surrounding me; which is a failure of not just theatre but humanity, but the also the environment as a whole. I was so bewilderingly hot I couldn’t sleep; this was the hottest summer on fucking record. Like Gaia, I prayed to Zdeus to strike Phaeton down. Phaeton, of course, is the word I used to represent those human actions which are leading Gaia to suffer so. Then of course there are the problems that have existed my whole life that no one has ever fixed, such as deforestation, unethical food ownership and policies and propaganda, starvation, ignorance instead of education, hate crimes, the oppression of peoples everywhere, the choice of war over peace and understanding, etc. Then there are natural disasters and the way a human life is so fragile- that God can squish one person like a bug over and over in some horribly torturous, ignored life, while elevating another.
So I drank. I spent my days waffling back and forth between “Omg life is wonderful; you have given me so opportunities and I am greatly enjoying myself; thank you, God!” to, “What the fuck was the point in creating a world like this? Why do you allow people to suffer so? How can I possibly find inner peace and enlightenment when I know that you let this happen? How can I possibly enjoy my own good fortune and attract more abundance to myself to help others? What, am I supposed to callously imagine that they are simply like NPCs in a video game, and therefore of no consequence? Why bother? Why not strike me down now and return me to my namesake, the state from which you took me?” Yeah pretty much every day.
So, how can we work to save the world, if this is still possible? How can theatre save the world, as I have been told it will? I have had faith that it can, even if it hasn’t quite yet succeeded in thousands of years.
I also think: How silly that theatre should save the world! How silly that I should pay it so much attention! Hell, how silly that I should pay anything attention! Why care about the good or the ills of the world; why care about what it is that I do in this saṃsāra here, when I perfectly well remember that it is all a dream and all an illusion and all a game, and I may feel nothing, and nothing is good, and nothing is bad, and that, underneath, I am still the same Kora, or shall I say, Kaos, and quote Ovid:
“Before the seas, and this terrestrial ball,
And Heav’n’s high canopy, that covers all,
One was the face of Nature; if a face:
Rather a rude and indigested mass:
A lifeless lump, unfashion’d, and unfram’d,
Of jarring seeds; and justly Chaos nam’d. …
Earth, and air, and water, were in one.
Thus air was void of light, and earth unstable…
All were confus’d, and each disturb’d the rest.
For hot and cold were in one body fixt;
And soft with hard, and light with heavy mixt.
But God, or Nature, while they thus contend,
To these intestine discords put an end:”
And so He separated light from dark and so on and so forth.
Yet here I am, doing something. I suppose theatre is as good a mission as anything else; and certainly more enjoyable than others.
So. As for this theatre show. And saving the world….
Before Disasteroid, my assistant producer and I discussed what we thought the show might be like. We did not think it would be any such show as would fit the description of one which would help to save the world, but our friend was in it and it sounded… like there might be a few good jokes, at least. Maybe. It is not the sort of play which would normally appeal to me. You see, honestly, we both thought it would be flim-flam. The show’s description had lead us to believe as much, and that it was just a senseless, fluffy play which would one day be reenacted as a horrid high school production:
“‘Disasteroid!’ tells the tale of Alfred Edgley, a career tax auditor who’s given a shot at some excitement when astronomers at the local observatory trick him into thinking the end of the world is rapidly approaching. Naturally, he runs off and travels the world with the wealthy philanthropist, Mabel Bellcoat, much to the chagrin of his boss, the stern Ms. Stern, and also Mr. Bellcoat. His co-worker, Petty, meanwhile, dreams only of finding a nice backyard. Featuring music and lyrics by the vivacious and charming one-man band, The Bicycats.”
We certainly thought it was one of those plays which was “not doing theatre’s job” according to the article I’d read.
But you know what? WHAT THE HELL. We thought we’d try to find the meaning in it anyway. We postulated that- well- maybe it might just have something to offer someone. Surely it would at least be optimistic, and hopefully funny enough to lift people’s spirits. Maybe someone somewhere would find just the right sort of thing in the play. Maybe someone would be looking for a message and they would find something. So I gave it my best shot (and had another glass of helpful wine, which the theatre poured for a donation, which is, as I’ve said, always a plus and in Dionysos’ favor).
So now on to the, ahem, actual review.
PART TWO OMG
The acting and singing were excellent. I enjoyed all the actors, especially the two leads. The girl was such a good singer that I had to tell her so afterward. Now, I say the acting was good, but as mentioned, the play was less than “deep”, or so it made itself out to be, despite indeed carrying certain themes which I will discuss. So, I will say they did their best with the material and the nature of the lines. It was certainly not realism- like I said, something kooky that maybe a high school will do someday. You know the type.
The dancing was amusing, and I enjoyed whenever that popped into the show. I did laugh often enough as well, which is a plus, so, sure, it’s a good show and I would recommend seeing it next time it comes around; you’ll be amused and get a laugh.
Something impressive about the show was the way that the band leader had written it, and besides that, all the music. I may’ve written my show, and the lyrics, but I’d needed help with the music (even then, I thought I could have used more. V2 was excellent, but I didn’t have much time, nor did I have a whole band like this show did, which was great).
As for trying to find a deeper meaning: Well, of course, it concerned itself with the end of the world. Humans are often preoccupied with that, and I certainly have fun with the topic. My play had explored that too- I like to know, what does the end of the world really mean for us? This play followed one avenue, that of spending time with someone. Making love and seeing the world. Something we should all do- if we could, before our own worlds do inevitably end. Which is a lovely enough idea.
Now, something finally occurred- that something my assistant producer and I had been waiting for. Will’s character began to discuss the deeper questions of life. He began to explore them, as I did a bit here in my “WHAT’S THE EFFING POINT” kind of way. Ah, yes! This is why we came, ultimately! This is what we want to see in theatre! This is the sort of thing people should be watching instead of listening to Kardashians bitch at each other! And, as Will began to sing, one of his coworkers at the IRS joined in, and took over, and immediately turned the song into-
The quality of milk with breakfast.
Yes, the “creaminess of the milk” was the song. The philosophy was interrupted for banality. My friend and I looked at each other in mild horror. Banality… well, ah, yes, that’s exactly how one feels at the corporate machine, anyway… surrounded by coworkers who don’t care about anything except their milk, the zit on their face, their fancy new handbag, or some such. It is soul-sucking to stand there ineffectively, wishing you were working to save the world, when you know your coworkers would never understand, or brush it off in favor of something else to talk about.
I asked around afterward whether this was intentional. Was this supposed to be a comment about theatre? About life? How we prefer banality to the meat of things? Or was that just what the play was supposed to be- ultimately, banal, with no real substance underneath besides the regular old themes we feed ourselves in easily digestible sitcoms? I didn’t really get a straight answer besides that one person thought it was a comment upon the character who was singing that song.
Warning: I’m now going to veer away from purely technical review again. How about a *****Part Three*****?
Back to an article I’d mentioned earlier- “Why Theater Sucks” was, as far as I can tell, essentially saying that we don’t pander to the far-right or other sorts enough, the people who need to be our audiences. That instead we write plays for theatregoers, which means liberal female lawyers of Swedish descent or some nonsense, according to that author. He said we need to get away from our morality and instead explore the “Fox News” side of things, because that will be like eating our vegetables. So, to draw in audiences, should I then make kitschy plays easily marketable for schools, with as much substance as sitcoms, which sell? Do I need to tone down the truth in my plays, and throw in dashes of false morality to attract certain portions of the overly-conservative, Tea Party, religious extremist crowd, since they are of the sort who need healing the most? Do I need to cut out the meat and throw in something about the creaminess of the milk? Like the Kardashians and our coworkers do? Should I turn away from real music that I’ve spent time and care with, and go instead for increasing homogeneity, record sales, and fame, like Gaga?
I would sooner die than sell my soul in that manner- and oh, I have sold it in other, more acceptable ways! But I could never compromise my art to that extent. We all do, let’s face it. I cut out some slide-shows, cut out scenes- you have to kill your babies, after all. That sort of thing makes the show better. But I just don’t think becoming more like Katy Perry or Jersey Shore would be anything I could stomach. I shall always strive for art.
Hey- do you know what brings a crowd together spontaneously? Young and old, rich and poor, straight and gay, Jew and Gentile alike? I have seen it happen. I have seen them come together and cheer wildly. They were tourists, with maybe the odd local thrown in, cheering Jersey Shore cast members who were being interviewed on Mario Lopez’ show Extra. I have seen this with my own eyes.
I don’t have the answer, and I’m not going to pretend that I do just to get an attention-grabbing article claiming it knows why theatre hasn’t yet saved the world. My play explored that too, but I gave no answer. I gave no real conclusion. Maybe that’s one reason a few people didn’t like my piece. It didn’t have a story digestible enough for their palate. But I know many more who loved it for that reason. Some, despite that reason. I drew in those who don’t like “experimental” plays (almost all my reviewers called it “experimental”, oy, now there’s a label I’d not wanted much to do with) and they loved it.
So I’ll just keep working toward that Kingdom. Even while I argue with God. I’ll keep trying to save the world with my theatre, and I’ll be ha satan, the accuser, for others’ theatre- reviewing, and pointing out flaws, so that we can make improvements. I will also point out what works so we can all make use of it if we want. I do it now, writing, at another lovely café on Sunset, as the sun sets upon me and the western edge of civilization. I’ll just keep going. It’s not like there’s much other choice when we’re eternal, anyhow. LULZ I AM TEH OPTIMIZM. When I found Eternity, was it meant to cheer me up, I wonder?
“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.” – William Blake, Auguries of Innocence.