Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Up North
Spent the weekend with Marah and her 'rents up in Marin County, which may be one of the best places. Ever. I mean, walks through the winding, wooded streets off Highway 1 are sometimes interrupted by giant SUVs that barrel through like they were God's gift to nature. But the views and small-town-in-the-mountains feel of the place make the yuppie-dodging worth it.

Sunday we were decidedly cultured, and drove out to Napa for wine tasting. I'm told the better, less crowded places are in Mendecino, but that was a few hours away and for another trip. Some vineyards charged for tastes, some didn't. Coppola jacked us the most (like the dude needs more money), but it also had the nicest exteriors -- huge courtyard and fountain. Nicely done. There was also a Coppola mini museum inside, which sounded only tacky at first, but actually featured some cool family memorabilia (the score for the first Godfather -- Frances's cousin or something was the composer), as well as props and costumes from different movies. Those Italians, they make pasta, wine, AND they're creative. Is there anything they can't do?

The only thing missing for me was a Giamatti-esque spectacle of desperation. I really wanted a disgruntled wine-taster to pick up one of those expectoration bowl things and dump it all over himself. Sadly the alcoholics were on their best behavior.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Me Versus Miller, or How a Bad Teacher Can Ruin a Good Play
I heard Arthur Miller died, which actually made me a little nostalgic. Well, really that started when I read something April wrote. I had a long love/hate relationship with Arthur Miller for some time. It started in high school when The Crucbile was crammed down my throat in American Lit. I was vigorously underwhelmed, and as far as I could tell, he could give a shit about me (or was that my cold, snooty Lit teacher? -- this was the teacher who made us address each other only by last name because, she said, that's how it is in college).

Then, a year later, I got cast as Happy in a thrown-together reading of Death of a Salesman (I think my costume consisted of a cap worn sidways, or am I remembering wrong? Taryn?). Better teacher, better play. He'd won that round.

I saw A View From the Bridge at a high school theatre conference thingy in which Drama Club nerds from far and wide came together (it wasn't an AV Club convention or anything, but pretty close). Good play but over-acted, as one might expect from eighteen year-olds who ACTED and DID THEATRE, as well as other things IN ALL CAPS. A draw for Miller and me.

Did scenes from View in college in various acting classes. Began to understand what teachers meant when they talked about his vision of the American Experience. Two wins for Miller.

Saw a great production of DOAS at the Lyceum in San Diego, and the following year had to teach DOAS to undergrads while earning my MFA. Turned out to be the most accessible, discussion-provoking play of the term. We were on a path to peace.

Then, two years ago, Liam Nieson and Laura Linney sealed the deal for me by tearing shit up Puritan style in The Crucible. It was such a visceral rendering of a play I'd thought was stale and melodramatic. Turns out it was mostly the fault of a crappy teacher in eleventh grade.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Officially a Douche
After shaving yesterday, I actually cursed my triple-bladed razor for not being the triple-bladed razor with the soothing aloe strip. I blame this newly made need on the commercials. I mean, they've got fighter jets flying around all Top Gun-like. You snicker, but I bet more girls'd get on board if the commercials had greased up razors in a no-shirts-allowed volleyball game.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I've been kicking around an idea in my head for a new play. It's about a small fundamentalist religion in an even smaller town in Middle Of Nowhere, America. Religious, secular, and love hijinx ensue. I was starting to nail it down and make it my bitch, when I read Jon Krakauer's great book, Under the Banner of Heaven. In tracing the violent history of the Mormon church, Krakauer asks big questions about faith, like how a person can believe in and accept a religion that he has intellectual qualms about. My reaction to the book can best be described as BINGO!

If you haven't read any Krakauer, do. Stop reading this shit and go get Into the Wild or Into Thin Air. He writes gritty, non-fiction stories of people who go on larger-than-life adventures, like living alone and off the land in the Alaskan wilderness, or climbing Mount Everest (as he himself did). All of them, whether motivated by pious duty or extreme Mountain Dew-commercial hubris, think they can best the odds based on some extraordinary sense of faith. And usually, they're tragically wrong. Also, some of the scenes are so tense you crap your pants. They don't say that on the book jackets, but it's true.

In Heaven, he shows how Mormons, especially the fundamental/polygamist folk (who the main church wants nothing to do with), have the same kind of bulletproof devotion. There's a lot of blood and disturbing history, all of it worth your time. But it's the most sensational parts that lend themselves to drama.

Take the one splinter-group fanatic who
was fond of roaring at the top of his lungs in public to prove that he was 'the Lion Of Israel'. In one legendary incident that occurred in the early 1950s, he lay facedown in the middle of a busy Salt Lake City intersection, bringing traffic to a halt, and did two hundred push-ups. When the police finally persuaded him to get up off the pavement he proudly insisted, 'Nobody else can do that many. That proves I'm the One Mighty and Strong.'

Or, the book's central character, Dan Lafferty, whose manner of speech reminds me of a David Cross character.

According to Dan, at a certain point Christ gathered all His children around Him and announced, 'I want to have a party that's gonna last for a thousand years. You interested? You want to party with Me on this earth for a thousand years?' And we said, 'Hell, yeah!' So He said, 'Okay, that's the good part. Here's the bad part: you can't have something for nothing... For six thousand years I'm gonna let the earth become hell before I turn it into heaven. And hell, by definition, is where the devil and his children are running shit. So what I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna let the devil populate the earth with all of his assholes, and then I'm gonna sprinkle you, My children, on the earth a few at a time. And every hour you spend in this hell-on-earth with the assholes, you're going to be building up credits for the Big Party. It's gonna take about six thousand years, but by then we'll have all the credits we'll need for our party. And then I'll come, and we'll harvest the earth -- basically, we'll remove all the assholes -- and clear the dance floor for our thousand-year party'.... Before the God of love makes the scene, it will be important somehow to help His children -- the children of love -- have their eyes opened to who this cool fucker is who will be coming to befriend them on the day known in the Bible as the 'Great and Dreadful Day of the Lord' (great for His children; dreadful for the assholes)'

It's easy to laugh him off... until you read how he brutally murdered a woman and her infant because of a kind of Divine calling. I started to wonder what separates the rational person who's really fired up about faith, from the unstable guy with something to prove. At what point do fanatics say to themselves, 'Okay, I know killing is supposed to be all wrong and shit, but dammit if I don't love me some God!'? (As a sidenote, the court ruled Lafferty 'sane').

People won't get murdered in my play. But God will most definitely jump out of an airplane on a snowboard. It's only appropriate.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com