Monday, October 09, 2006

All Subtext (c) 2006

I have a folder on my desktop filled with "blog-worthy" items. They include a handful of September anecdotes, a couple sprawling Hamlet essays, and a more thorough-going post on the question of NYC-centrism. For reasons obvious to any regular reader, I've had occasion to think about that last question a lot. And even though it's fallen out of vogue in the slippery news-cycle of theatre blogs, I will be posting it sometime this week. In the meantime, I have a couple hefty deadlines over my head: a big audition tomorrow and an even bigger play draft due soon.

I trust that neither Hamlet nor NYC will be exhuasted by the time I get back to the blog, so this post is moreover a chance to let certain of my friends know that I'm alive and well and settling into a splendid working rhythm up here. By way of some clever fiscal acrobatics*, I've carved out this Thoreauesque survival budget that lets me mortgage 16.5 hours of my time in exchange for complete freedom the rest of the week. I love it. But now that said rhythm is in place, I don't have any excuses to avoid audition prep, writing deadlines, etc.

Given this, I should have something to offer Matthew Freeman's open thread on compulsory inspiration. But I don't. I might offer a complementary thread for cataloging avoidance mechanisms -- but that could go on forever.** And if I'm being perfectly honest, blogging itself remains one of my favorite forms of avoidance.

It's been invigorating to watch George and Matt throw open their blogs for direct feedback on the work-at-hand: as playwrights, they can bring their work (the text, at least) straight to the discussion. I hope they continue to do so. I'm sure someday soon actors will be posting clips of their latest audition sides for open commentary -- but that innovation will depend less on technological capability and more on whether actors can overcome their natural territoriality. Speaking of: can I copywrite my subtext?***

What follows here may or may not qualify as avoidance, but it's been sitting in the blog-worthy folder for too long. If anyone out there caught the documentary version of Manufacturing Consent, you might recognize this 1969 debate between Noam Chomsky and William F. Buckley. There are many great reasons to watch it now.

Buckley's TV show Firing Line looks like a low-rez version of the entire Fox News apparatus, doesn't it? The way he deploys a crowning bon mot in synch with the commercial break, for example. You'll see that sassy tactic exposed in the second half here. You'll also see the discussion run off the rails as Buckley keeps changing the center of the debate just when Chomsky starts to anchor it in historical fact.

So as stage-managed as that was, at least two worthy antagonists had a whole twenty minutes to talk about something. The discussion is subverted from the beginning, of course, because Buckley was both antagonist and moderator at the same time.

Balance restored below. Also fairness.

Viva la blog.


*equal parts unemployment insurance, temping for two days, and no smoking.

**CD burning, people watching, blogging, finger-drumming, bookshelf re-categorization projects, tile grouting, Frank Rich columns, YouTube, the perfect omelette, porn, nail-clipping, googling, Photoshop, solitaire, graphomaniacal repetition of the first five pages, anagrams, porn, designing the poster, office supply shopping, porn, strategic napping ...

***Why not? I'd like to quote from a CBS Memorandum Agreement I had to sign last month when I was testing for a pilot in LA. According to section 6, clause g, part i:
Performer shall perform all services reasonably required, and Studio shall have the right to use, and to authorize others to use in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe in perpetuity ... [emphasis mine]
I'm glad the lawyers clairified that as a Performer, I shall perform. "Services reasonably required" -- the subject of many back-alley casting calls, I'm sure. But damn: the universe? Why not add "in this life and the next" while we're at it. Or is that covered "in perpetuity"? If these are the terms we're playing with, why can't I copywrite my subtext? The whole O'Neill fiasco has people asking whether development houses, directors, and festivals deserve a cut from the playwright's comparatively paultry paycheck. Any way us theatre actors can get in on this?