Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Happy Family

The Happy Family is going very well, for producing a full-length, tech-heavy production on a shoestring and eight tacks. The tacks are used to hold the actors together. It seems to be working, even though they're bleeding all the time.

Producing theatre in a cafe space in a dilapidated, 100 year old building is not the most ideal scenario, and at the same time it makes me reflect on what theatre is supposed to be about in the first place. Is it supposed to entertain a crowd of blue-hairs in comfortable, cushy seats with their $5 coffee and scone? Is it supposed to address issues that middle aged and older folks, well settled into the routines of aging and creature comfort, are concerned with? After-all, they're the ones with the money these days, from selling stock and houses and inventing the internet and everything. They're really living in a different world than the rest of us, aren't they. The baby boomer generation... They're really who buy tickets to shows. So that's who we make the work for, generally.

Their parents were depression babies, who did everything in their power to make sure they left their children a better situation than their Mams and Paps left them, isn't that how the story goes? And so these depression era babies built industry, and an America that was unbeatable on the world market. They bought houses without loans (ummmm....what?!). They ate cherry pies twice a week and went to the water on weekends, and the women even started to work, which tripped everyone out, but they did it anyway, and by God they wore pants while they did it. They were some serious trendsetters, these depression era babies. 

Come down a generation to the baby-boomers. It's not that they didn't protest the Vietnam war, or the corporate takeover of the culture that was set into motion unwittingly by our grandparents. It's just that the situation that was set up for them was just so comfy...it lulled them into irreverence, and it was just natural for them to set their sights on the flash-in-the- pan "AMERICAN DREAM". These unfortunate circumstances prepared the baby-boomer generation for the smallest breadth of human experience. Humanimals don't live comfortable lives. The universe itself is tumultuous and hard for the little things. We live by the gas-spewing giant, and we die by it. The luck of the draw that was the White American 20th Century is less than a flash in the pan. It's un-relatable to the human condition. But one thing they had was this seemingly endless supply of cheap energy.

Well you and I both know there is no American Dream anymore. There are rich people, poor people, and the Delusional Middle. The Delusional Middle are the most tragic to me because they have grandeur in their minds, and lack of resources in their lives. If they let themselves be poor, they'd be free to hang out on the lawn with a 40 and a guitar. But their delusions make them take jobs in cubicles and try to eek forward into a better Mercedes and a better WWII shitbox, one with granite countertops, vaguely reminiscent of the ancients, who just went out and mined the shit, it was hard as hell and a lot of people died getting the stuff. But they at least understood what it took to get it. 

This level of comfort is a mistake to embrace, I say! And yet, here I am, nearly middle-aged in a new century (one of dwindling natural resources and dwindling breathable air, one of aging people and aging cars, the back side of this un-documentably tiny moment in history during which 60 or 70 million people wore leisure suits and rode big ass buffets around the Pacific Rim)-yes, all that fit within the parentheses-and of course, I want that too! 

So, to tie this back into my little thesis here, it makes me think about my comfortable parents in their comfy chairs looking at comfy theatre that keeps their minds comfy and their hair quaffed and I say, well, maybe the human race achieved nirvana in that moment, maybe we got there, the only moment as close to the Platonic perfection that our minds can create, in between deep caverns of time during which we flail and squirm like fish on a deck. Our grandparents were delusional. Our parents were delusional. And now we are delusional. 

Do we, then, make theatre that reflects the Platonic perfection, the ideal situation for humanimals to experience? Or do we make theatre that reflects our struggles back upon ourselves, torturing our yearning inner yuppies while trying to glean some greater meaning from the vast majority of experience? 

The Happy Family does both of these things, in a Grand Guignol play, a horror/comedy in two acts. I'm not only proud of the work, I'm impressed with our ability as a species to have delusions at all. The simple game of self-delusion has become the sole focus of our lives. And we may just evolve to manifest immortality by keeping our delusions in tact. 

We'll see.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bill Maher, The Jesus Narrative, Theatre, The Inverse Darwinism

Bill Maher is my new favorite social commentator! Jon Stewart hates conflict, as evidenced by nervous laughs at himself after every remark, as my wife so astutely noted. Not Bill, boy. He is ON IT. Just says the truth direct, funny-as-hell, pull no punches.

I don't know if you know this, but "The Jesus Narrative" is based on our tracking of the SUN over the course of a SOLAR YEAR. Giving the change of the seasons a NARRATIVE structure (which means a story line), makes it easier to remember and understand, I can only assume for the education of our children about how our world works. That's why the ancient Egyptians developed it. What smarty-pants!, those Egyptians back in the day, with their ways of making the scientific cycle of nature on our little planet easy to teach to children. But it's not just for children anymore.

Thus, watching many millions of seemingly confused Americans taking this easily transferred and understood metaphor literally, at first I scratch my head, and wonder, "Does everyone not know about the sun?" It makes me feel, at first glance, like we need a new "Nature Jesus", who goes around in an effort to educate the good people of the land about how the sun waxes and wanes over time, creating a year, and how that's why the solstice is on December 21st, and then the sun begins to move more prominently into the sky again after 3 days; and that that doesn't mean a long-haired blond guy got nailed up on the cross in a gruesome-ass way with blood and stigmata (some very imaginative shit that, reminds me of some Japornimation I watched the other day), just that that iconic picture actually refers to the Southern Crux constellation at the time of year when the sun is at its most waned in the northern hemisphere!

How is this confusing for ANYONE?!, I ask myself. How is belief in an idiot preacher's ego theatrics stronger than the simple animalistic awareness of our environment, an environment we've always known, the only environment we've ever known? Are we so abstracted from our own natural state that we can't recognize it, but can only look at this ridiculously simple metaphor as a literal representation of how shit went down one day at the beginning of the world, 2,000 years ago?

The answer is: NO! We're not stupid. We love our theatre! Well, some of us are dumb as rocks. But for the most part, we know what's going on. It happens to us every frigging year, after all. We would just rather believe this wack-ass story that's a metaphor for nature than to just worship nature itself! That's why theatre will always survive and be vital. Humans love a good, dramatic, violent, emotional, inspirational story, and we are always looking for an excuse to suspend our disbelief. We are beautiful!

So in a way, the video below is weak sauce. Because it ruins our play! Sure, it may save some lives someday when the method actors in the story remember they're just acting. But maybe it misses the real point: Maybe we should jump head-first into our stories and say "fuck it" to reality. Maybe that's the way we create a new, more interesting and inventive universe. We climb into our imaginations, and out of nature.

We just need to write a new play, cause this one is boring us to death.