Less than five seconds ago I finished reading Chekhov’s Sea Gull and I am full of it the way that good plays fill you up, to the point where your seams nearly burst and your belly bulges to contain the powerful emotions that come with absorbing a play too fast. Goes to your head, like too-cold lemonade in July. Where to begin?
The sea gull, I think, and Treplev’s gift to Nina, symbolizes the fact (to Treplev) that Treplev could not give Nina anything of value. Sea gulls are easy and worthless to shoot. A gift of a seagull is like a gift of sand. And then you have Trigorin’s trite analysis, in which Chekhov just fucking outdoes himself: it (a) sets up Treplev as the bad guy to Nina, it (b) foreshadows Trigorin’s seduction of Nina, and (c) it blocks Treplev’s implied message. AMAZING! New! Wild! Different! How the hell do you write so many things with such brevity?!
I can see, though, why this play was recommended for Acting 1. It’s easy to get along with. Prolly played to huge audiences, because there’s not enough really deep stuff in it to alienate the common audiences. Also the illuminati prolly liked it due to Chekhov’s message about the destiny of theater, through Treplev’s speeches in Act One. Gets you on a lot of levels at once. Also you’ve got Masha and Medvedenko as subplots AND comic relief. Only Walt Disney does it better.
I don’t like the ending line. It’s a bit of a cheat. Sure, it’s shocking to hear that Treplev has just shot himself but if you kill the lights on that line there is nowhere to be gone. The play is not only over, it’s killed. I would sorta have liked it if we HADN’T have known it Treplev had shot himself or not. That would have annoyed the shit out of audiences but it would have given the play a micro-degree more of class.
Read Pinter’s Homecoming and found it quite interesting. The best thing about it, like Rosemary’s Baby, is you can’t tell exactly what it is that’s going wrong until the very end, where most everything is spelled out for you in the grossest and most terrifying possible terms. The image that I got is one of a worker bee (Teddy) bringing back food (Ruth) to the hive (everybody else). The model would work well in terms of developing the off-stage relationships of the characters. The trade of Ruth for a sandwich is utterly slick and cold. This play has something stinging to say about men’s perceptions of women, and it has something cold to say about the family unit. Imagine wild dogs fighting over a roast. Icy!
Oh, yeah, one other thing about the play: this play explores the essence of the block (see Johnstone). The men deny one another speech, actions, and objects. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a playwright use a block correctly in a theatrical context (in my of course brilliant theatrical repertoire.) Pinter understands that a block is actually a form of non-acceptance, and therefore hostility. He uses blocks to demonstrate the men’s interrelationships. Cool beans!
At Baker’s Plays I bought a play called Scapino! ’cause i heard it was good. It is in fact Bozo the Clown bouncing around on a pogo stick. And so much much more. It is a frosted dog turd. It is vomit in the snow at 2 a.m. It is utterly racist and condescending to the audience. The opening song in the show is comprised entirely from the menu of an Italian restaurant, for God’s sake! Characters throughout the play have to speak in mock Italian, as if the Italian language is actually a bunch of nonsense to be ignored or laughed at. Frank Dunlop and Jim Dale should be sodomized with the Coke bottle they felt was so funny all the way through Act I. Okay, I’m done now.
Almost. What’s the difference between Scapino! and murder-dinner-theater mysteries (saw one and thought it fairly gross for the poor actors), as opposed to the stuff we read for Acting 1? Is it not possible to be salable and classy?! Does intelligence not sell? In Emma, the writer (I forget his name) says acting is 5% Quality Acting and 95% Bunny Suit. Is this a profession of choice for someone with my computer skills? And why aren’t we covering how to MAKE A LIVING in the theater? We’ll be brilliant and starving.
Read American Buffalo. It’s a status play, I think. I should have read it more closely. The curse words don’t offend me like they did everyone else in class. I realize that it may be a bit contrived (“do poor people really talk like that Herbert?”) Also it has something to say about reality and wishing beyond reality. Ever heard a story about this fellow who has this lottery ticket of which he’s uncovered five of six numbers, and they match five of six announced on the news? So he never uncovers the sixth because he will always be able to dream of the idea that he’s won the lottery. American Beefalo is a lot like that. We all feel sorry for Bob because he’s low status.
I went slightly bughouse (ha ha) and checked out six books on the theater, none of which have to be read for this class. What a dumb ass I am. Actually I did not shoot for the theater proper: I localized my checking out to the history and teaching of improvisational acting. I found that there are many other people out there with dreams and theories which are a lot like mine. Ever heard of Viola Spolin? She is the one who created the concept of the improvisational game. In Improvisation for the Theater, she goes over about half of the games I’ve learned by word of mouth, and adds about one hundred and sixty more. She IS the woman. I like improv as a training tool because it demonstrates that we are to show real people on stage, which may be distorted by the director’s perception of “art,” but nevertheless must remain real people. Death is not a realistic play, but the characters MUST be real for the play to fly. Also got Combat Mime, which teaches me how to beat people up without beating them up. I just couldn’t wait for the workshop on the subject–sorry! Got about three books on the history of IMPROVISATIONAL COMEDIE as seen through the eyes of the stagestruck viewers of Second City and The Compass, two original improvsiational troupes. The books mostly masturbated over themselves and how great they thought past comics were. As a true lover of improv I realize that it can only move forward, since it is an art of the moment. The minute it begins to repeat itself it leaves the realm of a pure art form and becomes a hybrid. This is not necessarily bad, but the creative act is then (temporarily) stifled. Am I making myself perfectly clear?