Go See a Show

Dear Millicent,

You know I am all for sitting inside the house and letting the world carry on while I’m happily snowed in by novels and long lost mini-series.  But, after last night, I’m going to have to change some of that. And, I call on all MCF readers to help me.  We have to go the theater/theatre. It’s important.

Remember how in the superb Slings and Arrows (get thee to your Netflix, or latenight IFC right now if you haven’t seen it yet),  a major plot point is the fact that all of the theaters ticket subscribers are old. I assumed this was exaggerated for the sake of plot points like this misguided attempt to pull in a younger audience with billboards like this:

Since I never go to plays (they’re expensive), I wasn’t in on the joke. The joke that it’s all true.  Due to a deal on tickets, I went to the Geffen Playhouse here in LA, which from its fanciness looks like a supremely endowed-theater. I saw The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, a play about 1980’s childhood nostalgia, pro-wrestling, race and capitalism in America. It was full of rap music. At several points, the entire audience was filled with the unhappy elbows of people covering their ears. There were no young people.  There were no middle-aged people. It was the New Burbage Theatre Festival.

I do not particularly like  young people.  But that’s neither here nor there. I had no idea how many people weren’t going to see plays. That sounds crass. What I mean is, the tradition of theater-going seems like it might be lost.  Younger generations aren’t theater-going, theater-finding, theater-thinking.  Concerts yes! Plays, no.

Theater is where we get our broad strokes on, where themes have to be present, where politics get to be stated proudly. Where we have monologues that are actual monologues! We have to go to the theater because if we don’t, by my hasty estimation, there will be no more ticket subscribers in 30 years, max. And we want plays like The Elaborate Entrance… to get made because they are all thinky and sweaty and compelling.  I have to say, from the grumbling I heard in the audience (“what’s this play about?” “I hate the music.” “Why can’t they keep their clothes on”) I assumed the audience hated the play.  I was wrong. They gave it a standing ovation.

Am I wrong? What was the last play you went to? What was the audience demographic? There is a strong chance my observation based on one night out is totally overblown. But I trust Slings and Arrows. 

Let’s all go to one play in the next 6 months. That gives us till March.



Canada, Oh

Dear Millicent,

Let’s move to Canada.  Why? While the healthcare will be nice, and we’ll have the seasons, they will be extras.  The real benefit will be good television, radio, and publishing.  It seems as if in Canada the arts not only matter, but they are inclusive.

My ridiculous proof for this is a TV show that I stumbled upon, Maisonneuve, and radio essays that often show up on PRI. We can joke about the lackluster (a poor word for such sequined divas) Celine Dion and Shania Twain, but they are cancelled out by The Munro, and Montreal’s great charm on all who visit (I have never been).

The TV show is called Slings and Arrows, and I think it might be the best show I have seen.  I say this giddy off of a Netflix binge on the first season, and I have been known to give this title lightly.  I said the same about The Wire, Can’t Get a Date, Duchess of Duke Street, Berkeley Square, 30 Rock, The Daily Show, Arrested Development, Kids in the Hall, Peep Show, The Office (British), Mad Men,and years ago I was high off of Northern Exposure and Twin Peaks. All of these shows have left me breathless in what they have accomplished.  They are each the best in their own bright way.

I can’t believe Slings and Arrows got made.  I have never seen a script that was so odd, so unformulaed, so light, and so weighty.  It is about theater, for god sakes, and it’s about Canadian theatre, no less.  The show isn’t focused on setting trends. Nobody in the piece is wickedly outfitted as a cultural gatekeeper.  There is commentary on art in its public and commercial space.  There is a lightness in drawing the characters in three dimensions.  The writers seem to be unburdened by the need to play to the balcony–and they can have a grim fun that isn’t centered on flash or ego.  Yet flash and ego are present, but their creation is subtle and swift.  And deft and honest and well-played.  Humble is the wrong word, but there is a strong sense of confidence that carries more swagger in its apparent geekiness than the usual intricate and hip HBO offering.  This is only one show, and one season of that show, but it leaves me with the impression that Canada is the type at the party that looks like an IT clerk (unironic glasses, pleated pants, bland unbranded sneakers), but who is so relaxed and interesting that they make all the people in boots, scarves and tattoos look unfortunately overwrought. Maybe they are just refreshing.

Maissoneuve does the same for me.  Less McSweeney’s quirk (not that the quirk isn’t its own kind of gold), and more open conversation. Again, theirs is the party I want to go to.

We can go look at the cedars, get jobs where we won’t be millionaires, but it won’t matter, and in the summers we can wear dresses with puffed sleeves and drink cordial (I was thinking of Nova Scotia, and thus good old Anne).  We can also still drive to visit the folks on this side of the border.

If the second season of Slings and Arrows doesn’t hold up, this is all subject to change.

For now, to Canada, where the firecrackers seem lovely, the air is crisp, and the people have all swum in lakes,