The Playgoer: LaBute to US Playwrights: Stop Being "Pussies"

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Friday, January 18, 2008

LaBute to US Playwrights: Stop Being "Pussies"

"We are small writers in America these days, writing tiny plays about tiny ideas with two to four characters, so that we get produced and nobody loses any money. American playwrights have been workshopped and "staged-readinged" to death, and we are now a fearful bunch who add sitcom lines to our dramas and tie things up at the end so that folks can walk out of theatres smiling."

-Neil LaBute, writing in the Guardian.

I definitely find myself nodding at these words. The diagnoses is right on--but not necessarily about our playwrights, but our theatres. As always with such complaints as "where are the new great American playwrights," or "where are the political playwrights," we shouldn't assume that just because they're not being produced they're not out there.

The more pertinent question is: why aren't theatres producing them.

I imagine the theatre companies would plead they're just not receiving them. Or that some submissions may be intensely politically charged, but "lack" other aesthetic values. Hmm, perhaps it's time to question some of those well-worn "aesthetics"? (And I do think LaBute is onto that here.)

Anyway, George Hunka proudly represents for US dramatists, on the very same site.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links, Garrett. I would be remiss if I didn't point out playwright Naomi Wallace's response in the same publication.

And you bring up an excellent point. No matter how much one wants to celebrate, as Ms. Wallace does, the number of political plays being written in the US, that doesn't address the question of whether they're "good" in whatever aesthetic sense you'd like to posit -- from an artistic standpoint, from a standpoint of political efficacy, etc. Too, political questions aren't the only "big" questions that American playwrights should be asking. In the sheerly numeric sense, judging from Naomi's post, political plays are in fine health. But political plays, for a number of reasons, can be "tiny" too.

Anonymous said...

Jeez. I never thought of LaBute as having any political sensibility (unless misogyny is an ideology). What bigger issues does he think his mean-spirited, aesthetically stunted plays are really addressing? Maybe he's not equipped to recognize engaged work. His essay, though hitting some points of truth, seems self-serving and disingenuous to me.

Anonymous said...

Neil is big wind bag. His Plays are one note.