Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Build the house, then decorate it

Playwright Theresa Rebeck likes plot and doesn't care who knows it. (LA Times/Adam Szymkowicz)

I seem to be constantly confronted by theater professionals who are more or less annoyed by the prospect of structure. One time I was at a wedding reception, for crying out loud, and I got seated at a table with a really famous genius of the contemporary American theater who had directed a play I admired. He had deconstructed a well-known play but the essence of the original story was still there, and the artistry and strangeness of his interpretation was beautifully balanced within the original tale. When I told him so, he went into a drunken rage. "All that structure, all that story," he growled, pouring himself more wine. "What a nightmare."

"I love structure," I confessed. "I think it's beautiful."

"Yeah, the audience loved it too," he sneered.

OK, I condensed that conversation; there was actually more yelling and drinking involved. But the essence of the exchange is accurate: He was a great artist who looked down on structure and managed to admit that he looked down on the audience too.

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