Monday, November 7, 2011

Drama by John Lithgow - A Book Review

This is the audio book that, for the past month, has made the effort of daily transportation around Seattle much more bearable and entertaining. In general I am a bit skeptical of actor memoirs. As fun as some of the famous name dropping can be, it rarely sustains for a whole book. Plus, acting and writing are such different skills that the prose in most books of this kind lays pretty flat on the page.

Fortunately, these problems are well avoided here. First, John Lithgow's heartfelt, honest and lively memoir spends most of its time in his years leading up to his film and TV career that he is mostly know for now. The book's subtitle, "An Actor's Education," is very fitting. This is the story of how Lithgow grew into acting. There certainly are some great anecdotes late in the book about his ten years in the 1970's on Broadway and his encounters with a young Meryl Streep, an inspiring Mike Nichols and a passionate Jose Quintero. But the heart of the book is the young Lithgow's immersion in the theater, mainly through the work of his father, Arthur Lithgow, a tireless director, actor and producer of theater, mainly Shakespeare, that had his son John in and around the stage constantly from a very early age.

Malcolm Gladwell could easily have used Lithgow's story as an example for his book about success, Outliers. One of Gladwell's points in that book is that anyone who becomes a stand out expert in their field, an outlier, has somehow accumulated 10,000 hours of practice at it to do so. Based on young John's exposure to his father's Shakespeare festivals and his eventual roles in those shows, my guess is he logged half of those 10,000 hours before he even went to college.

This brings us to the other reason why this memoir rises above most other celebrity books of its kind. Before Lithgow had entered college, he had not only acted in a ridiculous number of shows, many of them by Shakespeare, but had seen productions of almost every play in the Shakespearean canon, and many of them in multiple productions. This exposure, amongst others I am sure, has given John Lithgow a tremendous respect for and sensitivity to language. He has written a number of children's books, all of which are robust in their poetry. Here, not a single person, play or event gets mentioned without an elegantly distilled portrait being painted for the reader. For those who choose to have the book read to them in the audio version by the author himself, as I did, are in for an even bigger treat, in that the actor's delightful expressiveness adds an intimate layer to the already engaging story. Its like having John Lithgow over for a glass of wine. Each time he takes a sip, you immediately say "and then what happened?"

Anna Christie with Liv Ullmann 1977
I personally could have done without the chapter late in the book that describes his affair with Liv Ullmann that brought his first marriage to an end. Yet it does help round out the picture of his life on and off the stage that probably would have seemed to perfect had this brutally painful episode not been included.

That aside, the book, which is based on a one person play the author did a few years back, is a love letter not only to his father but to the world of the theater. Anyone who has worked on the stage will find a kindred spirit in Lithgow. His love for the art is moving and inspiring and will charm and win-over even the most cynical of thespians.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Cryptogram - Theater Review

I was thrilled and curious that Seattle Public Theater chose David Mamet's 1994 drama, The Cryptogram to kick off its new season. I read the play when it first came out and was intrigued and confused by it at the time, and always wanted to see what it would look like on its feet. Seattle Public gave me, and the rest of the audience, a thoughtful, chilling and well balanced production of what is clearly and challenging piece of theater.

The Cryptogram is a smaller work from the controversial Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet. First, its basically a one-act play clocking in at barely an hour long. Mamet, who is known for his terse muscularly minimalist dialogue, has never been one to write a Eugene O'Neil-esque 4 hour epic drama. However, even amongst the brevity of most of his plays, The Cryptogram still stands out as a more modest piece of work.

That is not to say that his themes are small. Indeed, the one thing you can probably never accuse a Mamet play of is being unambitious in its content. On a basic level the play, like most of Mamet's work, is about trust; who can you trust, what is the real truth, can you tell the difference, does the difference matter in the end? Where normally these questions are played out by con-artists, thieves, businessmen, and movie executives (clearly Mamet believes these four groups to be practically synonymous), in this play they are explored through a domestic family setting.

In a traditional American living room one evening in 1959, ten year old John, played with an intense haunting duality of innocence and wisdom by the young Rowan Calvert,  eagerly awaits his father's arrival home from work in anticipation of the camping trip the two will take tomorrow. An old friend of the family, Del, whose complex motivations for being at the house this night are balanced expertly in a memorable performance by Richard Nguyen Sloniker, waits with John's mother, Donny, a tightly wound female played with determined callousness by Emily Grogan, as the two try to calm the excitable young John and get him to go to sleep.A seemingly simple domestic scene.

Yet even as the first lines are spoken we know things are not well in this house. John complains of hearing voices, of hearing a radio playing. The two sounds are making him uneasy and unable to sleep. His mother, does not now, nor anywhere in the play, ever really listen to John. She is the classic self-involved distant mother whose sole aim is to get him to bed regardless of anything he says (There is another whole essay to be written about how Mamet writes coldly and judgmentally about women. In this play, where the never on stage father abandons his family, it is not he who receives the audiences scorn but the ever-present onstage mother who is vilified and condemned.)

Director Kelly Kitchens seems determined to maximize the creepiness factor of the play by adding dimly lit interludes at the opening of the play and between the scenes that emphasize the atmosphere of unease in the household. She also changes a small bit of stage business involving a letter that makes its origins and its place in the house even more mysterious than the written play suggests. These choices have a dual effect, one that helps and the other that hinders. On the positive side, by letting the audience know, via that stark minimalist set, the moody sound-scape and the additional staging, that this is going to be an unsettling experience, it allowed the audience to go with that experience more fully than if it was staged with an eye solely on realism. However, in  a play where meaning for the audience is already frustratingly allusive, the combination of these directorial decisions made the overall experience of the play just that much less satisfying.

This is David Mamet's most personal and autobiographical play (There is also another whole essay that could be written about the significance and symbolism of the young John and a young Mamet. The boy's handling of the knife, a tool he is given by an adult, to open boxes with begs the question, "what will he do with the knife?" Mamet, who wrote a book about the art of drama call The Three Uses of the Knife, eventually took his own tool, the pen, to fight back at a world that he felt didn't listen enough). Supposedly he wrote it much earlier in his career and kept it in a drawer due to his strong personal feelings about it. If you have ever read or listened to an interview with the author, you will know that he is almost combatively private and closed off about personal matters. It feels like this lack of willingness to share that aspect of himself might have bogged him down in this play.Even is such a short work, there is an amazing amount of repetition. Small plot twists that in his other plays and movies would be revealed and dealt with in a few lines and a minute or two of stage time seem to go on forever here. When Donny finds an inconsistency in Del's story about how he was given a knife by her husband, the two of them go over the details so much that audience members are tempted to intervene to move the story along.

All that said, the Seattle Public Theater production does exactly what it should do with a play like this. The three actors skillfully handled the extremely challenging and sometimes seemingly purposefully unnatural dialogue of Mamet's text that served the author's intentions and aesthetic without falling into a deadened cliche delivery that those of us familiar with Mamet's work have heard way too often. Plus, as I lingered in the lobby and outside the theater, I heard virtually everyone who left discussing the play, offering their own take and interpretation of the material. These artists engaged their audience and gave them an experience that lasted well beyond the running time of the play itself.

Seattle Public Theater's The Cryptogram runs through October 23 at the Bathhouse Theater on Greenlake.

After Thoughts or Pet Peeves 

As one of the aims of this blog is to engage and enrich the Seattle Theater Scene, I feel its important to include comments on productions that would not normally have a place in a regular review. Mainly, these following criticisms should not be read as an attempt to deter anyone from going to see this worthy production, but should be looked at as part of a collective peer group dialogue where smaller points of a production can be discussed in the spirit of getting us all actively thinking about how to continually better our work in the future.

Prop Consistency : This was a minimalist staging of a play without a lot of needed props or set pieces. That said it was supposed to take place in a traditional living room. I thought the overall look of the play was solid  and fitting - costumes, set, props. However, there were a few moments that seemed to ignore the artistic aesthetic established by these elements. The first two had to do with liquids. Donny brings out a couple cups of tea early in the play. I am all for not having actors bring real hot  liquid out onto the stage. Yet, I am also a believer that the audience should at least be able to accept that tea might be in those cups. Yet when Donny came out swinging her arms holding those tea cups, it left no doubt that not only was there probably no liquid in those cups, but that it clearly wasn't hot. It was a very distracting moment. Almost as distracting was when Del is trying to feed John some medicine from a spoon. He pours the medicine from a bottle onto the shallowist of spoons on one side of the stage and then proceeds to walk across the stage with the spoon to the reluctant John where they then begin to battle for a couple minutes about whether John will drink the medicine or not, while Del continues to move about holding the spoon with the medicine, which we are then asked to believe Del successfully gets into John's mouth. Anyone trying to accomplish such a task would clearly bring the bottle to the boy and pour it there. If they didnt think of that right off, the awkwardness of trying to accomplish a playground game of not spilling the liquid from the spoon as you cross the room, would make them correct themselves and proceed as previously described. Did these actions ruin the play - no. But the accumulation of these kind of inconsistencies do make, even for the average theater goer, even if they can't put their finger on it, a less than full experinece.

Packing When There is Nothing to Pack - In third and last scene of the play Donny is packing up the house. The play calls for the room to be "denuded." Yet when you start with a minimal set (no real walls, no real pictures on walls, no knickknacks) it doesn't leave much to pack. Not a problem. Don't make the actress pack what is not there. Put the boxes about so we know moving is eminent and leave it at that. But having the actress awkwardly roll up a large rug and put throw pillows in a box, felt weird and not in keeping with the world of the play. She was packing these things because they were the only things there, but since the director and set designer had decided on a minimal set, the packing aspect of this scene should have taken a back seat to the other drama happening on stage.

Sound : As I mentioned earlier, there was a non required but effective sound-scape added to the play. This made me all the more curious about another subtle but significant sound element. When we first meet Donny, she is offstage in the kitchen. She breaks a tea pot. Del reacts to the breaking and they exchange dialogue while she remains in the kitchen.First, I didn't hear the crash of the tea pot. Nor did I later, in another scene, hear the tea kettle start to whistle until well after Donny had reacted to it and was moving off stage to get the tea. But bigger than these two issues was the fact that Donny didn't sound like she was in the kitchen. She sounded exactly like an actress sounds when they are backstage. Your voice sounds different when you shout into curtains rather than shouting in a space surrounded by drywall. Again, in a minimalist production we don't have that much to pay attention to and these little details stand out.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Detroit – A Play by Lisa D’Amour – Book Review

The intrigue and genius of this play begins for the reader/audience , like it does for all great plays, with its title. Detroit as a title, as simple as Hamlet and slightly less poetic than A Streetcar Named Desire, has a suggestive nuance that begins its deceptive hypnosis on you before you know anything else about the play itself. Detroit is a national icon of the American Dream gone wrong. Its had its ups and downs, mostly more downs in recent decades, but, in our current economic climate, Detroit has a great deal to say about how capitalism has evolved/devolved in our country, and, in a fossil fuel warring world, just naming a play after the motor city seems to suggest the author has something significant to deliver.
Add to that equation that Detroit takes place in a “first ring” suburb of any mid-size American city and its “I am a play about the America you live in now” factor goes up quite a bit. This is one of those plays that dares (and succeeds) to bring into focus the blurry and ill-defined raw nature of the American experience, boldly articulating it for its contemporary audience as well as documenting it for future generations.
Set current day in the backyards and front porches of two neighboring homes, the houses built in the 1950’s, where Mary and Ben, a paralegal and a recently laid off bank loan officer, both in their mid-thirties, begin to get to know their recently moved in neighbors, Kenny and Sharon, a warehouse manager and a phone bank worker, also in their mid-thirties, Detroit is a play that, from the start, shows itself to be an insightful and useful anthropological yard stick. The goals and futures of these two couples, even in their first scene, all of them non-committal in their jobs (jobs specifically, not careers), are a dramatic unstated contrast to the legacies of the people who built these 50’s homes, and first created this neighborhood. 
Even on their first meeting, where Mary and Ben have invited the newly moved in couple, Kenny and Sharon, over for dinner, things are not going well. Kenny and Sharon, it turns out, have met in rehab and are really just out and just attempting to start a new and hopefully clean life for themselves. But, due to their sorted pasts, neither has any fiscal resources and the house they are living in, Kenny’s recently deceased aunt’s house,  is bare of any furnishings save for a mattress on the floor of their bedroom.
Yet Kenny and Sharon come off, early in the play, as the two that are more centered and focused on moving forward and doing better for themselves in life. Mary and Ben, while currently situated a bit better (they of course have furniture and, despite Ben’s recent lay off, are able to shop at Whole Foods and buy caviar to serve to their neighbor guests) , seem to be on the edge of a cliff that has a much deeper drop off than any they have encountered before.
As the play progresses and we see the neighbors visiting back and forth, Ben and Mary’s heavy drinking stands out in stark contrast to Kenny and Sharon’s newly found sobriety. Soon, however, Kenny and Sharon both slowly begin to slip. One beer then another are had. Stories about shooting up and meeting strangers become less guilt ridden accounts of a regrettable time in the past than entertaining anecdotes that seem to display a longing for a world not that far out of reach.
As Ben’s enthusiasm for his entrepreneurial venture into a self-authored credit score repair website dwindles and Mary’s patience with Ben’s failing plan dwindles as well, the couple’s joint and individual compass’ directs them gradually toward their new neighbors who are loosening up more and more as the play continues.
When, late in the play, the four of them spend the better part of the night, drinking, singing, and dancing on Ben and Mary’s front porch, the boundaries of neighbors and spouses and recreation and abuse begin to go up in flames. The selfish and desperate devastation that the couples wage on themselves and each other is an unsettling snap shot of contemporary unease.
It would have been easy and tempting for the author to make this a play just about the challenging road to recovery of substance abuse. It would have been just and easy and tempting to make Kenny and Sharon into the carelessly corrupting influences on otherwise marginal do-gooders of Mary and Ben. But neither is even remotely the case. We, at various times root for each of them while D’Amoure constantly forces us to reevaluate our choices as to who deserves our sympathy, concern and understanding.
The physical world of this play truly sets the stage for the emotional and psychological journey of its characters. Everything here is broken, damaged, or collapsing under their feet. The opening scene has a patio umbrella that won’t open properly and eventually closes unexpectedly leaving a gash in Kenny’s head. As we watch while a character’s leg breaks, a car gets a flat, patio furniture falls apart, it is as if the suburb itself is a character that is unsettled, angry and lashing out at its inhabitants.
Playwright Lisa D'Amour

Detroit received its debut at Steppenwolf in Chicago a year ago, and by all accounts was a knockout of a production. Its was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize this year and is scheduled to have a Broadway production in 2012. I assume the impending Broadway run precludes the availability of rights for a Seattle production, at least for a while. I hope that Seattle theaters are keeping an eye on this one and will jump at the opportunity to stage it here when the time comes. In the meantime, maybe they will join me in hunting down Lisa D’Amour’s earlier works. She is clearly someone we are going to be hearing a lot more from.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Lie of the Mind - Theater Review

I applaud the newly formed theater group Collektor for taking steps that are challenging for any artist. First, the boldness, audacity and focus to start a new theater company.  Their proclaimed aim as a “New Seattle Art Collective” is provocative enough and undefined enough to suggest both potential greatness as well as potential lack of focus. As with any newly formed artistic endeavor, however, it’s more worthwhile to focus on the product than any boasting claims (Collektor is admirably modest in this regard). So that leads me to my next nod of recognition to this group, for having chosen a play that in itself makes a statement about what they are about.
Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind is a big, rough edged, overpowering,  grizzly-bear attack of a play. It’s linguistically and symbolically charged. It’s unrefined in the best sense of the word. It dares you to dive in and find meaning in its murky waters and then mercilessly holds you under, refusing to let you see the surface again.
The play is an ensemble piece in which each role is as important and demanding as the next. Artistically this is a play that actors, designers, and directors can stick their teeth deeply into and be sure to have enough meat there to provide them and their audience a rich experience.
Why does a new group choose a play like this? I would assume that the large cast (9 very significant parts)  the depth of language, big emotion and the surreal nature of the play seemed like a strong showcase piece for what this new group wanted Seattle to know about them. It’s a bold choice, but it’s not worth embarking on a venture like this if you are not willing to take big risks.
The play tells the story of Jake and Beth. But not quite just Jake and Beth - Jake and Beth and their families. As in most Shepard plays, family is a character unto itself, and in A Lie of the Mind , there is more family than most people can take. The opening of the play Jake is calling his brother Frankie in violent hysterics because he has, yet again, beaten his wife Beth and, this time, probably killed her. In these opening scenes Ray Tagavilla (Jake) is at his best as his explosively punctuated rage, palpable potential danger and physically draining inner turmoil is on full display as he tries to gain sympathy, help and guidance from his brother Frankie, played in perfect pitch nervous angst by Tim Gouran.
Beth, meanwhile, is not dead but is recovering from her brutal beating with severe brain damage. Beth is aided by her brother Mike and eventually her mother and father Meg and Baylor. While none of these roles are easy, Beth’s part is particularly challenging for both the actor and the director. Shepard doesn’t not give a lot of description as to how Beth speaks. He simply has her speech, the words, speak for themselves. It is abrupt, staccato-ed and takes philosophical and linguistic bridges that we usually don’t allow our non-brain-damaged minds to journey upon. He does not, however, discuss the physicality of her speech. This production has chosen to have Beth’s physical act of pronouncing word be part of her impairment. I cannot say whether this is inherently a right or wrong choice, only that it didn’t fully work in this production. That said, Aimee Bruneau (Beth) gives herself fully to this role and plays the speech impairment of her character to almost unsettling effect. I am sure, however, that the production  would have been better served if she just struggled with the mental thought process of constructing her thoughts into sentences, rather than adding the physical handicap of restrained speech on top of that.
There are a couple suggestions from the text that would seem to support this idea. First, Beth’s other physical ailments, having trouble walking, etc., get better as the play progresses. It is unclear and distracting then why her physical speech would not as well. Secondly, there is a scene later in the play where Beth is talking privately to Frankie, where she says two complete sentences in row, rather than the 3- 5 word fragmented sentences she speaks in most of the time. The only indication as to how she should say these new lines is Shepard’s stage direction (Quick) and the only indication as to how they are to be taken is Frankie’s next line “I thought you couldn’t talk right or something. You sound okay to me.” Yet in in this production Beth completely drops the strained vocal production of someone who has had a bad stroke and speaks her lines, temporarily, in perfect understandable crisp speech. Then quickly goes back, unexplainably, to the previous afflicted condition. Beth did this once earlier in the play on a line I can’t remember (at the time I thought it was an actor’s mistake, stepping out of the accent so to speak). I assume that the Rob West (the director) and the Ms. Bruneau thought there was some added layering of the mystery of the play through this. To my ears, however, it just didn’t work. Ms. Bruneau clearly possesses the talent to have played this part in a different direction. I wished she would have let Shepard’s poetically charged language guide her part more than the layered on physical handicap she chose.
As Jake and Beth both retreat to their parental homes to recover, Beth physically and emotionally while Jake is trying to deal with the fact that he still believes that he killed her, the two families of this mismatched couple slowly begin to invade the play, eventually to a degree, not uncommon in a Sam Shepard play, that the identities of the characters begin to wash over one another and blur the lines between them.
Before that fully happens we meet Beth’s parents, Meg and Baylor, who are played in the stand out performances of the evening by Sally Brady and Joe Ivy (respectively). Both are clearly concerned and worried for their daughter but both in very different ways. Meg wants to nurture, baby and soothe (she doesn’t, not does Jake’s mother, Lorraine, even remember that her child was married, let alone to someone who beats her) while Baylor is ready to get her swiftly back on her feet, to let her do something for herself, yet shows dramatically little concern for any kind of justice or revenge regarding Jake who put his daughter in this awful state. This is where Beth’s brother Mike comes in. He seems like a natural good brother at first, helping her recover, looking out for her peace of mind, but slowly, as no one else seems to be bothering with it, he begins to take the role of the protector/father and is the most interested in making Jake pay in some way for his crime.
All three of these are subtly complex roles that carry a multitude of nuances from scene to scene. While I pretty much fell in love with Meg’s character the first time she stepped on stage in act I(Sally Brady inhabited the world of this play to its fullest), there is a scene late in the play between the husband Baylor and the wife Meg that physically deals with the taking off of Baylor’s boots, but emotionally and philosophically delves into the nature of human companionship and the very nature of our place on earth, that is acted with such majesty, grace, restraint, and honesty that it has made Ms. Brady and Mr. Ivy two of my new favorite Seattle actors.
Eric Riedmann as Mike, played, as the rest of the cast did, with full conviction, emotionally honesty and utter purpose that it is hard to state any fault. Yet as the play and most of its characters begin to verge away from what most of us would recognize as reality, it is too easy to play Mike as the last sane one of the bunch who goes into histrionics because no one understands him, which is what it feels like happened here. Mike is no different from the rest. They are all longing for understanding. But they are also, all, following, in some loose way, the pre-determined paths that their destinies/genes/families/role models have carved out for them. In simple acting terms, Mike peaks too early, but underneath that generality there is a wealth of life left unexplored.
Macall Gordon as Jake’s mother Lorraine and Maggie Tatone as Jake’s sister Sally share the ensemble dedication of bringing this monster of a play to life. Yet neither one seems particularly well cast in their parts and makes for their scenes together, as well as their solo scenes with Jake, drag a bit. Mr. Tagavilla as Jake, despite such a strong start in the more emotional and realistic parts of the play, has a difficult time keeping his character’s inner life alive for the audience when Jake turns into more of a surreal vessel for his dead father, his absent brother and his possibly dead wife.
The physical production values of the play were quite a mixed bag. There was gorgeous and affecting live music throughout from Sean Patrick Taylor. The brutal effects of violence were shown in astonishingly realistic gashes, bruises and scars by Jodie Knowles’ make-up (especially impressive in such a small space so close to the audience).  Yet other aspects did not quite make for an artistic whole.
The set in some ways follows very closely the description set forth in the script – two platforms, one for each home, with a gap of space between them, big enough for scenes outside the homes to be acted. Yet in the Bullitt Cabaret Space at ACT these 2 platforms were so small they barely fit the furniture that was placed on them, let alone gave enough space for actors to move around.
Then there was the issue with the soup. There is a scene where Jake’s mother, Lorraine, is trying to feed a nonresponsive Jake cream of broccoli soup while Jake is lying in his childhood bed. After a bit, Jake knocks the spoon out of her hand, snatches the bowls, turns it upside down and then stomps in his bed until he is exhausted. In this production, however, there is no soup. They mime it.
If nothing else, Sam Shepard plays are big and messy. There are dead animals (many), blood (tons), broken bottles, broken bones, gun shots, fist fights, and plenty of food thrown about (soup included). On some level, this production didn’t reach its full potential due to some physical restrictions. In numerous scenes the actors looked like they had to slow down and step out of character (just for a second, these are all solid actors) simply to maneuver in the cramped space. If there was a reason you couldn’t spill real soup or something that looked like soup and let Jake stamp around in it for while (there are reasons, the audience, like I said was very close to the action – I saw a production of Shepard’s True West years ago in a very small space where a metal key from a typewriter came flying past my head after an actor had taken to the typewriter with a golf club – it was in the script - but I still didn’t appreciate it) then you need to cut that part of the play, or replace it with something else. Why go to the trouble of having some of the most realistic make-up work I have ever seen done and then mime soup. It was inconsistent and threw us out of the play, as did the unrealistic partial deer carcass and anything that directed our attention to the paper backdrop that extended to the floor and you could hear the crinkle of actors stepping on as they exited the stage.
Yes, it might seem easy and arrogant to Monday morning quarterback this, but I believe it is important to point out that all these elements are part of what make a great production. Overall the artistic vision here was not entirely cohesive. A set that does not fit the space and mimed soup in an otherwise relatively physically realistic set are just symptoms of a larger artistic miss.
Despite any of this, Collektor’s statement with this first production is clear – they are a fully engaged, fearless, dedicated group that aims on doing great work. While this first outing might have missed the mark on some points, I hope they will be back with something else to challenge us with very soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Does Seattle Need a Theater Blog?

I have been attending, avoiding, appreciating, despising, embracing, and coming to terms with the Theater Scene in Seattle for the past 20 years. While much has changed in that time, much has remained the same. The scene still struggles to provide an adequate economy to employ a healthy number of artists who proudly call this their home and don’t need to look elsewhere for work. It struggles to be a fertile breeding ground for new work and talent that would make it a destination for theater lovers and practitioners from around the world rather than a way-station. It struggles to grow its audience  and have the theater that is done here enter the mainstream cultural dialogue of the city.
Obviously, some of these issues are an inherent challenge of producing live theater in the world today and Seattle shouldn’t be singled out as somehow failing in these areas more than any other city. Yet, I don’t want to have to continue to travel to see some of the best theater there is. With the venues this city has and the artistic talent available, there is no reason why Seattle can’t be the place where others come to see the best there is.
One of the things any healthy arts community needs is active dialogue. Seattle theater coverage has always been spotty at best. Even when the Weekly, the PI the Stranger and the Times were all running regular reviews in their print editions, the restrictions of space rarely allowed for the critique of work to enter a level that could engage further discussion about the quality of the work in the city in general.  Now that most of the coverage is more online than in print, the general readership of the city is not even noticing that theater is happening here, let alone whether it is good or bad. While reviews are important, the aim of most coverage that happens seems to be too limited in scope.  Limiting the discussion of a play to recounting the event and suggesting whether its worth going to see the show or not, is only part of the job of criticism. Any decent show that is put on is an opportunity to discuss why we go to theater, what we want from it, what is succeeding, what is missing and what we would like to see in the future.
My hope is to create a forum where a vibrant dialogue about our theater scene can begin. Here is what you can expect from this blog and how you can participate :
-          Seattle Theater Scene will provide an ongoing series of essays about the current state of the art of live theater in Seattle.
-          Seattle Theater Scene will reach out to its readers and ask for comments and feedback so the site is a dialogue and not a monologue.
-          Seattle Theater Scene will provide lengthy in-depth reviews of plays produced in Seattle that will aim to discuss the work in a way that can in turn inspire and inform future work in the city.
-          Seattle Theater Scene will engage other theater writers and critics in the city by writing about and commenting on their reviews, articles, blogs, etc.
-          Seattle Theater Scene will happily link to and promote any reviews, articles, blogs that contribute to the a greater discussion about theater and its relevance to the residents of our city.
-          Seattle Theater Scene will accept guest articles and blogs that share the aims of this site.
To get things started, let me know what you think. What would you like from this site? What topics about our theater scene should be discussed more broadly that are not currently part of the larger dialogue?
I look forward to engaging with all of you.
PS - Keep posted, I will have a review of Collektor’s production of Sam Shepard’s A LIE OF THE MIND very soon.