10 comments on ““The Play That Changed My Life”

  1. A most interesting blog, H.K. It was worth waiting for.

    I’m pleased that one of my own top favourites, Ibsen, was mentioned.
    Several here that I’ve not heard of and several I know about but have never seen live.
    I wonder if, among those you haven’t listed, anyone mentioned Becket? I would have expected ‘Godot’ to have created significant waves in the lives of many theatre lovers (both writers and audience, including me) from the moment it was first performed.
    Then, of course, there’s also Pinter…….I could go on and on, but let’s stick to your blog……

    I do so want to read ‘Cyrano’ in the original. It’s so great in translation so to encounter it as it was first conceived must be even more astonishing. (To read Becket in French is another of my unfulfilled tasks)

    I managed to see ‘Equus’ on stage in London’s West End (before the horribly literate Richard Burton film was released) – and it certainly is a fine play, though I think ‘Amadeus’ is even greater (some will disagree) – I refer to the original, hypnotically-written theatre version of the latter, of course, NOT the claws-pulled-out Milos Forman film.
    But I do so envy you seeing ‘Equus’ again. The beauty of local productions can be that you often see a play ‘in the raw’ without over-ambitious, elaborate effects, even if sometimes the temptation towards pretentiousness is too much for the performing team to resist.

    You say that after reading this book you’ve got homework to do. As I don’t know the names of more than a very few of the essay-writers you list here, it seems you’ve set me my own!

    Thanks for this posting, H.K.

    • Thanks for the comment and the compliment. I was pleased to say that of the 19 playwrights represented, I had seen or at least read works by 16. Several were not familiar names but in reading their bios I realized I knew at least some of their work.

      I was surprised by some of the names I expected to see that were missing. Durang referred to himself as an “incipient existentialist” but the only reference to Beckett by name was in passing by Edward Albee in his blurb. He wrote; “My first Chekhov, my first Beckett, my first whatever else, were revelatory experiences. But I have to go back to Durante and his little elephant for the true genius.” Godot is one of my favorites too btw.

      A.R. Gurney made a passing reference to Pinter. He wrote; “The plays of Harold Pinter, especially The Homecoming, were lessons in stage silences, and mysteries of plot which could remain unsolved at the end.” I’d read The Homecoming but saw it onstage for the time first time about a year ago. It was terrific.

      I loved Amadeus (both onstage and on film actually) but I found Equus much more affecting and, I was pleasantly surprised to see, for many of the same reasons that Hwang did. The religious imagery; the repressed sexuality (I am almost embarrassed to call it eroticism) and psychological trauma of the young man juxtaposed with the inner turmoil of the psychiatrist were all messages I think I was ready to see when I first encountered that play.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      • Could say an awful lot again, H.K. but just a couple more….

        I got awfully exasperated at one time by the fact that whenever I said that I liked Ibsen a lot the other person would invariably respond “Yes, but Chekhov is greater!” I’ve got to be honest and say that I just don’t ‘get’ Chekhov – and why he is so idolised. He’s not BAD by any means – but does he deserve all the lauds he gets? (All those female characters moaning that they are SOOOOO BORED!) I find that lines could be dropped from his plays wholesale – and they wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. Not something you can say about Ibsen – well most of his ‘great’ plays, anyway. I suspect you my disagree.

        The first time I ever saw ‘The Homecoming’ I was a bit of a prude – and I found it, frankly, quite offensive. Then I grew up, came out …..and so on. Then I saw it again – and the penny dropped. It was so damn FUNNY!

        I’ll leave further comments on Peter Shaffer for a future suitable occasion.

        Cheers for now.

      • I don’t disagree. Truthfully, I don’t have an informed opinion. Aside from reading The Seagull in high school I’ve never studied their work. Chekhov was primarily a short-stroy writer rather than a playwright. Perhaps that influenced his relative economy of language. I wasn’t aware it was common to compare the two. I have heard Ibsen described as the benchmark playwright for actresses that same way Shakespeare is for actors. All ‘serious’ actresses must play Nora when they’re young, Hedda as an adult and Mrs. Alving in their maturity the same way actors move from Romeo to Hamlet to Macbeth to Lear.

        Of Chekhov, I have seen The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, and Three Sisters. I enjoyed Three Sisters the most but it may have been the production rather than the play.

        OF Ibsen, I have seen A Doll’s House, Hedda and Ghosts. I picked up a copy of An Enemy of the People at a used book sale this summer but have not read it yet. Hedda and Ghosts are both favorites.

        I confess whenever anyone mentions Ibsen my first thought is always of the Noel Coward song; [Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage] Mrs Worthington. “Though they said at the school of acting she was lovely as Peer Gynt. I’m afraid, on the whole, an ingenue role would emphasize her squint.”

  2. This post brings to mind my son Joe, and our discovery of what influenced him to select filmmaking as his career. I cannot remember a period when growing up, that Joe (and his three sisters) were not involved with some form of creative endeavor, many times with the performing arts. Our children were home schooled up until high school. Joe had a high school teacher who offered courses exposing the students to plays, movies, critiques and more. When applying for college, we learned that Joe’s top choice was NYU’s Tisch School. We were caught a little off guard until we read his application essay. When Joe was 3 or 4 years old, he discovered Star Wars. What influenced him was the second film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. He wrote that here were his friends, characters that he cared about, caught in deep trouble as the movie ends. No happy ending here. He realized the power that a filmmaker has, to move people, to cause them to feel different emotions. (Sounds evil, doesn’t it? 🙂 ) I know that the Star Wars series is not great fiction and has terrible dialog (Joe noticed that even when he was young). But even bad art can exert a big influence!

  3. Woof! Err. Concision? Short, sharp. Keep it choppy. I like your style, and you have things to say.

    Oh hell yes, I want to hear about Equus!

  4. This post takes me back to when I was in college back in the late ’70s as a theater major. Beside the productions we mounted, we(me and the other theater students) often caught local professional shows at the Arena, Center Stage and national touring companies that came through Balto/DC. The gentleman who wrote “Agnes of God”, who started out as an actor, was performing in Balto. in a production of School of Scandal(I want to say Jan 1979?). John Pielmeier’s play was still in development and Center Stage’s Artistic Director Stan Wojewodski staged the 1st true full performance of the play since John P. was an actor in residence that season. It was a 1 time thing.
    The author held a panel discussion with the audience afterwards which was pretty awesome. I must say that though that production didn’t impact my career path, it still left a lasting mark on me and is the best performance of that play I have ever experienced live or on film since.

    • What a great experience to have had; to really see the birth of a play and get the author’s thoughts as it was first coming together onstage…. and it is such a wonderful play.

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