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September 14, 2006


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I think everyone feels that way sometimes. Part of it is probably that you could get a cheaper apartment in Greenwich Village back then.

Then again, of course, I'm sure there were many a protestor and/or folk hero and/or drop out that saw their era as a desperate time, not just a playground.


I will add to that, though, that I love the idea of quick and dirty plays the way Shepard wrote. In fact, it's synchronicity that you mention him now. I was reading through my book of "Chicago and Other Plays" and asked myself why I was so careful with my words? Sometimes there's something vital about not being so precious, not creating a "body of work" but just writing some pieces and letting them find a life of their own. There can be something deadening about the shaping process and even the idea that each play must be flawless or have a solid explanation. Many of Shepard's shorter pieces (I'm thinking of "Red Cross") are utterly cryptic, maddeningly spare, utterly nonsensical, but also interconnected and charged and alive. Why do we need them to be anything more than that?


All that is still possible. And fully happens. Also, remember that all of those guys were on speed.

Malachy Walsh

There are only two things I see that keep us from having that today:

1) Reverence for today's established non-profit theatre (which was quite anti-establishment then)

2) Us

Ian W. Hill

I'm with Col -- it still happens. You don't always know when you're in the middle of it. The scene ebbs and flows in different ways -- no, it isn't 1968, but neither is it 1988, or 1991, or 1996, all times and "scenes" I was around for, when for a brief time, something exciting was happening OOB, where people, groups, ideas came together for a brief moment, collided, exploded, and dissipated.

They're all still out there, and new ones, and I think we're on the upswing now -- probably there'll be another exploion in '07 or '08 and then another few years of people wondering where the scene has gone, again.

The biggest problem now is the money, and how much harder it is to do anything without a lot of it -- but that was probably always problem #1, and ways have always been found around it.

The speed probably helped, too.


I know the passage you quote from, and have read all of Shepard's short works from the wild, heady days of Theatre Genesis, La Mama, et al. They are, as described by others here, "cryptic" and sometimes "nonsensical", but unmistakably "alive." They were written quickly, and, perhaps more importantly, produced quite soon after having been written. Given today's timid institutional theatre climate of endless "development," what playwright wouldn't want this kind of situation? A local economy where space (at least in the neighborhoods where this type of work was most likely to be exhibited)was relatively cheap to rent certainly helped, but it was the courage of the participants that really allowed this "golden" period to come about. We can have that again today. Are we writers brave enough to write mad, frenetic, "disposable" plays (it was once said--only half jokingly--that Shepard wrote his plays on Tootsie Roll wrappers)? Plays that capture mood, ambience, feeling, but don't necessarily have to be fully polished works of Aristotilean structural integrity? And are artistic directors brave enough to put these plays up, raw and wild as they may be, without an interminable process of "workshopping"?

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