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December 29, 2009


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Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist !

This happened to me. On opening night of my play in London-- my play isn't for the weak-hearted and easily offended-- we had an American audience made up of college students from an American university in Indiana-- who were in London for a trip and they had to see a new play. So it was my play they saw.

Through-out the play, there were gasps and looks of disbelief (or disgust, depending how you see it). at the ending, nobody clapped. I was really upset and pissed off. I felt like cussing these Americans out.

the next night-- it was a British audience made up of Londoners and I got a great reception at the end. Go figure.

I'm never gonna try to get my plays produced in the midwest, that's for sure.

in Missouri, we did a production of Vieux Carre (by Tennessee Williams), which was slightly about homosexuality in early-to mid 20th century New Orleans. there was a homo-erotic kiss between 2 male characters (although they never actually kissed, because the script didn't call for it). The audience, made up of "rednecks" (for lack of a better term) jeered, laughed, and booed at the scene. you could tell they were uncomfortable. I'm glad anyway because people should be forced to feel that way so they can understand what it's like to be an outsider in your own society.


I have observed this (and written about it) numerous times. The Barter Theater, where I have worked a number of times, does a lot of work specific to the Apalachian region. I don't necessarily resonate with it, but the audiences love it. Or a lot of their "edgy" work that would go unnoticed in New York or San Francisco has audiences talking and discussing issues like you have never seen.

All theater is community theater. This is as true of the NY downtown scene as anything else. When it addresses its community it is engaging. When it does not it is not.


While I haven't actually experienced this 'outsider' feeling at home in the U.S. (at least not that I can recall offhand at the moment), I have experienced it abroad. I think we expect to come up against this when we are literally somewhere foreign, but we are more struck by foreignness when it unfolds in a theatre in our own country. As a result, we are likely less offended by, more accepting, appreciative even, of the unfamiliar, of difference, in a distant land than we are of it in our own nation. This isn't ironic, so much as expected...and frustrating and growth-stunting. And it infuses insularity into regional theatre politics. It's difficult to get people to feel the same about difference, eh, perhaps moreso at home where people think they may be able to contain and control it.


However, Tom Dudzick is an amazing example of a successful playwright in Regional Theatre whose never had a major New York production. Greetings was done only once over 15 years ago off-broadway and continues to be regional staple, while Over The Tavern has never been done in New York and has been produced at almost every regional theatre in the country. He told me he really has no interest in bringing his plays to New York only to see them get panned and die there (panned by an audience who his plays are not written for I suppose).

Meanwhile he's made a successful career out of word of mouth and great reviews in regional press.

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