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Write Club Nation - LA - April 8th 2012 (unofficial)
Write Club Nation - LA - April 8th 2012 (unofficial)
 
 
2015-02-08 1 Comments Report abuse
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Categories: Literature, Write Club Nation, Literature - general, Lifestyle, Lifestyle - general, Entertainment, Entertainment - general
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WRITE CLUB is the world's greatest competitive reading series, featuring only the most audacious and fearsome of writers and performers. WRITE CLU...

Introduction


(This is an unofficial sample panel for Write Club Nation).

LITERATURE AS A BLOOD SPORT

WRITE CLUB is the world's greatest competitive reading series, featuring only the most audacious and fearsome of writers and performers. In this event, Mike O'Connell was assigned "Screen", and Caitlin Montanye Parrish was assigned "Stage".

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Question: Stage and Screen
STAGE:

I like the taste of goat. I remember the first time I had it. It was Father's Day. We asked what Dad and Granddad wanted most to eat. They requested a delicacy known as Redneck Surf 'n Turf, which consists of grilled goat, boiled shrimp and a history of familial violence. Mom and I drove across the border to Georgia where we found a guy willing to sell us a whole goat. He was not a butcher so much as a guy who had goats. He chopped it up, skin still on and we threw it in a cooler and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning and cooking it, the barbecue pit in the yard sending up clouds of farmyard Worcestershire sauce. It was a special day.

Goat is delicious, like oily, gamy copper. It is a real meat. There is a pagan joy in eating it and tasting traces of blood, and this puts me in mind of the theater. In ancient Greece, there is a certain kind of revered and ordained civic ecstasy that you could achieve one of only two ways. Number one, tear apart a living goat with your hands and teeth, reveling in the furry, almondy ball musk of a dying animal, cackling beneath a lime green sky and praising the dark gods of booze and screw. Or, number two. Take in a show.

The latter evolved from the former. The word tragedy means goat song. There would be no theater had there not once been a community gathering around a dying goat's warm, glowing, warming glow. Like the mob sacrifice engorging, a visit to the stage was meant to be a city-wide devouring of shared, cherished sin. Here we are, all of us human, all subject to the whims of swirling darkness above us. Let us celebrate and mourn that together. Let's lance this cosmic boil. Let's play pretend.

I'm a theater professional, though some in this modern world would argue that the term "theater professional" is oxymoronic at best, necrophilic at worst. Theater is not dead. It just smells like disillusionment and non-profits. I am a theater professional. We are a peculiar breed. We put on masks, we cry for money, we're not opposed to performing sex acts in front of a crowd. We do it in the name of art. We belong to an elite and perverted short bus of those who must go through life with all the feelings! And worst, we are insufferable.

The first time I acted in a play, I was a child. In second grade, I was a narrator in The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Really. There were three of us narrators and one microphone. We took turns saying the lines, each supposed to step up obediently to the mic, but the mic was dead, and the other two seven-year-olds stepped to the mic regardless. I, however, sensing preternaturally that one must roll with technical difficulties, I stepped in front of the mic and fucking projected! And when I walked back to my chair, it was with a quick, light step that seemed to say, "That's how you do it, assholes!" I had to remain in the theater. Who the fuck else would have me?

I am a theater professional. At best, we are holy. We joke, but I believe in the power of theater to change the world, or as Tom Stoppard said, "If you get the words right, you can nudge the world." A little. Dents, here and there. When you get it right, when you get it true, you have assured a room full of strangers that they are not alone. A month after my grandmother died, I saw a play called Wit, which is about a very smart, very academic woman dying of cancer and trying to stave off the ungodly fear of death with proper grammar.

My grandmother had spent her last days in a hospice, stripped of almost everything except her ability to do the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. The woman I saw on stage was not my grandmother. She was not anyone real, but she approximated. She wrought gold and it broke something open in me that had been closed throughout eulogies, wills, and three years of refilling her oxygen tank. No one I knew could articulate my grief, but this woman played it flawlessly, and took the worst of it from me.

Theater is not flat. It is not cut, print. It's fluid and gristle and all the failure. A darkened theater surrounded with people all sensing at once what it is to be human is holy. It is a cradle of blood and it is transformative, transportive. It is what carries you from a childhood built on slaughtered animals and family to this instant where even in the heart of Hollywood and the capital of film, we're giving our night to the stage, to the hope that in a dark room a few tables deep, there will be laughs and friends, and a taste of real meat.
SCREEN

My heart and my loins swell at the privilege to be here this evening in defense of screen and in defamation of stage. A thought before I begin. Do you not find it obesely ironic that I have been called upon to bolster and glorify the screen on the very thing that I must defend it against, the stage? Is the deck not already stacked against me that the jury I must convince is comprised of theater-goers? Avid consumers of the very thing that I have been commandeered to [inaudible 00:00:53] to lambaste? 'Tis no matter, for like Odysseus on his odyssey, or more appropriately, Peewee on his Big Adventure, the hero must face many hardships before they are deemed victorious in the eyes of God and man. I have organized my indefensible argument into the archaic and boredom-inducing five act structure that the stage was so ungracious enough to bequeath to humanity. Please reduce your stubbornness and open your mind to the truth!

Act One! A bad movie makes great movies better. A bad play stains all plays forever. There are great movies and there are great plays. This is not up for debate. However, if we wish to make a sound decision regarding the supremacy of one, we must look to the works that either has to offer. There is an entire subspecies of moviegoer who only enjoys that which they hate. The more the tacky the sets, the more stilted the delivery of the players, the more ridiculous the conceit, the better! If the same were held true for the stage, the one-person show industry would be thriving even moreso than the old companies.

I saw a bad play in 1997 about a man who returns home to find a string quartet has moved into his living room and is having an affair with his wife. I have procured three lobotomies, I have hired drug counselors and preachers to kidnap and reeducate me in hopes of forgetting this play! But without fail, every week in my dream womb, I find myself on that stage in 1997 being forced to regurgitate those lines, those literary crimes, seemingly in perpetuity. Each and every time I think or am offered to attend a play that haunting feeling felt deeply those many years ago washes over my mind and I am forced to drown my sorrow in so many liquors and filmed entertainments. It is in this way that the stage's lesser offerings are not only mind crimes, but dangerous to one's health.

Act Two! Age does not equal wisdom. Movies are a virginal 117 years old. They are the veritable babies of artistic mediums. Do you scold a baby for shitting itself every once in awhile? No!

Act Four! The Show Me, Don't Tell Me rule. The screen follows this literary rule religiously. It does not depend on you to imagine the chocolate factory or the intricacies of sewing together humans mouth to anus. It shows you! The stage would have you believe the quote to be, "Tell me in an overly wordy manner and for fuck sake, don't you dare show me." It can be argued by me then admitted by you that the most exciting part of the stage is paradoxically directly off-stage, as that is where all the murdering and the fucking occur. If a guy fucks his mother, kills his father, then shanks himself in the eye holes, you best believe I want to see that shit.

Act Five! In which the truth is laid bare. Tonight you have found yourselves at no small expense and inconvenience in a theater facing a stage, which I'm sure on any other evening has valid theatrical offerings and not just strange debates amongst the very specifically mentally ill. This says a lot about you! You love the stage. You adore the spoken word and you long for the drama that the stage gives birth to in the boxes of black and the prosceniums throughout this fair planet.

But even you, the lover of truth and beauty, once the lights have come up on this event, will immediately look at a screen. Some of you have been looking at a screen the whole time I've been pontificating. Once in your car you will encounter another screen that will guide you to your private residence that is riddled with screens! And when you curl up with your lover or by your lonesome, you will more than likely invoke one more screen, to indulge in pornographies or garbagy Netflix movies.

You will not get comfortable and intoned to your lover. "Honey, get the theater troupe out from the closet. Tonight I want to fall asleep to Desire Under the Elms." It is for this reason, as much as it pains you to do so, that when you cast your vote this evening, with your clapping and your laughter, when you cast your vote this evening with your claughter, that you cast it for screen! Be a good steward and allow the stage to die an honorable death after its long and important service to humanity. The stage is weary from overuse. The screen is just beginning. Vote accordingly.
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I can not wait to visit one of these events in person!
2015-02-08 Report abuse
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