As a drama student, I have been exposed to quite a bit of drama, which I guess I might have expected. From my experience, I have determined that all drama falls under one of four categories:
- Plays That No One Understands Because They Are Really Weird: These are plays where, when you see them, you just KNOW that the playwright was goofed on skunkweed when he wrote it.
- Plays That No One Understands Because They Are Written by Shakespeare: These are plays where, when you see them, you just KNOW that Shakespeare had to be kind of flitty to write plays that feature numerous large-calved males leaping about in tights and saying words like “doth.”
- Plays That High School Drama Students Like to Do Scenes from Because They Have Lots of Dirty Words in Them: Neil Simon is the major author in this category, although much of Shakespeare can be made to sound dirty, too, because no one will know if you’re doing it right or not.
- Plays That Are Boring: We are mainly talking here about plays that were written by Arthur Miller (“The Crucible,” “Death of an Amway Salesman”) and Greek tragedians (Euripedes, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Spectacles, etc.). You can always understand what’s going on in these plays; the problem is that you don’t CARE.
From what I can determine, any fool can write a play to fit into category #1. As a matter of fact, I think being a fool would probably help. All you have to do is obtain some illegal substances, which is fairly easy to do around here (not that I would know).
Category #2 is a bit harder to write, because you have to be Shakespeare, and not many people are, or even want to be.
Category #3 is fairly easy to write because it is very easy to sprinkle a few dirty words here and there to liven things up. The play itself can be really stupid — it could even be a member of another category. All you have to do is add a few expletives. Shakespeare should have tried this:
Shakespeare’s version: “Romeo, O Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”
New, filthy version: “Romeo, O Romeo! Where-the-****-fore art thou, Romeo, you *******?!?”
Category #4 is even easier to write because you don’t have to worry about making the characters or the plot interesting. Also, you can make the play as long as you want. That will just add to the overall boredom. For example, my friend Aaron (you remember Aaron) and I went to see “The Crucible” at the Palomar University and Enormous Parking Facility. My extremely bearded drama teacher, Craig “Duke” Duke, insisted that this was a good play, but Aaron and I now know that Duke is a big stinking liar. Not only was the play long — I’m guessing, in retrospect, about fourteen days — but it was not very exciting. I mean, most of it was a bunch of people standing around and talking about witches and stuff. You’d think that a play about the Salem witch trials would be good — lots of demons and devils and torture devices and what-not — but it was just BORING. And don’t even get me started about Greek playwrights, because I’m out of space.
My editor removed my example of profanity-enhanced Shakespeare for publication in the paper, but left in the colon (:), thus suggesting to the reader that an example was about to follow, only it didn't. What a *****.
Perhaps this column would persuade you to believe otherwise, but I actually love the theater. At this point in my life, I even enjoyed performing in theater, although now I just like to watch it. I have seen literally hundreds plays in my life, and as of this writing (1999), I'm doing theater reviews for the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah. I love theater, but I especially love free theater, and I even more especially love getting paid to watch free theater and then write about it.
Since writing this column, I have somewhat softened my attitude toward Shakespeare. I still think he's slightly over-rated, and I still find it hard to get into some of his plays (particularly if they're not done very well), but overall I love the guy.
I have not changed my opinion on "The Crucible," however. I still haven't seen a decent production of it, I guess. "Death of a Salesman," however, is an astounding play -- one of the best American plays of the century, I'd say. If you get a chance, rent the 1985 movie version starring Dustin Hoffman. It was made-for-TV and only released theatrically in England, so you may not have seen it, but it's brilliant. Rent it and watch it, and thank me later.
This column prompted a letter, sort of. Someone cut the column out of the paper and wrote the following in the margin. Bear in mind I ended the column by saying I was out of space:
He's not out of space, but from OUTER SPACE -- why do you pay for such CRAP? Surely there's better than this in this valley!
The "letter" was unsigned, of course, but it's a man's handwriting. Coincidentally, my photo did not run with the column this week; however, the layout persons DID include the box that was supposed to contain the photo. It looked kind of funny, having this empty box with my name underneath it. Anyway, whoever sent this note also wrote, inside the empty box, "Best picture of him yet." So you can tell we were dealing with someone pretty mature, whoever it was, the silly *****.