Byron Woods has been an arts journalist and critic in the Triangle since 1994. His award-winning theater and dance coverage has appeared in INDY Week…
going to a show
Thanks for the correction, Dustin. The playbill listed the wrong actor in the role.
Having invested only a couple of decades in journalism myself (though not anywhere near the high-stakes level of the characters in Donald Margulies' play), I am very much in sympathy with JE's appreciations of the craft here. I truly meant no condescension to them.
I would have been less than candid, however, if I hadn't observed that jade is a definite occupational hazard -- and something of a protective measure -- in this trade. Any time in a newsroom quickly reveals that.
Journalists, with some regularity, do pay steep personal and interpersonal costs as a direct consequence of their commitment and ethics. Cutting-edge reportage can have a very high human price. It is one that is rarely reported on.
One of the most compelling -- and useful -- things TIME STANDS STILL does involves assessing the toll that reporting takes on the reporters. At some point I think most journalists face the dilemma disclosed here: constructing a psychological perimeter which gradually expands (and hardens) until it ultimately places even the closest of intimates and friends permanently on the other side of the camera or keyboard. It can happen gradually, without our noticing.
I hope you get to see the show, JE. It sounds like you'd appreciate it more than many.
A number of descriptors help define Celie's identity in THE COLOR PURPLE. Battered. Resilient. Poor. Triumphant. African American. Woman. Loving. Lesbian.
If you shortchange or erase any of these, you've done her an injustice. Celie simply isn't Celie unless she's all of these -- because they all play very important parts in who she ultimately becomes.
When this production obviously downplays one (and only one) of these elements, the irresistible question of necessity arises. Why indeed must _any_ of them be eclipsed -- particularly since doing so serves no dramatic purpose?
There must be __some__ reason why heterosexual behavior is clearly given the preferential treatment I've described, but homosexual behavior is so oddly -- and __thoroughly__ -- minimized in this production, despite the fact that the play's central character is lesbian.
Should the director wish to tell us why, this forum is open to her. Thus far, her supporters have yet to articulate a convincing rationale. Or much of anything else.
With everything Celie's been through, can't we be generous enough in spirit to even briefly show her finding relief, sanctuary and communion, at long last, in the arms and the presence of her own beloved? If not, __why__ not?
Who would deny her this? More accurately, in terms of this show, who _did_ deny her this? And for what pressing reason, exactly?
With all due respect, theatrefan, every ticket buyer to this production spends time and gets to know Mr. Torres (or Patrick, as you call him), over several hours -- through experiencing the quality of the work he and his company are able to bring to stage.
For the overwhelming majority of theater-goers, that's the only reasonable expectation. Ultimately, an artist meets the public through their work.
I had questions about this as well. In my research before writing, I found the catalog webpage for the play from Dramatic Publishing, which licenses the performance rights for the work and sells its scripts. The listing includes this notice: "Black Nativity is designed for you to add the music of your choice (from spirituals to traditional carols or your original compositions) and dance." As I understand, there's a very robust tradition of companies doing that with this work.
Thanks for writing.
That's corrected now, above. Thanks, Devra.
Characters with weaknesses are frequent in theater; they fund most if not all of the great dramas, and it takes strong actors to believably perform them.
Weak performances, on the other hand, are more frequent in regional theater than most of us would like. Though he ignores it, I suspect that shlomo is already well aware of this distinction.
And to answer his question, not only it is entirely fair to demand that all actors on stage be believable, that is actually the minimum acceptable standard for a show produced by one of the region's older and more accomplished companies, for paying audiences.
Should Theatre in the Park's artistic director believe differently, he is welcome to state that view for himself, publicly and on the record.
Playtime is over, shlomo. Ultimately, it's the director's responsibility to make sure that an entire cast is meeting the minimum artistic standards -- and not just the top two-thirds. When that doesn't occur, a mixed but basically favorable review like this one is actually the smallest of consequences.
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