Monday, November 14, 2016

New York 5

November 14, 2016

Tremendous moon over the city last night, for once as bright as the city lights, and far more mysterious, a god sailing above Times Square.

Walking down Broadway from 75th I saw four Irish boys in sharp suits hit the street, carrying an Irish flag with them, laughing and dancing down the pavement. On Times Square a young Indian in sparkling white, looking like a rajah, was having his wedding pictures taken. His wife and her retinue were in scarlet and gold, all gorgeous and happy. These are the things I fear Trump will imperil, things not right down the American middle, things you might, if you’ve cultivated ignorance all your life,  have to think twice fully to understand.

Went to the World Trade Center and did the tour, and gaped up at the soaring and quite amazing building, the first time I’ve seen it close up. My reaction was a little surprising: grief, tears. There are two fountains where the old buildings stood, and they lead down rather than up, down into the profundities. The names carved on the sides are the names of those who went down into the depths. The photos inside, of those who died, are unbearable.  Young men in their wedding tuxes. Girls with flowers in their hands. Firefighters grinning out from under their helmets. Smiling and hopeful. . . it could not be endured. Came back up in time to meet Adam for lunch and then a matinee of The Encounter. The Encounter was, like The Birth of Color, an example of a pure good thing all but ruined by the availability of remarkable apparatus. The story was simple and beautiful. The story was difficult to get at because of all the microphones and multiple tracks and phonic tricks. Besides, we were up against the balcony wall and the pain in my knee, toward the end, blotted everything else out. Broadway is afraid of good storytelling. Unless it is shouted, over-dubbed, shouted again in an echo chamber, it has not been said at all. I would say that, all in all, the experience of The Encounter was a laborious failure, when it might have been an easy triumph. We chatted for a while in the Paramount lobby, then, having miscalculated the time, went at a dead run to Theater Row to see a one woman show by a woman Adam had met at an audition. The state of my hemoglobin did not exactly allow for that distance and that pace, and I arrived at the theater quite sick, and trying to find ways not conceal it. The show was fine, three sections, two of which were excellent, all written by the actress herself. Made me wish I had saved time to attend more episodes of the Solo Theater Festival, which she was part of. About half of the plays had something to do with the vagina, and said so.

How odd the profession of theater is! How wound up with things unrelated to art or truth or even, when it comes down to it, theater. Reminds me of why I backed away into the hinterlands. Things are so complicated Adam doesn’t even know HOW to get an agent. It seems to happen by accident or not at all. Adam and his friend John and another friend they met there launched into reminiscences of auditions in far-flung cities, and as it seemed they really wanted to talk about that, and as I was still annihilated from the run, I eased out of after-show drinks. I was well and truly spent. It was hard to get back to the hotel. Had cosmopolitans prices at $28 each and tottered into bed. The moon came and looked into my pathetic air shaft for a while.

Thinking back on the foundation meeting. First, I have more money than AB; I could have a foundation. Second, matters of gender are so hysterically at the forefront that even when we say we are not talking about it, we are. One gave a lengthy speech about how she REFUSED to discuss what “woman” meant, having apparently been worn out by such discussions in the past. Back to the old lamentation about how 65% of the applicants are men, 30% women, the meager tally of the rest undefinable or trans, and how this indicates we are not doing our jobs. Our outreach is, by and large, specifically to women and women’s organizations, and only the conversation’s drifting elsewhere kept me from asking, “What makes us suppose these numbers don’t reflect an actual truth, that 65% percent of aspiring playwrights are men, and on down the line, and we’re receiving completely proportionate applications?” Though this seems self-evident to me, it would have earned me enemies. I think, but do not say, the women in the group set their relative failures down to their being women, rather than the quality of their work. When I suggested that all biographical information be shorn from the manuscripts (as is most usually done) the suggestion was greeted with horror. It is clear that favoritism is intended, and frustration comes when the favorites are not quite favored enough. Long faces were pulled when our winner was a man. I pointed out he is a black man, and maybe that counts for something. We juggled the honorable mention list until there were enough women –whatever “woman” might mean– to satisfy.

I do realize that this represents a clash of philosophies. I believe that the perception of excellent is Platonic and (barring political or prejudicial adjustment) universal. They believe that what we perceive is purely a cultural phenomenon, that we prefer the work of men because the long history of male art has accustomed us to do so, and therefore the only possibly parity is numerical parity. There are places where one can’t say “bullshit,” even if one could prove one’s point.

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