There was a time when I felt double-bound; a playwright of regular old plays and yet a fangirl of plays with no authors. I bristled upon seeing young companies (and directors) with little interest in developing the next great play and who instead padlocked the rehearsal room so as to bar the writerly entrance. These companies, with their throw-back insistence on devising as collectives that don’t need the structuring logic of writers, seemed like the avant-garde version of reality TV shows: we don’t need writers, we have life!
No, I thought. Let the ideas of the writers into the room– what are you afraid of? Coherence? They can structure. They can research. They can think about craft. They can worry about shaping your dialogue. Don’t try to do it all yourselves!
But there was a little troll in me– maybe it was same troll who loved my “Theater of the 1960s” seminar in college, and loved the radical (political) potential of un-hierarchical rehearsal rooms. Or maybe it was the troll-ish self-loathing I harbored for the static and often vision-less words of playwrights. With the troll in me (or beside me), I would sit through new play readings, dutifully watching “straight” plays with cardboard characters and TV-skit dialogue and wonder where all of the risky theatricality had been exiled to. And that little troll clenched my credit card, pre-ordering tickets to the latest Wooster Group show and secretly scoffing at the thought of having to sit through the latest formulaic Pulitzer-winner.
So! Three cheers for the Austin-based Rude Mechs, who let me have my cake and eat it too, thanks to their Method Gun. Yeah, it’s filled with in-jokes for theater people and acting trainees, but it’s also brilliantly-structured by Kirk Lynn and happily collaborative (and a little meta-collaborative, too) at the same time. I won’t recap the concept of the show, since the Culturebot and Times and New Haven Advocate articles I’ve linked to in this post do a good enough job at that. But I will say that at many moments during this show, it is clear that they need an audience, and maybe the audience needs them? To remind us that we need not watch the same tired play trying to be Eugene O’Neill on twenty-first century steroids, but we also don’t need to sit through another installment of the Theater of Self-Indulgence. My word, we don’t.
I often shift in my uncomfortable theater seat and I think, “this playwright wishes this was a movie.” Method Gun is a play that made me think, “this could never be a movie. Hurrah!” And how fun to go see a play and feel like you’re needed! And yes, it was flawed– of course it was flawed. (And no, I didn’t particularly like the tiger mascot scenes.) And no, I’m not just writing this because I know Hannah Kenah. It is really, seriously, darned good. And if you’re reading Tennessee Williams in an Intro to Theater course this semester, you should take your students and trouble them with this show.
But it won’t be in NYC for long! And you already missed it at Yale! Here’s a snippet from The Times write-up:
“Think of Indiana Jones dodging boulders and knives. Onstage. While performing a classic.”