DAVID MAMET RETROSPECTIVE We've all attended plays where we wished we could change a lot of the dialogue to make it better suit our needs, and the poor souls who direct plays are no different, but they can't change the dialogue because they have no language skills and the result would just seem odd. So everyone ends up suffering in the long run.
But here's a not-commonly-known secret about the theater world: directors often discard displeasing lines and even entire scenes. That's right. They generally do this for one or more of the following reasons: the need to express oneself; as an accident; to HURT the playwright and make him look like an ASS; time. This last is most common. Everyone knows about the notorious final scene in Macbeth, in which the murdered Dane comes back as a ghost with gifts and apologizes. Directors usually cut that because the play is too long as it is. One of Stendahl's plays was so long that the director ended up cutting all the scenes and now no one knows where they are.
Again, that's: Whimsy, Idiocy, Hate, and Time, sometimes called the Four Cornerstones of Directing. Then, once the lines are cut, the director can change them to his heart's content.
But directors have never needed to trouble themselves with these motivations when discarding selected scenes from the works of David Mamet, because Mamet was drunk when he wrote them and they don't make any sense even to him. Schmutz Bros. Theater has painstakingly compiled over 30 of these rarely-used scenes, snippets and in some cases individual words in a one-hour retrospective entitled, "The Unknown Drunken Swearing Scenes of Mamet." And I have never been so transfixed by the discarded scenes of a 20th-century playwright before.
Mamet has always made effective use of the dramatic device of foul language in holding the audience's attention. Certainly you remember this gripping scene from "Glengarry Glen Ross," in which the two protagonists finally confront each other as only Mamet characters can.
Glengarry: "Fuck ... fuck you, Glen Ross!"
Glen Ross: "Fuck me? Fuck you!"
Glengarry: "Fuck you too, then!"
Glen Ross: "Fuck it, man. Fuck it."
Glengarry: "No, man. You fuck it!"
But now let's look in on the action two pages later, when the raging debate comes to a boil.
Glen Ross: "Fucker! Fucker!"
Glengarry: "Oh, right. Fuck you."
Glen Ross: "No. Wrong. Fuck you!"
Glen Ross: "Forget it. Fuck you!"
Glengarry: "What? Fuck you!"
Spot that? Thanks to Mamet's drunken typographical fumblings, Glen Ross, now a broken man, has begun to curse himself and his pitiful vainglory, while Glengarry is left with nought but to bitterly curse Nothingness, á la Beckett. Directors usually cut this part because it's not that type of play.
One of the more moving purged Mamet moments presented by SBT comes from one of the early scenes in "The Crying Game." Here Mamet, briefly torn adrift from his Muse, manages to bewilder not just the audience but his own characters, who are powerless to do anything about it.
Mick: "Fuck you."
She-male: "Fuck you right back."
Mick: "Fck uou."
She-male: "Fuck ... I'm sorry, what?"
Mick: "ffffl ulll
She-male: "Uhhh ...." (Looks around helplessly.)
Mick: dw do dercibe em. derbei em
She-male: "I ... I see. Hmm." (Nervously fiddles with prop.)
And suddenly the horrific She-male is exposed as a hollow, ineffectual fraud by the simple artifice of Mamet's soused inability to find his way around a common keyboard. How different the play seems when seen in this new light!
But my favorite miscue comes from the bittersweet dénouement of "Oleanna." Here's the ending of the play as it is usually presented.
Oleanna: "Dear God. What have we done?"
Dr. Hapgood: "Indeed. What have we done?"
(They embrace. Light fades.)
Technically sound, but empty. But now look at the ending as it appears in Mamet's original script (and in the canny SBT interpretation). Note the disturbing sense of discontinuity.
Oleanna: "Dear God. What have we done?"
Dr. Hapgood: "Indeed. What have we done?"
(They embrace. Light fades.)
Glengarry: "Fuck you."
Glen Ross: "Fuck you."
On the Schmutz Bros. mainstage, these last two actors appear to feel as uncomfortable and out of place as the characters in the script surely felt. Brilliant.
Blunders, awkward moments and bad grammar; drunkenness and hints of insanity: at its best, theater truly is a mirror held up to real life. I tip my hat to Schmutz Bros. and this, the third in their American Playwright Errors series. Whatever its faults, this kind of "blooper" theater acts as a gentle reminder that "real" theater -- which at times can seem so polished and effortless -- is not nearly as entertaining. (Schmutz Bros. Theater, 2222 2nd Ave., please call for show times and phone number)
A TOUCHING FAMILY SAGA Here's something a lot of people don't know: harassment of homosexuals didn't start until actually quite recently. It wasn't until the mid-70's, when gay men and women felt more free to "come out" with their life-style choices, that society began to react with surprise and alarm. Prior to that time, gays were simply looked upon as "eccentrics" and entertainers, and thus were accepted because they had a role in society.
Well, all that is completely incorrect. After seeing "The Schneiders: A Gay Family Saga," I now understand that harassment of gays is as old as homosexual behavior itself. "The Schneiders" is the true story of a gay family -- the dads, Stefan, Eduard, and Gorky; the lesbian twins, Princip and Gavril; aunt Bjorn; and the nameless transgender baby -- who flee their disease-ravaged homeland of Peloponnesia for the promise of a better life in America.
It soon proves to be a false promise, however. The Schneiders quickly find themselves subjected to harsh work for which they are completely unsuited -- including farming and work in light industry -- as well as substandard housing and cold, distant, and often outright nasty weather.
This well-crafted 3-hour production follows their travails all the way up to 1959, at which point, tragically, the last of the proud Schneider clan passes away, due to the fact that -- simply because they were gay -- they did not reproduce. (Hallmark Family Theater, Fox-TV, Dec. 6, 8pm)
GIFT OF LIFE Babies are being used for all sorts of things these days, but I bet you didn't know that a guy could use a baby to rescue his own sorry ass from some very bogus shit. Check it out.
Mitchell Rupe is one of those controversial celebrities that the spotlight just seems to seek out of its own accord. Born in Yakima, he worked at a pizzeria for a time. The summer of 1982 found him in the middle of a dispute with a number of bank employees he killed, and he got the death penalty for that as fate would have it.
But people have a funny way of changing as the years go by, and Rupe gained 300 pounds. Finally the Supreme Court, in an unsolicited opinion, said: Mitchell Rupe, you are just too fat to hang. It was more than just a matter of decorum. There seemed to be the danger of possible decapitation, risking injury "or worse" (the guy's head would come flying off, for god's sake!!) to onlookers. The penitentiary tried everything, from an acupuncturist to counseling, but Rupe just could not seem to lose the weight.
A few years later, when legal scholars discovered that Rupe was not at all too fat to inject with poison, those who had cared to follow the matter breathed a sigh of relief and concerned themselves with their own lives again like the rest of us had been doing all along.
But then last month things changed again when Rupe adopted a baby boy. Six weeks old and nearly 7 pounds of pure personality. "Prettiest blue eyes I ever seen on a little baby," cooed the 500-pound murderer to the Seattle P-I. Speaking from the heart, Rupe says he bonded immediately with "Little Mitch" because, legally speaking, Rupe cannot be executed now because that would deprive a little boy of his dad. Life is tough enough for a baby in prison. He needs his dad.
So Rupe's life has been extended for a minimum of 18 years, and under best circumstances indefinitely, if the tot turns out to be a retard and requires life-time care. So when Rupe told Modern Toddler magazine that, "Being a dad isn't some fucking hobby for me. I do it for a living," he lent a lively sense of sarcasm to that old bullshit homily.
The three of us got together in Rupe's cell last Friday. I found prison to be a melancholy place, gray and rather stifling. It seemed there was a constant din, and at times I found it hard to hear the soft-spoken Rupe over the sound of the crying baby.
Me: Does it hurt to get electrocuted?
Rupe (smiling): Ain't heard no complaints.
Me: Do you ever get raped in prison?
Rupe: Well ... of course I'm in solitary confinement here. But I think about it sometimes.
Me (eyeing baby): About the baby. Why is it crying?
Rupe: I dunno. (Looks at baby quizzically for a time.) Maybe its little pants are full of shit.
Me: (I lean over toward baby, sniff.) Good call. But ... okay, so why is it crying?
Rupe (taking a long, thoughtful drag on his stogie): I figure you'd cry too ... (he blows a stream of smoke at me) ... if your little pants were full of shit.
Say ... was that some kind of a threat? Intriguing. Oh sure, we've all heard this sort of jail-house tough-talk before. Bluster, mainly. Young guns testing their wings. But this was Mitchell Rupe. Reputation for being goal-oriented. Solid record of stick-to-itiveness. I recall summoning the guards.
Later I laughed at myself and felt kind of silly. Rupe would never have murdered me in front of his baby. Who would do such an awful thing? With me holding his baby like that. It would've meant nothing but trouble for him.
So that's how a baby saved my ass. Rupe's decision to become a parent worked out for everybody involved. (Tours available hourly for groups of up to 20. Contact Wash. State Dept. of Corrections, Shelton, WA. No dogs, weapons, flash photography.)
HELL ON WHEELS Local entertainer J. Z. Knight has an exciting new gig: crime-fighting!
Throughout the 80's the Yelm, Washington, resident wowed itinerant house-wives and cult-fans of every stripe by channeling the 35,000-year-old Pleistocene bon vivant "Ramtha" into her body, after which she'd make him regale one and all with tales and songs from Old Atlantis. But such phenomena as the advent of cable television and the beanie-baby craze slowly ate into her popularity; and eventually she retired to a quiet life together on her Eastern Washington estate.
All that changed last year when Ms. Knight discovered a pack of skate-boarder-dudes galavanting on her driveway; she quickly changed into Ramtha and slayed them most wrathfully.
"Guy's been dead for about 35,000 years," said Yelm Sheriff Ed Dodd. "Prosecuting a dead man for murder ... I, uhh ... give me a second."
Hence the Ramtha West Coast Skate-Boarder-Dude-Murdering Tour, which made its Seattle stop last weekend at Seattle Center Skate-Board Park. And dozens of curious skate-boarder-dudes were on hand to see and of course haplessly take part in
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