Friday, June 06, 2008

The Albee story

I did a reading of my THE POOH STORY this Wednesday at NYCPlaywrights and it was well received, since people laughed alot - although I'm sure that it's partly because Bruce Barton as Lee, and Mike Selkirk as Chris, were so great in those roles.

But everybody, even Bruce, missed some references. I mean, this was a room full of actors and playwrights who you might expect would be pretty hip to allusions to THE GOAT and WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF.

I mean, come ON people:

LEE

So what? Winnie the Pooh and Piglet too – they don’t have a pension fund! You don’t hear THEM complaining do you? But you – you stand for everything I hate about America! You’re vacuous, you’re complacent, you are emasculated! Yes that’s right. Emasculated. You are not strong and virile and powerful like me. Like all the angry young men of the theatre. And Pooh!

(Lee takes a stuffed Winnie the Pooh out of the bookbag and waves it at Chris)

Me and Pooh are laughing at you! You are weak and womanly and you pretend that everything in this land of ours is peachy-keen. Pooh knows the only true virtue in life is honey! H – U – N – N – Y! Pooh and me know how to play with your mind maaaannn. We know how to kick start your brain and shake you out of the doldrums of your dull tiresome uptight squaresville thought patterns!

(Lee mimes having sex with Pooh.)

You’re shocked, aren’t you?

CHRIS

No. I saw someone doing that on youtube last week.

(Lee talks to Pooh)

LEE

But what about Piglet? What’s that you say? Piglet never existed? Piglet was just a fantasy we shared, out of our deep deep love for each other in the face of emasculated suburban ennui and alcoholism? Nooooo!
Hee hee! Sorry but I find my own play hysterically funny. This is a problem since I wrote it at the office in the middle of cubicle-land, and I didn't even attempt to explain the choking sound coming from my cube to anybody. Telling a bunch of financial analysts and programmers: "I think my own parody of Edward Albee's THE ZOO STORY is hysterically funny" is really no better than no explanation at all.

The audience at NYCPlaywrights got that my play was referencing THE ZOO STORY, but that was kind of a freebie.

I'm sure this is a total copyright violation, but somebody put the play script online, and until they make them take it down, you can read ZOO STORY here.

Albee is a sacred cow of the theatre and it was time for a parody of THE ZOO STORY. Unlike this person, I don't think that the play has stood the "test of time" - I think it reeks of 50-years-ago and not just because the normal guy thinks the other guy comes from Greenwich Village because he's a wacky character.

And then there is the "making people think" angle. This trope, that artists exist to make people think, is a source of unending irritation for me, mainly because it's plain wrong. Philosophers make us think. Artists are supposed to make us feel and make us experience beauty. Thinking will probably happen too, but that isn't the main goal.

Another thing that irritates me so much is that there are so many people in the arts who are just plain dumb. Who are they to presume I was walking around in a mindless daze until they came along?

I'm not a fan of Albee's plays, and I'm not too thrilled with Albee's boyfriend's art either. Which is the cue to begin my Albee story.

Some dude who was living at Albee's TriBeCa apartment wanted to do this idiotic web site back in 1999. Like so many people at that time, he thought he could get rich with a really dumb idea as long as the idea was executed via the Internet. He met me through my brief association with The Rattlestick Theatre in the Village. Eventually he learned that I did web development and my then-boyfriend was a whiz at database stuff. Which is true, just ask my ex-boyfriend. So he proposed his business idea to us - we would develop this web site for him, and in exchange he would give us stock options. In order to sweeten the deal, no doubt, the dude gave us a tour of Albee's apartment (while Albee was vacationing at Montauk).

Well, we were none too impressed I'm sorry to say. Although the elevator made a huge impression on me. Albee's place was on the 3rd floor and his elevator was just this big hole, with a platform that went up and down. In other words, if the elevator was on the ground floor, there was a square, 3-story drop from Albee's place to the street. I stayed as far away from that thing as possible. I read somewhere that since then he had like walls or something put in so it's no longer a complete deathtrap.

Then there was the big pile of stuff on the floor. Was Albee doing some redecorating? No, that was a piece of art. But Kate Hepburn made the same mistake when she was there for a party.

Then there was the wall of bookself that went up to the ceiling at the head of Albee's bed. My ever-practical ex asked "how does he get to the top shelf" since the bed would prevent you from putting a ladder there, and the ceiling was pretty high. I imagined that Albee would use the bed as a trampoline and jump up to reach the top shelf. I wanted to try it myself, if for no other reason than to say I jumped on Albee's bed, but those party poopers wouldn't let me.

But the most memorable aspect of the tour (except for the elevator from hell) was the boyfriends art. Apparently he was doing a series of these things, which consisted of a canvas, a bunch of men's tighty whities arranged just so on the canvas, pasted down and spray-painted black. Which really stood out against the all-white walls.

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