Thursday, March 19, 2009

Banning Picasso at the Lapin Agile part 16...Think Out Loud

That's the name of the OPB radio show I appeared on today. It was interesting to be in a radio studio and to observe first hand how it works. Needless to say, the OPB crew is a very professional bunch. I was impressed too by the host Emily and co-host David who were extremely smooth and capable. I sat there during the first part segment which was a taped interview with Melisssa Jackman, alternately watching the hosts at work and looking through the sound proof glass at the producers in the next room. It was a bit like being in an episode of "Frasier". The guys behind the glass reminded me a bit of the writers in "30 Rock", kind of laid back and at home in their work envrionment.

Anyway, the program went pretty well from my perspective although time flew by and left me wanting to wrap up a few loose ends. My segment ended with a rather odd exchange between a local pastor and myself in which the host seemed to dangle before the audience the titillating prospect of some kind of on-air rapprochement between us.

The pastor had just gotten through conceding to me finally that there was some good dialogue in the play (the very first time anyone on that side of the issue has said a single positive thing about the play, by the way) but that if only some of unnecessary parts were cut then it might be okay. The host then put the question to me, was I interested in that sort of conversation with the pastor. I replied that I was confused as to the sort of conversation that was being proposed and I posed the question, "Do you (the pastor) want to be my colleague in this project?" By which I simply meant, did he want some sort of directorial role in the project. The pastor responded that he would be very willing to work with me. At that point the host waited for me to say something. I demurred and said nothing. Frankly, I was struck dumb by the pastor's ability to turn on a dime and offer to co-direct a play that he had been denouncing just moments earlier.

In retrospect, there were any number of clever ripostes I might have offered (I rehearsed many on the drive home) but I think the pastor's own words disclosed pretty well the bent of his thought. He doesn't like the play, so he wants to change it to his liking. His offer of "help" or of "cooperation" is nothing more than an unctious gesture whose intent is to highjack our project and turn it into something else. He should see what kind of response he gets from the football coach if he were to offer to "help" design the game plan or call the plays.

I don't why, but even now I find my jaw dropping at the utter tone deafness displayed by people like this pastor. They absolutely do not get that those of us involved in this project have no desire or intention of apologizing for it. Quite the contrary. We contend that it is a good and worthwhile project.

What I really want to say to him, to Jackman and to all the others in that camp is this: I understand that you don't like the play, but why is it so hard for you to simply and gracefully allow those of us who do like it to carry out our work?
No hard feelings, just leave us alone.
K

7 Comments:

Blogger adam jk gallardo said...

I listened to the show both times it aired today, Kevin, and I thought you were terrific.

And I found my own jaw dropping a few times as Mrs Jackman and the pastor spoke.

The last question in your post is so reasonable, I'm sure that it's never occurred to any of your detractors to ask it.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Madison Young said...

I plan on discussing this more with you tomorrow at school, but recognition needs to drawn to your mirthless chuckle at the end of our segment. For that, Mr. Cahill, you deserve a standing ovation. Thank you.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Kim Wood Nolan said...

I love TOL. That was a great show.

It was my understanding the whole issue for the play's detractors was LHS condoning and subjecting the students to such scandalous content, so I'm not even sure why they have a problem anymore now that it's an off-campus, non-LHS-sanctioned community event that happens to contain consenting high-school-age thespians. They won their battle, so I don't understand why they can't leave it alone. Clearly this was never an issue of sheltering poor innocent children, but moreso one of decreeing morality for all ages, preventing people from deciding what they think is acceptable or educational by their own differing (not necessarily lesser) standards.

I cannot fathom living my life so constantly worked up about everyone else not living up to my own religious and/or moral standards. If it doesn't bother me, is not forced upon me, and has no discernable impact on my life, why on earth should I get up in arms over what someone else chooses to do? I am so tired of hearing it's because La Grande is rural and socially conservative. Being from a small place is no excuse for a small mind.

And for goodness sake - 17 (!) pregnant girls at LHS means sex probably needs to be talked about more, not less.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Joe Garoutte said...

Kevin, I am very proud to be your friend. I am very proud that you represent La Grande. And I am most definitely proud that you represent the art of theatre in this particular happenstance. Your accurate and fair responses on air gave our side of the argument so much validity without getting emotional. The assertion that just changing a few words keeps the message the same is ludicrous. If someone doesn't like green but wants to own a Rembrandt would they have all of the green taken out? What exactly would they put back in that would convey the same visual message? If it was a grassy field in a peaceful scene with kids playing in the sun, it would become a very different message than the one intended by the artist were the grass represented as another color.

The playwright crafted a piece of art with specific intentions in words. You as a director get to add your artistic flair in the way you direct it. (Thank you for pointing out on air that stage directions are not intended to be followed to the letter.) The actors for their part get to flourish in the lives of the roles they are cast in to breathe life into the collective works that is then shared with the audience. If any of that is removed then it is a mockery of the entire art form.

Thank you for teaching our children the importance of being earnest. (pun intended)

Joe

7:44 AM  
Blogger KNScott said...

I seem to be following Joe Garoutte around -- my last comment post on the OPB TOL site (last in position on the page, rather than chronologically), using the handle "Copyrites", follows one of his. I would point out that "Stage directions are not intended to be followed to the letter" is not necessarily a universal truth -- that its truthfulness can vary from author to author, from play to play, and even from instance to instance within a work. Samuel Beckett, for example, sued, and prevailed, regarding high profile US and UK productions of several of his works in which his very explicit and intentional stage directions were ignored. (However it appears that the more recent attempt by his estate to halt an Italian production in which Vladimir and Estragon were played by women was not upheld by the Italian court -- and I have read some very interesting debates about that one.)

In general, I believe that actors and directors who have been trained, as some have, to begin their study of a script by taking a black marker to ALL stage directions are deliberately denying themselves author-supplied information about the story and the characters, and setting themselves up to cross the not-so-very bright line between interpretation and adaptation.

I once succumbed to temptation (the offer of the role of a lifetime: Father in Children of Eden) and found myself in the position of an actor who thinks a lot like Kevin Cahill working with a director who thinks a lot like Pastor Tim Gerdes of the La Grande Church of the Nazarene -- predictably, it did not end well. I should really never have gone into the project, but I also should have known we were headed for trouble when, after I looked at the song "Father's Day" in the script & score, I went to the director and said, "You're going to have to figure out how to deal with a melodic-whistling-challenged Father," and the answer was:

"We're thinking of cutting that -- GOD doesn't whistle"

The the real cuts started: Father's first big laugh (the spoken line "Whoa, that's bright!" after he sings "Let there be light" and the lights bump up -- why? because GOD would not say "whoa!"); Father's line during his solo visit with Abel, "Don't tell your parents I was here" -- because GOD never lies, nor encourages anyone to lie, so unless the actor could perform a reading that made it CLEAR to the audience that GOD was not encouraging Abel to lie, the line would have to go). I went in private to the director and indicated that I did not want to be difficult (moi?), but that, as a participant in the production, I shared, jointly and severally, in the liability if the production violated the licensing agreement with MTI and copyright law, so I would not be performing the piece with cuts until I saw a copy of the written permission from MTI to make the cuts, and whatever other changes the director was proposing. I was assured that permission had already been secured.

THEN we got to the blocking of the end of Act One -- as written, the widowed Eve is dying, surrounded by her descendants, and Father, who has distanced Himself from His children since the Fall and the murder by Cain, appears high on a platform and speaks with Eve, who alone can hear, not even see him. Just before the curtain, she dies, and Father remains isolated above, leaving unresolved issues that will be worked out in the Act Two telling of the story of Noah and the Flood

How we were blocked -- Eve did not die in view of the audience. Before reaching the moment of her death, GOD summons Adam and Abel onto high platform with him to join Choir
in singing -- as soon as Eve finishes the last passage where
she has different words from Choir, Choir breaks from Seth's family positions and moves to front
of stage, blocking Eve from view -- behind them Eve drops her old age costime/prop of cloak and staff, and, dressed in her first Creation costume, moves behind Choir to bottom of long curving ramp leading up to Father's platform -- Adam and Abel come down to her on ramp (hugging moments with each) and
lead her back up to Father, who embraces her from that point to end of number/Act

And my question was: after that, why do we need an Act Two? -- this ran directly counter to the author's intention of what the story was at this moment -- an opinion on my part that I actually confirmed with the author.

The director's response was that, yes, she had not yet secured the permissions for the cuts/changes, but that she had seen them performed in several church productions of the play, and had assumed that they would be granted as a matter of course. She was taking her instructions from the licensing agency, and they might decide differently from my information form the author's personal assistant (a graduate, it turns out, of Cascade HS in Stayton, about 20 minutes away from here in Salem) -- but even if she were bound by contract and law to the spoken/sung text as written, copyright did not protect the stage directions. This was HER production, not mine, not Stephen Schwartz's and John Caird's -- Schwartz and Caird might not like what she was doing with their play, but there was they could do about it, and if I did not like that, I could leave. And I did.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, KNS. Thanks for sharing that experience. Glad you survived with your integrity and sense of humor intact. That's what succumbing to temptation will do. You are lucky you got out with your clothes on. I hear the original cast were booted naked? (might have grabbed a pelt on the way), cursed and forced to toil. You learn so much from everyone's experience on blogs. I, for instance, did not know that God, too, had a director, doesn't whistle or say Whoa! Who knew? Thank goodness for your omniscient co-director. I'm sure our local pastor could offer Mr. Cahill some more insights into God's capabilities, qualities, limitations of empathy for human nature, sense of humor, lack of same, etc. Doesn't whistle? Whoa!

Gr K

1:48 PM  
Blogger KNScott said...

(KC: Welcome back from your needed and timely break)

Gr K:

Many who know me well would be most amused at the idea that I might be distressed by the prospect of having no option but to be naked -- being cursed and forced to toil are other matters entirely.

What a wonderful play COE is! One of my other problems with the production I left was that the talent pool that made itself available was far less ethnically diverse that the authors felt was advisable -- something that would probably be even harder to achieve in La Grande than in Salem -- the first professional recording of the score uses the Papermill Playhouse cast, with TV/Broadway actor Adrian Zmed as Adam/Noah and Stephanie Mills, the Dorothy in the original stage version of The Wiz as Eve/Mama Noah (our director split these intended to be doubled roles between two very white women).

One of the authors' conceits is that the entire company is a group of Storytellers riffing on the Genesis myths, and are chosen in the moment to play individual characters -- Father included -- while our director insisted that GOD be GOD from beginning to end (which is a heckuva lot more responsibility than playing a Storyteller chosen to be Father for this telling of the story).

Stephen Schwartz: "I approach all characters in shows of mine as dramatic characters, rather than as types or historical figures. This goes for God as well as all other characters, be they Pocahontas or Charlemagne. Actually, the only time I have used God as an onstage character in any of my shows is the character of Father in CHILDREN OF EDEN. In that work, because the Bible story is used as a metaphor for a story of dysfunctional families and how the problems of one generation are perpetuated by the next, the character of Father begins as the Old Testament jealous and vengeful God, and then changes during the course of the show to the more forgiving and loving God of contemporary religious belief. But he is depicted in that show more as an autocratic Father who learns to let his children go than as 'God' per se" -- which our director obviously never got.

I love learning from directors -- when I feel like I should be teaching them, but just have to silently comply with their willful ignorance, that's when the exercise has no joy or purpose -- unless, of course, it involves a paycheck.

Some day I will do it again, and right -- How can I not love a show with a finale called "In The Beginning . . ."?

10:33 AM  

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