Friday, February 6, 2009

With the opening of Bohemian Cowboy in LA coming up, my mind is on theater!

Here is my official cardinal shirt, and now that the Arizona Cardinals have made themselves known to the world of football in fine fashion I am thinking how the theater world might do the same. My son Raymond and I have both spent years and years trying to open the doors of theater to local playwrights, and have not succeeded it would seem at this point, since there are no new plays by local playwrights making a stir. But what has happened is that Raymond has taken all the experience he garnered doing new plays by all local playwrights to Los Angeles with him to stage one of his own new plays. Now that has got to catch the attention of everyone, even those who have not been believers in the idea that in order to rejuvenate theater, local stars must be developed, local issues addressed, in short theater needs to become personal and next door, and therefore perhaps not to be missed!
Raymond, despite not being recognized in the press here for years, will carry his Arizona history with him and the theater voice he developed here just may startle the world. Raymond would always try to do the impossible, causing some to think he bordered on the edge of insane. What a tightrope you have to walk to write and perform in a theater piece, bringing it to fruition with a professional sheen. I am so excited by the biggest project he has ever tackled.
The last big play he wrote and produced in Phoenix was Blue Baby which turned out to be too big for the main theater critic in Arizona to handle He did not attend it both times it was produced so therefore had a good excuse not to write about it. It is a landmark play dealing with homosexual assault and rape in the jail system, plus it addressed many more issues in a kind of a memoir and this play even developed somewhat of a cult following despite hardly any critics attending or writing about it. Perhaps they were uncomfortable with the subject matter, who knows, but why? If it is your job to cover theater, you are not doing it when you discriminate, when you black ball a playwright for personal reasons. If a powerful newspaper critic is against you, no other theater company is apt to do your work, since publicity has always been a ncessity for the success of a new play especially which has no built in reputation to help it succeed.
The Arizona State Theater Company is doing Raisin in the Sun which is a very powerful play and I have seen a number of versions of it. That's just it. It is about as safe a choice of a play by a black playwright that you could choose to do. Obviously there is considerable risk to doing new work by local playwrights, but I will tell you what, if you don't take those risks, your theater will never come alie as it could with new work. You will miss the biggest excitement there is to be had in doing theater. All because you knew you had to tackle so many obstacles. Audiences can be arrogant and judgmental. And they will punish you severely if they think you are trying to foist an inferior play on them by someone who does not know what they are doing. Well, Raymond has had to earn his laurels as a playwright.
So now I think all of Phoenix's theater world is looking to see what happens with his great venture in LA, as many know him and have followed his career here for years. They can't help themselves. They have to look.
What will LA theater patrons say about him? Raymond to me has become like a white knight of theater going on a crusade on behalf of all the playwrights in the world. The cowboy is riding his imaginary steed a long way to the promised land. We all can't help but get excited about that. I know him. I know he can ride, he can fight, he can battle, and he can win the hearts of the people. He is a natural born actor who has made himself the conduit for his work. For what he can do.
So I sense magic happening in that dark theater during these last days. The lights are going to come on and a miracle will happen once again on stage. A theater audience will be beguiled once again. A new playwright will be born! Once again.
We cannot always rely on the old ones, who have made it. Their work loses vitality with age. We must have new voices to speak for our times. The old must show respect for the new.


Nelishia said...

I wish I could afford to fly to LA and meet with you all and see Raymond. I feel your passion and confidence in his abilities. He's definitely paid his dues to be where he is. I wish him a broken leg.

I do miss acting quite often even with tears in my eyes when I see it done well. ANd I miss the ambience and comraderie of being a part of the cast. I don't think I'll be back again behind the scenes though.

Pamela said...

I'm looking forward to seeing the play.

Connie said...

Wow-I hope it makes them stand on their ears and take great notice.
Good Luck Raymond!!!!


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