Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Stack

I have been whittling away at my stack of books and magazines. I'm afraid that I'm turning into my parents- there are entirely too many magazines. In the past week (this includes two long plane trips and yesterday's subway commute) I have polished off a book of short stories by Raymond Chandler (well, I was about 15 pp. into it already, and I know I read in it high school); two copies of American Theatre; two copies of The Dramatist; three New Yorkers; and a novel.
The September/October issue of The Dramatist is I think the best ever. It is the Master Class issue, and if you have any interest in writing plays or musicals ever in your life, contact the Guild now to get a copy (www.dramatistsguild.com). Out of twelve essays, eight were really exceptional. The other four playwrights don't write plays that are my cup of tea, so I didn't expect much from their essays. But the eight great ones are surely worth the $8 cost.
In that same issue, there is an article on discrimination against women playwrights by Sheri Wilner and that good Julia Jordan, who organized the women playwrights meetings in New York. In the November issue of American Theatre, there is a terrific distillation of both the recent Princeton study and the NYSCA study of seven years ago by Marsha Norman. She puts both studies in the context of her experiences as a woman playwright since the 1970s. And she is quite blunt: "Either women can't write, or there is some serious resistance to producing the work of women on the American stage." Now, you might say that is not news to you (nor is it to me, God knows); but it is certainly refreshing to hear that from a woman who has had multiple plays and musicals on Broadway and co-runs the Juilliard playwriting program. I don't know a woman playwright who doesn't feel that way- not a single one. And up until last fall, it really didn't get spoken of that much. Grumbling, of course, and a whine once in awhile. My feeling always was I couldn't possibly turn the tide of opinion against women playwrights, and my only option was to keep writing and hope for change. Maybe it will come now.
My last new read was a novel by Jonathan Rabb called Shadow and Light. It is set in Berlin in 1927. Much of it takes place in and around UFA, the great film studio, and Fritz Lang, Peter Lorre and (briefly) Max Reinhardt are characters. Rabb never overdoes it with historical facts and famous people, so you never feel like there's too much coincidence. The characters are recognizably human (not always true in historical novels), and in the case of Lang, you sense that this is indeed a man who would make a movie like M.

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