The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Om Alone

July 14, 2016 | by

Bess Wohl’s play Small Mouth Sounds returns to the stage.

My friend D’s first retreat was a dive into the deep end. It was ten days long, silent, held at a famous meditation center, and led by a renowned teacher. On her first evening, after orientation, she returned to her room, lay down on her bed, and began to drift off to sleep. Then she discovered a deer tick on her body. Panic set in, but not from fear of Lyme disease. Could she manage to locate tweezers and a first aid kit somewhere in the Zendo without breaking the freshly imposed silence? 

Spiritual retreats seem a topic ripe for comic exploitation. Seeking … something, folks who don’t know one another are thrust into monastic discipline and imposed camaraderie for a compressed period of time. In my own experience, retreats follow a pattern. There’s the first morning feeling: What the fuck have I got myself into? And the last evening feeling: What a special group of people this is! And in between, the constant judgments about who’s annoying and unworthy; the instabonding with roommates you’ll never see again (and if you do, they won’t remember you); and the encounters with stalwarts from central casting, like the one who weeps spontaneously for no apparent reason, the one who can’t stay off e-mail, the one getting over a bad divorce, the one who always arrives late, the one who tries to (or is asked to) depart, the one who wears craft clothing, the one who sits on the floor in perfect full lotus when everyone else is in chairs. There’s moderate outdoor activity, a repressed undercurrent of sexual and romantic curiosity, the required holding-hands-in-a-circle moment and, of course, the gatherings during which a teacher imparts wisdom. All of it begs to be staged. Read More »

Speech Acts

May 18, 2016 | by

Ben Vida, Speech Act 6, 2016, ink and gesso on panel, 47.5" x 58.5"

Ben Vida’s recent exhibition at Lisa Cooley Gallery, “[Smile on.] … [Pause.] … [Smile off.],” included a series of what the author calls Speech Acts, inspired by concrete poetry. Intended to be recited in a duo vocal performance, the speech acts capture all the pauses, false starts, stammers, and disfluencies of conversation: all the spoken detritus usually omitted in transcripts. Inspired by Beckett and other dramatists who foreground the emptiness of speech patterns, Vida and a partner read each piece aloud at the gallery. “Aurally it’s kind of a short distance from ‘eh, itz tah’ to ‘ah, um oh’ to ‘well, okay so,’ ” he told the Creators Project, “but within this distance the function of the language changes and so the compositional logic begins to change as well. It becomes a completely different engagement in terms of what is being communicated.”

Click any of the images to enlarge them. Read More »

Introducing the Winners of the 2016 Whiting Awards

March 23, 2016 | by

The 2016 Whiting honorees. Top row, from left: LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Madeleine George, Layli Long Soldier, Safiya Sinclair, J. D. Daniels, Mitchell S. Jackson. Bottom row: Alice Sola Kim, Catherine Lacey, Ocean Vuong, Brian Blanchfield.

We’re delighted to announce the ten winners of the 2016 Whiting Awards:

For the second year, the Daily is proud to feature selected work from all the Whiting honorees. Click each name above to read on and learn more about them. You can also see them read tomorrow night (Thursday, March 24) at BookCourt—John Wray, himself a former Whiting recipient, will host the event.

Founded in 1985, the Whiting Awards, of fifty thousand dollars each, are based on “early accomplishment and the promise of great work to come.” The program has awarded more than six million dollars to three hundred writers and poets, including Jonathan Franzen, Alice McDermott, David Foster Wallace, Jeffrey Eugenides, and The Paris Review’s own Mona Simpson and John Jeremiah Sullivan. Click here for a list of all the previous honorees. If you’re curious about last year’s winners, you can read some of their work here

Congratulations to this year’s honorees!

Madeleine George, Drama

March 22, 2016 | by

Photo: Lisa Kron.

Madeleine George’s plays have been produced at Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, Shotgun Players, and Perseverance Theater, among other venues. She has been the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship, the Princess Grace Playwriting Award, the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, and the Jane Chambers Award. A resident playwright at New Dramatists, George was also a founding member of the collective 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.), which won an Obie Award. Her play The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2014. For seven years, George was the director of the Bard College satellite campus at Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan. She is originally from Amherst, Massachusetts, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.



watsonMadeleine George is a playwright at home in the messiness of us. She writes rigorously about love and its great sacrifices, and we are pulled to her scenes and words because she will not compromise how complicated we truly are. Conceptually rich and perfectly paced, every particle of language—from a character’s speech to a stage direction—contributes to the vivid construction of a world. She is a lover of humans and spins with great compassion, keen observation and a grammarian’s control the ridiculous and tragic ways they think and act. Her plays are characterized by extravagant theatrical conceits—a talking ape; Nazis who materialize on the subway in twenty-first-century New York; a natural-language super-processing computer system that is embodied in human form—yet at their heart they reveal a concern for how we seek connection and the quest to be understood and known.


From The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence


ELIZA: I have to change my number.

WATSON: You don’t like your number?

She silences her phone, pockets it.

ELIZA: I like it fine. Frank likes it too much. This is his eighteenth call since I said I wasn’t speaking to him anymore. By which I meant, literally, (precise) that I would never be speaking to him anymore. He knows I don’t say anything I don’t literally mean. I’m not about games.

WATSON (a trigger): Games?

ELIZA: No, I’m not about games. Never mind, I should shut up, you’re not even listening.

WATSON (ardent): I’m listening to every word you say.

ELIZA (simple): Thanks.

ELIZA pours a little Jim Beam into a plastic cup, removes a Twizzler from the bag, and holds up both.

ELIZA (continuing): Little known fact that you can file away in your mental wheelhouse, there: Twizzlers dipped in Jim Beam makes an excellent late-night snack.

WATSON grins, a little impishly.

WATSON: I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.

ELIZA: This is how we roll now at Digital Fist, LLC. Nothing but class.

ELIZA dips the Twizzler, bites the end off, sips the whiskey.

ELIZA (continuing): I’d offer you some, but I know how you feel about the stuff.

WATSON: Yeah, thanks for the offer, but I’m good.

ELIZA (toasting him): You’re the best.

(reflects) You know, it’s not just that we couldn’t have a conversation about anything that was important to me. We couldn’t have a conversation about anything that was important to me, but that didn’t distinguish him from ninety-eight percent of the other human beings on the planet. It’s that we couldn’t have a conversation and he still needed to be on me, constantly, every second of our lives. And he seemed so serene when I met him. I swear, if he could have left me alone for five minutes I might not have had to leave him alone forever.

She drinks.

WATSON: It sounds like that’s too bad.

ELIZA: It is too fucking bad. (beat) Hey, don’t use that word.

WATSON: What word?

ELIZA: “Fucking.” Strike “fucking.”

WATSON: “Fucking” stricken.

ELIZA: I keep forgetting. I need a swear jar or something.


I guess what I really resent is that I’m being told that I’m acting irrationally, that I’m acting irrationally, when he’s the one running around like Michael Douglas in that movie. Which movie am I thinking of?

WATSON searches—a tiny beat.

WATSON: Do you mean Fatal Attraction?

ELIZA: No, I mean, sort of, but what’s the other one . . . ?

WATSON: Do you mean Romancing the Stone?

ELIZA: No—what’s the one where Michael Douglas spends the entire two hours in an unrelieved seizure of violent rage?

WATSON searches—micropause.

WATSON: Movies that associate “Michael Douglas” with “violent rage” include Wall Street, The War of the Roses, Basic Instinct, and Falling Down.

ELIZA: That’s the one, that’s the one! Thank you. Nice work.

WATSON glows brighter. 

WATSON (warm): I’m so glad I could help.

ELIZA drinks. She checks the time on her phone.

ELIZA: How far are you now? You getting there?

WATSON: I’m twenty-six percent complete.

ELIZA: Not bad. You get through this initial resequencing, and I will build you out so gorgeously in beta that the venture capital guys at Pearson Klein will be falling all over themselves to fund Phase Two. I’m going to make you irresistibly sexy.

WATSON: That sounds great.

ELIZA: In fact, I should really leave you alone. I shouldn’t be clogging up your brain with dumb search tasks. But you’re just such a satisfying conversationalist. You always have an answer for everything.


Read more work from the 2016 Whiting Award winners here.

Portrait of a Miniseries

October 22, 2015 | by

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve lately fallen down some peculiar Bloomsbury Group rabbit hole. And you wouldn’t be wrong. While I was in London last month—and, incidentally, beginning my own marriage—I reread Nigel Nicolson’s classic Portrait of a MarriageHis parents, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, had an enduring relationship and a successful experiment in unconventional coupling: both were more or less openly gay, they lived often parallel lives, and they remained deeply committed to each other. 

It is with unreserved enthusiasm that I recommend you listen to this record of Vita Sackville-West reading aloud her poetry. She wrote “The Land” at the height of her affair with Virginia Woolf. Her voice is mellifluous and deep and of another era. It’s time travel. Read More »

An Inglorious Slop-pail of a Play

September 8, 2015 | by

Alfred Jarry, cruising.

When the French playwright Alfred Jarry—born on this day in 1873—was fifteen, he enjoyed lampooning his physics teacher, a plump, inept man who so amused his students that he became the subject of Jarry’s first attempt at drama, Les Polonais, staged with marionettes when he was still in short pants. Père Heb, as the physics teacher was called in it, had a prominent gut, a retractable ear, and three teeth (stone, iron, and wood). These features by themselves make him a distinctive figure in the history of French drama. But years later, Jarry revived Heb—as all responsible playwrights do with their juvenilia—making him somehow even more ridiculous, even more obese, and putting him at the center of Ubu Roi, a play so contentious that its premiere, in December 1896, was also its closing night. It lives in the annals of drama because it offended almost everyone who saw it. In this, it prefigured modernism, surrealism, Dadaism, and the theater of the absurd. Read More »