If you’ve exhausted the Internet’s rich store of Bob Dylan think pieces, you might turn your attention to another Nobel laureate: Dario Fo, the Italian playwright, who died this week at ninety. The Vatican once declared his play Mistero Buffo, a kind of one-man political-satire revue, to be “the most blasphemous show in the history of television.” (If you’re confused, this was in 1977, well before the undeniably satanic Pretty Little Liars hit the airwaves.) As the New York Times has it, Fo and his late wife–collaborator, Franca Rame, did more to upend the art of political theater than anyone in their generation: “Basing their art on the tradition of the medieval jester and the improvisation techniques of commedia dell’arte, Mr. Fo and Ms. Rame thrilled, dismayed and angered audiences around the world. Together they staged thousands of performances, in conventional theaters, factories occupied by striking workers, university sit-ins, city parks, prisons and even deconsecrated churches.” Read More
If one can talk at all about a general reaction to your plays, it is that, as convincing and brilliant as their beginnings and middles might be, the plays tend to let down, change course, or simply puzzle at the end. To one degree or another this complaint has been registered against most of them.
Perhaps because my sense of reality and logic is different from most people’s. The answer could be as simple as that. Some things that make sense to me don’t make the same degree of sense to other people. Analytically, there might be other reasons—that the plays don’t hold together intellectually; that’s possible. But then it mustn’t be forgotten that when people don’t like the way a play ends, they’re likely to blame the play. That’s a possibility too. For example, I don’t feel that catharsis in a play necessarily takes place during the course of a play. Often it should take place afterward. If I’ve been accused a number of times of writing plays where the endings are ambivalent, indeed, that’s the way I find life.
Its authorship mistakenly attributed to its copy editor and issued in a single edition of five hundred by a suburban publisher of quickie romances, the posthumous memoirs of the celebrated French poet Jean Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1933) must count among the more obscure byways of literary marginalia.
Having faked his death in 1891 to escape mounting debts and increasingly credible threats of violence from rival traders in the Gulf of Aden, Rimbaud lay low for more than four decades. While his former friends and colleagues were elevating his poetic works and mysterious youth into a cult, he kept his distance. He stayed busy, variously occupied as a beachcomber on the Côte d’Azur, a croupier at Monte Carlo, a phony “fakir” in a traveling carnival, a roving photographer with donkey on the Belgian coast, a promoter of spurious miracle sites in the Borinage, and finally twenty years as “Beauraind,” an intermittently successful music-hall ventriloquist. Read More
No one could miss the magic. Cool alleys of giant pines wind through the park, the entrance by footbridge leads over a creek; far below, you can glimpse striated mounds accreted by live mineral springs. And then: the stately grounds. Even today, in its celebratory fiftieth-anniversary season, with a new plaza built around stadium-size latrines and concessions selling fried dough, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center maintains some of its Nelson-and-Happy Rockefeller–era allure. The center was built to offer New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra permanent summer residencies, and though attendance at dance events and the dance season itself have shrunk considerably over the past thirty years, coming to SPAC still feels eventful. The audience is filled with fans. They dress for the occasion. They know the performers. They roar with recognition when someone introduces the evening’s program. They cheer during curtain calls. They applaud, contrary to City Ballet’s urban custom, when dancers exit, and at the end of each musical section. They even clap for the scenery. Read More
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
At 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Recently, 92Y and The Paris Review have made recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review. Consider them deleted scenes from our Writers at Work interviews, or directors’ cuts, or surprisingly lifelike radio adaptations.
This week we’re debuting four new recordings from the series. Today, listen to Arthur Miller, who talked with Christopher Bigsby on January 4, 1999. Their conversation laid the groundwork for Miller’s Art of Theater interview in the magazine later that year. Here, he dilates on meeting Mel Brooks (“He said, What’s [the play] about? And I said, Well, there are these two brothers… and he said, Stop, I’m crying!”), watching productions of his work, and the influence of politics in his plays: Read More