Libation Bearers Live

I dipped back into Greek drama recently and read The Libation Bearers of Aeschylus. It was rather dry: such drama tends to dwell on a single event or feeling, milking it deeply, with maybe one action around which the entire dialogue revolves.

Trying to get more out of it, I looked up performances of it online, and found this one. It’s actually pretty interesting–I like how they strive for some authenticity.

The Anti-Book of Mormon Musical

A lot of wise things have been said of this runaway Broadway hit, but this review is by far the best:

The main thrust of its claims about Mormonism is that Joseph Smith made it all up, and that his message does not apply to the modern world. It portrays Mormons as naïve and simplistic. Of course, Mormons are also a cheerful, polite, and well-meaning bunch, and as such, are basically harmless. But the only way for them to truly do good in the modern world is to change their story so it applies to current problems, which should be fine since their scriptures were made up in the first place. This is all very appealing to the audience and to theater critics. They are made to feel superior to the delusional Mormons, while at the same time, feel good about themselves for acknowledging that it is important to help relieve suffering in the world. They don’t have to feel bad about lampooning the Mormons since the show acknowledges that Mormons are nice people, and since it is just satire, after all.

The creators of the show are welcome to their opinion, and even to advertise it in a propagandistic play (for what else is the play’s value?), but such lazy cultural tropes, in a better world, would at least be honest about the basis of their approach: an immediate rejection that the Book of Mormon, and religious beliefs in general, might have any grounding in historical fact.  Certainly, again, anyone is free to conclude that such is not the case after they have considered and investigated it, but until they’ve done so, how are they honestly qualified to assert so boldly that it isn’t true? 

Nobody would care a lick for a random layman’s scathing indictment of particle physics or macroeconomics.  Why is it OK, even encouraged, in our society to simply spew hot air about religion?  Why is so much respect accorded to the mockers of faith, especially when they present mere prejudice as entertainment? 

Far more offensive than any possible content to the show is that those who participate in it, including the audience, are so satisfied of their superiority, despite a massive ignorance of what they claim to definitively scorn.

Annie at Super Summer Theater

It’s been a few years since I last saw a play at Spring Mountain Ranch (when I saw Beauty and the Beast and 1776), but their Super Summer Theater series is irresistible to any lover of culture in the Las Vegas Valley, and my wife and I took the kids to see Annie a few days ago.  This show is near the end of its run, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll need to make it a priority pretty quickly. 

I’ll keep this brief–everything about this show is delightful.  All of the singing was wonderful.  The director brought in a couple of dozen young girls to populate the stage’s orphanage (including a tiny little thing who couldn’t have been any older than four), and their dance numbers were very well done; don’t worry about seeing a tedious school recital–they cavort and synchronize with polished pizzazz.  

12-year-old Jessica Reuttiger shines as the spunky Annie, the Depression era’s female answer to Tom Sawyer, easily holding her own and even showing genuine chemistry with much older, experienced actors. 

And while there are no bad performances in the whole show, the real star here is Anita Bean, who plays the scurrilous Miss Hannigan with such saucy abandon that the people sitting in the very back of the audience must have felt that she was right in front of them.  Honestly, even during the show, I kept wondering how exhausted she must be after work every night–she throws herself into an uproariously over the top possession of the character, belting out every sleazy line with not just a variety of voices, but seemingly every bone in her body.  Awesome. 

Only a couple of slightly drawn out scenes and the community theater’s eternal bane of some slow pacing (punctuated by far too many long pauses) keep me from giving this play a perfect score.

Final Grade: A-


Evolving Media

Watching an old silent movie this week inspired an analogy.  In the early decades of film, the acting was exaggerated because the actors were trained for the stage–they were playing to the back row of a theater.  It wasn’t until we adjusted to the nature of the new medium that people started to use it in a more productive manner (thank you, Marlon Brando). 

Is writing undergoing a similar metamorphosis?  We still generally compose electronically online with the same basic rules we’ve always used for print writing, but obviously an evolution is underway: the writing that we do for screens is getting shorter, more flexible, and more casual.

But print-based writing won’t disappear.  Just as movies didn’t destroy theater, but simply evolved in their own direction from the parent art, online writing will likely develop in its own unique way, and traditional writing will thrive as it ever has.  Consider that, while Hollywood grew, that distinctly American genre of musical theater likewise developed into the wonderful subspecies it is today.  Despite the near-ubiquity of film, people still see plays of all kinds, and I’m sure that there will always be plenty of people who write and read traditional, standard English, too. 

What’s most surprising about the explosion of a uniquely online style of writing, though, is just how many technology boosters themselves are alarmed by it.  Continue reading