Young Jean Lee vs. Tyler The Creator: Or You

May 12, 2011

Tyler the Creator- for those who don’t know is a rap artist from ODD FUTURE WOLF GANG KILL THEM ALL. Vulture has an interesting article on him today. He’s a kid- a misogynistic, sometimes race baiting and anti semetic kid- he acknowledges it’s all a show which seems to get some of his more hateful lyrics a pass from most press. I’m not writing about that though.

There’s a quote int he vulture piece.

Andrew “Noz” Nosnitsky — a sharp rap critic, and one of the first to write about Odd Future — tweeted that, for better or worse, Tyler poured his entire personality into this product … “which is really all you can ask of an artist.” He’s right about the first part. I’m still trying to figure out the second part.

It’s an interesting statement. Basically, we want to know who the artist is when he speaks to us. We want to feel less lonely, invigorated and help in company with their dreams and desires to re-identify ours. This is an easy thing to lose focus of… the old time maxim: “write what you know” is really a version of this… Write- you.

Obvious… but when we talk about art we don’t discuss this. We talk about new play development and productions and entitlement and everything else but- you.

I’m thinking of the last great play I saw. Truly great, the last time I sat in a room and thought the author had communicated something about themselves to me- about their fear, their fragility, their beauty, loneliness or joy. I can’t readily recall… because I don’t think we have a system set up for that. Odd Future is a mess and scary but the kid is saying something about himself. Doesn’t make for good regional theater.

Mabou Mines Dollhouse did that. It’s the only play i’ve ever seen that I absolutely hated the first act and then fell in love with it- like true love- like one of my favorite theater experiences ever. Why did i hate the beginning- because it was different, for sure, because it was introducing me to the artist and I wasn’t sure if I cared. But once I did… I could see the honesty- a play where the men are all midgets and the women are all tall; a world where the entrances and exits are built to the men’s description so women have to crawl to make their way through doors; where the men look like babies when they’re held int he women’s arms… I understood Lee Breuer (the conceptualist) at the end of that play. I knew more about him and how i was alike.

Producers and agents talk about the 3 character drama and unit set. The 2 actor comedy they all salivate over. I haven’t seen any of the plays fitting that description that were great or honest or where i learned a damn thing about the guy behind the pen. in the end I left feeling the writer was a smart business man and envy his careerism and ability to fit a few jokes into this construct. But I’ll never think about those plays again.

Young Jean Lee starts her plays with a fear- this is the much hyped description at least- “I think of the worst play I could write and then I write it.” Invariably she’ll be int hat because of her terror. And human beings are weird and eccentric and broken and messy in a way that her plays (and Chuck Mee’s plays for that matter) are as well. I don’t always love her work but I do think I’m creating a relationship with her each time I see one. That’s impressive.

Most other plays… are just a play. the writers and the words drifting away soon after. With all this discussion of the system and how do we make things better I can’t help but keep thinking “who cares?” I can’t help but wonder why people want to be part of a system? As an artist you’ve denied some social and safety mores already- why are you going to look for new ‘safeties’ and ‘help’ from people who on the surface are as irresponsible in their life choices too (ie. other artists)?

I only want to talk about great art and brave choices. And here’s the facts that’s not idealistic and unrealistic. It’s just harder. You can put on a 23 character play at your regional theater (and you def. can do an 8 character one) you can find partners, university relationships, apprentices or whatever… of course you’d need a great piece of art to decide to do that.

If you’re a theater and you don’t believe in great art that truly creates betterment within the field over the bottom line of your budget than, sorry, you really shouldn’t be a 501c3. You’re a commercial entity and you shouldn’t get a grant to do something you saw in NY or read about in the Times.

If you’re an artist who is writing for production over truth… I don’t know. I just don’t know.

If you’re a dramaturg how are you encouraging work to be truly great and epic and not ‘produceable?’

If your a theater- how brave are you being really?
If you’re an artist- how brave are you being really?
If you’re me or my friends who read this or students I’ve had, i ask- how brave are you being really?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

gun fu August 19, 2011 at 10:44 am

you are my my god… come here


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